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Loudest headphones 2022: You want volume and lots of it? You got it

Loudest headphones: Man listening to loud music through his headphones
(Image credit: Westend61 - Getty)

Rock music and the majority of its sub-genres have been created to be played loud – not turned down to inaudible levels. While a pair of in-ear headphones are great for the daily commute or perfect for an outdoor run or workout at the gym, to really get your ears to a happy and raucous place, you're going to need a serious set of skull-shakers – and that's where our guide to the loudest headphones on the market comes in.

The focus here is on headphones that relish ribald riffing, can drop down low for guttural growls and sound rightfully psychedelic when it comes to prog.

And while the aim might be on getting the most volume from your music, by selecting the right set of wireless headphones, over-ear headphones or noise-cancelling headphones, they really can enhance the finer points of the music and expand your enjoyment of your favourite artists.

Not only have I picked out some of my favourite loudest headphones on the planet right now, I've also compiled some handy guidance on what it takes to qualify as ‘loud’, plus what you should be looking for in your next ear-crushing set of cans. Hit the ‘buying advice’ button above to head straight to there.

Loudest headphones: The Louder Choice

When it comes to audio clarity at volume, my favourite loud headphones right now are the Philips Fidelio X3 over-ear headphones. These gorgeous at-home Hi-Fi headphones sport exquisitely engineered 50mm drivers. They’re as clear as a bell and won’t wilt under a Dragonforce fire storm.

If you want high volume cans you can travel with, then Marshall’s Major IV are a force to be reckoned with, impressively dynamic and definitely guitar-friendly (Marshall wouldn’t make anything but). And with that Marshall signature branding, you’ll also look cooler than a penguin propping up an ice bar. They also fold, making them ideal for the daily grind.

Finally, for high-volume, high clarity headphones that sit firmly in budget territory, cop an ear to Sennheiser’s HD 560S ear-shredding over-ears. These truly are the loudest headphones you can buy right now.

Loudest headphones: Product guide

Loudest headphones: Philips Fidelio X3 headphones in black

(Image credit: Philips)
Philips relights its high-end audio flame with these Hi-Fi headphones and the result is hot, hot, hot!

Specifications

Features: Open back design, Kavdrat fabric.
Battery Life: N/A hours

Reasons to buy

+
Transparent, studio grade presentation
+
Supremely comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit heavy
-
Open back design is leaky

Philips rebooted its Fidelio brand with these flagship X3 Hi-Fi reference cans, and I was blown away. The X3 could never be described as casual. They are neither wireless nor Bluetooth enabled. They’re unapologetic indoor head-fi, complete with Kvadrat Fabric backed earcups, disguising the fact that they are open backed over-ear design. 

They have soft velour ear pads and a headband that is lightly sprung for a really secure fit. Actually, they look a lot like the brand’s 2015 vintage X2s, but closer inspection reveals key differences. Swapping the outside of the enclosure from a metal mesh to Kvadrat cloth has required a complete redesign of the earcups and the internal components.

Inside, a 50mm driver adopts a three-layer design with a damping gel sandwiched between polymer layers. Philips says this combats resonance. The technique works really well. You can take these headphones to extreme volume, and they never lose control.

That open-back design creates a huge soundstage. Listen to AC/DC’s Thunderstuck and you can visualise Brian Johnson’s grizzled performance. There’s a clarity of purpose here that’s simply jaw-dropping.

The headphones offer a lush low end, that’s tight and rewarding, while the midrange glistens with detail. They articulate brilliantly. The vocal histrionics of Tom Petty on Refugee are surgically presented, his energetic slurring a joy, while Satellite Of Love reveals snippets of contrasting ambiance on Lou Reed’s mesmeric vocal. 

The X3 are astonishingly immersive, and come highly recommended. 

Read the full Philips Fidelio X3 review

Loudest headphones: Marshall Major IV Wireless Bluetooth headphones

(Image credit: Marshall)
The iconic amplifier brand knows a thing or two about playing loud, as these hard rockin’ on-ears testify

Specifications

Features: Bluetooth
Battery Life: 80 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Gloriously aggressive 
+
These Marshall’s love riffs

Reasons to avoid

-
Vocals can sound too sharp

There’s no arguing with the street cred of the Major IV. With their signature branding, these on-ears are as inviting as a festival bill featuring Metallica, Slipknot, Rammstein, Def Leppard and Aerosmith, and boast a massive 80-odd hours wireless playback time. Bluetooth is of the v5.0 variety, hence their stamina.

For this latest version, Marshall have tweaked the ergonomic design of its ear cushions, making them a smidge more comfortable. They also fold down stupidly small, while a quick-charge means you only need 15 minutes to juice them up for 15 hours of wire-free listening.  

