Planar magnetic headphones and their benefits are well known amongst the audiophile community, however not so much by the casual observer. Planar headphones lie somewhere between dynamic driver headphones (e.g., Sennheiser HD800) and Electrostatic headphones (e.g., Kingsound KS-H1, Stax, etc.).
They use an ultra fast-moving and super thin diaphragm set between two magnets. That means you can step over some of the limitations imposed on traditional dynamic driver headphones. As with any technology, Planar headphones also have their pros and cons, it is up to you to decide which of these headphones best fits your own needs.
Some factors like price, tuning preference, and usage scenarios are different for everyone. We just can’t give one clear winner but there are lots of exciting options you can see listed down below. As always feel free to leave a message in the comment section if you want any more in-depth thoughts on specific setups or our opinions of headphones not included this year. We review a lot of headphones and are happy to share our thoughts. For now, let’s keep it as simple as possible.
I am sure you are here because you know what you want and are ready to buy. Thanks to this technology’s increased popularity over the past few years, we now find ourselves spoilt for choice. Demand for Planars has risen significantly, and companies have introduced several fantastic new models for all budgets. This is our rundown of the best Planar Magnetic headphones on the market right now in no particular order.
If you are looking for more than audiophile headphone recommendations such as dynamic driver and electrostatic headphones then check our huge list of the best high resolution headphones.
Comparison Table of the Best Planar Heaphones 2021
Audeze LCD-5 – The Best Sounding Planar Headphone for 2021
The LCD-5 is what many people consider to be the pinnacle of Planar Magnetic design. One that many an audiophile will lust over but only a few will ever own.
The LCD-5 is an extremely luxurious headphone swathed in wood, metal, carbon fiber, and leather. Fit, finish, and packaging are all cohesive and top draw so this is squarely a luxury product. Despite using new materials we love that Audeze has stayed true to their design heritage and this certainly has that much loved Audeze DNA in the aesthetic design,
The LCD-5 has all of the latest technologies and this is one headphone that even if you don’t have the funds to buy (It costs around $5000 in the US market) you should definitely go out your way to try them just for the experience alone.
During my time testing the LCD-5 my jaw hit the floor every few seconds. The immersive and engaging sound makes you want to through your entire library to see how the sound. Track after track I was having more and more fun and there wasn’t a genre I found that didn’t work well. They have a wide natural soundstage and incredible detail they might be expensive but if you are looking for real endgame level headphones these can definitely be it.
Hifiman HE-1000SE – Luxury Planar headphones
Hifiman’s first appearance on this list comes in the way of the companies, high-end HE1000SE model. We recently reviewed it and were extremely impressed at the progression the company has made in recent years. Hifiman is one of the old school audiophile companies and has been around for years fine-tuning their products.
The HE-1000SE has lovely crisp and detailed mids and surprisingly punchy and articulate bass. It’s not reference sounding it’s natural-sounding and that’s what makes it so fun to listen to. It’s a sit back in a leather chair with a whiskey in hand kind of experience. Soundstage is amazing but it really is all about the amount of transparency and detail retrieval that their newly designed driver can produce.
Hifiman, of course, has a long history of making great audiophile headphones at affordable prices, and the HE1000SE are certainly not cheap but recognizing the threat from Audeze’s recent steps forward they have really pushed the boat out in terms of advances to their own high-resolution headphones this year.
Audeze LCD-X Closed Back
Audeze makes its second appearance on this top 10 list with its beautiful-looking LCD-2 open-back headphones.
The LCD-X is a step away from the dated and niche design of the traditional LCD series and they modernize the brand to keep it competitive in an ever-evolving market space.
The LCD-X is a great-sounding headphone that brings versatility through noise isolation properties. Considered as a mid-priced offering in the companies lineup this year they will go head to head with Ananda. Build quality is on point with the use of metal and wood throughout giving a touch of class but I had to not how comfortable they were with those plush earpads and headband.
Big bass, detailed mids, and highs are presented with lots of detail and a clear airy sound. It’s a more energetic sound than a neutral reference headphone making it very fun for listening to pop and electronic music without losing any punch.
Monolith M1070 – Great Value For Money Planar Headphones
The Monolith headphones have gained a lot of support from budget audiophiles unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on expensive planar magnetic headphones. Monoprice has always offered great value to consumers with a very little compromise on sound quality.
For the money, they are virtually unmatched and we often recommend them over similarly priced headphones from the likes of Hifiman and Thieaudio.
The M1070 has an amazing build quality that rivals many headphones over $1000 with metal headbands, sleek stealth design, and fantastic comfortable pads. It looks the part just as much as it sounds it
They use a massive 106mm planar driver that delivers an airy and detailed sound that will take your listening to another level. Certainly, if you haven’t tried planar headphones before this is sure to be a revelation.
Detachable cables and readily available plus solid aftermarket support complete what is one of the best value headphones on the market today.
Timeless 7hZ – The Best Planar Magnetic Earbuds
The Tin Hifi P1 was voted our earphone of the year for 2019 and 2021. Never before had we seen a planar magnetic earphone implemented so well. This year we are changing it up and the best model is the newly released 7Hz Timeless.
