In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: June 25, 2021
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
When talking about headphones that deliver quality audio, the larger percentage of persons think of the noise-canceling feature in headphones with dynamic drivers alone. Did you know however that planar magnetic headphones deliver undistorted and clear sound more efficiently than the very common headphones around?
In this review of the best planar magnetic headphones, we highlighted features like sound quality, design, connectivity, versatility, presence or absence of sound isolation, and cost. We chose to review the products based on these features because they are what anyone looks out for before purchasing headphones from the market. While many people know what they want in a headset, they recognize these features and how they truly matter to headphones’ quality.
In reviewing these headphones, we have dwelled on the significant factors you will like us to talk about. The reviews are non-sentimental as they examined the pros and cons of each product. We picked out these headphones because, despite certain things that need to be improved, our overall assessment judge them to be the best among many other available in their price range.
The Monolith 1060 are extremely light, over-the-ear planar magnetic headphones. They feature a 106mm driver incorporated into a simply designed exterior made from wood and light metal. The headphones produce an undistorted, clear sound that makes listening to music a refreshing experience.
As one of the best planar magnetic headphones under $500 available in the market, the Monolith 1060 differs from other headphones made by Monopriceby not just having a planar magnetic driver but by also having an open back design that makes you not totally shut out from external noise but also provides you with a real-time music experience. Using the headphones is comparable to enjoying your music while standing right in the middle of a live concert.
Why are we impressed?
We love the over-ear and open-back design of the Monolith 1060 that makes it extra comfortable during long hours of use. Much more than that, we love how the headphones deliver nothing short of quality, providing deep bass, distinct mids, and sonorous highs, all in a perfectly balanced fashion. Amazingly, Monolith 1060 sells at a relatively low price when compared to other headphones with similar features and specifications.
What negatives must you be aware of?
While reviewing these headphones, we discovered that the sound might turn out to be of pretty lower quality when connected to a computer system. Also, the connecting cable comes short and may limit reach when the headphones are being used. Truthfully, our periodic reviews of this product show how the manufacturing company has immensely improved it based on customer feedback. For every new batch released, the headphones only keep getting better and better.
Designed in black and silver colors that create a pristine outlook, HIFIMAN HE400S is created with a highly efficient planar magnetic technology that makes the headphones deliver more than the price paid. Each headphone comes with a 3.5mm Jack plug, a 6.35mm adapter, and one pair of earpads.
The headphones are compatible with most smartphones and audio devices with a 3.5mm Jack port. This makes it a ready companion for anyone who considers himself a music-lover. It is suitable for travel, office use and is very efficient as an everyday entertainment buddy.
Why did it make our list?
If you are an audiophile, we are sure that you will not be able to stop listening to these headphones easily just like us. The exquisite design and the clear quality sound has made the headphone one we've come to love with. While many headphones may develop compatibility issues with iPhones and other Apple products, HIFIMAN HE400S perfectly excels in that field. For us, the sound and compatibility technology are top-notch.
What is not ideal about it?
Although the headphones deliver quality sound, the Jack cables get frail quite easily. When not properly handled, they may bend, twist, or cut off in no time. Luckily, you can order a replacement from the manufacturing company. But then, everyone prefers to have an original product that lasts over time rather than one that keeps calling for periodic replacement of essential parts.
Not only are these headphones designed to produce uniform sound using planar magnetic technology, the audio produced is fully immersing. As a gaming headset, it is compatible for use with Xbox, PS4, and many other game sets. You may also choose to use it with your PC, smartphone, or other audio devices.
If you are a lover of games but want something other than conventional headphones with dynamic drivers, these headphones are for you. The planar magnetic drivers used will make sound resonate with your game smoothly, creating a 3D effect that places you right in the middle of the game. The effect is indeed amazing!
What makes it special?
The manufacturing company was careful about making this headset very fit for gaming in that that it comes with head tracking technology. This makes your game very real as the headphones become very sensitive to every head movement and delivers sound commensurate to every move. The headphones also sit comfortably over your ear such that you could easily forget you have them on as you play your game. All of these features are what every gamer looks out for. We also think they make the product one of the best budget planar magnetic headphones in that regard.
