Home Genre Series The 16 BEST Headphones For Hip-Hop & Bass [Definitive Guide]

The 16 BEST Headphones For Hip-Hop & Bass [Definitive Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
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Kalimera friend and Welcome aboard!!

This is part 6 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 (This article)
  7. The Best Headphones For Folk

Before we get into the best headphones for Hip-Hop, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…

I’m Here To Help!

Note: I was going to update my article on the best headphones for bass, but since all of the headphones in this article are the same ones I’d recommend in that article, I figured it didn’t make sense.

So look at this post as the best for bass and hip-hop!


Let’s get rolling.


What is your budget?

There are plenty of entry-level models that will get the job done extremely well, but we’ll also cover some higher-end stuff too!

Are you looking for the absolute best?

Aside from that being fairly subjective, you will have to be willing to part with more money if you want something really stellar.

That said, the law of diminishing returns does tend to kick in after around the $300 mark, so we’ll try to stay realistic today.

Portable vs. Studio.

Will you be using these on the go or in an isolated studio environment?

Very important to consider this before making a decision.

Closed vs. Open.

In that same vein, it’s important to know whether or not you will prefer an open-back headphone vs. a closed one.


It goes without saying that a good Hip-Hop headphone should have a strong bass response.

However, it’s not as crucial as you might think.

There are plenty of bass-heavy headphones out there that don’t sound good because they place too much emphasis on the low end.

Today we’ll try and focus on headphones that have a good impact but don’t come across as bloated, muddy, or artificial.

This will help bring out the mid-range detail and clarity tremendously and makes for a significantly better listening experience as a result.

Should you get an Amp or DAC?

An Amp:

If your headphones have a high impedance and/or low Sensitivity, they’re going to resist power and not be as efficient.

Impedance is a measure of resistance and Sensitivity is a measure of efficiency.

Generally speaking, anything around 97dB and lower is not very efficient and needs more power from the amp to perform optimally.

Anything with an Impedance over 100 generally tends to resist power quite a bit.

It really just depends on the headphone in question. Contact me for clarification! 🙂


A Digital to Analog converter’s job is to convert the 1s and 0s 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 converts it into data that it can understand (1s and 0s).

Basically, either of these exchanges is 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).

Great Resources:

Sensitivity and low impedance cans

For low-impedance headphones, the Sensitivity will usually be fairly high, resulting in something that generally does well with mobile devices.

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.


A good Hip-Hop headphone will provide all of the following:


As discussed earlier, this is arguably the most important component of a good Rap headphone but isn’t the end all be all.

There comes a point where too much bass results in overkill, and we want to avoid that at all costs today.

Good mid-range.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be able to discern vocals and instruments better.

Hip-Hop isn’t all about the bass.

There are many artists who incorporate a lot of different sounds into their music.

The Roots comes to mind as a group that has always placed heavy emphasis on live instrumentation and subtle experimentation.

A good mid-range will go a long way in revealing the nuance going on behind the scenes that you may have missed before with other low-grade dog food headphones.


Treble is important too.

We want that sparkle at the top that gives the music some extra flavor, zest, and overall excitement.

Even so, sometimes a bright treble isn’t all that necessary and a headphone can still sound excellent without too much emphasis.

Instrument Separation and Soundstage.

This is still important with Hip-Hop because it gives added clarity and depth to the music.

The first time I put on the Audio Technica ATH-M50, I was blown away.

The music had so much life, and not only that but the Soundstage was also very good for a closed back.

When you start to think that the sound is coming from the outside, it’s a sign of very good headphones but also has much to do with the track in question and how it was recorded, mixed, and mastered.

Comfort and Durability.

This kind of goes without saying, but you’ll want to be able to wear your headphones for an extended period of time.

That said, I’m personally a bit more forgiving of comfort than some.

Unless the headphone is particularly bad, I can let it slide a little bit and just relegate myself to frequent rest periods.

With that, let’s dive into some fantastic options!

Entry Level (Below $100)


Koss KPH30i

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

Koss KPH30i Review

What’s not to love about the 30i?

It’s dirt cheap, it sounds better than the majority of headphones I’ve ever tried, and it boasts one of the best overall sound signatures you’ll ever find in any headphones ever.


