Closed Back Headphones under $500

I own the HD1(Momentum 2.0). It’s pretty good with good bass and neutral miss but a little too dark. So I am considering others. I listen to Classical mostly and love my HD650 during the day. For late night in bed listening I need a Closed phone. On my list are:

Meze 99 Classic
AKG K550
Audio Technica 50x
NAD Visio P50
Sennheiser HD598 Cs

Would love to hear from anyone with experiences with these units.

1 Like

Creative Aurvana Live! Version 1 is really good and doesn’t cost that much money. So is the thx00 ebony. But they don’t isolate too well despite being a closed back though.

1 Like

Audio Technica Ath-A990z can be recommend without reservations. Best $200 you can spend in headphones. When Dekoni comes out with their now pad lineup they will be even better.

1 Like

Have you considered IEMs? I was in the same boat recently and went with the Massdrop Plus IEM instead. Isolates way better than most closed backs, easier to lie down and listen, quite a bit more portable, and supposed to sound great. I’ll find out in a few days if I’m right or not…

You can get good IEMs even cheaper.

K550 is quite neutral, so more top end extension than your HD 650. It’s biggest flaw however is the fit. If it doesn’t seal correctly and keep that seal you’ll experience very little low end response. So I highly recommend you try it before you buy! If it seals then it’s excellent, if it doesn’t seal it’s… quite lack luster

The Meze 99 Classic isn’t nearly as finicky and is another excellent option, I found it to have a bit more sparkle than something “dark” like the HD650 but it was also fairly warm & organic. Out of the options you have listed I imagine you’d really enjoy it!

The NAD P50 and ATH M50X didn’t impress me too too much, and I’ve not heard the HD 598C

Though what you may want to do is look out for a second hand ZMF T50RP I’ve heard a few of them and they have always been quite organic sounding. Do a little reading though as some are darker than others, and some are a bit more fun than others though all in all the ZMF House Sound is a fairly balanced take on a typical “dark” tuning

Finally, if you can find one and your willing to roll the dice the now discontinued Oppo PM3 is an excellent dark closed back! They run for around $400 or so and I would strongly recommend you purchase an Extra set of pads, so all in all you can likely get both for around $500!

Also whoa! I didn’t know Audio Technica had a new $200 option the 990Z looks pretty cool

Would you recommend the 990 over the 99 Classic?

I have the A900x which is an older variant but almost the same and I absolutely love the mid range of the 9X0z/x series of AT cans.

1 Like

What about the treble. I can’t handle overly bright headphones.

I would describe the sound signatures as flat. They certainly aren’t excessively bright. And the soundstage is very wide

I would say the treble is a touch more aggressive compared to say an HD600 but I have the A900x. The A990z from what I understand is warmer and they shaved off a bit from the treble. It’s an incredible headphone in the sense that It’s a warm tilt from neutral. It’s aggressive but not fatiguing to my ears.

I have the A900 as well. The 990Z is a bit warmer than the. 900. And many hour sessions are not a problem.

Any new thoughts on this topic? I’m still looking for a good everyday closed back. I’m driving them from Dragonfly Black and MacBook Pro so it’s okay if the ‘phones need a little power boost.


Audeze Sine and EL-8 Closed backs are commonly found used well below $500. Highly recommend those. Same with the Mobius.

I havent listened to the TH-X00 but they get a lot of praise.

I just picked up a pair of Oppo PM-3’s as they’re on clearance everywhere at the moment for $429.99AUD / about $310USD(I got Black ones, they did have other colours $30 cheaper, but I didn’t want White or Red). They’re on ear but if you small ears like me you can use them as over ear and still be fairly comfortable. Came with a case, 2 cables and a 6.3mm adapter.

This review can explain the sound far better than I could, the only thing I don’t agree with is the cable situation, but that’s because I got 2 with mine.


What’s your preferred tone profile? Note that closed backs tend to become muddy and bassy across the board. Most suffer from similar issues, so don’t expect miracles.

Sub $500: The flagship noise cancelling products from Sony and Bose run around $350. These or similar products are my personal choice below $500 (i.e., I have the Sony WH1000XM2 – the XM3 just came out). Their sound quality is just “okay,” but they remain a practical all-around choice for when you truly need closed headphones. Nothing else comes close for use in airplanes, subways, or extremely noisy offices.

Above $500: The limits of closed headphones come pretty fast, as it’s tough to maintain quality while avoiding booms and echoes. Everything closed also involves air compression fatigue too. At a higher price point, the $800 MrSpeakers AEON Flow Closed and $900 Focal Elegia do a good job of maintaining the neutral profile that is common with open headphones, but they still have limits and involve fatigue.

Thanks, @generic.

My music is primarily jazz from the bebop era and classical but sometimes I listen to blues and classic rock.

My impression is like yours. I have Sony MX1000 ANC headphones but I also notice air pressure fatigue after a while. It’s also hard to get a neutral sound from closed backs, I think.

When I am ready to spend over $500, I’ll probably go for higher end open backs. I’m pretty happy with my Sennheiser 58x headphones right now, though.

My PX100’s are serving for my EDC’s but I’d like something circumaural. But then there is the air pressure fatigue again. Maybe Meze 99’s?

And the search continues!


1 Like

NO, NO, NO! The Meze 99 Classics are really bad for air pressure fatigue! Look into vented or semi-open headphones. I own the semi-open AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon – but it suffers from excess bass and a fuzzy high-end (i.e., bio-cellulose drivers).

I have the Sure 1540s and find them very similar to open headphones with little ear pressure and minimal to no leakage. Plus they are light weight and very neutral with a solid low bass that appears if it’s in the recording. They really sound like an open headphone with nice wide open soundstage and a clear smooth high end. I love them. Best so far for me. Better than my Senn 650. Much more open and clear. Smoother than the Beyer T90 I owned and better low end than the Beyer 880 also. Had the Senn HD 1 formerly Momentum. They were quite confining with a lot of ear pressure.