Audiophilia doesn’t come cheap. There, we said it. With a lot of casual listening and audiophile options coming in at a sub-10,000 price point, this segment holds utmost importance and offers headphones that could possibly be your stepping stone into audiophilia. You will find all the big guns stepping out here with their most basic and entry-level offering. Backed by a solid ancestry in sound, brands like Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, Grado and Sennheiser battle it out at this point. Having been hotly debated among both audiophiles and consumers alike, for their ability to reproduce truly balanced sound that is perfect for mixing, mastering and producing the latest track that'll blow your mind.
The Guru Says
"If you enjoy rock or metal and want something that sounds a lot like a concert, the Grado SR80e should be your pick."
- Varun Soni
Grado is one of the most unusual headphone makers. These are unusual headphones as they’re on-ear but have an open-back design. They leak sound and provide almost no isolation, so if you want something to wear whilst commuting or outdoor, look elsewhere.
The earpad style is unorthodox too. They are round slabs of foam, less soft but sit well on the ears. These are lively headphones with excellent midrange and treble detail, as well as swift, deep bass for a pair of this size and style.
The GoodA detailed sound and a wide soundstage.
The BadThe open-back nature makes it prone to sound leakage.
Ultrasone, a German-based company, founded in 1991, specializes in audio electronics. One of their biggest claims to fame is the development of a proprietary surround-sound technology for headphones called S-Logic. The Performance 820 is their most affordable option for casual listening, comfort and sound being the foremost of the brand’s offering.
Coming to the sound, these headphones are naturally edged towards bass. This means that the rest of the sounds tend to get overpowered, despite the mids being well present. The highs are fine and non-sibilant. While you will fast energy music genres like dance, pop, techno, hip-hop, the rest not so much. S-Logic Plus Technology surprisingly does a good job. You get a better soundstage for closed-back headphones, much better than the Audio-Technica M50x. The sound doesn’t enter directly into the ears and tends to feel as though they are coming from around the headphone.
The GoodA good pair of headphones, primarily suited for bassheads.
The BadDespite being light in weight, the headphones cannot be folded which may be a no-no to some.
One of the most premium and uber-popular examples of a luxury-but-affordable headphone, the Meze 99 Neo denotes just how good sound could be at a fraction of the price of the Romanian’s flagship, Empyrean. Adapting its design, build and form factor from the 99 Classics which are more premium of the two, the 99 Neo doesn’t disappoint not even from an aesthetical standpoint.
The 99 Neo sport cast zinc alloy hardware, a manganese spring steel headband, with memory-foam-filled ear pads. The 40 mm drivers impedance is rated at 26 ohms, and the 99 Neo weighs a trim 260 grams. A lot more of stage to sway, 99 Neo's tonal balance sounds more lifelike, with the bass, midrange and treble balance that much smoother. We do miss the natural stage provided by the Classics owing to the wooden earcups they come with. They deliver the most adequate comfort and sound better over long listening sessions amongst all the headphones available at this point.
The GoodSounds just as good as it looks.
The AudioTechnica ATH-M50x is an immensely popular among audiophiles, casual listeners and audiophiles alike. They do not change much style-wise as compared to the other headphones. They have a bland design, but they're well-built, sturdy and durable. The large ear cups are decently comfortable and fit well around most ears.
Coming to the sound, these headphones are naturally near-neutral. A popular choice for mixing and DJ'ing, the M50X has a fan base that prefers the sound to be accurate to the source.
The GoodBalanced audio reproduction can be used with most genres.
The BadSlightly leaky.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are well-built, durable and great-sounding closed-back headphones. They're a bit more versatile and have a slightly better bass than the DT 990 PRO or DT 880 thanks to their closed-back design. However, they still leak a bit too much for quieter environments, and they're somewhat cumbersome to carry on as they have a rugged but non-foldable design.
The GoodA detailed and flat sound reproduction.
The BadLeaky at higher volumes.