Best Planar Magnetic Headphones – Reviews and Comparison Table
- 21 Nov, 2018
You won't believe it, but anyway, here's a fact:
The best planar magnetic headphones won't cost you to rob a bank.
Thanks to the increase in competition, the prices of these models have come down markedly over the years. What has remained unchanged, however, is their brilliant sound quality, extra-deep bass and low-distortion sound which gives them an edge over dynamic headphones.
Still have trouble believing?
Then check out the models presented in this review.
Best Planar Magnetic Headphones – Comparison Table
Designed to provide a quality sound and excellent transient response, these headphones are for audiophiles who can afford to pay over the odds for the best models.
Starting with a glance at its design, the HE-400I have a lightweight, metallic frame which comes across as a double-edged sword. On one end, it makes the hinges so durable as to prevent the HE-400I from breaking under moderate stress. On the other, its bulkiness means you cannot use them outdoors.
In case you are wondering, just because these headphones are bulky doesn't mean they are uncomfortable to wear. For, while the headband has leather padding, the earcups would give comfort to your ears with their soft suede padding.
Turning our attention to its style, and the slight blue tint, as well as the metallic finish, makes them eye-catching. Add to the mix their old school leather headband and soft suede padding, and you almost get a retro feel of these headphones.
More importantly, despite being open-back, these headphones sound very well. They have an excellent treble, above-average mid-range, and punchy and deep bass. Still, if you ask us, we'd prefer these headphones for listening to vocal-centric music.
Lastly, one area where their open-back design comes across as a godsend is breathability. As a result, with no restriction blocking the passage of air through their earcups, these models won't get as hot as closed-back planar headphones.
Unfortunately, despite having an open-back design, these headphones do not fold into a compact format. Hence making them difficult to carry in person.
For those of you who consider themselves an audiophile – but aren't prepared to shell out more than $500 for a pair of headphones – then they should consider the HiFiMan Sundara.
First thing first, the HiFiMan Sundara are much better than HE 400I when it comes to design. Not only are these headphones more compact, but they also have sturdier hinges and thinner earcups. The new yoke/hinge design also makes these headphones less likely to break under high physical stress.
As for its style, the relatively low price tag hasn't prevented this model from looking premium. That is, because, they have a mostly metal design, sleeker-looking ear cups and an all-black color scheme plus a headband which, thanks to its lower profile, doesn't disturb their stylish look.
Comfort-wise, the performance of these headphones is satisfactory. The credit for this goes to their roomy, well-padded earcups and a headband which fits easily on the head. However, since the headband doesn't swivel, it might get a bit too tight on the head.
Moving on, the presence of an open-back hasn't prevented these headphones from sounding excellent. You don't have to take our word for this. Instead, just go through its reviews, and you'd hear the praises its users are sharing of the Sundara's overall sound quality.
Finally, the accessories which come in their package give you an extra reason to buy these headphones. They include a detachable stock cable, a quarter jack converter plus a nice little brochure, though it lacks a cloth cover.
Thanks to their open-back design, the HiFiMan Sundara headphones are susceptible to letting-in ambient noises.
Fed up with seeing closed-back designs in planar headphones? Want a model which lets in less noise from the outside? Then you will definitely find the OPPO PM-3 interesting.
What the closed-back design of the Oppo PM-3 does is give you a mixture of extreme-comfort and ultra-portability. They do that thanks to their amply padded earcups whose faux-leather coating makes them worth-wearing for long listening sessions.
Thanks to their closed-back design, the noise isolation of these headphones is near the top of the list. So much so that even when you're traveling in public transport, they won't let a peep from the outer world into your ears.
Granted, the chunky black colored leather on both the headband and earcups doesn't make these headphones too youthful. What it does, however, is complement the aluminum caps fully, hence making the headphones acceptable to just about any crowd.
Making these headphones extremely versatile are the accessories which come in their package. For, not only is their cable removable, but there are four – yes, FOUR of them – in the package. One cable each is reserved for Android and iPhones, whereas a third, 3m cable is for use at home.