In fact, you may not even want to upgrade after these.

If you’re looking for a bass with impact that doesn’t sound forced, the 30i is perfect for hip-hop and happens to work with the majority of genres as well.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

Nothing, really.

Some have complained of its “cloudy” sound, but I just had to laugh at that one and found it to be mostly sunny with a chance of awesome.


Grado SR60e

Price: Check Amazon! | Official Review: Here!

Grado SR60e vs. 80e

Some of my regular readers may read this and go EEEEEWWWWWHHAAAAAAA?!!!?

Some Grado fanboys may wet themselves with delight. Whatever.

Grado Grah-do, potato pot-ah-to.

I’ve said it for a few years and still stand by it; I don’t hate Grado headphones.

I just think that for the most part, they’re overpriced and a perfect example of diminishing returns.

In other words,

as you go up the line the sound doesn’t improve at all, and if it does even a little bit, you’re still paying exorbitant prices for what may just be a placebo.

That said, I’ve always liked the 60e because it’s pretty cheap and sounds excellent FOR THE MOST PART.

The 2kHz issue has always been there, but these do work incredibly well for Hip-Hop all things considered.

In fact,

I think these are great for a few genres specifically: Rock, Metal, and Hip-Hop, with Jazz/Classical close behind.

The bass is really articulate and has nice impact without sounding bloated, the transient response is extremely fast and snappy, and the treble is very good all things considered.

The Soundstage is also above average, but don’t expect K702 width or anything.

I’d say it can be slightly “out of your head” at times but the spacing between instruments is very good.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like


Yes, it’s over the top.

Yes, it’s too much.

Yes, it almost ruins these headphones, but you can always EQ it down.

A 10dB boost at basically one frequency in the entire spectrum is asking for problems down the road.


Sony MDR-7506

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

Sony MDR-7506 ReviewThe 7506 is a headphone that has been around for decades and still remains relevant due to the fact that it’s just an incredibly solid option and won’t break the bank at around $100.

It does well for a variety of genres, but I like it for Hip-Hop because of the simple fact that it has an extremely good bass response without becoming overbearing.

It’s got a ton of impact as well as clarity in the mid-range, in addition to a sparkling treble.

Makes for quite an easy recommendation.

If you’re into Hip-Hop but don’t want something that’s going to rattle your ears into oblivion, the 7506 is a fantastic solution!

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

The 7506 is a fantastic value, but be aware of some potential pitfalls:


Comfort is hit and miss, and if I’m honest probably average to slightly below average.

When I was younger, I mixed on these until about 2-4 a.m. most nights, but I’m not sure I could do that nowadays.


The pads will flake and peel over time which can be incredibly annoying.

Fortunately, they are replaceable.

The pads on my 7506 also came loose from the headphones themselves, so keep that in mind as well.

I didn’t have any issues with my V6, but I also didn’t use one every day given how many headphones I had at the time.


The coiled cable is a huge pain in the ass and will start to tangle in on itself after about a year or so.

I would love to see Sony come out with a revamped version of this headphone, making the cable detachable and adding a straight version in addition to upgrading the pad material.


Some call the treble unnaturally bright and I will say it can be a bit much at times but is still forgivable at this price point.


Philips SHP9500

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

Philips SHP9500 vs. 9600

The 9500 makes almost every shortlist for best headphones and it doesn’t really matter what the category is.


Because it works for a wide variety of genres and applications thanks to its open nature, crisp sound, neutral profile, and overall insane value.

I’ve had countless people message me about their first time with these and thank me profusely for recommending them.

If you come across some schmuck who doesn’t like the 9500, I’d be very wary of taking advice from that person as he’s probably a shill.

Haha jk.

But seriously.

It’s astounding how good this puppy really is, especially considering I got one for around $54 back in 2017.

Yes, the bass does roll off, and you may be wondering why I’ve included it here.

Because it’s an open-back some roll-off is to be expected, but this is likely the only headphone you will need for quite a while, in the open-back category or otherwise.

The level of detail it provides is mind-blowing, and dare I say it could be a better overall buy than the venerable HD600.

Some people may scoff at that notion, but I’m telling you, this is the real deal.

It’s about as close as you’ll get to a headphone in the upper echelon and comes uncomfortably close to providing just as good of a sound.

