It’s just over 12 months since we looked at luxury headphones in a Group Test, but the market has grown so rapidly in the past year that we felt it was time to revisit this increasingly popular sector once again to compare six of the most significant home-use designs that are grabbing the headlines today.

The rise of the once humble headphone has been well documented in these pages, and has been fuelled partly by a passion for music on the move and fashionistas wearing trendsetting cans. But there are several other reasons closer to home for the expanding headphone market, that has seen it reach audio fans who are turning to a pair of quality ear speakers as their transducer of choice.

 

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need headphones for home listening at all. We’d all have sufficient space, tolerant neighbours and fellow household members that share our musical tastes and passion for listening rather than watching. Ask any music fan, and you’ll find that this hi-fi utopia is a pipe dream in the majority of households, and many find themselves turning increasingly to a pair of headphones for a chunk
of quality listening time.

The six models here offer larger drivers, along with comfortable earpads and weight-reducing headbands to enable audio fans to luxuriate in a truly personal listening session at home. To find out which of these six big-name brand home headphones sooths my ears, read on.

ON TEST
AudioQuest
NightHawk
£499
This semi-open headphone employs innovative tech including ‘liquid wood’ earcups made from plant fibres.

Audio-Technica
ATH-W1000Z
£599
This closed-back model has 53mm drivers inside teak wood enclosures and the brand’s trademark floating headband.

Fostex
TH500RP
£529
Employing technology usually found in its pro models and luxury materials for comfort, these cans look set to win admirers at home.

Grado
SR325e
£300
Its looks are likely to divide opinion, but Grado’s on-ear open-back design has plenty of fans, and looks set to make the grade.   

Oppo
PM-2
£699
Oppo has taken the world by storm with its Personal Audio range, but will this mid-range planar magnetic model continue the trend?

Sony
MDR-Z7
£549
Promising the best in sound and comfort, the MDR-Z7 looks the part for luxurious home listening, but how does it compare?

Read the full Group Test in issue 402