InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame" Over-Ear Sealed

Over-Ear Sealed Headphones
These headphones encircle the ear and are sealed to isolate you from outside noise. This is a good type of headphone for people looking to do their listening in moderately loud environments where some isolation is needed, and where the comfort of a full-size headphone will permit long listening sessions.

The downside of sealed headphones is that because of the partially or completely sealed acoustic chambers between the ear and driver, and behind the driver, acoustic resonances that color the sound can occur. The sound of these headphones are generally more "closed in" and "uneven" sounding.

Good sealed headphones generally provide less isolation from outside noise than noise-canceling and in-ear headphones, but will usually provide better sound quality than noise-canceling headphones. If you are listening in very loud environments (airplane, subway, factory floor) a noise-canceling or in-ear headphone is likely a better choice.

Mr. Speakers Aeon ($799)
Under 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.

Shure SRH1540 ($499)
A wonderful sealed headphone with an open, spacious sound, complemented with a terrific build quality, smashing good looks, and superb comfort. Designed primarily with audio pros in mind, the headphone comes with spare ear-pads and cable, and appears quite durable. It has no folding features, but does come with a nicely protective hard case for transport and storage.

An important note: while these headphones sound extraordinarily good at low listening levels, they tend to fall apart a bit at higher volumes—bass can get bloated and loose; treble can become a little over-emphatic. Those who want a headphone that will perform more consistently mat want to consider the Focal and NAD headphones below.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Oppo PM-3 ($399)
I don't think I've ever had a headphone come through the lab ticking so many boxes so confidently. Sound quality, styling, comfort, build quality, isolation, and accessorization are all very well executed for this price. The Oppo PM-3 may be the most well rounded headphone offering I've seen to date.

On the other hand, it's a bit like going to a party with the honor roll students—straight A's and across-the-board competence can feel a little boring. A little missing info mid-treble and in the top octave has the PM-3 sounding just a bit laid back and closed in. Fortunately, a near ideal response, in my opinion, between 500Hz and 3kHz, delivers vocals with an organic balance I've rarely heard before. All-in-all, though lacking in that last bit of refinement and air (that's generally reserved for open acoustic headphones), the PM-3 is an extraordinarily competent sealed headphone.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Meze 99 Classics ($309)
The Meze C99 Classics are simply a great headphone!

Styling is elegant and simple, luxurious and jewelry-like. A little over-the-top for my taste, but I recognize this is a tasty headphone. Build quality is very good with lots of cast zinc, steel, and wood. The headphones are fundamentally screwed together and can be disassembled with relative ease for repair. Hard-side clam-shell carry case and accessorization is terrific.

Comfort takes a slight knock for a slightly tight self-adjusting headband (for my head), and for slightly small and stiff ear-pads that tend to put more pressure at the top of my ears than the bottom.

Technically, sound quality is quite good, taking a small knock for slightly loose bass. But sound the quality as heard subjectively blows through all technical assumptions and comes together in a terrifically fun listening experience. Time after time as I compared these cans against others in its category I found them not only superior in balance and natural sound, but also delivering a far more fun listening experience than competitors.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

V-Moda Crossfade M-100 ($310)
WoF_photo_VModa_M100For just about any one I know under the age of 35, the V-Moda M-100 is at the top of my recommendation list. The thump and drive and sparkle are irresistible with any form of contemporary popular music. Whether from an iPhone, computer, or high-end amp, as long as I was playing youthfully exuberant music the V-Moda M-100 flat out rocked. The V-Moda M-100 are a basshead's delight.

Audiophiles looking for faithful reproduction should look elsewhere for a full-sized sealed headphone (Sennheiser Momentum, Logitech UE6000), the M-100 simply not transparent. But there are plenty of audiophiles, both young and old, who want something fun for popular music, and these cans will satisfy that itch. I know I'll definitely be keeping the M-100 in heavy use for a slammin' good time when the mood strikes.

