Audiophiles who find the right pair of headphones can equate the experience to a kid tasting and feeling the texture of cotton candy for the first time.
Listening to music through audiophile devices is a whole new world and experience for your auditory senses. The layers of instruments and vocals being so clear and crisp is unmatched; it turns listening to music that you knew your whole life to a second first-time.
However, people who really love music often run into ads of extremely expensive headphones that dishearten them from following their true passion. Well, not anymore. Here is a list of the best budget audiophile headphones because music isn’t about who pays more.
List of the Best Budget Audiophile Headphones:
- HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones – Best Magnetic
- Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Air Headphones – Best Open-Back
- AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Studio Headphones – Best Semi-Open
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Studio Headphones – Most Affordable
|HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones||Open||20 – 35KHz|
|Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Air Headphones||Open||5 – 40KHz|
|AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Studio Headphones||Semi||15 – 25KHz|
|Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Studio Headphones||Closed||15 – 20KHz|
The 4 Best Budget Audiophile Headphones in 2020
We have done our research among many audiophile headphones, and here are the final 4, which manage to provide comfort, quality, durability, and affordability.
1. HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones – Best Magnetic
It’s a well-known fact that planar magnetic headphones provide better quality in sound than their more affordable dynamic counterparts. However, the price limitation struggle is real, and most magnetic headphone lovers on a budget find themselves settling for dynamic headphones. The HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones is here for rescue.
The ear cups are large and strong. Also, the innovative pleather headband and specially designed ear pads are comfortable and soft. These headphones are lighter than previous models and competitor planar magnetic headphones, only weighing 350 grams.
This pair has an over-ear open-back design, which means that the sound is natural; it welcomes external noise and makes the airy, wide soundstage come true. The best part is that they sound clear on any portable audio device.
Thanks to having a magnetic planar transducer, you will get the right balance between the bass, midrange, and treble. These headphones have a smooth, high-quality midrange, which is their biggest strength.
While they don’t have that price point of your typical audiophile headphones, they still cost a lot compared to other headphones on the list.
Also, You may want to find another pair if you’re looking for a fashionable item, as they are not aesthetically pleasing at all; try to only use them in solitude.
What We Like:
- Planar magnetic transducer
- Excellent midrange
- Comfortable headband and ear pads
- Open-back for natural sound
- Easy to drive
What We Don’t Like:
- Not the cheapest
- Not aesthetically pleasing
2. Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Air Headphones – Best Open-back
While each type of headphones has its fans, the open-back market is currently thriving, thanks to audiophiles. The Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Air Headphones offer you the best of open-back headphones at a very affordable price.
Let’s start with the design. The whole thing is sleek-looking, so consider it if the way HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones looks terrifies you. Its custom-fit design makes you feel like it was made just for you.
Its replaceable ear pads are padded with foam and sport a breathable velour finishing to keep you comfortable, even for a whole day of listening. We also love the genuine calf leather outer headband and the 3D mesh on the shelf-adjustable hammock, which is flexible and breathable.
While it is heavier than our top pick, it is still very lightweight at 14.6 ounces.
The acoustic open-back design ensures that there won’t be a build-up of air pressure behind the driver, which results in transparency and smooth extended high frequencies.
Also, the quality 50mm Layered Motion Control (LMC) drivers eliminate exaggerated frequencies, leading us to balanced, natural, extended response frequencies. So, it is rightfully Hi-Res certified.
In addition, the pair’s double-layered ear shells reduce any vibration for a highly precise sound. While the bass isn’t the strongest, it is still a very crisp, punchy bass.
Okay, so what don’t we like? While the high and low frequencies are great, the midrange is recessed; it is too laid back, so skip these headphones and go for the ones above if you’re looking for a clear midrange.
