Discover some cool headphones on the market that feature unique and brilliant designs, functions, builds, and history like you’ve never seen before.
Whenever any one of the apex headphone manufacturers announces a new release, fans often rush to get a front-row seat to the latest design. True enough, in the world of audio products, a new product is often something better — a significant improvement from its predecessor.
However, most new headphones only come with standard features, but not anything worth drooling over. While you may get something that offers studio-quality sound, it’s not often that you get a distinctive design or unparalleled features.
Plus, no one can blame you for getting tired of the current selection of headphones with very similar designs and features. However, if you want to stand out better to go with the coolest options, right?
Well, lucky for you, this article will show you some of the most awe-inspiring headphones to be created. Their unique design or exceptional features are what sets them apart from the competition. We will show you what’s to love (or not) about them. Don’t worry about the price, we will also throw in a few budget-priced options too. Let’s go for it.
In This Article
Most Interesting Audiophile Headphones
It’s great to have a pair of headphones that not only produces fantastic sound but also has a fascinating design. Something worth having as a collectible. Here are a few options available on the market:
What makes the MDR-R10 so interesting?
- Cost $2500 USD in 1989 – considered the most expensive headphone in that era
- Only 2000 ever made
- 50mm Bio-Cellulose Dome Diaphragms
- Zelkova wood enclosures
In the 1980’s Sony electronics could do no wrong – they ruled the portable market with the Walkman and eventually with the Sports line. They looked to dominate the headphone market with an “Ultimate Headphone”, namely the Sony MDR-R10.
Since 1989, 2000 pairs were made, and with a price tag of $2500 USD, it certainly captured the spirit of this article. This scarcity and reputation meant that the few that come up for sale these days have price tags often in excess of $5000.
How can this almost 30-year-old headphone compete with modern offerings at this price?
Even when evaluated today, the MDR-R10 sound is described as effortless, highly detailed and extremely clear.
They remain for many, the pinnacle of closed-back headphones, with an exceptional soundstage and with a superbly natural and musical sound profile. It was available in two flavors, one with more emphasized bass.
The fit and finish of this MDR-R10 are top-notch. Although the Zelkova wood enclosures are big and bulky, they are well balanced and have a comfortable headband, along with lambskin leather ear pads. Users often report that they are one of the most comfortable headphones they have ever used, regardless of the relatively large size and weight (400 grams).
Experts attribute the extraordinary sound quality to the newly developed 50 mm Bio-Cellulose Dome Diaphragms. This material was also used in a few other Sony headphones over the 1990’s – but none was as coveted as the MDR-R10.
What makes the K1000 so interesting?
- Just look at them!
- AKG’s flagship headphone
- Swivel adjustable drivers
- Can only be driven by a stereo power amplifier
With a radical design like the AKG K1000, it is no wonder how it is seen as a cut above the rest.
While Sony was building its flagship MDR-R10 in the very late 1980’s, AKG decided to take a futuristic design approach to the K1000. Often compared to Stax’s square-framed Lambda ear speakers, the K1000 is AKG’s take on a flagship headphone. Priced at around $1000 USD, they were approximately four times more expensive than AKG’s previous top-of-the-line models.
The design of the K1000 is unavoidably polarizing. Retro-future cool or just really odd? I’ll leave that to you. White metal mesh panels on both sides of the square ear cups and bright red headband strips make this model instantly recognizable.
Drivers that swivel
Adjustable driver panels allow for the sound of the K1000 to be tuned in a unique way. Drivers are mounted approximately 20 mm from the ear and are on swivels. The drivers can be rotated in parallel (in a traditional headphone orientation) to almost perpendicular (~70 degrees) to the ears. Rotating the panels changes the sound in openness, forwardness, spaciousness, and how diffused the music sounds.
This arrangement also allows for some time-delayed crosstalk of signals between the ears, like in a traditional speaker stereo playback, and removes the traditional ‘in the head’ listening experience of headphones. In addition, it allows for the entire outer ear to interact with sound reproduction, which is how our brains interpret positional information.
The drawback of this unique open-air transducer design, which does not rest on the ear, means that the K1000 must be supported by stand-off pads pressing on the wearer’s temples. Long-term comfort is an issue with this arrangement, and users often report pain with moderate to long listening sessions.
