10 Best Headphones Under $500 of 2016

Generally speaking, the more expensive the headphones the more accurate and dynamic the sound reproduction. These premium headphones retain the precise instrument and vocal fluctuations that the artist intended but that usually get lost in digital formats. Those qualities are especially important to singers and musicians whose work depends on achieving near perfection. Audiophiles also appreciate that music is presented exactly as the artist intended. Here, you’ll discover which ones we believe are the best headphones under 500 dollars.

We’ll help you understand what characteristics are important, share our favorite products, and review our top five picks in detail. We’re here for you whether you’re a seasoned sound engineer or looking for your first pair of professional cans.

The ten headsets below meet the requirements for professional applications such as mixing, and will appeal to the most refined audiophile.

Top 10 Headphones Under 500 Bucks Complete Chart

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1. AKG K702 65th Anniversary EditionOver-earOpen-Back4.9
2. Audio Technica ATH-IM04 SonicPro Balanced In-Ear Monitor HeadphonesIn-earClosed-back4.7
3. AKG K712 Pro Over-Ear Mastering/Reference Headphones - OpenOver-earOpen-Back4.7
4. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphones - BlackOver-earClosed-back4.5
5. Grado RS2e HeadphonesOn-ear Open-back4.4
6. Shure SE535-V Sound Isolating Earphones with Triple High Definition MicroDriversIn-earClosed-back4.3
7. Westone UM Pro30 High Performance Triple Driver Universal Fit EarphonesIn-earClosed-back4.3
8. Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone - Matte BlackOver-earClosed-back4.3
9. PSB M4U 2 Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones (Black)Around-the-earClosed-back4.1
10. Beats Pro Over-Ear Headphone - WhiteOver-earClosed-back3.9

Styles of Headphones

Headphones come in three primary styles. Each one offers unique characteristics depending how you plan to use them.

  • Over-ear. Over-ear headphones have large cans that fit around your whole ear. The cushion rests against your head; your ear is kept completely inside the cans. This creates a seal that keeps ambient sound separated from what you’re listening to. It also keeps what you’re listening to from leaking outside.

These are a great choice when you expect to use them in noisy environments where you want to make sure no outside sound filters in. They’re also the best choice for use on public transportation because your music won’t be able to disturb your neighbors.

  • On-ear. On-ear headphones are similar to the over-ear style in that they also have large cans and a thick cushion. But these fit a bit differently. The pads of on-ear headphones gently rest atop your outer ear instead of fully encapsulating them. Some sound make leak between the headphones and the outside.

On-ear headphones are your choice when you need to be aware of your surroundings. Or if you’re using them where it’s okay for some sound to leak through.

  • In-ear/earbuds. These small units fit exactly as their name suggests: directly inside your ear canals. Since everyone’s canals are different brands offer several tips to choose from so that you can find the one that creates a good seal. Loose earbuds will leak and alter the sound; tight earbuds will pinch and become painful. Once you find the right size eartip they’re another option when you really need to keep noise outside.

Earbuds are great for traveling since they are so portable. They’re also the number one choice of stage musicians because they aren’t visible by the audience.

Open vs Closed Back

Headphones are described as open-back or closed-back because of the housing of the earcups. Each type affects sound differently.

Open-back headphones have slits or holes in the outside of the cans that allow sound and air travel freely through the headphones. Their sound is like the stereo playing in your room.You can hear the music around you; it surrounds you, but you also hear everything else.These wouldn’t be a great choice if you’re going to use them near others because they will hear it just as well as you.

On the other hand, closed-back headphones have no slits, making them perfect for most environments. Sound engineers like closed-back sets so they can focus on specific elements of the music without outside influence.

Because these block out outside noise, sound feels like it’s inside your head. Listening to music through closed-back headphones is like nothing exists except the music.

Advanced Considerations

  • Frequency Response. Frequency response is the range of frequencies that your headphones can produce. That range is usually measured between 20 Hz (low tones) to 20 kHz (high tones). If an instrument produces sound outside the headphones’ range then you won’t hear it through the headphones.

For example, dog whistles produce a very high pitched sound (50 kHz) that humans can’t hear; it’s also above that 20 kHz threshold we mentioned. That means that the headphones won’t register the sound if you play a recording of a dog whistle.

  • Impedance. Impedance is an electrical measurement. It tells you how much juice your device has to use to keep your headphones at any particular volume.

High impedance headphones are meant for studio use, not your portable device. That’s because they eat a lot of power; if you plug them into something that doesn’t have a lot of power, like your mp3 player, they’re not going to sound very loud no matter how high you turn up the volume.

The lower the impedance the better the match with battery powered devices. Low impedance range is roughly 16 to 32 ohms. High impedance range is about 100 to 600 ohms.

Top 3 Best Headphones Under 500 Bucks Reviews

1. AKG K702

K702 by AKG is your quintessential reference studio headphone. It offers superb mix translation and completely balanced sound.

With these you’ll hear the sound just like it was meant to sound. The richness and fullness of classical is unsurpassed. The sound field offers perfect sound position. Listening to these you’ll think you’re sitting inside a giant concert hall.

These are studio headphones and meant to be used with an amp, but the bass still isn’t bad. We were most impressed with the way voice and acoustic instruments were reproduced.

The K702 is perfect if you’re interested in experiencing music rather than just listening, or if you’re looking for one of the best headphones under $500.

2. Audio Technica ATH-IM04

The IM04 is Audio Technica’s first in-ear headphone but surely didn’t disappoint. AT retained professional sound quality and comfort in this versatile device.

These reproduced sound more accurately than any in-ear unit we’ve tried. Every low thump, every vocal fluctuation, each chord change is crystal clear and distinct. The music truly floats through your head like a dream.

And don’t let that bulky exterior fool you. These are very light and comfortable. Also, unlike most in-ear headphones, these have a detachable cord. Additionally, you can expect these to be very durable.

The IM04 is suitable for professional and mobile use. You’ll enjoy these whether you’re an audiophile on the go, or replaying your latest studio mix.

3. AKG K712 Pro

The K712 is another excellent option from AKG. It offers the phenomenal sound and build quality you’d expect from AKG.

The K712 Pro has a little more bass than some of their other models but it’s not overpowering. The overall feeling is that you’re hearing the full spectrum of sound, not like the bass is just hitting harder. The mids and highs are just as equally balanced.

AKG’s K712 is both lightweight and comfortable. The headband self adjusts to fit your head by sliding on its own frame ensuring a proper fit every time. The earcups are soft leather that feels awesome even after several hours of use.

K712 Pro easily satisfies the casual listener and accentuates the details necessary for producers to make valid mixing choices.

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