Hi friend and Welcome!
This is part 2 in a 7-part series on Genre, which takes a nostalgic look at some of my personal experiences with various types of music, games, and pop culture over the years. Check out the others if you would like! Suggestions for how to improve? Contact me or leave a comment below!
- The Best Headphones for Jazz
- The Best Headphones for Classical (This article)
- The Best Headphones for Rock
- The Best Headphones for Metal
- The Best Headphones for Pop
- The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop
- The Best Headphones For Folk
The best headphones for Classical?
There are a few things to take into consideration before diving in headfirst.
Before we get into things, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…
I’m Here to Help!!
There are a few things that need to be addressed in determining “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 have some of both.
You aren’t really going to want to wear open-back headphones in public, as they leak sound and disturb others.
What are you looking to spend?
We’ll go over my best options in the entry-level, mid-fi, and hi-fi categories today while keeping it really simple and straightforward.
This is pretty high on the list because Classical music typically sounds best when the composition plays as if it’s in a wide open space rather than a smaller area.
You could claim this is true for all genres of music, but I really feel as though with Classical it’s super important.
Well, think of where it’s generally played.
The orchestra is almost always in a gigantic open room rather than a small venue or a studio.
headphones that have great Soundstage capabilities are always going to do the best job of mimicking these effects; at least as best as can be expected given they are in fact headphones and not speakers.
Generally speaking, many classical compositions are pretty lengthy.
You will want to make sure your new buddy can be worn for long periods of time without discomfort.
This is hugely important and perhaps the #1 consideration to make.
I’ve listened to thousands of hours of Classical on audiophile-type headphones and can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that because it goes from super quiet to really loud in a hurry, you’ll want a headphone that doesn’t overemphasize the mid-range and treble.
Well, because when a composition heats up, you’ll absolutely be tempted to remove these types of headphones that aren’t tuned properly.
You’ll also be fiddling with the volume knob more often than not, and we want to avoid that at all costs.
This has happened to me countless times, but fortunately for you, the options mentioned today mostly circumvent those issues (no headphones are perfect).
While I would consider Jazz a fairly delicate genre to recommend a headphone for, Classical is even more so.
Its sounds are extremely subtle, and any headphones with too much emphasis on a particular frequency kind of ruin the experience (at least for me it has).
I find myself turning my nose up at headphones I otherwise enjoy with other genres! Very tricky indeed.
I can forgive a little brightness here and there, as well as some mid-range shout.
As long as I’m still enjoying the headphones overall, I can’t complain too much.
With that in mind, here’s what I came up with:
This is currently my favorite budget open back, and it’s shocking how good they are.
For Classical, it adds a bit of zest but not to worry; the overall sound is pretty balanced for the most part.
It’s got a fantastic mid-range and overall stunning clarity.
The Soundstage is above average here as well with out-of-your-head moments aplenty and a nice wide-open soundscape.
Do be aware that they have a tendency to become a bit bright at times. Just know that this is a minor caveat, and for the price, it is forgivable.
Everything about the headphones represents pure transparency with a wonderfully open and detailed sound signature.
The K240 is a headphone that makes most “best-of” lists, and for good reason:
It’s simply one of the most revealing headsets I’ve ever listened to and still remains relevant decades after its initial release.
The rolled-off bass may not be perfectly ideal in every single instance, but the rest of the sound more than makes up for it.
the resolution here is simply phenomenal and there aren’t too many headphones in the lower-tiered category that outmatch.
It seems strange to say this, but the 9600 could be the best headphone on this list for Classical, at least in the budget category.
Truth be told, I don’t particularly like or recommend these headphones.
In fact, I actually sold them some months back.
You may be wondering, “Well then why the heck are they on this list?!”
Bear with me.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think they sound terrible or anything, but I found myself not using them at all and they ended up collecting dust in my studio so it made sense to let someone else have a go.
That said, their sound signature is a near-perfect match for Classical.
Why do you ask?
Some years ago I read somewhere that Classical music actually needs more bass emphasis and it wasn’t until I tried these that I understood why.
It really helps to mitigate the pitfalls of the genre – namely the volatile nature of the instruments and how everything can go from quiet as a mouse to Oh-My-God-a-symphony-is-playing-in-my-room-and-I’m-gonna-die.
In addition to that,
the somewhat pushed-back mids actually help its case even further, as said symphony from above’s instruments doesn’t feel like someone’s vigorously rubbing sandpaper in your ears.
the treble on the 9600 is subdued (for the most part), so you’re not getting that sizzle/bite as you would with other headphones.
