2024’s Best Headphone Gear | Buyers Guide 2024

2024's best headphone

Welcome to 2024’s Best Headphone Gear from the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide.

We’re not saying that this is the “best” headphone gear or that these choices somehow overrule anyone else’s favorites. We’re saying that these are the products we’ve reviewed, owned, or have had extended experience when it comes to performance and sound quality. This is the gear that we, the staff of Part-Time Audiophile, recommend.

2024’s Best Headphone Gear

We’ve broken down 2024’s best headphone gear category into three subcategories, such as In-Ear Monitors, On-Ear and Over-Ear Headphones, and Amplifiers, DACs and Portable Audio Devices.

In-Ear Monitors (IEMs)


Cardas A8 30th Anniversary IEMs ($349 USD)

The latest version of these “ear speakers” have improved on the already excellent originals by changing the cable connections. Completely satisfying in the bass, the Cardas A8s have a remarkable clarity that is complemented with just a bit of warmth. The airy, open sound of these earbuds make them ideal for people who may otherwise feel a little claustrophobic with devices jammed in their ear canals.



Emotiva Airmotiv GR1 ($199 USD)

Crowd pleasing tuning with great comfort and build are all here, and should be part of the package at this price. What sets this headphone gear apart from the pack is how well it works with everyday devices like smart phones, lap tops, and media players. Normally we’re on the hunt for great amplification to pair with over the ear headphones, and in this case it’s not always necessary. Great action right out of the box.



Dali IO 6 ($399 USD)

Another pair of wireless, noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones that manage to provide solid sound quality along with all that cool headphone gear technology. The IO 6 has an essentially flat frequency response, and a midrange that is remarkably clean and transparent. We’ve actually never heard a Bluetooth or wireless headphone “that has the level of clarity and frequency response correctness of the Dali.”


LSA HP-2 Ultra ($799 USD)

This headphone is sourced from the Russian-based manufacturer Kennerton under the ambitious LSA moniker, and sold by Underwood Hi-Fi. The fit and finish of these wooden-cupped cans is remarkable, and the low frequency performance is superb. We found “the looks, bass and wearability very refreshing among the many choices for high fidelity in this range of headphone gear.”

headphone gear

Focal Celestee ($999 USD)

The Celestee is a closed-back headphone design, which means it doesn’t quite have the warmth and the openness of its big brother Clear MG, but with the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition these cans had a direct, honest and very appealing tone. One of the few headphones we’ve tested that clearly revealed the sonic improvements from a high-quality ethernet switch in the chain, qualifying its inclusion as 2024’s best headphone designs.


Focal Clear MG ($1,500 USD)

As you’ll see further down the list, a trio of Focal high-end luxury products adorn this headphone gear list with our highest praise. We might tell you behind closed doors that the Clear MG is our favorite recommendation, baring you don’t have Utopia money on hand. Reasons we love the Clear MG is its luxurious build and finish, its open-back design, its borrowing of upstream design, its easy to drive nature, and lastly its sound quality. After years of drooling, we still consider it one of 2024’s best headphone products.

nan pincus

HEDD (Heinz Electrodynamic Designs) HEDDphone ($1,899 USD)

HEDD is a relatively new headphone gear company, run by a father and son team in Berlin–son Frederik is a Doctor of Musicology and father Klaus is a physicist who worked with Oskar Heil and founded the speaker company ADAM Audio. The passion of those backgrounds reflects in the sound of the HEDDphone, which is “rich, deep and translucent.”

2024's best headphone

ZMF Atrium Closed ($2,499 USD)

Even for some of us that prefer open cans to closed ones, the ZMF Atrium Closed impressed us with their sheer sense of bass slam, and that they sounded detailed without being forceful about it. “No closed headphones I’ve heard come close to the Atriums in terms of tonality and frequency range,” our reviewer declared. Among 2024’s best headphone products, and a review is forthcoming.

2024's best headphone

Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 ($2,600 USD)

Surprisingly bespoke for a pair of headphones, the Rosson is sturdy, heavy and “audiophile to the core.” (Each pair is a unique work of art, too.) Perfect for the headphone listener who wants to stand apart from the mainstream yet still has high standards when it comes to ultimate sound quality. “If it’s your only top-tier headphone, you probably wouldn’t need another to fill the space.”


Focal Stellia ($2,990 USD)

Of the high-end lux styled headphones, one need not look any further up-market than the Focal Stellia. With their lush frequency response and exacting detail, they make a strong case for being 2024’s best headphone in the closed-back category. Fit and finish are immaculate, the hi-fi pedigree is strong, and the personal sense of exclusivity when worn in public is second to none.

zmf caldera

ZMF Caldera ($3,495 USD)

As the folks at ZMF say, “Hearing the Caldera for the first time is an experience like no other, and we’re excited to take that hike up the mountain with you.” We heartily agree–our first impressions of this open-back flagship swept us off our feet and we immediately declared it as one of 2024’s best headphone designs. “The ZMF Caldera, however, sounded closer to what I would hear from a highly-resolving two-channel system–unlimited detail, astounding bass performance, and even killer imaging and soundstaging, albeit inside my head.” Review forthcoming.

audeze lcd-5

Audeze LCD-5 ($4,500 USD)

All-new from top-to-bottom, the LCD-5 sits atop the throne as Audeze’s flagship offering. Coming in at less than 2/3rds the weight of the preceding LCD-4 in a new, more comfortable form factor, the LCD-5 breaks free of Audeze’s traditional house sound and reaches even greater levels of transparency and resolution with an elevated sense of midrange clarity. Whether you’re using it for studio work plugged straight into a console or listening casually with something quirky from the DHT camp, you’ll surely find more magic beyond the detail.

headphone gear

Focal Utopia ($5,000 USD)

The debate is raging between those who prefer the original Utopia and those who love the new Utopia 2022, which boasts improvements such as a new voice coil, a better driver grille, upgraded cosmetics and a more neutral balance overall. “For the headphone nuts out there, this is a slam dunk,” our reviewer concluded. A Reviewers Choice award winner.