What We Like:
- Extended response frequencies
- Open-back design
- Excellent high frequency and punchy bass
- Comfortable headband and ear pads
- Follows Hi-Res audio standard
What We Don’t Like:
- Recessed midrange
3. AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Studio Headphones – Best Semi-open
Some people can’t choose between open-back and closed-back headphones. Most people love a wide feel, but also a little bit of isolation. So we recommend a semi-open pair such as affordable AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Studio Headphones for a bit of both worlds.
The first thing that you’ll notice is how classic it looks with the black color and golden logos, as AKG is known for their attractive designs.
In addition, the pair’s high-quality plastic endures rough handling, whether on stage or during transport. Its durability, along with its detachable input cable, ensures hassle-free portability.
This hidden gem has a self-adjusting headband for comfort in prolonged use. Moreover, the circumaural ear pads improve your experience of having to sit and wear headphones in the studio all day.
Their semi-open design helps provide a spacious experience without leaking too much sound. So, you can use them alone or with friends who don’t mind a little bit of noise. Such a design is perfect for professional applications such as mixing, mastering, and playback.
Also, this pair provides a balanced sound and accurate reproduction of details, thanks to the new XXL transducers that use AKG’s patented Varimotion diaphragm.
As with all the headphones on our list, there are many qualities we like and some qualities that we don’t like much.
First of all, the ear cups are comfortable and everything, but not for larger ears. Second of all, these headphones support many formats, but not mp3, which can be limiting.
What We Like:
- Semi-open design
- Detachable cable
- Balanced and detailed sound
- Self-adjusting headband and comfortable ear pads
What We Don’t Like:
- Uncomfortable for large ears
- No mp3 support
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Studio Headphones – Most Affordable
If you’re currently on a budget but still want to join your audiophile friends in the conversation, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Studio Headphones.
This pair has a simple, understated look with an all-black design. We love a durable, robust construction in a pair of headphones that is under 50; it won’t be the end of the world if it takes a few beatings, although we don’t recommend giving your new headphones a beating.
In addition, the single-side cable exit is highly convenient. For a closed-back pair of headphones, they don’t put too much pressure on your head. Also, these headphones are well padded for a comfortable grip.
The circumaural design contours around the ears, along with the closed-back design, ensure excellent sound isolation.
Thanks to their sound performance, they are perfect for studio tracking and mixing. In what way? They are tuned for enhanced low-frequency performance. Also, the neutral frequency response is amazing, which is perfect for studio headphones because boosting the highs and lows eliminates sound accuracy.
Of course, there are some qualities that we don’t like in these headphones. First, if you’re a small-headed person, the ear cups will be too large for you. Second, this pair comes with no carry case and has no folding ability, which means it’s not the most portable.
What We Like:
- Incredibly affordable
- Enhanced low frequency
- Durable construction
- Excellent sound isolation
What We Don’t Like:
- The ear cups are too large for some people
- No carrying case or folding ability
How to Pick Budget Audiophile Headphones
Each type of these headphones has its dedicated fans and settings in which they work best. Yet, the discussion around them is still heated, so here is what you need to know about the difference between open-back, closed-back, and semi-open headphones.
Open-back headphones are easy to spot because they have mesh grills on the outside of the ear cups. These grills allow sound and air to pass through them.
People who prefer the open-back design are after maximizing the space they’re in and blending their music with their surroundings without losing sound clarity. Also, open-back headphones have excellent high frequencies, and the lack of echoes inside makes the music sound natural.
Open-back headphones are more suitable for use in a personal listening room, not outside use; since they leak a lot of audio and don’t do much of noise cancellation, it makes sense that you use them in closed, quiet areas. However, some people use them while enjoying outside scenery for a magical experience.
Closed-back headphones are the most common type. They are all about isolation and cancellation of external noise. They seal the sound in around your ears, and you don’t hear the outside, and the outside doesn’t hear your music.
This inside-your-world experience is achieved by the lack of mesh grills and complete cupping of the ears by ear cups.
While they don’t sound as natural as their open-back counterparts, you can use them anywhere you want. They give you complete privacy, so put them on during your bus commute and pretend you’re in a music video like we all do.
As the name suggests, semi-open headphones have the best of both worlds.
