Resolve’s 2023 Headphone Wall of Fame

I had previously put together a headphone ranking list, from good to “I don’t like them,” based purely on what I personally index for, which you can find in our Forum here. But my work is never done. This new list is a selection from that list, featuring several headphones that are competitive and perform extremely well across various price points.

Think of this as the highlights, a condensed version with just the truly great stuff. This list will get updated should new headphones come out, and this also means some will get bumped off over time as well.

How I made this list

The simple fact is that while I like many different headphones, they’re not all on the same rung. These are all generally high-end headphones and ones that people often consider and compare. I used the following criteria to evaluate these headphones.

Objective sound

This is effectively the measured sound signature, which you can get by looking at frequency response graphs. That said, there is no one true target curve and there’s more to frequency response than just target adherence. There can be multiple ways for a headphone to achieve a ‘good’ tuning. To me, the most important thing is for the headphone to achieve a balance between fundamental and harmonic tones.

  • Targets - What counts for good here is both a matter of preference and a matter of particular relationships for various ranges of the frequency response. And before you think “but don’t we have a headphone reference target for a reason?” There's a lot more to this than you may think. This often-overlooked papers demonstrates people typically fall into one of three segments. If we think of the tilt from bass to treble, some may prefer more bass, some less, and what may be good for one segment is bound to be less good for the others. In my evaluations I try to take these different segments into consideration.
  • Tonal Balance - Irrespective of the slope or ‘tilt,’ a truly great headphone should have a frequency response that resembles a head-related transfer function (HRTF in our glossary), as the measurement is taken at the eardrum. It may be warmer or brighter than what most people prefer, but the general balance for ear gain - how the ear affects incoming sound - should be reasonably intact. I say “reasonably” because… every head and ear has its own unique HRTF.

Subjective sound

I prefer not to describe this in terms of ‘technicalities’ as it may be represented elsewhere. The reason is that all of the following terms are merely descriptions of the subjective experience. They’re not descriptions of any acoustic properties. Presumably whatever acoustic properties that lead to these qualities of the experience are also measurable in some way, it’s just that data isn’t currently analyzed in terms of these things. Think of this simply as a subjective reporting based on the following qualities to the experience.

  • Detail / Resolution - The headphone is incisive and retains good clarity for the finer nuances in the music, often heard in the small gradations of volume in trailing ends of tones.
  • Image Separation and Control - Being able to isolate individual instruments in the mix and having busy passages in music be clearly articulated. This is more important to me than overall ‘soundstage’, because headphones won’t ever get to be like speakers.
  • Contrast / Punch - Some call this ‘dynamics’. It’s a kind of physicality or impact that a headphone exhibits when it has good contrast for large volume swings, the opposite being a compressed kind of sound.
  • Timbre - The headphone sounds sufficiently ‘natural’, like if you’re there in real life. In my view, this is something we can now better understand in measurements with the use of the B&K 5128 rig.
  • Comfort - this is more of a caveat, because there are many times where these choices are based around weight and long-term listening potential.

Of course, I also haven’t had the opportunity to listen to everything out there, so if something isn’t on this list, then it could also just be that I haven’t spent time with it and once I do, and if the headphone belongs here I’ll add it to the list.

There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to measurement, EQ, performance and price. I’ve included some more information at the end of this article if you’d like to know more: Tier List FAQ

Also worth noting: I’m not paid to say anything specific about these headphones. My opinions are my own, and I don’t get any kickback from product sales of any kind. Learn more about our editorial policy.

The Focal Utopia and HiFiMAN Susvara

Open-Back Headphones

There are those who think all headphones can be improved with EQ, and there are those who prefer their headphones to have a certain kind of flavor or character to them. While I’m personally in the former camp, I recommend all of these even without touching EQ since they still sound great to me for one reason or another.

HiFiMAN Susvara - $6000


The pinnacle of HiFiMAN planar headphones. It’s the right combination of great tonal balance and detail, separation and space for my taste. It could be a bit more punchy, but apart from that it does just about everything right. Also it’s very comfortable.

