HeadRoom Favorites in Full Size Headphones
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Properly called circumaural meaning "around the ear," full-size headphones are what most folks picture when traditional headphones, or stereophones, are mentioned. This type of design has large "full size" earcups that encircle the entire earlobe. Full-size headphone may be open-back, closed-back ('sealed'), noise-cancelling, or wireless. Most circumaural headphones will work well with home audio equipment. Some are easy to drive and can reach satisfactory volume levels with clear acoustic performance direct from iPod / iPhone or portable players. However, nearly all professional, high-end, reference and audiophile full-size headphones should be correctly driven and will sound audibly better via a dedicated headphone amplifier.
Top HeadRoom Picks for Full Size 'Open Back' Headphones
Open headphones do not isolate you from ambient noise, but are ideal if you need to remain aware of your surroundings. They're also often better-sounding than similarly priced headphones of other types. The Sennheiser HD518 is simply stunningly excellent for its price and one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck values in the industry. Moving up slightly in cost and solidly entrenched in the world of 'high-end' cans, the AKG K702 requires a huge break-in period, but once settled down is marvelously dynamic and highly articulate. Taking deep music lovers by storm is the planar-magnetic HiFiMAN HE500, a feat of uber-clear, intensely smooth audio engineering. Renown as "King of the Hill," the Sennheiser HD800 is considered by many audiophiles the world's greatest headphone with the slightly warmer-toned Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 or the made-in-the-USA Audez'e LCD-2 [or LCD-3] likely following as very close seconds.
Top HeadRoom Picks for Full Size 'Closed Back'/Sealed Headphones
Closed headphones have an acoustically sealed earcup construction designed to provide isolation from outside/ambient noise; they also prevent others nearby from hearing music "leaking" from your headphones. Great research strides have been made the past few years and nowadays sealed-back headphones can sound as good as open cans, especially at higher price points. The Sennheiser HD201 sounds shockingly good and is our favorite low-cost, closed full size headphone. Shure's effort in 'sealed-back' designs has resulted in several world-class headphones; the well-priced under-$100 Shure SRH440 delivers solid isolation and sounds accurate enough to please professional and portable users alike. The Audio Technica ATH-M50 is also an excellent all-purpose headphone. For a warmer, richer sound and extremely high level of acoustic performance, the Denon AH-D2000 featuring pristine musical detail makes a top mastering and/or professional headphone, while the more laid-back and impossibly seamless Denon AH-D7000 is liquid and lush featuring truly extraordinary low-end bass extension. The portable-oriented Ultrasone Edition 8 is punchy and smooth simultaneously, providing the best closed-back headphone experience we've ever heard for on-the-go listening.
Top Full-Size Noise Cancelling, Wireless, and Balanced Headphones
Most noise cancelling headphones are full size. Sennheiser makes one we really like, the PXC-450;(more information can be found in our HeadRoom noise cancelling selection guide.) The least expensive, best-performing Noise-Canceling headphone in our arsenal is the (not quite full-size) Audio Technica ATH-NC7b. The DENON AH-NC800 full-size headphones also offer good sound with thumping bass, classic styling, and work well with an iPod or iPhone. In circumaural wireless headphones, we love the Sony MDR-DS6500 system; when using the DS6500 digital input, the TV sound quality is excellent. Sennheiser's wireless RS headphone line offers superb sound quality with the top RS220 model reigning as the world's best-sounding wireless headphones; read more about them and others in our HeadRoom wireless headphone selection guide. Full size 'balanced' headphones can only be used with a special-purpose HeadRoom balanced / XLR headphone amplifier; the Sennheiser HD800 balanced is simply the world's best. More on these cans can be found in our HeadRoom balanced headphones selection guide.
We've listed our top HeadRoom picks below but you can click here to see all full size headphones.