Top 5 Best Planar Magnetic Headphones


Planar magnetic headphones work on the same general electromagnetic principle as their moving-coil dynamic counterparts but improve the sound quality by utilizing thinner diaphragms and more even spaced conductors within the transducer. Featuring electrical conductors embedded on a diaphragm that vibrates between two magnetic arrays, the planar magnetic design has been used in many great headphones over the years.

Of course, not all planar magnetic headphones are built equally. There are certain models that outperform the others in the category. In this article, we’ll have a look at what I consider to be the top 5 planar magnetic headphones.

The top 5 best planar magnetic headphones are:

Of course, any list of this sort is inherently subjective. That being said, I firmly believe the above-listed planar magnetic headphones are the best of the best!


What Makes A Great Planar Magnetic Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of planar magnetic headphones.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any pair of earphones. Though highly subjective, factors such as weight; shape; pressure, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: compatibility with different audio devices is important. Choose a pair of high-end planar magnetic headphones that will be easily incorporated into your set up whether that’s a mobile device or a professional studio. Impedance and sensitivity ratings come into play when determining compatibility.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of in-ear monitors should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity. Fortunately, many planar magnetic headphones have a much wider range than this.

Planar magnetic designs have inherently low distortion specifications, wide frequency responses and superb transient responses. We’ll discuss these characteristics with each of the 5 headphones listed above.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 best planar magnetic headphones!

To learn more about planar magnetic headphones before continuing with this article, please check out my article The Complete Guide To Planar Magnetic Headphones (With Examples).


Audeze LCD-X

First up in this list is a superb planar magnetic reference headphone from the California-based company Audeze. It’s the Audeze LCD-X (link to check the price on Amazon).

Audeze LCD-X

The LCD-X is Audeze’s most popular headphone and for good reason. Audeze is known for their high-quality headphones and the LCD-X is cherished by audiophiles, producers and audio engineers alike.

These circumaural open-back headphones deliver precise sound with pristine clarity. It’s a sound that will translate across most speaker systems, making these headphones incredibly powerful in mixing and mastering sessions. The transient response is amazingly accurate and the frequency response covers the entire audible spectrum and beyond.

To learn more about open-back headphones, check out my article The Complete Guide To Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones.

The LCD-X utilizes 106 mm drivers with top-grade Neodymium magnets and ultra-thin diaphragms to reproduce the most intimate details with incredible clarity. The open-back design helps to maintain a true sense of space in the mix, though it will lead to bleed in the room.

These reference headphones are designed to take the room out of the equation, offering industry-leading transparency. Even the best studio rooms have their own character that will colour the sound. The LCD-X does an amazing job of reproducing the audio in the most neutral way possible.

These headphones are also wonderfully comfortable and can be worn for a long time. That being said, it’s important to take regular breaks when mixing to avoid ear fatigue, even with great headphones like the Audeze LCD-X!

With a nominal impedance of 20 ohms and a sensitivity rating of 103 dB/1mW, the LCD-X headphones should work well with a typical audio interface and will even work with regular mobile devices and computer headphone jacks. Just be sure to use the proper TRS adapter along with the headphone’s 1.9m 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable when plugging into a 3.5mm (1/8″) headphone jack.

Related article: Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks.

However, to get the most out of your LCD-Xs, you may want a dedicated headphone amplifier for them. The additional power can really bring out the full potential of these excellent headphones.

Check out Audeze’s The King MkII headphone amplifier at their official website by clicking here.

To learn more about headphone amplifiers, check out my article What Is A Headphone Amplifier & Are Headphone Amps Worth It?

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 106 mm Planar Magnetic with Neodymium N50 magnets
  • Impedance: 20 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 635g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

Audeze is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.

Here are few more Audeze heapdhones from the LCD line that are also worth checking out:


Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC

Second on the list is the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC (link to check it out at Abyss). The TC stands for Total Consciousness, so you know these headphones are the real deal. Abyss is based in Buffalo, New York.

Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC

The Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC headphones are designed to offer the best in comfort and sound quality. These circumaural open-back planar magnetic headphones look pretty rad, too!

The patented transducers feature 66 mm planar magnetic speaker drivers with custom-made high power neodymium magnets and an optimized slot pattern. The transducers are made complete with unique foamed aluminum sides that are acoustically tuned to the thin planar diaphragm.

The result is a completely open and transparent sound with incredible detail in low, mid and high-end frequencies. Like many superb reference headphones, the AB-1266 Phi TC reproduces sound similar to the finest loudspeakers in a dedicated listening room, effectively replacing the need for a high-end facility.

Incredible transient response; a super-wide frequency response; a natural stereo field, and ultra-low distortion are just a few of the factors that make the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC sound like one of the best planar magnetic headphones in the world.

In terms of comfort, these headphones are tough to beat. The headphones are actually designed to avoid clamp the user’s head. Rather, they float atop and loosely touch your ears. This makes them a fantastic choice for those with glasses.

High-quality lambskin ear pads provide superior comfort while playing a role in the fine-tuning of the headphones. The chassis is designed with left and right side frames and an adjustable two-piece padded leather headband that can be adjusted to fit your head perfectly.

To make the comfort even better, the headphones are rather rugged. All components are machined from solid aluminum for excellent strength and durability. Integrated resonance control is part of the design to minimize colouration.

This makes the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC a bit heavy but at 640g, this shouldn’t pose a major issue. Superior comfort is well worth the added weight.

There are 3 separate packages available from Abyss that all feature this incredible reference headphone. Note that all cables are custom-made by JPS Labs:

AB-1266 Phi TC LiteAB-1266 Phi TC DeluxeAB-1266 Phi TC Complete
AB-1266 Phi TC HeadphoneAB-1266 Phi TC HeadphoneAB-1266 Phi TC Headphone
Balanced 8 FT (2.5 meter) 4 pin XLR cable, with flexible 1/4" (6.3 mm) adaptor.Dual balanced 8 FT (2.5 meter) 3 pin XLR cable set, and both 1/4" (6.3 mm) and 4 pin XLR cable Y-adaptors.Upgraded JPS Labs Superconductor HP Dual balanced 8 FT (2.5 meter) 3 pin XLR cable set.
Velvet bag with embroidered ABYSS logo.Heavy leather man bag style carry case with extra room and pockets for a completely portable high resolution audio system.Heavy leather man bag style carry case with extra room and pockets for a completely portable high resolution audio system.

Note that every option comes with a 1/4″ (6.3 mm) cable adapter. The headphones have a low nominal impedance of 47 ohms and a low sensitivity of 88 dB/mW. That AB-1266 Phi TC may work well when plugging into some audio interfaces but may require an additional headphone amp.

Plugging directly into a computer or mobile device may lead to lacklustre results and certainly won’t unlock the headphones’ true potential.

To get the most out of the AB-1266 Phi TC, we’ll want to use a high-quality headphone amplifier. Abyss recommends several options from Eleven Audio, Benchmark, Woo Audio and others. Check out the recommendations at the official website of Abyss by clicking here.

Benchmark and Woo Audio are featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Headphone Amplifier Brands In The World 2020.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Planar magnetic
  • Impedance: 47 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 30,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 640g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

HiFiMan Susvara

If you’re okay with spending a small fortune, the HiFiMan Susvara (link to check the price on Amazon) is a superb choice of planar magnetic headphones. It’s HiFiMan’s flagship planar magnetic headphone.

HiFiMan Susvara

The Susvara utilizes an advanced magnet design. The special shape of the stealth magnets in the Susvana drivers enables sound waves to escape from the driver without generating interference. This greatly reduces distortion and provides listeners with a pure sound that is completely representative of the mix.

