While spending Rs.10,000 on a headphone may seem like an expensive splurge, it is really the mid-level of high-quality audiophile grade headphones. These are headphones for serious listeners who want a pair of headphones that can do justice to their playlist.
We understand this, so we had partnered with Rontek an audio company known for their speakers, amplifiers and power management systems. Each of the headphones were personally tested by Rontek’s CEO Mr.Jacob Abraham who has an experience of 20 years. But with new and existing products being launched in India we revisited the article to add more picks.
Here are our best picks.
The Best Headphone under 10k (Open Back)
Sennheiser HD 598SR
The Sennheiser HD 598 are a comfortable open-back headphones with the best sound quality sound at all the frequencies. The sound from these headphones are very much natural without any extra amplification of sounds. They're well built and feel durable but there are no volume control options for your audio and the drive driver means it's not very portable. This headphone has an in-line mic which can be used in calling and the voice quality was very good. .
The Best Headphone under 10k (Closed Back)
Audio Technica ATH M50X
The Audio-Technica ATH M50x’s claim to fame is it’s true to source sound that makes them a worthy investment for studio monitoring but due to its excellent music quality, it makes for a great pair of cans for audiophiles as well. The M50X is also very well designed with comfortable padding making it great to be used for long hours as well as a foldable design for portability. But apart from everything else the main reason its here is because in this budget it is considered as the best, especially in the closed back category.
The Best Budget pick under 10k (Open Back)
Grado SR 80e
For many Grado is an unknown brand, but for people who really know their music stand by the products that Grado has to offer. The SR80e is a budget open back offering from the venerable audio maker. They come in an unusual on-ear form factor and are extremely lightweight, but take on heavyweights when it comes to sound quality. If your buying decision consists of three factors- great sound quality, low price and wide soundstage then the Grado SR80e is perfect for you. However, do note that the cables are not detachable and the headphone lacks microphone connectivity.
You can purchase on Headphonezone
The Best Budget pick under 10k (Wireless Closed back)
Sony MDR-XB650BT Wireless
The Sony MDR-XB650BT is an on-ear lightweight headphone that can be worn for long hours without any discomfort. Being wireless and backed by a good battery life makes them great for you if you hate dealing with tangled wires. The Sony MDR-XB650BT has good sound quality but not as good as our other three picks. Where it shines is in convenience due to it being wireless and it also boasts the best noise isolation in the range despite being an on-ear headphone. Being a Sony it was very well built with an elegant matte finish body, comfortable paddings. This headphone has an in-line mic which can be used in calling and the voice was clear but slightly sharp over the calls we made.
This is a really long post! Use the links below to jump around.
Why Trust Us?
To find the best headphones under Rs.10000 we had spent over 5 days testing different aspects of the headphones. To do justice to the audio testing we partnered with Rontek, a company with over 20 years’ of experience in manufacturing high-quality audio amplification systems and loudspeakers.
At Rontek we had measured the sound quality of each headphone subjectively and objectively and found the Sennheiser 598 SR to be the best in that range.
With the previous article being around for around a year, we felt it would be best to update the list of best picks with some new products. So we read through multiple articles from reputed technology and audio websites and finally managed to find the best four picks.
How we selected?
Our search for the best headphones started with an initial list of 30,000 headphones, from Amazon and Flipkart.
We started by removing all headphones with poor ratings and reviews. We finally selected the most reviewed and highly rated headphones online today. We also browsed popular online websites like Cnet and TechRadar for their best picks and added some products accordingly.
The shortlisted headphones were:
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xWH Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
Sennheiser HD 598
When we sat down to redo the list we added a few more products that we felt would really help the consumer. These products we selected based on reviews from reputed websites.
How we tested?
When buying a headphone, sound quality alone is not enough. You must also make sure the ear cups of the headphone are comfortable enough to at least watch a movie.
There's no point in buying a headphone with great sound which continuously hurts your ears. We wanted to make sure the headphone you buy has great sound quality and delivers on other features as well. That is why we had conducted the following tests when we previously tested headphones.
Sound Quality: The sound quality testing was done at Rontek with the help of Mr Jacob. We split the sound quality testing into two parts, Objective and Subjective. The Subjective testing is where Mr.Jacob listens to a selection of songs from different genres and then grades each headphone for sound quality.
