Home Genre Series The Best Headphones For Folk

The Best Headphones For Folk

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard.

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…

Before we get into the Best Headphones For Folk, grab a snack, sit back and relax…

You’ve come to the right place!

This is part 7 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!

  1. The Best Headphones for Jazz
  2. The Best Headphones for Classical
  3. The Best Headphones for Rock
  4. The Best Headphones for Metal
  5. The Best Headphones for Pop
  6. The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop
  7. The Best Headphones For Folk (This article)

Folk music, like Classical and Jazz, is a very delicate genre that works extremely well with very specific headphones. 

Let’s take a look at exactly which ones!

We’ll discuss build, comfort, sound, and more while giving clear reasons as to why the selections mentioned today are best – by using first-hand experience and well-founded recording principles that have stood the test of time.

In addition to that, we’re going to make it really simple.

We’ll discuss an upgrade path from the options mentioned, and also briefly touch on an amazing Amp/DAC to go with your selection.

By the end of this article, you should be ready to purchase a pair and be super comfortable in doing so.

With that, let’s dive in.

#3

Sennheiser HD560S

Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

Sennheiser HD560S Review

The 560S is a headphone that works incredibly well for folk and all associated acts – for generally the same reasons as the K702.

You will notice the bass is a bit more boosted here, but when you’re listening it never feels over the top or out of place.

One difference between this headphone and the 702 is that the 560S, overall, sounds a bit more neutral, natural, and “correct.”

That is to say that it’s pretty much a perfectly tuned headphone and thus will sound excellent with these lighter genres.

That said, the main discrepancy between these 2 headphones is Soundstage.

You’ll find the K702’s overall image is much wider from left to right, but sometimes lacks that center image.

Sennheiser HD560S Review

Though the 560S’ Soundstage isn’t as “grand” it’s more balanced overall.

Does that mean you’ll like it more?

It really depends on taste.

I prefer the 702 in this regard, but your mileage may vary.

Outside of those things, these 2 are pretty close in terms of Timbre, resolution, and overall detail retrieval.

Why does it work so well for folk?

Well, because the 560S is tuned about as perfectly as a headphone can be tuned.

You’ll be able to hear the subtleties of Folk music immaculately, and the instrument separation, as with most Sennheiser headphones, is incredible.

In addition to that, these lighter genres with their subtle instrumentation generally need a more realistic presentation.

The 560S will provide you with exactly that and thus why I believe it to be one of the best options available.

#2

AKG K702

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

The K702 is a fantastic jack of all trades headphone, but I firmly believe its bread and butter is lighter passages typically associated with folk, acoustic, and anything that involves strumming and/or delicate compositions.

The reason is that the overall sound signature is incredibly ruler flat and doesn’t unnecessarily place too much emphasis on specific frequencies.

There is a presence boost at around 2kHz, but it’s subtle and also necessary.

It does a fantastic job of adding to the immersion by ensuring that the headphones aren’t completely dull and boring like the AKG K612.

A rise in these regions is something our ears expect, and the K702 delivers in spades.

Treble

From left to right: K612, K712, K702

Another reason why the K702 works so well for folk is that it places just the right amount of emphasis on the treble.

If you’re familiar with the acoustic guitar, it requires a lot of presence in this region and typically sounds poor without an adequate amount of air and sparkle.

The reason I say this is because I have a lot of experience in recording the instrument.

This brings me to my next point.

Bass

What you’ll find when recording an acoustic guitar is that oftentimes, even with proper placement, the mic tends to want to pick up a lot more of the useless low-end frequencies of the instrument that we don’t need.

Best practice when EQ’ing in this situation is to generally cut any information at around 200Hz and below.

Obviously, this is guitar-specific, but generally speaking, anything the mic picks up in this general area is mostly unnecessary.

That said,

it’s also important not to cut too much as it will make the guitar sound too thin, dry, and lacking body.

That’s all well and good, but where does the K702 come in?

Well, its bass around these frequencies is NOT boosted and therefore sounds excellent with this genre.

Instead,

the bass response on the K702 is mostly flat across the mid frequencies and rolls off slightly in the sub-regions.

This is darn near perfect for folk and the like because it not only ensures that the bass stays OUT of the way as you’re listening, but it also means that the low end isn’t completely missing as well.

The K702 provides a perfect balance of the frequencies and therefore is one of the best headphones you can buy – not only for folk but overall too.

Timbre

Another reason you’ll love this headphone for a genre like folk is because of the timbre.

Timbre refers to an instrument’s specific tone – how it may sound in real life vs. the way it sounds through headphone drivers.

The 702 makes the human voice accompanied by a delicate instrument sound incredibly realistic and lifelike.

No, you’re not going to feel as if you’re actually there, but it’s gravitating in that direction.

You may get a subtle sense of what it’s like to be in the studio space with that artist.

As if that artist is kind of performing for you and you only.

It’s more intimate and immediate, and the K702 is one of the few headphones that can mimic this effect better than the majority of products on the market.

Soundstage

Another reason why the 702 works so well is because of its grand, open, and spacious Soundstage – one that separates sound wonderfully which further benefits subtle but distinct sounds that emanate from a quiet passage.

