If your musical preference veers towards unapologetic noise most of the time (you’re reading Louder, so we’ll assume this is the case), then it’s time to swap those polite and dinky in-ear headphones for a pair of serious skull-shakers! In this guide we’re taking a deep dive into what are the loudest headphones on the planet. The focus here is on cans that positively relish ribald riffing, can drop real low for guttural growls and sound rightfully psychedelic when it comes to prog.
We’ve assembled eight pairs of headphones that do all of the above with aplomb, letting louder sounds loose in a way that would make Lemmy proud.
And let’s face it, choose the right set of wireless headphones, over-ear headphones or budget noise-cancelling headphones and they can really bring out the finer points of the music and expand your enjoyment.
We haven’t just picked out the loudest headphones on the planet right now. We’ve also compiled some handy guidance on what it takes to qualify as ‘loud’, plus what you should be looking for in your next ear-crushing set of cans. Hit the ‘buying advice’ button above to head straight to there.
Looking for a killer headphones bargain? Amazon Prime Day is happening on 21 and 22 June and we’ll be sharing all the best offers on our Prime Day headphones deals page. Check out more discounts for music fans in our Prime Day music deals hub.
Loudest headphones: The Louder Choice
When it comes to audio clarity at volume, our favourite headphones right now are the Philips Fidelio X3 over-ears. These gorgeous at-home Hi-Fi headphones sport exquisitely engineered 50mm drivers. They’re as clear as a bell and won’t wilt under a Dragonforce fire storm.
If you want high volume cans you can travel with, then Marshall’s Major IV are a force to be reckoned with, impressively dynamic and definitely guitar-friendly (Marshall wouldn’t make anything but). And with that Marshall signature branding, you’ll also look cooler than a penguin propping up an ice bar.
Finally, for high-volume, high clarity headphones that sit firmly in budget territory, cop an ear to Sennheiser’s HD 560S ear-shredding over-ears. These truly are the loudest headphones you can buy right now.
Loudest headphones: Product guide
Philips reboots its Fidelio brand with these flagship X3 Hi-Fi reference cans, and we’re blown away. The X3 could never be described as casual. They are neither wireless nor Bluetooth enabled. They’re unapologetic indoor head-fi, complete with Kvadrat Fabric backed earcups, disguising the fact that they are open backed over-ear design.
They have soft velour ear pads and a headband that is lightly sprung for a really secure fit. Actually, they look a lot like the brand’s 2015 vintage X2s, but closer inspection reveals key differences. Swapping the outside of the enclosure from a metal mesh to Kvadrat cloth has required a complete redesign of the earcups and the internal components.
Inside, a 50mm driver adopts a three-layer design with a damping gel sandwiched between polymer layers. Philips says this combats resonance. The technique works really well. You can take these headphones to extreme volume, and they never lose control.
That open-back design creates a huge soundstage. Listen to AC/DC’s Thunderstuck and you can visualise Brian Johnson’s grizzled performance. There’s a clarity of purpose here that’s simply jaw-dropping.
The headphones offer a lush low end, that’s tight and rewarding, while the midrange glistens with detail. They articulate brilliantly. The vocal histrionics of Tom Petty on Refugee are surgically presented, his energetic slurring a joy, while Satellite Of Love reveals snippets of contrasting ambiance on Lou Reed’s mesmeric vocal.
The X3 are astonishingly immersive, and come highly recommended.
There’s no arguing with the street cred of the Major IV. With their signature branding, these on-ears are as inviting as the Dogtooth stage, and boast a massive 80-odd hours wireless playback time. Bluetooth is of the v5.0 variety, hence their stamina.
For this latest iteration, Marshall has tweaked the ergonomic design of its ear cushions, making them a smidge more comfortable. They also fold down stupidly small, while a quick-charge means you only need 15 minutes to juice them up for 15 hours of wire-free listening.
The Major IV employ 40mm dynamic drivers, able to rumble like Sabaton on manoeuvres. We stupidly edged the tolling bells intro The Last Stand to max, only to spill our coffee when the band suddenly opened fire.
The drivers have been custom-tuned to deliver Marshall’s signature sound, which favours a smooth guitar-friendly midrange and gutty bass attack. Audio performance doesn’t fray under pressure. Tony Iommi’s portentous picking on Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral is a rich swagger, and they keep pace when things speed up.
Eric Bloom’s vocals on Blue Oyster Cult‘s Flaming Telepaths confirmed they’re a little sharp at volume, but the cascading keyboards and soaring guitar sound so good we never felt tempted to ease back the volume.
While most will opt to use these cans wireless, there is the option of a 3.5mm cord when the battery dies, or if you want to use them with your Nintendo Switch.
Our favourite noise cancelling over-ears, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will not disappoint when it comes to high octane playback. They’re also awash with smart AI features, including DSEE Extreme which goes a long way to making non high-res audio palatable at louder volume.
Battery life is good at 30 hours, and naturally, they’re hi-res 24-bit 96kHz capable, too. The ear-cups are soft and comfortable, offering a comfy buffer between you and Sony’s 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer drivers, which deliver excellent treble and superior bass.
Audiophile grade headphones typically come with a wince-inducing price tag, but these serious sounding cans fro Sennheiser won’t break the bank. They definitely sound more expensive than they are.
Wired only, the HD 560S ship with a generous 3m cable, terminated for use with dedicated headphone amplifiers and full-blown amplifiers, and because they’re wired, that means no on-cup controls, Bluetooth or noise cancelling.