Only work with stereo amplifier
Another unusual design feature of the K1000 is the amplification requirement. They are not designed to be driven by a headphone amplifier. The K1000 truly deserves the title of “ear speakers” as the cables aren’t terminated, and the bare wires are meant to be connected to traditional stereo amplifier speaker outputs. Rated at 74 dB sound pressure at 1 watt, they will perform best with an amplifier providing 60 to 70 watts per channel.
Unfortunately, current reviews identify issues with the age of the driver design. Compared to modern headphones, playback of fast and complex musical passages can get lost, losing separation and becoming congested, and the soundstage is relatively flat without much-perceived depth (regardless of the rotating driver).
The bass is described as tight and controlled (if not particularly deep), but the upper midrange and treble can become a little harsh. Playback quality benefits from more and cleaner amplification. That said, many audiophiles still consider this pair of headphones near the pinnacle of personal sound quality.
What makes the SR-009 so interesting?
- Top of the line STAX (Cost $5200 at launch)
- Spectacular fit and finish
- Extremely refined sound
- Analytical more than fun
The Stax SR-009 are premium headphones from STAX, with a price tag to match ($5200 USD upon release in 2011). While other brands are hotly debated in the online headphone community, the Stax reputation remains synonymous with excellent sound quality, top performance, and distinctive design. Originally releasing their first electrostatic headphones in 1960, the Japanese company has gone through many ups and downs, including insolvency, resurrection as the STAX company, and then the eventual purchase by the Chinese company Edifier in 2011.
The build quality of the Stax SR-009 is outstanding, featuring an extremely attractive aluminum and leather design. Of course, being electrostatic headphones, they require a special amplifier to be used. The SR-009 is more efficient (easier to drive) than the lower STAX SR-007A, so it isn’t quite as picky about amplification as its little brother.
What makes the SR-009 really special is how they sound: refined, highly-resolved and impactful reproduction of music. Frequency response is listed as 5 – 42,000Hz with a max sound pressure level of 118dB / 400Hz. Described as being incredibly detailed, uncannily real sounding, and strikingly transparent, this is the headphone for critical listeners looking to analyze every part of the music.
It is designed to accurately reproduce every nuance of the music being played, which may be somewhat fatiguing for the listener. For better or worse, there is no house sound, no flavor, nor coloration. These terms are usually applied to “fun” sounding headphones, not the almost perfect linearity of the SR-009 playback. The other headphone that comes up quite a bit in discussion with these sort of terms is the Sennheiser HD800, but direct comparisons give the sound quality nod to the SR-009 as it comes across as less harsh and sibilant than the HD800.
Sennheiser HE1060 (He 1) – Orpheus 2
What makes Orpheus 2 so interesting?
- Out-of-this-world design
- Costs as much as a luxury car ($55,000 USD)
- Integrated 8-tube amplifier and headphone storage
- Made of Michelangelo’s Carrara marble
What happens when you let the Sennheiser designers unleash their creativity with no boundaries? Sennheiser’s $55,000 USD Orpheus 2 headphone system.
Yup. You read that correctly – no extra or erroneous 0’s. Sure, you could have your choice of new cars at the BMW or Audi dealership, or you could have the most coveted (and expensive) headphones ever made.
Carrara marble from Italy
In 2015, Sennheiser celebrated its 70th anniversary with the launch of another Orpheus: the HE1060 headphones and integrated HEV1060 amplifier. Each pair took 400 hours to make and Sennheiser only sells about 250 units per year. The HEV1060 base is made from a large block of Carrara marble – the type made famous by Michelangelo’s statues and hand selected by one of the lead engineers (he traveled to Italy to do it properly).
Silly? Absolutely and it doesn’t stop there.
The marble contains the huge 8-tube amplifier, with milled solid brass dials, and is integrated into to the dustproof headphone storage box. When powered on, the controls and tubes slowly motorize out of their sockets, allowing a few moments for the amplifier to reach the optimum operating temperature.
