Best Headphones Under $500 in 2023

by Alex.   Last Updated On January 3rd, 2023.
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Headphones can come in a variety of styles, sizes, and prices. Finding the best headphones for your needs while staying within your budget can potentially be a difficult task. We have taken the struggle out of searching for the right headphones by weeding through the masses to pinpoint the highest amount of pros versus cons when it comes to quality, construction, and price.

Below we have narrowed down dozens of highly rated headphones, as well as the ones considered the best headphones under $500 to what we feel are the best of the best in that category. Whether you are looking for headphones for gaming or watching movies with a cinematic experience, or you are an audiophile or studio professional searching for the highest quality audio reproduction, we have it covered in the list below.

Table of Contents

Comparison of the Best Headphones Under $500

Best Overall Headphones Under $500See On Amazon
photo of the Meze 99 ClassicsMeze
99 Classics
Best Premium Headphones Under $500See On Amazon
photo of the Shure SRH1540Shure
Best Value Headphones Under $500See On Amazon
photo of the HIFIMAN Sundara 2020HIFIMAN
Sundara 2020
Also Recommended Headphones Under $500See On Amazon
photo of the Sony WH-1000XM4 WirelessSony
WH-1000XM4 Wireless
Best Budget Headphones Under $500See On Amazon
photo of the Bose 700 Headphones WirelessBose
700 Headphones Wireless

Reviews of the Best Headphones Under $500

Bold retro style headphones with wood finish provide a stylish look while also reproducing excellent sound with punch.

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The Meze 99 Classics are just what they sound like; a classic retro style headphone with some amazing accents to really make them stand out from their peers. The exterior walnut finish brings a unique style to the coloration of the ear cups, while the steel spring-style headband helps support the weight of the headset on your head.

When using these headphones you will notice a deep and punchy bass sound, with well balanced mids and crystal clear highs across the frequency response. From vocals to instrumentals, to jazz and fast paced music, you will hear every tone and distinction between instruments to give an enjoyable audio experience without dealing with flat tones or distortion.

The sound isolation is excellent which makes these wired headphones able to be used when recording live audio or instrumentals in a studio setting. You won’t notice feedback feeding into your microphone regardless of the recording software. Additionally, these excellent headphones can be plugged into a variety of devices including professional equipment, external amps, desktop computers, and soundboards.

What We Like

Stylish retro look that will turn heads

Abundance of connection options

Excellent balance of all sound tones

Know Before Buying

High levels of sound isolation

Can be used in a studio setting

Heavier headset may take some getting used to

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Bold and impressive looking headset that delivers a punchy and lively audio experience for audiophiles and casual listeners alike.

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Delivering a powerful sound and impressive looks, Shure left nothing to the imagination with these headphones. They look big and bold, but are lightweight and comfortable when worn for long periods of time. They are also extremely durable, with the exterior of the headset being made from carbon fiber and padded with highly plush foam inserts in the ear covers and headband.

For sound quality, they are hard to beat with some of the best bass tones in consumer headphones on the market today. The massive 40 mm drivers are made from neodymium magnets and offer a stunning acoustic performance and vast soundstage. You’ll hear crystal clear and well extended high tones and deep warm bass while the mid tones are balanced and welcoming.

Designed as closed back headphones, you won’t get a lot of noise intrusion thanks to the over-the-ear design. This also makes these headphones suitable for recording as the audio playing through the ear covers won’t leak out and be caught with your microphones. For studio professionals, live musicians, podcasters, and other projects that require detailed sound as well as microphone work, the SRH1540 is a great choice.

What We Like

Massive 40 mm neodymium drivers

High quality sound for audiophiles

Great choice for studio recording sessions

Know Before Buying

Large ear covers for your entire ear

Bold size but extremely lightweight feel

Can be connected to a variety of devices

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Sleek and stylish looks with a well balanced sound that improves over an initial break in period in these critical listening headphones.

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Created with a diaphragm that is extremely thin, and in fact is 80% smaller than previous versions, the Sundara delivers an outstanding audio experience to even the most discerning audiophiles. The crisp and clear sound reproduction includes a fantastic mid and high tone experience while the bass resonates exceptionally well. The sound will seem to improve over time as well, with a break in period needed for the full potential of these headphones.

