I just received a text indicating Headphones.com has the OG Focal Clear on sale for $990 today, and I sighed with longing because while I’ve never heard them, the OG Clears are among the most lauded headphones by audiophiles on forums like this and by reviewers.
That got me thinking (always dangerous!): What headphones elevate to consensus greats from reviews, forum feedback or personal use? If this was a headphone all-star team, which ones would be unanimous first-team selections?
I’m talking cans that seemingly EVERYONE loves. Not something like the HD 6XX, which is respected and admired by many but still catches some sh*t due to blunted highs and the “Sennheiser veil.” Not the Focal Elex, which most love but some dislike for its aggressive nature and quality control problems. Not the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed, which I own and love but some people dislike because of rolled-off ends of either end of the sound spectrum.
I’m talking the Kevin Durant’s, Mo Salah’s (for our Euro friends!) or Tom Brady’s of modern cans. Perennial all-pros.
My list, from my Internet travels and personal use:
HiFiMan Edition XS: Just about everybody loves these. I know why: I own them, and they’re terrific.
Sennheiser HE-1: At $59,990, they better be good!
HiFiMan Sundara: You see a scattered complaint about thin bass or tinny highs, but these are regarded by nearly everyone as outstanding for $350.
HiFiMan HE-400se: Like the Sundara, an idle bitch here or there, but everyone loves these as THE definitive entry-level planar.
Focal Clear OG: Revered by just about everyone. Why did Focal screw them up with the MG version?
Dan Clark Audio Stealth: The most lauded closed-back I can think of in the last three or four years, rivaled perhaps only by the Stellia. People love these things.
AKG K361/K371: THE default value choice for entry-level closed backs by damn near everyone.
E-MU Teak: People dig these as an excellent V-shaped bassy can that’s semi-open.
Focal Utopia: I rarely see an ill word spoken or written about these. Good thing, since they’re $4,000!
HiFiMan Susvara: Another super-pricey TOTL can that earns universal praise. Good thing: They’re $6,000.
Audeze LCD-5: Early days, but these TOTL cans are causing Old Faithful-height gushers of praise online.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a few and may update. What are yours? Again, they don’t have to be headphones you’ve heard. This is just more of an interpretation of what are perceived to be the gold standard cans for nearly every headphone enthusiast out there.
This isn’t meant to be a dick-swinging contest or an argument over which brand is better than another. It’s supposed to be fun!