The best Headphones for Your Money, Part Three: Above 10,000

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Spending more than 10k on a pair of cans does seem questionable. But if you like your audio like you do fine dining, then this one’s for you. We’ve put together a list of the headphones that we found above Rs 10,000.

There aren’t that many. What we’ve found is that Chelsey has a mix of models – Sennheisers, AKGs, even a Bose of two rotating in and out of stock. Redline tends to have the AKGs and Sennheisers listed here, and Abans generally has the Bose and the Harman Kardons.  There are other authorized distributors for Sennheisers, but as for stock, we can’t make any promises.

Keep in mind: these aren’t Beats or whatever overpriced brand name touted by the hipster friend next door.  These are real headphones.

 

We start off AKG K121 Studio.AKG K 121

Priced at Rs. 13,500, it features a semi-open dynamic design with an adjustable headband, and can be considered the quintessential set of cans for those who have their own recording studios at home and/or want to enjoy some good FLACs every now and then. The K121 features a wide soundstage with a good level of instrumental separation and is ideal for music such as pop and hip-hop – not so much on the bass front.

If you DO want thumping bass then the AKG K67 Tiesto is worth a listen/look.

Priced at Rs. 14,000, these cans are endorsed by Dutch DJ Tiesto (hence the name). Although priced similar to the K121, the K67 offer an entirely different listening experience, in that they are geared more towards DJs and those with strong bass inclinations.

Having listened to both sets of cans, the difference in sound signatures is clearly identifiable: whereas the K121 has a clearer, wiser soundstage, the K67 offers much more bass, bass that you can actually feel in your ears, and a more closed listening environment due to the structure of the headphones. While they are sturdily build and they do a good job of wrapping around your head and blocking all forms of ambient sound for you to focus on the sound, they do tend to feel a bit tight around the ears and prolonged periods of listening are not recommended.

akg k1714K higher and there’s two with the same price tag, the AKG K171 MKII and AKG K141 MKII.

Although aimed at musicians and recording artists and priced at Rs. 18,000, they offer two very different listening experiences. The K141 offers a semi open design whilst the K171 is based on a closed ear design. Both come with detachable mini XLR to stereo cables and removable ear pads. The detachable cable means that you can replace the cable with a higher quality cable if and when required.

The difference in these two lie in their frequency ranges: the K141 puts the emphasis towards the higher end frequencies of the sound signature whereas the K171 is geared towards handling the bass and low frequency effects.

Ideally before purchasing either of these two, we recommend that you ask yourself what type of music you would be listening to as that would be the deciding factor for either of these cans.

 

Moving up along the list, we find the Sennheiser HD558, priced at Rs. 22,500.

Considered midrange by audiophiles, the HD558 sports an over the ear design and foam padded headband along with a detachable cable. The sound signature of these cans is not colored to any frequency range but is rather neutral. In fact with headphones of these nature and price, that’s pretty much the same story.  The output of the cans depends solely on the input given: if you play an audio file of low quality, then that is exactly what you will hear from these cans – there’s no coloring that’ll make your music sound magically better; that lies in your skill with your equalizer.

The Sennheiser Urbanite and Urbanite XL are also available, priced at Rs. 22,000 and Rs. 26,000 respectively.

sennheiser urbaniteThe Urbanite features an on-ear design whilst the Urbanite XL features an over-ear design. Both of these headphones offer a sound signature ideal for pop, rock and live instrumentals. They tend to be a bit bass heavy but the effect is barely noticeable.

 

The difference lies in the soundstage. The Urbanite’s listening experience mimics you being in the middle of the stage; it’s more closed compared to the Urbanite XL, which offers a wider soundstage akin to having a prime seat in the audience.

 

And up again. Sporting a detachable audio cable and over the ear design is the AKG K271 MKII – priced at Rs. 25,000.

It offers a listening experience similar to that of the Sennheiser HD558: as devoid of artificial bass or highs as you can get. These headphones are aimed at the audio professional and studio recording artist so you basically hear what the artist wants you to hear without any interfering bass lines or tinny trebles.

Then there’s the AKG K167 Tiesto for Rs. 27,000.

It features the same closed back and on ear design as the previous Tiesto, with a slightly larger driver designed to pump out more bass. The drawback is that they need a dedicated amp to be used at its full potential. The soundstage is still closed, giving the listener the feeling of being one with the music, but if you have bigger ears, they tend to be a tad uncomfortable. Especially if worn for a prolonged period of time.

The Harmon Kardon CL is next, available at Abans for Rs 29,000.

harmon kardon clThe CL is called the classic for a reason: it’s very unusual design that’s an instant standout. These have a largely flat sound signature. It also has an inline control for volume and call management supported only for iOS devices (but no other smartphone is supported). Although it looks pleasing to the eye, the over the ear design tended to be slightly uncomfortable if worn over a prolonged period of time.

The Sennheiser Momentum Headphones are located a lot higher up the ladder, in the Rs. 40,000 category.

The Momentum offers an over the ear architecture (although no adjustable headband is included – I’m picky like that). Overall sound quality is well balanced and neutral which is ideal for mixing and recording applications but again prolonged periods of usage is a bit uncomfortable. Build quality is of a very high level, consisting of aluminum and leather. The ear cups can be adjusted by sliding them up and down the headband and it even has a built in microphone (although only supported by Apple devices).slider_stage_image_black

The Focal Spirit One is another expensive proper audiophile headphone priced at 45,000.

It’s available at Redline Technologies and other authorized distributors. Made from a somewhat cheap looking plastic, I found the headphones not so aesthetically pleasing and clunky at worst. The sound on the other hand tells a different story. The whole concept behind the One is to put you in the center of the music you listen to, and as such it gets this done by almost completely sealing off all ambient sound and giving the listener a closed environment.

Of all the headsets on the list, these are the only ones that we’d recommend avoiding. True enough these cans sound really good, but it lacked a bit of clarity when compared to the Sennheiser Momentum or even the AKG K271 MKII – which is almost half the price.

akg tiestoThe AKG K267 Tiesto is the final model in the Tiesto line-up, priced at Rs. 45,000.

These again are similar in design to the K67s with larger drivers. They’re billed as reference DJ headphones, and they do an excellent job; and though you need good equipment to put this dog to good use, you can power them off your smartphone or iPod/iPhone without an issue. Sound’s good – they tend to clear and a tad bass heavy, but not in an overwhelming manner. A major issue we seemed to find in all of Tiesto headphones in this line up was the swivel 3D axis hinges that tend to break if not taken care. The soundstage is a more confined one and being on ear cans, they sit rather snugly on your ear and block off surrounding noise.

 

Last is the Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones.

Available for Rs. 46,000 (note: at Chelseys, not ABans), these cans offer active noise cancelling via a plethora of advanced electronics and tiny microphones located in the ear cup that sense the surrounding and then reduce the ambient noise to enable a truly noiseless listening environment.

They are by nature flat, and aren’t particularly great-sounding in comparison to the above. The cable’s a bit flimsy, and apparently you can only play music with noise cancellation activated – which can be a bit hard to get used to.

In a usual roundup, we’d pick the best. This time, we’re not going to – the range here is phenomenal and most sound excellent. All of the models are currently in stock with the relevant retailer and prices are accurate to the date of publication.

Anything we missed? Any experience with any of these models? We would love to get your feedback.

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