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Best headphones for vinyl 2021: 8 killer pairs of vinyl-friendly cans to bring the best out of your wax

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

Listening to music on vinyl is all about escapism, shutting off the outside world, slowing the hell down and just focusing on the music. Speakers are good, but nothing will help you get lost in the grooves and compliment your record collection quite like the best headphones for vinyl in this guide. From AKG and Sennheiser, to Beyerdynamic and Sony, we’re here to help you find a most excellent pair of vinyl-friendly headphones.

Being a vinyl nerd extends far beyond the growing collection of records you have lovingly compiled - and no doubt alphabetised - on your shelves. It involves a pact with the equipment you select to bring that music to life, from the turntable and phono preamp you choose, through to an amplifier, speakers and the right pair of headphones.

The latter can sometimes fall through the gaps when it comes to considering the detail of your home vinyl setup, particularly given the prominence that the portability of headphones plays in our commutes, exercise regimes and general day-to-day – you might not associate a pair of cans with hours-long vinyl sessions. That said, a good pair of cans situated next to your deck and a comfortable chair at home, is a special sort of indulgence that we fully support.

We’ve rounded up some ace budget-spanning options and included some useful buying advice in this guide to help you (just click the button above to read that), so the next time you drop the needle your wax will sound better than ever.

Best headphones for vinyl: Louder's Choice

There’s an awful lot of choice out there, however big or small your budget. For the cost-conscious vinyl heads out there, a pair of AKG K72 headphones would fit the bill rather nicely. They offer a sense of depth and scope without breaking the bank, bringing the nuances of the music into focus as studio cans should.

With a little more cash in your pocket, though, look no further than Beyerdynamic’s awesome Amiron headphones. Deeply comfortable, stylish and capable of handling themselves across the genre spectrum, they’re an ideal choice as an upgrade once you know what you’re looking for.

For those who have left wires in the rearview mirror, you could do a lot worse than Sony’s WH-1000XM3 model. Light, comfortable, road-tested and packed with helpful tech, such as noise cancelling, these headphones also offer killer sound that’s balanced, precise and happy to let each element of a song have its moment in the spotlight.

Best headphones for vinyl: Product guide

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 great to a point, but 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

Unique style meets compelling sound

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

Nothing else out there looks like a set of Grado cans
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-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony WH-1000XM3

Heavyweight package that prizes versatility

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 that can handle anything you throw at it
Turns comfort up to 11
Plastic headband takes lustre off overall design

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-1000XM3 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-1000XM3 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

Pitch-perfect sound and staying power

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

Superb, all court sound
Fantastic comfort and build quality
Workmanlike looks lag behind the quality of the overall package

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 middleweight 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, comfortable listening experience
A lot of plastic involved, which is a turn off for some

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
These are open-backed so expect some sound leakage

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

Headphones engineering taken to the next level

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
Be honest, have you got two grand going spare?

Designed and crafted in San Diego, California, the Ether 2 is an exercise in assembling the best pair of audiophile headphones 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)

Job number one when it comes to choosing the best headphones for vinyl is, and always will be, bringing home the bacon sound-wise – this should come way ahead of design or features. Skimping on quality in this department will not only sell your record collection way short, but render the high-fidelity world of vinyl almost completely pointless. The same headphones that stand up to scrutiny while streaming via your phone won’t be able to do the heavy lifting here.

You should weigh up whether on-ear (which generally emphasise mid-range tones) or over-ear headphones (prioritising the low-end) are for you both sonically and in terms of comfort, and also if open-backed (adding a sense of space, allowing some sound to bleed) or closed-backed (emphasising bass, some basic noise cancellation) cans are your bag.

What’s in a name?

In the case of the best headphones for vinyl, actually quite a lot. Name recognition when it comes to tech is a worthwhile baseline guarantee of quality. In the vinyl world, headphones are employed to allow deep, meaningful access to the music in a solitary fashion, so they need to pass muster. Major brands including Audio-Technica, Sony and Sennheiser offer models 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. 

Outside influences

It’s also worth remembering that technology is having an increasing sizable say in the vinyl market, and headphones space isn’t immune. There are Bluetooth turntables out there now that can be paired with Bluetooth headphones for maximum wire-free convenience (remember that this is a lossy, digital format that will take just a little of this shine off your vinyl experience) while noise cancelling tech has been a major selling point for some time now. If you want even more immersion in your music, this could be a way to go.

Further reading...