This really could be a match made in heaven.
How about a step up?
The 6XX finds that perfect balance between the too-forward mid-range on the 600, and the sometimes too-relaxed sounding HD650.
This has been the subject of much debate, but I’m sticking to my guns until I give all 3 another listen.
Do keep in mind Soundstage though.
It’s not going to be particularly wide with either, as they both have a more narrow image, and thus why this is a bit further down the list for mid-fi.
the instrument separation is great, and they hit on all other marks: The bass thumps without sounding muddy or overbearing, the mid-range has zest and detail without getting out of line, and the treble is nice and relaxed.
The 6XX would be great for long listening sessions as its sound signature is never really going to get out of line despite the volatile nature of Classical music.
The 400se is one of the best all-around headphones in the mid-fi category, and like the 702, has an almost ruler flat sound signature with a bit of extra zest in the treble.
The catch is that HIFIMAN didn’t overdo it this time.
Past models saw a hissy, sometimes overly bright top end that became annoying after a while and/or needed EQ.
The 400se finally fixes that and while bright-ish, it falls more in line with bright neutral and still sounds wonderful – i.e. there’s still sparkle but it never feels over the top.
It can’t take top honors because the Soundstage isn’t quite on the level of a K702 or 560S, but this is still absolutely a headphone you should consider for the genre.
This headphone does wonderful with Classical.
It’s got a flat signature, an almost perfectly flat bass response (read: it’s a tad rolled off but nothing crazy), an almost perfect mid-range, an amazing Soundstage, and just enough brightness in the treble to remain lively without getting too essy.
The K702 has long since been a mainstay in my own home and I nearly always reach for it when I want a grand Soundstage, exemplary resolution and detail, as well as superb instrument separation and clarity.
these are some of the best headphones money can buy in mid-fi and I’ve had a pair since 2019.
The only reason they can’t take the top spot is because of the mid-range bump at roughly 2kHz.
In the majority of cases, it’s going to be completely fine and help with instrument presence, but the volatility issue we mentioned at the start may creep up from time to time.
this is a fantastic option and one you should consider highly.
I may enjoy the K702 a bit more than these for a wider variety of genres, but darn if the 560S isn’t absolutely perfect for this genre.
Perhaps one of the most comfortable you’ll ever wear, it’s light and perfect for long Classical listening sessions.
The sound you ask?
Mellower than Cheech and Chong, homie!
This is a very crisp, open, and detailed affair with great Soundstage and phenomenal detail retrieval.
Why is it great for Classical?
Because it’s meant to be listened to at quieter volumes and provides loads of subtle detail, but can still be listened to loud without suffering from the volatility issues we mentioned earlier.
No worries though, I don’t expect you to be blasting Mozart at ear-piercing levels.
In addition to that,
its sound signature is perfect for the genre: there’s an outstanding bass shelf from 20Hz to about 100-200, the mid-range is perfect, and the treble has sparkle without becoming sibilant or essy.
The same thing we discussed with regard to the 9600 and that overall reasoning/research applies here as well.
In other words,
I had read long ago that a bit more bass emphasis for Classical really helps and the 560S absolutely nails it.
It’s as if the folks at Sennheiser sat around the table and said,
“You know what, I think we should make a perfect classical headphone for those turtle-neck-wearing homies who like really expensive coffee.”
And that they did, my friends.
It wasn’t until I actually experienced it for myself did it make complete sense – turtle neck and all.
A lot of people will tell you the bass response has to be lean, but a bit of extra low end actually gives the compositions some meat and makes them sound fuller and more complete.
The Ananda picks up where the 400se left off and provides an even more open, crisp sound with plenty of fantastic instrument separation and excellent bass response.
The Soundstage here is also above average and better than a 400se, and the open soundscape really helps to ensure that Classical music sounds like it’s being played in a space rather than through drivers – something we touched on in the beginning.
If you’re looking for a true step-up from mid-fi but don’t want to mortgage away your kidney in the process, the Ananda is a perfect solution and also happens to sound great with Classical music.
Note: you may opt for the more affordable Edition XS; a fantastic value and likely better than the Ananda for Classical because the treble is a tad more subdued.
This is an absolutely stunning headphone, in both price, weight, and pure musical bliss.
Size-wise, you may think that these weigh a lot, but they are relatively light and feel supremely comfortable on your melon.
