Best Headphones Under $500 – Headphone Buying Guide

Best Headphones Under $500

Our Picks For Best Headphones Under $500

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Sennheiser HD 660S

Sennheiser HD 660S

These headphones offer clear, accurate sound. You'll love hearing your music come to life.

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Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro

Professional sound technicians love these DT1990 Pro headphones. They're also very comfortable.

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Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

These Studio3 headphones are perfect for listeners that want total immersion. They have great noise cancelling features.

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Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose QuietComfort 35

Control these Bose headphones with Alexa or the app. They're wireless and convenient.

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Hifiman Sundara Over Ear Headphones

Hifiman Sundara Over Ear Headphones

You'll love the slim, sleek design of this Hifiman set. They deliver clear dynamic sound.

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Sony WH1000XM3

Sony WH1000XM3

If you want the best sound cancellation out there, you want these Sony headphones. They also have built in microphones.

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RHA CL2 Planar in-Ear Headphones

RHA CL2 Planar in-Ear Headphones

These headphones are dynamic, and functional. You get plenty of dimension, at a great price.

Every audiophile wants the best headphones out there. But no matter how much you love music, you might not love the price that real quality costs. While you’ll still want to invest in quality headphones, you don’t have to spend a grand to get them. There are still very impressive headphones for under $500. It can take some real searching to find them, however. That’s why we’ve curated this guide to help you find the best headphones within the price range!

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Sennheiser HD 660S

Pros

  • Comfortable, designed for long periods of wear
  • Extremely transparent, accurate sound
  • Perfect balanced frequencies and equalizer 

Cons

  • Open back design is less suited to noisy, public environments

Summary:

These headphones are German engineered for superior sound quality and user comfort. The sound quality is seriously impressive and more accurate than ever. The HD 660S headphones are an improvement upon the previous model, the HD 650, which gained worldwide recognition for clear, accurate sound. If you’re a music lover, you’ll notice the richness you’ve never heard before, even in albums you’ve listened to a hundred times.

These have an open back design, which adds an airy feeling, especially if you have an isolated area to listen in. The open design also gives these headphones an advantage for studio work.

Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro

Pros

  • Improved treble and detail 
  • Good, layered bass quality 
  • Includes two different cables, extra pads, and carrying case

Cons

  • Open design is ideal for studio atmospheres, not crowded places

Summary:

The Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro headphones are nothing if not detailed and lively. There are so many additions that you might not notice without hearing the sound for yourself, which is part of what makes them so perfect.

They produce a distinctly bright and clear sound, a definite upgrade from older headphones that tend to create a warmer, analog like sound. These headphones also improve on the treble quality of Beyer’s previous models, which is a refreshing change that makes this pair worth picking up. That said, the bass is also impressive, with plenty of detail and layering.

Beats Studio3

Pros

  • Excellent noise cancelling design
  • Wireless, uses rechargeable battery
  • Delivers high quality, balanced sound 

Cons

  • Sound stage is less defined than with open designs

Summary:

Studio quality headphones are even better when they’re also convenient on the go. That’s where the Beats Studio3 headphones come in. First, they’re wireless headphones. Which makes them so convenient whether you’re chilling at home or commuting, since you don’t have to mess with cords. If you don’t have time to charge them, they do come with a cable to use with them.

That said, you’ll have an easy time finding a few moments to get them charged. If you have even 10 minutes, you can get 3 hours of listening. On a full charge, you can listen for up to 22 hours.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Pros

  • Compatible with Bose augmented reality
  • App allows for custom tailored sound profiles
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life 

Cons

  • Bose AR is currently only available through Android device pairing

Summary:

Bose is one of the leaders in high quality audio products worldwide. When you get a Bose product, you know you’re getting an unparalleled experience. The QuietComfort 35 headphones are no different. These are over-ear headphones, which creates a more comfortable feel, while enhancing the noise cancelling design. Another unique feature of this set is that they’re Bose AR enabled. If you haven’t heard of this yet, it’s a really immersive augmented reality that revolves around audio.

You get fantastic sound quality right off the bat, but you can also personalize your settings, which is great for audiophiles. Just set up your own custom tailored sound profiles on the app, and switch them for whatever you’re listening too.

Hifiman Sundara Over Ear Headphones

Pros

  • Sleek, yet very durable design
  • Much clearer high ranges 
  • Lower bass and better definition

Cons

  • Metal headband requires some initial adjustment

Summary:

The Hifiman Sundara headphones are impressively sleek and lightweight. The matte black finish is the icing on top of a great looking and well performing set of headphones. You can feel good about your purchase, knowing they won’t shatter or scuff easily. These headphones have a huge improvement in the clarity of high range frequencies. They also offer stronger bass, that keeps up its sound quality even as the beat increases. The treble is also well defined and detailed without sounding overly bright. A weight spreading headband makes it super comfortable to wear for long hours.