For size and style, they are impressive on both accounts.The large and bold ear covers are flat but stylish, hugging your head tightly yet comfortable enough for long term wear. The thick foam cushion helps prevent ear fatigue and pressure pain whether you are wearing them for casual listening or professional studio projects.

Construction is highly durable with the headband being metal, and the exterior being carbon fiber in a matte black finish. The padding and covering are highly durable making these headphones a perfect option for years of daily use. If you are rough on headphones, the Sundara can stand up to the abuse without breaking down or falling apart.

What We Like

Bold design yet slim construction on the ear covers

Extremely durable carbon fiber and metal exterior

Highly memorable audio after break-in period

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Includes a 3.5 mm connection for smaller devices

Tonal reproduction warms up over time

Extremely thin and flexible diaphragm

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From one of the top names in the industry, the WH-1000XM4 delivers advanced sound for discerning listeners.

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It’s not uncommon to see this wireless model from Sony on a variety of lists for the best audiophile headphones, due in part to the impressive sound quality these noise cancellation headphones can deliver. While these headphones are nothing amazing to look at, they deliver great sound that is almost second to none. Created with large 40 mm drivers in each ear, the diaphragms are made from liquid crystal polymers to cover the audio quality details in a massive frequency range.

They aren’t just good at reproducing your favorite music though. You also get a variety of features many other over-ear headphones can’t offer including adaptive listening for the noise cancellation and audio pausing. If you need to hear your surroundings, such as when commuting or speaking with someone in the same room, these noise cancellation headphones can automatically adjust the playback to better suit your current situation.

For battery life, you will be getting upwards of 30 hours on a single charge which can potentially make these the best wireless headphones for gamers and studio professionals. With just a short 10 minute power-charge, you can get a full 5 hours of usable time as well making these headphones great for using at short notice. In order to customize the sound and battery usage, these headphones include a Sony app they can be paired with on Android or iOS giving you a variety of ways to customize how these headphones sound and work.

What We Like

Adaptive listening technology

Extremely robust 30 hours battery life

High quality and great sound for audiophiles

Know Before Buying

Extremely advanced noise canceling technology

Playback will pause when headphones are removed

Frequency range of 4 Hz to 40 kHz

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Exceptionally sleek and stylish critical listening headphones that are durable with a rich tonal value, well balanced audio, and powerful noise cancellation.

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Made by one of the top names in the speaker and headphone industry, these wireless headphones not only sound great, but look amazing too. The sleek exterior is smooth and made with a combination of matte and high gloss materials to give them an impressive and eye-catching look. The headband is highly durable and made from metal, but overall the entire headset is very lightweight and comfortable.

When it comes to sound quality, it’s hard to do any better than the rich and expansive audio these wireless headphones deliver. Every detail is crisp and clear, with a bass that is full, deep, and rumbling to give you a balanced and enjoyable audio experience. In addition, you’ll get 11 levels of noise cancellation technology to help enhance the audio output no matter what your current location is.

These wireless headphones also pair well with a variety of AI and personal assistants including Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. The side of the ear covers have touch buttons that make it easy for you to access the AI programs you want on the fly. Phone calls and other voice activation programs can also be integrated smoothly with the Bose 700 wireless headphones.

What We Like

Battery life of up to 20 hours on a single charge

Sleek and lightweight construction

Perfect for use with voice assistant programs

Know Before Buying

Headband is metal and not easy to transport

Headphones can be bulky when commuting

Exceptional sound isolation

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How to Choose the Best Headphones Under $500

Battery Life

For wireless headphones, battery life is a major consideration and could mean the difference in an enjoyable experience or a miserable one. Over the years, the batteries in wireless headphones have gotten smaller and more powerful, with some wireless headphones lasting up to 60 hours between charges.

The more modest and average amount of battery life is around 30 hours, but this time can also be shortened depending on the features the headphones have. Active noise cancelling technology can drain a battery quicker than headphones that do not have it, and other extra features such as RGB lighting can also reduce the overall battery life.

Even with extra features, long listening sessions are possible with wireless technology and many professional musicians prefer wireless headphones or headphones with a detachable audio cable in order to prevent the amount of unwanted noise that comes from a cable brushing up against an instrument during recording sessions.

Comfort Level

If you will be wearing your headphones on a daily basis, especially for several hours at a time, comfort levels are highly important. One of the best ways to ensure you will have an enjoyable time is to take a closer look at the padding on the headband as well as both ear cups.

