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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Jaybird Vista

These true wireless headphones are for high quality audio on the go. Great wireless battery life, customization and usability.

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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

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. You'll find a multifunction switch and a power pairing button on the right ear cup. This switch controls songs, volume, skipping, play/pause, and much more.


The steel mesh on the Sennheiser HD 660S drive unit is impressive in performance and interesting in design. It completes the ventilated driver, bringing forth consistent control of air displacement. As a result, only your music shines in an ideal balance of expression and integrity.

Pros

  • Each headphone can work independently
  • Customizable EQ settings within the app
  • 6+ hour battery life, with a charger built into the case
  • Great out of the box sound

Cons

  • Can't control volume without using your phone

Summary:

These headphones have come a long way in the past year. They used to be big, bulky, and lacking all of the features that make Bluetooth headphones viable. 


The JayBird Vista headphones offer excellent out of the box audio quality, with excellent usability features that make them stand out among other true wireless headphones. Aside from the intense and amazing audio quality, the Jaybird Vista comes with a comfortable and durable design that even incorporates vegan-friendly materials.  


As with other Jaybird headphones, the Vista allows you to use to app to customize the sound to your personal preferences. You can even take a test to get a personalized EQ. The quiz has you listen to specific frequencies and rate how well you can hear them. It then takes that data and formulates a customized EQ setting based on how you hear. 


The battery of these headphones lasts about 6 hours, with a little extra charge stored in the case for on-the-go juice.


Overall, if you're looking for a pair of true wireless headphones that have more value than their cost, consider the Vista.

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:

Beyerdynamic headphones are well-known worldwide for offering professional reliability and outstanding sound quality and the DT1990 is no exception. 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 come with an open-back design that offers an extremely spatial and natural sound. This design also helps in editing, mixing, and mastering.

The DT1990 produces a distinctly bright and clear sound, a definite upgrade from older headphones that tend to create a warmer, analog-like sound. Although they're not the best alternative for more demanding activities, such as working out and sports, they perform exceptionally for casual use cases like watching movies and listening to music. The 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.

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. And with its real-time audio calibration, you can rest assured of a premium listening experience. On a full charge, you can listen for up to 22 hours and about 40 hours of playback when you turn off Noise Canceling.

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 canceling design. However, unlike the regular QC 35 headphones, the newer series II comes with an action button that you can use as a Google Assistant button. What's more, it's compatible with Amazon Alexa, making it even more ideal if that's your preferred personal assistant. 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:

Built with good sound quality and comfort in mind, the Hifiman Sundara electrostatic headphones are excellent for music enthusiasts looking for supremely comfortable and excellent headphones. They're 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 have a wide and spacious soundstage, a well-balanced sound profile, a strong performing Bluetooth connectivity, and a consistent audio delivery. 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. And we can't forget to mention their sound isolation capabilities. Just like earbuds, the Hifiman Sundara Over-Ear Headphones block your ear canal completely from the outside world. So, background noise won't creep into your awareness while using these headphones. Plus, 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. Actually, it's the noise cancellation and sound quality that really make these Sony headphones great. 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 of 30 hours of battery life with just one charge. This means you can travel with ease and rest assured of enjoying hours of undisturbed listening. 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. Whether you'll be using the headphones totally hands free or not, their multiple microphones enhance excellent sound quality and accurate listening experience to loud music. 
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 as wired headphones, or in their wireless mode, 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 audio of most wireless headphones often cuts in and out, something you won't experience when using the wired version of the RHA CL2 Planar in-Ear Headphones.

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 memory foam and breathable ear pads. With such features, you won't experience heat build-ups or sweat even after wearing your headphones for several hours. 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.

Active noise cancellation, also known as noise cancellation, is a technique for reducing noise by the addition of another sound designed to cancel the first. It uses speakers and microphones to reduce background noises.  

You want headphones that minimize background noise, making it easier to concentrate on your music without disturbance. With active noise cancellation headphones, you can rest assured of a more cleaner and detailed sound.

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 for an amazing and intense listening experience and active noise canceling, which minimizes any sound you're not interested in. 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.

You want to go for headphones that offer lower levels of sound leakage, greater noise isolation, and excellent speech intelligibility by eliminating external noise. This means you'll get to make and receive calls comfortably with minimum to no distractions.

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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