The world of headphones has constantly been evolving for the past 50 years. Now, we have lots of different headphone manufacturers that are continuously innovating the market. With all these brands, it may be a bit intimidating for new consumers who want to get into high-end audio.
The old names like Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic aren’t the kings of the market anymore. New names like Final Audio, Meze, and Dan Clark Audio are now invading the forums, which further makes things complicated. That is why we have narrowed down the 15 best headphone manufacturers to help you in your next headphone purchase.
Among these brands, we have a few honorable mentions. To find out more about these brands, keep on reading.
Best Product Lineup: Sony and Audio Technica
Best High-End: Focal, Audeze, and Hifiman
Best Quality: Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic
Best Budget: Audio Technica, Grado, and Monoprice
Best Newcomer: Dan Clark Audio/Mr. Speakers, Final Audio, and Meze
Sennheiser is one of the most well-established brands in the world of professional audio. They were first established on June 1, 1945. They are known in various fields such as the headphone industry, professional audio and video production industry (lapel mics, dynamic and condenser microphones, etc.), gaming, and a lot more.
Sennheiser is best known in the audiophile hobby for producing the HD600 and HD 800 series. The HD600 was first released in 1997. And for 22 years, it has strongly held its position as one of the most influential headphones. It has, of course, been surpassed by others. But a feat like that is very impressive and hard to match.
Like a lot of high-end headphone brands, Sennheiser isn’t known for its entry-level models. A lot of people start with the HD 200 series, a headphone that isn’t impressive. It could leave a bad taste with some people. However, make no mistake. Sennheiser is one of the best headphone brands and excels with high-end audio.
Sennheiser HD800s – Flagship
Sennheiser HD820 – Flagship Closed-Back
Sennheiser HD660s – Recommended Open-Back
Audio Technica is another well-known company in the professional audio scene. They have been in the industry since 1962. Like Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, Audio Technica also produces a variety of products from headphones to microphones. Unlike both of those companies, however, Audio Technica is not particularly known for their high-end models.
This is because a lot of their models, in general, are exclusive to the Japanese market. Models like the Audio Technica ATH ES770H are highly regarded as one of the best on-ear models. The problem is, a lot of enthusiasts can’t even get their hands on these models.
Where Audio Technica excels at is at the midrange market. Their Audio Technica M50X is one of the most popular monitoring headphones in the world. Everyone from professionals to casual consumers has recommended this pair. It may have been exceeded by other technically superior models, but its popularity still stands to this day.
Audio Technica is a popular choice for both beginners getting into the hobby and for longtime headphone enthusiasts. Their higher-end models can also surely compete with the best companies’ offerings.
Audio Technica ATH AP2000TI – Flagship
Audio Technica R70X – Recommended Open Back
Audio Technica M50X – Recommended Closed Back
Beyerdynamic is yet another professional audio-focused brand. Their headphones are known for being used by professionals, casual users, and even gamers. Despite being one of Sennheiser’s main competitors, Beyerdynamic is actually older and was founded in 1924.
The standout feature of Beyerdynamic headphones, aside from their sound quality, is the build quality. Companies like Sennheiser have been criticized for producing high-end headphones that are made of plastic. Beyerdynamic, on the other hand, is known for producing products that usually have a solid metal build.
While Beyerdynamic isn’t a brand that’s competing for the most expensive or craziest headphone, their entire lineup is solid. This is why Beyerdynamic is regarded as one of the top headphone brands.
Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation
Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro – Recommended Open Back
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro – Recommended Open Back
Focal is a brand that is primarily known for its high-end speakers and headphones. Their flagship Focal Utopia has been a standout headphone. It is part of many audio circles’ list of best headphones along with the likes of the Sennheiser HD800s. Unlike the other older brands, Focal was founded a bit later in 1979.
Focal has two distinct design languages. There is the instantly recognizable design of their high-end headphones such as the Elex and the Elear, and the more typical and standard design found on their entry-level Listen series.
The Listen series is their attempt at competing with other portable and professional options. While these headphones are built well and are technically competent, they are not as popular as the options from the likes of Sennheiser and Audio Technica, Their high-end models, on the other hand, are leading the charge either as innovators or are competing for the title of the best.
While Focal isn’t as well rounded in its product roster in various designs and price ranges, such as the other companies, their high-end models are some of the most revered in the headphone industry.
Focal Utopia – Flagship
Audeze is highly regarded as the best manufacturer of planar magnetic headphones. Their LCD line is often included in the list of top planar magnetic and high-end headphones. This is very impressive, considering they had only been founded in 2009. Unlike other companies that primarily focus on high-end audio, Audeze has a more diverse offering.
