Best Headphones For Classical Music

Best Headphones For Classical Music – 2018

Classical music is beautiful, while staying timeless. However, for classical music lovers, looking for the right headphones that emphasize the beauty of the musical arrangements and voices is a struggle. You do not want to get headphones that are best for two-dimensional genres like country music; neither do you want poor quality headphones.

With all this confusion, how do you know what is right for you? How do you identify a good pair of headphones? This article will seek to highlight what to look for and what to avoid as you look for the best headphones.

Top ten headphones for classical music – summary

Brand Amazon rating Best for Cup design
Beyerdynamic DT 880 headphones 4.3 Producing neutral sound Semi-open
Grado SR80e prestige series 4.4 Those on a budget Open
Sennheiser HD 598 4.6 Overall sound quality Open
Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X 4.2 Outer vibration-proofing Open
AKG Q701 Quincy Jones signature headphones 4.1 Durability Semi-open
Sennheiser HD 650 headphones 4.6 Listening to multiple genres of music Semi-open
AKG K712 mastering/reference headphones 4.1 Bass boosting Open
Grado SR325e headphones prestige series 4.6 Enhancing vocal quality Open
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X 4.3 Wide frequency response Open
Sennheiser 800S headphones 4.5 Stereo sound delivery Open

 

Beyerdynamic DT 880 Studio Headphones – best for neutral and clear sounds

These set themselves not only among professionals as a popular choice, but also among non-professionals. These headphones are among the classic range of DT PRO equipment (the others being 770 and 990 PRO), and all feature transparent sound quality and extremely detailed resolution.

The 880 PRO headphones are very good for studio use due to the neutral sound, wide stereo image and high resolution. In fact, the headphones allow you to identify any mixing errors immediately – this is particularly important in the mixing and mastering stage of making songs. In addition, the sound quality makes it a reliable companion for all sound lovers and producers in the studio.

The headphones also have a semi-open design, which gives them a unique spaciousness while retaining the excellent and wide stereo quality. This produces a three-dimensional sound, even better than that of the 770 PRO. An additional aspect that it has is the gradual tone depth, even in low volumes. This makes it good at reproducing soundtracks without distorting the tone distinction, enabling optimal vocal positions in the mixing process, and distinguishes every sound change no matter how small it is.

The headphones also contain a spring steel headband to make sure that it remains comfortable to wear. The ear cups are adjustable and soft, so they are also ideal even when wearing for longer periods, while the single-side cable permits you to put on and take off the headphones without the annoying scenario of wires getting in the way.

 

What we like

  • Good performance for the price range
  • The design allows them to be comfortable even when you wear them for long hours
  • The padded design allows for sound blocking and enhances the experience
  • The semi-open design also allows for clean sound throughout even when adding other instruments
  • The sound stage is very large
  • It has a good representation of all sound frequencies
  • Durability

 

What we do not like

  • The ear pads tend to lose shape through long-term use

 

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Grado SR80e Headphones, Prestige series – best budget buy

The Grado SR80e is an upgrade from other brands in the series, and is among the best in giving an open stage and enhancing sound quality. Featuring a retro design, its most distinct feature is the earpieces, which rest on your ears and press down on the edges – this will affect the user comfort experience in the end.

Coming with enhanced bass resonance, this improves total detail in songs, especially during the mixing stage. The driver of the headphones has an improved design, while the connectivity technology uses wires, though not in an obstructive manner.

Similar to other headphones, the large ear cushions give you an easy listening time even when you wear them for long hours, while soft vinyl comprises the adjustable headband and improves the durability of the headphones.

The sole drawback is probably the fact that it has an open-back design; you therefore cannot listen to music using these headphones in public places since the sound bleeds out into surrounding areas.

