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The 7 Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Under $250 | 2022

best budget audiophile headphones

Music is one of the most universal forms of expression, with the ability to transport you to a different time and place just by listening. There are headphones that are perfect for gaming or headphones that are great for working out in the gym, but which headphones are best for an audiophile on a budget to enjoy music?

While some of the best audiophile headphones can cost several thousand dollars, the headphones we have chosen provide great sound quality without breaking the bank. As for which pair is right for you, It all depends on what you are looking for.

Since you are reading this guide, it’s probably safe to say that you are looking for the best budget audiophile headphones on the market today. Budget means different things to different people, but we focussed on audiophile headphones that cost less than $250 (except for one sneaky pair).

Before going shopping, it is important to spend the time and carefully consider your unique needs and preferences. What style of headphones do you prefer? Where will you be using them? What will you be plugging them into? What type of music do you like listening to?

The right pair of audiophile headphones will make your music come alive and inspire you to re-listen to your favourite albums. There is nothing better than hearing new information in music that you’re familiar with.

In this headphone buying guide, we will introduce you to 7 budget audiophile headphones under $250 (plus one wildcard) so that you can find the perfect pair!

-The Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Under $250A Quick LookPrice
Our Pick - Best Overall
Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones
Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones
  • A fresh take on the 99 series
  • Power-efficient with any device due to low impedance (26 ohm)
  • A self-adjusting leather headband that spreads the weight out and fits all head sizes
  • Fully serviceable: no glue, just nuts, and bolts
Check Latest Price
SENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back HeadphonesSENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back Headphones
  • Powered by proprietary Sennheiser 38 millimeter, 23 ohm transducers
  • Soft, replaceable ear pads for enhanced comfort
  • Two cables included - 3 meter detachable cable with 6.3 millimeter jack and 1.2 meter detachable cable
Check Latest Price
Best Under $100
Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
  • 50mm neodymium drivers 'circumaural'
  • Semi-open design
  • Self-adjusting headband & lightweight and comfortable fit
Check Latest Price
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Over-Ear-Stereo HeadphonesBeyerdynamic DT 990 Over-Ear-Stereo Headphones
  • Made in Germany, innovative "bass reflex" system for excellent audio performance
  • Gold vaporized stereo 3.5 mm mini-jack & 6.35 mm adapter included
  • 2-year manufacturer warranty
Check Latest Price
1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones
  • Three drivers- these headphones have two balanced armatures and a separate dynamic driver
  • Tuned by a grammy award-winning sound engineer
  • Comfortable ergonomic design
Check Latest Price
Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 Over-Ear HeadphonesPhilips Audio Philips SHP9500 Over-Ear Headphones
  • 50mm neodymium drivers deliver full spectrum of sound
  • 1.5m cable gives you freedom of movement for indoor use
  • Comfortable double layered headband cushion, breathable ear cushion for longer wearing comfort
Check Latest Price
Best For Gaming
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range with deep accurate bass response
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments
Check Latest Price

Table of Contents

What Is An Audiophile?

If you were to look up the term audiophile in the dictionary (or Wikipedia, for those who don’t have a dictionary on their bookshelf) you would find a picture of the Rocks Off team. Just kidding. You would see the definition: “A person who is enthusiastic about high fidelity sound reproduction.”

Like the word budget, ‘audiophile’ means different things to different people. Some audiophiles listen exclusively to vinyl records on high-end stereos and sit only in the sweet spot in their listening room.

Others are passionate about getting the best possible sound from their gear on a budget and can get the most from their portable or all-in-one turntable. The common trait among audiophiles is a concern with audio quality or “High Fidelity Sound”

When most people listen to music, they often use devices that are meant to be convenient rather than being known for audio quality. Music is typically streamed from Spotify and played through cheap in-ear headphones with no thought given to high fidelity reproduction of the music.

When an audiophile listens to music on the go, they stream high-quality music from somewhere like TIDAL, using the best headphones they can afford, connected to a high-quality digital to analogue converter and headphone amp. All with the goal of creating quality sound.

There are many good audiophile headphones, but not many great ones. This article focuses on the best budget audiophile headphones on the market, so dive in and enjoy the journey!

Before you go, check out this quick video by the legends over at Darko Audio, on what they feel makes an audiophile.

Key Things to Consider

When it comes to listening to music on a budget, it’s hard to beat a good pair of headphones, and there is nothing worse than bad ones. So when it comes to purchasing a new pair of cans, it’s imperative that you know what to look out for.

This article will highlight some of the most important things to consider before spending your hard-earned cash only to be disappointed once you have them on your ears.