I mean they’re basically giving them away.

This is definitely one of those “rediscover your old favorites/pee your pants” types of headphones, and if peeing in your pants is cool, consider ME Miles Davis.

And I’m out!

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

You already know. The treble has been accused of being overly bitey/hot/sibilant/insert word salad here.

Again, excusable at this price point and to be quite honest, I’ve always thought that claim was grossly overexaggerated.


Status Audio CB-1

Price: Check Amazon! | Official Review: Here!

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The CB-1 is a fantastic open sounding headphone.

The Status CB-1 was something of a surprise when it first came out even despite its obvious similarities to the M50.

We’ve got pretty much the same design although these headphones are a bit bulkier than those and are made of 99% plastic (I believe the outside of the cup is metal or something).

They are also much more comfortable and don a different overall sound profile; one that opts for a larger Soundstage and a more toned-down signature.

Listening to the CB-1 actually feels like you’re hearing an open back.

It’s always been one of its biggest selling points and why I continue to recommend it to this day.

The other reason is its transparency and detail retrieval.

I firmly believe the CB-1 to be one of the best overall headphones for mixing at its price point as it reveals artifacts in music that I’ve simply never heard before in other headphones.

It works well for Hip-Hop because of the reasons above and you’ll love discovering elements to your favorite songs that were previously lost and/or thought absent.

The bass here hits just right as I don’t find it out of line and I can listen to my favorites for hours without fatigue.

A real treat indeed, you better believe.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

As much as I love the CB-1, it sometimes has this thin/hollow/papery quality to it and it’s quite difficult to explain.

Almost as if the headphones are missing a sense of “lushness” about them or something.

Still, it’s minor and can be largely overlooked at this price point.


Superlux HD330

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Ali Express! | Official Review: Here!

The HD330 is a bit of a DT770 copycat, but it’s cheaper and the version I demoed is open back and sounded fantastic.

I wouldn’t call it a “head rattler” per se, but it’s definitely got more bass than a 7506.

I was shocked at not only its striking resemblance to Beyerdynamic’s DT770 but also its fantastic bass head sound.

This is a headphone that benefits from the velour pads that my friend Cory has employed, but oh my gosh oh man I had some fun jamming out with these.

Would also make great Rock headphones as well.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

Not much.

I don’t remember having any glaring reservations about this one, but some would probably complain that it can sound a bit recessed in the mid-range at times; a fair gripe.

Mid-Fi ($100 – 300)



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

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

The 400se is a headphone that tends to do well for most genres but also should be considered for hip-hop due to its PHAT bass response (for an open back) as it neither sounds too aggressive nor too rolled off.

This is the point where we’re starting to delve into deeper bass reproduction that you can clearly hear is superior to stuff in the lower-priced tiers.

In fact, the 400se is my top overall recommendation in mid-fi and should be high on your list of considerations.

I think if you’re a Hip-Hop head who is looking for a more neutral and natural response to your listening experience, the 400se is likely your best bet as you’ll be able to listen for hours without fatigue.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

HIFIMAN’s mid-range has always been somewhat of a minor complaint amongst users, and I can certainly empathize with that notion as I felt like the Sundara also suffered from that quirk.

In other words,

the mid-range sometimes feels as if it’s too laid back, almost lulling you to sleep.

Voices and instruments can sound a bit distant and lack certain energy.

Not only can this be heard, but it can clearly be seen on pretty much every graph no matter the headphones, and the 400se is no different.

After 1kHz is usually when they opt for a gradual decline into 2kHz, which then comes back up around 3.

This may or may not bother you, but it’s something to keep in mind.


Beyerdynamic DT770

Price: Amazon! |  Check Sweetwater! | Check Drop! | Official Shootout: Here!

Beyerdynamic DT 770 80 Ohm vs. 250 Ohm

This is likely the closest direct competitor to the M50x and has also soared in popularity in recent years.

I’d say that the DT770 is the audiophile version while the 50x is geared more toward the average consumer.

The DT770 happens to be light years more comfortable and utilizes velour padding vs. the faux leather of the 50x.

