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Best headphones for vinyl 2021: 8 killer headphones for record player use

Best headphones for vinyl 2021: 8 killer pairs of vinyl-friendly cans to bring the best out of your wax
(Image credit: Getty/Westend61)

Take a deep dive into your vinyl collection and hear your records like never before with the best headphones for vinyl. Listening on a good pair of cans opens up a whole new dimension to the experience, enrobing your ears in all that glorious warmth only wax can offer. Sure there are times when you’ll want to play your records through speakers, but for those moments where you want to kick back, slow down and immerse yourself in your favourite vinyl, you need proper headphones for record player use.

Stack your wax

Vinyl record storage

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9 cool vinyl record storage ideas for housing and displaying your record collection, no matter how big or small.

AKG, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and Sony are just some of the brands behind the best headphones for vinyl, and each of our top picks below pumps out ace sound for the price. These vinyl-friendly headphones are suitable for a range of budgets, from affordable cans to luxury picks, and they’re comfy for longer listening sessions. 

Not to mention, some of them are downright stylish and would look superb sat on a stand next to your record player. If you don’t have the latter, check out our guide to the best turntables overall, or the best budget turntables for beginners up. 

When rounding up the top-rated headphones for vinyl listening, we looked at those that can be easily paired with both simple and more high-tech setups. This is important because, as any vinyl nerd will tell you, it’s about more than collecting wax - the more serious you get about it the more your setup will grow to include amplifiers, a phono preamp, speakers, and proper headphones for record player use. Let’s take a look at the top options now and what you get for your money… 

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Best headphones for vinyl: Louder's Choice

There’s a boat load of cans to choose from, including similar over-ear headphones to what you’ll find in this guide. If you have a smaller budget, the AKG K72’s offer superb value for the money. They offer a sense of depth without breaking the bank, bringing the nuances of your music into focus, just as studio headphones would.

If you have a little more cash to burn, we’d recommend the Beyerdynamic Amiron. These have made our guide to the best headphones for vinyl because they sound glorious when playing most genres of music, plus they’re comfy and stylish. 

Finally, for wireless headphones for record player listening sessions, nab the Sony WH-1000XM4. Stacked with features and world-class noise cancelling, these vinyl headphones offer killer sound that’s both balanced and precise.

The best headphones for vinyl to buy now

Best headphones for vinyl: AKG K72

(Image credit: AKG)

1. AKG K72

The best headphones for vinyl if you’re on a budget

Price: £43/$49 | Open/closed back: Closed | Cable: 3m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 3.5mm | Remote/Mic: No

Superb value for money
Very comfortable
 Sound is outpaced by pricier rivals

These are classic studio headphones delivered at a hyper-competitive price. A set of AKG K72s will step up and do the job asked of them remarkably well considering they come in at around a tenth of the price of some rivals here.

They sound good, offering a sense of scale and prioritising a clear, uncluttered sound stage, and are very comfortable. They’re big and bulky, though, so are again very much designed to get to work at home. 

If you’re just getting started with a vinyl collection and are looking for a set of cans to help provide up close and personal access, look no further.

Best headphones for vinyl: Grado SR80e

(Image credit: Grado)

2. Grado SR80e

Style meets sound with these vinyl-friendly headphones

Price: £99/$99 | Open/closed back: Open | Cable: 3m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 3.5mm | Remote/Mic: No

Unique looks
Solid, responsive sound
Major sound leakage

By opting to let a pair of Grado SR80e headphones into your life you’re signing up to the brand’s whole retro-chic vibe, but fortunately they can also keep pace sonically.

Build quality is solid enough at this price point, and while their foam earpads will irritate some, they’re light and comfortable to wear for long periods. 

Sound-wise we’re talking direct, uncomplicated dynamics and enough bass to keep things interesting. They are resolutely open-backed, though, so you’ll get an awful lot of sound bleeding out. If you’re planning on raising the roof, make it your own rather than the one on the train to work.

Best headphones for vinyl: Sony WH-1000XM4

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony WH-1000XM4

Superb noise cancelling headphones for record player use

Price: £239/$349 | Open/closed back: Closed | Cable: 1.2m | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Wireless: Yes | Connector: 3.5mm | Remote/Mic: Yes

Superb sound for a wireless model
Turns comfort up to 11
World-leading noise cancelling
Plastic headband looks a bit cheap

These things arrive packed to the rafters with features. Alongside a peachy mic system  and remote, they’re wireless and noise cancelling. Crucially, a set of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are also light and comfortable.

Sound-wise, these headphones are all about balance. They work hard to present a wide open sound stage, neatly situating vocals and lead lines at the forefront. And they don’t skimp on the bass either, keeping things nicely grounded.

