The following Top Reader Voted headphones scores are assigned by the readers, (Score) and apply only to all reviews where a slider voting system exists. This list includes all types of drivers including dynamic, planar and electrostatic headphones.
Please note the list will change dynamically as readers continue to vote. Higher scoring headphones will automatically replace lower-scoring headphones. They will also continue to change as we progressively work our way through historical reviews and add a voting system.
These lists are not to be confused with our forthcoming Editorial scoring lists which are the top gear as reviewed and scored by our review team. Those lists will form the basis of our Awards at the end of the year. Once the year is completed the Editorial scores will be deleted and the ‘annual top lists’ will start over again.
The Hifiman Susvara is an absolute joy to listen to almost anything with. It is one of the most immersive and technically capable planars that I have heard to date and fully justifies its summit-fi status in terms of sonic capability.
The D8000 Pro has a slightly sweet, clean, and airy tone with excellent separation that makes it an absolute joy for hardcore detail fans but just enough of a natural timbre to make it an enjoyable listen. More in the reference camp than musical but not a dry analytical experience.
The Audeze LCD-5 is the most mature-sounding and cohesive high-end Audeze headphones to date. Importantly, it is their most likable tuning with plenty of verve and character and absolutely excellent levels of detail to go along with it.
With the right setup, the HIFIMAN Shangri-La Jr delivers outstanding electrostatic audio quality. Certainly, it offers a viable choice at the top of the audiophile dining table with its articulate, clear yet smooth-sounding performance.
What an outstanding headphone the T+A Solitaire P-SE is. It has a world-class resolving capability, a stellar transient response, and very pleasing levels of separation from top to bottom. This is purist's headphone for those who like to hear every event and note in the music they like to play.
The detail is very much there but it is delivered in a very natural manner that makes the Dan Clark Audio Stealth a very enjoyable listen. Given how hard it is to tune closed backs to get an accurate and pleasing tonal character that should be taken as a bit of a home run from the DCA team.
The Focal Stellia is in one word stellar. A closed back that does so many things right is hard to come by and I would say almost impossible but Focal pulled it off. For my last few words in this review, I would like to say and direct the words to the entire Focal staff, 'félicitations pour la fabrication d'un super casque'. Well done.
Overall, I think this headphone out resolves hyper-detailed headphones such as the HE1000, SR-009, and HD800 and then improves on their desirable traits. The price is definitely steep at $4,000 though it can be justified for getting the most performance from cost-is-no-object amplifiers that can run from $5,000 and above excluding tubes.
The Diana Phi owns its flagship status with aplomb despite its funky almost cutesy visual aesthetic. It also presents an equally capable but decidedly different presentation to the likes of the Empyrean that make it almost the perfect complement to Meze's masterpiece.
The T+A Solitaire P headphones draw on years of industry experience to provide a product infused with an exceptional build, acoustic design, and commitment to leading standards. Primed with extraordinary cohesion, spatial localization of sound, and control, the Solitaire P provides its own niche to a growing high-end world of audiophilia.
The Audeze CRBN is a sublime and gorgeous-sounding electrostatic headphone but also one that does not play by the electrostatic norms. A few e-stat cans have tried failed before to get that bass rumbling and remain a coherent listening experience, the CRBN is not one of those failures, not by a long shot, it sounds powerful yet very coherent at the same time.
The Meze Audio Elite is a step up but a step up in a very competitive high-end headphone market right now in 2021. Thankfully it has a unique sound signature that is I think many will embrace. Both portable and desktop audiophiles are included in that statement which is rare for flagship planars.
The RAD-0 is in my top 3 headphones I have tested and heard to date for this year. It has a beautifully balanced sound signature with a very impressive treble tuning and a sweet-sounding instrumental and vocal timbre.
The Stax SR-L300 Limited is a big of an electrostatic headphone bargain and thankfully a tuning that delivers a clear distinction from the likes of our previously reviewed Jade II headphone from Hifiman.
The tonality of the headphone is hyper-pure and very clean feeling. If anything, I'd want more bass depth and response when things are very low on the track. Perhaps, also, more imaging properties. Good job, Audeze. I'm not a purist and I still enjoyed the MX4 and all it has to offer.
The lower price will also tempt those thinking about the competition, the Empyreans, and RAD-0 or the Final D8000's of this world which have a similar price. It belongs there but it also brings its unique qualities to the table. Qualities such as a blazing level of articulation, outstanding staging complexity, and very smooth yet clear tuning. A very addictive performer indeed.
Tonally, the Hifiman HE1000 V2 takes stock of the feedback from many users and moves away from the darker tonality of the V1 and offers something different. This is a more intimate presentation, but also a more dynamic and aggressive stance with excellent control and finally some impact.
"The HEDD Audio HEDDphone is a new path, a new direction, and a unique sound. It is not a planar headphone sound, neither dynamic nor electrostatic but it successfully mixes some of the best traits of each to paint a massive presentation, huge depth, and wonderful clarity."
I found that the LCD-4 is a top-notch performer in the high-end headphone pool today. Its bass is unmatched with its deep, flat, and extended qualities that are very difficult to find in any other headphones.
The D8000 simply rocks. And I mean with just about every track or record or genre that means something to me from the vaults. Not many people know I started out in the late '80s as a music and live act reviewer so my collection is wide and deep but it's 'hard rock' and 'new wave synth' that I always go to first.
Truly, this Ether would be my favorite headphone of all time if it were of a more musical tonal hue. As mentioned, purists will love the hell out of this headphone, those seeking a neutral and clinical experience should be saving up to buy one.
The Ultrasone Edition 15 Veritas surprised me and in a very good way. I usually have a few reservations with regards to flagship-level headphones with closed-back builds but the Veritas smartly plays to the strengths of that design and avoids trying to shape and bend in such a way to poorly mimic open-back qualities.
Thus far the HE1000 is one of the best sets of headphones I have put on my head in the last 5 years that is not called Stax or Orpheus. It is by far the best of many worlds in planar technology and sound. It has enough body, enough musicality, and more than enough detail to comfortably be the only headphone you need with the right setup.