There are generally two classifications of headphones when it comes to power requirements. There are low-impedance headphones and high-impedance headphones.
Low-impedance headphones usually don’t need additional amplification, while high-impedance headphones almost always require a headphone amplifier.
This is not always the case since there are other factors, such as sensitivity. In order to accurately gauge the capabilities of headphones, check out our guide to headphone impedance here. Based on that description alone, if you don’t want to invest in any other additional gear, then low-impedance headphones may be a better fit for you.
You can check out our list of the best low-impedance headphones.
But if you are willing to dive deeper into the world of high-end audio, then this is the right place for you. Higher-end headphones contain drivers that can produce more detail compared to lower-tier headphones. But in order to make these drivers work, you need to have a powerful source. For more info, see our guide on buying amplifiers.
You should also take note that dedicated amplifiers need a dedicated DAC. If you only want to purchase one device instead of two, check out our guide for the best DAC/Amps.
Now with that out of the way, we present you with the best high-impedance headphones that are currently available.
The Sennheiser Drop HD 58X is our best budget, and overall value pick, while the Sennheiser HD800s is our best pick. That is only scratching the surface, and there are more exciting headphones like the Audeze LCD 4. So you should read on to find out more.
Best High Impedance Headphones
Sennheiser Drop HD58X Jubilee – Budget
Sennheiser and Drop’s collaboration has shaken the audiophile world. The fact that you can now own Sennheiser’s best offerings at nearly half the original price is insane.
The Sennheiser HD 58X is the latest incarnation in Drop’s 6XX line, and it is quite possibly the best pair that you can purchase at this price point.
Regarding its name, the Sennheiser HD6XX series actually started with the Sennheiser HD 580. It was then refined and eventually became the Sennheiser HD 600. Drop’s HD 58X Jubilee aims to update the original HD 58X into the modern audiophile world by making significant upgrades.
The impedance on this model has been reduced from 300 ohms to 150 ohms. It is similar to the new HD 660s. We’ll get back into that later. The new power requirements mean that the HD58X can now be used with less powerful devices like smartphones, DAPs, and computers. Since it has 150 ohms, it also scales well with the additional power from higher-end sources.
In terms of the sound signature, the main difference between the HD58X and HD6XX is the stronger mid-bass found on the HD58X. This makes the HD58X more fun-sounding and slightly less analytical. Other details such as high-end reproduction, detail retrieval, and soundstage are also marginally better in the HD6XX.
These details are, however, not a massive difference. They both share the same iconic HD6XX series sound. While the HD6XX and the higher-end HD660s are both technically superior, a lot of people prefer the HD58X’s fun sound signature.
The community has also drawn comparisons to Sennheiser’s latest offering, the Sennheiser HD660s. Since they have the same impedance and share the same essential qualities found in the HD6XX line, people have been speculating that the HD58X is Drop’s version of the HD660s.
Sennheiser HD 600 (Image: Amazon)
This is, of course, not true. The Sennheiser HD660s uses a different driver that was based on the Sennheiser HD700.
The HD600 and HD650, on the other hand, do not resolve as well as the HD660s. This does not discredit the HD58X. It is still an impressive pair considering how close it can sound to the rest of the HD6XX models despite its lower price point.
Overall, for the asking price, the Drop HD58X is an absolute steal. It doesn’t sound too far behind the other headphones in the legendary HD6XX series. If you are looking for the best value pair in the budget category, this is the perfect headphone for you.
The Sennheiser HD58X is an amazing value since it brings the HD6XX sound signature at a significantly lower price point.
There is very little to criticize in this model. If there are any, it is the fact that the HD6XX still has a better technical performance at a slightly higher price point.
Sennheiser Drop HD6XX
A step up from the Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee is, of course, the Sennheiser HD6XX. This is a natural upgrade from the HD58X because this is a technically superior headphone. This is, after all, based on the legendary Sennheiser HD 650.
When this first came out, everybody praised Drop for bringing such legendary headphones to a new price point. This was game-changing because entry-level enthusiasts could now experience the pair of headphones that have been the standard for open-back headphones for the past 20 years.
Like every Drop collaboration, nothing has been lost in the rebranding of the headphones. Everything from the Sennheiser’s legendary build quality to the sound signature has not changed. You are getting a fantastic product for half the price of the original model.
As mentioned earlier, the most noticeable difference between the HD6XX and the HD58X Jubilee is the 58X’s more forward mid-bass. Due to this, the HD6XX is still the more accurate and reference model out of the two.