Add to the good time fun sound of the M-100 the fact that you're getting great styling, superb build quality, good isolation from noise, and uniquely useful accessories in an amazingly small package, and you've got yourself a candidate for the headphones with the broadest possible appeal in todays young market.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

1More Triple Driver Over Ear Headphone ($249)
WoF_Photo_1MoreTripleDriverOverEarThe 1More Triple Driver Over-Ear Headphone is a stylish and very well built headphone at this price using quite a bit of metal and quality materials. Ear pads are plush and the headphones quite comfortable, but the earpads are as much on-ear as open-ear. The accessorization is solid including a Kevlar reinforced fabric covered OFC cable; 14" to 3.5mm adapter; and both hard-side clam-shell zipper closure case and fabric storage bag.

Sound is mildly bass emphasized with a fairly neutral midrange and treble response. Mids and treble are fabulously articulate and nuanced; imaging isn't particularly deep but breadth, specificity, and stability are excellent; macro- and micro-dynamics are very good. Bass is moderately emphasized but lacks textural resolve, seems like the bass reflector passive element is smearing things a bit. But it also adds a unique and subtle visceral sense of physical bass impact. I do hear it as a bit flawed but also quite fun.

Yes, these cans will be going up on the Wall of Fame as a really solid choice at the price. I think bass lovers will be particularly pleased; even though the bass is a little flawed the solid level and fun listening experience will win many over. And I can't say enough about the brilliantly nuanced control in the upper-midrange and treble. These headphones can shine without ever getting strident.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 569 ($179)
The 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.

The Sennheiser HD569 is a solid performer delivering value on all fronts. Budget minded audiophiles, social media producers, and audio pros looking for a solid performing affordable sealed headphone won't be disappointed.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Audio Technica ATH-M50x ($179)
This may be the most commonly recommended headphone among headphone audio enthusiasts of all time, now made slightly better sounding, and having removable cables. A terrific value at this price point, the ATH-M50x delivers on all fronts.

Sound quality is quite good, but somewhat uneven. Bass is slighly accentuated, and is very well extended into the lowest octaves. The treble now is slightly more relaxed than previous models and is quite resolving and accurate. Mid-range is slightly withdrawn making these cans sound just slightly hard, but it's audio performance remains head-and-shoulders above other sealed headphones at this price.

Isolation and comfort are good, and build quality and durability are very good. Budding headphone audiophiles, amateur recordists, and audio pros needing a general purpose headphone for non-critical applications will really appreciate the M50x. The Audio Technica ATH-M50 is a very competent performer.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro (~$99)
WoF_Photo_BeyerdynamicDT240ProBeyerdynamic has set its sights on the entry-level pro audio (social media and music production) market with the $99 DT 240 Pro and have done an admirable job balancing durability, light weight, and sound quality. Sound is warm, slightly forward, with a relaxed, if uneven, treble. Bass could be a bit tighter, but overall dynamic punch is good. Imaging is surprisingly wide and deep.

Earcups are a bit too small to be comfortably called an "full-sized, over-ear" headphone, and clamping pressure is slightly strong. While I wouldn't call it comfortable for long listening sessions, it is very secure on the head. Combined with the well designed coiled cable that's less likely to get tangle up with stuff on the desk this makes for a good audio pro working headphone that will stay on you noggin' without worry while you move around.

Overall, the strengths of the DT 240 Pro easily outweigh its weaknesses, and it holds its own against other headphones of its type and price. I heartily recommend it for those taking their first step into mobile audio production; the decent sound balance, small size, and apparent durability will serve well. While the Sennheiser HD 471i sound cleaner, it's a little bass light and not as sturdy. While the Audio Technica ATH-M50x may be more rugged, fold smaller for transport, and more comfortable, the DT 240 Pro sounds and looks a little better.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 471 (~$70)
WoF_photo_Creative_AurvanaLiveDon'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.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 202 ($34)

Budget conscious? Wondering if $20 can get you a worthwhile headphone? The good news is that the Sennheiser HD 202 is not a cheap plastic toy...but rather an inexpensive but well-built plastic tool. It's stylish, fairly comfortable, and, well, ridiculously inexpensive. It's also got a very long cable, which is good if you're using the headphone in a working environment...but not so good if you're using on-the-go—though the included cable take-up winding gizmo makes it a little more tenable.