Finally, compare them with other portable headphones, and you'd notice that the Oppo PM3's sound is incredibly natural. The reason for this lies in their mid-range which is well-rendered. That means you should expect to listen to three-dimensional sound from these headphones.
Having looked at their price, we were expecting the Oppo PM-3 to have some real leather. Instead, what they have is a price-tag-defying synthetic leather.
Simply put, it isn't often that when hearing tracks which you've listened to years, you get to listen to beats which you never heard before. That's how good the HiFiMan Ananda headphones are, though they take a very high price for their sound quality.
Right from the moment you open their cardboard shipping box, the HiFiMan Ananda would win your heart with their design. Their handsome and sleek earcups – which are covered with leather earpads – touch your temple, jawline and the area behind your ears to give a perfect fit.
As for their style, the one feature which adds to the appeal of these headphones is the grilles on the outer panels. Similar to the kind of design you see on Ferraris, the grilles – when combined with the circumaural earcups, give these headphones a look befitting their price tag.
Another area where these headphones hit the ball out of the park is their comfort. While leather-padded earcups are also responsible for this, a large credit goes to the headband. It has a thin leather strap which rests atop your head so that the grilles never make contact with you.
Just like their design, the translucent cabling of these headphones is also clinical. Two cables are provided in the package – one terminating into a 0.75'' jack, and the other ending in a 3.5mm jack. You also get a 0.75inch adapter in the package.
Finally, in terms of sound quality, the biggest compliment that we could give to these headphones is that they make you feel as if you're listening to live recording. That means that they are incredibly transparent – a term audiophiles use for headphones providing excellent sound quality.
What's more, even when you switch these headphones between iPhone and Android – just as we did – you won't notice any difference. And if you want to hear these headphones at their best, just play sub-bass content like “Silent Shout” from The Knife.
Though you won't hear any qualms about their sound quality, it is the cable of these headphones – which doesn't have any mic or inline remote control – which users aren't too happy about.
As is the case with other Monoprice products, the Monolith 1060 provides the best value for your money. That means that despite its low price tag, this model offers an above-average performance. So, if you can't afford to spend too much money on headphones, this is the model you might want.
As a mere glance over these headphones would confirm, they are enormously big with large earcups containing mostly wood and metal construction. Their bulkiness, however, hasn't stopped the earcups from being comfortable, mainly due to their comfy but faux leather.
Speaking of style, the gold-plated jacks and silver colored cables give the headphones plenty of the same. Add to the mix the dark walnut wood finish and faux leather paddings, and these headphones would surely turn heads.
Connectivity-wise, these headphones use a 3.5mm plug to hook into your amp, phone or whatever. What is more important is the 2.5mm single-channel jack at the end of each earcup, so that you could easily replace the cable in case something untoward happens.
As for the sound quality, it feels like you're drowning in the sound – albeit in a good way. Both the earcups provide a perfectly balanced sound. More importantly, instead of competing with each other, the mids, highs and low bass complement each other.
That remains true regardless of which genre of music you've tuned in to. What's more, even when you set their volume at maximum level, the audio would still be crisp and clear, without even a hint of distortion to muddy the sound.
What's more, while these headphones are designed to be used with devices with Hi-Fi audio capabilities, their performance is impressive with gaming consoles as well. Hence, for the gamers who want to feel as if they were inside the game, the Monolith M1060 gets our nod.
As stated earlier, the only negative we could find about these headphones is their weight. For, at 1.1lbs, they are anything but light.
Nobody could deny that the Audeze LCD-3 planar magnetic headphones are expensive. However, it isn't only the price tag of this model which raises your eyebrows, as their performance and sound quality is equally mouth-watering.
Starting with their design, the flat diaphragm of these headphones – which sits between an array of magnets – has a voice coil printed on it. Such an arrangement not only reduces the weight of the headphones but also decreases distortion and enables it to provide excellent resolution.