The Objective testing is where things get interesting. Objectively testing a headphone is much more difficult than a normal speaker. Still, with the help of Rontek, we built our own test rig, which consisted of a box to simulate the human head, fitted into which was a calibrated microphone to record sound. With this setup, we managed to perform the LARSA test on all the headphones. LARSA test helps to plot the frequency response curve of the headphone which shows the frequency and loudness of the headphones.
Comfort: As we said before, we don’t want you to be stuck with headphones that hurt your ears. So, to test the comfort of each headphone our researcher wore each headphone for over two hours, looking out for any sort of pain in the ear, irritation, sweating etc.
Durability: Next we wanted to check the durability of the headphone padding. So we checked the sponge quality, softness, thickness of padding on each of the headphone. We also checked verified reviews on Amazon and Flipkart to assess whether people had problems with the padding.
Next, we checked the cable quality to see if they were actually tangle-free. We tried tangling the cable and then tried removing the tangles.
Noise Isolation: To test the noise isolation, we sat down next to a TV and put the headphones on. We kept increasing the volume on the TV until the sound from the TV was louder than the sound from the headphone. We noted the exact point at which this occurred.
Quality of Mic: the mic was used in calling with different people and the voice clarity n volume of the call was analysed
Bluetooth - We tested headphones with Bluetooth by connecting to a laptop and mobile phone. These headphones we checked for their connection speed, stability, range, battery life and charging.Bluetooth - We tested headphones with Bluetooth by connecting to a laptop and mobile phone. These headphones we checked for their connection speed, stability, range, battery life and charging.
Warranty and Service: We called each headphone company to find out the warranty and service policy and process for getting a headphone replaced or fixed for each headphone.
Note: Objective testing cannot be conducted on the Bluetooth only headphones as the calibrated microphone is designed to work with wired headphones only
What makes a good headphone - inputs from our audio expert
After looking at the basics of audio specifications, the comfort, reading frequency curves and learning about drivers, we come to a very interesting topic about headphones - open back and closed back.
Headphones today, are available in multiple designs, colours and shapes each tuned for a different application be it gaming, exercise, music or travel. Despite the differences in the outer shell they tend to be similar when it comes to producing music. But there are some headphones that are different in the way they are constructed to give you something extra that most regular headphones cannot.
Irrespective of type, most headphones come with a basic design which includes a headband over your heads to the end of which are attached the ear cups which include the padding and the drivers. If the earcups fit on your ear its an on-ear type of headphone, if it completely engulfs your ear its an over the ear headphone.
Let us now look at the most common type of headphones- Closed-back Headphones.
These types of headphones have a cover on the outside of the drivers which prevents sound from leaking, this also helps to isolate you from outside noise. Because of the closed nature after long usage, you may feel sweating in your ears.
The closed back also help in reproducing lower frequencies better as no outside sound can drown them. So famous closed-back headphones are the Audio Technica M20X & M50X, the Bose QC35 and more.
Pros of closed back headphones
Good Noise isolation
Great for travel
Perfect for Studio Recording
Good Bass reproduction
Cons of Closed back
Comfort after long use
Now coming to the type that is loved by audiophiles, Open Back Headphones.
Open Back headphones as the name suggests do not have a covering on the driver back, instead come with a grille that leaks sound outside. But while letting the sound out they also let ambient noise and air inside which gives them their trademark sound quality. A sound that is similar to that of a loudspeaker system, this means a very wide soundstage which is not possible in a closed back headphone.
But because of their design, they are not good at noise isolation and thus are not great to use when you are around someone like on a bus. Also being open they leak sound which further makes them limited fo music sessions inside your room.
Because of the open back, they are also not as effective with the bass as there is sound leakage, but with air playing around you, there is less amount of sweating so you can listen to your favourite jam for much longer. Some popular open back headphones are the Sennheiser 598SR, Sennheiser HD800 and Grado SR80e.
Pros of Open-backs headphones
Cons of Open-backs headphones
Lower Bass than Closed backs
So which one should you pick of the two? Well, here's what our audio expert recommends. Our expert is someone whos been around speakers for a lot of his life and prefers open back headphones as he feels they are the closed to the sound of speakers. But more than that its the natural sound that he really prefers, open backs can produce most frequencies from low to high but they do not artificially boost the bass which can form echoes inside a closed back thus giving you this natural sound quality. They are also very comfortable to wear and if used in a quiet room can be thoroughly enjoyed.
