Wallpaper* wants… perfect sound forever with eight high-end over-ear headphones
Eight new over-ear headphones that make a sound investment for audiophiles
If you’re really serious about your music, the idea of earbuds, AirPods, airbuds, or whatever else is designed to nestle within your ear is anathema to proper sound reproduction. For decades, audiophiles have prized the power and performance of over-ear headphones, believing that bigger drivers, more space for electronics, and better vibration control and soundproofing will always offer a superior experience. Here’s our selection of eight excellent pairs of recent headphones released to join a crowded field.
1. Mark Levinson No. 5909
The 5909s are the first headphones to be released by Mark Levinson, the premium audio brand with a half-century of experience and a well-known partnership putting high-fidelity into Lexus cars. The company already offers a complete suite of audio components, so noise-cancelling headphones are a natural next step. Despite being designed for travel, there’s no compromise on sound and the audio quality is among the best you can buy. The 5909 over-ear headphones are finished in anodised aluminium and leather, and come in three different finishes, pearl black, radiant red, and ice pewter.
2. Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
As the name suggests, Bowers & Wilkins’ newest over-ear headphones are an upgraded version of the original Px7. As well as a new driver, the Px7 S2 has been given a visual overhaul, with bolder colours and more prominent trim. Blending industrial design with elements of art deco, the Px7 S2 offers fast charging and up to 30 hours of listening time, as well as a better fit and softer earpads.
3. T+A Solitaire T
T+A’s forthcoming Solitaire T headphones have been designed with long-lasting, ultra-high quality in mind. The German company set out to make an audiophile-quality pair of over-ear headphones, light and durable enough for regular travel use. Components are forged from pearl-blasted aluminium, white or black leather, and the option to use the latest Bluetooth connectivity or a wired link. Maximum battery life is an impressive 40 hours.
4. Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones are built around a sophisticated noise-cancelling system with four microphones on each earcup. Regardless of background noise, the headphones are capable of creating an ultra-quiet soundstage for your music, with a location-aware Adaptive Sound Control system that dials the ambient noise up or down depending on where you are. The Speak-to-Chat feature automatically recognises your voice and puts the headphones in conversation mode, stopping your music and switching on the external mics.
5. Porsche Design Headphones PDH80
Porsche Design brings its trademark sophistication to the new PDH80 headphones. If you’re not using the built-in ANC, the company suggests up to 75 hours of listening is possible – there’s also a line-in for wired connections. The hinge on the earpads is allegedly inspired by race-car detailing, making the headphones easier to stow, while memory foam earpads ensure you stay comfortable during your listening marathons.
6. AIAIAI Studio Wireless +
AIAIAI pitches its products at the professionals, and the Studio Wireless + headphones were developed in collaboration with the electronic musician Richie Hawtin. Typical wireless headphones are of little use to professional musicians because of the latency inherent in Bluetooth. AIAIAI’s W+ Link technology allows uncompressed, ultra-low latency thanks to the additional bespoke X01 transmitter pack. Regular Bluetooth 5.0 and a coiled hi-fi cable are also available for when you’re out and about.
7. Bose QuietComfort 45
Bose is another brand with a long history of working with noise-cancelling technology. The QuietComfort 45 headphones are essentially an incremental upgrade of a long-standing product staple for the company, with more sophisticated balance between music and ambient noise in its Aware Mode. The headband and earcups use synthetic leather and there’s USB-C charging with the ability to add three hours of play time in just 15 minutes.
8. Master & Dynamic x Mercedes-Benz
New York specialist Master & Dynamic has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz, and its sister brand, Mercedes-AMG, to create a range of branded earbuds and headphones that demonstrate both companies’ design-led approach. They include these Mercedes-Benz x Master & Dynamic MW65 Active Noise-Cancelling wireless headphones, an ultra-lightweight pair of over-ear headphones that bear a prominent three-pointed star and are good for 24 hours of listening. §