 

What we like

  • The sound quality is very good
  • Comfortable to wear
  • They work very well regardless of extra sound amplification or volume

 

What we do not like

  • The headphones are very delicate, so you cannot use them while travelling
  • The open-back design does not allow you to listen to your music without disturbing others
  • The cables tend to twist because of the freely spinning housings

 

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Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones – best in overall sound quality

These HD 598 headphones are worth a try – combining comfort and excellent sound quality, many people recommend them for their excellent level of service as well as durability. The HD 598 headphones promise unparalleled value for your money, drawing on many years of expertise in their manufacture, as well as the manufacturer insisting on use of premium material, which gives them a feel of luxury.

They feature high-gloss burl wood detail that compliments the premium metal mesh. The headphones are among the best in terms of sound quality, and it is not difficult to see why – the innovative acoustic engineering gives you a balanced sound that is natural and detailed, even in classical recordings. The headband contains high-quality leatherette in addition to velour cover padding, which gives you comfort even if you wear them for many hours.

The transducers within the headphone ear pieces have the innovative E.A.R. (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement) technology, which allows them to transmit audio signals directly in your ears and gives a listening experience that is more spacious than most. They also use a special diaphragm design that reduces harmony distortion and inter-modulation, as it provides a very impressive frequency response and high sound output.

The headphones are versatile and are compatible with all audio devices due to their 50-ohm impedance – these devices include computers, phones and tablets. The connectivity is not bad either, as it has a detachable, single-sided cable measuring three meters.

The only drawback to these headphones is their open-back quality, and their usage is limiting when in a public situation since the sound bleeds into the environment. They are also not for individuals who enjoy bass-heavy sounds.

 

What we like

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • The sound stage gives you a premium listening experience due to the open sound
  • Very good, crisp sound quality for specific music genres
  • Durable as long as you handle them well

 

What we do not like

  • The headphones are delicate and can spoil easily if you are not careful
  • A few users note that they have a problem in handling complex instrumentation
  • They are not good at handling bass sounds

 

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Audio Technica ATH-AD900X headphones – best for vibration-proofing

Having a design that caters to the more discriminating listener, this brand is good for those that enjoy the spacious experience of open-back headphones, which combine comfort and sound.

It has 53mm drivers, which are unique to these headphones, in addition to Audio-Technica’s copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) technology and rare-earth magnets to give a higher audio quality and wide frequency response (between 5Hz and 35,000Hz).

This makes these headphones to have a very high quality production with clear instrumental and vocal production, superlative dynamic range, smooth tonal balancing and accurate imaging. Even with all this, the earphones remain comfortable thanks to the honeycomb aluminum casing, generous cushion ear pads and 3D Wing support casing that is easily adjustable to each user.

 

What we like

  • The headphones are lightweight and comfortable to use
  • The sound quality is good, though it is not bass heavy
  • Good quality for the price
  • You can use them without additional amplifiers
  • Has an aesthetically pleasing design

 

What we do not like

  • The cable is very long, making it hard to straighten
  • Some users raise complaints about the durability

 

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AKG Q701 Quincy Jones On-Ear Headphones – best in durability

The manufacturer has an exemplary history, having worked with some of the most successful musicians of the 20th Century. Among music producers in history, few have as many achievements as Quincy Jones – this is what makes these headphones stand out because of honoring the legacy of the producer.

Having a two-layer diaphragm of the studio counterpart, (it has both 80 and 40-micrometer center and perimeter respectively) and flat-wire voice coils, they promise to give you an auditory experience that matches realism, even for mid and lower frequency ranges.

The flat wires allow for the creation of stronger and more standard magnetic fields within the voice coils. This makes the diaphragm of these headphones to relay sounds with high accuracy. Moreover, this aspect enables the use of smaller and lighter coils, therefore increasing efficiency and reducing impedance. This gives you a sound stage having better quality sound particularly in lower frequencies.

The cable is of high-performance and features bi wiring, resulting in maximum stereo separation. Oxygen-free copper (OFC) comprises the cable, ensuring its durability. In addition, you can also connect it to other devices – TVs and Hi-fi – thanks to the two cables that also come with the package as well as a mini-jack converter.

The ear pads are large, and envelope the whole ear, while their comfort is due to the gimbal suspension system within a padded genuine leather sling. This allows you to listen to the music comfortably over long hours.

