Resolve's Headphone Ranking List

Have to agree. Running the SR1a out of the Jot-R was disappointing, a major step down from the HSA1b + Silver cable.


Sorry you don’t have the AudioQuest NightOwl in your Tier 1 Closed-Backs. I just can’t take this list seriously because your subjective preferences do not line up with my subjective preferences.

In all seriousness though, it takes a lot of guts to put this in writing and plant your flag in the ground on certain headphones. These kinds of lists are always controversial because there is no standard way to do it and someone is always going to be upset where their favourite headphones end up.

When are we getting an IEM list? :wink:


My nightowl is missing pads… maybe I should listen padless, since they don’t make a difference anyway :wink:


I am very much interested in seeing such a list, as headphones used in with what source / chain (Streamer, DAC, Amp and all-in-one DACAmp) and which input (USB, Coaxial, Optical and IIS/I2S) makes a difference to the overall experience I believe.

And thank you @Resolve, for this awesome list. Look forward to more such list where tier 2 is considered based on its High End Value. :+1:


Great list. It would be also nice to see Resolve’s test track playlist…

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I wouldn’t bother…it’s probably just a series of test tones, colorful noises, and the spongebob super bowl track (on loop). :joy:

He actually shared some of his here: Headphone Evaluation: Test Tracks - #174 by Resolve


Hi @Resolve great list. Was wondering what you think about the HE6Se V2 vs the Arya. If the HE6Se V2 isn’t on sale price, would it still be a better pick over the Arya? In terms of technical performance, does the Arya edge out in all aspects or is it mostly the soundstage as some people say?

If it’s not on sale price… that’s a tough one. I’d probably go Arya, but it depends on what qualities you’re looking for. They’re just different, not necessarily one being better than the other.

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I’m kinda waiting on Resolve to include his amps and dacs and source for his test. As we know, amps and source can play an extremely important part in headphone and speakers selection.


There’s an interesting discussion between Resolve and someone else from the community in the reddit thread:

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The HE6se V2 will always be on sale price if you know the right link. Just sayin. At least it has been on sale since I bought a pair in July. :smirk:


Dang @Resolve, you have WAY more patience and even temperament than I do. Must be that clean, Canadian living. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Great list and not surprised by most of the picks. @Resolve Wondering where you would place the Rosson RAD-0?

It’s my current favorite headphone that I own and surprised that it’s not on this list as it seems like most of the crew at likes it a lot in their reviews.


^ That. Even Resolve’s voice is cool and calming… he was probably a yoga/meditation instructor in his past life.

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That’s actually something I’d probably not want to draw attention to as it didn’t really lead to anything productive. I think the issue tends to be that those folks will always ask “but what is it? You can’t define it”, when nobody has claimed that it’s been figured out or understood. Rather, the point is that this is the next frontier we need to figure out.

The fact that it’s still nebulous doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include these things in reports of the experience. If we only described things that were properly defined or understood, we’d be leaving out important aspects of the experience - things that tangibly do make a difference for people.


Kudos for that. I’ll count myself as naturally skeptical of the correlation between price and performance, except that I own both an HE6SE and HE4XX, headphones with the same basic cup design, similar pads, and transducers based on the same principle, and the HE6SE clearly sounds better to me no matter how I EQ either or both.

Giving manufacturers like Hifiman the benefit of the doubt, even though we can’t yet measurably quantify what makes their more expensive stuff better, they must have some idea what they’re doing to make it so. Have you seen any patterns or clear techniques to this?

HE6SE is an interesting example of something that lags modern Hifiman headphones in some ways, like missing stealth magnets, not super thin diagram, etc and yet many people prefer it to newer offerings. What’s up with that?


“Kudos for that. I’ll count myself as naturally skeptical of the correlation between price and performance, except that I own both an HE6SE and HE4XX, headphones with the same basic cup design, similar pads, and transducers based on the same principle, and the HE6SE clearly sounds better to me no matter how I EQ either or both.”

The he4XX and he6SE do not have the same or even similar transducers. Not even close.

In my view we can think of it like this:

Price is not a sufficient condition for good performance, but it may be a necessary one.

That is to say, 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 the same profit with certain designs and quantities (this is key), they 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.

Now, with that said, I also believe it’s possible to produce something competitive with the best sounding headphones and profitably sell it under $2000, 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.


It sounds like the other party in the conversation is completely against subjective experiences if it doesn’t correlate with data and science. I feel bad for him.

Kudos to @Resolve for keeping calm.


For some luxury goods and high end products, or those promoted to be such, high price is sometimes solely a function of the seller wishing to place such product in such segment, irrespective of actual costs and profits.

It could be informative to see people’s thoughts of which headphones have the most costly bill of materials.