I get this question nearly every day. “What is the best headphone?” And the truth is, there is none. No one headphone is the best headphone for everyone. Everyone has different ears and different brains. Therefore, we all have different preferences. So today, rather than doing a review, I’m going to be going over sound signature. Which headphone brands have a sound signature that fits with your personal tastes? Let’s break down sound signatures by brand: headphones edition!
Sound Signatures by Brand: Headphones Edition
AKG’s typical sound signature is an even, natural, flat response. This brand is great for audio engineers, mixers, and folks that need an even sound that can reproduce harmonic complexity. For the audiophile, the headphones are best for those that enjoy classical and jazz music– for genres that don’t need a hyped bass, but have a spacious midrange and detailed treble.
Many of AKG’s models are made for studio use, and thus, they aren’t as good for taking on-the-go.
AKG Headphones Under $100
K72, K240, K121, K182, Y50
AKG Headphones Under $200
K141 mkii, K240 mkii, K271 mkii
AKG Headphones Under $500
AKG Headphones Under $5000
In a general sense, Audio Technica cans lean toward the high-mids. They produce vocals with detail and clarity. However, many of their products also feature a nice big bass. Even the headphones that don’t feature the “Solid Bass” name still will have a little extra energy down low. As a result, many of their cans have, what you might call, a smiley face curve to them. Therefore, they work best for folky, vocal centric music. They also work well for vocal centric hip-hop. That said, they aren’t as great for music that needs a fuller midrange like rock and pop, or for music that needs a more realistic, even response.
It’s worth noting that the design of many of these cans favors portability. Their lower-tier models fold up, and have manageable cables. You can walk around town with the closed-back models, or enjoy them on the couch.
Here are some select cans in the different price ranges:
Audio Technica Headphones Under $100
WS550iS, M20x, M30x, M40x, ANC500bt, SR30bt,
Audio Technica Headphones Under $200
SR5bt, SR6bt, M50x, M60x, ANC700bt, SR50bt
Audio Technica Headphones Under $500
MSR7b, MSR7nc, WS99bt, DSR7bt, ANC900bt, M70x
Audio Technica Headphones Under $1000
Audio Technica Headphones Under $3000
Audio Technica Headphones Under $5000
Beyerdynamic cans are some of my favorite for the type of music I listen to. Like Audio Technica, many of their headphones feature both a hyped high and low frequency response. However, their midrange dip feels even, and so even though midrange rich instruments sound a bit quieter in the mix, they maintain a sense of harmonic complexity. As a result, the headphones work well for singer-songwriter and hip-hop, but also work for rock and pop.
Many Beyerdynamic cans are bulky in nature. They’re a bit less convenient for portability, but are often extremely durable.
Beyerdynamic Headphones Under $100
DTX910, DT240, Custom Street
Beyerdynamic Headphones Under $200
Custom Game, DT770, DT880, DT990, Custom One Pro Plus, DT1350
Beyerdynamic Headphones Under $500
Custom Studio, MMX300 V2, Aventho Wired, Aventho Wireless
Beyerdynamic Headphones Under $1000
Amiron Home, Amiron Wireless, DT1990, DT1770, T1 Gen II, T5p
JBL headphones, for the most part, favor a nice bass and a full midrange. Their sound has a sense of thickness and fullness which works well for hip-hop, pop, and electronic music. They don’t have as much detail in the high frequencies, which makes them less favorable for vocal music, or music that relies on high-frequencies for emotional impact.
In general, JBL headphones are durable and strong. They are made with portability in mind and will work well for folks who need a can they can take withthem throughout their day.
JBL Headphones Under $100
JR300, JR300bt, T450bt, Tune600btnc, E45bt,
JBL Headphones Under $200
E55bt, Everest 300, E65btnc,
JBL Headphones Under $500
Everest Elite 300, Everest 710, Everest Elite 700
Sennheiser headphones have a pretty wide variety of sound signatures. Their lower tier models tend to have a realistic low end with a little bit of emphasis combined with a full midrange and even highs. As a result, this tier works well for a wide variety of genres, but favor music that needs a nice full midrange like pop, rock, and electronic music.
The middle tier headphones feel dedicated to studio folks. There is a sense of neutrality to their sound. They aren’t super exciting to listen to, but they are even and clear and have a nice soundstage. These headphones are great for audio engineers and mixers, as well as audiophiles that like an even, neutral sound signature. They work well for classical, jazz, and anything else that requires a sense of realism.
Finally, the upper-tier models introduce extreme clarity to the upper mids and highs, and maintain that sense of beautiful soundstage. Sometimes the highs have boosts, sometimes they feel more even. But regardless, this extra detail up high brings strings and horns to life, but sometimes makes vocals feel thinner than they would otherwise. As a result, the top-tier cans feel better for audiophiles specifically than for mixers or engineers. They are great for classical and jazz.
Sennheiser cans, at the lower tier typically made for portability in mind, although have a little bit of a sense of bulkiness. The upper tiers are less good for travelling, but much better for listening at home.
Sennheiser Headphones Under $100
HD229, HD2.30, GSP303, GSP300, HD559, HD4.30,
Sennheiser Headphones Under $200
RS135, HD569, HDR175, HD4.50btnc, HD599.
Sennheiser Headphones Under $500
GSP500, GSP600, Game One, PXC550, Momentum 2, HD660s,
Sennheiser Headphones Under $3000
HD800, HD800s, HD820