 

What we like

  • They are good for high-detail listening
  • It has a large sound stage, making it ideal for gamers and watching movies as well
  • The cable is durable and detachable, which makes it easier to handle
  • Has very good instrumentation separation for classical music

 

What we do not like

  • They need extra amplification when you play them above certain levels
  • Genres of music they do not offer enough bass power
  • They can create a pressure point on the top of the head, making them uncomfortable to wear after some time

 

 

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Sennheiser HD 650 professional headphones – best for listening to multiple music genres

The HD 650 headphones have a minimalistic design and promise to give you unparalleled sound quality, and examining this product it is not difficult to see why. It sets high standards in convenience and comfort as well, which guarantees to satisfy even the most critical listeners.

Coming with a unique connecting cable, this cable is detachable and comprises of OFC (Oxygen-free Copper), which has high conductivity levels. It also has Kevlar reinforcements and low handling noise, which also enhances the low structure-borne sensitivity in sound.

It also has a high-quality finish, thanks to the titanium and silver plating, ensuring its durability. The headphones are also dynamic hi-fi stereo, so you can connect them to other audio devices like CD players, SACD and DVD-A players.

The system that works throughout the headphones is of low tolerance, and handpicked in pairs to give you are more-than satisfactory experience. The speakers have neodymium ferrous magnets, making sure that there remains optimal sensitivity and high dynamic response regardless of the volume.

 

What we like

  • Very good performance for the price
  • Has a clean, crisp sound, lending themselves well for multiple genres of music
  • It improves the sound quality of vocal parts
  • Have a very good sound stage
  • The cable is replaceable and spare parts for the headphones are available

 

What we do not like

  • The headphones are not comfortable at first, though this improves with time

 

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AKG 885038035688 K712 Mastering/Reference Headphones – best in bass boosting

The AKG K712 PRO lend themselves to a variety of uses, not just in listening to music. They are open-back and over-ear, though the implication is that the sound will end up bleeding out into the surrounding.

The goodness is the accuracy they provide is high, enabling you to make recordings that sound good. The matched drivers are a highlight as well, giving you a super-extended and flat response to a range of frequencies. They also have a deep and wide sound stage that has pinpoint localization, as well as an enhanced low-end performance by three decibels that gives greater sound imaging.

To help in quick replacement of cables, they come with a mini-XLR connector, in addition to a coiled cable and cool carrying bag. For longer listening sessions, they have an over-ear design with padding, improving your comfort levels.

Regardless of whether you are listening to your favorite music, mastering, recording or mixing songs, these are a worthwhile purchase because of their high quality sound.

 

What we like

  • Lightweight and comfortable to use
  • They have a good design
  • The detachable cable means that you can use different cables with them
  • Have very good sound quality
  • Give flat and neutral sound, and this means you can use them to play different music types
  • Have high sound resolution as well as bass resolution

 

What we do not like

  • There is an issue with the durability
  • They do not self-adjust properly to different users

 

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Grado SR325e headphones, Prestige series – best in enhancing vocal quality

The Grado SR325e is an upgrade from other brands in the series, and is among the best in giving an open stage and enhancing sound quality, along with the SR80e headphones.

Similar to other headphones, the large ear cushions give you an easy listening time even when you wear them for long hours, while soft vinyl comprises the adjustable headband and improves the durability of the headphones.

Coming with enhanced bass resonance, this improves total detail in songs, especially during the mixing stage. The driver of the headphones has an improved design, while the connectivity technology uses wires, though not in an obstructive manner.

The sole drawback is probably the fact that it has an open-back design; you therefore cannot listen to music using these headphones in public places since the sound bleeds out into surrounding areas.

