The 15 Best Wired Headphones for Uncompromising Audio Quality in 2023

Looking for the best sounding wired headphones without having to break the bank? You’ve come to the right place.

After extensive research and testing, I’ve rounded up the top 15 wired headphones that deliver stellar audio quality without compromise. From budget-friendly picks under $100 to high-end audiophile headphones, this list has something for everyone.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover:

  • The key factors to consider when choosing headphones for sound quality.
  • Detailed overviews of each headphone’s sound signature, comfort, design and extra features.
  • Direct comparisons to help you find the best model for your needs and budget.
  • FAQs on getting the most out of your new headphones.

Let’s get started!

How to Choose the Best Wired Headphones for Sound Quality

Here are the most important things to evaluate when shopping for headphones purely for audio performance:

Sound Signature

This refers to a headphone’s tonal quality and frequency response. For the most natural and accurate sound, look for a relatively flat or neutral signature. V-shaped headphones emphasize bass and treble over mids.


The sense of space, imaging and separation between instruments. Open-back headphones generally have the widest soundstages.


How much detail a headphone can reproduce. Higher resolution allows you to hear micro details and textures clearly.


How accurately headphones position sounds left, right and center. Precise imaging helps recreate a realistic soundscape.

Frequency Response

The range of bass, mids and treble a headphone can produce measured in Hz. Wider is better, typically 20-40,000 Hz.


How much power headphones need from an amp. Between 32-300 ohms is ideal. Higher impedance requires more amping.


How efficiently headphones convert power to volume. Ideal range is 100-110dB. Higher is better for quieter listening.

The 15 Best Wired Headphones for Audio Quality

1. Sennheiser HD 600 – Best Overall

Sennheiser HD 600

Sound Signature: Neutral, natural

Frequency Response: 12–39,500 Hz

Impedance: 300 ohms

Sensitivity: 97 dB

The Sennheiser HD 600 set the standard for open-back audiophile headphones. The highly natural and accurate sound delivers every detail in stunning clarity.

The open design provides a spacious soundstage with precise imaging. The extended frequency response ensures rich bass and sparkling treble. They excel with lossless music and high-res formats.

While not the most comfortable for long listening sessions, the HD 600 outperforms headphones double their price. For under $400, they are the best wired headphones for critical listening.

2. HIFIMAN Sundara – Best for Soundstage


Sound Signature: Neutral, revealing

Frequency Response: 6–75,000 Hz

Impedance: 37 ohms

Sensitivity: 94 dB

With an extraordinarily open soundstage and stunning clarity across the entire frequency range, the planar magnetic HIFIMAN Sundara are simply breathtaking for under $500.

The midrange is crystal clear and lifelike. The bass has incredible texture and impact. And the highs are airy and extended without harshness. They work magic with any genre and provide an immersive listening experience.

The lightweight build and padding offer comfortable long-term wear. Overall, the Sundara deliver phenomenal sound quality way above their price.

3. DROP + HIFIMAN HE4XX – Best Value


Sound Signature: Warm, detailed

Frequency Response: 20-35,000 Hz

Impedance: 35 ohms

Sensitivity: 93 dB

At just $220, the planar magnetic DROP + HIFIMAN HE4XX are a steal. They sound comparable to headphones double the price with smooth mids, tight punchy bass and sparkling highs.

The open-back design provides a large immersive soundstage. Instrument imaging is precise with great separation. Details shine through with striking clarity.

They have a warmer tone than neutral but are still highly dynamic across genres like jazz, classical and rock. For the money, the HE4XX deliver absolutely stunning wired headphone sound.

4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – Best Closed-Back

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Sound Signature: Slightly V-shaped

Frequency Response: 15–28,000 Hz

Impedance: 38 ohms

Sensitivity: 99 dB

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the best-selling closed-back wired headphones for good reason – they sound amazing at an affordable price.

Offering above-average sound isolation thanks to the closed design, they provide thumping bass impact, clear mids and crisp highs. The soundstage is more intimate but instrument separation still impresses.

Extremely versatile for all genres, these portable pro-grade headphones fold up nicely. With excellent comfort and construction, the M50x continue to dominate the sub-$150 category.

