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Best Headphone Brands: What We Can Learn from 310,067 Headphone Reviews

We recently analyzed 310,067 headphone reviews to answer this question:

What is the best headphone brand?

We looked at expert reviews. We looked at reputable forum reviews. We even looked at regular user reviews.

We collected this data to see which brands consistently produce quality headphones, and ranked them based on this.

And today I'm going to share what we found with you.

What you will learn on this page:

  • What the best headphone brands are.
  • Which are the top rated headphones from each brand.
  • The amount of social followers for each headphone brand.
  • Whether or not a brand's age plays a role in the quality of their headphones.
  • Whether dedicated headphone brands produce better headphones than general consumer electronic brands.

Our Data Is Based On

32 Brands Under the Scope
3279 Headphones Researched
310067 Analyzed Reviews

Last updated: January 30, 2017

32 Headphone Brands Ranked from Worst to First​

26

House of Marley

Read the analysis

25

Brainwavz

Read the analysis

24

Plantronics

Read the analysis

2

Beyerdynamic

Read the analysis

And the first spot goes to 

Read the full analysis here

Detailed Analysis of the Best Headphone Brands

32 - Beats by Dre

Score: 68.40

Website: BeatsByDre.com

Founded:​ 2008

Products:​ Headphones, earphones, and speakers. 

It won't come as a surprise to many of you, but Beats by Dre came last on this list. What this means is that Beats consistently produce headphones that receive a lower rating than other brands.

It is an interesting case. On the one hand, they are one of the most well-known brands in the US because of their celebrity endorsements and aggressive marketing. However, as will become clear later on, the most well-known brands are typically not the best, and Beats is no exception.

There are several entries in the Beats line, and while none of them are actually bad headphones, they are not worth the price they ask for them. The internal electronics of Beats headphones do not merit the pricing- you pay for the advertising and the endorsements. You won't get a bad set from Beats, but you won't get good value either.

As is evident from the statistics below, Beats by Dre have a very large following. By placing last in this research, it confirms that this following is solely due to celebrity endorsement, rather than for quality headphones.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

906K

Facebook Likes

7,8M

Google+ Followers

26K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Beats Solo 2 Wireless

Beats Solo 2 Wireless

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Beats Studio Wireless

Beats Studio Wireless

Best review: Nick's on Techradar.com

Beats Mixr

Beats Mixr

Best review: Andrew's on TrustedReviews.com

Beats by Dre ranks number 32 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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31 - JBL

Score: 70.28

Website: JBL.com

Founded:​ 1946

Products:​ Headphones, amplifiers, speakers, and audio accessories.

JBL is a bit of a controversial brand. There is a continuum among brands with respect to how much they modify the sound signal. Some try to be as hands-off as possible while others implement a significant amount of modification. JBL tends to fall into the second camp.

JBL's headphones tend to be very bass-heavy. Some people like that and others do not. Judging from the 31th position, there are more people who don't.

They didn't receive many middle ground reviews, though, which could indicate that those who enjoy JBL's headphones really do like them, and similarly for those who don't.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

116K

Facebook Likes

1.6M

Google+ Followers

3.8K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

JBL Synchros S500

JBL Synchros S500

JBL J56BT

JBL J56BT

Best review: This one on Head-Fi.org

JBL Synchros E50BT

JBL Synchros E50BT

Best review: Nick's on iLounge.com

JBL ranks number 31 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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30 - Sol Republic

Score: 71.02

Website: SolRepublic.com

Founded:​ 2011

Products:​ Headphones, earbuds, and speakers.

Sol Republic is another big, bass-heavy brand. Like JBL and Beats, they modify the sound and make it more bass driven. This tends to result in a loss of a lot of the underlying quality and complexity of the music, but can be appealing to some users.

Their headphones are quite similar to the two previous brands, but they still rank slightly higher...

Why? Presumably, because Sol Republic's prices are lower than their competitors'. So while you might be getting a bassy and slightly distorted sound, at least you get what you pay for. Give them a try before you buy them so you know what you're getting.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

40.5K

Facebook Likes

508K

Google+ Followers

3.6K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Sol Republic Tracks HD

Sol Republic Tracks HD

Best review: Joe's on T3.com

Sol Republic Tracks Air Wireless

Sol Republic Tracks Air Wireless

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Sol Republic Jax

Sol Republic Jax

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Sol Republic ranks number 30 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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29 - Skullcandy

Score: 71.13

Website: Skullcandy.com

Founded:​ 2003

Products:​ Headphones, audio equipment, and audio accessories.

Skullcandy is another very popular brand that lacks underlying quality. You can find them just about anywhere and they vary greatly in price.

Again, this is a brand where the marketing eclipses the strength of the product, but if you need a cheap pair of earbuds, they are easy to obtain because they are present in so many different stores.

It isn't a good idea to invest in any of the higher end models from Skullcandy, but in a pinch or for travel they make a good cheap option.​ They produce so many headphones that there are bound to be gems in their product portfolio.

