Sennheiser is one of a handful of audio monoliths and picking from its wide array of headsets can be an overwhelming process. Despite not having the sexiest of model names, Sennheiser headphones are reliable and consistently perform above their price bracket when compared. So, let’s dig in and figure out the best Sennheiser headphones for your needs.
Editor’s note: this post was updated on June 17, 2020 to address an FAQ about open back versus closed back headphones.
Related: Best Audio-Technica headphones
The best Sennheiser headphones are the HD 820
When it comes to high-end headphones, the Sennheiser HD 820 is the end all, be all. Unlike the HD 800 model, these are closed-back and feature a glass transducer that mitigates chamber resonances. That transparent design bleeds into the sound quality as things resonate crystal clear through this headset.
Sennheiser HD 820
Although shifting from an open to closed-back design may seem a dubious choice, Sennheiser claims that this is more effective as the same vast soundscape is achieved while simultaneously attenuating external noise. What’s more, the thick ear pads function to further block out environmental noise and create a comfortable fit.
Now, as you may expect with 300-ohm audiophile cans, these require a DAC and amplifier; naturally, Sennheiser has a specialized one available: the HDV 820 as a perfect complement to the HD 820 Sennheiser headphones… for another $2,399.95.
We realize that few people will want to dig out nearly $5,000 from their savings, so we’ve brought things back down to Earth with the following picks.
What you should know about Sennheiser headphones
- Most models are more specialized than general consumer cans. While that doesn’t preclude every option from being a worthy consumer headset, it does mean Sennheiser headphones are a bit more niche than something like Beats.
- Some headphones like the HD 820 require an amp and DAC combo for optimal functionality. When you’re spending upwards of $2,000, the last thing you want to do is spend more money on external components. Fortunately, the other picks can skate by sans amp.
- The cat’s out of the bag: wireless headphones just can’t compete with wired equivalents… yet. If you’re looking at one of the wireless Sennheiser headphones or wireless headphones in general, watch keenly for aptX compatibility. If you’re an iPhone user, stick to AAC.
The PXC 550 II Wireless offers excellent noise cancellation
These noise cancelling headphones are a great option for frequent flyers and daily commuters. The headband folds up and egg-shaped ear cups comfortable cradle the ear while the headband distributes weight evenly across the head.
Sennheiser PXC 550 II Wireless
Listeners are afforded up to 30 hours of playback on a single charge and the microphone system effectively isolates your voice from background noises, ensuring clear call quality. Like the Sony WH-1000XM3, these Sennheiser headphones feature touch-sensitive panels on the earcups. Arguably the most important feature though is NoiseGuard’s adaptive noise cancellation which counteracts extreme, abrupt peaks in surrounding noise and protects your hearing.
At CES 2020, we were happy to see that they’re lighter, slightly more comfortable, and are competent noise cancelers. However, since we have no test data yet, we can’t stack it up fairly against the originals. Currently, the PXC 550 is unavailable, but if you can find it, it’s a great deal that normally costs just $200.
What about the Sennheiser HD 450BT and HD 350BT?
Currently these models are unavailable, and replacing the venerated HD 4.40BT and HD 4.50BTNC. As we haven’t been able to test production models of these headphones yet—and the fact that they’re as of yet unavailable—they don’t get a spot on this list.
For open-back cans, it’s hard to beat the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee
For a long time, the Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650 were the best headphones you can get from Sennheiser that were actually obtainable (aka not absurdly expensive). Now we can add another one to the mix thanks to the good folks over at Massdrop. They teamed up with Sennheiser to release the HD 58X Jubilee, which is a modern version of a limited edition pair from the past. They also happen to be very similar to the HD 600 and HD 650 we mentioned earlier, and have new drivers in each earcup as well as 150ohm drivers that don’t require as much power as the previously mentioned headphones.
Sennheiser HD 58X JubileeFull Review
While these headphones sound great, the downside is that they’re not always readily available as they’re exclusive to the website Massdrop. While they currently can be had year-round through the “Drop Studio” program, they may return to being sold in batches. If you miss one of the “drops” you’d then have to wait for the next one.