The 2 headphones are similar in many ways although the 770 is a little more V-shaped and isn’t ashamed at all about its bass shelf, this time opting for a 10dB bump around 50-60Hz and some form of elevation with regard to the entirety of the low-end response.

Is it a bit overdone like your mom’s meatloaf?

Sure, but it works for Hip-Hop for obvious reasons.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

The mid-range is mostly flat and not pushed back, but you’ll notice a weird dip around 4kHz which can be a bit off-putting and make the headphones sound a bit wonky.

The treble is also bright-ish but surprisingly I didn’t find these completely over the top or jarring.


Audio Technica ATH-M50x

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

The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop

There’s nothing quite like your first love.

As the years go by,

I still can’t think of many headphones I’d rather have for Hip-Hop than the venerable M50x.

It’s the one product I think of most when I think of the genre as it represents everything I love about Rap and specifically instrumentals.

It’s everything Beats by Dre should have been.

In fact,

I remember scoffing at all the wannabes at my old job with the Candy painted Beats on their heads looking like they just rolled out of a cotton candy factory.

What a time to be alive.

The 50x is the type of headphone you hand to someone like that and then slap them in the face as you run away, sort of like this:

You know how, as you get older, there are moments that stick out in your mind?

They’re the ones you remember most vividly.

You may not remember why you just walked into that room, but gosh darn if I don’t remember something in great detail that happened 50 million years ago.

My first experience with the original M50 was like that.

I even remember I was listening to a J Dilla beat and couldn’t believe how crisp and snappy everything was.

It was polished to an absurd degree.

Sure, it was 2013.

I was still in college, and the M50 was only the second “good” headphone I’d ever heard (the first being the MDR-7506).

Still, I remember how they made me feel, and like the 9500, plenty of people have come back to me saying how much they love them even despite the barrage of hate they’ve gotten in recent years.

In fact,

one of my Patrons just reached out to me saying he had bought a pair and fell in love instantly.

I think both the 50x and 7506 are perfect examples of warranted hype.

Yes, they are “overrated” in the sense that almost everyone has at least heard of them in passing and many people have owned or tried them.

Hundreds of thousands of people. Millions even.

But they are actually good!

Especially for hip-hop.

There’s a 5dB bass shelf across 20Hz – 200 that’s just perfect for the genre and even despite that, the mid-range doesn’t really sound recessed or sucked out.

In addition, the 50x improved upon the overly bright treble present in the original model.

Seriously, what’s not to love? They’re compact, durable, and sound incredible.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

Well, as it turns out, there are a few things “not to love” I suppose.

  1. Comfort is hit-and-miss and I’d say about average.
  2. As with the 7506, these pads not only flake and peel, but they harden which can be a nightmare if a rough edge happens to penetrate your ear while you’re listening to music. Fortunately, you can also replace these as well.

And really, that’s it.

As mentioned previously, the original M50’s treble was very bright, but they fixed that with the 50x.

I have never owned a 50x, but I demoed one that my friend bought the year it came out and owned the original for 5 years from 2013 to 2018.


Sennheiser HD25

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

Sennheiser HD25 ReviewI often joke that the folks at Sennheiser sat down at the roundtable one day and were like “We need to make a headphone for those headbanger homies who listen to lots of metal.”

Well, if metal was the first genre I’d recommend these for, Hip-Hop is certainly a close second.

As with the M50x, the HD25 from Sennheiser is a headphone you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Even so,

unboxing this thing is somewhat underwhelming.

I remember sitting at my parent’s house back in 2017 or thereabouts anticipating all this cool stuff and finding a cheap-looking pair of headphones in a boring box with a crummy 1/4″ adapter.

That’s. it.

That’s it?

Big f’ing deal, right?


The payoff is most certainly the sound that makes up for all of that and then some.

Listening to an HD25 can only be described as what it may feel like to be high on cocaine for the rest of your life.

Drivin’ that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better, watch your speed.

Haha, see what they did there? Becaus.. never mind.

Everything about the experience is super f’ing-omg-intense and really makes you want to rip your clothes off and bang your head into a wall repeatedly.

It’s like speed for your ears, and should only be used in short bursts.

In fact, you’ll almost have to take frequent breaks with these as the comfort level isn’t all that.

The sound however is almost perfect in my estimation and does edge out both the 50x and DT770 if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to decide between the 3.

