My Top 5 Headphones Under $500!
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Hey guys, it’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer here with InToit Reviews. Welcome back to the neighborhood.
This is going to be a review about my TOP 5 headphone picks at, or under; 500 dollars. I get asked this question all the time, so I figured I’d give you guys my take on the topic.
So let’s get InToit!
Drum roll please… My top 5 headphones under 500 are, as follows:
Let’s start things off with a non-brainer recommendation, and that is the Koss 95X. I’ve already covered this headphone in an in-depth review that’s up on YouTube right now. Which brings me to another point. Some of the headphones in this review, I have not covered yet in full length reviews (neither here, on the blog, nor there, on the YouTube channel), but I will… in the future.
With that out of the way, what I will say about the 95X, is that this is one of the most affordable electrostats to my knowledge, and, at the same time, it is also one of the best in my opinion. It is definitely one of my personal favorites. It may not be as smooth or refined sounding as some higher end models by STAX, but it is lively, engaging, and extremely detailed.
Out of the lambda style configuration electrostats in current production, which are the ones with the same sort of long, large, rectangular earcup that the Koss 95x has, the 95x is honestly among my top 3 recommendations for this style of electrostatic; with the STAX L300 Limited, and L700 rounding out the group. The 95x is also $500 MRSP, and I know I’m cheating a bit given that, but it has gone on sale more than once for as low as $400.
Also, did I mention it comes with an energizer to get you started in the electrostat game? This is the one headphone in my collection that I go to, to show visitors what headphones can do. It always impresses.
Next up on the list is the E-MU Teak. Like I did, you can get the wired variant for 400, or the wired variant with Bamboo Cups instead for $350. At this point, I am going to have to recommend the Teak cups for this headphone, as most people do, and have done. Also, I have not heard the Bamboo version myself yet… But, the folks over at E-MU have generously sent me a set of Bamboo Cups to review as well.
Future me, will most likely be releasing two blog reviews and two videos for the E-MU’s Teak- one of review presentation for each wood cup configuration. In any case, I am going to put the cart before the horse, and say that the Teaks are the best variant of this particular style of Foster or Fostex headphones. The legendary Tyll agreed with me, and I’ll place a link to his written review below to hold you over until my additional reviews come out.
Next-up is the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, and I stress this, with the HiFi-Heaven mod, not without it. Again, I’ll be making a video about this set in the future. But the mod is super easy, barely an inconvenience, and anyone can do it. In short, what you do is remove the external foam from the outside of the driver, and replace it with a piece of nickel-sized felt. What you are left with in the end is something that sounds closer to the HD 660s’ frequency response. With this modification, I consider this a reference headphone. It is neutral, detailed, accurate, and very well extended on both ends.
I also could have gone with the Sennheiser 6XX. What the HD 6XX has over the 58X is that it sounds better than the Jubilee right out of the box. The 6XX also has greater separation and sparkle compared to the 58x, but the 58x has greater treble extension, bass extension, and is more neutral to my ear if you do the HIFI Heaven mod. I also did not include the 6XX on my list because it is too similar to the next headphone up, which is the Beyerdynamic DT 177X GO.
That’s right, the Beyerdynamic DT 177X GO. I’ve already said it, and I’ll say it again. This is my favorite Beyer, at least as of the date of this video, and I will stress that I have heard Beyer’s entire line up. I want to emphasize, for those that do not understand this, the DT 177X GO is not the DT 1770. Instead, the DT 177X is a bit of a chameleon, and the sound it produces is very amp and pad dependent. But, with Dekoni HIFIMAN Angled Fenestrated Sheepskin Pads, these essentially sound like better, more detailed, closed-backed 6XX’s.
I should note that I have not tested this headphone with the non-fenestrated variant of these pads from Dekoni yet. My 4xx and my non-fenestrated (angled) Dekoni Hifiman pads are currently with Stu, over at Home Studio Basics. I will have to wait for them to be returned, and give you an update in the future if there is a positive outcome from that adjustment. Speaking of Stu, I understand that he has his own top 5 under 5 review out and video coming up soon as well, so make sure to check out his opinion on the matter and consider subscribing to his channel if you haven’t already.
And, although I have already mentioned them, the Hifiman HE4XX is going to round out my top 5. Despite the fact that the build quality can be suspect, I actually prefer the 4XX headband and the headphone’s mostly metal construction to most other Hifiman offerings. I recommend investing in Dekoni Sheepskin pads, for both durability, and to quell the highs a bit. I’d also take the extra money you save from buying this set instead of a higher-end Hifiman, and put it towards investing in the super cheap bravo ocean, as this is a special pairing for this set. The Sundara has pretty great treble, and there seems to be a cult following growing for the HE5se, but for the price and overall presentation, as of right now, I’m sticking with the 4XX based on what I’ve heard to date.
But, before I go, I also wanted to add in an honorable mention in for Argons.
Argons are going to be my last recommendation, and they’re an honorable mention for a reason, and that reason is that you can’t really buy them anymore… You may be saying… “What!? I can go to the Modhouse website right now and order a pair!” And you’d be right, you can… but those are for the MK3 T50rp and T60rp varieties.
Instead of recommending those, I am going to recommend the MK2 variant if you can find them used, or track down a set of MK2 T50RPs. If you can do that, those can still be sent into Modhouse and converted into Mk2 Argons.
I’m not going to say that the other variants are “bad,” because they’re not; but they are not nearly as refined for music as the Mk2’s are in my opinion.
Overall, I would have to say that my order of preference for variants of Argons would be MK2 with lambskin pads, followed by T60RP with suede pads, and then MK3 argons with protein pads.
In terms of the MK3 variants, I consider those as, more or less, “fun” headphones, and recommend them primarily for movie watching, or noncompetitive gaming. In fact, I might consider the MK3 T50RP to be the best variant for movies, so it depends on what you’re after from the headphone, I guess. No matter which variety you select, definitely get them balanced by Modhouse if you can, but I’m going to recommend that you go with Hart Audio Cable’s balanced cable (pictured above) instead of the Periapt cable that Modhouse offers.
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