Also, unlike the Sennheiser HD 58X, the Sennheiser HD6XX has an impedance of 300 ohms. This means that it needs to be used with a headphone amplifier or DAC/Amp combo. You should keep this in mind when comparing the two models.
One downside of the HD6XX is the same as its main advantage. Since the sound has not been changed, the flaws of the sound signature have not been fixed. Some of the main complaints in the original Sennheiser HD650 are the intimate soundstage, the highs that are not as good as the rest of the competition, and the infamous Sennheiser veil.
Most, if not all of these issues, have been fixed by its successor – the Sennheiser HD660s. Overall, if you are just starting in the hobby and want a more reference-sounding pair compared to the lower-priced HD58X, then the Sennheiser HD6XX is your best bet. It is a tried and tested design that has been used by countless professionals all over the world for more than two decades. You cannot go wrong with this model.
Drop has managed to make the legendary HD650 even more affordable. This has been done without any sacrifices, meaning you get the full package right here.
It has all the same downsides that the original HD650 had. At the end of the day, it is all about preference. Other models like the HD58X, HD600, and HD660s are alternatives if you do not like the darker sound of the HD650/HD6XX.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 600-ohms
Despite the HD6XX series’ popularity, the intimate and mid-forward sound signature isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As an alternative, we are presenting one of Beyerdynamic’s best headphones in the sub-200 USD price range, the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro.
The DT 880 Pro is not as popular as the DT 990 Pro or the DT 770 Pro. This is because this headphone is sandwiched between the two models. It also doesn’t have a higher-end counterpart (the DT 770 Pro has the DT 1770 Pro, while the DT 990 Pro has the DT 1990 Pro). Instead, the DT 880 Pro is a unique pair that some users even regard as a competitor to high-end headphones like the Sennheiser HD 800S.
The build quality of the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro is very similar to the rest of the DT series headphones. Like the DT 770 Pro and DT 990 Pro, it is built with a plastic and metal construction. The cable is also quite long and non-detachable.
In terms of sound signature, the DT 880 Pro is leaning towards a more analytical sound, which is different compared to the DT 990 Pro’s V-shaped sound signature. This is almost the same case in Audio Technica’s M50X and M40X, where the lower position model is the more balanced sounding pair.
The mids of these headphones, in particular, are also well-regarded. They can be compared to more expensive headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800s and Audeze LCD 2. These headphones are way more costly than the DT 880 Pro.
Speaking of higher-end headphones, we mentioned earlier that this is being compared to the Sennheiser HD800s. Their similarities lie in their similar frequency response graphs. They are both leaning towards the same sound signature.
Most aspects of the HD 800s, such as the detail retrieval, are, of course, superior. The soundstage is also noticeably wider than the DT 880 Pro However, the soundstage of the HD800s is more artificial and sometimes fake-sounding while the soundstage of the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro is more intimate but more realistic.
Overall, the fact that you can compare one of Beyerdynamic’s lower-tier headphones to flagship headphones is astounding. If you like Beyerdynamic’s sound signature, then you will definitely like this pair.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro punches way above its price point by having great mids that are comparable to higher-end headphones. It also has a more neutral presentation compared to the more popular DT 990 Pro.
The DT 880 Pro still does not have a detachable cable and has several aspects in the build quality that are not as good as the higher-end models.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro – Midrange (Best Value)
Beyerdynamic’s best offering outside of the flagship series is the DT 1990 Pro. This pair is one of the three most popular pairs on the midrange high (the Sennheiser HD660s and the Hifiman Sundara being the other two). The competition in this price range is very close, and there is no clear winner. It will all depend on your preferences.
What is undeniable, however, is that the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is the best-built of the three. It once again carries Beyerdynamic’s excellent build quality. The metal construction that is predominantly used in the DT 1990 Pro reflects its price point.
This is a premium pair that is designed to meet the demands of the professional environment. And it definitely delivers. Like Sennheiser’s offerings, almost every part of this headphone is replaceable.
The DT1990 Pro comes with several earpads, cable options, and even a carrying case. Those alone make the DT 1990 Pro a solid value compared to the other two. The included accessories let you mod the headphone without spending an extra amount.
What differentiates the DT 1990 Pro from the other two headphones is its accuracy. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro has a better high-end reproduction that picks up more detail. This is, however, also its biggest weakness.
The high-end reproduction may be too detailed for a lot of people. Sibilant tracks will sound even harsher. This results in a more fatiguing experience for longer listening sessions.
