Inexperienced listeners may find that cheap earbuds sound good. Some decent sounding earbuds are inexpensive such as the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergo Fit or Xiaomi Piston, but high-end earbuds can cost a fortune and range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Aside from high fidelity sound and wide frequency ranges, what makes these earbuds so expensive and how can audiophiles justify spending so much on headphones? Here are a few of the most expensive earbuds, in-ear headphones, and in-ear monitors in the world.
The title of most expensive earbuds in the world goes to the iDiamond earbuds. Unfortunately, their whopping $6400 price tag is not a reflection of superior sound quality. These earbuds are so expensive because they are studded with 18 karat gold and more than 200 diamonds. The iDiamond earbuds are simply normal, flat surfaced earbuds and many see them as gimmicky.
They are the brainchild of Thomas Heyerdahl, a jeweler from Norway. He is the same man who created the most expensive iPod ever by taking a normal iPod Shuffle, retailing at $49, and decking it out with $40,000 worth of gold and diamonds. This led to the creation of the iDiamond iPod Shuffle.
The iDiamond earbuds were created in 2008, with only about 1000 units being made and sold. Every pair has a number so that buyers are assured of their originality. The iDiamond earbuds were only sold in high-end jewelry shops, and they have all been sold.
Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphones System
These have the best clarity and transparency of any in-ear headphones that you have ever experienced. They definitely don’t come cheap though. The Shure KSE1500 normally retails for $3000. They are among the first electrostatic in-ear monitors, which utilize an ultra-lightweight diaphragm. See current price on Amazon.
JH AUDIO LAYA
These earbuds might now have diamonds, but the sound quality and fitting makes these IEMs superb. As always, great products come with an expensive price tag, and the JH AUDIO LAYA have a suggested retail price of $2,595.
The Laya are lightweight, fit snugly and are exceptionally comfortable. They are built with a special custom fit to provide excellent noise isolation and keeps them from falling out. Almost like a noise cancelling set, when you put them on you hear nothing else and realize how important fitting is. This also protects your hearing and you don’t have to crank up the volume.
The JH Audio Laya not only offer custom fit, but custom sound as well. The frequency response over all ranges can be adjusted. In other words, you can choose the sound you want to enhance to match your taste. The bass is adjustable for depth and impact. The IEM utilizes four balanced armature drivers for lows, mids and highs.
In total, 12 drivers are incorporated on each earpiece, giving you the widest frequency response possible. These earbuds sound transparent in the best way possible by offering dynamic, high resolution sound.
Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless: The world’s most expensive Bluetooth earbuds
Bluetooth audio may never satisfy audiophiles because wireless connectivity will never be as stable or “hiss-free” as wired headphones. These new, premium Beyerdynamic in-ear headphones promise audiophiles great sound and elegant, stylish design. They use the same Tesla transducer technology as seen in Beyerdynamic’s wired model. Although advertised as wireless, the Xelento earbuds are not totally cordless as there is a cable attached to an inline control and clip.
Xelento Wireless has an MSRP of $1,200. Their battery only lasts for 5.5 hours for playback, which is disappointed considering the price tag.
Customizable sound to your taste isn’t cheap and these are no exception. The UE PRM earbuds sell for around $2,000. In addition to sound customization, you can also choose the color and design you want. For a customized fir you must meet with an audiologist who will examine your ear canals and design the eartips that will perfectly fit to your ears. As a result, you will get the most comfortable wear.
Like JH Audio Laya, The UE PRMs incorporate balanced armature drivers, but there are just 5 drivers on each earbuds. These drivers are engineered with 2 for mid-range, 2 for bass, and the last one for treble. This layout adds spacious, airy and exceptionally accurate sound with extremely high noise isolation.
Astell&Kern AKR03 Special Edition
Kern AKR03 Special Edition earbuds are one of the best non-custom fitting IEMs. Aside from their great build quality, the sound quality is outstanding with an immense amount of fullness. It is also note worthy that you can adjust the low-ends from 0 to +15dB.
The AKR03 Special Edition can go for $980. This price is worth it for triple quad drivers (12 drivers total) on each side. Similar to JH Audio Laya, they provide the widest possible frequency range for an IEM.
Unfortunately, these earbuds don’t offer custom fit, but by design they sit comfortably and securely in the ear. Plus they provide good noise isolation if used with Comply eartips.
It’s better to choose a pair of earbuds based on sound quality rather than customization of sound or fit. In this way, the Shure SE846 earbuds are one of the supercars of personal audio.
Shure SE846, the highest quality IEMs of Shure, are another set of non-custom molded in-ear headphones. They have incredible good sound which can be adjusted to your preference by changing the nozzle pieces (audio filters). With the low-end filter, the sub-bass is well extended and really rumbling. Overall, the sound is well balanced and outstandingly detailed.
The accessories included with this IEM help provide the best fitting and listening experience. They come with tri-flange silicon eartips, foam tips, volume adapter, removable cable, a cable clip, and a nozzle removal key. The SE846 earbuds are built to last with a rugged cable, but this durability makes them a bit heavy.
To have get a custom fit you must meet with an audiologist who will make sure they fit properly with and block all ambient noise. The audiologist will do a scan of your ear and then custom earbuds will be 3-D printed to give you the luxury of the most custom fit possible.
The IEMs on this list are exceptional and represent the current cutting edge of sound engineering. In the end it is all a matter of personal preference to determine which earbuds from the low-end or high-end is perfect to suit your needs. As you experiment with different types of earbuds this personal preference will develop and you’ll be an audiophile in no time. Be careful, though, once you’ve experienced some of these incredibly expensive headphones you might not be able to go back to listening to average headphones!