A limitation of the electrostatic design is that they require high voltage from the amplifier, where the majority of the voltage can be lost in transmission to the drivers. The Orpheus 2 moves the high voltage amplifier stage into the headphones themselves, and Sennheiser claims this is 200% more efficient than any other solution available. The ear cups are machined from solid aluminum and feature handmade leather, velour, and microfiber ear pads.
8 Sabre DAC
The Orpheus 2 uses eight internal SABRE DAC, capable of handling high-resolution audio up to 32bit/384kHz (as well as 2.8/5.6 MHz DSD signals), with four parallel channels per ear, promising to reduce distortion and noise levels. There are balanced and unbalanced connections, plus digital optical, coaxial, and USB inputs.
From the lucky few who had experienced the Orpheus 2, the general consensus is that it delivers the most realistic imaging of any headphone available. It gives the impression of limitless power and instantaneous speed.
Bang & Olufsen U70
What makes the Bang & Olufsen (B&O) U70 so interesting?
- B&O first pair of headphones
- Minimalistic, industrial design that is way ahead of its time
- Designed by the renowned Danish Designer, Jacob Jensen
- Cost $40 in 1979 = $160 in 2018
Before there was Jonathan Ives, the prior generation had Jacob Jensen. The Danish product designer had the vision to design products that are sleek and unapologetically minimal. The B&O U70 was one of his finest achievement and really did summed up for what he stand for. The headphones were added to the Design Collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in 1979.
Despite looking rather bulky, the planar magnetic U70 only weighs 300g. It placed ergonomic first with individually adjustable ear cups that move in both axis while the headband is also adjustable for optimal fit. Basic features that will put most modern high-end headphones to shame.
Unfortunately, the ear pads are reportedly made of leatherette that didn’t last with age. It is hard to find a pair that have the ear pads well-preserved. Even so, it is still an overall work of art.
Manufactured in 1978 – 1984, the headphones cost up to $40 at that time. This will translate to $158.79 in 2018. Today it can be picked up at thrift store for as low as $6.
Most Stylish Headphones
We have rounded up a few headphones that feature attractive designs that are sure to turn heads when you have them on. Read on to find the most stylish headphones you’ll find today!
- Audio-Technica ATH-WP900
- Master & Dynamic MH30 by Carolyn Rowan
- Pryma 01
- Pioneer SE-L40
- Napa leather Rhinestone Headphones With Crown
What makes the Audio-Technica ATH-WP900 so interesting?
- Maple wood earcups
- Handcrafted by FujiGen
- Soft synthetic leather earmuffs.
FujiGen, the famous Japanese musical instrument designing company, had a hand in crafting the Audio-Technica ATH-WP900 over-ear headphones with wooden earcups. Furthermore, this wooden design is not just for aesthetics but also for optimal sound quality.
Maple wood is typically used to design instruments such as guitars or violins for its tonal clarity. The same case applies to these headphones’ earcups. The large wooden chambers create more room for sound vibrations so you can get a smooth, natural, and distortion-free sound.
The earcups are further integrated with large 53mm drivers that feature a diamond-like carbon (DLC)) coating. These drivers help to improve the headphone’s frequency response so they can deliver accurate sound.
Since the drivers are strategically placed inside the large wooden housing, they can receive optimal airflow resulting in sharper highs and deeper lows.
You can connect these headphones to almost any portable audio device, including a smartphone or a high-resolution digital audio player. However, you may need to connect it to a compatible headphone amplifier for optimal sound quality in the latter case.
Besides that, the smooth synthetic leather earpads provide a comfortable fit, while the ear cups swivel flat for easy transportation.
Master & Dynamic MH30 by Carolyn Rowan
What makes the Master & Dynamic MH30 so interesting?
- Designer headphones
- Crystal-beaded headband
- Limited edition set
New York city-based audio company Master & Dynamic teamed up with renowned luxury accessory designer Carolyn Rowan, to bring you this premium set of Swarovski-embellished headphones.
These headphones are a limited-edition set that is only available on the company’s official website and in five select stores across the world. These stores include The Webster (Miami and Bal Harbor), Forty-Five Ten (Dallas), Fred Segal LAX (Los Angeles), and Colette (Paris).
What you will love about them is their exquisite design that is sure to add a touch of elegance to your overall look and make you stand out. Also, they are comfortable to wear since the headband and earmuffs are made of luxurious lambskin leather.