The Major IV employ 40mm dynamic drivers, able to rumble like Sabaton on manoeuvres. I stupidly edged the tolling bells intro The Last Stand to max, only to spill my coffee when the band suddenly opened fire.

The drivers have been custom-tuned to deliver Marshall’s signature sound, which favours a smooth guitar-friendly midrange and gutty bass attack. Audio performance doesn’t fray under pressure. Tony Iommi’s portentous picking on Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral is a rich swagger, and they keep pace when things speed up.

Eric Bloom’s vocals on Blue Oyster Cult's Flaming Telepaths confirmed they’re a little sharp at volume, but the cascading keyboards and soaring guitar sound so good we never felt tempted to ease back the volume. 

While most will opt to use these cans wireless, there is the option of a 3.5mm cord when the battery dies, or if you want to use them with your Nintendo Switch.

Read the full Marshall Major IV review

Loudest headphones: The Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones in black

(Image credit: Sony)
Sony prove once again that their quality cans are hard to beat

Specifications

Features: Bluetooth, Active Noise Cancelling, Speak-to-Chat
Battery Life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound
+
Comfortable
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth aptX support

My favourite noise cancelling over-ears, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will not disappoint when it comes to high octane playback. They’re also awash with smart AI features, including DSEE Extreme which goes a long way to making non high-res audio palatable at louder volume. 

Battery life is good at 30 hours, and naturally, they’re hi-res 24-bit 96kHz capable, too. The ear-cups are soft and comfortable, offering a comfy buffer between you and Sony’s 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer drivers, which deliver excellent treble and superior bass.

Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

Loudest headphones: Sennheiser HD 560S headphones

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

4. Sennheiser HD 560S reference Hi-Fi headphones

These luxury headphones are for critical listening... and all listening is critical

Specifications

Features: Open-back design
Battery Life: N/A hours

Reasons to buy

+
Analytical sound
+
Competitive price tag

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit plasticky
-
Wired connection only

Audiophile grade headphones typically come with a wince-inducing price tag, but these serious sounding cans fro Sennheiser won’t break the bank. They definitely sound more expensive than they are.

Wired only, the HD 560S ship with a generous 3m cable, terminated for use with dedicated headphone amplifiers and full-blown amplifiers, and because they’re wired, that means no on-cup controls, Bluetooth or noise cancelling.

Their low cost is largely attributable to the plastic build. The benefit is that the chassis is really light, but they don’t feel particularly premium. I found the lightweight headband and velour cushioned ear pads comfortable, although they do clamp with some force. The design is over-ear and open-backed, so soundwaves from each cup permeate out, creating a larger, more naturalistic listening experience. 

Tonally they’re analytical, even dry. But surprisingly if you want to dissect Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work, they’re ideal. 

At volume, they create a wide, exciting sound stage. Rammstein’s Du Hast is a blitzkrieg of industrial metalwork and perky synth – these Sennheiser headphones deliver everything but the pyro.

The over-ear cups may be generous, but the drivers are a mere 38mm. Size isn’t everything, it seems.

Loudest headphones: JBL Tune 700BT headphones in red

(Image credit: JBL)

5. JBL Tune700BT headphones

Budget Bluetooth over-ear headphones can bludgeon with the best of them

Specifications

Features: Bluetooth
Battery Life: 27 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Big on value
+
Deep bass performance

Reasons to avoid

-
No noise cancelling

If you’re after bass-friendly Bluetooth headphones that punch above their weight, grab a pair of these beauties. 40mm drivers bring home the slam, offering both attacks and a surprising amount of mid-range refinement for the cash. 

Battery life is rated at 27 hours, but there’s an optional 3.5mm audio lead in the box, in case you run out of juice. Niceties include a multi-point connection which also allowed me to share my Spotify playlists over Bluetooth with two devices, and digital assistant support.

Loudest headphones: AKG K371-BT
 Wireless Bluetooth headphones in black

(Image credit: AKG)

6. AKG K371-BT
 Wireless Bluetooth headphones

AKG’s over-ear, closed back cans rely on professional studio DNA for well balanced, transparent audio

Specifications

Features: Bluetooth
Battery Life: 40 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Superb mid-range clarity
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky build
-
Unresponsive gesture control

With their pro-style and generously-sized ear-cups, these AKG’s reek of long nights in dark recording studios.

With the option of Bluetooth and wired (via a mini XLR) connectivity, the K371-BT utilise titanium-coated 50mm transducers, designed to match AKG’s Reference Response acoustic target,  which translated means well balanced audio and delicious detail.

They may not pack noise cancellation technology, but the oval design fits well and offers decent isolation. The earcups swivel 90 degrees, for single-ear monitoring, while battery life is outstanding, coming in at around 40 hours, thanks to that highly efficient Bluetooth v5 codec.

