With so many expensive headphones flooding the market, how do you know which pair makes sense for you, there are more companies than ever before producing audiophile-quality headphones. The surge in interest has grown beyond the headphone community and the increasing number of consumers attending personal audio trade shows around the globe has taken what was once a small cottage industry and created a multi-billion dollar category.
The rising level of quality has also brought with it skyrocketing prices for headphones; consumers can easily spend $10,000 on a headphone system.
The reality is that for some music listeners, however, a high-end headphone system offers numerous advantages over a comparable home audio system; portability, less use of space, and comparable, if not better sound quality.
With so many expensive headphones flooding the market, it’s become difficult for consumers to keep up or even know if spending a lot of money makes sense for them.
Most high-end headphones require a dedicated headphone amplifier, or DAP (Digital Audio Player) to justify the expense, which is something else to keep in mind.
We totally understand if the prices affect your breathing and not just your aural satisfaction.
There are a few pairs of headphones out there that seem to break down all price barriers — putting them not only in a league of their own when it comes to price, but also when it comes to availability.
Like what? Well, that’s what this guide is for. Here are some of the world’s most expensive headphones
1. Focal Utopia by Tournair ($120,000)
Dominating the top spot of the most expensive headphones in the world are the Focal Utopia’s.
The Focal Utopias’s diamonds are mainly positioned on the outer ear cups and sides of the headband, alongside other precious gemstones and gold.
If you can see yourself wearing a pair of these, then you’ll have to get in contact with the company directly, as they’re not mass produced and require pre-ordering!
But remember, you’re definitely not paying for the best sound quality in the world, you’re paying for the wow factor and exclusivity!
If you’re still feeling flush after buying a pair, why not shell out for the stand too? It’s only another $12,000.
2. Onkyo H900M 20-carat Diamonds ($85,000)
The Focal Utopia by Tournaire headphones isn’t the only headphones to feature diamonds. Onkyo has built a diamond-encrusted pair of headphones of its own.
They’re a version of the company’s Onkyo H900M, and they’re pretty darn fancy. The diamonds are all featured on the ear cups, along with a ring of ruby.
Of course, like the Focal Utopia by Tournaire headphones, these aren’t mass-produced — you’ll have to special order them if you’re interested.
However, that isn’t to say that the sound quality is any worse, as you’re pretty much buying $85,000 worth of diamonds, and most probably won’t be walking around the city in them anytime soon.
Planar magnetic headphones always attract attention and these headphones sport a 0.001mm thin driver, which is certainly an impressive feat of engineering.
Elsewhere there’s an advanced asymmetrical magnetic circuit, a three-core cable, polyester earcups and an ergonomic design that should mean they’re comfy enough to wear for hours.
Which, if you’re spending over £2500 on them, surely you will.
6. Focal Stellia (£2795)
At a mere £2795, these can are a relative bargain, compared to the Focal Utopia by Tournaire listed above.
But almost three grand for a set of cans is hardly small-fry, and happily these headphones are aspirational both in terms of price and sound quality – they are simply the best closed-back headphones we’ve ever heard.
Where the original Utopia from Focal positively shines at home, in a quiet room, given a good enough system, their open-back design means that outside of these conditions, there’s too much compromise involved – and so if you simply must have a closed design, that’s where the Focal Stellias come in.
7. Audeze LCD-4z – $3995 (approx. £3263)
Audeze were at the forefront of the planar magnetic revolution and have been subjected to more praise and abuse than any other brand in the category; something that happens when you push the envelope with radical driver technology but also charge $4,000 for a pair of over-ear, open-back headphones.
Audeze headphones energize the music like few other products, but often feel like you’re wearing a suitcase on your head and require a lot of power.
The LCD-4z sound better with a higher quality headphone amplifier but sound just fine with a smartphone or DAP and we approve of the lighter design.
8. Abyss AB-1266 ($5,495)
Crafted using solid aluminum and implementing planar magnetic technology, the Abyss AB-1266 is the top resident of the Mt. Olympus of high-end and pricey headphones.
Aside from high-grade aluminum, this device also made excellent use of carbon steel for its front baffle and lambskin pads for cushion.
But going past these premium elements, the Abyss AB-1266 produces headphone sound no other brands can parallel.
As CNET tester Steve Guttenberg points out, “it outruns the competition in every way I evaluate headphone sound.”
9. Stax SR-009S – £3895
Stax has taken its regular SR-009 electrostatic earspeakers ($3600) and added gold plate to the design.
But don’t think the engineers are just being showy; on its website, Stax states, “If a technology is not suitable for music, you should not adopt it, even if it is high-tech.”
And just in case we didn’t get the message, it adds, “Every technology should contribute to music reproduction.” Preaching to the converted, perhaps, but that’s us told.
Well-known for its high-end electrostatic headphones, Stax also pins the high price here on a super-thin diaphragm and a silver-coated, high-purity copper wire in the cable.
You also get right and left channel indication on the cable: a golden solid line on the left and a dotted line on the right cable. The proof can only be in the sound quality.
10. Final Audio Design Sonorous X – £3499
Final Audio has produced the Design Sonorous X’s to compete in the premium headphone market – and that they certainly do!
These cans are made from machined aluminium and stainless steel and are sure to turn a lot of heads!
In comparison to others on our list of expensive headphones, they might not produce the best sound quality, however, we still think they’re good value when all things are considered.