 

What we like

  • Easy to adjust on your ears
  • Good performance for the price
  • Has good sound quality, with good balance
  • They have excellent transparency and detail, especially within vocal and guitar ranges
  • You do not need additional amplifiers to use them

 

What we do not like

  • Their open mechanism does not allow you to use them in noisy environments
  • Their cord is heavy, so they are inconvenient to carry around
  • Their cushioning is not very good

 

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Audio Technica ATH-AD700X headphones – best in wide frequency response

Giving you unsurpassed comfort and listening experience, these headphones are good for long listening sessions. They have a light honeycomb aluminum casing, which removes extra pressure that may exert on your ears.

The manufacturer has given the drivers an update in the design, giving a bigger spacing (53mm), and these have bobbin-wound CCAW voice coils, resulting in higher-quality highs,  trebles and mid-range, as well as a spacious sound stage.

The wing support adjusts easily to your ears, making them ideal for comfort, while the straight cord on the left earpiece ends at a mini-plug with an adapter – this reduces the chances of tangles in the wire. They also have a wide frequency response, ranging from five to 30,000Hz and makes them ideal for music producers and audiophiles.

 

What we like

  • They are good for gaming use due to their large sound stage
  • They have good audio quality
  • They have good instrument and full bass differentiation
  • Comfortable to wear due to the soft ear pads

 

What we do not like

  • The cable does not allow you to move with the headphones because of the stiff and non-detachable design

 

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Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphone system (4.5) – best in delivering stereo quality sound

The 800 S headphones have the singular goal of achieving perfect quality sound, therefore redefining the audiophile listening experience. It connects the listener to the original performance of the artist, and delivering the emotional power in the song,

The heart of the headphones is the patented Ring Radiator transducer, which happens to be among the largest in dynamic headphones, reaching 56mm in diameter. The voice coil that measures up to 40mm has a large magnet structure system of 42mm. This, combined with the diaphragm having two transducers, results in a greater performance of sound both outside and inside of the ring.

The ear cups have an ergonomic design that is innovative and comprised of ultra-lightweight and non-resonant material, which has great durability and strength. Stainless steel further protects the transducers and enhances comfort in wearing them even for long periods.

You do not need to worry about unwarranted vibrations within the system, as the metal headband is between several resonance dampening polymers that remove this problem.

The set also includes two low capacitance, impedance matched cables that enable high connectivity, and this allows for use with other audio devices such as the HDVD 800 amplifier.

 

What we like

  • Has very good sound quality that has depth and well as broadness
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Easily portable due to the light cable
  • Has very good bass boost
  • Very good design and excellent workmanship

 

What we do not like

  • They are pricier than other headphones of similar quality

 

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What to look for in classical music headphones

Classical music is unlike other music forms – the emphasis is on the instrumental clarity and the voices. That makes it difficult to find proper headphones for it. To ease the burden, there are four factors to look out for when buying, and they are:

  • The sound stage
  • Neutrality
  • Open-back design
  • The comfort

Remember that different headphones have different tunings according to different genres of music, as some will generate more bass and others will focus on the higher notes. For classical music, the focus is on headphones that make clean and crisp sound, and you therefore do not want those that focus too much on bass.

 

  1. The sound stage

Orchestra lovers are familiar with sound stage and its importance to the sound of the music. If you are unfamiliar, you may wonder what it is – it is simply the ability of the headphones to create the spacious experience of the concert hall.

If the headphones are good at the job, you will hear the flutes on the right and the violins on the left. This creates a new level of listening – you do not need to go to an actual concert hall and hear the instruments, you get too hear all of them in the headphones.

 

  1. Neutrality

This is among the distinguishing factors of classical music from other genres. It is instrument-heavy (it has thousands of micro sounds like violin bows striking the string), and the combination of all these complex and distinct sounds makes the music evoke emotional responses in the listener.

However, how does that affect neutrality of the headphones? Neutrality means that the headphones replicate the sound of speakers having a flat frequency response.

Frequency response

Different frequencies in sound make devices respond in different ways. That means that to measure it you require to feed the device different frequencies at the same level. The device responds, and you measure the tones it gives out and if they are at the same level.

