5 Best Audiophile Planar Magnetic Headphones in 2022

If you just want to find out which one is the Best Cheap Noise-Cancelling Headphone, then we recommend you the HIFIMAN SUNDARA Planar Magnetic Headphones.

The world of audiophile equipment is bigger and more complicated than ever! While you’ll often hear music lovers arguing about the merits of certain amplifiers or record players, there’s one thing that everyone can agree on: Planar magnetic headphones are the way to go!

There’s no shortage of good traditional headphones out there, but most are heavily colored and won’t recreate audio as it was meant to be heard. The best planar magnetic headphones can provide you with the closest recreation possible and help your music collection come to life.

Looking to invest in a pair of planar magnetic headphones? We’re here to help you find a pair you’ll love.

What’s Special About the Best Planar Magnetic Headphones?

So, what’s all the fuss about anyway? Audiophiles around the world swear by planar magnetic technology. To the layman, they don’t appear to have any differences other than a higher price tag. However, that all changes the moment you put the headphones on and start listening.

These units are considered to be the best audiophile headphones because they are built to provide high-fidelity audio. These headphones can replicate all of those subtle nuances without the added harmonic distortion.

Standard headphones that most people use are notorious for creating a ton of sound issues. Beyond their obvious coloration issues and manipulation of the equal-loudness contour, traditional headphones aren’t always built to work with powerful signals. As a result, they may offer poor frequency response or distort your music.

Planar magnetic models work to actively address those issues by changing the way sound waves are created by the electrical signal.

How Do Planar Magnetic Headphones Improve Sound Quality?

The best planar magnetic headphones have a lot to offer audiophiles. While the technology behind the equipment can get a bit complicated, the only thing you need to know is that it improves overall sound quality considerably! Here are just a few ways these headphones do that.

Improved Bass

Compared to dynamic drivers, planar magnetic technology offers a much more powerful bass. Ultimately, the reasoning for this comes down to the size and thickness of the diaphragm.

The thin diaphragm of planar magnetic systems has much more force behind it. Air is able to move quickly and efficiently, resulting in a very tight response. The bass response is higher and has less roll-off than dynamic alternatives.

Better Response Time

The impeccable diaphragm response doesn’t just benefit the bass. The biggest issue that dynamic drivers face is a lack of speed. Even small changes in the electrical signal can be tough for dynamic diaphragms, resulting in a muddy sound filled with artifacts. That’s not the case with planar magnetic systems.

The thin diaphragm does a fine job of creating subtle movements, helping to recreate the original signal much better.

Lower Power Requirements

Another big perk of planar magnetic drivers is that they don’t require a ton of extra power to sound good. They do need a bit of voltage, but you’re not always going to need a standalone headphone amp. This is a stark contrast to electrostatic headphones and many dynamic models.

You see, the impedance ratings are much lower for planar magnetic systems. With dynamic and electrostatic headphones, you’re going to experience peaks and valleys when it comes to impedance. Planar magnetic headphones, on the other hand, are relatively flat.

Thus, amplification requirements are much easier to manage. Depending on the source, you may not even need an amp at all.

Best Planar Magnetic Headphones: Top Picks

1. HIFIMAN SUNDARA

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Impedance: 37 ohms
  • Frequency response: 6 Hz to 75 kHz

The Sundara headphones from HIFIMAN are some impressive cans. Inside the headphones is a powerful driver with some innovative technology. HIFIMAN uses a new “supernano” diaphragm that’s about 80 percent thinner than generations.

This helps to create an even clearer sound than ever before. The bass is clear and punchy. Meanwhile, the treble and mid-range frequencies sound crisp and realistic. The overall frequency response is far wider than you would ever need, but that ensures the sounds you can hear are top-notch.

The design of the headphones is great, too. The manufacturers spared no expense to ensure that these cans last. It utilizes lightweight aluminum and an attractive mesh screen to let air through.

While it is a hefty piece of gear, there is a weight-dispersing strap to make the headphones a bit more comfortable to wear.

Pros:

  • Thinner supernano diaphragm
  • Very tight bass response
  • Good sensitivity
  • Detachable cable and adapter included
  • Can be used with or without an amp

Cons:

  • Can feel rigid and heavy on the ears

2. Monolith M1060

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz

The Monolith M1060 headphones are behemoths. They’re certainly not for the faint of heart when it comes to design. They can be rather heavy for some users.

