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Bluetooth headphones are convenient and great for casual listening, but wired headphones have them beat if you want to hear your digital music in the highest possible quality.
A high quality pair of wired headphones won’t suffer from latency (lag) or compress your digital music files. This is especially clear if you’re listening to high resolution music through services like Amazon Music HD or Qobuz, or use a high resolution music player.
Wired headphones can be plugged directly into a source (like your computer), a DAC (Digital Analog Converter), or a headphone amplifier. If you do a majority of your music listening at your computer, and want to put together a headphone-based audio system, we recommend using a DAC, which makes digital music sound less harsh.
That said, you can’t have a headphone-based audio system without the right set of cans. If you’re making the jump from Bluetooth to analog, these are best wired headphones you can get right now.
What Are the Best Wired Headphones?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best wired headphones for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Style: This guide features over-ear headphones, which offer the best possible sound quality by creating the perfect music listening environment around your ears.
Open vs. Closed Back: We’re recommending a mix of open and closed back headphones because both types of headphones has its merits.
Open back headphones tend to have a slightly more natural sound because sound waves aren’t reflecting off the back of the headphones and toward your ears. The downside is that open back headphones leak music, so you can’t listen to them in public spaces without disturbing the people sitting near you.
Closed back headphones are a little heavier and generally don’t have the level of mid-range performance as open back headphones, they but can be worn anywhere.
Connector: The headphones in our guide terminate in either a 1/8-inch connector (plugs into a standard headphone jack) or 1/4-inch jack (designed for a headphone amp or recording interface). Most of the headphones we’ve chosen come with an adapter, so they can be used in any situation right out of the box.
Weight: Over-ear headphones can get heavy, which can put a strain on your neck during extended listening sessions. All of our wired headphone recommendations weigh under one pound, so this shouldn’t be an issue, especially if you’re not walking around.
1. Sennheiser HD 560S
Sennheiser’s HD 560S is the company’s newest pair of open-back wired headphones, and our top pick overall. We’ve had the opportunity to test the headphones for ourselves, and they sound exceptionally good.
Music sounds smooth and neutral, with a healthy amount of bass and crystal-clear treble. Vocals and acoustic instruments sound especially detailed, and we were continually surprised how good drums sound. If you want to put these headphones through their paces, listen to the introduction to Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.
The HD 560S’ cable terminates into a 1/4-inch audio connector, but comes with a surprisingly nice adapter if you want to plug it into a standard headphone jack. We’ve listened to the headphones connected directly to a computer and through AudioQuest’s DragonFly Cobalt DAC. AudioQuest’s DAC made a significant difference — especially when listening to high resolution audio tracks — but the HD 560S did a good job when they were plugged directly into a computer, too.
Audio quality is important, but we also appreciated the 560S’ comfortable design. The headphones weigh just over half a pound, and felt comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Their padded ear cups felt soft, fit over our ears, and never caused any itching.
If you want an all-around great pair of wired headphones designed to last a lifetime, Sennheiser’s HD 560S is the one to get.
2. Sony MDR7506
Sony’s MDR7506s have been around for almost 30 years, and in that time they’ve become one of the most popular pairs of wired headphones ever released.
They’ve earned this distinction because of their totally neutral sound, which makes them a great choice for record producers, musicians, and filmmakers who want to make sure their album or movie sounds perfect. As a music listener, you’ll reap the benefit of hearing your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard.
We’ve used this pair of headphones in the past, and generally liked what we heard. Music can sound flat if you’re used to headphones designed for boosted bass, but your ears will adjust in about a week. In our experience, the MDR7506’s legendary neutrality makes it a great pair of headphones if you like sampling music from multiple genres. You won’t have to worry about whether the headphones were designed to present your favorite tunes in the best possible way.
Sony bundles this pair of headphones with a carrying case and a 1/8 inch to 1/4 audio adapter. If you’re a music lover who also needs a pair of pair of studio monitor headphones for your next recording session, this is the clear choice.
3. Meze 99 Classics
Meze’s 99 Classics are one of the best looking pairs of wired headphones we’ve ever seen.
Their wooden ear cups and gold-plated accessories stand out compared to the mostly-plastic headphones we’re used to seeing. But the 99 Classics aren’t all about looks, Meze’s audio technology is designed to deliver excellent sound. The company even calls attention to the fact that you won’t *need* amplification to help these headphones sound great.
Meze respects the fact that a good pair of headphones should be seen as a long-term investment, so it designed the 99 Classics with a detachable cable. If the cable frays over time, you can replace it without sending the headphones in for repair. Meze includes an extra audio cable, airplane audio adapter, 1/8 to 1/4 inch audio adapter, and two carrying cases with the headphones.
At 9.2 ounces it’s the second-heaviest pair of headphones in this guide, but that comes down to the materials Meze used. Instead of feeling heavy, the 99 Classics should feel solid and durable — though we still recommend treating them delicately if you’d like to keep them for a long time. If you care about audio quality and aesthetics, you can’t go wrong with Meze’s 99 Classics.
4. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Beyerdynamic’s DT 1990 Pros are a pair of wired headphones designed for serious audiophiles. The company refers to them as “reference class,” and appropriate for musicians who need headphones for mixing and mastering.
The DT 1990 Pro’s extra-large drivers and open-back design will handle anything you throw at them, and produce a rich, accurate sound. If you want to make tweaks, you can switch between the two pairs of ear cups Beyerdynamic includes with the headphones. The company says these ear cups (which are all well-padded for maximum comfort) allow you to switch between an analytical or well-balanced sound.
Beyerdynamic also bundles an extra cable with the DT 1990 Pros in case one breaks. Both cables terminate in a 1/8-inch audio connector, so you’ll need an adapter if you want to use it with most DACs or an audio interface. If you want truly uncompromised sound when you enjoy your music, Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pros are the headphones we recommend