Written Review / Video Review / Shop

What we like

  • Balanced tuning
  • Image separation
  • Spacious sound
  • Highly detailed
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Not the most dynamic or punchy sound

Focal Utopia (Original and 2022) - $5000

Neutral with slight mid forwardness

A well-balanced tuning that adds a bit of richness to the mids. It’s also the most technically impressive moving coil driver headphone I’ve heard to date, with an extremely punchy and dynamic sound to it. For the different versions, some people found the original to be a bit bright in the treble. I’ve never personally found that to be an issue, nor have I ever measured one to be bright, but the 2022 model is about 2dB more relaxed in the treble. Apart from that they’re basically the same.

Written Review / Video Review vs Susvara / Shop

What we like

  • Highly detailed
  • Extremely punchy and dynamic
  • Refined mid-forward tuning

What we don’t like

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Not as spacious sounding

Warwick Acoustics Bravura System - $6000 with Sonoma M1


One of the best sounding e-stats, period. While it’s not as detailed as the higher priced Aperio, the Bravura is the one with a more neutral tonal balance. This is also an e-stat that has strong capable bass, which is a rare thing. While it lacks contrast and dynamism when compared to the Utopia, it makes up for that with a more even tonal balance and improved instrument separation. The only reason this isn’t higher is the fact that it’s a full system, making it a bit of a barrier to entry and inflexible with respect to source options.

Video Review / Shop

What we like

  • Balanced, neutral tuning
  • Image separation
  • E-stat with sub-bass
  • Lightweight

What we don’t like

Stax SR-007 2.9 - $2200

Neutral with upper treble shimmer

Slightly more esoteric tuning throughout compared to the Bravura but still generally balanced. Highly resolving, even if slightly behind Stax’s L700 series, but it makes up for that with a less intense sound signature. Like the Bravura the SR-007 is an electrostatic headphone with decent bass extension, and if you’re looking to get into e-stats the SR-007 is a more versatile choice than the brighter SR-009 or X9000.


What we like

  • Highly detailed
  • Image separation
  • E-stat with sub-bass
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Tuning could still be refined slightly
  • Requires energizer

HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 (Stealth update to come) - $2000

Neutral bright

The best version of HiFiMAN’s egg-shaped headphones. While it’s a bit on the brighter side, it’s still perceptually smooth in the treble. It’s not quite as detailed sounding as the HE1000se but it makes up for that with a much more balanced presentation for the treble. Otherwise this has the typical HiFiMAN sound signature, with a subtle dip in the mids around 1.5khz, but full bass extension all the way down.

Livestream Review / Shop

What we like

  • Well balanced yet forward treble
  • Spacious sound
  • Highly detailed
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Large size may not fit everyone
  • Somewhat softer presentation may not be for everyone

Audeze MM-500 - $1700


One of the best-tuned Audeze headphones with a hint of mid forward character with relaxed treble. This is essentially a planar HD650 with better bass extension and technical performance. Unfortunately it’s got a strong clamp force making it less than comfortable for people with large heads. But for small to average sized heads the MM-500 is bound to be quite comfortable, and it’s incredibly sturdy feeling as well. I think it could be considered higher up if you’re in that group.

Written Review / Video review vs Audeze LCD-X / Shop

What we like

  • Mid-forward but balanced tuning
  • Like an Sennheiser HD 650 with better bass extension
  • Image separation
  • Premium build

What we don’t like

  • Not suitable for large heads
  • Relaxed, more muted treble may not be for everyone

Focal Clear / Elex / Elear with alt pads - $700 - $1000

Neutral with slight mid forwardness

Just like the Utopia, these have a generally balanced tuning with a midrange emphasis, and for those who index harder for contrast and dynamism, these are both solid choices. A regular go-to for me is the Elear with Utopia pads, which I find to be a refinement of the tuning. The key area where they’re not quite as good as the Utopia is that the mid treble isn’t quite as refined or detailed, but it’s not like the Utopia is price-proportionally better.