If the bass on those 2 was a bit much, the HD25 opts for an insanely good middle ground.

There’s just enough slam to keep you satisfied without ever feeling like it’s over the top (let’s be honest, it still kind of is) and this is in part due to some roll-off below about 50-60Hz.

Yes, the mid-bass is eerily close to toeing that look-at-me-I’m-a-audio-manufacturer-who-places-too-much-emphasis-on-the-bass line, but gosh darn what makes it okay is that Sennheiser actually knows how to tune headphones properly.

In addition to that, the mid-range is damn near perfect and the treble sizzles like a steakhouse without sounding all that sibilant.

Okay, it’s a bit sibilant but who cares, by that time you’ll be naked anyway.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

I don’t care and neither should you. Just buy them!


Beyerdynamic DT990

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check Drop! | Official Shootout: Here!

If the HD25’s bass is bordering on out of control (I said bordering, it’s still awesome sauce), the DT990 is like, “leeeeeeeet’s just bring this down a notch or 2.”

In fact, I firmly believe that the 990 takes all of the great qualities of the above headphones and packages them into one great headphone.

No sacrifices, no compromises, and hardly a bad thing to speak of.

So think of the HD25 as the juiced-up meathead while the 990 is taking something like creatine and you’ll get a good idea of why it makes sense to rank them this way.

I think this is the quintessential open-back headphone for Hip-Hop in the mid-tier range, with a strong (but controlled) bass and an overall airy type of character, which lends itself well to detail and accurate placement of instruments within the song.

They are a bit on the bright side, but I didn’t really notice it as much as others have and a good graph backs up my sentiment.

Not only that, but the 990 is certainly the most comfortable headphone on this list (along with the 770), so in my estimation, it’s an easy choice and the perfect A number 1 solution for all of you out-of-control hip-hop homies out there.

Potential Caveats/You May Not Like

Many complain about the treble, but I think those claims are overexaggerated.

Admittedly, I only demoed these once, but they didn’t sound anything like people were saying with regard to being overly bright.

Hi-Fi ($300+)


Apos Caspian

Price: Check Apos! | Official Review: Here!

Apos Caspian Review

Apos’ Caspian is certainly a headphone that caught me by surprise, meaning, I wasn’t really expecting much from it.

That may not sound fair, but after demoing 120+ headphones, you get a little jaded.

Gee, who would have thought?

I think the Caspian does what most consumer products can only dream of doing; that is, placing emphasis on the mid-bass without muddying up the sound.

No, the Caspian is as pure as it gets with regard to that general bass-head sound signature that so many manufacturers try and fail miserably at.

I’m looking squarely at you, M40x.

In fact, at this point, I don’t think companies are even trying.

They know that most new people are going to lap up all that cheap dog food regardless, so I’m of the opinion that very little effort goes into making a good product anymore – at least at the very low consumer level.

In other words, these types of headphones are a dime a dozen now and the market has become horribly oversaturated.

By contrast,

it was obvious to me from the get-go that Apos put forth a considerable amount of effort with the Caspian and it really shows.

This is as complete of a package as you’ll get in this price range, but the sound coming from the Caspian is what’s most welcome.

It’s buttery smooth and still retains a sense of weight and impact without all the bloat that accompanies the all-important 100-200Hz area.

In addition to that, the headphones are supremely comfortable and the treble isn’t overly bright or essy.

I can wear these for hours without fatigue, and Apos even included a balanced cable in the package if I want to be especially daring like Herbert Daring Dashwood.

Potential Caveats/You may not like

As good as these sound, if I had to nitpick I would say they play it a little on the safe side at times.

In other words,

the sound signature is almost too smooth if that even makes sense.

It doesn’t make me want to take all my clothes off and shake my butt.

At times I feel like they’re missing a bit of the liveliness and recklessness that comes with something like an HD25, but again, this is an incredibly minor nit.



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

The Ananda is what those Beats by Dre geeks at my old job would love if they could just stop dressing like they’re covered in cotton candy for 5 seconds.

In other words, GROW UP!!

Planar bass has always been superior to dynamic driver bass, and the Ananda is no exception.

If the 400se was gravitating towards that, the Ananda is full-blown there, holmes.