For a reference pair, this makes sense. Mixing engineers can easily detect imperfections in the tracks that they are mixing. This, however, also translates to casual listening. The imperfection of tracks will be revealed, making some tracks less enjoyable.
In a lot of ways, this headphone is similar to the higher-end Beyerdynamic T1. A lot of high-end dynamic driver headphones seem to suffer from the peaky and fatiguing treble.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro has an impedance of 250 ohms. This is significantly lower than the 600-ohm Beyerdynamic T1. This still means that amplifiers are a must and that most amplifiers that pair well with other Beyerdynamic headphones will also pair well with this model.
Overall, if you are looking for a reference pair that can squeeze out all the tiny little details (including the imperfections) in a track, then the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is the best pair for you, The overall package makes this an excellent value over the other two headphones.
The DT 1990 Pro is the complete package in the midrange market. Not only do you get lots of accessories, but you also get a reference sound that squeezes every detail in your music.
The DT 1990 Pro may be too detailed for some. The treble peak may prove to be fatiguing over time.
Sennheiser HD660s – Best All Rounder
The Sennheiser HD660s is the successor to the highly popular Sennheiser HD650. The major difference here is that it uses new drivers that reduce the impedance to 150 ohms instead of the 300-ohm driver that is found in the rest of the HD6XX lineup.
In terms of the build quality, it stays true to the Sennheiser HD6XX design. There are no major differences here aside from the all-black paint job and the new location of the Sennheiser branding on the headband. The earpads are also said to be a new design, but it is most likely a minor revision that is being implemented on all new Sennheiser HD6XX line products.
The Sennheiser HD660s also comes with two cables. The first one is the standard unbalanced cable that terminates in a quarter-inch jack (6.5mm). The other cable is a balanced cable utilizing Sony’s new 4.4mm balanced pentaconn cable. This is great to see since newer DAPs like the Fiio M11 and M11 Pro are now incorporating a 4.4mm balanced output. This makes these DAPs more than capable of powering the Sennheiser HD660s.
Let us move on to the sound quality. The new drivers here are said to be based on the Sennheiser HD700 drivers. They are modified in order to sound closer to the rest of the HD6XX lineup (which are regarded as superior and more accurate sounding headphones to the HD700). The lower impedance makes this pair compatible with a wide array of sources. Amplifiers and DAC/Amps are still, however, advised.
In terms of the sound signature, the Sennheiser HD660s combines the best features of the original Sennheiser HD600 and its successor, the HD650. Both of these models have their own strengths and weaknesses. The HD650/HD6XX is darker sounding and has a bit more bass, while the HD600 is more analytical sounding.
Both of these, however, do not resolve the high frequencies well. They both have the infamous “Sennheiser veil” in the high frequencies. The Sennheiser HD660s has corrected both of these aspects and presents a smooth yet detailed high-end performance.
It carries over the analytical nature of the HD600 while retaining the fun aspects of the HD650. It is also not as dark sounding as the HD650. With this model, Sennheiser has successfully managed to update the HD6XX lineup to the modern era and can now compete with newer models such as the Hifiman Sundara and Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.
With that said, let us get a few controversial points out of the way. Some users are not happy with the fact that the Sennheiser HD660s is significantly more expensive than the rest of the Sennheiser HD6XX lineup. For a few minor tweaks, and with the presence of the best bang for the buck HD58X, is the new upgrade worth it?
If you want the best-performing headphone in the HD6XX lineup, then the Sennheiser HD660s is worth it. However, if you are willing to cut some corners, then the Drop Sennheiser HD58X. HD6XX and even the Sennheiser HD600 are all worthy headphones. These headphones are, after all, worthy alternatives to the legendary Sennheiser HD6XX sound.
If you are coming from a Sennheiser HD6XX/650 or 600 and are not convinced by the changes, then you can always get other similar-sounding planar magnetic headphones such as the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow Open 2. Regardless, the worth of these changes will highly depend on you.
Overall, the Sennheiser HD660s is another winning entry from Sennheiser. With these headphones, the legend truly continues. This is part of a family of tried and tested designs that have been used in professional productions all over the world. If you purchase this pair, you will surely not be disappointed.
You can learn more about this model here.
The Sennheiser HD660s is now more competent with the newer offerings from other brands thanks to its new drivers. This model is the most refined model out of all the HD6XX headphones.
Some people consider it too expensive for the number of changes that it offers. This comes down to personal preference.
Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
The high-impedance headphone market is predominantly occupied by open-back headphones. In order to change things up, we are also adding a closed-back pair on this list for more variety. This model is none other than the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is the successor to the classic DT 770 Pro. Like the DT 1990 Pro, it now has a detachable cable and all-metal construction. It is also more refined and better in every way than the lower-tier DT 770 Pro.
The most notable quality of the DT 1770 Pro is its bass reproduction. This pair has been hailed as the king of sub-bass reproduction. The bass hits hard while remaining clear and does not overextend to the mid frequencies. Highs are also better controlled than the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.
In a lot of ways, you can consider this is a closed-back and less peaky version of the DT 1990 Pro. Of course, due to the closed-back design, it is less accurate than the DT 1990 Pro. The closed-back design causes reflections that affect the overall sound.
It is, however, still accurate enough for studio use. The other notable feature of the DT 1770 Pro is its soundstage. Closed-back headphones are notorious for having a more intimate soundstage, which affects the realism of the tracks. This is not the case for the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro.
The soundstage is wider than most closed-back offerings. The imaging is also spot on and is arguably near the level of the DT 1990 Pro. The good imaging and soundstage make this a great pair for listening to orchestral music or even gaming.
If you are interested in a lower-priced and lower-impedance version of the DT 1770 Pro, check out the Drop DT 177X Go. It is Drop’s interpretation of this model. Nearly all of the DT 1770 Pro’s features have been preserved, which means that pair is an incredible deal.
Overall, there is not much competition here. The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is one of the best high-impedance closed-back headphones that you can get in this price range. If you are interested in a closed-back version of the DT 1990 Pro or if you simply love Beyerdyanmic’s sound signature, then this is the best pair to own.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is the undisputable sub-bass king in this category. It takes everything that was well-loved with the DT 770 Pro and further refines them. This is undeniably one of the best closed-back pairs you can buy.
If we were to nitpick anything, it would be that it does not sound as accurate as the DT 1990 Pro. That is, of course, the result of the closed-back design.
Sennheiser HD800s – High-End – Best Reference Pair
Kicking off the high-end category is the legendary Sennheiser HD800s.
This model is one of the most well-known high-end headphones. Over the years, with the production of newer models from other brands, this has been more of a love-it-or-hate-it kind of headphone. While it is a technically proficient headphone (which is surely reflected in its price), we will be discussing whether or not this headphone is a good fit for you.
The Sennheiser HD800s is the successor to the widely acclaimed HD800. It sports a new look and has tuning enhancements that aim to correct the issues found in the original model. This series is currently Sennheiser’s flagship line.
Despite being the successor to the Sennheiser HD6XX lineup (the HD700 was widely considered by fans to be a failure and has been discontinued), the Sennheiser HD800s takes a totally different approach in its sound signature. This pair is more neutral than the HD6XX series, which was known for highlighting the mids.
The HD800s’ bass response is better both in terms of quality and quantity when compared to the Sennheiser HD6XX series. The soundstage is also significantly wider than the HD6XX. In fact, its soundstage is wider than most headphones in its price range.
These new improvements, however, come at a cost. The same reasons why the HD800s are so popular are the same reasons why certain people dislike them. Both the soundstage and the highs have become debatable aspects of the HD800s.
Despite improving the issues of the original HD800, the highs and the soundstage are still the weak points of the HD800s. Both the original HD800 and the new HD800s have treble peaks that eventually result in a fatiguing listening experience. This is the price that you pay for having an incredibly detailed sound.
The soundstage, while producing an almost speaker-like experience, is not entirely accurate. Its wide soundstage sometimes sounds artificial and fake. However, these are debatable aspects and highly dependent on the user’s preferences.
Despite the criticism, it is undeniable that the Sennheiser HD800s is a successful headphone. It has been used in various fields, like professional gaming and music production. Popular musicians/producers like Misha Mansoor are still using the original HD800.
If you dislike the highly analytical sound signature of the Sennheiser HD800s, there are other alternatives, such as planar magnetic headphones that may satisfy your needs better. However, if that sound signature is what you are looking for, then the Sennheiser HD800s may just be the one for you. Do not forget to audition these headphones and pair them with the right gear in order to maximize them to their full potential.
You can learn more about this model here.
The Sennheiser HD800s is Sennheiser’s best offering in their standard lineup. It is undeniably the best at soundstage and has a unique sound signature that very few could match.
The Sennheiser HD800s is notorious for its treble peaks. People who are sensitive to treble may find this fatiguing.
Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation
A popular alternative to the Sennheiser HD800s is the Beyerdynamic T1. It is Beyerdynamic’s current flagship and shares a lot of similarities with its signature DT lineup. This series is also known to utilize Beyerdynamic’s Tesla drivers.