Written Review / Video Review / Shop

What we like

  • Punchy, dynamic and engaging sound
  • Balanced tuning
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Not as spacious-sounding
  • Treble not quite as refined as Utopia

HiFiMAN Edition XS - $500

Neutral with a slight midrange dip and upper treble boost

Probably the best headphone around $500 at the moment. While I personally do EQ this headphone, this is by no means required, and certainly for older listeners the upper treble boost won’t be an issue whatsoever. I would also choose the Edition XS over the Ananda because I find the fit better due to the headband having cup swivel.

Written Review / Video Review / Shop

What we like

  • Image separation
  • Balanced tuning, with a slight treble emphasis
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Large size won’t fit everyone
  • Similar to other egg-shaped HiFiMAN headphones it’s more of a softer presentation

Sennheiser HD 600 & HD 650 / HD 6XX - $230 - $350

Neutral, with a bit of mid forwardness

Traditional neutral and warm sounding reference headphones, and I actually think the HD 600 and HD 650 are more detailed than others at their price point. The downside is that they have a somewhat tight and intimate presentation. They are a bit mid forward, but it’s not enough to skew towards fundamental tones or anything like that. One thing to note is that these two are both more clear sounding than the newer HD 660 S2, since that one is noticeably more relaxed throughout the upper mids. Some may prefer that, but for me the HD 600 is just better sounding.

Written Review / Video Reviews / Shop

What we like

  • Reference tuning
  • Natural sounding timbre
  • Lightweight and comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Clamps a bit tight initially
  • Sub-bass rolls off

HiFiMAN Sundara 2020 - $300


This should be considered a default reference planar magnetic headphone in my opinion, with one of the best and most balanced tunings out of any headphone available at any price. So why isn’t it higher up? While its technical performance is good for the price, I’d probably gravitate to the Focal Clear or Focal Elex for the punchiness if given the choice, even though the Sundara’s tuning is slightly more to my preference.

Written Review / Video Reviews / Shop

What we like

  • Reference tuning
  • Image separation
  • Rare planar that has an acoustic bass boost

What we don’t like

Sennheiser HD 560S - $230

Neutral with 4-6khz boost

Entry level neutral reference. The HD 560 S actually has better bass extension than many open-back dynamic driver headphones - even ones that cost a lot more. The rest of its tuning is also well-balanced, just with a bit of forwardness in the lower treble causing a hint of glare to that region. But for this price point it’s great value.

Written Review / Video Reviews / Shop

What we like

  • Great bass extension for a moving coil headphone
  • Balanced tuning throughout
  • Spacious sounding
  • Comfortable

What we don’t like

  • Lower treble zing
  • Build quality

The Focal Radiance

Closed-Back Headphones

Focal Radiance $1300


The Radiance is one of the better-tuned Focal closed-back headphones, and for me it’s also one of the more comfortable ones. Over time I found that the Celestee simply has too much clamp for my liking, so that’s why I go with the Radiance as my current recommendation between the two.

Written Review / Video Reviews / Shop

What we like

  • Balanced tuning with a bass boost
  • Detail/Resolution
  • Punchy and dynamic

What we don’t like

  • A bit on the heavier side

Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire - $900

Neutral with a slight upper-mid unevenness

One of the best tuned closed-backs out there. Also has great detail and instrument separation, and it’s comfortable for long-term use. The only downside is that it lacks a bit of contrast and dynamics.

Video Reviews / Shop

What we like

  • Balanced tuning
  • Image separation
  • Comfortable
  • Portable

What we don’t like

  • Not the most engaging or dynamic sound

Audeze Maxwell - $300

Neutral with a bass boost

This is a kind of Swiss Army Knife headphone, or should I say "headset." The default Audeze preset when using the dongle is extremely competently tuned - definitively the best-tuned Audeze to date in my opinion, and one of the best tuned closed-back headphones, period. But there are also so many additional functions. The one downside is that it’s a bit on the heavier side.

Video Review / Shop

What we like

  • Balanced tuning
  • Image separation
  • Wireless with dongle
  • App-based EQ functions
  • Mic

What we don’t like

Dan Clark Aeon X Closed - $500 Neutral

Also one of the best tuned closed-back planars out there. The Aeons have a sense of tightness/speed and immediacy of the initial leading edge of tones, leading to very good image separation and the ability to isolate individual instrument lines well. It’s held back by a slight blunted character to trailing ends of tones, lacking detail for finer nuances as well as contrast/dynamics.

