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Best Headphones: Over $1,000

MDR-Z1R Headphones

MDR-Z1R Headphones

$2299

The MDR-Z1R headphones are special. Nothing quite matches their combination of comfort, sound, and compatibility with a wide range of playback devices. Bass extension through the MDR-Z1R was as good as I’ve heard from any headphone. Comfort is also among the best available. While not completely a closed design, the MDR-Z1R does offer some attenuation of outside noise.

Read the full review: Sony NW-WM1Z Portable Player and MDR-Z1R Headphones
ZMF Verité Closed Headphones

ZMF Verité Closed Headphones

$2499

All ZMF headphones are hand-assembled in small batches in the USA. The Vérité Closed was designed to compete with the best, and to Steven Stone’s ears, succeeds. If you require a premium-quality headphone that has some attenuation of outside noise, that you can wear for hours at a time, and that has a relaxed and exceedingly natural harmonic balance while still having excellent low bass extension, the ZMF Vérité Closed should be on your audition list.

Read the full review: ZMF Vérité Closed Headphones
Meze Empyrean Headphones

Meze Empyrean Headphones

$2999

The Empyrean was conceived as Meze’s cost-no-object headphone. At the heart of the Empyrean is a patent-pending, hybrid planar-magnetic driver that combines—on one diaphragm—two independently shaped voice-coil sections: a circular section optimized for upper-midrange and high frequencies; and a larger serpentine section optimized for mid/bass performance. The result is a headphone that offers a fundamentally natural and organic sound but is also extraordinarily revealing and detailed.

Read the full review: Meze Audio Empyrean Planar-Magnetic Headphone
Dan Clark Stealth Headphones

Dan Clark Stealth Headphones

$3999

The Stealth’s overall level of fit and finish alone elevates it into the upper regions of premium headphones. Whether you’re like SS and have many headphones with a multiplicity of sonic signatures, or the kind of listener who wants just one reference pair of headphones that has it “right,” the Stealth should be experienced to hear, see, and feel what a truly reference headphone can deliver in terms of superb sound coupled with supremely comfortable fit and ergonomics. SS, 334

Meze Elite Headphones

Meze Elite Headphones

$4000

Meze Audio headphones are the result of a unique design collaboration between Meze Audio and Rinaro Isodynamics. Rinaro are located in Ukraine, with offices in Romania. The Meze Elite are, in every way, a reference-quality headphone that earns its flagship status and price. The Elites are worthy competition for other flagship headphones such as the Dan Clark Stealth, Focal Utopia II, ZMF Verité, and Warwick Bravura. The Elite’s strong points are that it is exceedingly easy to drive, supremely comfortable, ruggedly built, and sounds wonderful. SS. 333

Read the full review: Meze Elite Headphones
Warwick Bravura Headphones

Warwick Bravura Headphones

$5995 w/M1 amp

When SS reviewed the Warwick Acoustics Sonoma M1 headphone system in 2017, he was impressed by the sonics. Only ergonomic issues prevented it from garnering a slack-jawed glazed-eyed rave. Now, five years later, the Sonoma M1 system has been replaced by the new Warwick Acoustics Bravura M1 system. With its ergonomic improvements the Bravura ranks the best headphone system SS has experienced so far and may well be the endgame headphone system for anyone looking for a state-of-the-art reference headphone. SS, 326

Read the full review: Warwick Acoustics Bravura M1 Headphone System
Stax X9000 Headphones

Stax X9000 Headphones

$6200

The electrostatic technology employed by the SR-X9000 was originally developed for the SR-X headset. It has evolved over the years. The latest design, which Stax calls MLER-3, which stands for Multi-Layer Electrodes, evolved from the MLER-2 which can be found on Stax SR-009 headset. I have no doubt that the Stax SR-X9000 ranks as Stax’ finest effort to date. It checks all the boxes to qualify as a world-class headphone that’s one half of a reference system when combined with the SRM-T8000 amplifier. SS, forthcoming

Stax X9000 Headphones

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