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 World’s Most Expensive Earbuds
Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphones
These possibly have the best clarity and transparency of any in-ear headphones that you have ever experienced. These Sound Isolating™ electrostatic earphones come with a powerful digital-to-analog amplifier (DAC) for maximum sound quality. Shure’s patent pending system is the first time that electrostatic technology has been use for sound isolation in earbuds. The Frequency Response of 10 Hz to 50 kHz delivers extremely crisp sound quality closely matching source audio.
They definitely don’t come cheap though. The Shure KSE1500 normally retails for $2,999.
They are among the first electrostatic in-ear monitors, which utilize an ultra-lightweight diaphragm.
The KSE1500 box includes a USB wall charger, multiple cables including Micro-B-to-Lightning cable and Micro-B OTG Cable, ¼” (6.3mm) adapter as well as a leather carrying case, airline adapter, cable clip and microfiber cleaning cloth. So it does come with a lot of nice accessories, although for the staggering price you’d hope it included everything you need to get the max out of your purchase.
JH AUDIO LAYA
These earbuds might now have diamonds, but the sound quality and fitting make these IEMs superb. As always, great products come with an expensive price tag, and the AUDIO LAYA by Jerry Harvey Audio is no exception with some of their earbuds in their “Siren line” having a suggested retail price of as high as $2,725.00
Click to see the current price of the Layla In-Ear Monitors on Amazon.
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 canceling 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. Named after the Layla one of the most famous songs by Eric Clapton and his band Derek and the Dominos. Released in 1970, the song stayed on the Billboard charts for 77 weeks.
The JH Audio Laya not only offer a custom fit, but custom sounds as well. The frequency response overall 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.
The Sony IER-Z1R is part of the brand’s Signature Series offering their most premium audio sound equipment. With the premium price comes high-end specifications such as silk braided, silver-coated, oxygen-free copper wire cable to reduce touch noise (microphonic noise) and works to prevent vibration. A built-in tweeter provides frequency response up to 100 kHz and the trio of driver units combine for an excellently balanced sound that mimics a live concert hall.
Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless:
Bluetooth audio may never satisfy audiophiles because wireless connectivity will never be as stable or “hiss-free” as wired headphones. These new, premium in-ear headphones promise audiophiles great sound and elegant, stylish design. There are possibly the most expensive Bluetooth earbuds currently on the market.
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 was originally released with an MSRP of $1,200.
Check current price of the Xelento Earbuds on Amazon.
Their battery only lasts for 5.5 hours for playback, which is disappointing considering the price tag.
Astell & Kern AKR03 Special Edition
Astell&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 noteworthy that you can adjust the low-ends from 0 to +15dB. Click here to see all Astell&Kern IEMs on Amazon.
The AKR03 Special Edition can go for around $1,000. 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 a 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 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.
Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor
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 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.
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!