The Best Headphone under 10k
Headphone Style: Open- Back, Over-Ear
Connectivity: Wired 3.5mm, 6.3mm adapter, Microphone cable
Frequency Response: 12- 38,500 Hz
Impedance: 50 Ohms
Sensitivity: 112dB @ 1 kHz
Great Sound Quality
Good build quality
Quality padding makes headphone comfortable to use for long hours
Thick round tangle free cables
2 cables and an extra adapter for more compatibility
Clear clarity for voice calls
Poor Noise isolation
Sound leakage at high volumes
Quality of Sound: Loud and clear natural sound reproduction
The headphones have a balanced bass, mid and treble response. The sound is clear even at extremely loud volumes, and it can get pretty loud. This level of clarity makes them a great pair for movie watching too.
Objectively this headphone did extremely well, topping the charts in this category. Mr Jacob particularly liked the well-balanced sound quality on them without anything extra added to the sound, making them sound very natural. Loudness is optimum making music more pleasing.
As far as noise isolation goes this headphone has poor noise isolation due to its open back design and also leaks sound at high volumes.
Do note these headphones have an impedance of 50 Ohms and thus may not work to their full extent with most devices. Most smartphones manage headphones only up to 32 Ohms.
For optimal results use a headphone AMP/DAC for the best listening experience.
Build and Comfort: Bulky but comfortable
The Sennheiser HD 598 is an over-ear headphone had ear cups that completely engulf your ears. It is also good for extended listening and we did not face any listening fatigue even after using them for more than 2 hours.
Sennheiser has used quality materials especially on the ear cups and the long tangle-free cable. The design of the headphone is sturdy with a premium look too. It, however, lacks portability which makes them difficult to carry. The headphones come with 2 cables one with the mic which can be used in calling and the other for listening purpose. This headphone also comes with an extra jack for added compatibility
Also given the lack of proper sweat resistance on the earcups and as stated previously the bulkiness of these headphones make them more suited for listing on the couch rather than on a treadmill. We found almost no complaints about the cable quality or durability from online reviews.
This headphone has an inline mic and can be used for calling purpose, but no volume control buttons. Taking voice calls on this headphones was clear without any distortion.
What makes the Sennheiser great is the purity in the sound reproductions that it manages to keep as original, there is no artificial bass boosting or anything. It's simple, clear and loud. If you want a good audiophile grade headphones and don't know which one to pick, this one makes for a great pick.
The Best Headphone under 10k (Closed Back)
Headphone Style: Closed- Back, Over-Ear
Connectivity: Wired 3.5mm, 6.3mm adapter, No microphone
Frequency Response:15Hz - 28,000Hz
Impedance: 38 Ohms
Sensitivity: 99 dB @ 1 kHz
Balanced sound quality with the right amount of bass
Good build quality
Comfortable to use for long hours
6.3mm adapter and extra cables
No Wireless option
Lacks microphone support
Quality of Sound: Balanced yet Bassy
The quality of Sound from the Audio-Technica M50x is excellent as expected. The great thing about the sound is while it is balanced it has the right amount of low end as well.
The soundstage is not as wide as the Sennheiser or Grado but for the price, the M50X is an excellent headphone that manages to keep the sound within the ear cups due to its closed-back design.
Also, make sure you use a phone or DAC/DAP that can actually support the higher impedance that these cans demand. Without it, the headphones may not sound great.
Build and Comfort: Comfortable and Foldable
In terms of design, Audio Technica manages to keep things simple, in fact, all the M series share the same design with minor changes. The headband is wrapped in cushioning which makes it comfortable for long listening periods. The ear cups completely engulf your ears giving you an immersive experience.
The cable is tangle free and quite thick, you also get a 6.3mm adapter but no mic support.
The M50x’s can be completely folded for easy carriage and also come with a well-designed pouch in the box. However, these are not to be used for sporting activities as they are quite large, have a long and thick cable, are heavy and the ear cups lack sweat resistance.