Sony WH1000XM3

Pros

  • Superior noise cancellation beats other big, expensive brands
  • Multiple microphones create excellent call quality
  • Wireless and convenient

Cons

  • Less detailed high notes

Summary:

These Sony headphones are one of the best for the price if you want advanced noise cancellation. They’re also wireless, which is even better considering that there are not one but multiple microphones built in. It’s already pretty rare for headphones like these to include a microphone within the set itself. That means you can go totally hands free. Count on the extra mics to take care of cancelling outside noise so your voice comes out crystal clear. The sound is accurate and clear. Although they’re wireless, you won’t have the sound lagging either.

When it comes to battery life, these headphones surely deliver. You get an impression 30 hours of battery life with just one charge. Need to rush off? Just charge it for a quick 10 minutes to get another 5 hours of listening time. It also has Amazon Alexa capabilities built in so you’ll have quick hands free access to your music and more.

RHA CL2 Planar in-Ear Headphones

Pros

  • In-ear design can be corded or cordless
  • Includes 3 year warranty
  • Compatible with most devices

Cons

  • Warranty offered only through approved dealers or manufacturer direct sales

Summary:

Many of the headphones on our list are over-ear designs. That’s the first thing that sets this pair apart; they’re in ear headphones, also called earbuds. A lot of music lovers tend to stay away from these designs, since in-ear headphones can easily get their cord caught on things. You can use them wired, or wireless, which is a major convenience. Just hook up with bluetooth, and you’re ready to go. You can use them with just about any device, which is another bonus.

The RHA also has the world’s tiniest planar magnetic drivers. You can’t beat it for astounding audio clarity. Each set comes complete with a flight case that’s foldable, a flight adapter, a pouch, sports clip as well as foam ear tips.

Are $500 Headphones Worth It?

 This is a question often asked by audiophiles looking at high end headphones. Are those $500 headphones worth the steep expense? A common assertion within the musical community is that we should buy the most expensive, advanced equipment we can possibly afford. That may be true for a seasoned, accomplished professional studio producer.

That said, this criteria doesn't apply for the majority of people, even if you're starting your mixing or producing career. While you'll enjoy the expensive headphones, it's still a bit of overkill. There are plenty of headphones under $500 that perform with professional studio quality output. Ultimately, whether the headphones are worth it truly depends on your personal needs.

Qualities to Keep in Mind

 When shopping for your new headphones, it’s best to prioritize which qualities are important to you so that you know what to look for. Knowing what you’re looking for is going to help you sort through all the options with ease.

Comfort Level

Whether you wear the headphones for work, play or just every now and then, you want them to be comfortable. Look for features such as padding on the headband and ear pads. Some headphones are even adjustable so that you can customize them to properly fit your head, just make sure the build quality is good and that they won’t fall apart easily.

Another thing to consider when it comes to comfort is what style of headphones will be most comfortable to you. Some people really don’t like the feeling of in-ear headphones. Others find over-the-ear headphones too bulky.

Advanced Technology

Depending on how new the model is, a lot of newer ones will feature a variety of proprietary technology that enhances their sound, frequency response and performance. If pristine sound quality is high on your list of expectations, be on the lookout for these types of features.

For instance, you can go with high impedance. Higher impedance headphones will best perform when they’re plugged in and are excellent for working in sound studios. Noise cancelling capabilities are another advanced feature that you might be interested in.

What Type of Audio They’re Best For

You want to find headphones that will be best suited for the type of audio you’ll mostly be listening to. Are they going to be most used for work, gaming, music or podcasts? Some headphones are known for their clear vocals and others are great strong bass.

Wireless or Corded

 You should decide whether you want corded or wireless headphones. If you are quite active and don’t want to have to deal with the hassle or untangling a cord, wireless would be the best choice. Cordless would be a great choice for people that like to wear their headphones while working out. If you don’t mind the cord and want the absolute best sound quality, you should probably go with headphones that have a cord.

Some newer models of headphones do give you both options. They will sometimes have a detachable cord that can be removed so you can connect to Bluetooth but you will need to keep track of the battery life on these.

On-ear vs Over-ear Headphones

 Earbuds will let in the most outside noise and over-the-ear will provide the best noise isolation. In-ear headphones will be in the middle. They provide great sound quality but still allow some outside noise in. This will come down to whether you want a completely immersive experience or still have some awareness of your surroundings.

Another thing that sets different styles of headphones apart is their portability. On-ear headphones are much smaller and compact, making them much easier to carry in a bag or pockets. While over-ear headphones have better sound quality, they can be quite bulky and not as convenient to travel with

Earbuds or in-ear headphones will also create less noise outside of your ears. Since they are so tiny, the sound is compact and sent directly into your ear. This allows you to hear the sound perfectly with little to no noise leaking outside.

Over the ear headphones can leak out quite a bit of external noise. This is because there isn’t much of a seal as compared to earbuds that go directly into the ear. Sound leakage from your headphones can bring attention to you and be a distraction to nearby people.

Conclusion

By now, you understand that there are many different factors that can affect the performance and sound quality of your headphones. There are different styles and features to choose from and it can be overwhelming to decide which ones are going to be best. The good news is that there are plenty of quality headphones under $500 on the market. Use the tips we’ve provided and start with any one of the models on our list.

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