Once you cross over from the mid-range, say a good pair of $500 headphones, there’s pretty much no limit. Spending around $500 for a pair of good headphones is the happy medium. This level headphones look great, feel like air with zero-fatigue and sound pristine. After spending hours evaluating most models I can reveal the best 5. Looking to make an investment in the best headphones money can buy? Let’s start.
When it comes to choosing a pair of over-ear headphones, there is always the contradiction of desires. Connectivity, whether it is wireless or wired, noise-cancellation, weight, compact design, and the best possible sound quality all play a role in choosing the perfect headphones for ourselves.
Of course, this is most often done with a limited budget which makes the choice harder. Here we take a look at a few awesome suggestions, without going overboard with the price.
What to consider
Headphones come in all different forms and sizes these days. To limit our choice a little we are going to focus on over-ear (circumaural) headphone designs. Speaking of the best headphones, comfort, and isolation would likely be some of the main considerations, so the circumaural design would be the way to go.
Connectivity is another feature to pay attention to when choosing your headphones. A wired set could be perfect for indoor use and provide the best performance. On the other hand, a wireless pair of headphones would often the solution to cord issues you have been looking for.
The foldable design is useful if you would be traveling with them often. Durability is a must in such cases.
And a quality sound is a must-have with wireless headphones of such a high class, but it is still a matter of the hearing, so do try your headphones before buying.
1. Editor’s Pick: Bowers & Wilkins PX – award-winning set with incredible sound
The PXs combine incredible sound with adaptable noise cancellation technology, a 22-hour battery life and intuitive controls that respond to your behavior. They are also the first pair of noise-canceling headphones by the respected British company.
Construction & Design
Bowers & Wilkins have made a few different wireless headphones in the past. The PX, however, is the company’s first headphones to feature both Bluetooth and noise canceling. And there are plenty of other reasons to consider them too.
First of all, there is design.
The headphones are available in two color options – space gray and soft gold. As with other Bowers & Wilkins headphones, the PXs have that sleek, sophisticated look, with some metal parts and ballistic nylon on its ear cups. They are a pair of great looking headphones that are no less sturdy too.
The headphones come with a quilted carrying case and a cable for listening in wired mode.
The controls are placed on the right ear cup. Having the middle multifunction button raised above the volume controls lets you operate the headphones easily. Thanks to the built-in sensors, these headphones also feature intuitive controls.
Turning the headphones on is a matter of putting them on, taking them off puts them in standby mode, while lifting an ear cup or hanging them around your neck would pause the playback
The memory foam-padded, elliptical ear cushions adhere magnetically and are easily replaceable. As of now, the replacement pads are available at around $50/pair.
Weighing 336 grams, these headphones are comfortable to wear, but could be a bit too much for wearing over extended periods of time.
Their over-ear design complements the comfort, while the closed-back does so with the active noise canceling.
Bowers & Wilkins have used the same angled drivers as in its flagship P9 Signature which is intended to improve the soundstage of the PX headphones.
The first thing you notice in the PX has a wide soundstage. And it is impressive in comparison with other good noise-canceling alternatives. The sound is open and gives a realistic sense of the music. They are a bass-heavy pair of headphones and this proves perfect for in outdoor usage, but even with the low boost, the PXs are beautifully balanced.
Vocals are very well defined and the bass response is deep, which helps to keep the overall impact and pleasure of listening.
The PXs also feature active noise cancellation with three modes. Flight mode blocks out engine and cabin noises during flights; City mode reduces the noises around but keeps you aware of your surroundings; Office mode limits background noises but keeps you aware of your close surroundings.
At the $400-mark there is hardly anything more to wish for from a pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones. Durable, well designed, with amazing sound and wide soundstage Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones, take a deserved place in our pick for the best headphones under 500 bucks.
2. Beats Solo3 Wireless – Built for Apple enthusiasts and bass-focused music genres
Comes in a variety of colors, the Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones are ideal for Apple users with its W1 Bluetooth chip. They are excellent for anyone into the hip-hop, classical music and dance genre as it’s heavily focused on its bass feature.
Construction and Design
The Beats Solo3 Wireless undoubtedly has the longest battery life for a Bluetooth headphone. You can charge it one time and use the headphone for up to 40 long hours. Throw in the Beats’ Fast Fuel feature – a 3-hour battery life from a 5-minute charge. It’s definitely for users always in a rush or on the go. BeatsX units use a Lightning Cable for charging. However, this particular model still uses the Micro-USB charging cable.