What cons did we find?
In our opinion, a gaming headset will do better as wireless than wired. Wireless headphones allow for greater freedom and movement while gaming. Although some people will prefer their headphones wired for certain reasons, we think the HyperX Cloud gaming headset will be more efficient as wireless headphones. An improvement could be making both wired and wireless options available so gamers can make their preferred choice from both.
There is something about Audeze ISINE headphones: you can’t deny their efficiency. The ISINE10 headset is designed in a very unique style and produces highly clear audio. It comes with a Cipher Lightning cable that Apple product users can use for integrated amp or DAC connection.
If you feel uncomfortable pretty fast when using over-the-ear headphones, Audeze’s ISINE10 will definitely work for you as they are in-ear headphones. The extremely thin diaphragms in each earphone allow sound to come out clear and balanced. When using an ISINE 10, the highs, mids, and lows, come nothing short of being realistic and genuine.
What do we love it for?
We love many things about Audeze’s ISINE10. For example, the in-ear feature is an excellent choice for many who find over-the-ear headphones overbearing and uncomfortable. It leaves no weight on the external ear parts and will not cause pain even when used for long periods. We also love that the headphone allows for audio customization using the AudezeiOS app. You can even save up to two customized presets on the headphone so you can always listen to music just the way you like it best.
What were we disappointed with?
As with many in-ear headphones, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to earbuds. Since ISINE10 headphones come with only one size of earbuds, they may turn out too small or too big to fit certain persons. While audio quality may be good, no one wants headphones whose earbuds won’t stay in the ears. We can only anticipate that the subsequent product release from Audeze will feature headphones with more than one earbud size.
A simply designed but up to the task headset like HIFIMAN Arya is nothing short of a premium pick. As far back as 2007, HIFIMAN has been producing headphones and the Arya planar remains one of their flagship models. The headphone uses the same working principle as any other planar magnetic headphone but the quality and carefulness of the design cannot be overlooked.
From the use of an extremely thin diaphragm to an advanced asymmetrical magnet circuit and an expertly designed open back system, the Arya planar is indeed an epitome of excellence for a headphone. If you love to make a subtle statement by appearing in an all-black, sophisticated headset, and if you are a genuine audiophile and have a knack for what quality sound is – we dare you to purchase one of these headphones.
What are our favorite features?
Is there anything you can not love about HIFIMAN Arya planar headphones? The device is produced from quality materials, comes with a simple design, but much more delivers sound satisfaction. The audio produced by the headphone is very balanced and neutral. We also noted that the headphones would do well for sport and fitness activities as it is light and made from very durable materials.
What could be better?
For a planar magnetic headphone of this caliber, we expected more customizable options than just a single preset function. However, the HIFIMAN Arya offered none of those. The headphone also had no control buttons of any sort. None for switching between call and music, for controlling certain music essentials, and so on. We believe this is because HIFIMAN assumed the single preset function should serve well at all times. Truth be told, the headset has always done that. However, certain audiophiles may just never be satisfied until they have made some tweaking to the original preset and have provided themselves with one or two customized sound outputs.
The HIFIMAN Deva qualifies as one of the best planar magnetic headphones under $500. It allows for both Bluetooth and wired connections and has a battery life of up to 8 hours when using Bluetooth. The sound produced by the headphone is detailed and allows for an extensive sound stage.
The HIFIMAN Deva has undergone very significant improvements since its initial production. The diaphragm in each headphone, referred to as NsD is now almost twice thinner than before. This triggers a fast response in audio delivery and makes the headphone far more detailed.
What stands out?
One thing that attracted us at first sight to HIFIMAN Deva planar magnetic headphones: the brown color that gave it a chic look. The headphones are just so beautiful. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, young or adult, the finish of the headphone attracts so subtly you will always want to have it with you. One more thing that got us pretty fast is that you could connect to the headphones via Bluetooth if you do not wish to use the 3mm Jack cable.
