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best headphones under $400  

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

ive no doubt this thread has been created a few thousand times, but i decided to cut to the chase and make my own.


ive been searching for headphones now for something over twenty hours, and i dont feel much closer to deciding. not sure how much longer i can go on. ive narrowed it down to i think around thirty eight pairs. it seems like ive narrowed the brand down to sennheiser, akg, or audio technica, but then i come here and see several more brands ive yet to even come across, that get excellent reviews. 


so here it is:


im looking for a pair of wired headphones, preferably $400 dollars or under. if there was a prudent enough reason, i could probably be persuaded to spend a little more if i had to. 


im not really sure under what conditions ill be listening with them under. i probably want something in the audiophile category. the 'nicest' sounding for the price. i suspect ill plug them into my laptop plenty. i also plan, once i make this decision, to look into a pair of wireless headphones for the purpose of drumming along to albums. i intend to go less pricey on this pair, quality is not of great importance, though its always nice. however, if i can get enough volume out of whichever wired pair i go with, then they could wind up filling that role. so thats a consideration. i listen primarily to rock music, both hard and soft, a lot of jethro tull, the beach boys, black sabbath, alice in chains. more recent music would include queens of the stone age. i do like my share of eminem, though. 


i am also in a band, and its possible these headphones could be used for monitoring purposes, and/or mixing, so that is a consideration as well. very likely that id use them in home recordings, especially keyboard. 


so what am i pretty well sold on so far? 


the sennheiser hd 600s are very tempting. but i read a review of the denon2000s suggesting they had better bass response, and they are cheaper. the 650s seem just outside my price range, but if they were that much greater, i might entertain them. the pxc 450s appear to be excellent, and some reviews suggest theyre even better than bose in noise cancellation. having some experience with bose headphones, and having a bose stereo system in my car, i am a huge fan of bose, and im frankly very surprised to see virtually everyone agree there is better. the bose quiet comfort 15s are definitely in the running. i am also very attracted to the hd 598s. they look neat, though look matters very little to me and seem to get great reviews, and are a great deal cheaper than the hd 600s, which ive read some mixed reviews for. among other sennheiser considerations are the px 360s, hd 25-1 IIs, hd590s, and hd 380 pros. 


audio technica is running about second or even. ive seen the universally rave reviews of the ath m50s. thing is theyre only about $150 bucks tops. so im a little confused as to whether they truly compete with the best, or are simply some of the best for their money, or both. if theyre better than something for $400 dollars, i will obviously, gladly go with them. but im willing to pay for better. the ath-esw9as are very impressive, and near the front of the pack. the ath a900s are supposed to have some of the best frequency response available, but are on the cheap. among other considerations are the a900x, ad900, es88, and pro700mkII. 


im a fan of akg, but they arent running especially hard. considerations include the k 601, 701, and 702, the k 550s, and k 272. a little confused on these because what appear to be the higher end 702s are actually available cheaper, and the 550s more expensive. 


i am open to sony, but they dont seem to offer much at all. mdr ma900s caught my eye, the mdr v900hds, and mdr nc500d.


there are a handful of beyerdynamics that look very attractive, but im too exhausted to read further up on. dt 990s, dt 880s, dt 1350s. 


a handful of shures as well. obviously a big fan of shure microphones. they dont seem to compete QUITE as well in the headphone department, but im entertaining the srh 1440, srh 840, and srh 940.


also in the running are alessandro ms2s, the bose quiet comfort 15s, the v-moda crossfade m-80s (never heard of these, but cant seem to get away from positive reviews and recommendations of them), denon ahd2000, pioneer hdj 2000, ultrasone hfi 780, and phiaton ms 400.


i am at my wits end and i cannot bear to deal with headphones anymore. as i peruse this site its becoming clear to me there are even more competing brands worth considering. so i would endlessly appreciate any help, suggestions, recommendations, etc. i am at this point mostly trying to rule choices out, so ill take that as well. if one pair of headphones out of the rest are better than a particular pair, that scratches one off the list. again, any help at all is endlessly appreciated. if theres a brand i didnt mention or havent come across that competes, feel free to throw that in as well, and if i can offer any more information about potential use, feel free to prompt me. thanks in advance. 


post #2 of 23

You are never going to get anywhere unless you go to a local store and listen handful of common sets yourself. Then report back and it's a little easier to tune into your "signature".


It's always good idea to start with cheaper so you learn to appreciate what makes better stuff..

Edited by hekeli - 6/9/12 at 12:31pm
post #3 of 23

You should shorter your post a bit, as it reads a bit long. More concise means more people will read it and respond. 


