Determining the best headphones for bass doesn’t always mean a bass that slaps you in the face. Sometimes all we’re looking for is a low end with texture, nuance and detail.
It is true though: A lot of people that might read this will be looking for something heavy, and fortunately for them we’ll get into some face melting bass headphones as well 😛
We’ll also cover some bass that does roll off but provides an incredibly accurate and eye opening experience.
With that, let’s talk about some considerations you should take into account!
Budget. How much are you willing to spend or what is your price range? We’ll try and cover a range of headphones from the most affordable to a few that are very expensive (but well worth it).
Intended Use. Will you be primarily in studio or on the go? We’ll go into some of both today.
Closed or Open? In line with that, you’ll need to decide if you want a headphone that blocks sound or lets some in. We’ll discuss some of each today. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
Bass. As mentioned above, more bass does not always equal better. There is a fine line between plenty of slam and a headphone that just sounds obnoxious. I’m of course referring to some of the early Beats headphones which sounded downright awful. We’ll try to stay realistic today but also provide some options with plenty of thumping bass for you fiends. 😛
Should you get an Amp or DAC?
An amp: If your headphones have a high impedance, they’re going to require more voltage (power) to perform optimally. Generally speaking, most headphones above 100 Ohm, (and even some below) need an amp of some sort. It just depends. I go into much more detail here: How to choose a headphone amp!
A DAC: A Digital to Analog converters job is to convert the 1’s and 0’s from your computer, into an analog sound that you hear (and vice versa). During a microphone recording, the computer takes the analog (your voice), and coverts it into data that it can understand (1’s and 0’s). Basically either of these exchanges are always happening depending on what you’re doing. The only reason you would upgrade a DAC is if your existing one is crappy. You’ll know because it either won’t be loud enough, or just generally sound bad (noise, crackling, etc). I also go into more detail about it in the article mentioned above. 🙂
For low impedance headphones, the Sensitivity will usually be fairly high, resulting in a can that generally does well with mobile devices. What is Sensitivity in Headphones? That said, the quality of the song will still largely depend on the source file, as well as your DAC.
For instance, if you have a bad DAC and buy an amp, you’ll only be magnifying bad sound by raising the volume level. This is why it’s important to consider just what you will need and not need.
At the end of the day though, I’m nitpicking a little. Most entry level closed backs will sound great and the discrepancies in sound quality are somewhat marginal when you’re starting out.
Now let’s get into some great options!
Audio Technica ATH M40x. This is the first headphone I would consider and perhaps the only one you’ll need for Bass. It’s got a hard hitting but still not obnoxious low end, with plenty of clarity and detail in the mid-range and treble. It can come across a tad bloated in the mid-bass, but it’s nothing to fret over. Learn more about the #3 Budget King:Audio Technica ATH M40x Review!!
Sony MDR7506. This will be a bit better for bass than the V6 as it has slightly more emphasis. This is one of the main reasons I recommend the V6 over the 7506 for mixing, though both are very similar. Learn more: Sony MDR7506 Review!
Sony MDR V6. The second option to consider in this budget price range is the MDR V6. It has a more neutral bass response in comparison to the 40x, but still has some nice impact. In fact, whenever I’m referencing sound, mixing a beat, or evaluating how vocals sound, I always reach for the V6 before anything else. It’s the quintessential closed back reference can, and has been around since the 80’s. Learn more:Sony MDR V6 Review!!
Philips SHP9500. Some people may read this and go “Huh?” The bass on the 9500 is rolled off considerably, but it sounds so detailed and transparent that I have a tough time not recommending these for bass. Why? Because I said so! Lol. No really, the reason is because the detail and texture is simply astounding, as if someone lifted a veil or blanket off of the sound and now you can hear everything crystal clear. Do I make myself clear Mr. Bender? “Crystall.” Learn more about the #1 Budget King:Philips SHP9500 Review!!
V-Moda Crossfade M100. Out of all the headphones listed here, the M100 is probably the best example of a true bass head experience. It’s got plenty of detail and clarity, but also a low end that slams without becoming obnoxious or bloated. I was actually surprised at how good the imaging is for a V shaped can. Learn more:V-Moda Crossfade M100 Review!