While their lineup is not as big as the rest of the more established companies, Audeze still has plenty to offer. Aside from the LCD series, they also produce the Sine and Mobius series. Both of these have their unique designs, which proves how versatile Audeze is in their design language.
Their gaming line has shaken the gaming industry and is forcing other companies to step up their game to match the quality of Audeze’s offerings. Overall, Audeze is both a leader and an innovator. If you are in the market for high-end headphones, then Audeze should automatically be on your list.
Audeze LCD 4 – Flagship
Audeze LCD2 – Recommended
Dan Clark Audio/ Mrspeakers
Dan Clark Audio is a name that may be unfamiliar for those who are just entering the headphone hobby. This is because they have recently rebranded and were previously known as Mrspeakers. Mrspeakers was first founded in 2012 and only recently rebranded to Dan Clark Audio in 2019.
As MrSpeakers, they have produced high-end planar magnetic headphones that competed with the best models in the market. Their midrange offering Aeon Flow Closed and Open as well as their higher-end offerings the Voce and Ether have been well received by the community. Their flagship model has also been directly compared with the flagship models of other high-end brands such as Audeze.
This is a feat that is rarely done by newer companies, but Dan Clark Audio has managed to pull it off. Their unique designs and excellent driver implementation has helped them soar above the competition. If they can diversify their offerings, they might even overtake more established brands such as Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic.
If you are a fan of planar magnetic headphones and want something different, then Dan Clark Audio’s offerings will definitely be a point of interest.
Dan Clark Audio Ether C Flow
Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow 2 Open
Grado Labs is one of the unique entries on this list. They are one of the smaller brands and one of the only brands that still features handmade products. They have been producing handmade headphones since 1953. Despite criticisms for not having diversity in their design language and other build quality concerns, they have shaken the audiophile world by creating some of the best sounding headphones in various price ranges.
The Prestige SR60E and SR80E, for example, are two of the most well-loved open-back headphones in their respective categories. They may not be the best built, but they sure are some of the best-sounding pairs.
And in terms of there, despite not having diversity in, vintage-looking design appeals to a lot of people. Not many companies are still making headphones with this retro-look, so Grado doesn’t have much competition in this aspect.
If you want a unique looking and great sounding pair, then be sure to add Grabo’s offerings in your collection.
Grado PS1000E – Flagship
Grado SR80E – Recommended
Sony is a brand that everybody recognizes. Their presence can be seen on almost every electronic product such as headphones, cameras, smart appliances, and even in gaming consoles. And in almost all of those categories, they are known as one of the best.
Just like the older companies such as Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, Sony has a long history with headphones. They have been founded in 1958 and has since then been competing with those companies in about every price point. And now, their lineup has evolved and fills almost every niche in the headphone market.
They have headphones for the entry-level/casual audience. They have headphones for professional productions. They have headphones for DJs. And of course, they have headphones for the high-end audiophile market.
Despite not constantly being talked about as the best of the best, or not having crazy offerings such as Sennheiser’s Orpheus, Sony is consistent in delivering high-quality headphones for a wide audience. This makes them a respectable brand that deserves to be added to your headphone collection.
Sony MDR 7506
Hifiman is another newcomer on this list. Like most modern planar magnetic producers, they had only recently been founded in 2005. Despite being a company that is smaller than the likes of Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, Hifiman has been making waves and is now one of the leading companies in producing planar magnetic headphones.
Models like the Sundara, Arya, and Ananda have been taking over as the best in their price range. They are slowly but surely challenging the juggernauts of the industry and are proving that they deserve a spot in every audio enthusiasts’ collection.
They have also been experimenting with different ideas, such as wireless Bluetooth headphones. The Hifiman Ananda has received a Bluetooth version and is featured in our Top Bluetooth headphones list. While impractical and expensive, this just proves how innovative their ideas are.
However, just like other smaller companies, Hifiman has encountered issues with the build and quality control of their products. They are taking the necessary steps and are implementing silent revisions to correct these issues. Overall, if you are a fan of high-end planar magnetic headphones, then Hifiman should be under your radar.
AKG is another older brand that specializes in a variety of audio equipment. They have been founded in 1947, which is around the same period as its competitors. Just like Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, and Audio Technica, AKG’s studio headphones are well known for being used in a lot of recordings. To add to the validity of this brand, Quincy Jones, who was famously known as Michael Jackson’s producer, has his signature headphones.
AKG is a well-rounded company since it produces different products at different price points. They are in some ways similar to Audio Technica, where some models are widely known, some models are hidden gems, and some models are not recommended.
