InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame" Full-Size Open

Full-Size Open Headphones
These are headphones that have pads that go completely around your ears (circumaural) and are not sealed to isolate you from outside noise. These are generally the most comfortable and best sounding type of headphone, and are typically used around the home or office where there is little outside noise, and/or when you have to be able to hear your surroundings (ringing phone, kids).

Stax SR-009 ($5,250)
WoF_photo_Stax_SR009Simply put, this is the world's best headphone. The speed, clarity, and resolution is simply stunning. I spent quite a bit of time comparing the SR-009 to other headphones that compete for a spot as ultimate reference headphones, and the SR-009 equaled or bested all comers with the singlar exception of the spectacular imaging of the Sennheiser HD 800.

These are electrostatic headphones and require a special type of amplifier to drive them. Because they are "cost no object" headphones, and because they are so extraordinarily good, I highly recommend purchasing the best possible electrostatic headphone amplifier. For me, that means the HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE.

Read more about these incredible headphones in this article comparing the world's beast headphones. Sorry about your wallet.

HiFiMAN HE1000 ($2999)
WoF_photo_HiFiMAN HE1000Expensive? Yes. But quite likely the most pleasant sounding headphone available. The HE1000 has an unusually "soft" nature to its sound, which makes it particularly sonorous for hours long listening sessions. Very large ear pads and a very comfortable fit help as well.

Detractors will say the "soft" character arrises from a treble response that lacks the speedy articulation of the best reference headphones, and I agree that the HE1000 has a slightly hazy character to its transient response. But I can't help falling for its seductive sound. Comes with three cables and a leather covered presentation box. Those looking for a planar magnetic headphone at a more affordable price may want to consider the Mr. Speakers Ether.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 800 S ($1,699)
WoF_photo_Senn_HD800SThe new Sennheiser HD 800 S adroitly adresses sonic issues long heard with the HD 800. It tames the piercing 6kHz treble peak, and it provide a nice warming of the bass, overall producing a much better behaved headphone and a more enjoyable listening experience. However, the warming of the bass seems to be done by adding a bit of second harmonic distortion, which in turn obscures a bit of bass clarity, having a slightly thick and congested sound relative to its predecessor...but just slightly.

Fresh out of the box in stock form, the new HD 800 S provides a terrific listening experience; I don't think I've ever heard clarity expressed so musically before. The HD 800 S adds musicality to the legendary precision of HD 800, strengthening its position as the world's finest dynamic headphone. Well done, Sennheiser, a masterful tweaking of this great headphone!

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Mr. Speakers Ether ($1499)
The first fully in-house made Mr. Speakers headphone is a hit! though tending slightly toward the bright side, the Ether is otherwise a very competent and nicely balanced headphone. Comfort, build quality, and styling are likewise top-notch.

The Ether uses a proprietary pleated diaphragm Mr. Speakers calls "V-Planar" technology intended to reduce distortion and to allow the diaphragm free movement without over-tensioning the diaphragm at the extremes. Measurements indeed show very low distortion. Hard side carry case included; numerous cable choices are available when ordering.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 600 ($399)
WoF_photo_Senn_HD600The middle sibling in a long-lasting line of excellent headphones (it sits between the HD 580 and HD 650) the HD 600 has been a strong recommendation from me for a very long time. Many will whine about it's slightly soft sound, "they have the Sennheiser veil," some will say, but I think this excellent headphone is just gentle on the ears.

With an easy and sonorous sound, the HD 600 is a forgiving headphone and will do well with poor recordings. But it also has the chops, when coupled with a good amp and front end, to do a very nice job reproducing high fidelity recordings. Unlike most headphone at this price, I find the HD 600 ticks all the boxes nicely without any serious downfall. It seems to me, the HD 600 is the least expensive headphone of this type that can be called "audiophile grade."

This is a very comfortable headphone, and coupled with it's excellent sound is well suited for long listening sessions. The cable connects at each earpiece, making aftermarket and balanced cable replacement easy.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

HiFiMAN HE400S ($299)
WoF_photo_HiFiMAN_HE400SThis relatively inexpensive planar magnetic headphone punches way above its weight class. In fact, I found it to be modestly superior to the Sennheiser HD 600/650, delivering a more present mid-range and tighter bass. Bassheads be warned: This headphone does lack some bass extension. Fortunately a swapping with other pads available from HiFiMAN make significant improvements to the low notes.