While the range of options in the headphone market can be daunting, once you spend a little time clarifying what you are looking for, your choices narrow down and the process becomes much simpler.

Below are the things that we feel are most important to consider when it comes to selecting the best audiophile headphones on a budget.

Comfort

This one should make sense to most readers, the more comfortable your headphones are, the more time you will spend listening to music. At the crux of it, being an audiophile is all about the music!

There are a few things that relate to comfort when it comes to headphones. Some people prefer the snug fit of in-ear monitors while others prefer the encompassing nature of over-ear headphones.

The size and weight are also important, you don’t want your ears to feel pinched under cups that don’t fit well, nor do you want an extra 5 pounds of weight on your head, no matter how good they sound!

Listening Preferences

This relates to both the types of music you listen to as well as HOW you listen to them. Do you prefer Classical or Rock ‘n Roll? Electronica or Hip Hop? Are you a Jimi Hendrix fan or do you prefer Elton John?

Different headphones will emphasize different parts of the music and will therefore suit some genres better than others.

As for your listening style, are you someone who likes to play loud? Do you want the bass or midrange to be more forward? Maybe you’re a critical listener who revels in picking out the finest details in the music.

best audiophile headphones on a budget

Style

You can’t deny the importance of style when it comes to headphones, they can be as much of a fashion statement as the clothes you wear. Some headphones are simple and classic looking while others make more of a bold statement and have no qualms about announcing their presence on (or in) your ears.

This one is an entirely personal choice, you’ll get no judgement from us ;).

Wired Headphones VS Wireless Headphones

While the best audiophile headphones will typically be wired, it is hard to pass up the convenience of a wireless connection to your device.

With advancements in Bluetooth technology, it’s possible to transmit very high-quality music and other audio (like movies and online music lessons) wirelessly, however, a corded set of headphones allows you to explore the world of Digital to Analogue Converters (DACs) and separate headphone amplifiers.

Playing around with these components will get even more out of your music than you thought possible. Expect an article from us in the future on different headphone amps and DACs.

The 7 Best Budget Audiophile Headphones For Music

Through rigorous investigation and countless hours of listening the team at Rocks Off Magazine have sorted through the myriad of options and have truly found the best budget audiophile headphones. Proving that sound quality doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

When it comes to music, the most important thing is YOU. So make sure you don’t just take our word for it, find your local HiFi shop and try out as many options as you can to find the pair that suits your unique needs and wants.

1.) Sennheiser HD569 Closed Back Headphones.

Sennheiser HD569 Closed Back Headphones

Specifications

  • Fit: Over Ear
  • Enclosure: Closed Back
  • Impedance: 23 ohm
  • Sensitivity: 125 dB
  • Maximum Input Power:
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Range: 10 – 28,000 Hz
  • Weight: 300 grams
  • Connection: Wired – Includes both a 3m cable with 1/4″ plug for home use plus a 1.2m cable with a 3.5mm connection for portable devices.
  • Colours: Black
  • Noise Cancelling? No
  • Microphone? Yes
  • Battery Life: Not Applicable
  • Cable Options: Cable 1: 3m detachable cable Cable 2: 1.2m detachable cable with 1-button remote3m detachable cable
  • Connection Type: Plug 1: 6.3mm straight, gold-plated plug Plug 2: 3.5mm straight, gold-plated plug

What’s In The Box

HD 569 headset

4 ft cable with 1-button remote

1/8″ straight plug

10ft cable

1/4″ straight plug

Things We Like

  • Well defined mid-range
  • Balanced sound
  • Changeable cable.

Things We Don’t Like

  • Slight discomfort after long listening sessions

The Rocks Off Review

Sennheiser has been a well-regarded name in audio since the company was founded in 1945. The HD569 headphones continue the brand’s reputation for quality and are some of the best sounding headphones at their price point.

Being closed-back headphones, they provide excellent protection against sound leakage and good overall sound isolation. The over-ear design makes them comfortable most of the time, however, those with larger ears may find the ear cups slightly uncomfortable over long listening periods.

We have tested a wide variety of music genres through these budget audiophile headphones and find they perform quite well, especially with regards to their mid-range performance. The treble can be a little soft but overall their sound quality is impressive and they are very easy to listen to.

You won’t find any particularly premium materials used in their manufacture but they are well made and feel quite sturdy and durable. The Sennheiser HD 569 headphones are some of the best budget headphones we have tested. Some of the best headphones overall really.

2.) Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Open Back Headphones

2.) Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Open Back Headphones.