While they sound great, design is another matter. The K371-BT are quite a contraption. The ear-cup sliders stick out like Eskimo Callboy at a vicarage tea party, and the XLR cable input on the left hand cup bulges as if bolted on as an afterthought. Wearing them, you’ll feel like Bruce Dickinson about to take off in Ed Force One

Gesture control is a bit iffy too. I started to panic when I couldn’t get the volume to increase, furiously stroking the left cup top get a response. It seems the touch control requires some serious finger pressure.

On the plus side, these cans sound darn good. Their mid-range performance is peerless, benefiting vocals and rhythm sections alike. They drop deep too. Hatebreed’s Weight Of The False Self stompathon lands like repeated blows to the side of the head, which is always a good thing.

Great performers for home listening, but definitely not our first choice to wear out and about.

Loudest headphones: Lindy NC-60 Noise Cancelling headphones

(Image credit: Lindy)

7. Lindy NC-60 Noise Cancelling headphones

Big drivers on a tight budget 

Specifications

Features: Wired headphones, Active Noise Cancelling
Battery Life: 72 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional value for money
+
Comfortable to wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Don’t consider if your mobile lacks a 3.5mm jack
-
 No Bluetooth

There are caveats attached to Lindy’s NC-60 noise cancelling cans. They lack Bluetooth, so wireless streaming is out, and they require your mobile to have a 3.5mm audio jack... and the noise cancelling is hardly state of the art.

But inside, 40mm drivers offer above average detail, and they’re capable of excellent stereophonic imaging. If you want a pair of jobbing headphones that will do justice to raucous rock and roll, they’re well worth an audition.

Loudest headphones: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 noise cancelling headphones in silver

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)
The Hi-Fi brand is a stable in recording studios, but will metalheads will dig these?

Specifications

Features: Bluetooth
Battery Life: 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Supreme build quality
+
Effective noise cancelling

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack dynamics and hard rockin’ oomph!

Priced at the higher end of the market, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 come with studio-grade pedigree. Battery life is decent, at upwards of 30 hours; a quick 15 minute top up adds five hours of playback via USB-C. For hi-res audio hijinks, the PX7 support aptX adaptive Bluetooth. 

Noise cancelling is highly effective, approaching that offered by Sony on its class leading WH-1000XM4. Physical buttons, for power and track control, sit around the edge of the earcup. The earpads are a soft faux leather, the headband cushioned. At just 310g, they’re light enough, and style wise, they’ve got it all going on.

The spec bodes well. Capacious 46.3mm full-range drivers (the biggest in any Bowers & Wilkins headphones) should positively relish speed metal and power punk. 

But for all their refinement, there’s something a little muted about the PX7’s presentation. I wanted to like them more, but when even Lita Ford’s Kiss Me Deadly doesn’t quicken the pulse, there’s definitely something missing in the mix. 

The PX7s are good but they’re not ‘Louder’ good enough.

Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review

Loudest headphones: Buying advice

Loudest headphones: A pair of headphones dropped in water

(Image credit: Getty/SEAN GLADWELL)

Loudest headphones: how to choose the right pair

If you want to really experience the visceral vibes of your favourite bands, I would recommend shopping for headphones that feature large dynamic drivers. 40mm should be the goal when you’re shopping for the loudest headphones, but look around and you’ll find some cans with 50mm transducers, making them all the better for volume and clarity.

Well-fitting ear cups are also key to performance. They help isolate your tunes from background hubbub (noise cancelling technology is an additional aid here), which in turn makes for a more immediate and immersive listening experience. If you’re after Hi-Fi-quality headphones for use in the home, also consider a pair with an open back design. These tend to create a more realistic soundstage, like standing next to a pair of physical speakers.

But be warned: open-back headphones leak sound so those around you will have a pretty good idea of what you’re listening to if you have the volume cranked.

Of course, larger drivers are not just concerned with volume. The other benefit is a more accurate sonic presentation. Instruments are more clearly defined, band members spatially delineated; in a nutshell, they offer a better sense of presence and reproduce the music as the artist intended. Several of the loudest headphones in this guide have recording studio DNA, bringing you even closer to that authentic studio experience.

How loud is too loud?

We wouldn't be a responsible music site if we didn't include a word on hearing damage. As much as we love volume, we don't love tinnitus, so we must remind you that excessive volume for extended periods of time can adversely impact your hearing, so please rock responsibly! 

Want to know more? Check out the advice this tinnitus expert gave us, find out what it's like living with tinnitus and read about the rising issue of hearing loss among musicians.

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice. Steve began his career as a music journo, writing for legendary rock weekly Sounds, under the nom de plume Steve Keaton. His coverage of post punk music was cited in the 2015 British Library exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, as a seminal influence on the Goth music scene.