Despite the difference in price and the difference in specifications, the Beyerdynamic T1 shares a similar sound signature to the Sennheiser HD800s. This does, however, mean that the Beyerdynamic T1 also shares most of the criticisms found in the HD800s. But on the flip side, it remains fairly competitive to the strong points of the Sennheiser HD800s.
Unlike in Sennheiser’s case, the Beyerdynamic T1 is a true spiritual successor to the highly successful Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro. It shares a lot of the design elements and improves the sound signature of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro. The T1 is more accurate and analytical when compared to its mid-tier offering.
Like the HD800s, this is the second revision for Beyerdynamic’s flagship headphones. It is a minor tweak that introduces a removable cable. If there are any differences in the sound quality between the 1st and 2nd generations, they are very subtle.
One key difference between the Sennheiser HD800s and the Beyerdynamic T1 is their soundstage. Despite being wider than other headphones, the soundstage of the Beyerdynamic T1 is still not close to the Sennheiser HD800s. This does, however, mean that the soundstage of the T1 is more realistic than the HD800s.
Another key difference between the two models is the power requirements of the Beyerdynamic T1. This headphone has an impedance of 600 ohms and is one of the harder-to-drive headphones. There are a lot of amplifiers and DAC/Amps for the Beyerdynamic T1 to choose from that could help in taming its treble.
The final difference between the two is the build quality. Both of these manufacturers are known for building headphones that stand the test of time. The only difference is the materials that are used. Beyerdynamic usually prefers a metal construction while Sennheiser opts for a plastic construction.
The metal build ensures a sturdy construction that should last a very long time. The plastic build, on the other hand, is lightweight and more comfortable. Both are executed very well and will depend on your personal preferences.
Overall, the Beyerdynamic T1 is a close competitor to the Sennheiser HD800s. They both share the same sound signature and are both made for the same purpose. If you are looking for the best Sennheiser HD800s alternative, this is your best. As always, make sure to audition these two models before making a purchase.
If you are interested in a headphone that is similar to the Sennheiser HD800s, then this is your best bet. Despite the slight differences in the sound quality, you are getting an arguably more premium product that is mostly made of metal.
The Beyerdynamic T1 shares most of the downsides of the Sennheiser HD800s, specifically the treble peaks. If you dislike the HD800s, then you probably won’t like this model too.
Audeze LCD 4 – Premium
Lastly, we have the Audeze LCD 4. Despite being the last to be mentioned, make no mistake. This headphone is a contender for the number 1 spot on any list. After all, the Audeze LCD 4 is Audeze’s flagship pair. And Audeze is already taking over the high-end audio world.
The Audeze LCD 4 is a headphone that is aimed towards a totally different market compared to Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic’s offerings. With that in mind, out of the three high-end headphones that we have here, the Audeze LCD 4 is unique sounding. It is definitely up there when it comes to technicalities, but its approach to sound is different.
In terms of its sound signature, the LCD 4 is a nice change of pace. It does not have the highly analytical highs that are present with the other two headphones. This means that it will not hurt your ears for extended listening sessions. Despite this, the highs remain clear and clean.
Bass response and mids, on the other hand, remain fairly flat. Low notes are reproduced with that planar magnetic slam that is missing from most dynamic driver headphones. The notes can go as low as 20 Hz without being too muddy.
The midrange is reproduced beautifully without sounding too artificial. With that being said, the main weakness of these headphones for this price range is their imaging and soundstage. The soundstage is, of course, larger than most headphones below the high-end price range, but it is still not approaching the levels of the HD800s.
Imaging is also not the best. You can tell where the direction is coming from, but it is still not as good as other headphones that specialize in this aspect. The Audeze LCD 4 does not seem to be interested in competing against other brands in this aspect.
Instead, the goal of the Audeze LCD 4 is to create a pleasing and relaxing sound that is refined throughout the spectrum. It does not present any features that are the best in its class. However, the whole package is one of the best that you can buy for the money.
Overall, if you are not looking for a reference headphone that can be used professionally but instead looking for a headphone that has a pleasing and relaxing sound that has a refined sound signature, then the Audeze LCD 4 is the best headphone for you.
Despite not being the best at everything, the Audeze LCD 4 has a very relaxing sound signature that will make sure you enjoy your music.
There are better models compared to the LCD 4 when it comes to several aspects such as imaging and soundstage, bass, mids, etc. If you are looking for a headphone that specializes in those aspects, then this may not be for you.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s