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

115K

Facebook Likes

2.1M

Google+ Followers

45K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Skullcandy Crusher

Skullcandy Crusher

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Skullcandy Grind

Skullcandy Grind

Best review: Tyll's on Innerfidelity.com

Skullcandy Hesh 2

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Skullcandy ranks number 29 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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28 - JLab

Score: 73,04

Website: JLabAudio.com

Founded:​ 2005

Products:​ Headphones, earbuds, and speakers.

JLab is an upgrade over the other mass-market and endorsement-based brands. For instance, they have a rather good line of wireless headphones for working out.

They use Bluetooth technology to eliminate wires and their headphones are sturdy enough to handle most workouts. JLab hasn't distinguished themselves much with most of their models, but the Bluetooth earbuds are a great choice for the narrow market of people who use the gym frequently.

Aside from that, they do not have much to offer that another brand cannot do better, so I don't recommend any model aside from the wireless earbuds for people who go to a gym multiple times a week.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

2.1K

Facebook Likes

11K

Google+ Followers

175

Top 3 Headphones from Them

JLab Intro

Best review: Netta's on Walyou.com

JLab Omni

JLab Omni

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

JLab Jbuds J6

Best review: Samer's on Technogog.com

JLab ranks number 28 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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27 - Monster

Score: 73.22

Website: MonsterProducts.com

Founded:​ 1978

Products:​ Headphones, speakers, cables, and power supplies.

Monster is a company with a presence in several areas of audio and personal electronics. They do not have a particularly good reputation for headphones, and for a good reason.

Like Beats, they don't exactly make poor headphones, but their products tend to be way overpriced. They do not have any particular advantages, but their margins are not as large as the other mass brands. That means you can get slightly better value for your money, although they are still not a good deal.

Don't purchase anything expensive from Monster, at least not in terms of headphones, as there are better options below.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

188K

Facebook Likes

280K

Google+ Followers

572

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Monster 24K

Monster 24K

Best review: Justin's on CNET.com

Monster Octagon

Monster Octagon

Best review: Tiago's on Higgshimself.com

Monster N-Tune

Monster N-Tune

Best review: Virginia's on Reviewed.com

Monster ranks number 27 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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26 - House of Marley

Score: 74.77

Website: TheHouseOfMarley.com

Founded:​ 2012

Products:​ Headphones, audio systems, and accessories.

House of Marley is, again, a mass-market brand. However, this brand is a step above the others because of their superior build quality.

House of Marley is not a popular brand and does not have as much presence as, for example, Beats or Skullcandy. They are harder to find and do not have particularly good sound quality in any dimension, but they will last longer than the other earbuds you might find in a major retailer, because of their improved durability.

As with the other low-quality brands, do not make a major investment in this brand, because you can do better with a different choice.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

62.4K

Facebook Likes

460K

Google+ Followers

2K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Soul Rebel

Soul Rebel

Best review: Sean's on LazyTechGuy.com

Positive Vibrations

Positive Vibrations

Best review: This one on TheTestPit.com

Liberate

Liberate

Best review: Ryan's on DigitalTrends.com

House of Marley ranks number 26 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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25 - Brainwavz

Score: 75.88

Website: YourBrainwavz.com

Founded:​ 2008

Products:​ Headphones, earphones, amplifiers, and accessories.

As is evident from the statistics, Brainwavz is an almost unknown brand. They have few models on the market and do not distribute them widely. They are, however, actively trying to get more publicity around their brand, which can only be a good thing. As with everything, constructive feedback is the way to grow.

Their earbuds seem to be about average- not bad, but not noteworthy either. They have one or two great headphone sets, but they do not have many reviews because so few people know about them.

If you can find a pair of Brainwavz, give them a try, because you might not see them again.​ In particular, check out the three headphones below.

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

517

Facebook Likes

25K

Google+ Followers

4

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Brainwavz HM5

Brainwavz HM5

Best review: Billson's on Technoheadphone.com

Brainwavz ProAlpha

Brainwavz ProAlpha

Best review: LJokerL's on TheHeadphoneList.com

Brainwavz S0

Brainwavz S0

Best review: Marcusd's on Headfonics.com

Brainwavz ranks number 25 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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24 - Plantronics

Score: 76.66

Website: Plantronics.com

Founded:​ 1961

Products:​ Headphones and audio products.

Like Brainwavz, Plantronics occupies an awkward spot between the mass-market popular brands and the high-end enthusiast brands. As a result, they don't have much of an established fanbase, at least not yet.

However, Plantronics really has some pretty decent headphones like the Backbeat Pro series. They pack a lot of features into their headphones, and this is the area where the sound quality starts to improve.

Again, there is probably still better value up the list, but if you find a pair of Plantronics you like, don't be afraid to make a purchase.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

24.4K

Facebook Likes

50K

Google+ Followers

390

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Plantronics BackBeat Pro

Plantronics BackBeat Pro

Best review: Kris' on Soundguys.com

Plantronics .Audio 628

Plantronics .Audio 628

Best review: This one on BHPhotoVideo.com

Plantronics ranks number 24 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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23 - Pioneer

Score: 77.88

Website: PioneerElectronics.com

Founded:​ 1938

Products:​ Headphones, speakers, audio equipment, and car audio.

