Spoil Your Ears with the 10 Most Expensive Headphones for Sale in 2021

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Courtesy of Apple
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Unlike other lists of the most expensive headphones, we looked for one’s that someone who isn’t in the top one percent would actually buy. Sure, you can easily find HIFIMAN Shangri-La headphones for $50,000 or Abyss AB-1266 for $5,000, but are you really going to pay more for a pair of headphones than your rent or mortgage? We can all imagine that those headphones probably sound amazing. But is a $50,000 pair of headphones, a) going to introduce you to new sounds from your favorite Rolling Stones song you’ve heard 250,000 times? And, b) cook you dinner (because for $50,000 it better cook you dinner, too)?

In this article, we’re not going to cover the ultra-elite studio headphones used by professionals, but rather the most expensive headphones in the consumer market. For true audiophiles, $500-$700 is a small price to pay for the 3D audio you get with Apple’s AirPods Max, or the premium materials and big sounds of Master & Dynamic’s MW65 headphones.

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HIFIMAN HIFIMAN Shangri-La Headphones + Amplifier System This is what peak performance looks like. The HIFIMAN Shangri-La Headphones come with a high-tech amplifier system that let you push your ears to their limits. Courtesy of Moon Audio

  

Why Buy Expensive Headphones?

You might be asking yourself, “why would I buy the most expensive headphones I can get?” There are many options for wireless headphones and earbuds that are great without necessarily shelling out over $200 in the process. While less expensive earbuds and headphones are a solid choice for a lot of people, when you shell out a little more coin you really get to enjoy music the way it was intended by the artist and the mixing engineer. These headphones provide more musical clarity and a wider soundscape for the music to truly be a reflection of the artist’s intent.

Listening through a top-notch pair of headphones is a completely different listening experience than listening through your $50 headphones. Hell, even as good as AirPods sound, the driver capabilities and just the available space for the drivers simply can’t match over-the-ear or on-ear expensive headphones. You hear more detail, get more clarity and oftentimes, the additional features are even better, too.

 

  

What Else Is Different About the Most Expensive Headphones?

Many of the options below have the ability to connect to your device through a wired connection or connect wirelessly. They also have incredible battery life compared to the likes of wireless earbuds and have things like Alexa and Google Assistant at your beck and call. Some even have spatial audio to enjoy shows and movies like you are surrounded by an entire surround sound system. Did we mention how amazing expensive headphones sound, too (we may have already covered that …).

It may seem absurd to spend $400 on a pair of headphones, but trust, it is such a delight and luxury to listen to your favorite album or a new album you’ve never heard before from your favorite band or artist through an expensive and quality pair of cans.

Our list of the most expensive headphones (but not literally the most expensive ever) ranges from most expensive to least. These headphones are still consumer-level but provide a listening experience that will shower your ears with musical bliss. Our recommendations can be found below.

  

1. HIFIMAN HE1000se Full-Size Over-Ear Headphones

What makes these audiophiles headphones so special? The science of magnets. That’s right, magnets. You have to be an extreme audiophile to even understand how these $3,500 headphones work in the first place. We’ll let HIFIMAN explain what makes these over-ear headphones so special: “The advanced magnet design used on the HE1000se, aims to be acoustically transparent, dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence which degrades the integrity of the sound waves. The result is reduced distortion, yielding a purer, more harmonious sound that is audibly so.” Inside these headphones, you’ll find a nanometer-thick diaphragm and a sub-micron conductor which comprise a groundbreaking planar driver.

These extremely expensive headphones also feature asymmetrical ear cups to more closely fit the shape of the human ear. The exterior of the ear cups is made with CNC-milled metal that’s polished by hand and carefully applied to the headphones. Even among the most expensive headphones of 2021, these are truly prestige headphones that will make other audiophiles jealous.

HIFIMAN HE1000se headphones Courtesy of Amazon

HIFIMAN HE1000se Audiophile Headphones

$3,499.00

  

2. Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones

When Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones were first debuted at CES 2018, they were truly cutting edge. Even in 2021, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better headphones for sale. And with a $2,000 price tag, there aren’t many more expensive headphones for sale, unless you’re looking at studio headphones for music professionals. These headphones were made to be supremely comfortable (and at that price, they better be!), but the biggest draw is the open field of sound they create.

These audiophile headphones also have a unique feature: you can actually see inside them. And this feature isn’t just designed to make everyone who sees them do a double-take. Besides the admittedly awesome aesthetics, this feature serves a practical function.

According to Sennheiser, “The breakthrough transparent performance of the HD 820 has been achieved through a special innovation… legendary Sennheiser ring radiator transducers [that] are fitted with unique glass covers. Revealing the great look of the technical component within, this visually striking feature was actually developed wholly in service to the sound: the concave glass reflects the sound waves from the rear of the transducer to an absorber, which results in minimal resonance.”

sennheiser hd 820 headphones Courtesy of Sennheiser

Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones

$1,995.00

  

3. Focal Clear MG Open-Back High-Fidelity Over-Ear Headphones

Along with premium brands like Master & Dynamic and Bowers & Wilkins, Focal is one of the elite audio companies making products for consumers. Focal’s Clear MG over-ear headphones are part art, part science. The ear cups feature a perforated microfibre earpads for a comfortable and secure fit that blocks out the world, and even the headband is made with the finest leather and microfibre materials. A highly advanced speaker driver results in high-frequency reproduction, while a unique honeycomb grille delivers clear, open sound that will, to be frank, blow your mind.

