The words ‘portable’ and ‘audiophile’ don’t usually go well together considering the contrast that they have with each other. Audiophile is more of home listening with a dedicated setup while portable is listening on the go with little regard for an actual setup (usually just music player and headphones). Nonetheless, we do feel that there are headphones out there that can achieve the middle ground and thus can be considered as portable audiophile headphones.
The only requirement that we have when making this list is that the headphone must sound good without a need for external amplification. This means the basis here is the typical portable music player -> headphone set up. And of course since we’re talking about being ‘portable’, open headphones are already disqualified. In no particular order whatsoever, here are the top portable yet audiophile headphones of Headphone.ph.
Sennheiser HD-25 1-II / Amperior
The past and present version of this headphone is extremely suited for portable use. They sound forward, aggressive and tight even without amplification (in fact you can really use it just by itself). What compliments the sound even better is that it has exceptional passive noise isolation and is not bulky compared to other headphones in this list.
V-Moda M80 / M100
Unlike the Sennheisers above, the M80’s and M100’s aren’t really that identical. The former is a supra-aural headphone while the latter is a full-size headphone. The sound signature is quite different too. The M80’s are more balanced although a bit mid centric while the M100’s are a bit bassy yet is still refined-sounding. Do take note that when the word ‘bassy’ or whatever is used here, its not really comparing it to bass bloated headphones that are not good sounding. It simply just means there’s elevated bass though other parts of the spectrum are clean.
Audio Technica M50x/M50
Audio Technica is a bit bigger than some of the headphones here in the list however it can still be classified as a portable can since it can fold up and at the same time, its comfortable to use.
M50 is the most recommended headphone for entry level audiophiles and for a good reason. It has a good oomph in the low and high frequencies without drowning out the mids too much. It also does isolate you a bit and like the headphones above, its pretty durable. Audio Technica ATH-M50 on Amazon
This is a fairly expensive headphone for this type of application but you can easily see why physically. Looks aside, the T5p is a pretty good sounding can on its own. It is fairly flat/neutral with a little peak on mid and high treble. Some people will surely find it a bit bright however it should work just fine for people who are listening to a wide variety of genres.
The bass extends up to the lowest octaves without any additional emphasis and the overall tonal balance is good. The build quality is really good however since it looks kinda sophisticated, I don’t find it something that I would want to take outside very often. And again, its pretty big so it might take a bit more space in your bag if you decide to take it with you. Beyerdynamic T5p on Amazon
Sennheiser Momentum does a lot of things really well. It’s one of the most balanced headphone in this category yet is very clean sounding. It also checks any other checkboxes for a portable headphone. It isolates well, its very light in the head, very comfortable to wear, and it can easily be driven by a portable player.
The only cons for this headphone according to some people is that the cans are a bit small for a full-size headphones so if you have a large head, you might want to test it out first so you can see if it just fits you right. Sennheiser Momentum on Amazon.
This headphone was made to compete with the HD-25 1-II/Amperior and it holds itself well against the two. In fact some people even find it better than the HD-25.
Think of this headphone as a small version of the T5p (ehem T50p) with a shelved down treble and a better bass extension. Just like its counterpart, the HD-25/Amperior, its also light in the head, isolates fairly well and is small enough to be carried using a carry pouch. Beyerdynamic DT1350 on Amazon.
This is one of my favorites largely because its a musical headphone. The sound signature is sweet and smooth while still being refined. It sounds colored in a way that is favorable to most ears which mean its not fatiguing. With that said, this headphone may not fit those who want a lot of oomph and a lot of aggressiveness and tightness. It may not also work for fast rock music where a quick decay is needed.
Another downside is its looks which may feel a bit flimsy to some while others may find it too extreme to carry it outside. The earcups are made of wood, earpads are made of lambskin and the cables are thin and not detachable. And they don’t isolate very well as well compared to others. Audio Technica ATH-ESW9 on Amazon.
So that’s our list. Take note that the term ‘portable audiophile headphones’ can be as enigmatic as it sounds since it easily overlaps many things. For instance, a lot of other bigger headphones could be called portable headphones (it’s subjective) while some semi-open headphones could have also made this list since they could isolate some noise. In short, each of us have our own requirements on what we can perceive as portable.
We would love to hear your opinion below about the headphones that made this list and of course other headphones that you think should make the list as well.