The Pioneer company offers several forms of electronics, and their reputation in headphones has not exactly been good, at least for their consumer headphones.

However, they make a well-regarded line of headphones that are popular among DJs and mixers. In addition, they have just begun attempts to capitalize on that quality and improve their general consumer headphones.

If you are not a DJ, you might not want to go with Pioneer, but DJs will probably at least know the name, and everyone else might see the company start to rise in the near future.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

21.9K

Facebook Likes

488K

Google+ Followers

137

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Pioneer HDJ-2000-K

Pioneer HDJ-2000-K

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Pioneer HDJ-500R

Pioneer HDJ-500R

Best review: DJBlaze's on DJBooth.net

Pioneer SE-CL721-K

Pioneer SE-CL721-K

Best review: This one on Head-fi.org

Pioneer ranks number 23 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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22 - Philips

Score: 77.90

Website: Philips.com

Founded:​ 1891

Products:​ Audio products, home appliances, lighting, medical equipment, and more.

Philips is very much like Pioneer- a large electronics company that has branched out into headphones with limited success. Like Pioneer, Phillips has a well-known line of headphones for DJs and audiophiles, though their headphones for average consumers have not done well.

The company is attempting to change that. If you come across a set of Philips headphones, give them a try. You might or might not have a good model, but if you do, then you might have found yourself a good buy. They don't have much depth yet, but they are actively working on developing better value.

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

243K

Facebook Likes

6.3M

Google+ Followers

78.3K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Philips X2/27

Philips X2/27

Best review: James' on TechRadar.com

Philips SHP9500

Philips SHP9500

Best review: Dale's on HiFiHeadphones.co.uk

Philips L1/28

Philips L1/28

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Philips ranks number 22 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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21 - Onkyo

Score: 78.42

Website: OnkyoUSA.com

Founded:​ 1946

Products:​ Headphones, speakers, audio and home theater systems, and visual systems.

Onkyo is yet another large electronics company with a small headphones presence. Their main product is the ES HF300s, an on-ear headphone set. The HF300s has a slightly bassy emphasis, good build quality, and a strong quality of sound overall. You can find a good set for $150 or less.

They haven't done much since 2013, though, when this model came out. You can find newer models that provide the same value or better in this price range. Onkyo is another brand that is nice to have but you don't need to spend time searching them out.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

4.5K

Facebook Likes

146K

Google+ Followers

590

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Onkyo IE-FC300

Onkyo IE-FC300

Best review: Riyad's on ExpertReviews.co.uk

Onkyo IE-CTI300

Onkyo IE-CTI300

Onkyo ES-HF300

Onkyo ES-HF300

Best review: This one on WhatHiFi.com

Onkyo ranks number 21 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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20 - Koss

Score: 78.57

Website: Koss.com

Founded:​ 1958

Products:​ Headphones and accessories.

Koss is an old sound engineering company with many years of experience in headphones. Their product lines aren't as popular as the top brands, but Koss offers quite a large selection of many different form factors and price points.

They are known for excellent comfort and low "color", meaning they do not distort sound very much. You can probably find a Koss headphone set to love, although it might be hard to find a lot of reviews of them before you buy. Try them out first to see how they sound and feel.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

3.4K

Facebook Likes

116K

Google+ Followers

n/a

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Koss SP540

Koss SP540

Best review: Edward's on TrustedReviews.com

Koss PortaPro

Koss PortaPro

Best review: Justin's on CNET.com

Koss Pro4S

Koss Pro4S

Best review: Steve's on SoundAndVision.com

Koss ranks number 20 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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19 - Klipsch

Score: 79.05

Website: Klipsch.com

Founded:​ 1946

Products:​ Headphones and loudspeakers.

Klipsch is a solid brand with a particular sound: they tend to have a warm, fat bass relative to a completely pure signal. Many of the mass-market brands have heavy bass emphasis, but it is not well executed.

Klipsch is one of the first good brands to provide a strong bass with good quality. The brand has a lot of earbud options because that is their specialty, but they also provide on-ear headphones. Klipsch provides a great experience for people who like bass, but they do tend to be expensive, so they don't deliver the best value on this list.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

29.3K

Facebook Likes

381K

Google+ Followers

4.3K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Klipsch Reference ONE

Klipsch Reference ONE

Best review: Cameron's on TechRadar.com

Klipsch Image ONE

Klipsch Image ONE

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Klipsch Image X10

Klipsch Image X10

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Klipsch ranks number 19 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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18 - Sony

Score: 79.30

Website: Sony.com

Founded:​ 1946

Products:​ Consumer electronics, computer hardware, audio equipment, and more.

Sony is another electronics giant, but they actually have several excellent headphones and earbuds. They are leaders in value for DJs and audio engineers in some price ranges and models.