Since they are fashionable headsets, they come with a steep price of around $1,000. Don’t worry, you are sure to get value for your money from the powerful sound they produce. This is because, just like most Master & Dynamic headphones, this set is equipped with 40mm neodymium drivers. Therefore, they can deliver a crystal clear sound.
The only problem is that while the bass is decent, it can be overwhelming at times. However, learning how to adjust your equalizer settings can help alleviate the problem.
What makes the Pryma 01 so interesting?
- Handmade in Italy
- Interchangeable headband
- Detachable earpads
- Unique ear cup shape and belt-like design
Sonus Faber, an Italian manufacturer of handcrafted audio equipment, offers the Pryma 01 (pronounced ‘pree-mah’). They are a pair of handmade headphones that are made of a combination of leather and real matte carbon fiber for a luxurious look. They got a huge following after Beyonce wore them on her Lemonade-Sandcastles video when she was playing the keyboard (from 01:42 minute).
The designer had user comfort in mind when designing the shape of the earpads. They are designed to conform to the shape of the human ear so they can be easily worn and sit comfortably on your ears for long periods.
You will love that the headband is interchangeable and you have several colors to choose from, including pure black, rose gold, and dark grey. This makes it easy to match your headphones with your overall look so you can always create a fashion statement.
What’s more, the leather headband has a breathable microfiber lining to keep you from sweating excessively. Also, the headband is designed with four notches that buckle into the earcups, which makes it easier to get a comfortable fit.
The attention to detail doesn’t just stop at the outward design. The headset is designed to produce a rich sound with the help of 40mm dynamic drivers. While the bass may not be as intense as most high-end headphones, the overall sound quality feels natural and well-balanced.
What makes the Pioneer SE-L40 so interesting?
- Vintage look
- Durable metal earcups
- Classic brown leather headband
If you are a fan of anything vintage-looking, then you are going to want these stereo headphones from Pioneer. The Pioneer SE-L40 features golden ear cups, a leather headband, and a braided cord. The headphones come with dual headbands, which you can swivel apart for optimal comfort and for keeping your head from sweating.
If you think that the metal casing will weigh heavily on your head, you will be glad to know that it’s quite lightweight at only around 0.5 lbs (230 grams). Also, the earpads offer pillow-like comfort so you can have them on for many hours.
It isn’t just all aesthetics with this headset. They also sound quite good; perfect for listening to almost any music genre as they can deliver an accurate sound across all frequencies. These may not be the best option for bass heads, but the bass is tight and punchy enough to deliver an impressive sound.
Not forgetting, the ear cups have an open-back design to allow air to pass through the rear of the speaker. This helps to reduce the build-up of low frequencies for a more natural sound.
Napa Leather Rhinestone Headphones With Crown
What makes the Napa Leather Rhinestone Headphones With Crown so interesting?
- A crystal and pearl crown
- $9000 USD
- Sold out in a day
Lest you think that audio quality is everything, the last contender on the list is the $9000 USD D&G’s Crown headphones. It was made famous by selling out the day after Rihanna posted a tweet with her wearing them.
Other than a lambskin-padded metal headband, it has metallic rings embellished with Swarovski crystals and pearls. They also feature an audio stereo connection with volume control and are compatible with MP3 readers, smartphones, and audio playback devices. I know, right?
Believe it or not, the sold-out set isn’t the only expensive headphone created as part of the collaboration between FRENDS and Dolce & Gabbana. Using an untraditional crown design and materials including fur, crystals and faux pearls, FRENDS describes the line as “a new take on the unique, stylish and contemporary headphones for the modern woman”. Priced at $7000, a pair of red leather headphones was the least expensive option in the lineup. STAX only wishes they could command that sort of price for their bottom of the line headphones.
Digitaltrends.com noted that:
At least Rihanna looks fantastic wearing them.
Headphones With the Coolest Features
If you’re looking for headphones that don’t just look cool but also offer ‘never been seen before’ features, this is your lucky day!
Here are the coolest headphones we’ve found with unique, extraordinary features you usually won’t expect to find on a pair of headphones. Enjoy the list!