Video Review / Website

What we like

  • Balanced tuning
  • Image separation
  • Comfortable
  • What we don’t like

  • Not the most detailed at this price
  • AKG K371 - $175 Neutral with a bass boost

    One of the best values in all of audio, only held back by lack of detail and a bit of a rickety build. But at that price it’s already far better sounding than anything else.

    Video Reviews / Website

    What we like

    • Reference style tuning with a bass boost
    • Lightweight, comfortable

    What we don’t like

    • Build quality
    • On the small side for cup and earpad openings

    Wall of Fame FAQ

    What about headphone measurements?

    For measurements of most of the headphones listed in this ranking, check out this thread in our forum graciously put together by @deafenears - big thanks for putting it together!

    Watch the video

    What about source equipment?

    For the majority of my testing, I prioritize sources that are versatile. That means they’re usually solid state sources that are able to sufficiently drive the headphones, have low noise and harmonic distortion, and low output impedance to not skew the tuning of the headphones being evaluated.

    My most common sources for this list:

    I fully expect individual listeners to make choices on source equipment that will change the sound in some way, such as a particular output impedance relationship, or the use of analog functions like xBass - and that’s fine. But, my job as an evaluator is to provide the best information I can for the widest range of potential listeners.

    This means that while there may be a unique synergy with a source and a headphone that has a meaningfully preferred outcome for you, any judgment about that outcome is a judgment about that specific combination and not about the headphones in question. Now, I’m not saying it’s not worth reviewing these as combinations, but they’re less relevant for a headphone ranking list.

    There are exceptions to this, like headphones that require a specific source, or if certain combinations become ubiquitous - or for example if there are headphones that are widely known to sound their best off of very specific source equipment for one reason or another - and in these cases I will do my best to accommodate them.

    This is also not to say I don’t enjoy tube amps, in fact I do get the appeal. But because tube amps vary so significantly in terms of performance, it’s impossible to give any sweeping predictive statement for how a headphone might sound “on tubes”. There are just too many variables. I might indicate that I really enjoy a headphone with a specific tube amp that has a specific output impedance and so on, but once again that’s a judgment about a particular combination, not how that headphone will perform across the board.

    What about these headphones you’re totally wrong about?

    It does sometimes feel like as soon as you say “it’s not the greatest thing ever in category X” people take that as “it’s terrible at X.” That misses a lot of nuance I’ve tried to include here (it’s one of the reasons I’ve been hesitant about this type of ranking list in the first place).

    A lot of the time these descriptions are driven by narrative inertia. For example, the Sennheiser HD 800S has a wide and spacious soundstage, sure. But it’s not anything like listening to speakers. And yet if you read up about that headphone’s soundstage you’d think it was. Another example is the HiFiMAN Arya V2 vs V3, where people say the V2 has better soundstage. When I personally do the comparison, the difference is negligible, but because one reviewer set the tone for that difference, that’s become the narrative, and it now has a lot of inertia behind it. Now, they may have had that experience with it, and are reporting it accurately to that experience, but you have no idea the reasons behind that report. There are way too many factors to consider than to say that this is just how it is for everyone.

    Simply put, a report of an experience that’s different from the set narratives, shouldn’t negatively impact credibility, but merely be treated as an additional perspective. I’d like to point to Precogvision’s ‘critical takes’ on various products as another example of that. You may disagree with this perspective, but in my view it would be a mistake to discount everything that gets said because of it. The trend often seems to be “This reviewer said X, therefore you can’t trust what they say about anything.” This is a kind of a nonsense position as far as I’m concerned - and not just with respect to me, but all the other reviewers like Josh Valour, DMS, Crinacle etc. as well. We’re all just people reporting our experiences as best we can. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that it’s more interesting what people report when they’re not aware of narrative inertia. We should take those reports seriously.

    Why are all these headphones so expensive?