Sound quality is warm and somewhat disjointed with strong bass, slightly forward mids, and a relaxed but reasonably articulate treble. Though far from perfect, the HD 202's laid-back sound is easily accommodated and never strident or obnoxious. A much better sounding headphone can be had for a bit more than twice the price in the Creative Aurvana Live—well worth it if you're looking for sound quality. But if you're in a working environment, the longer cable and beefier build quality of the HD 202 might be better in the long run.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Monoprice 8323 ($21.59)
WoF_photo_Monoprice_8323I can't imagine how anyone can produce a full-size headphone for $21, much less how they could do so and make one that sounds good as well. But by golly they sure did! If you're looking for a cheap beater headphone that will see duty in a backpack, playroom, or be bashed around in the back of the mini-van, these are your go-to choice.

The one downfall of these headphones is a somewhat uncomfortable fit due to poor padding on the headband. The cable is very long at 10', and is removable from the left earpiece and is terminated at both ends with identical straight 1/8" mini-plugs.

Wall of Fame Full-Size Sealed Retirees

Creative Aurvana Live! ($60)
WoF_photo_Creative_AurvanaLiveThis headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the Sennheiser HD 471,

Every time I put these cans on I'm surprised at how good they sound! Overall the sound quality is very well balanced with a slight warm tilt. Low bass is slightly rolled-off and a bit loose, but the treble is very nicely proportioned and not harsh in the least.

This is a great general purpose headphone for around the home or office, but somewhat poor isolation prevents them from being very useful for listening in loud environments.

While the build quality is good, I would not consider these a durable headphone. If you're looking for headphones for kids and college students where time in a backpack is likely, I'd suggest the less expensive Monoprice 8323 ($21) or more expensive Sony MDR-ZX700.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Mr. Speakers Ether C ($1499)
This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the MrSpeakers Aeon that was found to be equal or superior at a significantly lower price.

This is a great headphone! Build quality, comfort, and styling are outstanding. Sound quality is superb. Tonal neutrality is excellent, as are dynamics, and imaging is particularly good for a sealed headphone. Audio performance is modestly marred by a slightly soft and slightly low in level bass response. There is a small resonant feature at 10kHz that makes the mid-treble slightly swishy sounding. But these flaws are slight and the overall impression is almost overwhelmingly musical.

Time after time I found myself saying, "This is how this track should sound!" Audio pros will be particularly pleased with a headphone you will soon learn to trust. College students, this is the one time I would say eating raman for two months is worth it. Headphone enthusiasts, this is the one sealed headphone to get. Headphone manufacturers, buy one right now and take a good hard look, you've got work to do.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Mr. Speakers Ether C Flow ($1800)
This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the MrSpeakers Aeon that was found to be equal or superior at a significantly lower price.

The MrSpeakers Ether C Flow is a superbly styled and built headphone that is very comfortable to wear. Included cables and case are likewise excellent.

Sound quality is superbly neutral for a sealed headphone, but a small peak at 6-7kHz and a generally unrefined sound prevent it from achieving audiophile quality sound commensurate with its high price. For that I'd suggest the Ether C and a bit of bass boost. Audio pros, however, may find its honest presentation makes it an excellent tool when speakers are not an option. This is a trustworthy, though expensive, headphone.

I like this headphone very much, and give it an InnerFidelity "Wall of Fame" recommendation largely on its excellence as a monitoring headphone for audio pros. For audiophiles it's a tougher call. It's not that I think the Ether C Flow is a poor performer—it's not, it's a very good sealed headphone—it's just that I think audiophile sensibilities are not well served by sealed headphones at this time, and you'd be better served by a much lower cost sealed headphone when you need the isolation, and save the big money for open headphones when you can listen in quiet spaces. If you are intent on an expensive sealed headphone that performs well, I love the Ether C with a bit of bass boost.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 ($249)
Audio Technica ATH-MSR7The ATH-MSR7 is a solidly built with conservative but tasteful styling. They're a little heavy on the head, and clamping pressure is a little high right out of the box, but a bit of bending to the headband and you should be able to achieve a fairly comfortable fit. Still, comfort is good, but not great.

Sound quality is superb, but these headphone do lean somewhat to the bright side. Bass is a bit low in level but quality is very good—these are not for folks who like a lot of bass, however. Upper mid-range/low-treble are a little forward, but from mid-treble up response is just about right in level. Transient response is extraordinary; this headphone is near reference level in terms of an articulate and transparent view into the details of a recording. Highly recommended to audiophiles and audio pros alike with the one caveat that they tend a bit toward the bright side.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

NAD VISO HP50 ($299)
This outstanding headphone was designed with the philosophy that a headphone should sound like good speakers in a good room...and boy does it succeed! This somewhat warm sounding can does deliver slightly emphasized bass, but in so doing doesn't forget to care well for the rest of the music. Mid-range and treble response are very well proportioned, and quite coherent and open sounding for a sealed headphone.