Their low cost is largely attributable to the plastic build. The benefit is that the chassis is really light, but they don’t feel particularly premium. The lightweight headband and velour cushioned ear pads are comfortable, although they do clamp with some force. The design is over-ear and open-backed, so soundwaves from each cup permeate out, creating a larger, more naturalistic listening experience.
Tonally they’re analytical, even dry. But surprisingly if you want to dissect Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work, they’re ideal.
At volume, they create a wide, exciting sound stage. Rammstein’s Du Hast is a blitzkrieg of industrial metalwork and perky synth – these Sennheiser headphones deliver everything but the pyro.
The over-ear cups may be generous, but the drivers are a mere 38mm. Size isn’t everything, it seems.
If you’re after bass-friendly Bluetooth speakers that can punch above their weight, grab a pair of these beauties. 40mm drivers bring home the slam, offering both attacks and a surprising amount of mid-range refinement for the cash.
Battery life is rated at 27 hours, but there’s an optional 3.5mm audio lead in the box, in case you run out of juice. Niceties include a multi-point connection also allows you to share your Spotify playlists over Bluetooth with two devices, and digital assistant support.
With their pro-style and generously-sized ear-cups, these AKG’s reek of long nights in dark recording studios.
With the option of Bluetooth and wired (via a mini XLR) connectivity, the K371-BT utilise titanium-coated 50mm transducers, designed to match AKG’s Reference Response acoustic target, which translated means well balanced audio and delicious detail.
They may not pack noise cancellation technology, but the oval design fits well and offers decent isolation. The earcups swivel 90 degrees, for single-ear monitoring, while battery life is outstanding, coming in at around 40 hours, thanks to that highly efficient Bluetooth v5 codec.
While they sound great, design is another matter. The K371-BT are quite a contraption. The ear-cup sliders stick out like Eskimo Callboy at a vicarage tea party, and the XLR cable input on the left hand cup bulges as if bolted on as an afterthought. Wearing them, you’ll feel like Bruce Dickinson about to take off in Ed Force One.
Gesture control is a bit iffy too. We started to panic when we couldn’t get the volume to increase, furiously stroking the left cup top get a response. It seems the touch control requires some serious finger pressure.
On the plus side, these cans sound darn good. Their mid-range performance is peerless, benefiting vocals and rhythm sections alike. They drop deep too. Hatebreed’s Weight Of The False Self stompathon lands like repeated blows to the side of the head, which is always a good thing.
Great performers for home listening, but definitely not our first choice to wear out and about.
There are caveats attached to Lindy’s NC-60 noise cancelling cans. They lack Bluetooth, so wireless streaming is out, and they require your mobile to have a 3.5mm audio jack… and the noise cancelling is hardly state of the art.
But inside, 40mm drivers offer above average detail, and they’re capable of excellent stereophonic imaging. If you want a pair of jobbing headphones that will do justice to raucous rock and roll, they’re well worth an audition.
Priced at the higher end of the market, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 come with studio-grade pedigree. Battery life is decent, at upwards of 30 hours; a quick 15 minute top up adds 5 hours of playback via USB-C. For hi-res audio hijinks, the PX7 support aptX adaptive Bluetooth.
Noise cancelling is highly effective, approaching that offered by Sony on its class leading WH-1000XM4. Physical buttons, for power and track control, sit around the edge of the earcup. The earpads are a soft faux leather, the headband cushioned. At just 310g, they’re light enough, and style wise, they’ve got it all going on.
The spec bodes well. Capacious 46.3mm full-range drivers (the biggest in any Bowers & Wilkins headphones) should positively relish speed metal and power punk.
But for all their refinement, there’s something a little muted about the PX7’s presentation. We wanted to like them more, but when even Lita Ford’s Kiss Me Deadly doesn’t quicken the pulse, there’s definitely something missing in the mix.
The PX7s are good but they’re not ‘Louder’ good enough…
Loudest headphones: Buying advice
If you want to really experience the visceral vibes of your favourite bands, we’d recommend shopping for headphones that feature large dynamic drivers. 40mm should be the goal when you’re shopping for the loudest headphones, but look around and you’ll find some cans with 50mm transducers, making them all the better for volume and clarity.
Well fitting ear cups are also key to performance. They help isolate your tunes from background hubbub (noise cancelling technology is an additional aid here), which in turn makes for a more immediate and immersive listening experience. If you’re after Hi-Fi-quality headphones for use in the home, also consider a pair with an open back design. These tend to create a more realistic soundstage, like standing next to a pair of physical speakers.
But be warned: open-back headphones leak sound so those around you will have a pretty good idea of what you’re listening to if you have the volume cranked. Our advice? Stay metal to avoid embarrassment!
Of course, larger drivers are not just concerned with volume. The other benefit is a more accurate sonic presentation. Instruments are more clearly defined, band members spatially delineated; in a nutshell, they offer a better sense of presence and reproduce the music as the artist intended. Several of our the loudest headphones in this guide have recording studio DNA, bringing you even closer to that authentic studio experience.
We wouldn’t be a responsible music site if we didn’t include a word on hearing damage. As much as we love volume, we don’t love tinnitus, so we must remind you that excessive volume for extended periods of time can adversely impact your hearing, so please rock responsibly! Want to know more? Read the advice this tinnitus expert gave us and find out what it’s like living with tinnitus.
Louder – The loudest headphones 2021: You want volume and lots of it? You got it with these 8 raucous options
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June 11, 2021