With the battery going from dead to full in three hours and the noise cancelling easily coping with the hustle and bustle of daily life, these are as good a pair of wireless headphones as you’ll find. So good, in fact, that they make this list alongside their wired rivals.

Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

Best headphones for vinyl: Sennheiser HD660S

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

4. Sennheiser HD660S

Pedigree and versatile sound all in one place

Price: £429/$499 | Open/closed back: Open | Cable: 3m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 4.4mm balanced, 6.35mm unbalanced, 3.5mm adaptor | Remote/Mic: No

Open, airy sound
Premium looks
Bulky, inflexible size

If you’re an avid collector, then there’s a good chance that your vinyl haul will span plenty of genres. That’s where a multi-purpose set of cans like the Sennheiser HD660S comes in very handy.

These headphones are comfortable across the spectrum, promising a balanced experience with enough bass oomph to just about get the job done with tracks that prioritise the low end. 

Throw in solid build quality and Sennheiser’s long history in the game and you’ve got a contender. Remember, they’re open-backed and bulky, so you’ll get a bit of sound bleed and not a lot of portability. But that’s sort of the point here, right?

Best headphones for vinyl: Shure SRH1540

(Image credit: Shure)

5. Shure SRH1540

Vinyl-friendly headphones with a pitch-perfect sound

Price: £410/$499 | Open/closed back: Closed | Cable: 1.8m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 3.5mm | Remote/Mic: No

Superb sound
Fantastic comfort
Great build quality
Again, a bit cheap looking

Sometimes you want to settle in with a few favourites back-to-back, and that’s where a pair of Shure SRH1540s enter the picture.

Light, spacious and supremely comfortable thanks to their Alcantara pads, these cans won’t aggravate you even after a marathon listening session. That’s a really good thing as sound-wise, they supply the goods in some style. 

The SRH1540s are texturally literate and open to new things, laying bare the intricacies of a wide range of styles through propulsive bass and an expressive overall presentation.

Best headphones for vinyl: Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

6. Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z

Detail-oriented mid-weight contenders

Price: £439/$399 | Open/closed back: Closed | Cable: 3m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 3.5mm | Remote/Mic: No

Precise, detailed sound
Light and comfy to wear
There's a lot of plastic here

Audio-Technica have been reliable contributors to the world of vinyl fandom for years now, and their range of headphones only underlines that pedigree.

Landing around the midway point in their price range, these ATH-A1000Z headphones are lightweight, comfortable and engineered to deliver a wide-ranging, fun listening experience. 

They offer a sense of scope, with punchy bass operating in tandem with an overall sense of clarity that helps to situate each musical component. Coming in at under £/$400, these are certainly in the conversation if you’re looking to take the next step and own a pair of the best headphones for vinyl.

Best headphones for vinyl: Beyerdynamic Amiron

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

7. Beyerdynamic Amiron

Comfort and stellar sound in the same place

Price: £499/$599 | Open/closed back: Open | Cable: 3m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 6.3/3.5mm | Remote/Mic: No

Immensely comfortable
Organised, versatile sound
Sound leakage (open-back)

These Amiron cans, from German audio equipment manufacturer Beyerdynamic, are a sumptuous option for anyone looking at a mid-range upgrade. If your budget can stretch, these are the best headphones for vinyl right now.

They’re open-backed, offering the usual sense of space, but can handle all sorts of sonic mayhem if asked to. Balancing detailed treble and mid-ranges with bass that does exactly what’s needed, they’re a great utility player.

And, adding to that, they’re comfortable and boast clean, slick design choices that drive home the idea that they’re a high-end choice.

Best headphones for vinyl: Dan Clark Audio Ether 2

(Image credit: Dan Clark Audio)

8. Dan Clark Audio Ether 2

Audiophiles, these are your best headphones for vinyl

Price: £1,900/$2,199 | Open/closed back: Open | Cable: 1.8m | Noise-cancelling: No | Wireless: No | Connector: 2.5, 3.5, 4.4, 6.3mm | Remote/Mic: No

Serious design consideration
Supreme build quality with sound to match
Very expensive

Designed and crafted in San Diego, California, the Ether 2 is an exercise in assembling the best vinyl headphones for audiophiles possible.

Comprising interlocking metal and carbon fibre elements, these things are extremely light (the Dan Clark team boast that they’re 90 grams lighter than other models in the Ether Flow range) and very stylish in their industrial chic way.

The sound is designed to be open and responsive, reacting to the dynamic requirements of a wide range of styles. If you’ve got the cash and are seeking something high-end, then these lovingly prepared headphones might be for you.