One of its defining features is Apple’s W1 custom Bluetooth chip. It makes it entirely easy to pair this headphone with any Apple device. For iPhone users, the connection is instant. You can easily pair it with a single button. By far, it is the first headphone that utilizes the W1 Bluetooth chip. When you use iCloud and have multiple devices, it offers seamless switching between your Mac and your iPhone or tablet.
Its earphones are exceptionally comfortable that you can wear them for longer periods. Expect a really snug fit even when you are running or doing some chores. The earphones stay securely on your ears. However, the headphones may not be as comfortable. Your head may feel a little heavy after hours of using it. The headband’s underside is not that padded.
In your left earcup are the control panels: controlling playback and pause, navigating song tracks, answering or ending calls. You’ll find a built-in hidden mic too so taking calls or talking to Siri is a lot easier. You don’t need to touch your phone.
This is a very compact headphone. You can fold it to fit in a small case. It’s portable and you can take it anywhere with you.
The Beats Solo3 Wireless headphone offers a clear and crisp sound. When outdoors, the bass does its job in sealing out noises so you can clearly listen to the music.
Its base may be quite strong but it sure isn’t overpowering. You never hear a distorted sound. The only downside is it may not be the best headphone for some music genres.
Classical music and hip-hop are great for these headphones as its focused on the bass’s strengths. Some music may struggle with it. They are not that good for guitar-focused songs.
W1 connectivity for the Beats Solo3 Wireless is a sure winner. However, it may be a bit overpriced as it won’t suit all music tastes. It’s heavily focused on the bass feature which makes this headphone ideal only for certain users. If you like to listen to hip-hop, dance and classical music, this headphone is designed for you. If your priority is aesthetics though and doesn’t mind paying a premium, this is an excellent choice.
3. Sony MDR-RF925RK – big and bulky, but light and comfortable
The Sony MDR-RF925RK Wireless Headphones are awesome for going around your room or even the entire house without any cables to pull. Not only this. You can wear them day and night, as these were created with comfort in mind.
Construction & Design
Although the headphones are big and bulky they are amazingly light at 300 grams, so you can wear them all day long with your pajamas still on and you won’t even notice them. The headphones also feature two types of inputs – phono jacks, stereo mini-jack. This allows you to use more than one source.
Volume and tuning controls are available on the right ear cup which makes them pretty easy to use.
Earpads are also replaceable and can be found as cheap as 10 bucks online.
These headphones are not intended for critical listening. However, they do a great job with gaming and action movies they are booming and the sound is clear and crisp when close to the transmitter. However, going further away from the source would cause interference, noises, and loss of signal and so will additional walls.
Built with comfort in mind, the Sony MDR-RF925RK might be big and bulky, but they are light and so comfortable that you can forget about them as soon as the movie starts. Combined with a battery life of 16 hours, these are a great pair to play games or watch movies at home without being bound to your seat.
4. Sennheiser HD 700 – designed for a truly accurate sound
The Sennheiser HD 700 over-the-ear headphones sound have no harshness or aggression in their sound. The soundstage these headphones deliver is more open and spacious than most audiophile headphones. The balance between low, mid and high frequencies is very smooth and without any exaggerated frequencies.
The HD 700s are a very accurate set of headphones designed for those who want to hear the truly accurate sound.
Construction & Design
The first intention you get when you put them on is that these headphones feel like they weigh almost nothing, although they are almost 300 grams. Their plush earpads are covered with microfiber and allow air circulation which means less heat and sweat.
The comfort level the HD 700s provide is well above the average, even when having the headphones on for prolonged periods of time. The earpads do not pressure the ears and work well for people wearing glasses.
The HD 700’s styling is not surprising for Sennheiser, so you either like it or not. The overall build quality is, of course, top-notch and the earpieces and headband are made of plastic. The drivers are 40mm and are unique to the model.
They are supported by the open-frame earpiece within a tightly controlled, open-air acoustic chamber. The ultrafine stainless-steel mesh grilles are carefully designed to control the air movement behind each driver.
This Sennheiser’s earpieces are free to move horizontally and vertically to assure optimal comfort. The open-back design comes at the price of no sound isolation whatsoever, so these won’t be a top choice if you require for that feature.
The headphones come in a padded storage case along with the 3-meter-long Y cable that connects to the left and right earcups.
The HD 700s have a 150-ohm-rated impedance which means that they aren’t really suitable for mobile devices.
They are not foldable and are not really intended for outdoor use.
The HD 700s perform equally well in all use cases. The resolution of fine details is top tier even amongst high-end headphones. The sound is never harsh or unpleasant in any way.
The HD 700 soundstage is wide-open, so the sound is not confined in any way.
HD 700’s balanced, natural and clear sound is especially complementary to vocals and classical music. Quiet details, room sounds, and ambiance are, as expected, amazingly accurate.