Making sure you feel the full value of every greenback that you might spend on this model is their “ruggedized” travel case, dark, polished wood coating and two dual-pronged cables. And just to make sure the headphones remain shiny, Audeze also provide a small wood polishing kit in the package.
Similar is the case when you look at the build quality of this model, which is simply lovely.
While the earpads have soft lambskin coating, the earcups contain crisply crafted Zebrano wood. The exterior of the earcups consists of metallic plates, which have multiple slits in between for an open-ear design. As a result, even when listening to music at full volume, you could easily hear ambient sounds.
More importantly, these headphones are comfortable to wear – as suggested by their lambskin leather padded earcups and suede-leather containing headband. The headband is adjustable as well, so you can adjust it simply by shuffling up and down.
All being said, what truly justifies the otherwise astronomical price tag of these headphones is their sound quality. Not only do they offer an astounding amount of insight, but they provide brilliant low-frequency performance and believable, natural sound.
Therefore, if you want plenty of bite from your headphones – but not at the cost of refinement – these headphones are a must-have for you.
The only concern which we have about the Audeze LCD-3s is their price tag; as they are ultra-expensive.
For high-end headphones that don't come cheap either, the OPPO PM-1 headphones are exceptionally easy to use. Also, if you're after ultimate levels of detail, you're better off with these headphones.
Like most headphones that don't come cheap, the Oppo PM-1 are open-backed headphones. Panels sitting outside each earcup are perforated, hence letting the air in/out. One great thing about this is that they leak far less sound than other, open-backed headphones.
Another great feature of the Oppo PM-1 is comfort. That is, because, the leather topping the foam pads is real, so it hugs your head with extreme coziness. Consequently, wearing these headphones for long hours won't be a test of your endurance.
You know the best thing about the looks of Oppo PM-1? They look refreshingly normal, in contrast to more expensive headphones which mostly look ridiculous. That means you'd attract no unwanted attention wearing them in the supermarket.
Other design highlights of this model include the 2.5mm removable jack cables for their ear cups. You also get two additional cables in the package, the short one ending in a 3.5mm jack and the other, a longer 6.3mm cable.
Fortunately, these headphones carry their accessibility from their design into their sound quality. They have an easy-going treble with a warm mid-range and are also smooth-sounding. Also, for open-backed headphones, their presentation is incredibly forward.
Our only concern with the Oppo PM-1? They are a tad too soft-sounding at times.
Provided you can afford to buy a headphone amp – as it is needed to drive the MK3 at high levels – the Fostex T50RP headphones would prove the utility of your selection.
Provided you decide to ignore the large Fostex branding on the outside of the headband – which looks ugly, not many faults are to be found with these headphones' design. The headband itself is made of a reinforced aluminum alloy, and you can also slide it up and down for adjustment.
What we really liked about the adjustment of the headband was its range. For, whether you're a child or an adult, the range is so huge that the headphones would fit just about anyone. Also, the absence of markings make both the sides a cinch to be adjusted at the same time.
Apart from the Right and Left markings on the earcups – so that you could recognize which one is which in the dark, the left side is provided with a proprietary locking mechanism. Also provided are two cables which allow you to use these headphones in portable and studio/home.
The earpads are complete winners, with their pleather material and foam-padding screaming high-end. To further ameliorate matters, the pads are on the thinner side, hence allowing you to wear these headphones in summer. Also, the room inside the pads is large enough for persons with glasses.
As for the sound quality, the treble – apart from being transparent and very detailed – picks up every little nuance. Soundstage and separation are also fantastic, with the image so brilliant that you could easily mix and monitor applications with these headphones.
As for the highs, not only are they more forward then mid-range, but they are well-extended as well. In plain English, it means that you won't miss any little details while listening to your favorite track. Add to the mix the authority with which vocals are presented, and these headphones easily justify their price tag.
Not much to not like about these headphones; except the fact that they need a powerful amp to perform at full capacity.
Coming from an American company that has quickly made its mark in the planar magnetic headphone market, the Audeze LCD-4 headphones are eye-wateringly expensive. To find out whether their sound can do the unthinkable and justify their price tag, let's look at their features.