Beyerdynamic DT770. A headphone with an incredible comfort level and more life in the mid-range vs. something like an M50/50x.
PSB M4U. One of my favorite underrated gems, the M4U does bass extremely well but also excels in regards to the entire sound signature. Comfort was excellent as well, as I didn’t budge them at all during a 3 hour session. Learn more:PSB M4U Review!!
Focal Listen. This bad boy does something a little bit different than the norm in regards to mid-bass. Instead of a hump, it takes a decline around 100-200 Hz. I much appreciated this as I didn’t get that slight bloat that I do with other headphones. Highly recommended. The Listen is a very crisp experience, with some added bass impact for good measure. Learn more:Focal Listen Review!
Sennheiser HD25. If you’re looking for an intense slam, the HD25 is what you’re after. These will undoubtedly be too much for some people, and do have a tendency to get overwhelming after awhile. But in short bursts I absolutely love them for Bass, Hip-Hop, Metal, and generally crunchy sounding, exciting jams. Learn more:Sennheiser HD25 Review!
Audio Technica ATH M50x. The big brother to the 40x, these have more bass impact and an exciting sound similar to an HD25. The hot, peaky treble on the original M50 was tamed down, and they still sound great for Bass despite some hatred in recent years. Not sure why, as they are still a worthy headphone for the casual consumer.
Beats Solo 3. Yep, Beats finally go their act together and the Solo 3 is a great portable headphone. In fact, being Bluetooth and wireless makes it really valuable for the average consumer looking for the complete package. This is one of only 2 headphones right now that I can safely recommend from Beats. Learn more:The Best Beats Headphones!
HIFIMAN HE400i/HIFIMAN Sundara. Either of these will provide some nice bass impact and an open sound signature with plenty of detail and clarity. I prefer the Sundara, but there’s been talk of some quality control issues. I personally thought the build quality was astounding, but I only can go by the model I demoed. Here’s my 400i Review: HIFIMAN HE400i Review. I am also going to link the Sundara video below.
Beyerdynamic DT990. This is perhaps the quintessential open back bass head can, with a crispy character and a treble that will be somewhat bright to people. I didn’t notice it as much as others. The sound is very open and detailed, and comfort is the bomb!
Top Tier ($300 and up)
Bowers and Wilkins P9. I didn’t really like the sound of the P7, but the P9 is absolutely fantastic, and I’m not sure why there’s such a huge difference. The P7 comes across as very muddy/bloated, and stuffy, while the P9 is crisp and clear with a phenomenal bass response. Learn more:Bowers & Wilkins P9 Review!!
Audioquest Night Owl Carbon. Great for bass, and they are some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn. The sound signature is on the warmer side, with an extremely pleasurable overall sound signature. This is the type of headphone that you can put on and immediately enjoy. Learn more:Audioquest NightOwl Review!
Sony MDR Z1R. Wow is all that I can say. This is one of the most open sounding closed backs I’ve ever heard. In fact it is the most open sounding, and it’s incredible just how spacious and airy it is. I would describe the sound as extremely natural but with a lot of impact and clarity. They are also extremely lightweight but don’t feel cheap. Learn more:Sony MDR Z1R Review!!
Audeze EL8. Some of the most revealing cans in this price range, the EL8 provide exceptional clarity and detail a long with a smooth, crisp bass response that doesn’t get out of line. In fact, this beat was so clear and detailed that it was as if someone took a blanket off of the music, revealing details that I hadn’t heard before. Learn more:Audeze EL8 Review!!
Focal Utopia. Yeah, this is basically your end game headphone, as there isn’t much out there that will sound better. For Bass and Hip-Hop, forget about it. These are some of the absolute best as they reveal everything, akin to grains of sand or garlic powder. The individual sounds in Hip-Hop and basically any genre come through with absolute startling clarity. Learn more:Focal Utopia Review!!
Well my friend, if you’re looking for a good bass headphone, you came to the right place. There’s no way I could include every single headphone in this list, but I encourage you to reach out to me and let me know if you would like one added to the list. You can also send me headphones for demo as well. 🙂
If I were to recommend one true bass headphone, it would be the M100.
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.