At around 500 dollars the Sennheiser HD 700 headphones provide extraordinary sound, build quality and comfort. Their exceptional accuracy, liveliness, and clarity can satisfy any classical music audiophile.
5. Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling – highly versatile headphone that promises superior sound quality and other smart features
The Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling headphones are more powerful with its ability to block out any external sounds such as air conditioning units, moving vehicles and any unwanted background noises. It features a superior processor and advanced noise-canceling technology that will give you better sound quality all the time.
Construction & Design
Ideal for everyday use, this headset is easy to carry as it’s extremely lightweight. It features flexible headband and earpads that are comfortable, making it excellent for long-term use. The Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling is ideal for travelers with its audio cable and airplane adapter included in the package. The ergonomic design promises utmost listening comfort whether on a bus or on a flight. A hard case enhances its portability.
It is easy to store with its foldable design. You can carry it anywhere with you — on the plane, on the bus or while running. The headband and earpads are comfortable to wear.
Compatible with Alexa, you can use it completely hands-free. With its highly responsive controls, playlist manipulation has never been easier. You can easily make calls or change your music with easy swipe gestures and touch controls.
Another feature is its long battery life. You can use the Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling for up to 30 hours with just one charge. You only need to charge for 10 minutes and you’re good for about 5 hours of listening time.
The Adaptive Sound Control automatically adjusts sound settings as it detects whether you are walking or traveling. Its Quick Attention feature easily lets you control the volume without removing your headphones.
The Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling is equipped with multiple microphones, a feature that most headphones lack. Whether you want to use it totally hands-free or not, the multiple mics contribute to excellent sound quality: crisp, clear and accurate. While the microphones are not of the highest quality, it’s good with calls and does its job canceling noises.
When you are listening to loud music, the Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling sound leakage which is at moderate volume shouldn’t bother anyone. You can listen to loud music every time and no one will ever know. Rest assured, the people around you will not be disturbed. Also, the powerful and deep bass makes it ideal for listening to bass-heavy music.
The powerful processor of the Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling contributes to its more powerful noise-canceling feature. Even at high altitudes, listening to music is never compromised. By far, it’s one of the best noise-canceling headphones in the market today.
6. Bose QuietComfort 15 – designed with traveling in mind
Here comes another legend of sound. Bose used the QuietComfort 2s design on the QuietComfort 15s and just improved them on the inside, and more effective noise-canceling circuitry and improving their sound quality are just the beginning of it.
Construction & Design
The QuietComfort 15s use the familiar over-the-ear design with swiveling earcups that fold flat to fit in the included case. Even the case was redesigned so it would be easier to use at the price of a little space. As these were designed with traveling in mind, Bose also includes an airline adapter.
As with other Bose noise-canceling headphones, you have to engage the noise-canceling to listen to music, and when the battery dies, so does the music.
However, battery life is pretty good, so this should be no major issue. Rated at 35 hours per single AAA battery, Bose makes an impression. The battery is in the right ear cup and can be switched with a standing art AAA rechargeable battery or you can stick to alkalines.
The headphones can become a bit hot inside at times, although they provide fairly good air circulation for over-ear headphones.
The 3.5-millimeter cord is detachable too.
There is no need to engage the noise-canceling to feel the earcups’ soft cushions sealing off your ears from the noisy surrounding. The QuietComfort 15s now have noise-canceling microphones both on the inside and the outside, which aims to increase their effectiveness. Flipping on noise cancellation counteracts environmental sounds and dampens noise even further.
The sound is definitely smoother and more balanced than in its predecessors. Low frequencies on the QuietComfort 15s are tighter and packs more punch. The level of detail is excellent.
These are closed-back headphones, so the soundstage is a bit narrower than you would get from open-backs. Nonetheless, these are definitely amongst the best sounding noise-canceling headphones you can buy.
Bose QuietComfort 15 is a good step up from their predecessors. Delivering improved sound quality and supreme noise cancelation we can, without a doubt, say that these are a far better deal than both their predecessors, the QuietComfort2, and the more expensive QuietComfort3.
7. Beats Pro Wired – bass-heavy in a high-quality leather
Construction & Design
The Beats Pro Over-Ear Headphones are big and heavy headphones, weighing 400g. In comparison, the Beats Studio 2 weighs only 260g. The build quality, as noted, is extremely solid. The headphones are made of aluminum gunmetal designed to withstand the extremes of living on the road.
When it comes to design, these giants are certainly eye-catching. Still, these are heavy and can sometimes slide off a bit when you are headbanging. The padded headband is covered with a high-quality leather-like material over the solid metal frame.