Specifications

  • Fit: Over Ear
  • Enclosure: Open Back
  • Impedance: 80 or 250 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Maximum Input Power: Not Provided
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Size: 60mm
  • Frequency Range: 5 to 35,000 Hz
  • Weight: 246 Grams
  • Connection: Wired
  • Colours: Grey and Black
  • Noise Cancelling? No
  • Microphone? No
  • Battery Life: Not Applicable
  • Cable Options: 3m Coiled Cable
  • Connection Type: N/A

What’s In The Box

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Open Studio Headphones

10 ft coiled cable with mini-jack and 1/4″ adaptor

Drawstring bag

Things We Like

  • Comfortable ear pads
  • Excellent build quality
  • Precise and well extended sub bass
  • Made in Germany

Things We Don’t Like

  • Treble can be a touch sharp depending on volume levels

The Rocks Off Review

Beyerdynamic headphones are renowned among headphone buyers and are known as some of the best budget audiophile headphones out there. With almost 100 years of experience, who could be surprised?

The DT990 Pro are open-back headphones, designed for studio use. This means they have a neutral sound profile and are best for critical listening of music by producers.

With a mix of metal and plastic used in their construction (made in Germany!) they feature a premium build quality and wouldn’t feel out of place among more expensive headphones. Sound quality is just as impressive as their build quality. For an open back design, their punchy bass is particularly impressive, with detailed sound through the mids and upper frequencies.

While they won’t block as much ambient noise as closed-back audiophile headphones, they are targeted at people using them in a studio so that is not much of a negative.

3.) Superlux HD681 Dynamic Semi Open Headphones (our pick for best >$100)

Superlux HD681 Dynamic Semi Open Headphones

Specifications

  • Fit: Over Ear
  • Enclosure: Semi Open
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • Maximum Input Power: 300 mW
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Size: 50mm
  • Frequency Range: 10 – 30,000 Hz
  • Weight: 276 Grams
  • Connection: Wired
  • Noise Cancelling? No
  • Microphone? No
  • Battery Life: Not applicable
  • Cable Options: 2.5 meter straight cable
  • Connection Type: 3.5mm gold plated

What’s In The Box

Superlux HD-681 Professional Semi-Open Studio Headphones

Screw-On, Gold-Plated, 1/8″ Stereo Mini Jack to 1/4″ TRS Phone Adapter

Protective Storage Pouch

Things We Like

  • Comfortable, self adjusting headband.
  • Nicely extended bass and well presented mid range.

Things We Don’t Like

  • Open back design allows a lot of ambient noise in
  • Slightly cheap feeling build quality.

The Rocks Off Review

Superlux might be a name that not everyone is familiar with compared to some other entries on this list. But rest assured they make headphones that punch well above their weight class.

The HD681 are open-back headphones, targeted at inside or studio listening. As such they are quite neutral and have somewhat of a transparent sound, with a slight emphasis on the midrange. They are great for singer-songwriters where they really allow the vocals to shine through.

The bass is handled well with a strong presence and better extension than we were expecting from such affordable headphones.

Their build quality is a little bit of a letdown, feeling a bit cheap and plasticky, especially compared to other headphones like the Beyerdynamics above.

But overall, a good option for those listening inside and who prefer a neutral sound profile.

4.) 1MORE Triple Driver In Ear Headphones

1MORE Triple Driver In Ear Headphones

Specifications

  • Type: In Ear
  • Enclosure: Closed
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 99dB
  • Maximum Input Power:
  • Transducer Type: Hybrid
  • Driver Size
  • Frequency Range: 20 to 40,000 Hz
  • Weight: 18 Grams
  • Connection: Wired
  • Color: Aluminium finish
  • Noise Cancelling?
  • Microphone? Yes
  • Battery Life: Not Applicable
  • Cable Options: None
  • Connection Type: 3.5mm

What’s In The Box

Traveling case

9 different sets of ear tips

Aeroplane adapter

Matching shirt clip.

Things We Like

  • Detailed sound
  • Fantastic fit and finish

Things We Don’t Like

  • Bass response could be a little better, but that’s just us being picky.

The Rocks Off Review

One of the first things you notice with these in-ear monitors is their build quality. Made from aluminium, they feel and look amazing. Especially for the price.

The pleasure continues once you insert them into your ears (after selecting the right ear tips), they fit well, are very light and are an absolute joy to listen to. They have exceptional sound and clarity and you will find yourself leaning into the music as you discover new detail even in tracks that you’re familiar with.

Sometimes clarity comes at the expense of enjoyment but 1MORE have managed to make these sound as fun as they are accurate. Definitely one of our favorites.