A wireless option would have been great, however, it’s a small price to pay for the balanced sound that the M50x produces.
The Audio-Technica ATH M50x like most Audio-Technica products is marked as a “true to its source” studio headphones and it does deliver on that. It balanced with just the right amount of bass, is comfortable to wear, has a long tangle-free cable and is priced very well. If you need a closed back headphone, these are the best under Rs.10000.
The Best Headphone under 10k (Budget & Open Back)
Headphone Style: Open- Back, On-Ear
Connectivity: Wired 3.5mm, 6.3mm adapter, No microphone
Frequency Response: 12 - 30,000 hz
Impedance: 32 ohms
Sensitivity: 99.8 dB @ 1 kHz
Excellent treble and midrange detail
Comfortable and light to wear
Removable ear cups
No noise isolation
Build quality needs improvement
No mic support
No carry case/ extra cables provided
Quality of Sound: Unmatched quality at the price
Despite their old school design and their rather small on-ear style the SR 80e’s from Grado pack quite the punch. The dynamic drivers have a frequency range from 12 - 30,000 Hz and with a low impedance of 32 Ohms can be easily powered by smartphones. But what really sets them apart are the open back design that allows them to have a wider soundstage than most closed back headphones. Like the Sennheiser 598SR, this lets you feel the sound is coming from around you, which is very pleasing to hear and favoured by audiophiles.
WhatHiFi? Handed these headphones a full 5-star rating for their comfort and sound quality. They were impressed with the clean and punchy bass, zero bleeding of frequencies and the upfront presentation.
Cnet too had many words of praise stating the open nature of the sound, the much fuller and deeper bass and great details even at low volumes. When compared to the other picks the SR 80e is a bit more natural sounding than the bassier M50x, but not as smooth and wide as the Sennheiser 598’s.
For people who’d want to see how the frequency response and sensitivity curves are of the Grado, here you go.
The frequency response clearly shows the M50X inching ahead in the sub-bass but the Grado shines in its slightly forward mids and sparkly highs.
Build and Comfort: Lightweight but needs to improve
Grado has made a name for themselves because of their vintage style and handmade headphones that are made in Brooklyn, NY. The handmade construction gives them a very light, minimalistic feel, but this is something not everyone may like. The thin headbands, the small round ear cups, the removable ear padding are all little details that we really loved, as they do not give the SR 80e a mass produced feel, rather something that was handcrafted by people who learned the art over the years.
While WhatHifi? liked the use of metal, plastic and synthetic leather which they say lent it an authentic old-world feel, Cnet wasn't a fan of the dull cardboard box it comes in, the large-sized headphone jack and the lack of a microphone. Rtings too wasn't a fan of the build quality which they said did not feel durable. Overall while the headphone is light and comfortable to wear the little niggles of build quality do exist, especially because of it being handmade.
Grado gives you a vintage design, great sound, a wide soundstage all for a really nice price of under Rs.10000. It also doesn’t need a DAC/ AMP and works just fine with any smartphone and is very comfortable to wear. However, the build quality needs some improvement.
The Best Headphone under 10k (Wireless, Budget & Closed back)
Headphone Style: Closed- Back, On-Ear
Connectivity: Wireless, NFC, microphone
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
Impedance: 24 Ohms
Sensitivity: 95 dB @ 1 kHz
Tuned for good low end
Bluetooth and NFC Connectivity
10+ hours battery life
Soft foam earcups and good build quality
No wired connection
The other three have superior audio quality
Not for balanced/ flat music lovers
Quality of Sound: Made for Bass
The young, active nature of the Sony brand can also be seen in the sound from the Sony X650 BT headphone. This headphone is tuned for music with well-balanced bass. It produces relatively loud, distortion-free sound.
The noise isolation is best in this category, isolating most of the sound which makes it a good option when used in crowded places, listening to your favourite track without disturbance.
But if you are a person who prefers a pair of headphones for listening to symphonies and classics we suggest you look at the Sennheiser HD 598, Grado SR 80e or Audio Technica ATH-M50x as those are far more natural sounding headphone.
Build and Comfort: Lightweight and comfortable
With a premium looking design and funky colours the Sony XB650BT will attract the younger crowds. Also, the wire-free design and buttons on the ear cups make this a refreshingly different headphone in this range.
