5 outrageous headphones that will blow your mind, and your savings

Has there ever been a purer, more intimate sonic experience than that provided by a good pair of headphones? Revealing all the detail and brilliance of the best in recorded music, great headphones deliver sound to the common man that otherwise only exists in professional listening rooms with walls of expensive electronics. And while you can get some serious bang for your buck from the cheap seats, virtually nothing compares to the transcendent experience of a top-tier pair of cans.

We’ve been lucky enough to get a front-row seat to some of the greatest headphones ever created by humankind, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorites and compiled them into this drool-worthy guided tour. The list below is bound to spark plenty of debate, but there’s no denying all of these headphones offer truly incredible sound — albeit at some truly astronomical prices. So kick up your heels, throw on some tunes, and follow us to headphone heaven.

Ultimate Ears UE 18+ custom in-ear reference monitors ($1,500)

The name for these earphones pretty much says it all. Designed by the company that helped write the blueprint for modern in-ear monitors, the UE 18+ are tuned for near-linear sonic reproduction, with a soundstage meant to emulate the immaculate sound found in the control room of a pro studio. Custom-crafted and 3D-printed for each and every nook and cranny of your ear canal, the UE 18+ headphones offer a near-perfect fit and impressive noise isolation.

Thanks to their triple shot of advanced, “True Tone” balanced armature drivers, they offer a brilliantly accurate reproduction of exactly what’s been laid down in the recording studio — no artificial colors or preservatives added. Rich recordings are revealed in all their glory, with firm and punchy bass, as well as exquisite clarity riding all the way into the nether regions. While these may be designed for professional use — be it stage or studio — make no mistake: UE’s 18+ offer an epic ride that lets you retrace your steps and rediscover the intricacies of your favorite music like you’ve never heard it before. Read our full review here.

Buy them now from:

Ultimate Ears

Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 ($2,000)

Audio-Technica’s latest contribution to the highest tier of headphone nirvana, the open-backed ATH-ADX5000 are easily among the best-sounding headphones we have ever tested.

Minimalist construction and clever physics-based engineering help make the dynamic drivers inside the ADX5000 deliver some of the clearest, brightest sound on the planet, offering you a fresh listen of your favorite tunes. The lightweight design and plush earpads ensure the headphones are also some of the most comfortable we’ve ever tested, allowing us to steep in our favorite music for hours on end.

With striking dynamics, tactile transient response, and some of the finest definition we have ever heard, there’s nothing that would stop us from picking up a pair of these astonishingly good headphones except for their hefty price tag. Read our full review here.

Buy them now from:

Audio Technica

Audeze LCD-4z ($4,000)

There’s a reason we called Audeze’s LCD-3 the “voice of god” headphones in our 2013 review. The decadent handcrafted headphones were less a set of headphones than a stationary listening apparatus designed to reproduce otherworldly sound. But with their mammoth size, hefty weight, and greedy power requirements, they weren’t going far from your listening room.

With the introduction of its power-efficient LCD-4z headphones, Audeze has made that incredible sound portable. With 15-ohm impedance, the LCD-4z can be powered by even a cell phone, providing listeners with fantastic sound withhout the requirement of a high-output headphone amp.

The sound embodies the very best qualities available from the thin membranes of planar magnetic drivers, carving out every secret, each lonesome detail, and every rushing burst of form and color from your most complex music, stretched across a sprawling soundstage. Unlike many early iterations in the genre, the LCD-4z draw a full pulse of healthy bass, complemented by all the delicacies of the upper frequencies your best recordings can dish out. These are some of the most incredible headphones we’ve ever heard, and they are now even more real-world ready than ever.

Buy them now from:

Audeze

Shure KSE1500 electrostatic earphone system ($2,999)

It took eight years of stubborn engineering for the headphone masters at Shure to shrink down the complexities of electrostatic drivers and reduce them to something that could fit perfectly inside your ear canal. Still, towing their own dedicated power supply (priced at $1,000 on its own), that makes for a bulky package, and a price point that would make even the most ardent audiophile gulp. One is tempted to ask: Why in-ears?