A bonus is their high-quality microphone that allows you to make and receive phone calls with ease.

5.) Philips SHP9500 On Ear Headphones

Philips SHP9500 On Ear Headphones

Specifications

  • Type: Over Ears
  • Enclosure: Open Back
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB
  • Maximum Input Power: 200mW
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Range: 12 to 35,000 Hz
  • Driver Size: 50mm
  • Weight:
  • Connection: Wired
  • Colours:
  • Noise Cancelling? No
  • Microphone? No
  • Battery Life: Not Applicable
  • Cable Options:
  • Connection Type: 3.5mm

What’s In The Box

Phillips HiFi Stereo Headphones.

Things We Like

  • Comfortable and well made
  • Accurate to the recording
  • Neutral sound profile
  • Precise bass

Things We Don’t Like

  • Non-replaceable ear pads.
  • They are quite bulky.

The Rocks Off Review

Philips is a name that people are sure to associate with quality and the SHP9500 have been one of the go-to choices for affordable audiophile headphones since they were released.

Their sound is fantastic, not just for the price, but will stand up to audiophile headphones costing much more. They are very detailed with all frequencies being balanced nicely without overemphasising one particular frequency range.

You can tell a lot of time was spent tuning their drivers to achieve such a balanced sound.

The comfort of these headphones is second to none. With just the right amount of clamping force, and generous (if a little bulky) ear cups.

We feel the Philips SHP9500 headphones strike just the right balance between being analytical and being musical. A delicate balance that not many companies can accomplish.

If you’re a gamer, these headphones should be at the top of your list for their comfort alone. You can wear these for hours at a time without any issue at all.

6.) Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (our pick for gaming)

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Specifications

  • Type: Over Ears
  • Enclosure: Closed Back
  • Impedance: 38 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB
  • Maximum Input Power: 1600mW
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Size: 45mm
  • Frequency Range: 15 to 28,000 Hz
  • Weight: 280 Grams
  • Noise Cancelling: No
  • Microphone: No
  • Battery Life: Not applicable
  • Cable Options: Detachable 1.2 m – 3.0 m (3.9′ – 9.8′) coiled cable and detachable 1.2 m (3.9′) straight cable
  • Connection Type: 1/8″ (also includes 1/4″ adaptor)

What’s In The Box

Three detachable cables (4 ft -6 ft coiled cable, 6 ft straight cable and 4 ft straight cable)

Protective carrying pouch

1/4″ adapter

Things We Like

  • Very comfortable
  • Build quality feels on point
  • Several cable options included

Things We Don’t Like

  • Cables have a proprietary connection
  • Not as neutral sounding as you would expect from studio headphones.
  • Sound stage is quite narrow.

The Rocks Off Review

There are few names in the audio industry as well recognized as Audio-Technica.

You will find them gracing the heads of DJs all over the world. It’s for good reason too, they make great gear at prices that are affordable for the average Joe.

While the ATH-M50X are advertised as professional studio monitors, we found the sound to lean more towards the warmer side of the musical spectrum. Definitely not as neutral sounding as the name suggests.

That’s not to say they don’t sound great, they are punchy and exciting to listen to, we just wouldn’t recommend that you try to mix an album in the studio with them.

They excel in the accurate reproduction of the mid-range frequencies while giving nice attention to the low-frequency response. Long listening sessions with these will be no problem for most people.

We can’t leave without mentioning the durability of these headphones. We subjected them to some horror usage and they took it with ease. If you’re rough with your gear, these should definitely be on your shortlist.

7.) Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones

Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back headphones
  • Impedance: 26 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB
  • Maximum Input Power:
  • Transducer Type:
  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Frequency Range: 15 – 25,000 Hz
  • Weight: 260 grams
  • Connection: 3.5mm gold plated
  • Colours: Black with Silver trim
  • Noise Cancelling: No
  • Microphone: No
  • Battery Life: Not applicable

What’s In The Box

Meze 99 Neo headphones

5 ft straight Kevlar cable

Hard travel case

1/8″ to 1/4″ adaptor

Things We Like

  • Premium build quality
  • Dynamic sound
  • Excellent comfort

Things We Don’t Like

  • The styling might not appeal to every listener
  • Some may find the sub bass a bit too forward.

The Rocks Off Review

Talk about making a statement!

The Meze 99 Neo certainly looks like nothing else on the market. With a premium feel and super comfortable self-adjusting metal headband, these headphones certainly leave a good first impression, even before the music starts playing.