Basic explanation of neutrality

When playing music through a speaker set, the sound waves bounce off the objects in the room before they reach your ears. The response you hear will depend on two factors – the acoustics of the room, as well as the frequency response of the speakers. This is what neutrality is all about.

With headphones however, it is a different story, because they do not have that much room to work with in the first place. Seeing this, sound engineers create headphones that can replicate this experience.

An additional problem is the human ear itself – not all ears are the same. Sound engineers design headphones all the time; they want them to replicate realistic frequencies when the sound waves bounce around the ear canals. That is the reason why we avoid listening to the same headphones because they sound different to each person.

The reason that all this is essential to classical music is due to its complexity. Classical music has a very high level of room experience and micro-sounds, so anything that alters this will decrease the music quality.

 

  1. Open-back design

The designs of headphones usually are in three designs – semi-open, open-backed and closed-backed. These are the design of the cup itself, so an open-back cup is open and a closed-back cup has sealing on its back.

Closed-back cups reduce noise passively, resulting in an illusion of the music playing inside your head. On the other side, the open-cup headphones haves their speakers perforated, and the effect is that sound and air leak out to the environment.

The general rule is that closed-back cups are very good at isolating noise, and this is why frequent travelers recommend them, since the sound does not bleed out into the environment. However, when it comes to classical music, they have one problem – they cannot reproduce the orchestral effect that most classical music lovers seek. That makes an open-cup pair better for this instance.

Note that if you frequently travel in noisy environments such as a traffic area, the best option is to go for a semi-open or closed-back headphone pair, but keep in mind that it will not give the optimal experience. Open-cup headphones are not good at filtering out sound, so they will not work in a noisy place.

 

  1. Comfort

This was a major issue with headphones in the past, as the manufacturers took the sound quality as a paramount factor and ignoring comfort features.

This is among the last things people look for, because the other factors carry them away. However, remember that headphones must be comfortable, or else, they are not worth buying.

Classical music songs last for long periods, so make sure they sit comfortable on your ears before you spend your money on them. In fact, the headphones must have proper cushioning on them, as they provide both a solid grip on your ears and cushion the ears.

When wearing your headphones for a long time, you will notice their quality. Bad cushioning may not be so bad at first, but after some time it begins to get uncomfortable or sliding around. What you may not know, is how the cushioning affects the sound quality, which is in three ways:

  • Materials in use – this determines the outside noise that the headphones can block. There are two varieties, rubber and foam. Foam is the more common material of the two and more effective, and rubber is cheaper and more durable than foam.
  • Design and the shape – this also determines the allowance of sounds from outside leaking in. Ear pads that have good designs should give some level of noise isolation (even open-cup types) so that surrounding noise is not distracting.

 

Other factors to look out for include:

  1. Design of the headphones

There are two designs of headphones – on-ear and over-ear. Over-ear headphones are the most comfortable and portable (they have a smaller build), while on-ear headphones apply some pressure on the ears. On-ear headphones have smaller ear cups, which sit on the ear, while over-ear headphones have larger ear cups that sit around the ears.

 

  1. Is the headphone set wireless?

You want to avoid situations where you are yanking and spoiling your headphone cable because wires kept on tangling in each other during your movements.

 

  1. Weight of the headphones

You want to avoid carrying a large weight on your head. This is an important factor in comfort as well, but ensure that the lighter headphones you use do not sacrifice quality.

 

Choosing a headphone set for classical music

Classical music has many subtle as well as not-so subtle details, making it a complex form of music to listen. In fact, when you listen keenly, each instrument is attempting to tell its own story.

Because of this, for you to enjoy the piece in its entirety, you require headphones that will not only give you the correct definition, but also frequency response and clarity. That is why the average models of headphones that emphasize bass will not be optimal for listening to classical music.

Instead, you want a headphone set that has high definition in the treble part of the music, in addition to a good mid-range.

Note that most of the music that is around is in the mid-range, which is between 110Hz and 3,500Hz. For further comparison, the middle C of a piano produces about 261.6Hz, while the highest range of a violin is about 3,500Hz, and that of a cello is about 1,000Hz.