While some people mistake them for being open-back headphones, they are neither fully open nor fully closed. So, they leak a bit of noise, and you can still hear external noise, but not as much as open ones.
On the other hand, the fact that they’re not completely closed means that they’re more comfortable for longer wear, as they apply less pressure on your ears.
Their unique design helps them play lower and higher frequencies well. The transparency of sound in a pair of semi-open headphones is to die for. So, they’re pretty popular with audiophiles.
What’s an audiophile if not someone who would definitely go out of their way to get better sound quality? From headphones to amplifiers, there’s a lot that an audiophile is willing to get just to hear their favorite music better.
While high sound quality is usually associated with high-end prices, and that isn’t a wrong association, there are many impressive options at a budget-friendly price; you don’t have to be lavish to get the sound quality that you deserve.
In addition, over-ear headphones are usually more capable of providing better sound quality than in-ear and on-ear designs, so stick with them to get the best results.
Also, audiophiles tend to gravitate to wired headphones over their wireless counterparts because they provide an interference-free experience and a better sound.
Audiophiles tend to sit down for prolonged sessions of listening, testing, and analyzing their music. So, it only makes sense that you seek a pair that makes this experience pleasant and comfortable for you.
Look for headphones that are well-padded and soft on your ears. The headbands should feel nice on your head, as well. Self-adjustable hammocks are underrated gems that make all the difference.
Do these headphones sit securely over or inside your ears, or will you waste your time catching them when they slip?
Also, some types of headphones tend to get warm after a while, which is a big no for many people.
While durability is a quality that is often discussed with high-end products, you deserve to find an affordable pair of audiophile headphones that don’t break after a week of use. Durability plays an important role in audiophile headphones.
Cheap components and build can and will worsen the performance of the headphones over time. So, look for headphones that are made from high-quality plastic so that they’re still affordable but not low quality.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are Audiophile Headphones?
You understand once you get what audiophilia is all about.
They are headphones that help you listen to music as accurately and detail-packed as it was played and meant to be heard. Such a quest for the “truth” of music is often described using the term “high-fidelity”, which refers to reproducing the music with as little distortion as possible.
So, if the pair of headphones you have in mind have extended frequencies, where the highs, lows, and mids are clear, then you have audiophile headphones.
Are Audiophile Headphones Worth It?
If you’re an audiophile, they will definitely be a worthy investment for you.
However, the right pair of headphones that is right for you may not be the same for your fellow audiophile, as this community is notorious for their arguments about what truly matters when listening to music. So, trust your ears and gut, and turn off the YouTube comments.
Are Expensive Headphones Worth It?
It depends on what made them expensive in the first place.
Some headphones are expensive because of their aesthetic design; so, people who are looking for a stand-out fashion item will find them worth it, but audiophiles may not.
On the other hand, some headphones are expensive because they use high-quality components that enhance the sound or even highlight how the music actually sounds, and in this case, true audiophiles will say that they’re worth it.
While we recommend and trust every item on our list of the best budget audiophile headphones, we want to go through the highlights one more time.
Our top pick is the premium HIFIMAN HE400S Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones. Their build is sturdy and comfortable. Also, they’re more lightweight than any headphones of their type. The open-back design ensures a wider, more natural sound. The magnetic planar transducer balances the highs, lows, and the in-between.
Next in line, we have the Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Air Headphones. This pair looks sleek and feels extremely comfortable, thanks to its deluxe memory foam ear-pads with breathable velour finishing, genuine calf leather outer headband, and self-adjustable hammock. The open-back design and powerful drivers eliminate vibrations and achieve extended response frequencies very easily.
Finally, we have the AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Studio Headphones. This pair offers you more than you can imagine at an impossibly low price point.
Its classic look makes it feel like a much more expensive headset. It is also made from high-quality plastic that is durable enough for rough handling. Also, it has a detachable cable for portability. The headband and ear pads are comfortable. Furthermore, the semi-open design has the best of everything.