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.
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 Dan Clark Audio EXPANSE is one of those rare headphones that can elicit both an emotive response from a purely listening perspective and an admiration for its technical capability at the same time.
The ZMF Headphones Caldera is an incredible high-end debut planar headphone. I was simply not expecting this huge emotionally enjoyable sound complete with that trademark easy-to-listen-to tuning. It also looks the 'biz' with those White Oak wood cup designs.
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 MM-500 is going to appeal to a much wider audience beyond the pro-audio user with an enjoyable, high-energy tuning that works wonders with my own preferences such as hard rock, and, a design aesthetic that is simply gorgeous to hold and look at.
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.
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 Stax SR-L700MK2 is absurdly good for the price. Made me want to potentially trade in my 007 MKII. Or really, sell off my HD800 and other things to afford a total Stax setup, the 007 for when I want realism, and the SR-L700MK2 when I just want to ignore life and have fun.
It is hard to overstate just how good the Abyss Headphones Diana TC is for such a small and cute-looking planar headphone. It belies its diminutive form factor with a superlative and engrossing performance that takes the Phi pitch to the next level.
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 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.
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.
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.
If one wants a bit more neutral SQ with a deeper bass coverage, it is the HE-5LE or the HE6. Or you can have both because Hifiman and Audeze's LCD-2 truly complement each other when it comes to sound characteristics.
Either way, you won't lose, each of them is one of the best headphones around at the moment.
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.
"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."
Paired with the right source the Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 can be a great all-rounder offering flexibility in tuning allowing it to appeal to those who demand perfect objectivity, and those who may want to have a more engaging listen.
The Stax 3030 Classic System is a tight, detailed-orientated system with a massive sound stage, totally transparent presentation, and with zero isolation. You will be sucked into the presentation and you will journey with the music.
The Meze Audio Liric has a likable but more aggressive sound signature than what Meze Audio fans might be used to coming from the Empyrean and Elite. It gives up a bit in terms of resolution and dynamic range but in return, you get something much more immediate, fun if you like, and an entirely suitable high-end listening experience for portable audio fans.
The AEON 2 Noire should not be considered a small cosmetic tweak on the AEON 2 Closed. Far from it. This is a cleaner, more expansive sounding performance to contrast with the warmer, weighted, and more intimate delivery of the original.