The Meze name is not as recognizable as some of the other brands above, but the small European company is making waves in the industry with their impressive (and growing) range of audiophile headphones.

From Alanis Morrissette to Led Zeppelin, these premium headphones offer engaging sound, regardless of what genre of music you’re pushing through them. The highs are tight and detailed, there is impressive depth and clarity to the mid-range and the bass response is full and surprisingly speedy for such large drivers.

Comfort is unparalleled, these things feel like they have been designed just for you thanks to their lightweight and self-adjusting leather headband. Their design is equal parts form and function.

-The Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Under $250A Quick LookPrice
Our Pick - Best Overall
Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones
Meze 99 Neo Closed Back Headphones
  • A fresh take on the 99 series
  • Power-efficient with any device due to low impedance (26 ohm)
  • A self-adjusting leather headband that spreads the weight out and fits all head sizes
  • Fully serviceable: no glue, just nuts, and bolts
Check Latest Price
SENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back HeadphonesSENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back Headphones
  • Powered by proprietary Sennheiser 38 millimeter, 23 ohm transducers
  • Soft, replaceable ear pads for enhanced comfort
  • Two cables included - 3 meter detachable cable with 6.3 millimeter jack and 1.2 meter detachable cable
Check Latest Price
Best Under $100
Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
  • 50mm neodymium drivers 'circumaural'
  • Semi-open design
  • Self-adjusting headband & lightweight and comfortable fit
Check Latest Price
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Over-Ear-Stereo HeadphonesBeyerdynamic DT 990 Over-Ear-Stereo Headphones
  • Made in Germany, innovative "bass reflex" system for excellent audio performance
  • Gold vaporized stereo 3.5 mm mini-jack & 6.35 mm adapter included
  • 2-year manufacturer warranty
Check Latest Price
1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones
  • Three drivers- these headphones have two balanced armatures and a separate dynamic driver
  • Tuned by a grammy award-winning sound engineer
  • Comfortable ergonomic design
Check Latest Price
Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 Over-Ear HeadphonesPhilips Audio Philips SHP9500 Over-Ear Headphones
  • 50mm neodymium drivers deliver full spectrum of sound
  • 1.5m cable gives you freedom of movement for indoor use
  • Comfortable double layered headband cushion, breathable ear cushion for longer wearing comfort
Check Latest Price
Best For Gaming
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range with deep accurate bass response
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments
Check Latest Price

FAQ:

What Are The Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Under $100?

The Superlux HD681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones are our top pick if your budget is limited to $100 and you still want to fill your ears with audiophile sound.

What Are The Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Under $50?

To be honest with you, anything you find for less than $50 is very unlikely to be ‘audiophile’ quality. The quality of the manufacturing and components at this price point simply can’t produce audiophile sound.

What Are The Best Budget Audiophile Headphones For Gaming?

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are our pick for the best budget audiophile headphones for gaming. With a super comfortable closed-back design and great dynamics – they easily handle and deliver soundtracks, voice chat and explosions with ease.

What Are The Best Budget Audiophile Wireless Headphones?

We haven’t featured a set of wireless headphones on this list as we couldn’t find a pair that we believed were both wireless and audiophile-quality at this price point. You’d need to be willing to spend a bit extra to get the convenience of wireless technology without compromising the sound quality.

Without further ado… the BEST Budget Audiophile Headphones You Can Buy Under $250 – The Rocks Off Mag Choice:

Audiophiles on a budget rejoice!

Every one of these headphones offers a fantastic audio experience, which made our job all the more difficult in trying to pick a standout.

But as difficult as it was, after much deliberation and countless hours of listening, we finally narrowed it down.

Drum roll, please …

The Rocks Off Magazine Best Budget Audiophile Headphones of 2022 are the Meze 99 Neo:

best budget headphones for audiophiles

These audiophile quality headphones were what we kept coming back to time and time again. A combination of their engaging sound profile, premium look and feel, and superb comfort make these hard to pass up.

We feel safe recommending these as the best audiophile headphones to pretty much everyone. Especially when paired with a quality headphone DAC to really let these reach their potential when it comes to sound quality.

meze neo 99 headphones

They have the ability to disappear on your head and transport you into the music. We played Pink Floyd – Live at Knebworth Stadium, which is a gold standard of live recording, and felt like we were a part of the crowd in the middle of the arena.

Slipping them over your ears is like Neo plugging into the Matrix, a world of musical possibility opens up to you. Though, unlike Neo, you won’t want to unplug again…

So go on, take the Blue Pill and enjoy the fantasy.

We did.

Owner - Rocks Off Magazine