The main problem with Sony is that you need to do some research to learn which models are good and which are not worth the money, but for those who look, there are great deals in the Sony lineup in quite a few different areas. They offer many models, so do research ahead of time and see which models are standouts and which are not.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

3.78M

Facebook Likes

6.98M

Google+ Followers

1.48M

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Sony MDR7506

Sony MDR7506

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Sony MDRV6

Sony MDRV6

Best review: LJokerL's on TheHeadphoneList.com

Sony MDR-V55/BR

Sony MDR-V55/BR

Best review: Andrew's on TrustedReviews.com

Sony ranks number 18 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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17 - Ultrasone

Score: 79.68

Website: Ultrasone-Headphones.com

Founded:​ 1991

Products:​ Headphones.

Ultrasone is a German brand that has a high-quality, but also a controversial approach. Their headphones tend to add a lot of "color" to the sound, making both the bass and treble more intense. Like the other color-added brands, they tend to be a love it or hate it brand.

The aggressive style can make listening to them fatiguing on the ear. I personally prefer to let the underlying sound do the work, instead of the headphones, but if you like the changes it makes to the sound, then by all means try to track some down.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

3.2K

Facebook Likes

3.3K

Google+ Followers

30

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Ultrasone DJ 1 S-Logic

Ultrasone DJ 1 S-Logic

Best review: This one on Head-fi.org

Ultrasone HFI-450 S-Logic

Ultrasone HFI-450 S-Logic

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Ultrasone PRO 900 S-Logic

Ultrasone PRO 900 S-Logic

Best review: Frederik's on TechPowerUp.com

Ultrasone ranks number 17 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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16 - Creative

Score: 80.11

Website: Creative.com

Founded:​ 1981

Products:​ Headphones, multimedia, IT, and consumer electronics.

Creative is a US-based company that focuses on a high-end, clean sound. Much of their focus is on gaming headphones, and that's an important market. We'll see more of this as the list goes on, but headphones are not just for music. Some brands make headphones that are better for music and some have more versatile applications.

Creative delivers a solid gaming headphone experience, and they are not bad for music either. They do tend to be pricey. Their quality lands them this high rank, although they are not the most popular brand.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

10.2K

Facebook Likes

56.1K

Google+ Followers

2K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Creative Aurvana Live

Creative Aurvana Live

Best review: Jasmine's on CNET.com

Creative Aurvana Air

Creative Aurvana Air

Best review: Stuart's on TrustedReviews.com

Creative Aurvana 3

Creative Aurvana 3

Best review: LJokerL's on TheHeadphoneList.com

Creative ranks number 16 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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15 - JVC

Score: 80.28

Website: JVC.com

Founded:​ 1927

Products:​ Audio, visual, computer electronics, and media products.

JVC is another big electronics company who are known for speakers and other hardware. JVC offers a big range of models, including both earbuds and over-ear headphones. You really need to dig into the various models to learn about them, but the brand creates consistently good models for many different budget points. They are especially good for cheap, durable, and high-quality units.

You can get a real deal on headphones that will sound great and last for a long time. That's especially good for headphones and earbuds that you will use for exercise, travel, or other potentially damaging situations.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

13.6K

Facebook Likes

194K

Google+ Followers

7

Top 3 Headphones from Them

JVC HAS160B

JVC HAS160B

Best review: This one on Head-Fi.org

JVC HARX90

JVC HARX90

Best review: Justin's on CNET.com

JVC HAS400B

JVC HAS400B

Best review: David's on CNET.com

JVC ranks number 15 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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14 - Bose

Score: 81.72

Website: Bose.com

Founded:​ 1964

Products:​ Headphones, loudspeakers, audio equipment, and car audio.

Bose catches a lot of flak in the audio industry. In many ways, they are the original inspiration for Beats by Dre. They tend to combine a ton of marketing and advertising with poor value.

The headphones that Bose sells are great with a clean, balanced sound, durability, and nice design. But they are usually significantly overpriced.​

It's hard to ignore them because they are good engineers, but they price their headphones too highly, and you can get better value from other brands. Bose is a genuine leader in noise-cancelling, but you can expect to pay a lot for that technology.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

138K

Facebook Likes

2.54M

Google+ Followers

n/a

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Bose QuietComfort 20i

Bose QuietComfort 20i

Best review: Mike's on TomsGuide.com

Bose QuietComfort 25

Bose QuietComfort 25

Best review: This one on WhatHiFi.com

Bose SoundLink

Bose SoundLink

Best review: Kris' on SoundGuys.com

Bose ranks number 14 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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13 - Panasonic

Score: 81.87

Website: Panasonic.com

Founded:​ 1964

Products:​ Headphones, loudspeakers, audio equipment, and car audio.

Panasonic, the latest big electronic company on the list, are a nice choice to put ahead of Bose. They tend to offer similar models, but with a better and more favorable discount for you.

For example, they have their own line of noise-cancelling headphones. The offerings from Panasonic tend to be about as good as their Bose counterparts but cost much less. If you like something from Bose, you can probably get it at a better price from Panasonic, even if you need to sacrifice a little quality to do so. They are large and reliable.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

45.9K

Facebook Likes

314K

Google+ Followers

30.2K

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Panasonic RPTCM125K

Panasonic RPTCM125K

Best review: Valentina's on TomsGuide.com

Panasonic RPHJE120K

Panasonic RPHJE120K

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Panasonic RP-HT21

Panasonic RP-HT21

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Panasonic ranks number 13 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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12 - SoundMAGIC

Score: 82.16

Website: SoundMagic.com.cn

Founded:​ 2005

Products:​ Headphones.

