- Audiophile headphones are designed to reproduce sound as accurately as possible, with minimal flavoring. They are meant for audio purists, editors, and music reviewers who want to hear music without any filters.
- Audiophile headphones generally come without the usual bells and whistles that accompany consumer headphones, such as ANC, Bluetooth, calling facilities, and so on. They are meant purely for listening to audio as clearly as possible and are used by reviewers, purists, content creators, and studio professionals.
- While the best audiophile headphones could set you back by a significant amount of money (many run into thousands of dollars), you can also get a decent audiophile experience at a lower price. Here’s our list of headphones that cost less than Rs 10,000/$150, but still deliver a very clear, audiophile experience.
Are you looking for headphones for editing your podcast? Or tweaking the audio on your YouTube channel? Or because you want to hear audio the way it was recovered, without any added bass or treble stress or balancing? Or because you want to really understand what all the fuss about lossless audio is and want to hear it in all its glory on your smartphone?
Your regular pair of headphones might sound good but are unlikely to be the best options in these cases. Consumer or “normal” headphones might sound very pleasant, but they come with a lot of “flavoring,” which often compromises detail or the purity of sound.
If you want to hear sound in all its purity, without any tuning done to make it ‘sound’ better (pun intended), what you need is a pair of audiophile headphones, also referred to as “studio headphones” or “professional headphones.” These are designed to deliver sound at its purest to your ears and are designed purely for listening (they often have no support for phone calls, are almost always wired, and have no ANC). There are no adjustments to bass or treble or any attempt to improve the audio sound. These headphones deliver audio the way it was recorded. It may not sound the most pleasant and might even appear to sound a little flat, but it is what purists treasure. It is also great for editing as imperfections and flaws are often revealed.
The problem, of course, is that with great detail and clarity comes a hefty price tag. Audiophile headphones tend to be pricey and often have to be used with additional equipment like DACs, amplifiers, and special media players, which further swell the bill.
Fortunately, you can actually get a very good pair of headphones without going beyond the Rs 10,000 mark. And no, you will not have to invest in additional DACs or amplifiers to use them either. So if you want to dip your toes (or should that be ‘ears?’) in budget audiophile territory and can even play just off your smartphone (although DACs will always help, as always), here are six budget audiophile headphones that will deliver a great audio experience for under Rs 10,000 (~$150):
1. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro – the best under Rs 10,000 (~$150)!
Rs 9,999 – Amazon.in | USD 159 – Amazon.com
We are going to be pretty blunt about it – if we had to pick a single pair of headphones to recommend from this list, it would be this one. The DT 770 Pro from Beyerdynamic enjoy iconic status and are the traditional rivals of the legendary ATH-M50X. While the M50X are supposed to have a hint of bass, the 770 Pro are supposed to incline a little towards the treble. Once priced close to Rs 15,000, these are a terrific deal at below Rs 10,000, with a premium metallic build, incredibly comfortable earcups, and sound fantastic, with an amazing amount of detail, courtesy of 45 mm drivers.
They might seem a little on the sharp side to those with very sensitive ears but have a very good sound stage, delivering audio that seems spread out over a wide area (remarkable when you consider they are closed back). Yes, they come with a cable that is not detachable (so if the cables go, so do the headphones), and they do not fold, so carrying them will be an issue. But in terms of reputation and performance, these are the tops below Rs 10,000. Just remember to take the 32 Ohm variant if you want to use them with your phone!
2. ATH-M40X – the wallet-friendly, and slightly flatter sounding M50X!
Rs 8,499 – Amazon.in | $119 – Amazon.com
The ATH-M50X might be wayyyy more famous, but the ATH-M40X are rather formidable in their own right. In fact, there are many who believe that they sound more neutral than even the M50X, which some accuse of having a (very) slight bass accent.
These headphones come with the typically distinct ATH-M series design, and while the build is mainly plastic, it is sturdy, with the iconic logo on the earcups. They fold inwards, making them incredibly portable, and are tough enough to toss into a backpack without worrying about the consequences. Best of all – they sound amazing, with 40 mm drivers that deliver very clear sound even at high volumes. You get two cables in the box – a straight cable and a coiled – and they are both detachable from the headphones. A great option for those seeking straightforward audiophile sound and who love the ATH M50X but do not have the budget for them.
3. AKG K240 MK II – bringing in that open back magic
Rs 9,500 – Amazon.in | $89 – Amazon.com
AKG might not make as many headlines as some of the other brands mentioned in this list. Still, it has a formidable reputation in audio circles and offers headphones across a wide panorama. If you want to stick to five figures, then the AKG K240 Mk II are among the best headphones you get in terms of sheer clarity.
The semi-open design means that while sound will leak out from them, you will get a wider soundstage. The design is typical AKG with a very distinct headband and dots above the ear cups, which are very comfortable. Cables are detachable, and You get two(coiled and straight) in the box. Not very portable as they do not fold, but they have very, very good sound, courtesy of 30 mm drivers. They might not sound as refined as some of the others above them in this list but are great for studio use.
4. Sony MDR-7506 – the veteran still packs a studio punch
Rs, 7,249 – Amazon.in | $86 – Amazon.com
They have been around for a while, and the fact that they remain the favorites of many audio professionals tells you just how good they are. They are all plastic and a little on the fragile side in terms of design, and while they do fold in, they have no detachable cable, which could be a little restrictive to some.
However, in terms of audio, they are very good indeed and have a very flat audio signature and lots of detail, making them a great option for those who want to edit audio. The 40 mm drivers deliver audio without distortion, even at high volumes. They are reasonably comfortable but are not as large as some of the options mentioned here, so your ears will not be enveloped like the others. You might also be advised to get a DAC for better results, although most new mid-segment phones should also be able to drive them. We would slot them alongside the AKG K240 MII as studio favorites because of the level of clarity they deliver.
5. Sennheiser HD 599 Special Edition – the bridge between audiophile and mainstream
Rs 9,990 – Amazon.in | $159 – Amazon.com
If there was an award for the “most pleasant sounding audiophile headphone below Rs 10,000), then the Sennheiser HD 599 would win it. In fact, some hardcore audiophiles might even object to their being mentioned in this list, ahead of the more flat-sounding, closed-back Sennheiser HD569. These open-back headphones are supposed to be among the best for those who want headphones that fall somewhere in between a pure audiophile flat sound and a very slightly flavored mainstream one.
They come with an understated yet distinct design. While being open-backed means that sound will leak out, the sound they deliver is fantastic – perhaps not perfect for the analytical types, but perfect for those who want to listen to high-quality audio without needing to edit it, with the legendary Sennheiser handling of the mids. You get powerful 38 mm drivers, wonderfully comfortable earcups, and two cables in the box. Just remember to buy them from Amazon, as they seem to be available at a lower price there – also, the white edition seems to be priced higher, for some reason!
6. AKG K92 – perfect for those on a tight budget
Rs 2,766 – Amazon.in | $50 – Amazon.com
We round off the list with perhaps the best pair of audiophile headphones for anyone on an absolute threadbare budget. Yes, we know there are others, but the AKG K92 have a special place for us simply because of the level of performance they deliver.
They come with large ear pads and the typical AKG design of an elastic band below and a dual-band at the top. It might seem a little ostentatious, are definitely too large to be carried around easily, and the single cable attached to it (non-detachable) might sometimes seem way too long. Still, you will forget all that the moment the sound flows into your ears. You get a wealth of detail that is great for listening and editing. At that price, these remain staggering value for money. Get these if you want to experience audiophile audio on a very tight budget to find out what all the fuss is about.