Classical music is one of the genres that has a lot of details, and the headphones you choose should be good enough to recreate the sound with vivid details. But different genres of music have different typical EQ curves, which means that your fancy bass-heavy headphones which excel in electronic music won’t cut it for classical music.
Choosing the best headphones for classical music isn’t as simple as buying an expensive pair out there. Don’t worry, here is the list of some of the best headphones you can buy for the ultimate classical music enjoyment and some considerations.
Mid-range is the key: 250Hz to 2KHz
Classical music sounds are produced mainly by acoustic instruments and vocals, with very little or non-existent post-processing. Certainly, there is some bass from instruments like the bass drums or tuba, but in general, we want headphones with a very neutral sound signature (monitor headphones work great).
This means you should avoid any headphones that are bass-heavy or treble-heavy which could be troublesome nowadays.
Why open-back headphones are preferred?
Closed-back headphones are the most popular and widely available in the market. Nevertheless, for classical music you ideally want open-back headphones.
Because they don’t have solid, encapsulated cups the sound can escape in all directions instead of being reflected within the cup, creating a wider soundstage and making sound reproduction more accurate.
Open-back headphones are easy to recognize. Simply look for a mesh in the earcups, and sometimes you can even see the internals. Remember that open-back headphones are not recommended for public spaces or if you commute often due to lack of isolation.
Don’t forget your comfort
Since classical compositions are not short like modern music, you will spend anywhere from 15 minutes to over 40 minutes per composition. Therefore, comfortability is key in your choice.
Another advantage of any open-back headphones is the improved airflow, enhancing the breathability of your skin letting you use them for longer periods.
SENNHEISER HD 660S – Best headphones for classical music all around
There’s no doubt that Sennheiser has earned a name in the headphone space, producing some of the best headphones on the market. Also, they produce long-lasting products. For example, the original Sennheiser HD 600 arrived on the market in 1997 and you can still buy them right now!
The HD 660S is the successor of the legendary HD 650. In short, the HD 660S does everything that the HD 650 did, but even better. That is not a small statement since the HD 650 was for years “the benchmark” / “the king” of headphones.
Soundstage-wise, these headphones are very flat in the mid-range. The bass is powerful but comes very naturally. The high frequencies are well tamed avoiding listening fatigue.
As usual in the HD600 series, the build quality and design are nothing but great. The headphones use mostly plastic, but the quality is superb. The headphone grills and headband adjustment bands are made of metal to give it a nice finish though.
Beyerdynamic DT 880
Beyerdynamic is another very popular brand, bringing some competition to Sennheiser. The DT 880 is significantly cheaper than Sennheiser HD 6XX, but it performs in the same league.
These headphones offer a balanced sound, the midrange is warm with transparency and great details. They don’t provide the most powerful bass which is fine for classical music. High frequencies are a little bit boosted.
Like most of Beyerdynamic’s headphones, the DT 880 has great build quality, the headband is non-removable and well padded, the ear cups are padded and covered with soft velour. The headphones are light at only 0.65 pounds which helps to comfort. It doesn’t come with the premium all-metal design of some other Beyerdynamic headphones which is fine to keep them affordable.
The DT 880 are semi-open headphones that allow ambient noise and leak sound but also they have a bit of isolation. Be aware of the 250 ohms impedance, please consider buying a headphone amplifier if you don’t have one.
Please be aware that is an older Philips SHP9500 that has been discontinued. This section is for the new Philips SHP9500 that includes a 5ft cable (instead of a 10ft cable) and doesn’t include a carrying bag.
The Philips SHP9500 is light thanks to the extensive use of plastic, but there is metal on the earcups and inside the headband. Even though construction is mostly plastic, they feel solid. The headband and earcups are covered with fabric that is very breathable adding more comfort.
For the price the sound is amazing. The midrange is truly clear with bass that sounds good but is not overpowered, the treble is a little bit bright. Furthermore, these headphones are 32 Ohms impedance meaning no amplifier is needed.
The AKG K702 is a combination of plastic, metal, and leather. Giving the feel of sturdiness and good quality. Furthermore, the earcups and cable are removable which is great for customization or easy replacement in case of accidents.
AKG patented its driver technology, called Varimotion, a two-layer diaphragm that is very responsive promising improved high-frequency range and better performance at low frequencies. Overall, the AKG K702 is a very neutral headphone. The bass is there but not so much to steal the show, the midrange is very transparent with great detail, and the treble even is a bit bright is also very clear.
Like all of the other open-back headphones, the AKG K702 has very poor noise isolation and a lot of sound leakages. But again, a wide soundstage with very good instrument separation. Impedance is 62 Ohms, you should be fine without an amplifier.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x – Best closed-back headphones for classical music
The ATH-M series are the most popular closed-back headphones today. The ATH-M50x comes with bigger drivers that give them more powerful bass. The cheaper ATH-M30x has poor performance after 5KHz. The ATH-M40x hits the sweet spot for classical music.
These perform well in the midrange and are surprisingly well-balanced, which is not very common in this price bracket. Even more, there is no need to worry about an amplifier since the impedance is 35 Ohms.
Despite being closed headphones with a narrower soundstage and slightly less natural overall tone. Let’s look at the bright side, they don’t leak sound and block out outside noise. That’s great for use outside your home or office.
The bottom line – Best headphones for classical music
Any of these headphones are suitable for classical music if you want to listen to them at home or in the office, but some require an amplifier and might be uncomfortable if worn outside under the sun. Furthermore, open-back headphones leak sound so you will disturb people around you. But remember, there are no perfect headphones for everything out there.
Now that you know which are our top best headphones for classical music TODAY, let us know which is your favorite classical composition, and feel free to leave any comments or questions below.