The goodness doesn't stop with the sound quality though, these cans are stylish, comfortable, nicely accessorized, and very importantly, fairly priced. One of the best over-ear, sealed headphones for general purposes; these will be very difficult to best.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Focal Spirit Professional ($349)
The Focal Spirit Pro was knocked off the Wall of Fame with the introduction of the Oppo PM-3, which sounds better and is more roomy around the ear.

This is an absolutely fantastic headphone for audio professionals. Supremely neutral with just a tad of elevated response in the 600Hz to 2kHz region for a bit of excitement and a deep bottomless bass, these cans are ideal for sound engineers. Dynamics are superb, and the music is effortlessly presented as a coherent whole.

Ear-cups on these are slightly small and headband caliper pressure is slightly high, but these will ease a bit with time. None the less, those with large ears or head may want to look elsewhere. Finish is a durable black spackle; comes with both short cable with remote and long coiled cable; includes fabric carry/storage sack.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Focal Spirit Classic ($399)
The Focal Spirit Classic was retired from the WoF with the placement of the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7, as it felt a bit redundant with the Focal Spirit Pro already on the list.

Slightly more relaxed sounding than the Spirit Professional, the Spirit Classic is a headphone that audiophiles will love for long listening sessions. Extraordinarily neutral and wonderfully even sounding, the Classic is a terrific headphone for home and office. Dynamics are superb, and the music is effortlessly presented as a coherent whole.

Ear-cups on these are slightly small and headband caliper pressure is slightly high, but these will ease a bit with time. None the less, those with large ears or head may want to look elsewhere. Finish is a classy metallic bronze; comes with both short cable with remote and long straight cable; includes fabric carry/storage sack.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Audio Technica ATH-M50 ($159)
WoF_photo_AudioTechnica_M50This headphone was replaced on the Wall of Fame by the subsequent model: ATH-M50x

This may be the most commonly recommended headphone among headphone audio enthusiasts. A terrific value at this price point, the ATH-M50 delivers on all fronts.

Sound quality is quite good, but somewhat uneven. Bass is slighly accentuated, and is very well extended into the lowest octaves. This is a good headphone for bassheads. The treble does have a slightly hard edge to it, but it's audio performance remains head-and-shoulders above other sealed headphones at this price.

Isolation and comfort are fair, and build quality and durability are good. Pros and avid enthusiasts would do well to spend the extra to go for the SRH 840 above, but as a good consumer headphone, or general purpose studio can, the Audio Technica ATH-M50 is a competent performer.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sony MDR-1R ($299)
WoF_photo_Sony_MDR-1RThis headphone was displaced by the NAD VISO HP50 and Focal headphones.

While a little over emphatic in the upper-bass and upper-mids, I find at low to normal listening levels these cans sound much better than one would expect from the measurements. Warm and clear, with good imaging, I find them terrifically pleasurable for a mobile headset. Add to that its very good looks and terrific comfort, and you've got a headphone that's bound to please.

A slight warning to those with ears that stick out a lot: the cups are a bit shallow, and you may find some discomfort after a while with ears touching the baffle plate. And those who listen to music loud may be off-put by a bit too much bloom in the bass, and a forward upper treble. But for most folks, this is likely the nicest mobile headset you can find.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser Momentum ($349.95)
WoF_photo_VModa_M100This headphone was retired from the "Wall of Fame" due to the release of the NAD VISO HP50, which is less expensive, more comfortable, with somewhat better sound.

Let me get my one gripe out of the way, these cans are slightly small for circumaural headphones, and folks with larger than average ears may want to test fit a pair before committing to a purchase. Aside from that...

The Momentum is simply one of the best balanced headphone offerings I've ever experienced. They're very good looking, very good sounding, have excellent isolation, are easily driven from portable players, and are supremely comfortable. This is an ideal headphone for home, office, and listening on the move, but its sound is so good that I'll happily recommend it to audio professionals and audiophiles for all but the most demanding applications.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Denon AH-D5000 ($499)
WoF_photo_Denon_AHD5000This headphone is retired due to being discontinued in mid-2012. Denon replacement headphones were not up to snuff, in my opinion.