Certain parts of classical music requires decent low-end response, though it remains that the music itself does not emphasize bass frequencies.

Another aspect to look out for us the dynamic range – this is the variation between the softest and loudest passages in a piece of music. This is due to the instruments involved: percussive instruments such as the drums and piano have wide dynamic ranges, while string instruments like guitars, violins and cello have narrower dynamic range.

This has an overall effect on the music itself. Recordings of classical music undergo mixing so that high definition systems can play them, instead of playing them in your car radio or streaming. This is also the reason to look for a HD headphone set that has a wide frequency range for classical music recordings.

The environment you are in most of the time will also affect the headphones you choose. In places that have high noise levels, it is best to choose a closed-cup set because they are good at canceling noise. You should also avoid buying headphones without trying them on first – headphones fit differently on different people.

 

Taking care of headphone ear pads

Foam

This is dependent on the ear pads that you are using, so the method that you take will differ slightly. If you use foam ear pads, these tips can help:

  • Cleaning regularly – this is because foam is porous, which means that it absorbs dirt and sweat quickly during use. After use, it is best practice to wipe it immediately, and clean it once a week using a damp cloth and a dab of mild soap. After wiping, leave it to air-dry completely before storing. Avoid squeezing them dry because this will ruin the foam structure. In addition, cleaning prevents the growth of bacteria and rot from buildup of dirt.
  • Proper storage – when you leave your headphones out, dust and sunlight can damage them. Keep them in a case when you are not using them.
  • Periodic replacement – foam ear pads wear out with time, so you need to factor in replacements for them. This will depend on how well you take care of them and how often you use them.

 

When to replace foam ear pads

  • When the ear pads smell – regardless of regular cleaning, this is an inevitable occurrence due to the absorption of dirt and sweat.
  • When the foam is flat – when it is no longer springy, that means that it does not offer the same level of support.
  • Bad sound quality – this may also be due to technical issues, but also old ear pads.
  • Sliding of the headphone set – the ear pads may wear out, so it needs replacement.

 

Leather/rubber ear pads

With these, you should exercise greater caution when taking care of them. The good news is these have less porosity issues, so they have higher protection levels against dust and dirt.

They still absorb sweat, even though they do so at slower rates. Here are some tips to maintain them:

  • Regular cleaning after use – similar to foam pads, this eliminates sweat and dirt that may be on the surface before it enters the inner padding. Once weekly, wipe them with a damp cloth, but avoid soap because this is too harsh on the material. For greater convenience, there are special solutions that cater to cleaning leather in particular.
  • Proper storage – when you leave these to the elements, the material goes through expansion and contraction depending on the humidity levels and heat. This leads to cracks and eventual spoilage of the material quality, so ensure to store them in a proper case away from sunlight and humidity.
  • Periodic conditioning – leather particularly demands this, so you will require a specialized cleaning solution. This has two functions: protecting it from harmful conditions, as well as keeping it soft. Take care that you do not over condition the material though; this leads to rotting of the material. At most, you should do this twice a year.
  • Periodic replacement – when the ear pads are too old, they need replacement. They are more durable compared to foam ear pads, but the shelf life is about one and a half to two years.

 

When to replace rubber/leather pads

  • Cracks – this mostly begins from where the material has tight stretches and at creases. Another sign is flaking or peeling of the material.
  • Rough and dry feel – this eventually leads to cracks in the material, and shows that it is too old.
  • Rotting – stains and patches will show this sign, resulting in mildew and bad odors.
  • The foam underneath is rotting – look for the signs of spoilage in foam ear pads as well. If you notice any of those signs, it is best to get replacements.

 

Final thoughts

Considering all the options, our pick is the Sennheiser HD 800. delivering a mixture of sound quality and comfort, these are among the best in terms of giving sublime sounds and wide sound stage (in fact, they have among the biggest sound stages compared to other headphones) and they lend themselves well to other music types as well. As long as the price does not bother you too much, they are a worthwhile purchase and their stereo quality is very high.

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