SoundMAGIC is a bit of a newcomer. They are a Chinese company looking to prove themselves in the international market. Their specialty is in earbuds, but they have some over-ear headphones as well.

The hallmark of SoundMAGIC is great treble and mids, slightly weak bass, and an occasionally troubling build quality. If they didn't have reliability and durability problems, SoundMAGIC would be leading many categories in earbuds. If they can step up their build quality, SoundMAGIC will be able to break into the top tier of brands, and that's why they rank so high on this list.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

475

Facebook Likes

15.9K

Google+ Followers

23

Top 3 Headphones from Them

SoundMAGIC ES18

SoundMAGIC ES18

Best review: Abhishek's on AllTechTrix.com

SoundMAGIC E10

SoundMAGIC E10

Best review: This one on BestEarphonesGuide.co.uk

SoundMAGIC E30

SoundMAGIC E30

Best review: Andrew's on TrustedReviews.com

SoundMagic ranks number 12 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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11 - AKG

Score: 82.44

Website: AKG.com

Founded:​ 1947

Products:​ Microphones and headphones.

AKG is a serious headphone builder, selling to DJs and audio engineers alike. They offer noise-cancelling, wireless options, budget and luxury options, and excellent sound balance.​

Their main flaw is not unique to them, but it is a problem: they sell so many models that the overall quality is a little inconsistent- some models aren't up to the standards of the best offerings, so definitely do your research in advance.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

9.7K

Facebook Likes

170K

Google+ Followers

703

Top 3 Headphones from Them

AKG K712

AKG K712

Best review: Michael's on Headfonics.com

AKG K612

AKG K612

Best review: This one on GearJunkies.com

AKG K702

AKG K702

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

AKG ranks number 11 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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Now for the top ten. From here on out, all of the brands offer top-level quality, a wide selection, professional quality, and/or other attributes.

10 - Shure

Score: 83.01

Website: Shure.com

Founded:​ 1925

Products:​ Microphones, headphones, conference systems, and more.

Shure is a very strong brand. While they offer a variety of products, they are best known for their earbuds, which many people consider to be the best in the world. Like other companies, there are many models to choose from, so be careful and do your research ahead of time.

The distinctive quality of Shure is about getting excellent sound out of small speakers. They are not the best in durability, although their earbuds are durable, so they are not the best choice for workouts and the gym. If you like earbuds, you should strongly consider the top Shure models- their quality and price value is unmatched.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

39K

Facebook Likes

190K

Google+ Followers

n/a

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Shure SRH840

Shure SRH840

Best review: Mike's on Headfonia.com

Shure SE846-CL

Shure SE846-CL

Best review: Nathan's on Headfonia.com

Shure SRH440

Shure SRH440

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Shure ranks number 10 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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9 - Audio-Technica

Score: 83.19

Website: Audio-Technica.com

Founded:​ 1962

Products:​ Microphones, headphones, and other audio systems.

Audio-Technica is one of my personal favorites. They are a Japanese company with several different models of headphones. Audio-Technica offers excellent clean, balanced sound and a distinctive "winged" design that makes them very comfortable.

Their most distinctive feature is their soundstage- putting on a pair of the best Audio-Technicas puts you right in the middle of the band. It sounds like you are in the front row of a live show. That same quality makes them perfect for gaming as well- you can perfectly identify the direction and distance of sounds like footsteps.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

12.1K

Facebook Likes

100K

Google+ Followers

452

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Best review: Kevin's on SoundGuys.com

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Best review: Muzakkir's on Techetron.com

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Audio-Technica ranks number 9 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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8 - Sennheiser

Score: 83.29

Website: Sennheiser.com

Founded:​ 1945

Products:​ Microphones, headphones, and other audio systems.

Sennheiser is one of the most well-known brands in the headphones community. They have a distinctive clean sound, which is essentially unmatched in purity.

Sennheiser falls into the trap of offering a huge variety of models, so it can be hard to find the good ones, but the best of Sennheiser is frequently the absolute best available in on-ear headphones. The brand is beloved among audio professionals, especially for their higher-end models. They can be expensive, but the quality is beyond anything most other manufacturers put out.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

107K

Facebook Likes

1.45M

Google+ Followers

99

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Sennheiser HD 600

Sennheiser HD 600

Best review: Hugh's on SoundOnSound.com

Sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser HD 650

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Sennheiser HD 598

Sennheiser HD 598

Best review: Sherri's on TomsGuide.com

Sennheiser ranks number 8 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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7 - BeoPlay by Bang & Olufsen

Score: 83.84

Website: BeoPlay.com

Founded:​ 1925

Products:​ Headphones and wireless speakers.

Founded in 1925, Bang & Olufsen recently launched a new series of headphones and wireless speakers under the name BeoPlay. Bang & Olufsen has been known for producing quality audio equipment for several years and fortunately their headphone series is no exception.