While lacking a bit in the bass department, the HE400S delivers a marvelously balanced mid-range...and that's where most of the music is. Deeee-licious! Treble is ever so slightly splashy (never harsh, though), but I do find its transient response cleaner than the HD 600, thereby delivering slightly better imaging.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

Retired from this List

Philips Fidelio X2 ($299)
WoF_photo_Philips_X2 The Philips X2 was removed from the list essentially with the advent of the HiFiMAN HE400S, which has a smoother and more musical presentation at the same price.

Now with the removable/replaceable ear-pads, better cable, and larger headband that X1 owners clamored for, the Fidelio X2 arrives on the scene with those improvements and more. Improved acoustics and diaphragm take this headphone to another level, delivering terrific balance and neutrality while keeping the music exciting overall. Only a slight tendency to be a tad edgy mars this otherwise excellent headphone's performance.

Earpads are velour, and are large and comfortable. THe headband is now large enough for most all heads, though the tension may be a bit tight. Comes with a 3-meter cable..as these are for home use no smartphone remote is included.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 800 ($1,499)
WoF_photo_Senn_HD800This headphone was retired from the Wall with the introduction of the HD 800 S, which rids the headphone of the annoying 6kHz peak, and has subtly improved bass response.

I feel the most resolving, and best imaging headphone in the world is the Sennheiser HD 800. Using a novel "ring radiator" angled driver design, these headphones produce the best imaging on headphones I've ever heard. The HD 800 is spectacularly well designed, and wonderfully comfortable to wear.

The one problem these headphones have is a somewhat "analytical" sound, which can be significantly reduced with a fairly straightforward modification. The detail and resolution of these headphones make them ideal for mixing and mastering engineers who want to hear every little pop and tweet in the mix. Audiophiles will be well rewarded by careful amp selection, aftermarket cables, and the mod mentioned above.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Audeze LCD-3 ($1945)
This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the HiFiMAN HE1000 and Mr. Speakers Ether that deliver better price/performance at their respective price-points.

This is my favorite headphone for just kicking back and having a lovely listening session. It's not quite as articulate as the Stax SR-009, but it's half the price and you don't need a special amp. And it's not quite as microscopically revealing as the Sennheiser HD 800. But for me, the great tonality and improved resolution and imaging with the Fazor make it one of the prime listening experiences in Headphonedom.

This is a planar magnetic headphone and is fairly large and heavy. I find it fairly comfortable, but it's not a headphone for walking around, and may be a bit warm in hot, humid climates. Audio Pros looking for an open headphone may find these attractive for long listening sessions and mixing. There is also a much less expensive and quite good similar model from Audeze, the LCD-2, which is listed on this page below. Pads are available in lamb skin or vegan leather.

Full InnerFidelity review here for the earlier model, and here for the current model.

Audeze LCD-X ($1699)
This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the HiFiMAN HE1000 and Mr. Speakers Ether that deliver better price/performance at their respective price-points.

The LCD-X is a great alternative to the LCD-3 above for audio pros and youthful headphone enthusiasts. Their efficiency and low impedance make them play well with any gear you plug them into, and their potent bass and smooth sound make them ideal for all manner of contemporary music.

The planar magnetic driver and aluminum housing used in these headphones make them fairly large and heavy. I find it fairly comfortable at home, but it's not a headphone for walking around, and may be a bit warm in hot, humid climates. The included transport case is excellent.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Oppo PM-1 ($1095) and PM-2 ($695)
This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the Mr. Speakers Ether that deliver better price/performance albeit at a higher price/point.

Not so much a reference headphone as a luxury general purpose headphone, the Oppo PM-1 not only coddles you in its sumptuous build quality, it also cozies you with a glorious mid-range and meaty dynamism without a trace of harshness. Some won't like its somewhat laid-back and polite sound, but I found it simply yummy.

The PM-1 includes a beautifully finished wooden presentation box, lamb-skin and velour earpads, short cable for mobile use (no remote), long cable for home use, and denim clam-shell case for travel. This is a luxury headphone and you pay for many pride-of-ownership features; you get what you pay for though, this is a beautifully appointed headphone.

