Buying Guides

The World's Best Headphones for 2018 (So Far)

The World's Best Headphones for 2018 (So Far)

Headphones have come a long way in the past few years and they keep getting better.

We are stoked by the array of audiophile headphones available today. Here is our staff-curated list of high-end headphones we rate as the best of the best for 2018. They're all superlative headphones guaranteed to keep your ears happy for a long time to come.

Focal Utopia

Focal Utopia Headphone

The Focal Utopia is the most accurate, dynamic and revelatory listening experience in audiophile headphones. It competes with the Sennheiser HD800S transient quickness and soundstage depth while bolstering the low-end with a warmer but textural and taut bass response. Like a headphone teleportation device from the future, the Utopia beams into the inner reality of the music.  It allows you to get completely lost in sound - making the headphones disappear. In a rare display of corporate unanimity, the Utopia is our favorite headphone this year - and maybe ever - for the entire team at


Audeze LCD-4

Audeze LCD-4 Planar Magnetic Headphone

The direct competitor to the Focal Utopia at the same price ($4,000), the planar magnetic LCD-4 has a low-octave authority and perfectly controlled musical horsepower like no other headphone. The LCD-4 places the listener on stage at the center of the music with a dynamic explosiveness and low-level resolution that will make you well up with emotion. However, it’s power-hungry and requires a great headphone amp to control its torque and make it truly sing.


HiFiMAN Edition X V2

Hifiman Edition X V2Easily the best HiFiMAN headphone yet, the Edition X V2 is beautifully balanced throughout every part of the frequency range with a lovely combination of potent punch and easy airiness. It's incisive access to tiny nuances hidden deep in the music is astonishing. It’s also among the lightest of all high-end planar magnetic headphones and comfortable to wear for long sessions. The Edition X V2 is efficient too, unlike some high-end HiFiMAN cans of yore.


Shure KSE 1500

Shure KSE 1500 Headphones

The first electrostatic in-ear headphone system, the KSE 1500 burrows deep inside the music with an intensely energetic presentation and microscopic detail resolution power. The tone-shaping EQ in the KSE 1500 DAC/ADC/amplifier unit offers ample listening flexibility to dial in a totally personalized sound. It’s a major electrostatic design breakthrough resulting in the most expansively layered and well-imaged soundstage heard to date in the in-ear headphone category.



Focal Clear

Focal Elear Headphone

The little brother of the Focal Utopia, the Clear conservatively gets you 85% to 90% of the Utopia’s world-beating transparency, clarity and lightning-fast dynamic extension at only 50% of the cost. We think its the best value in audiophile headphones priced under $1500. The Clear is beautifully engineered inside & out and an unmitigated audio delight for a discerning music lover. Highly recommended.


Bose QC35

Bose QC 35 Wireless Headphone

Unquestionably the best sounding, best-performing noise-cancelling full-size headphone on the market in 2016. Daily commuters and frequent fliers who are not keen on using excellent isolating in-ear headphones should get this battery-powered (‘active’) NC headphone into their travel bag. The QC35 makes any voyage a peaceful musical respite.


Sennheiser HD800S

Sennheiser HD 800S Headphone

The freshly updated version of the German-engineered dynamic headphone that originally set the high-end audiophile world on its collective ear, the HD800S improves the bass response a tad but keeps the same tremendous soundstage imaging depth and blink-of-an-eye dynamism that wowed us back in 2009. It can still sound a bit overly clinical or dry with certain sources so good synergy with your music and audio gear is critical to maximizing the liquid presentation and solid acoustic presence of the HD800S.


Audeze LCD-X

Audeze LCD-X Planar Magnetic Headphone

An impressive down-the-middle neutrality and smooth, accurate tone brings this open-back planar magnetic headphone into our top audiophile contenders. A well-calibrated combination of punch and precision make this the choice for both audio professionals and music-addicted audiophiles. The 2016-updated LCD-X 'Fazor' edition is also fairly easy to power from a wide variety of sources, not something we can say about many of the other high-end headphones on this list.


- Honorable Mentions -

The Mr. Speaker Ether (Flow)

MrSpeakers Ether Flow Headphone

Our review team really enjoyed the original 2015 Mr. Speakers Ether planar magnetic open-back headphone, engineered and built by Dan Clark in San Diego CA. However, the Ether was significantly updated with the new Mr. Speakers Ether ‘Flow’ edition, which regrettably we have not been able to hear or review as of yet due to limited Flow availability. Please look for our analysis of the newest Mr Speakers Ether Flow headphones on these pages very soon.


Sennheiser HE1 / Orpheus II

Sennheiser Orpheus

Our team managed to get our grubby ears on one these vacuum tube, chrome and Italian marble artworks of audio overkill at a headphone show early this year and it was indeed exquisite. But as of now, it's not available for sale in the USA so the Sennheiser Orpheus / HE1 remains essentially high-end headphone vaporware. Who knows, maybe David Beckham bought them all. For an expected $60,000 give or take, our champagne wishes and caviar dreams await.


If you can afford the Focal Utopia, feel safe to skip the rest of the list. We're confident it will leave you satisfied for years to come. If you're on a budget and value practicality (wireless and portability) it's the Bose QC35 all the way. 

Do you agree with our list? We'd love to hear your thoughts below. 


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No Stax?

Danlee Mitchell

Danlee Mitchell

One headphone for 2016 that you should have included in your list is the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000Z, which is not only a wonderful headphone,
but priced quite reasonably.



No Stax?

Danlee Mitchell

Danlee Mitchell

One headphone for 2016 that you should have included in your list is the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000Z, which is not only a wonderful headphone,
but priced quite reasonably.

Charles DeWitt

Charles DeWitt

Without a doubt the best headphones for the money are the Koss ESP950 electrostatic. The list price is $999.99. I got a pair that was an open box return to Amazon from their Warehouse Deals for $535.00. They are just as new. I have over 35 pairs of headphones and these electrostatic koss phones are unbeatable for the money.

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