They seem to go under the mantra of delivering few but quality products, which - as you'll discover below - looks like it is the right way to go. Some companies seem to get lost in the design of their headphones, offering top notch design but not much of a sound — not BeoPlay. They offer the best of both worlds.

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

40.4K

Facebook Likes

190K

Google+ Followers

212

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Beoplay H6

Beoplay H6

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Beoplay H3

Beoplay H3

Best review: This one on WhatHiFi.com

Beoplay H7

Beoplay H7

Best review: David's on CNET.com

BeoPlay ranks number 7 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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6 - HiFiMan

Score: 84.83

Website: HiFiMan.com

Founded:​ 2005

Products:​ Headphones and accessories.

HiFiMan is a peculiar brand- it's a company run by one person, an American audio engineer. HiFiMan delivers headphones of excellent quality, especially in bass, where Sennheiser can be weak.

The models from HiFiMan frequently offer the best value in the industry- but only at the top end. HiFiMan sells headphones north of $400 that might cost over $1000 from other brands, so they are a great deal, but still very costly in terms of raw price. This means they are out of reach for many consumers on the casual end. You can score a good deal on top-tier cans if you are willing to shell out.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

1.3K

Facebook Likes

13.8K

Google+ Followers

36

Top 3 Headphones from Them

HIFIMAN HE400S

HIFIMAN HE400S

Best review: Marcus' on Headfonics.com

HIFIMAN HE400i

HIFIMAN HE400i

Best review: Lieven's on Headfonia.com

HIFIMAN HE 500

HIFIMAN HE 500

Best review: Mike's on Headfonia.com

HiFiMan ranks number 6 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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5 - Bowers & Wilkins

Score: 85.76

Website: Bowers-Wilkins.com

Founded:​ 1966

Products:​ Headphones, HiFi and home theater speakers.

Bower and Wilkins, or B&W, is a bit of a newcomer. They only offer three or four models at any given time, so it's easy to tell what each model is supposed to be. For the same reason, their headphones seem to be of a higher overall quality.

B&W cans are jacks of all trades- they are not the very best at clarity, balance, tone, or design, but they are nearly there, and no other brand can combine excellence in so many categories. This is especially true for the P7 line, which is priced above $300 most of the time.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

29.1K

Facebook Likes

106K

Google+ Followers

10

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Bowers & Wilkins P5 S2

Bowers & Wilkins P5 S2

Best review: This one on WhatHiFi.com

Bowers & Wilkins P7

Bowers & Wilkins P7

Best review: David's on CNET.com

Bowers & Wilkins P3

Bowers & Wilkins P3

Best review: Joe's on Gizmodo.com

Bowers & Wilkins ranks number 5 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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4 - PSB

Score: 86.38

Website: PSBSpeakers.com

Founded:​ 1972

Products:​ Headphones and speakers.

PSB has another excellent line of high-end headphones. By now, you are used to the story- PSB's headphones have world-leading clarity, balance, and depth...

But what really sets PSB apart specifically is the comfort. Many headphones are hard to wear for a long time or don't fit all head and ear sizes, but PSB has an uncanny ability to design headphones that stay comfortable longer and work better for more people than any other brand. That is a very important quality for anyone who likes to use their headphones for prolonged periods of time, whether you are a music lover, gamer, or both.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

4.4K

Facebook Likes

6.1K

Google+ Followers

185

Top 3 Headphones from Them

PSB M4U 1

PSB M4U 1

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

PSB M4U 2

PSB M4U 2

Best review: Ryan's on DigitalTrends.com

PSB ranks number 4 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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3 - Grado

Score: 87.25

Website: GradoLabs.com

Founded:​ 1953

Products:​ Headphones, amplifiers, and accessories.

Grado is a very well-known and popular brand among audiophiles because they are the undisputed masters of the open-back design.

Open-back headphones offer better sound quality because the speakers can be stronger and less restricted. They do leak sound, but many find the tradeoff worth it. Grado headphones are well known among audio enthusiasts, particularly for their quality design. For those who like them, there is no equal to Grado, and they have many offerings across the budget spectrum.

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

15.2K

Facebook Likes

63.5K

Google+ Followers

201

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Grado PS500e

Grado PS500e

Best review: Mike's on Headfonia.com

Grado SR325e

Grado SR325e

Best review: This one on WhatHiFi.com

Grado SR225e

Grado SR225e

Best review: Steve's on CNET.com

Grado ranks number 3 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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2 - Beyerdynamic

Score: 87.36

Website: Beyerdynamic.com

Founded:​ 1924

Products:​ Headphones, microphones, and conference technology.

Beyerdynamic's collection of awards speaks for itself. The company has been recognized in many budget categories for both on-ear headphones and earbuds. Beyerdynamic is popular among enthusiasts and professionals because the company builds durable headphones with world-leading sound quality and clarity.