What cons did we manage to find?
The HIFIMAN Deva headphones come with no volume control buttons. It will also appear that the material used for the exterior of the headband makes the headset move out of place when used. You should therefore expect some shift here and there when you change position or bend. However, the ear pads fit very smartly over the ear and will not allow the headphones to fall off that easily.
The outlook of these headphones speaks nothing short of a device fit for professional use. The audio produced is clear, with very distinct bass. Moreso, the bass does not totally monopolize the sound quality as many headphones do. Although it does not come with its own microphone, it allows for external mic usage making the headset also fit for live streams, video conferences, or other office activities.
Most planar magnetic headphones are open back and therefore do not allow for reasonable sound isolation. If you are seeking headphones with high receiving speed, detailed sound, and all other features characteristic of planar magnetic headsets while also efficiently isolating noise, you will find a companion in the Monolith M565C.
Why is it special?
For us, Monolith M565C qualifies are one of the best planar magnetic headphones for its amazing ability to combine noise isolating features with planar magnetic technology. The close back feature was created as an improvement from the M565, which are open-back headphones. We love the quality of sound produced by the device which is characteristic of noise isolating headphones. The music is greatly felt, it allows no disturbance, and the audio details are clearer than ever.
What are the flaws?
From many of our planar magnetic headphones reviews, we identified that the Monolith M565C came with ports that make cables connect rather loosely. You may just find out that your music is interrupted when you move a bit or stops altogether until you have adjusted the cable again. The headband may also turn out to be too small for certain persons and therefore may press over the ear and apply greater pressure than normal.
The LCD series of the Audeze headphones are made with 103mm drivers that trigger excellent bass production, a needed quality for games, and sound mixing. The Audeze LCD-GX is a purely analog headset. It features a boom microphone that is detachable and adjustable to any desired angled through a flexible gooseneck.
If you are a hard and fast gamer, then this headphone is for you! No preambles, it just goes straight to business with booming bass, top-notch soundstage, and immersing audio that intensifies the 3D effect in your game.
What stands out?
In our review of planar magnetic headphones, we find out that the LCD-GX was not rigidly manufactured to fit gaming purposes only. For example, the boom mic is detachable when not needed making the headset also fit for listening to music for the sake of entertainment. At other times, especially in the studio, the microphone proves useful and even expedient. It did not take much time for us to tag the Audeze LCD-GX to be the most versatile of all the best planar magnetic headphones reviewed.
What cons did we manage to find?
We discovered certain cons in the LCD-GX headset. First, we absolutely relate to the manufacturer's idea of creating strictly analog headphones. However, the headset will serve better if it was usable with an audio app of some sort that allowed for tweaking of audio options and more customizations. Overall, these headphones are great, extremely lightweight, and very versatile.
The Fostex T50RP has one of the best studio monitoring features for a planar magnetic headphone under $500. The Proprietary Regular Phase (RP) Technology diaphragm is Fostex’s unique technology for providing very accurate sound needed in the studio at all times.
Hands down, the headset has it all when it comes to studio features. We recommend it for music artists, sound mixers, music critiques, and audiophiles generally.
What makes it stand out?
Fostex's long-standing reputation as a manufacturer of sound and recording products comes to play in this headset. It was designed meticulously with brilliant features that make every single time in the studio worth it, such as the semi-open back idea, noise cancellation, polyimide film diaphragm driver, and the use of neodymium magnet. For all these characteristics, we can’t help but love the headphones. Thoughtfully, the headphone was designed for long use characteristic of studio sessions by having highly comfortable ear and head pads.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
When heavily used, the Fostex T50RP might need replacements of earpads. Even though the earpads do well on the comfy side, we expect that they should also be durable enough to allow for all of those rigorous use in the studio. It may also become essential at some point that you order new headbands to continue using the headphones. In our opinion, the ear pads are too thin such that they wear out quickly. The elasticity of the headband should also be improved to reduce the slacking every now and then.