focal clear mg expensive headphones Courtesy of Focal

Focal Clear MG Headphones

$1,490.00

Focal Clear MG Headphones

$1,490.00

  

4. Denon AH-D5200

Sound quality meets elegant style with the Denon AH-D5200. The zebrawood ear cups immediately grab your attention with plushy pleather earpads and a comfortable headband that allow you to listen with these headphones for hours on end without your ears or head getting sore. In terms of sound quality, accuracy is the name of the game. These don’t wow you with earth-shattering bass or gleaming highs. Instead, you get a naturally produced sound and you hear essentially exactly what the mixing engineer wanted you to hear. Think of these as listening to your favorite record through a nice turntable and turntable speakers.

Denon AH-D5200 Courtesy of Amazon

Denon AH-D5200

$699.00

  

5. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio

Durability and excellent sound quality are at the forefront of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio headphones. They’re built to withstand constant travel but accurate enough to use as your reference headphones in the studio. They are constructed of mostly metal which helps with durability, but the plush, memory-foam- wrapped in velour ultra-soft ear cups feel incredibly nice over your ears. The opened-back design provides room for the music to really breathe. Highs are incredibly clear and the directional accuracy of the music is stunning (you’ll feel like you’re in a theater with surround sound). It is worth noting that these are not wireless, but worth the price tag.

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio Courtesy of Amazon

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio

$474.00 $699.99 32% OFF

  

6. Master & Dynamic MW65

While Apple’s Airpods Max elects to go with their typical “simple” style, M&D MW65 provides a much more stylish aesthetic to their expensive headphones. The leather stylings mixed with the metal outer cup look nothing short of fantastic. Beyond styling, these are feature-rich as well with ANC and Google Assistant built-in. They can also be used via a wired connection if you want to save battery power compared to a wireless connection. Speaking of, you’ll get over 20 hours of battery power on a single charge. And of course, the audio quality is spectacular with a strong bass presence and crystal clear, detailed highs that are versatile enough to enjoy everything from Gramatik to Lukas Nelson.

Review: Do Master & Dynamic’s Flagship Headphones Justify the Price Tag?

Master & Dynamic MW65 Courtesy of Amazon

Master & Dynamic MW65

$393.99 $499.00 21% OFF

Master & Dynamic MW65 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

$499

  

7. Airpods Max

Apple entered into the over-the-ear headphone arena with the AirPods Max, and people were initially shocked that it was almost as expensive as an iMac Mini. That being said, there’s a lot to like about these pricey Apple ear cups. First and foremost, the spatial audio with dynamic head tracking goes beyond the music listening experience to deliver surround sound level audio that adjusts with the movements of your head making the movie-watching experience a more immersive and wild experience. The noise-canceling is excellent and the headphones overall are incredibly comfortable. Sure, they’re pricey, but damned if they aren’t worth it.

Review: Are The AirPods Max the Best Headphones Ever Made?

Airpods Max Courtesy of Amazon

Airpods Max

$479.00 $549.00 13% OFF

  

8. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

These headphones aren’t the most gorgeous we’ve seen, but the headband and ear cups are cushioned with memory foam to keep your head and ears comfortable during long sessions. The cups swivel and adjust so you can get the most comfortable feel over your ears. The ANC is great and has three different modes that even allow you to mix in some ambient sound so you aren’t completely ear-blind to your surroundings. The sound quality is balanced and flat (and that’s a good thing). It represents a natural sound and doesn’t overcolor the music. With all the ANC features, great natural sound, quick pairing with your mobile device and Alexa and Google Assistant support, these are certainly worth your consideration.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Courtesy of Amazon

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

$349.00 $399.00 13% OFF

  

9. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

These headphones are in direct competition with the Sony WH-1000XM4 in terms of price, sound quality and onboard features. We appreciate the hands-free access to Alexa as well as amazing adjustable ANC along with Transparency mode. These cans are incredibly comfortable to wear even if you rock them through the duration of the 20-hour battery life (albeit that is an incredibly long time to wear headphones). The microphone is great for phone calls, but the real star is the sound quality. These headphones are detailed, providing plenty of clarity across all genres of music. The sound is nice and tight especially if you are partial to more rock and roll.

Read More: The Top 20 Wireless Headphones of the Year

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Courtesy of Amazon

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

$379.00

  

10. Sony WH-1000XM4

The previous generation of these incredible headphones featured some of the best ANC for wireless headphones and the XM4 somehow improved upon an already excellent quality. This new generation also brings along a new and improved microphone system so call clarity is much better than before. An additional cool feature is that if you misplace your headphones you can have the headphones make noise to help you find them — much like having a friend call your phone when it’s stuck between your couch cushions. As for the sound quality, the XM4 sound is detailed and doesn’t skimp on the bass. They don’t quite have the audio prowess as say the  AirPods Max or the Beyerdynamics, but all the additional features plus overall good sound quality make these desirable.

Review: We Put Sony’s New WH-1000XM4 Headphones to the Test

Sony WH-1000XM4 Courtesy of Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM4

$248.00 $348.00 29% OFF

  

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