5. Grado SR80e – Best Open-Back Under $100

Grado SR80e

Sound Signature: Bright, detailed

Frequency Response: 20–20,000 Hz

Impedance: 32 ohms

Sensitivity: 99 dB

Grado’s SR80e offer an unbeatable open-back wired headphone sound for under $100. They deliver airy, detailed treble alongside punchy bass for a vibrant and energetic presentation.

The open construction provides an expansive soundstage, allowing instruments to breathe. Metal and rock genres truly shine on these headphones.

While the foam pads can get uncomfortable after a while, the overall performance is staggering for the price. If your budget is limited, the SR80e will blow you away.

6. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro – Best for Acoustic Genres

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Sound Signature: Bright, spacious

Frequency Response: 5–35,000 Hz

Impedance: 250 ohms

Sensitivity: 96 dB

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro produce an incredible sense of space with their wide open soundstage and sparkling highs. Acoustic, classical and jazz shine on these detailed headphones.

They have velvety smooth mids and crisp, extended highs without harshness. The bass has nice sub-bass presence despite the open design. These are extremely versatile studio headphones for mixing and analytical listening.

The build is plush and durable with comfy velour pads. At around $150, the DT 990 Pro provide breathtaking open-back sound perfect for acoustic genres.

7. Philips SHP9500 – Most Comfortable

Philips SHP9500

Sound Signature: Neutral, balanced

Frequency Response: 12–35,000 Hz

Impedance: 32 ohms

Sensitivity: 101 dB

The Philips SHP9500 are simply legendary in the budget audiophile space – open-back wired headphones that sound like $300 models for around $75.

Featuring a spacious, textured sound with crisp highs and full lows, they work beautifully for rock, jazz, acoustic and orchestral music. The imaging is top-notch, constructing an immersive soundstage.

The extremely comfortable fit allows for long, fatigue-free listening sessions. For the price, the SHP9500 deliver absolutely mind-blowing quality.

8. Focal Elegia – Best Closed-Back Under $1000

Focal Elegia

Sound Signature: Punchy, dynamic

Frequency Response: 5–23,000 Hz

Impedance: 35 ohms

Sensitivity: 105 dB

As Focal’s first high-end closed-back headphone, the Elegia does not disappoint with jaw-dropping audio performance and premium build.

They produce hard-hitting bass while maintaining stunning detail across mids and highs. The expansive soundstage is remarkably immersive for a closed-back design. Every note sounds dynamic and crystal clear.

The industrial design looks slick while offering excellent noise isolation. If you want top-tier sound without open-back drawbacks, the Elegia deliver in spades.

9. DROP + DCA Ether CX – Best Closed-Back Under $1200


Sound Signature: Neutral, accurate

Frequency Response: 5–30,000 Hz

Impedance: 25 ohms

Sensitivity: 100 dB

Utilizing a specially-tuned planar magnetic driver, the DROP + DCA Ether CX achieve reference-level sound quality in a premium closed-back design.

They deliver sparkling detail across crystal clear mids and soaring highs. The bass has authoritative impact while staying clean and fast. Instrument separation is stellar with a wide soundstage.

Built with exotic leather and machined metals, these headphones scream luxury. For just under $1200, they provide breathtaking fidelity rivaling top open-back models.

10. Sennheiser HD 650 – Best for Classical Music

Sennheiser HD 650

Sound Signature: Warm, smooth

Frequency Response: 10–39,500 Hz

Impedance: 300 ohms

Sensitivity: 103 dB

The Sennheiser HD 650 are open-back audiophile legends, delivering natural tonal balance with lush mids that bring vocal performances to life.

The bass has nice sub-bass extension and impact. Treble sounds pristine and sparkly. Combined with the expansive soundstage, orchestral classical music sounds mesmerizing.

Sennheiser’s velvet-lined headband and plush earpads provide a comfortable fit. For classical music listeners, the HD 650 offer top-tier sound reproduction just under $400.

11. Audeze LCD-1 – Best Planar Magnetic Under $500

Audeze LCD-1

Sound Signature: Warm, detailed

Frequency Response: 10–50,000 Hz

Impedance: 16 ohms

Sensitivity: 96 dB

At just $500, the planar magnetic Audeze LCD-1 deliver sound quality on par with headphones above $1000. Their open-back design provides an enormous 3D soundstage.