- Woojer Strap Edge
- Soundsight headphones
- Hubble MaskFone
- Human Headphones
- HumanCharger Wireless Headset
Woojer Strap Edge
What makes the Woojer Strap Edge so interesting?
- Haptic transducer lets your body physically feel the music’s bass
- Focused Mode option narrows vibration range, syncing sensation more closely to audio
- Highly adjustable strap ensures comfortable wear for a wide range of body sizes.
The Woojer Strap Edge is a wearable audio device designed to provide an immersive listening experience by translating audio signals into tactile vibrations. This innovative device wraps around the user and connects to various audio sources to enhance music, gaming, movies, and other activities.
It’s haptic transducer technology vibrates your body in sync with the audio. This technology lets you feel the bass, making music more engaging and emotional.
The Woojer Strap Edge’s unique “Focused Mode” isolates and enhances specific audio frequencies for a more personalized listening experience. By targeting specific frequency ranges, the device enhances the experience of bass-heavy music and movie soundtracks. The Strap Edge goes beyond audio accessories with this customized experience.
Despite its innovative features, the Woojer Strap Edge has some drawbacks. Vibrations can be uncomfortable or distracting, especially for long-term use. Some genres and soundscapes benefit more from the device’s tactile experience than others.
What makes the Nuraphone so interesting?
- Hybrid in-ear and over-ear design
- Active noise cancellation
- Smart self-learning engine
- Provide a personalized hearing profile
From the outward appearance, the Nuraphone headphones look like almost any other over-ear headphones. However, a closer look at the ear muffs reveals that they are also integrated with earbuds. This leads to a more immersive sound where the over-ear cups deliver the bass and improve noise isolation, while the in-ear tips improve the clarity of the melodies.
That’s not all!
These headphones are integrated with a self-learning engine that works in collaboration with the Nura App to create a unique hearing profile in just 60 seconds. The hearing profile is based on how you listen to music. So the engine will play a range of tones and wait for your ears to produce faint echoes known as Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs).
Everyone listens to music in a different way since not all ears are created equal. Therefore, everyone’s ears will respond to the tones differently and produce unique OAEs. This is how you get your own personalized hearing profile. Your hearing profile will be displayed like a multicolored fingerprint on the Nura app.
Unfortunately, there’s a slight downside to having a unique hearing profile. It means that you can’t borrow your friend’s nuraphones — their hearing profile isn’t the same as yours. The music won’t just sound the same.
What makes the Soundsight headphones so interesting?
- Hands-free video recording
- Night recording
- 1080-pixel quality
Think back to the beautiful but fleeting moments you failed to capture since it took too long to get your phone out of your pockets. Sad, right? Well, this is why the Soundsight headphones were created. They help you capture those brilliant moments by simply tapping the earcap. Think of the Google Glass but with better camera quality.
Soundsight describes them as, “Beats meets Instagram and GoPro”
These headphones are designed with a 1080-pixel camera that’s fitted on the earpad. The user activates the camera with the simple tap of the button and it starts recording. It also comes with 4 built-in mics so you can record clear audio. Best of all, it can record at night!
The user can then download the footage via the Soundsight app. The app lets users personalize their videos by adding filters and effects. You can also trim, edit, or add music to match the video. With up to 16 GB of onboard storage, you can record about 30 minutes of video.
These Bluetooth-enabled headphones do not sleep on their main job. They are designed with a Hi-Fi sound system that offers real acoustic volume and studio-quality audio. With a frequency response range of about 16 to 20,000 hertz, you are sure to have a good feel of the highs, mids, and lows.
They also feature active noise cancellation technology so you can concentrate on what you’re listening to.
What makes the Hubble MaskFone so interesting?
- N95 face mask
- Replaceable filters
- Built-in earbuds
- Alexa and Siri compatibility
When you hear of Hubble Connected, your mind probably goes to smart baby monitors. Well, recently during the global pandemic, the company added true wireless headphones to its repertoire — the Hubble MaskFone
Not just any wireless headphones but ones that are built into a face mask. This ingenious creation gained Hubble global recognition as the first company to market the world’s first mask with built-in wireless earbuds.