    Price is not a sufficient condition for good performance, but for certain designs it may be a necessary one. At a certain point things do start to cost more to produce. Not saying it’s proportional to price or material cost or anything like that, merely that in order for companies to turn a profit with certain designs and quantities (this is key), they may need to price them higher. There’s also the question of whether an off the shelf driver is used or one is designed from the ground up to achieve a particular parameter - there’s a lot that goes into that - and research/development costs are often considered in the final pricing of products.

    Now, with that said, I also believe it’s possible to produce something competitive with the best sounding headphones and profitably sell it under $1000, meaning that the exorbitant price tags we see are more related to A) what the market will bear, and B) set there in the first place because manufacturers believe their product is competitive with other offers around those prices. If you think you’ve made something that’s better than everything else, you’ll likely feel justified in pricing it higher. The only issue is that just because they think it’s competitive, that doesn’t mean it actually is in the eyes of consumers.

    The last thing I want is for the ranking to be the kind of thing that people use to blindly purchase things without bothering to properly consider whether something is right for them. So maybe I’ll need to add something about this list being an initial jumping off point, rather than a complete “buy this for the best sound” type deal.

    Also, in case it isn't clear, let me say as loudly as I can that my job is not to sell headphones. I do not get kickbacks from sales nor do the affiliate link thing. Rather, my job is to provide as much information to people as possible, and better yet, educate people to be able to make well-considered choices for themselves. If you look closely, which I encourage you to do, you'll see that's exactly what we're doing. As many already know, the store lost brands over negative reviews of their products that I or others on our editorial team have published. Not everyone is on the same page with respect to the importance of long-term credibility and editorial integrity for this stuff.

    Why a specific list for without EQ?

    While I EQ just about every headphone… In my view, EQ is also a bit of a crutch. The huge caveat for my No-EQ list is that my index dramatically changes in favor of tonal balance. Note that this is not based on target adherence (especially down low), but rather it’s based on the balance between fundamental and harmonic tones being appropriate; the way instruments sound in real life in a good room, for example.

    In my view, overall ear gain level isn’t as important as the balance or shape of the ear gain, meaning it could be over the target or under the target, as long as there are no tones that sound like their fundamentals are being elevated over their resonant harmonics, or lower harmonics boosted over upper harmonics and so on. Certain deviations can actually ‘fix’ or balance out other deviations, yielding an overall positive if affected result.

    Additionally, I’m not going to put everything in the No-EQ list for now, mainly because I’m quite picky with tonal balance and have a preference for a generally more ‘neutral’ sound signature, and there are many that simply wouldn’t be to my taste if EQ wasn’t an option. But just because a headphone isn’t on this list, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    The other lists are more indicative of my overall preferences, this is just a list for those who aren’t comfortable with EQ, and reflects the conjunction of tonal balance and subjective performance to my taste. Moreover, I’m just one person, for those who prefer a different type of sound signature - as I expect people will - that’s perfectly fine as well.

    Now before someone says “You’re wrong, I’ve heard those headphones”, let me say that’s great, but I didn’t hear them that way and I think this is a potential reason as to why. This is all just one man’s opinion. Maybe you aren’t as influenced by the FR-related effect on soundstage as I was, or more affected by something else. You get the idea.

    Why shouldn’t I EQ?

    There’s so much more information in FR besides target adherence/deviation that EQ has the potential to screw things up. The more you do it the more you realize the limitations of EQ.

    I think oftentimes the argument against EQ is something along the lines of it ruining technicalities or limiting ‘dynamics’ and so on, and I’m not going to rule that stuff out here because there are times when I hear something with liberal EQ and I think to myself maybe that’s happened to one degree or another. It’s also completely true that some of the voices making noise against using EQ are simply doing it incorrectly, like not comparing volume matched before-and-after results and just toggling them on and off without adjusting pre-gain. But I also think there’s more to it than that.

    There are more measurable and tangible reasons to not use EQ liberally, and it has to do with frequency response. While there's a valid argument that it’s destructive to the more fine-grained elements of FR (something that’s important to explore), there’s also the issue of unit variation causing massive problems for EQ profiles. Like if a resonance is shifted to a different spot, the profile can potentially fix it on one unit and make it worse on another.