It’s rolling and rollicking and galloping and deep and smooth and frolicking and walloping and sweet.

It reaches down,

scoops up those deep sub-bass hits, and assaults your ears with them in the most gentle and amazing way possible.

The raspberries do indeed taste like raspberries.

It’s pretty much exactly like Ken Rockwell describes below with regard to the EL-8.

In fact, I’ve always found it really hard to decide which planar bass I like better; Audeze’s? Or HIFIMAN?

In any event,

once you hear bass like this, you’ll never look at regular dynamic headphones the same ever again.

As with the 400se, we’re not getting a bass response that’s overly accentuated nor does it roll off a cliff like the KSC75.

In other words, these are headphones for true bass heads, not those wannabes who wet themselves over awful 10dB bumps at 100Hz.

This is bass for the extreme pinky-out connoisseurs; you know, the ones that listen to Flying Lotus or Thundercat instead of Gucci mane or some other similar rapper with chains hanging out of his nose.

The Ananda is an open, spacious affair that, you guessed it, feels like skiing down a mountain in January while chewing Winter Fresh gum.

I’m sorry, I had to.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I make that stupid analogy a lot, but hey, people have come back to me saying it was perfect so whatever.

Sue me.

Potential Caveats/You may not like

  1. The treble on the Ananda to me was juuuust a tad essy, but this is a pretty minor nitpick.
  2. Comfort is good, but you will notice these slide around a bit on your melon and require some minor adjustments from time to time.


Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow

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

The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop

The Aeon Flow is about as close to perfection as you’ll find.

This is honestly in my Top 5 of best headphones I’ve personally ever heard, and certainly, the best closed-back I’ve tried.

Pair this puppy with a Chord Mojo and prepare to have your face melted off.

It’s really that good.

It has this warm detail that strikes an absolutely perfect balance, and you’ll really blow your load listening to Hip-Hop.

But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself!

Add to that its comfort is probably the best I’ve ever experienced and you’ve got yourself a winning combo.

Way back when Inner Fidelity was still around, Tyll agreed:

Simply put: This is the best sounding around-ear, sealed, headphone I’ve heard to date. Tonal balance is spot on but for a very slight emphasis 5-10kHz. Bass is tight, well balanced and does not bleed into the mids. Transition to mids is seamless and excellent. Midrange is excellently balanced; vocals and overtones are very well proportioned giving voices just the right sense of presence and ease simultaneously. Treble is terrifically proportioned as well; cymbals and snares sound very natural. Tyll Herstens, Inner Fidelity

One of Aeon’s greatest strengths, and a huge reason why I love and recommend them so often, is their Soundstage.

I have no idea how Dan was able to make a closed-back sound so open, but that’s exactly what you’re getting here.

In fact, I was talking with someone recently about how my over-the-top obsession with the Mojo may have actually been more the Aeon Flow making it seem like the artist was in front of me and not the DAC.

In short,

it started to make complete sense to me why Dan originally named his company “MrSpeakers.”

Because when I tell you that it actually felt like she was singing to me about a foot or 2 away, I’m being dead serious.

The Aeon is perhaps the closest to a speaker-like sound that I’ve ever heard.

Potential Caveats/You may not like

Some will complain that these have a bit too much warmth to them, at times sounding overly radio-broadcast-ey and syrupy, and while I can understand the sentiment, it’s not something I really care about.

Your mileage may vary, and I do think the Aeon is either a love-it-or-hate-it type of thing with not much middle ground.


Audeze EL-8

Official Review: Here!

The Audeze EL-8 was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had; with Hip-Hop specifically.

As with the Ananda, a lot of this has to do with its incredibly well-reproduced bass response and realistic portrayal of said low end, and you can thank planar magnetic drivers for that.

Ken Rockwell really hit the nail on the head when he talked about these:

The Audeze EL-8 have buttery smooth sound with extraordinarily well reproduced bass. The EL-8 will sound duller than most conventional headphones that tend to add glare; these are perfect if you want to get rid of excess harshness. The Audeze EL8 sound big, smooth and solid. They are somewhat recessed in the upper midrange — a hallmark of their smoothness. They have extremely solid and bottomless bass. The Audeze EL-8 use planar magnetic technology, which is completely different from 99% of other headphones. These have much smoother sound than conventional headphones, and have much deeper bass as well. Ken Rockwell

Bottomless bass is exactly right, just as I attempted to describe above with the Ananda.