The best headphones at the 400 dollar mark are the he400's. See the review in my signature. But they are open, as are the hd600's that you mention, and will not be good for monitoring. The d2k that you mention, although closed, is not a good monitor hp either because it exaggerates the bass. 

post #4 of 23


Edited by Grado77 - 6/14/12 at 7:10pm
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 

thank you all. i do intend to go test some, but there really arent a lot of great options around here. i will strongly consider these he 400s, another brand id recently become aware of but didnt know much about. two recommendations on a site like this are worth considering. 

post #6 of 23

It's all preference, and there are different cans for different purposes. M50s do not compete with the best, never mind some 200$ cans. The AKG 701/702 are both relatively flat sounding headphones, the Q701 is said to have a slight bit more bass, but they're pretty much the same. 

You might also want to consider amping, since most higher end headphones need a decent desktop amp or something along those lines. You can find Sennheiser HD 650s/600s below 400 pretty commonly, Beyerdynamic DT880 600 ohms with something like a Fiio E9 would probably sound pretty good, and hit just around the 400$ mark. 

Read reviews, do research, and find one that is said to suit what sound signature you would like, assuming there is no place to go try them out near you. If you get them new from a place like Amazon, you can often return them within a month, so that can be useful for trying out some different ones if you have the time.


Also, I'm not sure how the HE-400s sound in comparison to the HE-300s, but I thought the 300s sounded a but muffled, with more bass than I've ever heard in open headphones. They did sound wonderful with jazz and the like, but didn't fit the sound I was going for when I got them. So far, my AKG Q701s are serving me well.


Another thing, seriously consider finding a pair of used headphones in good condition. It can save you tons of money if you find them. My Q701s were 240$ new, but I got them used for 170$, and they arrived in perfect condition. They were repackaged, but other than that, there wasn't a single scratch or flaw on them, they were brand new and I saved 70$ on them.

Edited by lostmage - 8/5/12 at 8:03pm
post #7 of 23

Due to your budget, if you bought the Sennheiser HD-600/650, you wouldn't be able to buy an amp to provide them enough power to lift the "veil". You could buy some Ultrasone Pro 900's, I've seen them dip under $400 occasionally. They've got extremely powerful bass, so if you listen to genres like hip-hop/rap then the Pro 900's may suit you well.

post #8 of 23

+1 for HE-400 !

post #9 of 23

With $400 maybe you can get a used Q/K-702 with Headfive, or Matrix m-stage.

post #10 of 23
Originally Posted by Acix View Post

With $400 maybe you can get a used Q/K-702 with Headfive, or Matrix m-stage.

I second this, Q/K 702s are pretty good all-arounders if you don't mind the relatively flat sound, but they do need to be amped.

post #11 of 23

I think currently the best headphones are Q701 and the HE-400. The D2000 is end of life and is worth consideration but it due for replacement.

post #12 of 23
The bang and oulfsen h6
post #13 of 23

+1 for the HE-400.  Might want to look into an aftermarket cable, though.  The one it comes with is a bit of a turd (and a 10' long turd at that).  I picked up a braided cable on ebay for $40 and I can't complain.  Shipping from China was surprisingly fast, too.

post #14 of 23

I would suggest that you check out the........ Yamaha HPH-MP220


the ...........Philips Fidelio X1


also the ...........Sony MDR MA900



these 3 are unique.


If you are reviewing the industry websites then there is a lot of praise for the B&W P7, the Sennheiser Momentum, the KEF M500, and the PSB M4U1.

Ive owned all those, including the HIFI Man HE-400s (which sound very good, kinda dark).

Ive also owned Beyer DT 150s, and DT770s and DT880s, and German Maestro 435s, and AKG 712 and 702 Anniversary and standard 702s and K-551s.

I own also Senn HD 600s and Focal Spirit One and Spirit Pro.

Also in there are Think Sound ON1,   and Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6,  and NAD Viso HP50s.



The best of all those are the :


1.)  (incredibly articulate tho quite natural sounding ) YAMAHA HPH - MP220


2.) the (indefinable and  sonically unique) Philips Fidelio X1  


3.)  (sadly overlooked natural sounding ) Sony MDR MA900


followed by :


the  (dark ~ lush) HiFiMan 400,

the (always good) Sennheiser HD600

the  (V-scouped) B&W P7,

the PSB M4U1

the Focal Spirit Pro

the Sennheiser Momentum

the (bright and dynamic) Bang & Olufsen H6

the (bassy) NAD Viso HP50

the  (articulate) German Maestro 435

the  (warmer) AKG 702 Anniversary

the  (even warmer sounding) AKG K-712 ties the (airy ~ articulate )  K 702

the (crisp) KEF M500

the Focal Sprit 1

the Beyer DT 150

the Beyer DT 880

the Beyer DT 770

the (thin sounding) AKG - K551

the (big bass) Think Sound ON1

Edited by Grooveminded - 3/31/14 at 3:37pm
post #15 of 23

You need to know your listening conditions, and thus if you want open-back, closed, semi, etc. At $400 you could get some of the most highly praised phones around, like the HD-600 or HE-400, but those wouldn't work if you are just going to plug straight into a laptop. Do some more research and narrow your focus, right now I think it's far too broad to make a good decision.

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