While I love cranking out the volume when playing through my vinyl collection, there are times, particularly late at night, when I prefer to kick back and listen to music a bit more intimately – and that's where my guide to the best headphones for vinyl comes into play.
Big-name audio brands such as Sony, Sennheiser, AKG and Beyerdynamic develop and create sets of headphones ideally suited to vinyl listening, and many are available for great prices. I've picked out a selection of some of my favourite headphones for vinyl which cover a range of budgets, from affordable headphones to luxury picks.
When rounding up the best headphones for vinyl listening, I also looked at models that can be easily paired with both simple and more high-tech setups. This is important because there's much more to vinyl than simply collecting it. The more serious you get about vinyl, the more your setup will grow to include amplifiers, a phono preamp, extra speakers and, of course, great headphones. So let’s dive in and take a look at the best headphones for vinyl that are available right now.
Huw Baines is a freelance music writer with a particular interest in all things punk, hardcore and vinyl. Alongside Louder, he has also written about records and record players for Long Live Vinyl magazine, plus contributions to the Guardian, Kerrang!, Huck, Guitar Magazine, Vice, Clash, and elsewhere.
Best headphones for vinyl: Quick list
Best on a budget
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.
Best for noise-cancelling
Alongside a peachy mic system and remote, these cans are wireless and noise cancelling. Crucially, these headphones are also light and comfortable. Sound-wise, they're 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.
Best for genre jumping
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 get the job done.
Best for comfort
Light, spacious and supremely comfortable thanks to their Alcantara ear pads, these comfort-focused Shure cans won’t aggravate you even after a marathon listening session. That’s a really good thing because sound-wise they supply the goods in some serious style too.
Best mid-range headphones
Landing around the midway point in Audio Technica's 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 great audio clarity that helps to bring out the best in each musical component.
Best cans for detail
These 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.
Best vinyl cans overall
These headphones are extremely light 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, these might be for you.
The best headphones for vinyl in 2023
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Below you'll find full and detailed write-ups for each of the best headphones for vinyl in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.
Best on a budget
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.
Read the full AKG K72 review
Best for noise cancelling
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-1000XM5 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 offering 5 hours of listening with just a 10 minute charge (a full charge gives you up to 40 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.
Just make sure your record player has Bluetooth functionality before taking the plunge.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
Best for genre jumping
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?
Read the full Sennheiser HD660S review
Best for comfort
Sometimes I 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
Read the full Shure SRH1540 review
Best mid-range option
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.
I found they offered a sense of scope, with punchy bass operating in tandem with great audio clarity that helped to bring out the best in each musical component. They might be up there in price, but the ATH-A1000Z should definitely be part of the conversation if you’re looking to take the next step and own a pair of the best headphones for vinyl.
Best for detail
These Amiron headphones, 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. There's also a wireless version available, so a Bluetooth connection with your particular turntable is a must.
Read the full Beyerdynamic Amiron review
Best vinyl headphones overall
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
How to choose the best vinyl headphones for you
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 my 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 headphones catering to every budget and musical preference. You want bass? You got it. You want wide-open prog sonics? You've got that in spades too.
It’s also worth remembering that technology is having an increasingly sizeable 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 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 and it keeps getting better. 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 to relax with your wax.
How do you use headphones with a turntable?
In the majority of cases, you won’t be able to plug your 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 headphones, 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.
Integrated amps with a built-in headphone amp usually have a jack on the front for you to connect your headphones. 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: 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 headphones, 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.
How we test the best headphones for vinyl
When accessing headphones to partner a vinyl turntable, specific criteria apply, depending on the type of record deck you’re likely to own.
Increasingly, modern turntables are arriving with Bluetooth on board. Models like the Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT, Pro-Ject Essential III and Sony PS-LX310BT are Louder favourites. These record decks can be paired with Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth wireless headphones, as they behave like any other music source.
Consequently, all the usual Bluetooth headphone buying criteria still applies - specifically battery life (how much playtime do they offer?), comfort (are they light enough to wear for extended periods?) as well as general kickass musicality.
If a turntable isn’t Bluetooth enabled and you’re opting to run it through a separate headphone amplifier, then your choice of headphones is likely to be wired and audiophile-centric. Time to break out the Yes albums!
Attributes that make a pair of headphones particularly suited to vinyl include their ability to convey the warm tonality often associated with records. We want to hear an openness to Lzzy Hale’s vocals, and a lack of splashy sibilance when it comes to treble reproduction. Ideally they should sound as smooth as Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford’s pate.
Related buyer's guides
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- How to properly set up a record player: Get the most from your system
- Best budget wireless headphones: wire-free and wallet-friendly
- Get more from your tunes with the best headphones for music
- 7 ways to make your vinyl sound better: Get the perfect set-up
- 9 cheap upgrades you can make to improve your vinyl setup
- How to clean your headphones