For those of you looking to get into higher end audio, it can be a bit confusing deciding how to find what you’re looking for. I’m here to help you navigate the murky waters. There are already existing guides out there, and I’ll be using them to complement my own guide.
The hardest part of helping people pick out headphones is convincing them to invest more than $50 to get a good one. They want quality and durability without spending more than $20, and with headphones right now, $50 is table stakes. The only exception is the Koss KSC75 which runs for about $20, but that’s only in the clip-on category.
What you usually end up with is the overpriced el cheapo earbuds. It’s described here in this Gizmodo post.
Gizmodo: The Secret Scam of Cheap Earbuds
The most expensive headphones I’ve seen are the Sennheiser Orpheus, which retailed for ~$13,000, but that’s an outlier. You can get an excellent set for $150, but quality does scale with price. My most expensive headphones retailed for around $650, but I got them used for $360, the Sennheiser HD650. What you want to shoot for is value, and those are the hardest ones to find.
When you start looking, you probably have a specific application in mind: portable earbuds for on-the-go listening, computer games, Skyping, etc. From here, you have to decide which category you fit into. A good read can be found at Lifehacker, with a contribution by the founder of the headphone forums, head-fi.org, Jude Mansilla.
Lifehacker: How to Choose the Perfect Pair of Headphones
That’s a great guide with great recommendations. Since it exists, I won’t try to compete with it or replace it. What I will offer is some resources to help you on your way.
This website has the biggest selection of headphones I’ve seen. I refer to it all the time just for information on different models and companies. They’re legit. They helped move the headphone world forward way back when. They also have meaningful reviews and measurements of their headphones, so definitely the place to start.
Where all the nerds gather. Surely, there are others around, but this is basically the centre of the headphone world. There are sections to discuss all different kinds of headphones, amplifiers, source components (CD players, SACD players, vinyl, etc.). My favourite section is the do-it-yourself (DIY) forum. I got my start as an electrical engineer because of it, so I owe a lot to this forum. Find me there under the username joneeboi.