The sound is similar to a K550/553, in that, it feels more like an open back rather than a closed one.
The overall signature is splendid and incredibly natural to the point where absolutely nothing is forced, but they still somehow sound immensely grand and spacious – almost as if you’re listening to music in a concert hall.
*wink wink*, that’s what we’re going for, right?
It’s hard to explain, but these are perfect for Classical because of their calm demeanor yet grand expansiveness.
They’re like a warm breeze on a Summer Day in Greece.
The sound signature loosely follows the Harman target which could explain exactly why they work so well.
That is to say that there’s an excellent bass emphasis, the mid-range is almost perfectly done, and the treble never gets out of line.
If the 560S was for turtle-neck-wearing homies drinking overpriced coffee, the Z1R is that + it adds glasses and a mustache.
Is this the best headphone money can buy?
In terms of the headphones I’ve heard, I’d have to say yes.
Everything about it is perfect, hence its name.
Not only is it tuned better than 99% of headphones, but everything comes across with startling clarity and it provides the most detail I’ve heard in a headphone to date.
In addition to working well with any genre,
the Utopia has unmatched realism and instrument timbre that must be heard to believe.
Every time I go back to this one thinking it’s not going to sound as good as I initially thought, it ends up sounding better.
Yup, that’s right you heard me correctly!
That said, what’s my top overall recommendation?
My goal for this was to keep it simple and concise, making sure all headphones I’ve included are ones that I personally feel are best for the genre via over 130+ demoed and thousands of hours listened to.
you really can’t go wrong with any of these, but if I had to choose one headphone on this list that won’t break the bank and sounds the most balanced, I’d probably go with the HD560S.
It combines all the qualities we need:
- It has a perfectly tuned sound signature and just the right amount of bass shelf for that extra meat we discussed earlier.
- It’s got a near-perfect mid-range, with just the right amount of clarity and emphasis around the presence region.
- It’s got a crisp, bright-neutral treble that never gets out of line or sounds Sibilant. What does Sibilant mean?
- It’s got a nice wide Soundstage (but not too wide), with plenty of depth and spacing so as not to sound muddy, claustrophobic, or boxed in.
- It’s supremely comfortable and will stay on your head for a long time without discomfort. The headphone is light and won’t dig into the top of your skull, and quite easily makes my most comfortable headphones of all time article.
There’s simply nothing more we could ask for in perfect Classical headphones.
My Experiences with Classical Music
Ah, Classical music.
Some say it’s only for snobs.
I would tend to disagree.
If you listen to Classical there’s a chance you’re a bit of a unique specimen. Perhaps a bit introspective, very intelligent, logical, etc.
Maybe what I just said is complete rubbish and anyone can enjoy it. Lol.
Who knows, but right now I’m listening to Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata no. 14 “Quasi Una Fantasia”) by none other than Beethoven.
I love the names that they gave to some of these songs by the way.
I’ve just recently gotten into Classical more, and one artist that has stood out to me so far is most definitely Claude Debussy. There’s something about his compositions that really takes me back and makes me feel a bit nostalgic.
In my hometown, we have what is known as The Classical Station 89.7, which actually extends its reach to quite a few cities including my hometown of Raleigh, NC, as well as a bunch of other places including New Bern, NC, Bassett Forks, VA, Buxton, NC (Outer Banks), Waynesville, NC (Frog Level), Foxfire Village, Aberdeen, Fayetteville, and many more.
I listen to Classical Music pretty much non-stop daily when I’m in the studio working, as it’s become a staple in helping me to concentrate and stay motivated.
Because of this, I’ve become quite familiar and pretty well versed with an array of different artists including, but not limited to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy (a personal favorite), Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Giuseppe Verdi, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Antonín Dvořák, Joseph Haydn, Edvard Grieg (another favorite), and many others!
I also love how the announcers pronounce these names, as many of them have really cool accents and/or annunciations. I find myself walking around my apt. attempting to emulate their voices as I announce the next artist & song in my underwear. 😛
If there’s one thing I can tell you about Classical, it’s that it is very picky about which headphones will sound good (even more so than Jazz I would say).
Some of the other genres in this series are easy to make good recommendations for; Classical is not one of those genres.
That said, I look forward to continuing my journey and hope you got a lot out of this article while laughing a little along the way.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you now have a better idea of what The Best Headphones for Classical Music are.
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Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Which of these headphones are you most likely to purchase? Does the HD560S sound like the best option? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,