2017 has been an outstanding year for great-sounding headphones. This roundup collects the bestof thebest in-, on-, and over-the-ear headphones I've had ears-on experience with this year. From budget to insanely expensive models, they're all here!
First up: a bold, dramatic design, the Heritage HP-3 ($1,199) is a reference-quality headphone, which is a first for Klipsch! It's the sort of headphone you fall in love with from the second you hear it.
The EP's bass was pleasantly plump, with acceptable definition -- it's a Beats headphone after all. The EP was a very listenable headphone, and acoustic instruments fared best. The price is right, too; just $130, £90 and AU$140.
The JH Audio Lola (priced from $1,599, £1,520) is available as a universal-fit model, or you can order it custom-molded to your ears. Both are "hybrid" designs with dynamic and balanced armature drivers, and the sound is ravishing and transparent as hell. The cable houses a bass level control! Review to come.
It would be all too easy to overlook the Final Audio Design E3000 in-ear headphones ($55, £49 or AU$99), but that would be a mistake. The brand makes a lot of great headphones. It may not have the name recognition of Sennheiser or Beats, but if it keeps making headphones this good, it'll cross over to the big leagues soon. The E3000 is the best budget in-ear headphone I've heard in ages.
The Audeze LCDi4 ($2,495, £2,399) is one of the most transparent and open sounding in-ear headphones on the planet. The clarity is downright addictive, and the bass is super deep, with nimble definition. The headphone comes with both Apple Lightning and standard cables. One catch: it's an open design, so it doesn't hush external noise from planes, trains, buses and so on.
Focal is best known as France's leading high-end speaker brand, but starting last year it introduced two spectacular headphones, the Elear and the Utopia. The new Clear's sound has an unforced quality that just seems to let music through without imposing any change on it. I associate that sort of sound with vanishingly low distortion, and maybe that's why the Clear ($1,499, £1,399) makes music sound so realistic.
The first headphone to give the Abyss AB 1266 headphone a run for the money, Susvara's sound is hyper-transparent and pure. It's also more comfortable than the AB-1266 and Hifiman's very own HE1000v2 headphone. Oh, and it sounds better than any Audeze headphone I've heard to date. Yes, Susvara is really expensive -- $6,000 (£4,950, AU$7,499) a pair!
Koss makes a bunch of headphones over a wide price range, but the company has a special affinity for making outstanding budget 'phones. The KPH30i ($30) actually feels more solidly constructed and upscale than the more-expensive Koss Porta Pro. The KPH30i is less transparent and clear than the Porta Pro, with a more prominent mid-bass and fatter midrange. Still, it's a sweet and non-fatiguing sound; very easy on the ears.
MrSpeakers headphones have long been Audiophiliac favorites, but they've really come up with something special with the Aeon Flow ($800). It's the company's most-comfortable, best-looking, and in some ways best-sounding headphone yet!
The iSine 10 shares a lot of tech with the flagship Audeze in-ear, the LCDi4. Both are open-back in-ear, planar magnetic designs. The $399/£366 iSine 10 sounds remarkably clear and spacious; no other in-ear headphone at the price can touch it. Just be aware the iSine doesn't hush external noise one bit. Also available with an Apple Lightning cable.
If I had to describe this headphone's sound with one word, I'd start with "right." Voices are so natural, so full of life, so engaging. I had a hard time taking notes for the review -- I just wanted to keep listening. Each Eikon is built to order; price runs $1,299, £1,038 or AU$1,694 in cherry wood and $1,399, £1,118 or AU$1,824 in African Padauk wood.
An update of Audeze's original LCD2, but the Classic is much lighter and more comfortable, and it's the lowest price over-the-ear Audeze headphone ever. The LCD2 Classic has an introductory price of $599.