A variety of materials can be used for the cushioning, and while both low and high density foam is common, memory foam and gel foam are also popular. The covering can be an important consideration too. Vinyl is a popular choice, but can become hot over long periods of wear. The same can be said for genuine leather or suede, as well as some velour. Microfiber is usually a cooler alternative, but may not look as luxurious as previous choices.

When considering the comfort levels, don’t just look at the ear covers. Also consider the headband as well as the overall weight of the headphones. Heavier headphones can potentially become much more uncomfortable the longer you wear them. While they look impressive, and can make a bold statement, they can also cause pressure pain and fatigue in your ears and at the top of your scalp.

Design Quality

The design of the headphones can be important to some, and a moot point to others. Design usually means the overall shape and silhouette of the headphones. Some are large, bold, and very impressive, while others are much smaller, more sleek, and somewhat discreet.

For listeners that love big and bold, look for retro style headphones. These commonly have a large and rounded pair of ear covers with a thick and adjustable headband. For anyone that is looking for a more discreet option, look for sleek, modern, and ultralight options.

Different designs can also include various accents to make the headphones stand out. Chrome plating, logo design, and other visual elements add nothing to the overall sound of the headphones, but are simply there for aesthetics of the wearer and those around them.

Sound Quality

Arguably the most important part of looking for a new pair of headphones, sound quality is a vital consideration regardless of your intended purposes. From casual listeners to the most sought-after studio professionals and recording artists, every single person wants to be able to hear their audio clearly and accurately.

Different brands of headphones can have different qualities of sound. Some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser, are known for creating headphones that offer impressive and memorable sound experiences.

Lesser known brands can also provide outstanding audio such as Shure and Audio-Technica. While these two may not be as well known as the others mentioned, they can still hold their own when it comes to creating the most immersive and pleasing listening experiences for music and movies.

Connection Options

A majority of headphones will be wireless, which means you will connect to your devices via Bluetooth. In today’s market, Bluetooth headphones are becoming much more popular, especially as battery advances are made and battery life is extended.

Other common connection options include USB and USB Mini which are accepted on a variety of common devices such as laptops, netbooks, desktop computers, and a variety of smaller sound recording and MIDI devices.

For purists, 6 mm and 3.5 mm headphone jacks are the preferred choice. Adapters can be found for both of these connections to make them work with a huge range of other devices, but for most studio equipment, stereo systems, and record players, the 6 mm headphone jack is king.

Extra Features

Some of the most notable extra features are the ones that make your headphones stand out to other people. RGB lighting can be popular for gamers, but are not usually chosen by other groups of people. RGB can also be responsible for draining the battery on wireless headphones much quicker as well.

Some headphones will include a variety of interchangeable ear covers and padding options. These can include standard foam cushions, along with memory foam options. It’s always nice to have a choice of padding, especially if you plan on wearing the headphones for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Other extra features may include headphone stands and charging docks, connection adapters, and similar components you would normally have to purchase separately. Some companies will toss in a few free gifts to build customer relationships and bring you back for more purchases in the future.

Price Range

One of the biggest variables with headphones is the price they are initially sold at. You can find some extremely cheap headphones with great sound, as well as some highly expensive headphones with mediocre sound.

Price ranges are determined by a variety of factors including, but definitely not limited to, the build design, sound quality, included warranty information, lightweight materials, and more. Prices can vary between brands too. Two very similar headphones can have drastically different prices if they come from two different companies.

You may also end up paying much more for headphones with celebrity branding, even if their overall quality and sound reproduction is average at best. Instead of paying to have the name of a celebrity on your headphones, try to look for other brands or models with less hype in order to get a better price overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between open and closed-back headphones?

The two main styles of over-ear headphones are open back and closed back, commonly just known as open and closed. Each headset has its own pros and cons and will depend on your intended purpose for the headphones themselves.

For example, if you are indoors in a quiet room, having open back headphones can provide a more enjoyable listening experience. This is due to the fact that ambient sound can enter into the headphones from the open back and help make the audio playing in your headphones feel more responsive. This is where the term “soundstage” comes into play. A vast soundstage, such as a more “natural” feeling location, can make your audio feel more real and cinematic.

