6 Best Planar Magnetic Headphones 2017

We’ve talked about different varieties of headphones before, and know that both style and fit play a big part in getting the best sound from whatever you’re wearing. But what’s inside also matters, and that means looking at how the speakers are actually engineered. Speaker technology is progressing beyond past the traditional paper cone in favor of a flatter surface. We’ll show you how this technology works in the best planar magnetic headphones.

Our complete product guide takes the guesswork out of finding the right headphones. We’ll explain important factors you should consider when looking at planar magnetic headphones, give several optimal choices, and thoroughly review our top three options. You’ll feel confident with your next purchase.

Top 6 Planar Magnetic Headphones Table

PictureNamePriceRating (1-5)
PictureNamePriceRating (1-5)
1. OPPO PM-3 Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphones$4.8
2. HIFIMAN HE400i Over Ear Full-size Planar Magnetic Headphones$$4.7
3. Audeze LCD-2 planar magnetic headphone$$$4.5
4. HiFiMAN HE6 Headphones $$$$4.5
5. Fostex TH-500RP Premium Planar-Magnetic Stereo Headphones $4.2
6. HIFIMAN HE560 Over Ear Full-size Planar Magnetic Headphones $$$4.2

What to Consider

  • Speakers in General. Speakers are just one of many components found in a working audio system. Their obvious job is to create sound, but how that’s done can get tricky. Speakers are really a kind of converter.

Audio devices store sound as electrical data. That’s the same whether the data is housed on a tape, record, or SD card. The job of speakers is to translate that data from electrical signals into what we recognize as sound.

Each speaker is comprised of a few individual parts: voice coil, magnet, and diaphragm. The details of each go beyond our scope but understanding their general function is important in choosing what kind of speaker you’d like.

Essentially electrical data is sent to the voice coil. The electricity in the voice coil interacts with the adjacent magnet causing the diaphragm to move. Movement pushes air creating sound; unique tones are produced when air is moved with certain force and speed. If everything goes right, then the speaker sound will be as close to the original instrument that was recorded.

  • Traditional Versus Planar. You’re probably familiar with the shape of speakers; they’re cone-shaped and packaged in the housing so that the wide part faces away.

As their name indicates, planar magnetic headphones are flattened instead of cone-shaped. The voice coil is infused into the flexible plastic diaphragm as one piece. This entire sheet is surrounded by a perforated magnet. Electrical signal directed into the diaphragm and movement creates sound.

This set up causes less mechanical stress within the speaker which increases longevity and decreases distortion. The diaphragm also creates more realistic sound quality.

3 Best Planar Magnetic Headphones Reviews

1. OPPO PM-3

The commitment OPPO Digital USA has to product design is evident in the fact that it purposefully lacks a Sales and Marketing department, and has earned numerous awards for performance. The PM-3 is a masterful piece of equipment.

At 320 g (just over 11 oz) the PM-3 is a bit heavier than you’d expect from full-size portable headphones. But that weight is balanced by a well-fitted headband and ample faux-leather earpads making them incredibly comfortable. They fold for easy transport.

Most planar magnetic headphones are open-back, but not the PM-3. Yet it still delivers flawless reproduction and clarity; you definitely notice that fidelity in poorly recorded tracks. On clean tracks the bass is balanced but subdued, as expected. A detailed mid-range makes for fantastic imaging.

The OPPO PM-3 is the best planar magnetic headphone for every mobile audiophile.

2. HIFIMAN HE400i

HIFIMAN revamped its HE400 model to bring us the HE400i.

Most of the weight of the HE400 is corrected. The updated HE400i is suitably comfortable for a full-sized set, with plush velour earcups. HIFIMAN cut the cord to a third of the length of its predecessor. While this wasn’t a problem for mobile use, studio use proved cumbersome.

The HIFIMAN outperforms dynamic headphones in its class. The spaciousness of its open-back design coupled with the precision of the planar driver yields a totally absorbing experience. Of course these have to be used where sound bleeding won’t be a problem.

HE400i more than keeps up with more well-known brands of the same price-point.

3. Audeze LCD-2

Handcrafted Audeze LCD-2 is the luxurious choice.

Audeze packages its unit in a Pelican hard case with a certificate of authenticity, and kit for maintaining the wood housing. This is not your average professional pair of headphones. LCD-2 is well appointed with earpads covered in real lambskin leather.

Sonically we hear a warm tonal balance with strong mids and highs. There’s no exaggerated detail; just extreme detail and clarity. Poorly engineered tracks are very obvious when listened to through these; the better quality your source audio the happier you’ll be.

Super-premium Audeze LCD-2 is in a category all by itself.

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