    The other aspect to this - and perhaps even more noteworthy - is that we’re not looking at the resultant FR at the eardrums of individual people (nor considering their HRTF, but that’s going to be an issue regardless). This means we can’t be sure of the way those changes are affecting the FR with our unique coupling situation and ear gain, even if we can be sure of it on measurement rigs.

    Additionally, I think it’s important to consider that the targets being used are often smoothed to 1/3rd or 1/2, meaning they aren’t ‘high res’ enough to perfectly indicate the various ear and canal resonances we have. So if you just outright match the coarse grained or highly smoothed target, it’s kind of like doing surgery with a blunt instrument.

    For example, if you take a headphone that has a ragged treble response between 5-10 kHz, with all kinds of peaks and dips (which would be less desirable than a smoother response), but the overall level lines up reasonably well with Harman, if you smooth that to the same degree as the target it’ll look like it matches. This means that we really don’t know what the ‘high res’ version of that should be - we don’t know what to match to a sufficiently precise degree (consider that the 9khz concha notch is desirable but the target doesn’t reflect that for example).

    To a certain extent we’ve remedied this with the use of the new B&K 5128, and our reference curve based on a sloped diffuse field HRTF for that remains unsmoothed, but then the aforementioned consideration around HRTF and headphone-to-ear transfer function effects are all the more important.

    Of course, there’s also the last point that not all headphones are going to respond equally well to EQ, and there are reasons related to Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) to be careful about that.

    Watch the video

    Why Should I EQ?

    If I remember correctly, Oratory has commented something along the lines of EQ being a crutch, and also undesirable, but perhaps the lesser of two evils when you consider some of the strange tunings out there. While I agree with the sentiment, I think my threshold will be a bit looser because the brain also does quite a bit of work for us. So for me it’s more about A) fixing major issues, and B) wide adjustments for preferences, like adding a bass shelf for example. For the rest of it, I’m fine with that just being ‘headphone character’ (within reason of course haha).

    So yeah, my favorite headphones are the ones I don’t really have to EQ much, or at all. But oftentimes - like the ones at the top of my ranking - the adjustments are very minor.

    The ideal scenario is an open-back headphone where all you do is add some form of bass boost. That’s the dream. Reason being, we shouldn’t really expect open-back headphones to perform ideally in the bass with exactly the bass shelf the target asks for because (as I’m learning), there are essential acoustic challenges. To me this indicates two things: that it doesn’t make sense to take marks away from an open-back headphone for not achieving the target bass shelf, and that we might as well EQ anyway if we desire it and the headphone can handle it. In my view, there’s really no downside to that type of adjustment.

    Watch the video

    What do you listen to for evaluating headphones?

    I’ve put together my list of test tracks here for reference so that anyone who has a chance to hear headphones I’ve evaluated can get a sense of what I’m talking about. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, just a selection of tracks that have a specific purpose. Also keep in mind that this is not necessarily going to match with everyone’s genre preferences, and for my part, this isn’t an endorsement of all the musical material either, even though I do like most of it. This list may change over time as I include more test tracks and remove others.

    Spotify Playlist / Tidal Playlist

    General testing:

    1. Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - Female vocals and multi-layered brass section. Great for identifying texture.
    2. Steven Wilson “Three Years Older” - This whole album is good for evaluating electric guitar tone - Guthrie Govan’s guitar solos in particular.
    3. Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - Female vocals, upright double bass and good piano tone.
    4. Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - Male vocals, well-recorded jazz orchestra.
    5. Eric Clapton “Change the World” - Slightly forward recording but with good layering and instrument placement.
    6. Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone “Ecstasy of Gold” - Testing acoustic instruments (strings).
    7. Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - More acoustic instruments.

    Tonal balance:

    1. Tingvall Trio “Beat” - Listening for upper-midrange recessions, getting piano tones right.
    2. Michael Wollny Trio “Little Person” - Great for both piano tone evaluation and bass drum hits.
    3. Pain of Salvation “Stress” (from the Falling Home album) - Close-mic’d instrument and percussion balance. This will also reveal percussion compression issues between 5-6khz.
    4. Ulf Wakenius “When God Created the Coffebreak” - Testing upright double-bass tones and guitar tones
    5. Ostura “The Room” - Resident metal track. Good for evaluating distorted guitars. Reveals emphasis in upper mids. Also helps identify how the headphone handles busy passages
    6. Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - Identifies the balance for orchestral swells in the intro.