Still, these are a great pair of open-back headphones as they’re super comfortable thanks to the padding and they sound great. Best of all, they only cost about $150 which, sure isn’t exactly cheap, but compared to some of Sennheiser’s other high-end models these are a steal. If you want an upgrade, the Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX are only $70 more, and offer outstanding sound quality. Both of these headphones are much better than their price would suggest, but the HD 58X offers the better value—and the HD 6XX is the better quality headset.
Game on with the Sennheiser Game One
Now, it may seem odd that high-end audio company produces gaming headsets, but it actually makes a fair amount of sense. After all, gamers rely heavily on accurate sound reproduction, especially as it applies to the soundstage. Being able to hear where your enemy is approaching from is the difference between digital life and death.
Sennheiser Game OneFull Review
The Game One is compatible with PCs, Macs, and standalone consoles. It includes a noise cancelling boom mic that allows for clear voice transmission when it matters most mid-game. Plus, there’s also mute functionality for when your roommates are being noisy in the background.
Additionally, the open-back design aids in a more realistic perception of 3-D sound and keeps the head cool during gameplay. The extra large ear pads are also breathable which comes in handy during long tournaments.
Keep things affordable and accurate in the studio with the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is a studio classic, and it’s the only sub-$100 pick here. These dynamic, closed-back cans are ideal for studio use and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
The headband cushions may look silly but they promote even weight distribution and the earpads are breathable, preventing your ears from overheating. The 3.3-meter coiled cable offers plenty of leeway for navigating a studio environment; it’s also replaceable, which is a nice touch. What’s more, the earcups rotate and lay flat on the chest when not in use.
How we chose the best Sennheiser headphones
When it comes to Sennheiser headphones, we know that most interested consumers are looking for the best sound quality they can afford, which is what we kept in mind when picking out each awardee per category.
We did our due diligence and researched top Sennheiser products carefully while taking into account the wide variety of listeners who may be drawn to the company’s products. We understand that few people will need or want the HD 820 but felt it worth acknowledging the headset’s technological achievements.
Listeners who want to stick to the Sennheiser family should consider any one of the alternatives below. Otherwise, there are great options beyond the Sennheiser brand; we champion the Sony WH-1000XM3 as one of our favorite noise cancelling headsets, which happen to stack up rather well against the premium Shure AONIC 50 and popular Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
- Sennheiser GSP 670: Gamers who want a wireless headset with great sound quality should get the GSP 670. The headset features surround sound using Sennheiser’s Gaming Suite app, but sounds great with it toggled off too.
- Sennheiser HD 598 SR: The HD 598 is great for casual and analytical listeners alike. It also includes plush ear pads and a spacious fit for all-day enjoyment. Plus, they cost way less than some other Sennheiser models.
- Sennheiser HD 598 CS: The Sennheiser HD 598 CS is virtually the same as the HD 598 SR in terms of build quality, but these headphones are closed-back.
- Sennheiser HD1 Wireless: This is very similar to the Momentum model, but it also features active noise cancelling. The HD1 is a great option for people who want the ANC from the PXC 550 Wireless but with a more stylish design.
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless: This is a great option for consumers as these headphones have a more fun, less neutral sound.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
All three of us have had our fair share of experiences in the audio industry; after all, individually we each have multiple years of keeping tabs on the changing state of audio for multiple years. We respect that audio is both an objective and subjective experience, and apply that philosophy to Sennheiser headphones as well as all other audio products.
No matter what you end up purchasing, or whether or not you purchase any of these Sennheiser headphones, we want you to leave this page happier and more knowledgeable. While this site does use referral links, no writer may benefit from directing you toward one product over another. Now, quit reading and get to listening.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Open back and closed back refers to the physical build of a set of headphones. Open backs do not block out room noise nearly as much as closed backs, but open backs deliver a purer sound because there are less echos produced by the sound rebounding off of the headphone walls. When it comes to choosing between the two types, it really depends on the atmosphere in which you plan to use the headphones. If you are using them in a studio with noise isolation, open backs will give you a much more natural sound that is accurate to the recording. On the other hand, if you want headphones for commuting, you'll want to go with closed back because the enclosed space allows for isolation. However, the closed back barrier can also produce slight echoing or delayed response times because of the high pressure in the chamber behind the drivers.