InnerFidelity Top Ten Best Headphones of 2017

Had a cruise through the last year of posts; pulled some cans off the Wall of Fame for a listen; and put together a list of the 10 best headphones of year. This list is roughly ordered by the value proposition and not absolute sound quality. I say roughly because it's more by the seat of the pants than it is some objective measure. How could it be otherwise? In addition, some products listed may be relatively poor value, but have novel and interesting features and/or characteristics that make them valuable additions to the world of headphones. Bottom line: these are all worthy products. Pick and choose at will.

#10 - AKG N90Q ($1499)
WoF_Photo_AKGN90QOkay, a crazy expensive noise canceler without wireless capability but, holy smoke, it's got every other bell and whistle imaginable and some never before imagined. On top of all that, they sound pretty good.

Though a bit gaudy and bulky, no doubt due to the Quincy Jones endorsement and all the electronics and batteries in the headphone respectively, the N90Q is quite a technological tour de force including: noise canceling; EQ adjustment; cross feed; USB digital input; and an astonishing self-calibration capability.

The complement of accessories is likewise impressive with: three cables; batter to extend life; large hard shell carry case; and soft carry bag. It's quite the kit, and a technologically interesting headphone for sure.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#9 - Sonoma Model One Headphone System ($5000)
WoF_Photo_SonomaModelOneThough significantly limited in maximum volume level the tonal balance is spot on. Portrayal is slightly hazy, but never hard on the ears. The industrial design is lovely, as is the packaging, but a tight fit on the head is problematic.

In truth this one makes the list more for it's technological prowess than the value gained in purchase. It uses a very novel electrostatic driver and manages to squeeze great performance out of it. If I were an acoustic music lover using a computer as a source and didn't listen at loud levels, this system makes for a quick and easy, high performance system at a lower cost than end-game electrostatic systems.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#8 - MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open ($799)
WoF_Photo_MrSpeakersAeonFlowOpenI really like the warm, comfy tone of these headphones, but they're not going to rise higher on this list because they're not neutral. The good news is their character is one, for me, that is easily and most pleasurably psychoacoustically accommodated. A relaxed listen, well suited to electronic music and music that may have a harsh edge (rock, metal).

The quirky stylishness of the Aeon Flow Open is a result of careful ergonomic design. Comfort is excellent. Also included is a nice cable, had side clam-shell case, and three tuning filters the provide an appropriate and useful range of personalized acoustic tuning.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#7 - Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless ($399)
WoF_Photo_BowersWilkins_P7WirelessThe Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless is an elegant, well built, comfortable Bluetooth headphones with excellent sound quality and good isolation. Built with leather, chromed steel, and anodized aluminum, the build quality, fit and finish is superb. A true daily driver...especially if you like English sports cars; very natty.

The overall sonic character is warm and lively. The lows are nicely emphasized, though a bit mid-bass centric and slightly invading the low-mids. Mid-treble is very slightly emphasized and is nicely resolving; cymbals are natural sounding though just a tad forward.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#6 - MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Closed ($799)
WoF_Photo_MrSpeakers_AeonUnder the unusual tear-drop shape of the MrSpeakers Aeon you'll find a quiet, comfortable sanctuary for sublime music listening. Build quality, comfort, and rock solid accessories complete this excellent piece of headphone kit.

With a sound straight down the middle, both audio enthusiasts and professionals will find themselves pleased as punch with this high-value audio transducer. Tonal balance and transient response are extraordinary; imaging is very good for a sealed headphone; only some roughness and slight dynamic compression belie the fact that this is a sealed headphone and isn't going to deliver the finess, smoothness, and liquidity of some open headphones.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#5 - Sennheiser HD569 ($179)
WoF_Photo_Sennheiser_HD569The Sennheiser HD569, while relatively new, delivers a mature and high-value experience due to its roots going back a decade and more in the Sennheiser HD5xx line. Build quality, comfort, and styling are simply superb. Synthetic suede ear pads over plush memory foam and "just right" ergonomics makes this a great headphone for long listening sessions at work without being disturbed by, or disturbing neighbors.

Sound quality is quite neutral with a solid sense of the whole of the music. Overal response is smooth and more open sounding than many sealed cans. Bass lacks deep extension and mild distortion causes a modest lack of textural resolve. Though mid-bass centric the bass is tastefully emphasized delivering an appropriate sense of weight, and doesn't intrude on the mids as so often happens. 500Hz to 1kHz is slightly emphatic relative to 1kHz-3kHz giving vocals slightly hefty character...but this is slight. Treble is slightly low in level, and is slightly hazy, which to my ears creates more of a problem with a reduced depth of image rather than tonal balance or articulation.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#4 - Sennheiser HD 471i ($109; ~$70 street)
WoF_Photo_SennheiserHD471Don't let the light weight, all plastic build, and low price fool you, the HD 471 is a very high price/performance ratio headphone. The styling in matte black and silver are tasteful and understated. Though the materials are no doubt low cost, the build quality appears to be robust. Its light weight allows low-cost pads, foam, and pleather covers to confidently provide a comfortable fit. This is "cheap" done right!

Sound quality is close to neutral with a mildly rolled-off treble and a very slightly under emphasized though well extended bass. There are no glaring faults, but it's performance is clearly not as liquid and coherent as reference cans. I find them inherently truthful sounding and my mind quickly accommodates to their sound and simply listens to the music. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear this much competence in a low-cost headphone.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#3 - Sennheiser HD 4.40 BT ($149)
WoF_Photo_SennheiserHD440BTWhat can the world's most accomplished headphone manufacturer put on your head wirelessly for $149? Turns out, quite a bit. The HD 4.40 BT is elegantly styled and very well built. Comfort is quite good, but not great as the ear pad openings are a bit small forward to back—big eared folks may want to look elsewhere. Bluetooth controls are easy to use and pairing is flawless.