Amplifiers, DACs and Portable Audio Devices

2024's best headphone
Periodic Audio Rhodium ($39 USD)

It’s a DAC, it’s a preamp, it’s a headphone amp. Incredibly clean, and with more power than one might expect, the Rhodium is made for IEMs however we’ve had surprising success with moderately resistant on-ear and over-ear headphones. Power is clean and smooth, with a tuning for neutral mids, and a slight departure for more sugar and spice near the dynamic ends.

dragonfly cobalt


AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt ($199 USD)

You get a headphone amp, preamp and DAC in a unit the size of a thumb drive—which makes the AudioQuest Dragonfly series perfect for streaming from a laptop or any other device with a USB connection. The Cobalt has improved performance (thanks to a 32-bit ESS Sabre chip) over previous generations and can be used with a wider variety of devices, and is an ideal match with even 2024’s best headphone gear.

2024's best headphone

iFi micro iDSD Signature ($749 USD)

A portable DAC with an ultra-capable headphone amplifier that will chew through all possible digital formats, the micro iDSD Signature is built around fantastic Burr-Brown converters known for their natural timbre. The latest Signature version adds extra detail to the mix, making the overall performance crispier.

Austin Audio Works The Black Amp ($1,649 USD)

Just like its phono stage brother, the Austin Audio Works The Black Swan, this new headphone amp also provides off-the-charts value–it combines lots of features with minimalist casework. The Black Amp is surprisingly neutral and straightforward in its delivery, especially when compared to tube amps or the majority of inboard headphone amps out there. Review forthcoming.

moon audio

Moon Audio Dragon Inspire IHA-1 ($2,195 USD)

This gorgeous little tube amplifier was designed by Dennis Had and Drew Baird, and it can be customized for any pair of headphones you want. The Inspire can also be used with a wide range of output tubes, which can be purchased from Moon Audio, so you can tailor the sound to your tastes. A stunning combo with Focal Clear headphones.

2024's best headphone

Enleum HPA-23RM ($2,999 USD)

This Korean headphone amplifier is surprisingly small, but also heavy and solid in feel, and it contains some next-level technology that results in some of 2024’s best headphone sound. This is Enleum’s tiny flagship, which uses both voltage and current inputs–it’s two headphone amplifiers in one. Review is forthcoming.

ferrum audio

Ferrum Audio OOR and HYPSOS ($3,190 USD for both)

The Ferrum Audio OOR headphone amplifier is a perfect cosmetic match with the HYPSOS power supply, which allows you to adjust the voltage output according to the device. You can use the OOR as a stand-alone headphone amplifier, or you can connect to the HYPSOS with Ferrum Audio’s proprietary FPL cable. “The OOR sounds fantastic on its own, presenting a sound that’s utterly focused on transparency, on clean, on deep deep deep into the recording, ” we concluded, noting that the HYPSOS improves performance across the board. The OOR and HYPSOS can be purchased for $1,995 and $1,195 respectively. A Reviewer’s Choice winner.

2024's best headphone

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition ($3,799 USD)

Basically a Naim Uniti Atom that has been optimized for headphone use (there are no speaker outputs), this Atom features a network streamer that worked flawlessly, and is the perfect headphone gear for those of you who want to curl up in a comfortable corner of your house and forget the world. “The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition reminded me that I can have it all, and still be happy with the sonic results,” our reviewer decided. A Reviewers Choice award winner.

2024's best headphone

Audion Silver Night 30th Anniversary 300B ($4,999 USD)

Audion spent seven years developing their first SET headphone amplifier, and they chose the 300B to create one of the most ethereal head-fi experiences around. Superb with the ZMF Closed Atrium loudspeakers, the Silver Night has been one of 2024’s best headphone surprises. Review forthcoming.


Chord Hugo TT 2 ($5,295 USD)

Living with the Chord Hugo TT 2 can be a downright religious experience. It may be the best example on the market of a “complete package” with the overall performance of its DAC and headphone amp. With 768kHz PCM and DSD 512 playback, it really doesn’t get any more hi-fi than this.

2024's best headphone

Woo Audio WA33 (starting at $8,499 USD)

This balanced headphone amp is mighty—it weighs over 50 pounds and it’s built like a tank. It features a push-pull Class-A topology that creates 10 watts per channel, which means it can drive even the most stubborn cans. The Woo Audio WA33 may be the most expensive headphone amp we’ve tested, but it might just be among the best headphone gear we’ve heard.

If you would like to hear even more on our choices for the 2024 Buyers Guide, check out our tips, picks and highlights in our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunesAndroidGoogle, Deezer, SpotifyiHeartRadio and more.

Check out the rest of the 2024 Buyers Guide:

Best Bookshelf Speakers

Best Floorstanding Speakers

Best Integrated Amplifiers

Best Power Amplifiers

Best Preamplifiers

Best Turntables

Best Phono Preamplifiers and SUTs

Best Cartridges, Tonearms and Headshells

Best Digital Playback

Best Headphone Gear

Best Cables, Power Management and Grounding

Best Hi-Fi Accessories

1 Comment

  1. I believe the Audeze LCD-1 has been discontinued and effectively replaced by the new MM-100 at the same price point.

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