Although HIFIMAN SUNDARA appears last on our list, it does not make it like just one of those headphones. In fact, it rivals many other headphones in the market and even made it to our best planar magnetic headphone reviews. Like other HIFIMAN planar magnetic headphones, these are made using the NsD diaphragm technology for producing clear and undistorted sound. Each headset comes with a 15m 3.5mm headset Jack plug, a 6.35mm adapter, and a user guide.
The name SUNDARA in itself is the Sanskrit word for ‘beautiful’. Honestly, the HIFIMAN SUNDARA appears in an all-black classic beauty that is fitting for anyone. If you love to top your everyday office wear with some sleek-looking headphones, the SUNDARA matte black headset offers you that choice. Mind you, there is no need to go beyond your budget to get one.
Why are we impressed?
Plainly, we love SUNDARA. The clean detail, comprising of distinct lows, mids, and highs, is satisfactory. The headset delivers trebles that are more warm than shrill. The audio sounds pleasant to the ears, and depending on what song you are listening to, you could have goosebumps! We like that SUNDARA’s technology makes it compatible with iPhones as most times, Apple users are usually left out of the joys of many of these headphones due to compatibility issues.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Although SUNDARA overcomes the weird feeling of using noise-isolating headphones, it does not achieve the soundstage experience enough. However, you may not readily notice this as you are sure to be buried in the excellent sound quality the headphones give once you put them on.
Things to Consider
A description of planar magnetic headphones may not be clear without first understanding what other kinds of headphones are. Other conventional headphones, usually referred to as dynamic headphones, come with drivers that use the same working principle like gigantic speakers and transmit energy via electric current. Planar headphones, however, make use of magnetic energy to transmit vibrations. You may observe no physical difference between planar magnetic headphones and the traditional stereo ones except that planar headphones have larger cups which is a factor of the size of the diaphragm in each cup.
What are Planar Magnetic Headphones?
In dynamic headphones, the sound is produced when what is called the diaphragm vibrates because of electric current. Planar headphones, on the other hand, transmit more powerful vibrations using magnetic energy. They also have extremely thin diaphragms compared to dynamic headsets. When impacted by energy, the thin nature of the diaphragms makes them oscillate faster and evenly, thereby producing very distinct and balanced sound.
Planar magnetic technology has always been existing but was never employed in producing headphones until very recently. Today, planar magnetic headphones are increasing in popularity and becoming more demanded. They are known to deliver natural and accurate sound that is devoid of unnecessary fluctuations. Because the diaphragms in these headphones are thinner, they move faster and therefore respond very quickly to sound signals.
Who Needs Planar Magnetic Headphones?
If you love music to the point where you want sound delivered to you in the best quality there is, then you need a planar magnetic headphone! Anyone can, and everyone should get a planar headphone to appreciate the effect of music better. Although some headphones may be created to be more compatible for certain activities, the compatibility feature is usually not a function of whether the headphones being planar or not. Such compatibility features are usually in the design, connectivity, form feature, and so on.
Since music artists, sound technicians, and music critiques have better ears for music, they readily want to grab headphones that promise them more outstanding sound quality than what they’ve always had. But hey, you should desire something better than what you’ve always had, shouldn’t you?
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do: as long as you love making use of headphones, you can lay your hand on a planar magnetic headphone too.
Why Are Planar Magnetic Headphones Better than Any Other?
Planar magnetic headphones may not be at the peak of the pyramid when it comes to headphones, they are, however, very close to the top. Compared to the regular headphones on the market that use the dynamic driver system, they stand out distinctively. From the way the system works, planar headphones pick sound signals faster and allow for little or no fluctuations. Except if the music itself is bad, the audio comes out smooth always.
Expect a very high bass response when using planar headphones. The absence of fluctuations also makes sound come natural, there are no huffs and puffs, tingles, and muffled intonations that are typical for conventional headphones. The most effective way to notice the difference in planar magnetic headphones is to pick up one and practically compare the audio quality delivered with a traditional stereo headset.
Features to Consider Before You Buy Planar Headphones
Before you buy headphones, there are certain factors you should pay attention to and specific features you look out for. The features to look out for rely heavily on your reason for buying a headphone first of all.