The mids sound lush and textured with crisp, extended highs. Despite the open design, the bass has authoritative punch down low. They handle any genre with finesse and refinement.

Audeze’s premium craftsmanship includes solid wood, leather and metals. For an immersive audiophile sound under $500, the LCD-1 are hard to beat.

12. HiFiMan Ananda – Best for Imaging

HiFiMan Ananda

Sound Signature: Neutral, nuanced

Frequency Response: 8–65,000 Hz

Impedance: 25 ohms

Sensitivity: 103 dB

Utilizing a next-gen planar driver, the HiFiMan Ananda deliver reference-level performance with ultra-precise imaging and expansive soundstage.

They sound fast and dynamic across the frequency spectrum – deep visceral bass, open mids and sparkling extended treble. No detail goes missed and instruments leap from the mix.

The featherweight magnesium build offers long-term comfort. At $700, the Ananda provide imaging abilities unmatched in their price bracket.

13. Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire – Best Closed-Back Under $1000

Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire

Sound Signature: Detailed, spacious

Frequency Response: 7-26,000 Hz

Impedance: 13 ohms

Sensitivity: 94 dB/mW

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Closed-back planar magnetic headphones with massive soundstage? That’s the magic of the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire.

They produce full lows, transparent mids and silky highs. The bass hits hard yet stays clean. Orchestral music sounds expansive and intimate vocals shine.

Machined aluminum cups provide industrial design and excellent isolation. For $900, the Aeon 2 Noire achieve soundscape sizes unheard of from closed-back models.

14. Audeze LCD-X – Best High-End Audiophile

Audeze LCD-X

Sound Signature: Neutral, revealing

Frequency Response: 5–50,000 Hz

Impedance: 20 ohms

Sensitivity: 96 dB

Hands down the best sounding audiophile headphones money can buy, the Audeze LCD-X set a new benchmark at $1700. Their cutting-edge drivers deliver sound quality unmatched by any dynamic headphones.

Every note sounds effortless and real across the enormous soundstage. The bass plunges subterranean depths with lightning speed. Mids and highs achieve pinpoint imaging with undisguised clarity.

Built from exotic hardwoods and leathers, they define luxurious. While expensive, the LCD-X provide an unforgettable listening experience.

15. Fostex TH900MK2 – Best Bass Headphones

Fostex TH900MK2

Sound Signature: V-shaped, dynamic

Frequency Response: 5–42,000 Hz

Impedance: 25 ohms

Sensitivity: 102 dB

Featuring bespoke 50mm biodynamic drivers, the semi-open Fostex TH900MK2 deliver jaw dropping bass matched by sparkling highs. EDM, hip hop and pop sound incredible.

They have a lush midrange with intimate vocals. The expanded soundstage provides a enveloping presentation. Every detail comes through with energy and refinement.

Constructed in Japan using exotic woods and leathers, these headphones scream luxury. Audiophiles wanting great bass need not look further than the TH900MK2.

Headphone Audio Quality – FAQs

Looking to get even more out of your headphones? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What file formats provide the best sound quality?

Lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, etc. retain the most detail from original recordings. High-res formats like 24-bit/96kHz are even better. Avoid compressed formats like MP3.

Will a headphone amplifier improve audio quality?

Absolutely. A dedicated amp provides necessary power, especially for high impedance headphones. Plus, it improves control over volume and fine-tunes the sound signature.

Any tips for getting the best headphone fit?

Wear them correctly so that the earpads fully surround your ears. Adjust extenders and headband height for ideal clamping pressure. Too loose or too tight will negatively impact sound.

Should I replace earpads over time?

Yes, worn out pads can degrade sound isolation, bass response and comfort. Replacement earpads from the manufacturer will restore your headphones.

Will upgrading headphone cables help?

Aftermarket cables can provide minor improvements to clarity and bass. Look for oxygen-free options with quality connectors.

With the right pair of wired headphones, your favorite tunes will come alive and sound better than ever. Reference-level audio performance is finally achievable without blowing thousands of dollars.

So what are you waiting for? Grab one of these stellar wired headphones, plug them into a headphone amp, and get ready for a breathtaking listening experience.

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