At first glance, it might seem that the combination of carbon-fiber headband and leathery & highly polished metal earcups is contradictory. Look closely, however, and you'd notice their utility. For, while wood imparts tonality, carbon-fiber makes the headphones lightweight and leather provides comfort.
The diaphragm material of these headphones is a patented Double Fluxor Magnet Arrays – which have originated from NASA. It is a strong, resilient and lightweight film that allows the headphones to withstand harsh conditions.
Apart from this, the LCD-4 justifies its price tag with its very own Fazor technology. This technology guides the sound waves in such a manner as to reduce distortion and resonance, hence providing a more accurate waveform, better imaging, and excellent phase response.
As for its tonality, the LCD-4 has a dark to warm range. As a result, bass is done surprisingly well by these headphones This, in return, allows these headphones to get into life genres as vast as House, Drum, and Electrofunk.
Lastly, what is perhaps the biggest improvement in the LCD-4 model is its treble. This allows it to maintain a good balance between bass, treble, and midrange. Put simply, this means that sound is presented in a natural manner.
As stated earlier, this model is eye-wateringly expensive.
Impressed with the original HE1000 headphones? Then you'd certainly love the HiFiMan V2 which incorporate several design and structural changes on their predecessor which help it to provide better comfort and overall sound quality than its precursor.
Starting with the changes this model has made, it has a shorter headband which provides a better fit and more overall comfort.
INext is the thicker polyester pad which is angled and surfaced for better sound transparency. The cup diameter, being a touch thinner than before, brings everything close. On top of all this, the V2 is more than 60g lightweight than the V1.
All other elements are unchanged. Present is the stainless steel headband whose large design allows the earcups to press both sides of your temple gently. Also, since the headband is perforated, it provides good airflow to remove sweating and distributes its weight evenly.
As far as its cables are concerned, all three cables – two 3mm and one 4 pin XLR – are made of crystalline silver/copper material with their outer sheathing made of smooth rubber. This arrangement allows them to withstand more abuse.
In terms of sound quality, not only does this model provide a wide sound storage – but the clarity of its tones and their subsequent separation is excellent, too. You can't also help but notice that the highs do not have bothersome peaks which would have made them muddy. As for the bass, it extends deep without compromising on volume, either.
If there is one thing that we didn't like about this model, it is that it is difficult to drive.
What's special about Planar Magnetic headphones?
Following are the advantages you'd get while listening to music using planar magnetic headphones:
- Provide a more immersive sound than dynamic driver headphones
- Since a wire covers their entire diaphragm – hence causing the force to spread evenly – they do not cause any sound distortion
- Thanks to the transient response that they provide, planar magnetic headphones provide better sound quality
- Due to their bulkiness – which rules out their usage as sports headphones – these headsets are more durable
- Since these headphones provide pure resistive loads, you can easily use them with a compatible amplifier.
Q: Are planar magnetic headphones better than dynamic headphones?
A: Yes, planar magnetic headphones are better than dynamic headphones in three particular areas. First, in contrast to dynamic headphones, they do not produce any sound distortion. Second, they are much more durable than dynamic headphones. And finally, while you cannot use dynamic headphones with amplifiers, there is no such restriction posed by the best planar magnetic headphones.
Q: Is it safe to use Planar Magnetic Headphones?
A: Although using both types – open-back and closed-back – of planar headphones is safe, we recommend going for the former, especially if you're going to use your headphones while commuting. That is, because, open-back headphones let in outside noise, hence making you aware of your surroundings.
Now that we've shown you – with examples – that planar magnetic headphones aren't ultra-expensive, we've we have helped you to get rid of doubts which we discussed some people might have regarding these headphones. What's more, we have compared planar magnetic headphones vs dynamic driver ones to let you know that the former rule the roost.
Therefore, if you want your headphones to last longer, provide better sound quality and also be compatible with an amplifier, go for any of the models we described above.