The Sony XB650BT has good quality faux leather padding which makes the on-ear experience comfortable for small to medium ear sized people. But can be uncomfortable for larger ear sized people due to its medium-sized ear cup.
The build quality of the headphones is very good with the metallic make and there were no durability issues.
There is an inbuilt mic for calls and a micro USB charging port. The voice calls using headphones mic clear, loud and slightly sharp. Voice clarity is good. Although it would have been really awesome if the headphones came with a wired connection as well.
Battery life: Very good battery life
This headphone has a very good battery life and in our tests, it lasted for more than 10 hours with a single charge. It took approximately 1 hour to charge.
The headphone maintains good quality sound even till a distance of 15 feet, after which the connection becomes wonky.
Setting up the headphone with your Android/iOS phone is easy and hassle-free. You can also use the built-in NFC feature to pair the headphone and phone. Once paired, a voice command lets you get going.
Overall, the MDR650 wireless headphones by Sony is the best bet if you are looking for a wireless headphone with good sound quality and noise isolation. The mic also is very suitable for calling purpose with good voice clarity. If wireless what you prefer then this headphone is the best choice in this price range.
Who are our best picks for?
Of the four picks that we have, we can split them into three categories, Open back, Closed back and wireless.
Based on these categories you can pick the Sennheiser or Grado if you want the wide soundstage and comfortable design of Open backs.
But if you want bass and noise isolation then you have to pick the Audi Technica which also comes with the added being of no sound leakage.
The Sony recipe is similar to that of Audio Technica but it ditches the wires for a wireless experience.
A note on Warranty and Service
Sennheiser: Sennheiser has the best warranty policy of the brands we tested. They have a 2-year warranty policy, plus, they offer repair services post warranty! You can call the number on the box you receive and then ship the headphone to them for service. The invoice or bill copy is the warranty card, so keep it safe.
Audio Technica: AT headphones have 1 year of warranty from date of purchase for headphones. Your invoice bill is your warranty card. Audio Technica customer care was a little difficult. We had to call the toll free number a few times to get the phone number of the service centre. The AT Delhi service centre details are as below:
SKE Audiotech, G-18B, 2nd Floor, Main Road, Kalkaji, New Delhi-110019
For any queries: Landline: 011-49049414, Cell: 91-8700466883
Once the headphones are found faulty, the replaced product will be sent to the customer.
Grado: Grado offers a 1-year warranty in India and the warrant is handled by Headphonezone. For any issues, you need to send the product to the Headphoenzone office (shipping to be borne by customer). The company offers only replacements (free shipping) in India for manufacturing defects and there is no repair service available in India.
Sony: Sony has a 1-year warranty on all their headphones. For any issues with the product you drop off the product at the service centre or ring up the customer care for assistance. Headphone replacement under warranty is valid only if the product is purchased from the following authorized sellers given below here. Make sure you check this list before you buy. If the product is brought from a different seller, the warranty will not be respected.
Those that didn’t make the cut
Grado SR 60e
While a bit cheaper than the SR80e which we picked, the SR 60e doesn't sound as good, with most reviewers finding faults in the highs and overall sound quality. They still are handmade and look good, but for great sound go for the SR80e or the Sennheiser.
When you are spending around Rs.10000 on a headphone the only paramount thing you care about is sound quality and sound quality is what our best pick deliver upon.
For amazing sound quality backed by great comfort and build quality, the Sennheiser 598 SR shines through. You get large drivers that give a great sound with an amazingly wide soundstage and the comfortable velour earpads definitely add to the style. If you want the best audio experience at this price, look no further.
The Audio-Technica M50X is for people who want sound quality, but without the leakage and poor noise isolation offered by open backs. The M50X are famed for their sound which even manages to be a little bassy which a lot of people will like.
The Grado SR80e is for people who want the sound and soundstage of the Sennheiser but at a more value package and that is exactly what the SR80e’s deliver. They have great sound, a smaller over the ear design, lightweight body and can be run off a smartphone as well.
Finally, you have the Sony XB650BT which gives you closed-back convenience add to a wireless and budget package. Its also price much less than the others despite offering a lot of features and style, pick them up if you place convenience over sound.