To sum up, the K702 is a headphone I listen to almost daily for all genres, but I most certainly reach for it first when listening to folk and acoustic.

#1

HIFIMAN HE400se

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos Audio! | Official Review: Here!

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

For the longest time, I’ve gone back and forth on which I prefer for folk and quieter compositions: The K702, or the 400se?

If you’re reading this, I’ll probably keep on going back and forth.

It’s quite a tough decision because the timbre, which is perhaps the most important ingredient for this genre, sounds eerily close on both.

Even so,

the 400se edges the 702 out ever so slightly here.

It sounds just a bit more realistic. The tone of the instrument is just a smidgen better.

The human voice is just a hair more intimate and true to life.

That said,

the difference is really subtle, but I can assure you it’s there.

Put another way, there’s quite a bit of snake oil in this hobby, but I’ve always said that there is a clear difference between a headphone like the 400se (one that contains a planar magnetic driver) vs. a headphone like the K702 (one that contains a dynamic driver).

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

In any event,

the 400se is fantastic for folk for all of the same reasons as the 560S and K702, but it has a bit of added realism to boot.

Almost as if you could reach out and touch the guitar.

I experienced this immense sensation listening to Sufjan Stevens through both a 400se and K702 while going back and forth quite a bit.

His voice was so delicate and real sounding that if I closed my eyes I almost thought he was in the room with me.

In trying both for quite a long time, the 400se came out on top, but it was very close.

In other words,

you could go with either of these and be happy as a clam.

The one issue I have with the 400se, and all 400 series models really, is the gradual decline after 1kHz into 2k.

This can sometimes cause the music to sound a bit too laid back, but it’s a small price to pay for the incredible timbre.

The ultimate question here is one of value.

Which gives you more bang for your buck?

As it stands now, the 400se is dirt cheap so I’m likely to recommend it over the K702. Keep in mind I own both.

Step-Up

I talk a lot on this blog about the law of diminishing returns, but there is a clear upgrade path from the headphones outlined today.

HIFIMAN Edition XS

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos! | Official Review: Here!

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

All of the things I mentioned previously apply to the XS, only it’s better.

It’s even more realistic, more open-sounding, and more detailed, with better resolution and better timbre.

I’m a firm believer that your very first impression of a headphone is the correct one, and putting on an Edition XS for the first time is almost orgasm-inducing.

It’s certainly an eargasm, that’s for sure.

“So this is what I’ve been missing!”

That’s likely what you’ll say as the music has that extra helping of special sauce.

And who doesn’t want the special sauce?

I will warn you though; like everything else in life, familiarity breeds contempt.

In the case of headphones, I don’t think it’s that extreme, but your ears will get used to the amazingly lush, dense sound, and you’ll wonder if there’s something even better.

Well, my friend, you’re in luck today, because there is.

Focal Utopia

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

Focal Utopia Review

Imagine everything I’ve just outlined applying to the Utopia, only this time you can actually hear God.

Jokes aside, the Utopia was perfectly named as it’s essentially a perfect headphone.

Imagine grains of garlic powder representing all of the distinct subtlety of your favorite songs and you’ll get an idea of how well these portray recorded music.

Heck, they may reveal things the artist may not have even intended for you to hear, but will absolutely show you everything the artist put into the track.

If the attack, sustain, and decay on the other headphones in this article were above average to excellent, the Utopia is like “Hold my beer.”

Here it’s exemplary. Sensational. Scintillating. Stupendous. Muy fabuloso.

Vocals and instruments trail off perfectly, and it’s surely something you have to experience to understand.

In fact,

the Utopia is pretty much the only headphone I’ve ever listened to that sounds BETTER with each successive demo.

That’s right you heard me correctly.

I remember the 3rd or 4th time demoing it at Audio Advice, and on this day they were holding their annual “Music Matters Show.”

“Surely these aren’t as good as I initially thought.”

I put the headphones on my head, fired up some music, looked at the rep and my jaw dropped.

“They sound better every time I listen to them!”

He just smiled.

There are no words for how good these sound, so if you can get them for around $1000-2000, I’d say drop everything and go for it.

You won’t regret it.

Amp/DAC

FiiO K5 Pro

Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check Apos Audio! | Official Review: Here!

FiiO K7 Review

I’d say the FiiO K5 or K7 is perfectly fine for all of these, but you may consider something a bit beefier for the Utopia.

I’m not a huge proponent of synergy and all that Audiophile-type stuff, but I will say driving a $4000 headphone with a $150 amp does seem a bit silly.

That said, I also believe that amps and dacs are incredibly overrated so the K5 is likely to be just fine. You could also opt for the cheaper K11; now my top recommendation because of price alone.

If you want an upgrade from that, the K9 is my overall best recommendation for people who want an all-in-one end game Amp that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

The main takeaway? Don’t get too caught up in the Amp. That’s just my opinion though.

Final Verdict

Deciding between the K702 and 400se is a rather tough choice, but the slightly better timbre + lower cost causes me to lean in that direction as a headphone that 99.9% of people can afford.

Put another way,

The 400se is a “can’t go wrong” purchase and you’ll likely fall in love with it as many before have.

For folk and acoustic music? It’s a slam dunk.

Learn More:

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best headphones for folk and gained some valuable insight.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

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,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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