For example, you may need a headphone for gaming or you may need one for accessing audio in the studio. On the other hand, you may need headphones just to serve your love for music and desire one that will be fit for home or office use. You may also be cautious about your headphones making a fashion statement and willing to go for chic looking ones.
Below, we have highlighted the most important features you should watch out for in headphones. Most planar headphones usually have these features. However, they only turn out to be more pronounced in specific models, this is why knowing what you want a headset for can help you to decide how significant each feature is.
Most planar magnetic headphones currently available on the market are wired. Some, such as the Audeze ISINE10 and the HIFIMAN Deva allow for both wired and Bluetooth connection. To prevent clumsiness, especially if you will be moving around a lot while using your headphones, you should consider headphones that allow wireless connection.
Some headphones also allow wireless pairing with specific devices such as Alexa and Siri. The Audeze ISINE10 again offers us this feature as it can be used to connect to Siri devices.
If you use your headphones in the studio or while gaming, a wired headphone may work just fine. Most of the headphones we reviewed are wired, which has not hindered their efficiency in any way.
Usually, headphones come with certain accessories such as Jack cables, adapter, Bluetooth connecting device, charger, etc. Therefore, you should look for essential things in such accessories such as connection port type, compatibility with your devices, cable length, strength and durability of the cord e.t.c.
Many times, the first damage to a headset is from the cord. While you may easily get a replacement, be sure to check for the fragility of a cable before buying the headphones.
The sound suppression or sound isolating feature of planar headphones is usually determined by whether they are open back or close back. The way the cups close over the ear can also affect how external sound leaks in.
Many people love the idea of shutting out external sound when listening to music. Some, however, prefer to have their headphones open back to give that natural center stage feeling.
Generally, closed-back headphones are better for outdoor purposes to prevent too much noise interference. On the other hand, an open back headphone will make you appreciate the beauty of your music when you are in an enclosed environment such as your room or the studio.
Some headphones, such as the Fostex T50RP, are semi-open, leaving you with a bridge feature between both options.
Sound quality is dependent on a myriad of other factors. These include sensitivity, frequency response, and impedance. Most manufacturing companies provide the details of their headphones for these features though they may appear too technical to the layman. It might be essential to listen to headphones first before buying them.
Suppose you are buying online and don’t have a pre-test option. In that case, you can have an idea of the sound quality of headphones by checking customer reviews as well as other professional reviews available for the product.
All ten headphones we have reviewed have top-notch sound quality for their average price range. Truth is, no two different headphones will sound the same, so you may experience a slight decline or improvement in audio quality when using headphones for the first time. After frequent use, your ears get accustomed to the headphones that you no longer notice the subtle differences from previous ones you’ve used.
The feel of the bass is very important in a song that the beauty of music is lost when the bass quality is poor. Planar magnetic headphones are generally known to provide quality bass than headphones with dynamic drivers.
Some planar headphones have gone the extra mile to improve the bass quality their headset offers. For example, the Audeze LCD-GX has the most prominent bass response among all headphones we have reviewed. The Fostex T50RP also boasts impressive bass quality.
However, you should be careful when buying headphones, as some are produced with overly dominating highs, that the full beauty of the song is lost.
Mids and highs
Just as harmony is fundamental in music, your headphones should be able to enhance the quality of the mids and highs in music. Unfortunately, some headphones with trebles turn out to sound too shrill and noisy. If you can check the sound quality of headphones before buying, you should watch out for those and avoid them.
You want your headphones to last as long as possible, so you have to go for the quality. From our observations, planar magnetic headphones are more durable than dynamic headphones. It is not always about the drivers, though, as there are other parts that make up a headset.
Before buying headphones, check the material used for the headband. Examine the joints, hinges, and ports. As mentioned earlier, check the quality of the cables and other accessories too.
Metal headbands are expected to last longer than those made from plastic. Depending on the metal or plastic used, some headbands are prone to slacking faster. You may not be able to determine all of these at the point of buying, but previous customers’ reviews given for the same product can provide you with all you need to know regarding durability.
