What are the gross margins on headphones

Noble sounds

Eight high-end headphones in comparison

Nowadays you can get really good headphones for 200 to 300 euros. Is it worth it to spend five to ten times as much for luxury models?

There is hardly a segment that mixes esotericism, half-knowledge and real measurements as much as in the high-end audio sector. Some manufacturers promise real miracles and ask absurd prices. Headphones are particularly lucrative: The material costs are low, the margins are high. However, buyers have little opportunity to compare the sound of different models themselves. After all, scientists are still arguing about what an ideal frequency response should look like (see "Curve discussion" in c’t 15/2018, p. 146). There is a great risk that you will be disappointed if your own hearing cannot understand the “miracles” advertised - after all, every person has their own perception.

For this test, we gave eight headphones between 700 and 2400 euros a simple task: They have to compete with a mid-range model that sounds as neutral as possible in the A / B comparison. We chose the Sennheiser HD 600, which is available at a street price of around 300 euros. The measuring institute Sonarworks recommends him as particularly neutral, the Grammy-nominated producer Tom Ammermann agreed with him on his 3D headphone mixes from Kraftwerk for the same reason. For headphones that cost double to eight times as much, it should be a piece of cake to outdo such a 300-euro model, right?

The test field

While Bluetooth models are very popular in the mid-range price range, high-end headphones stick to the good old cable transmission. Only the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless also supports Bluetooth. He and the AKG N90Q can also adjust their sound individually to the user - more on that later.

In addition to the classic dynamic structure of sound transducers, high-end headphones also have magnetostatic planar transducers. A foil membrane swings in front of a row of magnetic bars. The manufacturers expect low distortion from this, especially in the bass range. However, planar transducers are often heavier than dynamic ones, especially if the magnets surround the membrane foil at the front and back, as in the Audeze LCD-X. With the Aeon, however, Mr. Speakers restricts himself to one-sided guidance, which is why the headphones are significantly lighter.

We compare these with four conventional dynamic headphones: Basically, you have to differentiate between closed and open models. The closed ones like the Ultrasone Edition 8 EX and the Sennheiser HD 820 isolate the listener better from the environment. Instead, the half-open Beyerdynamic T1 and the open Sennheiser HD 800 S promise loftier heights. For them, however, you need a quiet environment so as not to disturb others and not to be disturbed yourself.