Hi friend and Welcome!
The best headphones for classical? Good question! There are a few things to take into consideration before diving in head first. 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!
Ah, Classical music. Some say it’s only for snobs. I would tend to disagree. If you listen to classical music there’s a chance you’re a bit of a unique specimen. Perhaps a bit introspective, very intelligent, logical, etc. Perhaps what I just said is complete bollocks and anyone can enjoy it. Lol. Who knows, but right now I’m listening to Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata no. 14 “Quasi una Fantasia”) from none other than the Beethoven. I love the names that they gave to some of these songs by the way.
That said, there are a few things that need to be addressed in determining “the best.”
- Budget. What are you looking to spend?
- Comfort. Generally classical compositions are pretty lengthy. You will want to make sure your new buddy can be worn for long periods of time without discomfort.
- 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 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.
- Do you know about the benefits of good Soundstage? What is Soundstage? Also detail plays a big role here as well. Given that the instrumentation in classical music is very subtle and delicate, you’re going to want to hear all the intricacies of the composition.
Within my research, I tried to narrow down the options according to the criteria above. I frequently came across the following options. I will try and categorize them according to price, and type (open vs. closed back). Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
- Flat, neutral response. None of the frequencies are over-hyped, or overpower each-other.
- Lean bass. The bass isn’t in your face, and knows it’s place.
- Good clarity and mid-range. You want to be able to hear all of those juicy details!
- Great sound-stage. You want to feel immersed in the music.
That said, here’s what I came up with:
Best open backed/semi open (entry to mid-level)
- Sennheiser HD 598. So many positive things have been said about this headphone. Great sound-stage, neutral response, immensely enjoyable to listen with, lean, tight bass that’s not overpowering. Perfect for Classical.
- Beyerdynamic DT880. Perhaps not as good of a sound-stage as the HD 598, being that it’s semi-open rather than completely open back. Despite that, these do have a flatter response overall, so they may pull out some more details that you are craving. Some complain of a harsh/bright, or sibilant top end (treble range). What does sibilant mean?
- AKG Q701. You may be familiar with the K701 and K702, which are both great headphones as well. AKG K701 vs. K702. The Q701 simply improves upon all of the shortcomings present in those earlier models – most notably an improved sound-stage that isn’t unnaturally wide, and a bit more bass impact. A lot of folks complained that the bass was simply not there in the K701. They did improve upon it with the K702 however as well.
- AKG K612. Another great AKG model, this one flies under the radar a lot. I hadn’t heard much about it but when I started doing research, people really swear by this one. Great for gaming as well. Similar to the options above. Check out: AKG K612 vs. K701.
Best closed back
- Beyerdynamic DT660. I kept ignoring these when people would mention them, but they kept popping up over and over, so I had to include them. A lot of people love these specifically for jazz/classical and not much else. In fact most of the amazon reviews explicitly state say that they are perfect for these genres. Just be aware that the build quality isn’t quite where it should be.
- Audio Technica ATH 900x. Great mid-range, and perfect for classical as well as rock.
Best open back (Mid-level to Top tier)
- Sennheiser HD 600/650. I’ve talked about these ad nausea, but they really are some of the most reliable headphones on the planet, and have been since 1997 and 2003 respectively. Sennheiser HD 600 vs. 650. The HD 600’s are known more for being the go to mixing/reference headphone, but because of that they also get numerous acclaim as a great Jazz/Classical/Symphony can. The best headphones for Jazz. The difference between the two is subtle: The 600 is more neutral overall, while the 650 has a meatier bass and is more mellow/laid back. Both have been accused of being veiled. What is the Sennheiser veil?
- Sennheiser HD 800. These $1500 cans can only shine with the proper amplification. Just know that ahead of time. How to choose a headphone amp. With the right one paired, they truly shine, but have been accused of being too harsh in the treble, which is odd considering their younger brothers (600 & 650) had the opposite problem according to some. The best headphone amp for the Sennheiser HD 800.
Planar Magnetic Offerings
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one or two super snobbish options that I came across a lot.
- The HIFIMAN HE400i. Great for pretty much any genre. If you’re confused about what the heck Planar Magnetic means, check this out: What is a headphone driver? Also, check out my official HIFIMAN HE400i REVIEW!
- Audeze LCD 2.
My goal for these was to keep it simple and concise, while outlining the headphones that most frequently appeared in my searches. If I had to recommend one overall, that satisfies all criteria while still being affordable and genuinely enjoyable to listen with? I’d go with the Sennheiser HD 598 first, the Q701/K701 second, and the DT880 third.
CHECK OUT MY SENNHEISER HD 598 REVIEW!!
SEE MY OFFICIAL AKG Q701 vs. K701 COMPARISON!!
CLICK HERE TO READ MY BEYERDYNAMIC DT 880 REVIEW!!
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you now have a better idea of what the best headphones for classical are.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know down below or Contact me!
Which of these headphones tickles your pickle based on what I’ve written? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,