The mask is designed with a medical-grade, N95, four-layer filter. It protects you from dust, pollen, and other harmful particulate matter. It’s also water- and dust-resistant.
The mask is also equipped with a built-in mic that isolates background noise so you can make clear hands-free calls. It also includes voice-projection that’s powered by the Hubble Connect app. This makes your voice sound crystal clear even under the mask.
As for the earbuds, they offer 12-hour playback so you can listen to your favorite playlist all day. I know what you are thinking. What happens when you only need the mask and not the earbuds? Well, the mask is integrated with a magnetic earbud holder that keeps them from dangling under your ears.
Sadly, the earbuds with a protruding antenna aren’t for everyone. The design can feel bulky and somewhat uncomfortable depending on the user’s head shape, size, and personal preferences.
What makes Human Headphones so interesting?
- Comfort fit
- Band-free design
- Turns into a portable speaker
Human Inc. developed the world’s first-ever true wireless over-ear smart headphones — the Human Headphones. They are designed to look like earmuffs so they can feel more natural on the ears than conventional headphones.
To emphasize the natural feel, the earmuff weighs only one-fifth the weight of conventional headphones. They also have memory foam so they can hug your ears in a soft embrace.
Each ear muff is touch-sensitive so you can control the volume by tapping them. When worn as headphones, these earmuffs effectively block out unwanted background noise. You can simply tap and hold each ear muff to block out or let in a bit of ambient noise.
To top it off, these earmuffs feature an innovative hybrid design where you can convert them to a Bluetooth speaker. You only need to clasp them together to form a capsule, and they will switch to speaker mode.
The main caveat with the portable speaker is that it doesn’t come with the best audio quality as is the case with most portable Bluetooth speakers. Some users liken it to a smartphone’s speaker. The upside is that it lets you listen to music for longer, especially when you can’t wear earmuffs.
HumanCharger Wireless Headset
What makes the HumanCharger Wireless Headset so interesting?
- Integrates the theory of Bright Light therapy
- Compact over-ear design
- Alleviates symptoms of jet lag or winter blues
Valkee introduced the first-ever portable bright-light therapy device. And while they may look like conventional over-ear headphones, the HumanCharger headset doesn’t just play audio. They also shine a bright light into your ears to trick the brain into thinking that it’s receiving natural sunlight.
So the light is channeled into your ear canal and triggers your brain to produce Serotonin. This hormone makes you feel alert and full of energy. Despite it being a placebo effect, it can work for people who work in darkly lit rooms or don’t get enough sun during the day.
The best part is that you can listen to music with the light on. So you can rely on the light and a smooth playlist to help you relax. However, Valkee warns that overusing the device can result in headaches, sleep disturbances, or even nausea. So consider limiting your re-charge time.
As you can see, there’s more to the audio world than the simple closed-back headphones you find on the market. You can now choose whatever you want depending on your budget. The options range from cool but budget-friendly designs to shockingly expensive options where you find it quite hard to justify the cost.
Take Orpheus 2 for example. It leans on the expensive side, and that may be due to the manufacturer pushing its limits with premium features. On the other hand, you may simply want to gift your music-loving loved one with a fashionable headset despite the cost. That’s where options like the Master & Dynamic MH30 or the Pryma 01 come in.
If you find these headphones a bit out of reach, check out the rest of the nice headphones that are still within our reach on Headphonesty.
What other headphones deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Interesting collection indeed. Note the K1000 is a conventional dynamic driver, not electrostatic.
you missed the one of the most exquisite, fascinating, and unobtainable headphone: STAX SR-Ω. (the first.) this thing is so rare that even YOU did not hear about it.
Heh. Yup. Good one!
This can be an almost never ending list of weird, wild(ly expensive), and wacky rarities.
You like ‘wacky’ headphones? you google; Jecklin ”’float”……
I’ve been trying to google a headphone from the same era and calibre as the AKG k1000, Orpheus and MDR-R10. You couldn’t put it on your head because it could only rest on your chest and shoulders while reclining and it was connected to a dedicated amp like the Orphues. And of course, absolutly rediculously expensive. I thought it was AKG but have had no luck finding back to it. Anyone know which headphone I’m talking about?
Well the akg K1000 are not electrostatic. They are moving coil.