There are certain features that are either present or absent in headphones, such as microphones and Bluetooth connection. If you must have any of such features in your headphone, always remember to look out for them before buying. You can also go for headphones that provide the option of using or not using a feature. For example, Audeze LCD-GX comes with microphones, but they are detachable. Also, some headphones allow for both wired and Bluetooth connections.
Other features you should look out for when buying headphones are comfort, brand quality, form feature, closed-back or open-ear feature, and price.
Having quality music to listen to all day, all week, and all year long can be very soothing to the nerves, drive motivation to work or exercise and bring calm. You don’t always want to have your ears plugged with headphones as they may trigger certain side effects. Some of such side effects include:
Ringing in the ears Trusted SourceMusical Ear Syndrome: Causes and TreatmentsMusical ear syndrome (MES) occurs when you hear music even though there isn’t any playing. Learn more about the causes and possible treatments for MES. www.healthline.com
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
One of the most common effects of listening to music for too long is NIHL. While most persons believed it is triggered by high music volumes alone, exposing your ears to music for more than half the day for a long time can start a train of hearing issues.
When you listen to a song for too long or at high volumes, you may damage the hair cells present in the ear. This triggers symptoms of tinnitus, such as ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear. Tinnitus can also cause hypersensitivity to every sound coming from the external environment. The optimal recommended length of listening to music a day is 1 hour Trusted SourceCut Music to One Hour a Day - WHOPeople should listen to music for no more than one hour a day to protect their hearing, the World Health Organization suggests. www.bbc.com .
While many may be quick to attribute headphone spoilage to the absence of durability, a substantial percentage of damages can be avoided by taking proper care of headphones. To prevent your headphones from getting readily susceptible to breaking, frail cords, loose connection points, or whole damage, you should make use of the following tips:
Always keep your headset in its case when not in use or when mobile.
Avoid sleeping with your headphones on, as the weight you place on one of the cups can cause damage. Resting your ears on the headphones while you sleep may also cause discomfort to your external ear.
If your headphones are wired, always unplug them after use. Note that you should not pull directly on the cable but from the plug, which is the connection point.
Do not leave cables that cannot be detached hanging. Instead, wrap them around the headphones or around your neck to prevent accidental tugging.
Magnetic planar headphones transmit sound through magnetic conduction in the driver. While some persons show concerns about whether such conductions may have adverse effects on users, no extensive research has proved that.
However, as stated earlier, using headphones for too long, whether they are magnetic or not, can cause adverse effects on the ear and brain since magnetic headphones can deliver higher volumes than conventional headphones. They may pose more risk of hearing loss and other auditory problems when used extensively and at high volumes.
In all ramifications, planar magnetic headphones are better than headphones with dynamic drivers. They are also available at budget-friendly rates in many electronic shops and e-commerce sites. For example, the Monolith 1060, the editor’s choice, sells for way below $500 despite its many appealing features. It produces an undisputable clear sound that features a rich bass and distinct mids and trebles.
While many planar headphones feature very large earcups due to the extra thin but wide diaphragm, the Audeze ISINE10 is one of the least typical in-ear magnetic planar headphones available out there. The headphone poses no issue of placing unwarranted pressure on the external associated with over the ear headphones. The ISINE10 also allows you to save two customized audio presets, which you can always use when listening to music.
The Audeze LCD-GX on the other hand, was created to be a gaming headset. However, a detachable microphone makes it fitting for many other uses at home, studio, or office. Hence, we considered it to be the most versatile of all the headphones on our list.
Conclusively, these products remain our best planar headphones. We love each one for its unique characteristics and the way it appeals to our sense of satisfaction. Much more, we love all ten of them because they are planar magnetic headphones and are technology’s provision for bringing quality sound our way.
Musical Ear Syndrome: Causes and Treatments
Musical ear syndrome (MES) occurs when you hear music even though there isn’t any playing. Learn more about the causes and possible treatments for MES.