The full-size cans are quite comfortable in the ear. Since the Beats Pro Over-Ear Headphones were designed for studio and DJ use, they offer rotatable cups, allowing one-ear listening. The input/output ports are located on both cups, so you can choose a side you want to wire. The ear cushions are removable and washable, too.
The cord also speaks of quality. The thick, rubber cord locks securely in place in the desired ear cup. It is partially coiled for a little more reach.
The Beats Pro Headphones have no internal battery, so it is possible that some devices might not have enough power to get them going. Most devices, however, would have no problem.
A booming bass is what the Beats headphones are famous for and the Beats Pro over-ear professional headphones are no exception. The bass is really deep and clear. These headphones are so bass-heavy that when you listen to high volumes the bass starts to dominate the rest of the sound range.
At lower volumes the mids are clear and the high range – crisp and bigger than you would expect from high-end audiophile headphones in the class.
As expected, the Beats Pro are suitable mainly for hip-hop and other bass-heavy styles of music. The pros aren’t really intended for classical music and rock and roll would require you to tweak the EQ settings.
The Beats Pro over-the-ear professional headphones offer a True noise reduction. This practically means the isolation is passive and does not depend on any electronics or power source and they are quite effective in external noise isolation. Even in demanding environments, the Beats provide great isolation while still giving you a good idea of your surroundings.
Without a doubt, the Beats Pro over-ears are a beast. With Beats Pro Wired superb and heavy build, these headphones are indestructible.
The heavyweight might be a deal-breaker for some, as there are cheaper and lighter options that sound no worse. However, alternatives would likely lack the style and durability of the Beats Pro.
8. Shure SRH1540 – built with comfort and good sound quality in mind
Although pricey, the Shure SRH1540 is excellent for users who prefer a supremely comfortable headphone. This is ideal for studio recording and for die-hard audio aficionados.
Construction & Design
Shure SRH1540 are sturdy, over-ear and wired headphones that are ideal for music professionals and serious audio enthusiasts. Albeit made with mostly metal parts, this headphone is incredibly lightweight.
The headphones’ ear cups make it a sure winner. It feels luxurious and extremely comfortable. Whether you are using it for an hour or several hours, it will stay comfortable and secure every time. Because it’s breathable and spacious, the headphone is ideal for almost any user.
You will love the soft ear pads that feel like soft pillows on your head. There are no ear sweats or heat built-up even after using it for several hours.
This headphone is ideal for use in the studio as it doesn’t feel tight on the head at all. They may look bulky but they provide utmost comfort.
The Shure SRH1540 isn’t portable yet it comes with a hard case for secure storage. It also includes an adapter and extra earpads in the package.
Unlike other headphones, the Shure SRH1540 does not include modern features such as noise-canceling technology. However, they do provide great sound quality. It’s ideal for most music genres.
If you are using a headphone in a studio, this is a perfect choice. It’s ideal for mixing sounds and recording tracks in a professional studio.
The sealed ear cups are excellent for making music. It blocks out background noises that will interfere with the recording.
The Shure SRH1540 sound quality is exceptionally dynamic. Bass is potent and deep and yet never emphasized. The treble is also never harsh. It features good instrument separation which makes it ideal for almost all music genres.
Shure SRH1540 is extremely durable and offers unparalleled comfort. While no modern features, it is an excellent choice for serious music lovers. Price-wise, this headphone is a little expensive on the side. With its superior comfort and durability, the Shure SRH1540 surely will last several years. If you are into sound mixing and work in a studio, this is an excellent choice for you.
Verdict – Best Headphones Under 500$
So, this is our latest selection of the best headphones under $500. We have once again covered as much ground as possible. Wireless or wired, with superior isolation or wide-open soundstage, with booming low frequencies or accurate, balanced clear sound it is up to you. These are all top-notch headphones, so you should definitely give them a try.
Without further ado and with no doubts on the matter, our number one nominee is the Bowers and Wilkins PX.
These quality headphones have it all – incredible sound with adaptable noise cancellation, 22-hour battery life, and intuitive controls that respond to your behavior.
Although this is the company’s first pair of headphones to buy featuring Bluetooth and noise-canceling, they certainly make a statement.
The sensor-based controls are pretty cool too and provide additional ease of usage. Turning your headphones on is a matter of putting them on your head and by taking them off you put them in standby mode. Lifting an ear cup or hanging the headphones around your neck would pause your music
For those of you who consider styling a priority, these come in two different color schemes and the design is outstanding.
Sound-wise, the Bowers and Wilkins PX doesn’t disappoint either. The soundstage is really wide and open while maintaining a great level of detail in your sonic experience.