While the significantly more expensive D7000 ($799) sounds slightly better, I feel the D5000 delivers far more value for money. This is a luscious sounding headphone that delivers audio fidelity that will satisfy audiophile and audio pro alike. Though the bass is slightly loose, and highs slightly bright, these are minor quibbles given the poor performance of most sealed headphones.

The big problem with the Denon AH-D5000 (and D7000 and D2000) is that they don't isolate very well at all, and while the build quality is quite good, they are not a rugged headphone. As a result, I do not recommend these cans for studio musician and portable applications where isolation and durability are likely important. But for home/office use where some isolation is useful, and were very good performance is desired, the D5000 is an excellent headphone.

Read ful InnerFidelity review here.

AKG K550 ($349)
WoF_photo_AKG_K550This headphone was retired due to the introduction of the UE6000, which I feel is a significantly more balanced sounding headphone. The slightly artificial sounding treble in the K550 became quite obvious in comparison.

A great all-around performer! While not quite having the sonic finesse of the Denon sealed cans, the AKG K550 has a very well balance sound across the board. Some will complain they are thin and strident, but I've found that difficulty getting a good fit and seal on the head is the likely culprit. Once fitted to your head properly these deliver very good sound quality, indeed.

The isolation is also very good on these headphones, which are well suited to listening in moderately loud environments. The comfort is excellent, as is the build quality and styling.

For most audio pros, musicians, and audiophiles who are in search of a great all-around sealed headphone, the AKG K550 would be my top recommendation. I love these cans!

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Denon AH-D2000 ($349)
WoF_photo_Denon_AHD2000This headphone is retired due to being discontinued in mid-2012. Denon replacement headphones were not up to snuff, in my opinion.

For a long time this was my top recommendation for audio professionals needing some isolation. While the AKG K550 mentioned above is better as an all-around sealed headphone, the Denon AH-D2000 bests it in terms of clarity in the treble. These headphones are wonderfully resolving and coherent, with a slight tendency to be a tad bright.

Comfort and build quality is excellent, but due to their somewhat fragile design should not be used in rough-and-tumble applications. Isolation is poor, so those listening in louder environments should look elsewhere. But if you're looking for excellent performance with some isolation at this price point, the AH-D2000 is an excellent choice.

Read ful InnerFidelity review here.

Logitech UE6000($199)
WoF_photo_Shure_SRH840This headphone was retired from the Wall of Fame due to the Sennheiser Momentum coming out with a better sounding sealed headphone (the 6000 is a bit lacking in mid-to-upper treble), and the Sony MDR-1R arriving with roughly comparable sound quality, but better looks and ergonomics at the same price. Original copy follows.

With a slightly warm, but very well balanced character, the UE6000 has rapidly become one of my favorite full-size, sealed any price. The styling, build quality, and isolation are excellent. It's also a noise canceling headphone, but the noise canceling is not particularly effective, and makes the headphones sound too bass-heavy and loose, and somewhat withdrawn in the mids. None the less, this feature may come in handy in loud environments where a little extra bass and treble presence may make movies and videos a bit more enjoyable.

I'd also recommend this headphone for audio professionals as the balance is so good, and it seems to be well built. I don't recommend using the noise canceling circuit in pro applications.

The headphones come with a soft carry case and headphone splitter. The cable has a three-button, Apple compatible remote.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Shure SRH840 ($199)
WoF_photo_Shure_SRH840This headphone was retired due to the better sounding UE6000 becoming available at the same price.

With a warm and comfortable sound, good isolation, and tank-like build quality, the Shure SRH840 is a top performer at this price point. Semi-pros, musicians, and audio enthusiasts looking for a headphone that will satisfy in moderately loud environments will love the SRH840.

Recordists should be aware of the slightly warm tilt to the sound of the SRH840 so as not to overly compensate with eq. Treble response is likewise slightly emphatic, giving these cans a slightly "happy," U-shaped listening experience.

While these headphone apear rather large and bulky, they are quite comfortable and appropriate for long listening sessions, though they can get a bit warm.