    Listening for problem areas:

    1. Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - Checking for sibilance and issues between 7-9khz
    2. Patricia Barber “Just One of Those Things” - Another sibilance test track, also reveals percussion compression issues.
    3. Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - Checking for sub-bass extension
    4. Renee Olstead “Midnight at the Oasis” - Checking for sibilance and issues between 7-9khz
    5. Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - Reveals percussion compression issues, specifically tambourines. Also will reveal any shout, glare or peak issues for trumpets.

    Subjective qualities:

    1. Ulf Wakenius “Suffering” - Just the intro section, an individually isolated instrumental line. Listen for decay in intro tones. I often use this to help identify detail and image clarity.
    2. Yosi Horikawa “Letter” - Soundstage and imaging test track.
    3. Yosi Horikawa “Bubbles” - Another soundstage and imaging test track.
    4. Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - Yet another imaging test track.
    5. Michael Buble “La Vie en Rose” - Vocal harmonies reveal image separation capabilities. Try this with planar magnetic headphones.
    6. Pink Floyd “Dogs” - Great test track for tube amps. Listen for image placement, depth, and textural qualities.

    This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
    1 Like

    Hi Andrew

    thanks for sharing your thoughts
    i’d like to ask what happened to LCD-5 (with/without EQ)
    are they out of favor now?

    No mention of the Koss Porta Pro? I’m sorry but I’ll have to treat this wall as invalid.


    In full agreement with the HE1000 V2 (non stealth). It’s so effortlessly natural sounding. It’s just a tad too soft for my tastes. That price with Hifiman of $1399 is pretty insane too…

    Nice to see a reliable Wall of Fame being built after the Tyll days!


    Interesting that none of your three top “end game potential” picks for closed headphones from the previous list appear on this list at all. Have your feelings about those changed?

    Excellent review! As an owner of both the HD600 and HD650 (6XX version) I am still amazed that after more than two decades these headphones are so highly thought of.

    They certainly do scale quite well with better headfi gear.

    Especially when considering the high quality headphones produced by boutique companies like ZMF and Audeze in the present day.

    The price of some of these headphones is well beyond my budget, so it’s nice to know that the Sennheisers can even be mentioned in their company.

    This specifically calls out headphones that Resolve feels don’t require EQ. Those 3 headphones that top the list all of an EQ disclaimer beside them.

    1 Like

    Oh that make sense. I missed that.


    Really great list and concise insightful comments on each!
    I have 2 suggestions to make it better in 2024.

    1. Add an ANC wireless category
    2. Break these into natural price points that an average person might use when looking for a headphone.

    I am looking for some closed backs less than $100 that may get some super high use while traveling etc… and want something I won’t be upset when they finally fail/get broken etc…

    Otherwise really enjoy your reviews and great explanation of your methodology!

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    For that, if you can handle it… I highly recommend IEMs. They’re getting cheap/good these days and that price bracket is extremely competitive. Truthear Red, Hexa, Kiwi Ears Cadenza and many more worth considering.


    Thank you for the great list! Would be nice if you could also mention 1 or 2 Amps for each recommended headphone!

    Thanks for sharing Andrew. I enjoy your work. I am especially grateful for your testimg list of music. You turned me on to some new stuff and helped me listen for nuances. well done! Irene


    Personally, I cannot take this list seriously since there are zero ZMF headphones. I’m not saying this as any kind of objective statement. I just mean that the lack of representation for ZMF means that Resolve and I have very different ideas about what constitutes a good headphone.

    If I have an occasion to spend time with or review the current models then maybe they’ll end up there. The list is only based on stuff I’ve spent a sufficient amount of time with.

    Have you considered cloning? With an army of you I’m sure you could find time to add everything, including the RAD-0 and Nectar Hive.

    One of me is already too many. I’m sure some folks agree hahah

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    That is a good point and a very fair stance.

    EDIT: I realize that this looks like I’m responding to the “One of me is already too many…” post, but I’m actually responding to Resolve’s post above that!