They tend to be strongest in the treble region, so they are well-suited to classical music, much like Sennheiser. Their soaring, bright high end places them at the forefront. People who prefer treble swear by Beyer as the world's top brand. New Beyers always put on a strong show in yearly competitions.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

10.6K

Facebook Likes

58.0K

Google+ Followers

349

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Beyerdynamic DT-770

Beyerdynamic DT-770

Best review: Mike and Lieven's on Headfonia.com

Beyerdynamic DT-880

Beyerdynamic DT-880

Best review: Kyle's on Headfonics.com

Beyerdynamic DT-990

Beyerdynamic DT-990

Best review: Tim's on PCMag.com

Beyerdynamic ranks number 2 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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1 - Audeze

Score: 90.67

Website: Audeze.com

Founded:​ 2009

Products:​ Headphones, microphones, and amplifiers.

Audeze is the only real champion to the throne of headphones. Many of Audeze's cans are open-backed. For a long time, they only made top-end headphones, but now they have begun adding cheaper options to their series.

The headphones are big, heavy, and powerful, boasting way more power than most competitors attempt to include. There's no compromise with Audeze, and if you favor the bass end of the spectrum, you have probably been dreaming about some Audeze headphones for a while now. Each Audeze headphone has its own characteristics, but they offer the same level of quality across their range of products.​

Make sure you do your research before making a purchase. Not only because a pair from Audeze can cost you a pretty penny, but because the different signatures of their headphones are tailored for different preferences.​

Average Headphone Review Ratings

Regular Users

Experts

Head-Fi.org

Social Followers

Twitter Followers

5.8K

Facebook Likes

19.8K

Google+ Followers

174

Top 3 Headphones from Them

Audeze LCD-3

Audeze LCD-3

Best review: Geoffrey's on Forbes.com

Audeze LCD-XC

Audeze LCD-XC

Best review: Michael's on Headfonics.com

Audeze EL-8

Audeze EL-8

Best review: Lieven's on Headfonia.com

Audeze ranks number 1 on PickyEar's list of the top 32 headphone brands:

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Key Statistical Findings

As a trained physicist, I have to tell you: I love data!

And the beauty of collecting as much data as we did here is that it is nearly impossible NOT to stumble upon some interesting findings. In this section, I'll share these findings with you.

Headphone Quality vs. Brand Age

An interesting question immediately arises. Are older brands more successful than newer brands? Without knowing the answer, one could speculate that older brands have an advantage, as they've been around for a longer time, allowing them to build a following.

As I mentioned, I'm a physicist, so I say we should get rid of the speculations and bring in raw data. As is evident from the chart below, there doesn't seem to be any pattern between brand age and position.

This is good news for newcomers. It shows that quality trumps brand age, which is great for consumers in return. It promotes quality over authority. As an example, take Audeze and Sony. Audeze was created in 2009, while Sony was created in 1946. Sony is a huge electronics company, while Audeze is a dedicated headphone company. Sony therefore focuses on providing a bunch of consumer electronics, while Audeze has one goal in mind only: to produce quality headphones.

And if the data above means anything at all, we can conclude that Audeze does indeed produce better headphones than Sony.

The horizontal axis shows the brand age, while the vertical axis shows the brands position.

Dedicated Headphone Brands vs. Consumer Electronic Brands

We touched on this question above. Sony is a huge consumer electronics company, and Audeze is a much smaller company that dedicates itself to headphones. Yet Audeze produces much better headphones. This raises the question: Is this the general case?

Do dedicated headphone brands actually produce better headphones than brands that produce headphones as well as a bunch of other electronic devices?

Let's look at the data. Below you'll see a pie chart breaking down the top 15 brands on this list. As can be seen, 13 out of the top 15 brands are dedicated headphone and audio brands, as opposed to brands that focus on a range of electronic devices.

The results are very clear: Dedicated headphone brands produce better headphones than general consumer electronic brands.

A simple pie chart breaking down the top 15 brands.

Brand Popularity vs. Quality of Their Headphones

The third and final question that we'll look at is the correlation between brand popularity and the quality of the headphones that they produce. Personally, I find this question the most interesting of the three, as I have a suspicion that branding, advertisement, and celebrity endorsement has a much higher impact on a brands popularity than the actual quality of their headphones.

Again, let's not make any conclusions before we look at the data.

The horizontal axis show the amount of social followers of the individual brand, while the vertical axis shows the brand's position.

The chart above shows the individual brand's position plotted as a function of social followers. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be any specific pattern. If we really look closely, we notice that the bars are slightly higher on the right side. This means that there are more brands with a high following that place low on our list.

That's interesting... It suggests that brands with a higher following tend to produce lower quality headphones..

We can draw two conclusions from this:

  1. Brands with a higher following seem to be consumer electronic brands. That is, brands that don't just produce headphones, but also offer a lot of different electronic devices. But as we discovered before, brands that produce more than just headphones actually produce lower quality headphones than brands that focus on headphones alone.
  2. The quality of a brands' headphones doesn't correlate with how popular it is. Celebrity endorsement is much more effective at gathering social followers than producing quality headphones, but as our research shows, the consumer is more satisfied if you produce quality headphones. 

Bottom line: Don't look at a brand's social following to determine whether or not to buy their headphones.

How We Did the Research

This was a massive research project and we came up with some pretty bold claims that could only be justified if the research was done properly. This is the goal with this section. We're open about how we did our research. I for one (a scientist of nature) cannot see why this section is left out in so many articles. I personally don't trust an article with a bunch of claims without the data to back it up.