The diaphragm of the planar driver is incredibly thin. In fact, it’s less than a nanometer thick. This thinness and low mass afford the design ridiculously low distortion levels (especially when combined with the aforementioned stealth magnets) along with a highly accurate transient response.

The headphones are fine-tuned even further with a “window shade” open-back design to practically eliminate resonant frequencies and keep the sound as natural as possible. The open-back design give the Susvana an even more natural and open sound for the listener to enjoy.

The ergonomic design of these headphones matches its superb sound. The comfort of these headphones is top-notch, making it easy to really lose yourself in the music, even during long listening sessions.

With an impedance of 60 ohms and a low sensitivity of 83 dB, the Susvana will definitely need a headphone amp.

The HiFiMan EF1000 is the official amplifier for the Susvara. Its SSRP circuit has six 6922 vacuum tubes and six pairs of transmitters in parallel. It combines the superb sound of the 6922 tubes with the power of a solid state amp. And the two together only cost as much as a down payment on a house!

  • Transducer Type: Planar magnetic
  • Impedance: 60 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 6 Hz – 75,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 83 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 15.9 oz. (450g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

MrSpeakers Ether CX

Fourth on the list is the MrSpeakers Ether CX (link to check the price on Amazon), which is a collaborative model designed in tandem with Drop.

MrSpeakers Ether CX

The Drop + MrSpeakers Ether CX are a pair of closed-back over-ear planar magnetic headphones. This sets them apart from the other 4 open-back models in this top 5.

That being said, the Ether CX headphones sound much more like a pair of open-back than a pair of closed-backs. This is made possible by the ear cup transducers and tuning. What we end up with is an open and realistic sound in a headphone that also keeps sound leakage low and isolation high.

The bass response is deep and impactful; the midrange is impressively smooth and transparent, and the high-end of these headphones is incredibly detailed.

The MrSpeakers Ether CX may very well be the best-sounding closed-back headphone in the world.

Related articles:
Top 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $500
Top 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200
Top 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100

The single-ended planar drivers are designed around MrSpeakers’ patented V-Planar technology that creases the diaphragm in order to improve movement without stretching. This design allows the drivers to push more air and produce a more dynamic bass response while reducing distortion across the entire frequency response.

As far as comfort is concerned, the NiTinol memory metal headband used in the Ether CX is lightweight and durable. The ear pads combine memory foam and Japanese protein leather into a flat design with beautiful stitching for an elegant, secure and pleasant fit.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: V-Planar planar magnetic
  • Impedance: 23 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 35,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 92 dB at 1 mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 15.5oz (440g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Thieaudio Phantom

Last but not least is the Thieaudio Phantom (link to check the price on Amazon).

Thieaudio Phantom

At well under $500 USD, the Thieaudio Phantom headphones get the top “budget” planar magnetic headphones award (though the Monoprice Monolith M1060 (link to check the price on Amazon) come close).

These circumaural open-back headphones are centred around advanced planar drivers. Each driver features an exclusive 101mm German ultra-light composite diaphragm with dual a magnetic circuit on high-pass magnet technology.

These fancy words sound nice just like the Phantom. Expect superior balancing and incredibly detailed sound for these hand-crafted headphones, especially when combined with a high-end headphone amp.

The frequency response spans beyond the audible range and the headphone provide a controlled bass response with pristine mids and highs.

That’s not to say that the Thieaudio Phantom wouldn’t sound great without an amp but with a sensitivity rating of 93 ±3 dB, the headphones would certainly benefit from an extra boost.

These expertly crafted headphones are very comfortable, too. The soft earmuffs are finished with velvet and the headband features pleasant padding for an enjoyable fit even during long listening sessions. The headband can be adjusted to fit practically anyone.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 101 mm Planar Magnetic
  • Impedance: 47 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 93 ±3 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 440g without cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of superb planar magnetic headphones on the market. Here are 5 more excellent options that didn’t make the top 5 but are definitely worth checking out:

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