Closed back options on the other hand are fully enclosed and will not allow much, if any, background and ambient noise to leak in. These headphones are a much more popular choice, and are especially common for gamers like Ninja to use. Sound isolation is very strong in closed back headsets adding to the overall immersion into your games, movies, or other audio experiences.

While both headphones can create an excellent listening experience for both casual and professional individuals, one may be better than the other. Consider your needs and how noisy or busy your background environment may be before you make your final decision on open or closed back options.

Woman trying on headphones in electronics store

How do I choose a good headset for my needs?

After you determine what your specific needs are when it comes to your preferred listening style and requirements, the right headphone for those needs will be much easier to find. For example, audiophiles can be very discerning when it comes to their headphones and how they perform. They want exceptionally high quality audio with perfectly balanced tones and a deep rich atmosphere to get the best listening experience overall. Very few headsets can offer that high quality sound without falling into a much higher price bracket.

Gamers on the other hand may not need or want the highest quality sound, but will need immediate response when it comes to directional audio cues. If an enemy is walking up behind the gamer, they want to know this information as quickly as possible. Gaming audio is very fast paced and can also cover a huge range of frequencies from high to low.

Cinematic buffs are looking for fully immersive audio experiences for the most part. They don’t just want to hear the action, they want to feel it as well. Headphones that can produce deep rumbling bass tones can really immerse the watcher into the moment, making the movie watching experience much more memorable and enjoyable.

The first step in finding the right headset for you is to determine which of those listening styles better suits your needs. If you are a casual listener or someone that will be switching between watching movies, playing games, and listening to music, there are some mid-range all-around headphones which can do the job just fine.

What’s the difference between noise cancellation and noise isolation?

Both noise cancelling and noise isolating headphones are extremely popular, but the latter can be done simply through the design of the headset itself. Noise cancellation technology makes use of a built-in microphone to pick up sounds in the environment around you. Once those sounds are picked up, an internal processor will play frequencies that are the tonal opposite in order to help drown out or mute the sound to your ears.

This can be a difficult technology to master, but in headphones that have high quality noise cancellation technology, your listening experience can be second to none regardless of your environment and what you are listening to. The quality, size, and placement of the microphone can play a huge role in how well the active noise cancellation performs too.

Noise isolation on the other hand is a more passive feature that can be done through the design of the headphones themselves. Large over-ear headphones have noise isolation simply due to the size of the padding around each ear. This padding covers your ear and helps block or muffle background sound from leaking into your ears.

In almost every case, passive noise isolating headphones are closed-back style since open back headphones allow a large amount of ambient sound to leak in. However, you can still find exceptional levels of active noise cancelling technology in open back options as well. They are, however, considerably more costly than their closed counterparts.

Do noise-canceling headphones cancel all background noise?

Even with the highest and most advanced noise canceling technology, it is almost impossible to block out 100% of the ambient sound. However, high quality noise cancelling headphones can block out so many sounds that you may end up missing phone calls, not hearing the doorbell, and completely ignoring people talking to you.

While noise cancelling technology has come an exceptionally long way in the past few years, and advances in both processing software and microphones have improved, you won’t get a total and complete balance of frequencies in order to cancel out ambient noise. What you will get is a very quiet sound environment inside your ear cups making a great platform for highly immersive and enjoyable audio.

Different groups of listeners will have their own opinions on whether or not high levels of sound negation is necessary. For cinematic buffs and gamers, it can improve the overall experience when it comes to movies and games. But for casual listeners, either option can deliver a high quality and very enjoyable experience for your favorite songs, podcasts, or TikTok videos.


Best Overall Headphones Under $500
Best Premium Headphones Under $500
Best Value Headphones Under $500

It took some time to compare the above listed headphones, but after a good amount of consideration of features, construction, and pricing, we have decided that the Shure SRH1540 Closed-Back Headphones take the top place on our list due to their stunning and impressive tonal quality, large 40 mm drivers (see also types of headphone drivers), and versatile connection options when paired with both home based devices and studio equipment.

The construction is also top notch with the headphones looking bold and impressive while being lightweight and very comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Additionally, if you are looking for stylish and affordable headphones that can be used for casual listening as well as holding their own in a recording studio, you can’t go wrong with the SRH1540 from Shure.

Want more headphone recommendations and reviews? See our article for the best headphones under $600 here.