However, Monolith went above and beyond when it comes to style. With the wooden accents, laser-cut backs, and durable metal headbands, the headphones look great.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said about the performance! The best part of these headphones is the large diaphragm. Measuring 106mm across, the diaphragm is more than capable of providing you with fat bass and punchy response.

The headphones do a wonderful job of creating an open sound stage. Everything sounds expansive and true to life. While they aren’t closed-back headphones, that doesn’t stop you from truly appreciating the music you’re hearing.

The diaphragm does a fantastic job of recreating those subtle nuances that dynamic systems just can deliver.

Pros:

  • Ultra-wide 106mm diaphragm
  • Heavily padded for comfort
  • Sleek design
  • Relatively even frequency response

Cons:

  • Weighs over a pound
  • Sounds best with an external amp

3. Audeze iSINE10

  • Semi-open back
  • In-ear design
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz

Who said that you have to have large over-ear headphones to enjoy planar magnetic technology? The iSINE10 earbuds are the world’s first pair of in-ear planar magnetic headphones. They are some of the best audiophile headphones for those who want to enjoy high-fidelity audio on the go.

The design of the headphones doesn’t disappoint. As expected, they are a bit larger than other earbuds you might be used to. To overcome weight and bulk issues, Audeze includes a series of tip sizes and a comfortable ear hook.

The sound is great. The diaphragm, which is thinner than human hair, responds very well to sounds as low as 10 Hz. Some listeners may notice some unevenness on certain treble frequencies.

However, it’s not enough to ruin the experience. Overall, the headphones are clear and punchy. Plus, everything is in a small and portable package! What’s not to like?

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable design
  • Provides a nice fit and seal
  • Undetectable distortion
  • Very accurate bass response

Cons:

  • Some noticeable boosts in higher frequencies

4. HIFIMAN HE-400I

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Impedance: 35 ohms
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 35 kHz

The HE-400i headphones are one of HIFIMAN’s earlier models. These headphones don’t disappoint when it comes to sound quality.

Like the brand’s other offerings, you can expect good frequency response across the board. Whether you’re listening to bass-heavy hip-hop or dynamic classical music, these headphones can cover it all.

They do an exceptional job of recreating live music. One thing we really like about the driver is its ability to create transients efficiently. Sudden high frequencies tend to get lost in translation with other headphones. With this model, they’re clear and virtually distortion-free.

HIFIMAN utilizes a unique design for these headphones. They have the brand’s hybrid ear cuffs. They combine velour and leatherette material to help you stay comfortable. Pair that with the stainless steel components throughout and the driver is sure to stay safe no matter where you listen.

Pros:

  • Good transient response with little distortion
  • Comfortable hybrid ear cuffs
  • Stainless steel band
  • Reproduces live sound very well

Cons:

  • Cups may not be as durable as other options

5. Drop + HIFIMAN HE4XX

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Impedance: 35 ohms
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 35 kHz

These special-edition headphones are the result of a collaboration between Drop and HIFIMAN. The gear contains all of the great technology that HIFIMAN is known for. This includes some of the best planar magnetic technology around.

The sound you get is great. The headphones sound smooth across a wide frequency spectrum. There’s also that nice punchy bass you need to make your music come to life. The best part of it all is that you can some decent sound without ever using an amp.

These headphones are purpose-built with the on-the-go listener in mind. So, you can use them with your smartphone, laptop, or any other source you want. That said, they do sound best with a bit of extra power. Luckily, you don’t need an ultra-powerful amplifier to get the most out of the headphones.

Pros:

  • Produces smooth sound
  • Relatively even frequency response
  • Very punchy bass
  • Modern design
  • Doesn’t need an amp to sound good

Cons:

  • Treble may be too bright for some tastes
  • Construction is a bit questionable

Best Planar Magnetic Headphones: What to Consider

Are you convinced yet? Before you jump the gun and pick up the first pair of planar magnetic headphones you see, there are some other factors to consider.

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back

The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want a pair of open-back or closed-back headphones. Both options have their merits.

Open-back headphones have small perforations that allow air to flow through. Generally, they are considered to be more comfortable. However, you might have to sacrifice audio quality.

Those perforations don’t create a tight seal around your ears, which could let some outside noise come in. Of course, those perforations work both ways. Those around you could also hear what you’re listening to, making them unsuitable for office situations or use in the recording booth.

With closed-back headphones, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Often considered the best audiophile headphones, closed-back models are great for isolation.

You can block out the world and truly get “in your head” about what you’re listening to. It’s a great way to appreciate the music without any distractions while producing and mixing in your home studio.