AKG’s biggest weakness is innovation. They are having trouble keeping up with the likes of Audeze, Sennheiser, and other companies that are making high-end headphones. You don’t see AKG in many conversations about summit-fi level audio.
Regardless, AKG knows its market. Even if they don’t excel at high-end headphones, their legendary models still lead the industry as some of the best sounding studio and reference monitors.
AKG Q 701 Quincy Jones Signature
Fostex is a company that is best known for its closed-back headphones. They are an older company that was founded in 1973. One of their most famous models is the Fostex Argon, which is a heavily modified version of the Fostex T50RP. It is a model that is offered by Modhouse. It has also been modified by other companies such as Mrspeakers/Dan Clarke Audio.
Their closed-back headphones are known to have some of the widest soundstage in closed-back headphones. These headphones are revered and are often preferred over high-end gaming headphones.
Fostex, of course, specializes both in closed-back and open back-headphones. Their flagship, the TH909, can easily compete with some of the best offerings of other companies. Their design language also follows the retro look that companies like Grado are implementing.
Overall, Fostex is more of a niche company. Unlike the bigger brands, they don’t appeal to a wide variety of audiences. They know their strengths and are, therefore, the best at what they do. If you want a unique looking and sounding pair of over the ear headphones, then be sure to check Fostex.
Fostex TH909 – Flagship
Meze is one of the newer headphone companies and is well known for its stunning models, particularly its wooden earcup design. They were only founded recently back in 2009. Unlike other pretty headphones that heavily focus on aesthetics, Meze’s headphones have sound quality that matches their looks.
The range of their products is also impressive as there is something for everyone. There are bassier headphones that fit the casual audience. Then they have their flagship Meze Empyrean, which enthusiasts rank in a similar category with the likes of the Sennheiser HD800s and Focal Utopia.
One of the main weaknesses of Meze is that they do not seem to have products in the midrange category. They have the Classic series, which fills up the entry-level category. The high-end Empyrean is the next model to be featured. This is a huge gap since no product is an upgrade to the Classic series and closer to the flagship series.
If you haven’t heard of Meze, then you should be sure to place them under your radar because they are quickly becoming one of the best manufacturers of headphones and IEMs. While there higher pricing structure may not appeal with the entry-level audience, their high-end offerings are some of the best in the industry.
Meze 99 Classic
Stax is well known for the odd design of their headphones. They are actually one of the older companies and was founded in 1957. Their designs can be best described as two speakers taped around your head. Yes, it looks ridiculous. However, it is undeniable that these are some of the best sounding headphones in the market.
Most of Stax’s headphones are geared for serious listeners. They utilize electrostatic drivers, which is a different technology from the usual dynamic and planar magnetic drivers found on other headphones. A huge emphasis is placed on detail retrieval and the accuracy of the headphones. This makes their headphones great for critical listening, but not so much for casual listening.
Stax is also known to not be wallet-friendly. Most of their products are easily more expensive than a lot of midrange products on this list. Most audio enthusiasts have a pair of Stax headphones that are used for specific use case scenarios. If you need a pair of accurate headphones that aren’t necessarily going to be your main pair, then you should check out Stax.
Stax SR009 – Flagship (More traditional looking than other Stax headphones)
STAX SR-007A MK2
Monoprice is not a brand that you would associate with high-end audio. In fact, they have only ventured into the headphone market. However, they have recently been gaining popularity for producing the Monolith series of Planar magnetic headphones. These headphones have gained their reputation for being one of the most affordable planar magnetic headphones available. Despite being criticized for taking too much inspiration from the more established Audeze LCD series, they surprisingly hold their own in the highly competitive headphone market.
Since they are not as big or as experienced as the other companies on this list, they had some shortcomings in the production of their products. The Monolith M1060, for example, has had various quality concerns and issues in terms of the build quality. This has been slowly addressed in the newer revisions. Overall, Monolith should be under your radar if you are after an affordable pair of planar magnetic headphones.
Monolith M1060 Ver 2
Final Audio is a relatively new company when it comes to headphones. They were established in 1974 and are primarily known for making both budget and high-end in-ear monitors. They have only recently started making high-end headphones. They have, however, made a grand entrance with the D8000 Pro.
Without going through trial and error, Final Audio has immediately entered the high-end market and are ready to compete with the best manufacturers. Their current offerings are innovative both in design and driver implementation.
Final Audio may still be a small company, but the innovation that they bring to the table has earned the respect of the consumers. Give Final Audio some more time to diversify their lineup, and they will surely be among the top manufacturers of headphones. If you are looking for high-end audio, Final Audio’s current lineup will impress you.
Final Audio D8000 Pro
Final Audio Sonorous X
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s