Planar technology was once thought to be impossible to fit into and in-ear housing but what has been achieved over the past few years is nothing short of amazing. The refinement and detail retrieval they produce is unmatched at this price point and it’s a big win for budget audiophiles.
Unreal resolution and detail retrieval that rivals IEM’s many times its price and a three-dimensional sound presentation that made listening sessions a joy.
They are power-hungry though and require a good source and high-quality lossless files to shine but for the price, they are, to this day, unmatched.
Hifiman has absolutely smashed it out of the park when it came to the creation of the Edition Ananda headphone. This is a seriously popular headphone this year thanks to its sleek styling and engaging tuning.
It is one of their entry/mid-priced headphones but features many technologies you find in their more expensive models.
Detail retrieval is absurd and the soundstage is immense and almost speaker-like. Everything sounds tight and in control and there wasn’t a genre that Ananda couldn’t excel at.
The design is another strong point. Where Hifiman headphones of the past have looked somewhat industrial and blocky the Ananda is gorgeous. Clean elegant lines and top-of-the-range materials combine to make for what is, in my mind at least, the best-looking headphone on the market today.
Sigva P-II – We came a long way!
The SIgva P-ii is the second reason I no longer recommend budget Hifiman or Audeze models to my readers.
The P-II has an RRP of under $400 and they smash a lot of the competition at higher prices due to their combination of insanely detailed sound, forward-thinking design, and smart design choices.
Using a 97mm driver they produce some of the best sounds we heard for the money with natural tones, warm and engaging yet not lacking in detail. They are a headphone for people who just like to sit back relax and drink in the experience of listening to good music on good equipment.
Fostex t50rp – Best Audiophile Headphones for Modding
If you want the ultimate bang for buck planar headphone and you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and doing a bit of work then the Fostex RP line of headphones are just what the doctor ordered.
The 40 50 RP and 60 are the ones you want to play around with and it’s a very fun experience learning to create the sound you want.
With a little bit of help from other modders over on the Head-fi forums and various youtube tutorials, you can turn these headphones into giant slayers.
The possibilities seem endless with everything from sound tweaks to comfort mods being created.
The best part about modding a set of Fostex is that you can customize the tuning to your own preference.
Hifiman HE400se – Best Cheap Planar Headphone for Budget Audiophiles
Hifiman Completely shook up the world of the best budget audiophile headphones when they dropped the highly regarded HE400SE planars. This headphone came with an RRP of well under $200 yet managed to beat a lot of headphones that were double the price on pure sound quality.
Build quality is also great with the use of simple design they managed to keep the costs down but the materials they choose to use made for a comfortable and very robust feeling headphone.
The sound is detailed as you would expect but it’s the musicality and speed that you will notice first. Then there is the bass which is done well delivering a big impact in the sub response whilst still being fast enough to provide texture. Mids are smooth as are the highs which overall make it very easy to listen to headphones out of the box.
Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2
Dan Clark is a headphone guru at this point and his company Dan Clark Audio grew from tinkering and modifying other brands’ headphones before moving to create his own line. He is one of the most respected makers of audiophile headphones and the Aeon 2 represents their best value for money offering.
Yes, Dan Clark has some outrageously expensive headphones but this closed-back design is one of his best and completely unrivaled at its price point. The design is striking and they look unlike anything on the market with their carbon closed cups and angular shapes. It’s not done for styling as they are very comfortable headphones and surprisingly lightweight.
The sound was thinner than I expected, more reference grade and linear in its tuning. The quality is there with detail being upfront and in your face at all times. We also liked how responsive it was when switched to use with tube amps. This combination gave a more natural presentation.
Hifiman continue to be one of the biggest innovators in the open back headphone market. The Arya are a premium audiophile headphones packed full of the latest technology.
To create an immersive listening experience Hifiman created something called a stealth magnet which causes less disruption to the sound waves coming from the diaphragm. The Diaphragm is also something special as they implement the nanometer thickness film they use on their flagship headphones. The result of the sound is outstanding transparency and detail.
Another thing we really like is the styling and comfort. Easily one of the best-looking headphones we tested this year and the innovative use of materials also means they are lightweight and breathable.
Dan Clark Audio Stealth
Another mind-bogglingly expensive headphone is the Dan Clark Stealth. It is the most pricey closed-back planar we have ever tested but and it’s as close as you can get to an open-back design sound in this form factor.
They have the wow factor for sure with futuristic design language and state-of-the-art materials. Carbon fiber for the earcups and thin wire for the headband keeps the weight down and when you combine with the angular earcups covered in memory foam and soft leather these are all-day comfortable headphone.
Inside you find the largest and most advanced planar magnetic driver Dan has ever produced alongside something they call acoustic tuning metamaterial. The sound is incredible, smooth, and rich tones with bass that hits just right. Vocals sound incredible whether it is male or female singers and the soundstage is massive.
Strangely with a recommended retail price of $6000 the Susvara is still not the most expensive headphone in Hifimans lineup. That honor goes to the Shangri-La headphone system that currently sits around $50,000, seriously.
The Susvara can be considered the realistic flagship option that people with deep wallets will be interested in and while it’s a work of art and sounds great I feel like some of the other options on the list sound just as good for less money.