It’s insane how smooth and impactful it is, especially if you’re after more of a detailed, effortless sound without the glare and/or sibilance that may accompany the cheaper sets we discussed earlier.

I found this beat on Soundcloud to be particularly revealing with these on, as I could hear some micro details that I was missing before. You can even see my comment second from the top! (Xtr@Ba$eHitZ) 😛 Bass is like butter homie!


Focal Utopia

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

The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop

The King.

The Utopia is a headphone that I’ve talked about, and talked bout, and talked about … for years now!

In fact,

it’s hard to believe that the first time I put these on my head was all the way back in 2018.

Where does the time go?

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced (read: I have NEVER experienced) anything quite like the Utopia.

This headphone rendered The Roots’ The Next Movement with startling accuracy, precision, detail, and clarity, to the point of simply being unbelievable.

It sounded completely different than I had ever heard it, in the best way possible.

I remember chatting with a Focal rep at one of Audio Advice’s “Music Matters” shows and it was around the third time I demoed them.

As I put them on my head, I thought to myself, “Surely these things can’t be as good as I originally thought. I must have somehow overhyped them.”

Nope, they weren’t as good.

They were BETTER.

That’s right you heard me correctly.

This is the only headphone out of the 120+ I’ve demoed at the time of this article that actually gets better with each successive listen.

I guess there’s a reason they named it the Utopia, given how close it comes to perfection.

If there were ever a pair of headphones perfect in every way, the Utopia is most certainly it and it’s not even close.

Comfort, build, sound, instrument timbre, resolution, attack, sustain, decay, driver matching, you name it.

It’s all head and shoulders above everything else.

They’re the best headphones I’ve personally heard to date. Looking for your forever cans?

These are it, hands down.

They take everything great about all of the other headphones we talked about and package them into one amazing-sounding product.

Regardless of if you’re listening to mainstream or indie/underground hip-hop, the same principles apply when deciding on a good headphone.

Final Word

If you held a gun to my head and told me to choose only one from this list, I’d probably go with the DT990.

It’s just about the perfect sound signature for hip-hop and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Learn More:



Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best headphones for Hip-Hop.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

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Which of these headphones are you most likely to purchase? I would love to hear from you! Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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!

My Experiences In Hip-Hop

I’ve always been a fan of Hip-Hop music, but my tastes have definitely changed since I was a lad.

I was first introduced to it in middle school. It’s interesting in that I never even knew what Hip-Hop was from a baby up until about 5th grade.

I was never exposed to it, in part because I came from a Rock n’ Roll household. Learn more: The best headphones for Rock music.

It wasn’t until about 6th grade did I start listening to it, and for the most part, the material was

Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.

vulgar to say the least.

My first real experience with Rap music was DMX’s 1998 album Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.

In fact, to this day I have inadvertently memorized pretty much the entire album. As a man of God, I’m not really proud of that, but it is what it is.

I was young and naive and thought that the lyrics were cool. It’s amazing that our minds can process stuff like that and keep it stored for a lifetime!

It’s also encouraging to hear that Earl Simmons (DMX) has indeed found God, and abandoned his former lifestyle (or is trying to).

He still has some issues including a drinking problem, but I pray that God is working it out in his life. I feel deep down that he still has a calling, and hope that he does get it together. The most important thing is that he’s striving.

2022 Update: R.I.P. Earl Simmons aka DMX (1970 – 2021). Gone but not forgotten!

It’s been said that at a young age, Simmons was given a cigarette laced with crack and that’s how his addiction began – which turned into a lifelong battle and something he struggled with until his death in 2021.

It’s also important to note that despite all of the over-the-top cursing, vulgarity, and despicable subject matter, there was a track at the very end of Flesh that acknowledged God in his life.

Called “Ready to meet him”, Earl Simmons pours his heart out to God in prayer and then proceeds to deliver a powerful message over a metaphysical and divinely inspired instrumental.

Anyhow, I digress. Much of the Rap I listened to in the early days was very commercialized. I’ll admit it. But here’s the thing: A lot of it is now actually considered good because the current crop of mainstream artists is even worse!