However, one quick flash of the buttery warmth, the starkly delineated instrumentation, and the astonishing detail afforded by the KSE1500, and that question melts away. As Shure’s engineers discovered essentially by accident, confining electrostatic drivers into a tight space — with just the right tweak of physics — creates a soundstage unlike anything else. We’re talking about detail so clean you can hear the change in tone when a vocalist moves a few inches off the mic, with delivery as smooth as a bed of satin, all in a package you can take anywhere. Now that’s something worth saving up for. Read our hands-on review here.

Buy them now from:

Amazon

Sennheiser HE 1 (Orpheus)  ($50,000)

Simply put, the rebirth of Sennheiser’s original Orpheus HE 90 (which begged a $16,000 price tag back in the ’90s) has resulted in the greatest headphones ever created. Spawned from a decade’s worth of ingenuity, toil, and reinvention, Sennheiser took the mantle from the Orpheus’ predecessor, crushed every bit of engineering involved, and rebuilt the headphones from the ground up. The final product isn’t just a pair of awe-inspiring headphones, they’re a marvel of modern engineering.

Assembled from more than 6,000 components, the Orpheus system begins with a stand carved out of Carrara marble, and adds in gold vaporized ceramic electrodes, quartz-glass vacuum tubes, and dual amplification stages to create an “ultrahigh impulse” flood of pure, unadulterated velocity.

The sound is unparalleled in the headphone world — and beyond — providing awe-inspiring detail, a galaxy-sized soundstage, and near supernatural transient response. Ridiculously expensive? Absolutely. But hey, you don’t buy a Ferrari if you’re going to quibble about the price. If there was ever a creation that fully embodies gratuitous luxury, it’s the Orpheus. Read our hands-on review here.

Find out more from:

Sennheiser

Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Mobile

Here are our favorite wireless phone chargers for Android devices and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Deals

One of the best noise-canceling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 25, is on sale

The Bose QuietComfort 25 rank among the best noise-canceling headphones on the market, but they're not cheap with a sticker price of $200. Now, you can score a pair for just $140 from Rakuten for a limited time, the best deal since Prime…
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

HDMI 2.0b is a whole lot more than just a connection to your TV

HDMI 2.0b is the backbone for many of the latest updates in 4K UHD technology. And while a new cable standard can often involve a bunch of changes for consumers, that is not the case this time around.
Product Review

For picture quality on a budget, Vizio's new P-Series is absolutely unbeatable

Vizio’s P-Series TV line has always been the best among the brand’s long run of budget-friendly TVs, but this year’s model has really stepped up. While the competition is also improving, Vizio’s latest P-Series keeps the brand among…
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Latest 'Daredevil' season 3 preview puts the spotlight on Wilson Fisk

Season 3 of Daredevil will premiere October 19 on Netflix, so here is everything we know about the next set of adventures featuring Marvel Comics' man without fear before the third season's debut.
Music

How to convert and play FLAC music files on your iPhone or iPad

The high-resolution revolution is upon us, and FLAC files are a popular way to store hi-res sound. But what if you’re an iOS user? Check out our article to find out more about FLAC files, and how to use them on Apple devices.
Home Theater

Learn how to calibrate your home theater speakers for sheer audio bliss

Make your home theater rumble just right with our manual speaker setup guide, a simple, step-by-step walkthrough to getting the most from your audio equipment without needing to rely on imperfect automatic calibration.
Home Theater

Make your vinyl collection really shine with one of the best phono preamps

Whether you're looking for a quick fix to set up your first turntable or a long-term audio upgrade for higher-quality sound, here are the best phono preamps you can buy that won't empty out your wallet.
Home Theater

The best MP3 players of 2018

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? No worries. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? Don't sweat it. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Product Review

LG's new Tone Platinum SE headphones let you rock out for longer than ever

The latest in LG’s Tone wireless headphones series, the new Tone Platinum SE, offer some impressive audio performance and Google Assistant access, but the real prize here is the 13-hour battery.