The Basic Idea Behind the Study

The idea behind this study is simple: We use the wisdom of crowds to make an unbiased assessment as to which are the best headphone brands. The wisdom of crowds is basically just a fancy phrase for more is better.

It's simple, really. Imagine you ask a single person how heavy the sun is. Chances are he doesn't know and just gives you whatever he thinks the answer is. I'm sure you wouldn't be certain of what the mass of the sun is afterwards.

Now imagine you ask a thousand people — better yet, ten-thousand — take the average of their answer. What are the chances that the result is close to the correct answer? The remarkable fact is that it is almost princely the mass of the sun.

Why? Some people will overestimate the mass of the sun, while others will underestimate it. But the crowd (the average of the individual answers) will almost always be correct.

This is the basic idea behind this study. Of course, the mass of the sun is fixed, so we can check whether or not the crowd, so to speak, was correct. But what if we had some subjective question, like: what is the best headphone brand?

Think about it. Very likely none of the 1000 people we asked had any idea what the mass of the sun is. Nevertheless, the average of their answers is very close to the correct answer.

None of them had any idea of what the correct answer is, but somehow their collective answer was correct.

We took this one step further and said that if that is the case, then the reverse must also be the case. If a correct answer to the question 'What is the Best Headphone Brand exists', then the collective answer of the crowd must be that exact answer.

Stay with me here, I know it's slightly abstract. Think about it this way: We invite 100 people to a party. We place 426 marbles in a jar and have all of them guess the amount of marbles in the jar. We take the average and the result is 428. Very close!

The party continues. Now we invite the guests to taste one of our special bottles of wine that we've been storing for this exact occasion. We ask them to rate the bottle from 0 to 10. We take their average and confirm that their collective answer is 7.5. The guests have no clue as to what the "correct" answer is. I write correct in quotes as there is no correct answer since taste is subjective... or is it?

Why should the guests be able to guess the marbles but not the quality of a wine?

Our answer is that they shouldn't. That the answer to the second question — what rating this bottle of wine has — has a definite answer. You only need enough people to ask. In our case, this was 310,067 different people.

Each individual brand then has produced so and so many headphones ​that have received so and so many reviews. But what does that have to do with anything?

You can think of it like this: When you had to hand in an essay in high-school, the teacher would grade it. You'd hand in a couple a year, and then your final grade might be an average of the individual essay grades.

That's the idea here as well. The brands produce a pair of headphones and the crowd grades (rates) them. The brand that receives the highest grade (average review ratings) is the best brand.

How We Gathered the Information

Our goal was to get as many individual headphone reviews as possible. We did this by researching reviews in three main locations: expert reviews, reviews on Head-fi.org, and regular user reviews (from online retailers).

The expert reviews were from seasoned headphone reviewers like Steve Guttenberg, Tim Gideon, and Lieven Vranken. The Head-fi reviews were from (amateur) reviewers. I write amateurs in parenthesis, as the reviewers on Head-fi are actually very good reviewers. The final category of reviews were the user reviews. These are basically people who have purchased a set of headphones from an online retailer and have left a review on their site.

Once we gathered the rating of every individual headphone of every individual brand on this list, we took the average across the three categories.

We took the average expert reviews for each brand, as well as the Head-fi and regular user ratings for each brand. Then we calculated the score of the individual headphone brand by the following formula:

where ER is the average expert reviews, HR is the average Head-Fi reviews, and AR is the average user reviews. If the brand had an average rating of 5 in all three categories, then their score would be 100.

This is the key concept behind the ranking of the headphone brands. This is our formula based on the wisdom of crowds.

Final Verdict

The top 12 brands are all excellent brands that deliver their own experience, and there are diehard fans for all of them who swear that their brand is the best in the world.

The fact that hearing is subjective means that there is no truly final individual ordering of brands because personal taste plays a role. This is exactly what we try to avoid by using the wisdom of crowds. Taking every opinion into consideration removes the biased nature of the individual, and hopefully provides a real answer to the question of which the best headphone brands are.

These brands are ranked purely based on the average user rating of their headphones. Does this mean that Audeze is the best choice for everyone?

No, not at all. It simply means that Audeze produces headphones that their consumers are satisfied with, more so than the other brands.

There are some companies that only offer a few sets, and others that offer many- these are hard to compare because the companies with many offerings tend to only have a few truly great products.

In the end, careful research and testing is the best way to determine which brand and which model is best for you. Think about how you interact with audio content, what games you play, what music you like, and what your budget for headphones is. That will determine where you should look.

Buying new headphones is exciting and fun, but the most important thing to remember is to stick to your budget because it is very easy to accidentally overspend. That is risky because you can never be quite sure if you will like a new pair, especially if it is for a brand you have never bought before.

I hope you like this list and that it is helpful to you! We put a lot of work into ranking these brands based on a method that was as unbiased as possible.

Tell me what you think in the comments and share it with your friends! That feedback is only going to improve the quality of the list.

Remember, this is about brands, not individual models- I am not trying to say that any one model is the best, only to assess the best overall brands. Let us know what you think!​

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