Best headphones for vinyl: Buying advice

Woman removes a record from its sleeve ready to play some music on her turnable

(Image credit: Getty)

While features have their place, the most important factor when choosing from the best headphones for vinyl is the sound they produce. Skimping on sound quality will only ruin your record-listening experience, sell your record collection short, and render the high-fidelity world of vinyl almost completely pointless.

Normal in-ear headphones, while brilliant in many situations – and superb for teaming with a good phone for music listening – won’t be able to offer the sheer audio muscle you’ll need to enjoy every inch of your records. That’s why our roundup of headphones for record player use is led by sound first and foremost, and then by features and style. 

Weigh up whether on-ear (which generally emphasise mid-range tones) or over-ears (prioritising the low-end) are your ideal style, both sonically and in terms of comfort, and also if open-backed (which add a sense of space, allowing some sound to bleed) or closed-backed (emphasising bass, and offering some basic noise cancellation) are your bag.

Who makes the best headphones for vinyl?

In the world of vinyl, headphones are employed to allow deep, meaningful access to the music in a solitary fashion, so they need to pass muster. The best headphones for record player use are made by brands like Sony,  Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser, all of which offer cans catering to every budget and musical preference. You want bass? You got it. You want wide-open proggy sonics? You got that in spades too. 

It’s also worth remembering that technology is having an increasingly sizable say in the vinyl market, and headphones space isn’t immune. There are Bluetooth turntables that can be paired with Bluetooth headphones for maximum wire-free convenience, for example. But just remember that this is a lossy, digital format that will take just a little of this shine off your warm vinyl experience.

Noise cancelling tech has also been a major selling point for some time now. If you want even more immersion in your music, choosing vinyl headphones with noise cancelling could be a way to go as with this tech, the outside world will fade away, leaving just you and your wax.

How to use headphones with a turntable

In the majority of cases, you won’t be able to plug your vinyl headphones straight into your record player, but there are a few ways to connect the two. Your first option is to use a headphone amplifier to drive your cans, in addition to a phono preamp to boost your record player’s output to line level.

In a nutshell, there are two main types of headphone amp: dedicated headphone amps, and integrated amps with headphone output. The former have just one job on their hands, so the sound quality is often superior, making it the best choice for audiophiles.

Two young men at home discussing records while wearing headphones

(Image credit: Getty)

Integrated amps with a built-in headphone amp usually have a jack on the front for you to connect your cans. Integrated amps are also popular among people who listen to music from a few different sound sources. Either of these will help you get the most from any of the best headphones for vinyl featured above. 

Another option is to use a Bluetooth turntable or Bluetooth transmitter with Bluetooth-enabled headphones. Keep in mind that Bluetooth will digitise vinyl’s analog sound, so it won’t sound as good. 

Listening to vinyl with headphones: Choosing the right setup

Speakers are great for when you want to play your records loud and don’t need to hear every little nuance of each song, but when you want a more intimate listening session, only a good pair of headphones for vinyl use will do. Speakers have to be positioned correctly for optimum sound too. You have no such worries with vinyl-friendly cans, as you simply connect them to your turntable and away you go.

Headphones will also reveal extra layers to old songs that you may not have picked up on before. When choosing the best headphones for vinyl setups, you have a few big choices to make. Namely, on-ears vs over-ears, and closed-back vs open-back headphones. 

Over-ears are designed to replicate the sound of a speaker more easily. They position the drivers further from the ear, creating a more natural sound. Though the comfier of the two, they are much larger than other types of cans and won’t appeal to folks who want a sleeker look.

On-ears focus the sound directly into your ears, so it’s less natural. Due to the constant pressure they place directly on your ears, they can feel uncomfortable during longer listening periods. Our choice is therefore over-ear designs, as these give you the best of most worlds. 

The other big choice you’ll need to make when buying the best headphones for vinyl is whether you go with an open-back or closed-back design. Many open-back headphones have a grill on the outside, through which air passes to the internal speaker elements. The sound is therefore freer and more natural, but the very obvious downside is sound bleed - anyone sitting near you will hear exactly what you’re listening to. 

Closed-back vinyl headphones are fully contained, with no exposed elements. The sound bleed is therefore greatly reduced, so you won’t annoy anyone else in the living room if you’re listening to vinyl on headphones. Again, the sound is directed into your ear, making it less natural than with open-back cans, but luxury closed-back headphones more than make up for this with superior sound. 

In an ideal world, the best headphones for vinyl are open-back over-ears, but where you regularly listen to your record collection, who else is in the room, and your budget are all major factors to keep in mind.

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