The PM-2 is very like its more expensive sibling, but uses synthetic leather instead of lamb skin for the pads, and has some plastic parts where the PM-1 uses metal. INcluded accessories are pared down to the denim clam-shell case, 3 meter OFC cable, and 1.1 meter portable cable.

InnerFidelity recommends the now included alternate leather pads for the PM-1 and the PM-1 original leather pads to get the best from your PM-2. Oppo now also makes a 1.8 meter portable cable, which is preferable to the somewhat short 1.1 meter cable. Cables and pads may be purchased here.

Full InnerFidelity review of the PM-1here and PM-2 here.
Article on Oppo pads here.

Philips Fidelio L1 ($299)
WoF_photo_philips_FidelioL1This headphone was retired when the HiFiMAN HE400S made the scene.

I like to think of this very nice home/office headphones as a great "gentleman's headphone." By that I mean it's not only a very good sounding headphone, but it's also built and designed with adult sensibilities. It's black and silver color scheme is elegantly executed with aluminum, leather, and synthetic materials. It's light weight and plush padding deliver excellent comfort. It's handsome cloth-covered cable includes three-button remote and nicely finished compact 1/8" mini-plug---1/4" adapter included.

The sonic performance of the L1 is very good, though it's slight lack of treble resolution has it fall just short of audiophile grade. None-the-less, the sound of these cans is very good at this price point. The sound is marked by a slightly warm overall tilt, with fairly well extended and tight bass. Nicely balanced mids have a slightly forward transition into the treble. The L1 is a solid performer without any points of fail.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

Philips Fidelio X1 ($499)
WoF_photo_Philips_X1the X1 was retired from the WoF with the introduction of the Philips Fidelio X2

The X1 has a couple of issues to overcome (fit and cable, see article) but once sorted out, these make for a very exciting listen around the home or office.

Audiophiles looking for a fun listen will be delighted, and basshead will be in heaven with this bass heavy can that also manages to sound balanced as well. The bass is a tad loose, and the highs a tad grainy, but the overall sense of impact and fun is unmistakably obvious. A really great headphone for EDM, DnB, Ambient, and all things electronica, but the X1 is also balanced enough for all types of tune when you're in the mood for a fun, warm headphone.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

Audeze LCD-2 ($1145)
Ed Note: The LCD-2 was bumped from the list by the Oppo PM-1 due to the slightly better sound, but mostly based on the ergonomic advantages as a better general purpose headphone.

Like its big brothers above, the LCD-2 is a wonderfully headphone, a very good first introduction to reference level headphones. If you're into bass, you're in for a real treat with these cans as the low notes are powerful, tight, and well extended. Now with the Fazor, and other ongoing improvements, the CD-2 is nicely balanced, and delivers good imaging and resolution.

The planar magnetic driver used in these headphones make them fairly large and heavy. I find it fairly comfortable, but it's not a headphone for walking around, and may be a bit warm in hot, humid climates. Audio Pros looking for an open headphone may find these attractive for long listening sessions and mixing. The LCD-2 is available in Bamboo and Rosewood. Pads are available in lamb skin or vegan leather.

Full InnerFidelity review here for the earlier model, and here for the current model.

Sennheiser HD 650 ($499)
WoF_photo_Senn_HD650Editors Note: This headphone was retired from the list when, after doing the official review, I found the less costly HD 600 to be slightly better sounding for me. The original text follows.

Third in a long-lasting line of excellent headphones (the HD 580 and HD 600 came first) the HD 650 and it's antecedents have been a strong recommendation from me for a very long time. Many will whine about it's slightly soft sound, "they have the Sennheiser veil," some will say, but I think this excellent headphone is just gentle on the ears.

With an easy and sonorous sound, the HD 650 is a forgiving headphone and will do well with poor recordings. But it also has the chops, when coupled with a good amp and front end, to do a very nice job reproducing high fidelity recordings. Unlike most headphone at this price, I find the HD 650 ticks all the boxes nicely without any serious downfall. It seems to me, the HD 650 is the least expensive headphone of this type that can be called "audiophile grade."

This is a very comfortable headphone, and coupled with it's excellent sound is well suited for long listening sessions. The cable connects at each earpiece, making aftermarket and balanced cable replacement easy.

See full InnerFidelity review here.

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