An Exhaustive Ranking of 3,000 Different Headphones. And the Winner Is…

Headphones are an extremely personal thing.  Not only is everyone’s ears different, but we all have different concepts of what constitutes beauty when it comes to sonic quality.

For example, do you prefer ‘phones that accentuate deep bass? Rather have more highs? What sort of spatial sense to do you want to experience?  And then we get into issues of quality vs. price, over-ear vs. in-ear, wireless vs. corded and so forth. took on the task of going through nearly 3,000 headphones of all styles, sizes and prices, assigning each a grade of 1-100.  Two criteria were used:

1.  75% of the grade used reviews from tech sites like PC Mag, Wired and CNET.

2. 25% of the grade went to specifications and features

And because manufacturers often have many different models available, the scores were average out across each maker’s line.

Here’s what they found.  Dr. Dre is NOT happy (although I completely agree with Beats’ low score).

01. Shure (90)
02. Grado (89)
03. Klipsch (84)
04. Pioneer (83)
05. Sony (80)
06. AKG (79)
07. Sennheiser (78)
08. JVC (75)
09. Audio-Technica (74)
10. Panasonic (74)
11. Apple (74)
12. Bose (73)
13. Philips (72)
14. Creative (68)
15. Koss (68)
16. Skullcandy (62)
17. Beats by Dre (58)
18. Plantronics (57)

If it matters, I’m a fan of Sony over-ear studio headphones.  Grados have always been too expensive for me.  And I’m definitely going to have to try some Shures (although I do have some in-ear ones that are very, very good.)

(Via Consequence of Sound)


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “An Exhaustive Ranking of 3,000 Different Headphones. And the Winner Is…

  • May 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Was just discussing this with a coworker … this list is kind of dumb since it averages across brands. Shure only sells high-end stuff. Many of those brands can make amazing headphones, but their rating is dropped because they also put out low-end budget-minded stuff too.

    I think they should have at least made an attempt to normalise the data with price-range brackets so it’s closer to comparing apples with apples.


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