Hi friend and Welcome!
When it comes to finding the best headphones for jazz, certain things need to be taken into consideration. Before we get into things, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this article
- Some great options
- Final Word and Link to official reviews
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Recently I’ve gotten a lot more into jazz, and appreciate it’s relaxing qualities. It benefits my mood, productivity, and makes me feel at ease. It has a great way of boosting concentration if you let it play for awhile. Some artists I’ve been getting into:
- Miles Davis
- John Coltrane
- Bill Evans
- Thelonious Monk
- Chet Baker
Great stuff. Coltrane has such an exciting style, I remember when I first started listening back in July/August of 2015, I was groovin’ hard in my room! 🙂 It evokes such a pleasure response in you that it’s easy to get lost in. “Giant Steps” by Coltrane is still probably my favorite album front to back. The energy, technicality, and raw talent that he displays is virtually unmatched.
If I’m feeling a bit more somber/reflective, of course the go to is “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. Timeless album. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you have some experience with Jazz (and maybe significantly more than me!).
I also enjoy Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” as well. Being such a noob to Jazz, I didn’t even realize he was the piano player for Miles Davis’ sextet until just recently. *blush*
Anywho, when it comes down to finding a good jazz headphone, some considerations need to be made:
- What is your budget?
- Are you looking for the absolute best? This is highly subjective, but I’ve done quite a bit of research on the matter, and a few models do come up quite often when people discuss the best.
- Portable vs. Studio. Do you want to be able to plug and play into a portable device, or use your headphones in a home studio environment? The headphones in this article are meant for use in an isolated studio/home environment. You aren’t really going to want to wear open back headphones in public, as they leak sound and disturb others.
- Do you know about the benefits of good soundstage? What is Soundstage?
I did a search in google and saw a ton of forum discussions on Head-Fi, a popular and really informative website about everything headphone. I wanted some raw data, so instead of trying to remember which headphone popped up most frequently, I did a tally. Mind you, not every single headphone I came across is in here. Why? Because some of the ones that were only mentioned once I left out. Some like the Stax 007 and 009 series are so darned expensive that I personally wouldn’t bother. I’m not looking to mortgage away my life savings on a $2,000 pair of headphones. Lol. I’m pretty confident you aren’t either.
That said, a lot of the best headphones for mixing also happen to be the best for Jazz! Check out my article on the best studio headphones for mixing! Three out of the four mentioned in that article are also mentioned here, with the HD 600 taking the overall cake. 🙂 They all have:
- Flat, neutral response.
- Lean bass.
- Good clarity and mid-range.
- Great sound-stage.
With that in mind, let’s talk a little bit about sound-stage.
Perhaps the most important ingredient in a good pair of Jazz headphones! Soundstage enables you to hear each and every instrument with startling clarity and realism. It allows for the good separation of said instruments, and gives you a sort of 3-d surround sound experience.
Instead of feeling like the music is in your head, you may feel as though it’s literally surrounding you.
Generally speaking, open back headphones do the best job of this.
Because some sound can escape. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
There are however some really great closed back models that do an impressive job with sound-stage, although you would never buy a closed back set solely for this purpose.
Check out my AKG K550 headphone review for the best closed back reference model.
The other consideration is bass response. The models I’m about to mention all have a good, tight, and clean frequency, but it’s never overpowering. With Jazz especially, you never want the bass to drown out the other instruments.
The last consideration is adequate amplification. The headphones I’m about to go over all need amplification, although some are easier to drive than others.
That said, here are 4 options that came up most frequently in my research.
- The AKG K701. I’ve written a ton about these headphones and their other siblings. The sound-stage on them is very wide; some say unnaturally so. The bass is extremely lean. Some have a problem with it and claim there’s not enough. If you plan on investing in these, I would instead go with the Q701. More on that later.
- Sennheiser HD 600/650. Between the two of these, you can’t go wrong in either with Jazz. The great thing about both is that they are genre masters, with a highly impressive, all important mid-range. They do well with most any type of music, and are very easy to drive with most any amp of your choosing. The HD 600 is my top recommendation, and it’s been called the Gold Standard of headphones in general. More on that towards the end. You may be wondering the difference between the HD 600 and 650. In a nutshell, the 650 is warmer and has a meatier bass. Sennheiser HD 600 vs. 650.
- Grado RS1i. These may be the most intimate out of the bunch. Everything feels so close to you and alive, and the mid-range is absolutely fantastic.
- Beyerdynamic DT880. A very similar headphone to the HD 600, but noticeably more of a harsh, sibilant treble range. What does sibilant mean? For Jazz they would be a good option, but are a last resort out of the headphones mentioned. They too have a leaner bass similar to the K701, but slightly meatier.
So with that in mind, which of these do I personally recommend? That’s a tough one. I’ve reviewed the Sennheiser HD 600’s so favorably as the most neutral, natural, and transparent set of headphones you will find. The bass is tight, but it isn’t too lean like with the K701, and it’s sound-stage is simply remarkable. The treble has been called “veiled”, but many say the concept is a bit overblown. What is the Sennheiser veil? It’s a tough call, but I would go with the HD 600 above all else for an overall best. Find out why in my…
On the other hand, the K701 has a very wide sound-stage, and as mentioned above, it may be too wide and therefore unnatural. The Q701’s do improve on every facet of the K701, and overall are a much better purchase over the K701 due to a dip in the build quality of the 701 in recent years. Because the AKG’s discern nuances in instrumental pieces better, and are more transparent than the Sennheisers, they are my top recommendation for Jazz.
CHECK OUT MY AKG Q701 vs. K701 COMPARISON REVIEW!!
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you have a much better idea about what the best headphones for jazz are.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know in the comments or Contact me!!
Who is your favorite Jazz composer? I would love to hear from you!
Until next time, all the best and God bless..