Sound is warm, smooth, and enjoyable. Bass is mid-centric and a bit high in level; upper-mids a tad shouty; and treble a tad low in level but quite organic and articulate. Not a trace of harshness or tizz here. Wired and Bluetooth sound quality is quite similar; wireless there's a bit more bass and low/mid-treble energy and actually a tad better sounding to my ears. This is a really good sounding headphone at the price.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#2 - Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker ($299)
WoF_Photo_Bose_SoundWearCompanionHad the Focal Clear not come along at the last minute, these would have been my product of the year. They're just so...different than anything I've seen before.

The Bose SoundWear Companion sounds way better than I expected. It produces a very unusual sonic cocoon around your head. While it might be somewhat artificial and foreign sounding, it remains a remarkably pleasant listening experience.

It works great for puttering around the house or garden when moving from place to place makes a speaker less than ideal, and where physical activity makes headphone less comfortable. It also allows you to hear the kids call or chat with a spouse in passing. When tucked under the crew neck of a t-shirt they are quite stable and could easily be used for exercise activities, and may be particularly well suited for bicycling and skateboarding where helmets are used and you want to retain some situational awareness.

On the other hand it's poor in loud environments where IEMs, and sealed or noise canceling headphone work better. Though they will be much louder for you than the people near by, they will still be able to hear your music. These do produce some noise pollution and should be And though they're pleasant enough for casual listening, they won't have the fidelity desired for a high-end listening experience.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

#1 - Focal Clear ($1499)
WoF_Photo_FocalClearThe Focal Clear is what an enthusiast headphone should be: It's gorgeous; it's comfortable; its accessories are spectacular; and its sound is clear as a Montana winter sky. It's not bright, or dark, or liquid, or even—some odd way—neutral. It's just competently and confidently true to the music.

It doesn't have the tightest bass I've ever heard, nor the most liquid midrange, nor the smoothest treble resolve, but it is the best all around headphone I've ever heard. Weak points are a bit lacking in bass resolve and midrange liquidity; a very slight glare in the treble; and not much image depth. (Also, not a good match for high output impedance tube amps.) Strong points are fantastic overall balance; great dynamics; and terrific vocal and treble realism.

For the first time I can unreservedly recommend a $1000+ headphone. If you've cautiously made the headphone enthusiast approved treck from a Koss Porta Pro to the Sennheiser HD 600/650, and have found your carefully protected wallet stuck there without a sure fire step up, now you have it. Even if it's a financial stretch, the Focal Clear is worth the struggle for an end-game headphone. That's not a recommendation I make lightly.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

..."1more" suggestion for the top 10 list...

Not sure if these dropped in 2017..i seem to recall learning about them from a Jana D show video early in the year...regardless, i just picked up a pair and they are outstanding:

1More Quad Driver In Ear Headphones.

Backstory: Frequent visitors to this site are probably aware of 1more in-ears. Their triple driver in ears dropped a couple years ago and impressed a lot of folks in sound n cost value. Im included in those impressed. The triple driver 1more has pretty much been my go-to in ear for a while. It gives other solid choices such as the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear and Shure 215s a nice run for their money. When i heard they were releasing a Quad Driver, i was very interested but hesitant to purchase as the triples served me fine.
After a glowing review from a fellow headphone enthusiast, i snagged a pair.

The Quad Drivers as with the Triple Driver offer outstanding value and sound for the money. The Quads run a tad under $200 so you'll be dropping more coin than than the very reasonably priced Tripples at just under $100. However i think they amply justify the cost as the build quality is great (metal housing, solid wiring, nice interface, reinforced right angle 3.5mm. They come packaged realllly nicely with a gaggle of extras (case, LOTS of earpads, double connector for airlines, etc). And they sound wonderful. Crisp crisp highs and smooth mids. The lows are there and good but i suppose could be a tad lower. Ive done some quick test runs with: live tunes, instrumental, dance, rock, vocal, etc and they've handled it all wonderfully.

Soooooo...if you are searching for some new in-ears...1more is worth looking into. If budget is tight..the triples are absolutely groovy. If you can bump it up a little...the quads are fabulous.

Peace .n. Happy New Year to Ya Fellow Audio Fans!

Three Toes of Fury.

zobel's picture

is not a headphone.

sciencemajor's picture

The Focal Clear's treble looks like a peaky mess to me. I know many audiophiles like treble that way, but personally I am sure I would hate them.

Ivan Lebedev's picture

Will there be a review on the Bowers & Wilkins PX? I'd love to hear a professional opinion about these headphones.

circlark's picture

>If you've cautiously made the headphone enthusiast approved treck from a Koss Porta Pro to the Sennheiser HD 600/650,

LOL. Don't forget the obligatory pit-stop at the Grado SR60!

omnivarma's picture

you can find latest collection.
msbte question papers

omnivarma's picture
poojaverma's picture

Aadhaar card is the priceless document in India which is mostly used in almost each and every sector government & private sector.
Anyone can get the Aadhaar card form directly from Aadhar card Enrollment center or online.
Aadhaar card
Aadhar Card Status
Aadhaar card Enrollment

maitrishah's picture

The Clear is the same price as HD800S, but simply a much better product. If you like it, it‘s fine for you. But to recommend them in 2018 would be irresponsible in my opinion free itune gift code generator

Malik Shehzad's picture

Hi,Keep it up the good work.!
Thanks for the information you shared, is very useful. Since, its closely related to my work and helped alot to grow.
DU Meter Crack

ramhari's picture

Seems pretty much expensive. But the quality must be amazing. One question though, does this work in bluetooth transmitter for TV.