December 12, 2023
Audio so clear that it’s almost transparent.
A recent shift in listening preferences has persisted, fueled by a quest for personalised and intimate auditory experiences, particularly in the new work-from-home culture. Amidst this evolution, a high-quality pair of headphones remains indispensable for curating a sonic sanctuary.
Today’s headphone market offers more features than ever–Bluetooth connectivity, active noise cancellation, and seamless app integration, to name a few. While manufacturers emphasize these features as selling points, in the realm of vinyl listening, sound quality should unequivocally be the foremost consideration.
Open-back headphones, renowned for their distinct sound dispersion, find their ideal habitat in the home environment, delivering nuanced and accurate sound reproduction when ambient noise is minimal. Conversely, closed-back systems provide a more immersive listening experience by containing the audio within, proving versatile for both home and on-the-go scenarios, although they may not match the immersion of their open-back counterparts.
As they ascend in price, premium vinyl-listening headphones delve into the minutiae of sound quality with meticulous attention. Both visual and auditory aspects undergo substantial upgrades, with manufacturers at higher price points prioritizing sound quality over additional features, setting them apart from budget-friendly and mid-range alternatives.
Here, we delve into the top three vinyl-listening headphones of the year.
AIAIAI TMA-2 DJ XE
Pros: Lightweight, modular
Cons: Lack of foldability, no case included
Verdict: The AIAIAI TMA-2 DJ XEs are a stellar choice for those seeking lightweight, modular headphones with exceptional sound quality. While a foldable design and a case could enhance practicality, the emphasis on mid-ranges and treble makes them ideal for precise mixing. For DJs and music creators looking for a harmonious blend of comfort and audio brilliance, these headphones are a solid contender.
AIAIAI’s TMA-2 DJ XEs, at 168g, marry modularity with audio excellence. Although lacking foldability and a case, their emphasis on mid-ranges and treble ensures precise mixing. These headphones, designed with DJs and studio aficionados in mind, offer a delightful auditory experience, making up for minor practical inconveniences with their lightweight charm and exceptional sound quality.
Sennheiser HD 800 S
Pros: Exceptional sound quality and spatial depth, comfortable, lightweight wide frequency response
Cons: Limited bass emphasis, open-back design allows for noise ingress, no 3.5mm adapter
Verdict: The Sennheiser HD 800 S shines in delivering top-tier sound and comfort. While bass enthusiasts may find it lacking, its analytical nature and spatial depth make it a reference-worthy choice for audiophiles.
These headphones deliver a mesmerizing auditory experience, enveloping you in a world of exquisite detail and expansive spatial dimensions. Lightweight, cloud-like comfort that even glasses wearers can indulge in for hours on end. These headphones are not just about sound; they’re a luxurious, wearable escape. The open-back design turns your home into a personal concert hall, making every note and beat a celebration of sound. If you’re seeking an audio companion that marries comfort, precision, and a touch of sonic magic, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is your golden ticket.
Pros: Unique isodynamic hybrid array design, dual-driver system, lightweight, comfortable and innovative W-shaped headband with suspension wings.
Verdict: The Meze Elite impresses with its innovative design, exceptional comfort, and outstanding sound quality. While the price is steep, the overall performance justifies its flagship status.
Meze’s Elite headphones are like the rock stars of audio gear, flaunting a cutting-edge isodynamic hybrid array for distortion-free jams and an epic soundstage. The W-shaped headband is the VIP section for comfort, and the open-back design throws a party with fantastic bass clarity and midrange vibes. The Elite’s cool features—dual drivers and magnetic shielding—turn your music into a premium experience. Perfect for all-night grooving, these comfy cans even bring customizable earpad swag and roll up to the scene in a slick aluminium case. While they might share tunes with the world, the Elite still rocks the high-end headphone stage, outshining other big-name contenders.
Read more: The best speakers of 2023