Core Design

When it comes to core design, we’re referring to in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones. Chances are, you’re no stranger to these options. However, it’s important to consider what’s best for your needs.

Despite the unique technology used with planar magnetic drivers, manufacturers have been able to adapt the system to fit in even the tiniest package.

In-ear headphones also referred to as earbuds, are great for those who are active. You can use them to work out or go about your day. They’re small enough to take with you anywhere. But, they do have a reputation for being uncomfortable.

On-ear headphones are also called supra-aural headphones. They sit on your ears but don’t go around them fully. They’re considerably bigger than earbuds but aren’t so large that they get in the way.

The main downside of on-ear models is that you can’t create that isolated feel. With no seal, you’ll be able to hear what’s going on in the outside world.

For the most isolation possible, go with over-ear headphones. Also known as circumaural headphones, they offer the best noise rejection and are very comfortable to use over long periods of time. The only problem is that they are bulky and heavy.

Frequency Response

As with any speaker or headphone, it’s good to pay attention to the frequency response. This specification refers to the range of frequencies the equipment can recreate.

Needless to say, a wider range is always preferred. Humans can only hear a relatively small range compared to what modern-day headphones can create.

However, an ultra-wide range ensures that there will be fewer problems in the frequencies that you can hear. Not only that, but a good frequency response range means that the headphones can recreate all those subtle audio details.

How Do Planar Magnetic Drivers Work?

Planar magnetic technology is nothing new to the music industry. Also referred to as Orthodynamic technology, it’s been around for decades. However, it wasn’t until recently that manufacturers have been taking it seriously.

With the boom of the luxury headphone market, many brands are starting to implement the technology into products. Combine that with the lower manufacturing costs and there’s no better time to pick up a pair!

The concept of planar magnetic drivers has remained relatively unchanged since its infancy. Like all speakers and headphones, these drivers rely on electromagnetism and a moving diaphragm to turn electrical signals into audible sound. However, the difference lies in how that sound is created.

On a planar magnetic driver, the electric coils used to manipulate the electromagnetic current are built right into the diaphragm itself! The electrostatic diaphragm is a thin and flexible piece of material embedded with tiny wires.

The entire thing is then sandwiched between strategically placed magnets. It’s basically floating in a magnetic field where it’s unencumbered by wires, separate diaphragms, or any other issues that could cause distortion.

When an electrical signal is pushed through the driver from your music, the wires within the diaphragm respond with great accuracy. This results in fast response times, no transient sounds, and a complete lack of noticeable distortion.

The Difference Between Planar Magnetic Technology and Traditional Headphones

To better understand how planar magnetic drivers work, you need to get a good grasp of what you’d normally find in consumer-level gear. In most headphones, you’re going to have dynamic drivers.

This is the basic audio technology that’s also used in speakers. The driver is composed of a tightly wound cone, a strong magnet, and a traditional diaphragm. The signal flowing through that coil alters the electromagnetic field, which causes the diaphragm to vibrate and create sound.

It’s a simple and affordable alternative to pricier options. The downside of dynamic drivers is that they are known to create harmonic distortion.

Some headphones use an electrostatic driver. With this technology, the diaphragm is filled with tiny wires like it is on planar magnetic systems. However, the diaphragm is pressed between two metal plates. The electrical signal travels through the plates and to the wires in the diaphragm to create movement and sound.

While the resulting sound is great, these systems require special amplifiers. Plus, they can be very bulky and far more expensive than most driver options.

Planar magnetic drivers are considered to be the best of both worlds. They utilize a similarly wired diaphragm to electrostatic drivers. But, the diaphragm is suspended to ensure that nothing can create those audible artifacts in your music.

Final Thoughts

A good pair of planar magnetic headphones can have a profound effect on how you listen to music. Even if you’ve heard a song a hundred times before, you’re bound to notice things you never noticed before.

Anyone of our recommended picks is a vast improvement over standard dynamic headphones. However, the Sundara headphones from HIFIMAN are a clear cut above the rest. It’s an impressive piece of gear with some innovative features that take planar magnetic technology to a new level.

The wide diaphragm is considerably thinner than others you’ll see on the market. This even includes the other HIFIMAN models we chose. Thanks to the thin diaphragm, the headphones have an unmatched frequency response. They can get as low as 6 Hz and as high as 75 kHz! That’s far more than the headphones from Audeze and Monolith.

All in all, the Sundara headphones are a worthy investment you won’t regret. Take one listen and you’ll be hooked!