It’s scary to think that at one time, Outkast was considered mainstream. Nowadays they’re what people really miss about Hip-Hop.

Most of the music that came from these artists is still pretty good and stacked against what’s out now, it really fares extremely well.

There are a few here that I’m a bit embarrassed about, including Sisqo and the “Thong Song.” But a lot of it has stood the test of time, with some instant classics sprinkled in. Ja Rule in particular was always a guilty pleasure for me. He emerged at a time when the fusion of Rap and R&B actually sounded quite good.

Some artists I was exposed to:

  • Ja Rule
  • DMX
  • Ludacris
  • Nelly
  • Usher
  • Destiny’s Child
  • Donnell Jones
  • TLC
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Akon
  • Ashanti
  • Sisqo
  • R Kelly
  • Jagged Edge
  • Big Tymers
  • Twista
  • Cam’ron
  • Three Six Mafia
  • Fat Joe
  • Big Pun
  • Pharrell
  • Jadakiss and the L.O.X.
  • Dru Hill
  • Jay-Z
  • Birdman
  • Clipse
  • Jermaine Dupri
  • Nappy Roots
  • Puff Daddy
  • Fabolous
  • Project Pat
  • Nas
  • Tupac
  • Notorious B.I.G.
  • Big Pun
  • Timbaland
  • Tyrese
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Eminem
  • Shyne

These are some of the artists and groups that I grew up on.

Hip-Hop has changed a lot, and what’s now considered good pales in comparison to even the worst of these artists! You can’t deny that the quality has gone down considerably since then.

Kind of prophetic actually.

Gravitating towards better music

As I got a bit older, I realized how much I was missing out on. True hip-hop has never died, contrary to popular belief. In fact, I was that person at one point.

I thought that just because the mainstream seemed to be watering everything down to the point of Rap becoming unrecognizable, that meant that there weren’t true artists out there still thriving and making good music.

There was even a point in time when I was a complete snob about it in some ways. I wanted to discover the most underground artists (or even some old-school hip-hop that people hadn’t heard) and tell people about it.

But I also wanted people to know that I had the best taste and knew about the best hip-hop. Looking back, it was completely ridiculous, but I have to admit that I was a bit immature about the whole thing in some respects.

That was around my late teens and very early 20s.

I discovered artists like:

  • Saul Williams
  • The Pharcyde
  • Cunninlynguists
  • Del tha funkee homosapien/Deltron 3030
  • Souls of Mischief
  • Hieroglyphics
  • Jurassic 5
  • The Roots
  • Royal Flush
  • Binary Star
  • People Under the Stairs
  • J Dilla/Slum Village
  • 9th Wonder/Little Brother
  • Pete Rock & CL Smooth
  • Masta Ace
  • Dead Prez
  • Big L
  • Lord Finesse and the D.I.T.C.
  • The Wu-Tang Clan
  • Immortal Technique
  • Eyedea & Abilities
  • Blackalicious (with Chief Xcel) & Gift of Gab (Solo)
  • Non Phixion
  • Guilty Simpson
  • Stoupe The Enemy of Mankind/Jedi Mind Tricks
  • Kev Brown
  • MF Doom
  • Crooklyn Dodgers
  • Jeru the Damaja
  • DJ Premier & Guru (Gangstarr)
  • Elzhi
  • Jake One
  • Dilated Peoples
  • De La Soul
  • Camp Lo
  • Jigmastas
  • Blackstar (Mos Def & Talib Kweli)
  • Group Home
  • Smif-N-Wessun
  • Black Moon
  • Common Sense (before he was just Common)
  • Planet Asia
  • Slick Rick
  • Skyzoo
  • Statik Selektah
  • Canibus
  • Percee P

Some of these artists may not be considered underground, but to me, they were since I had never been exposed to them before.

For instance, Big L was fairly well known while he was alive, but not as known as say Notorious B.I.G. or a rapper like Big Pun.

These are my boom boxes. There are many like them, but these ones are mine.


After that phase was over, I gravitated towards just instrumentals. To this day I prefer beats over rhymes, and I think to an extent it’s always been that way.

Once I started making my own beats and sampling in 2009, my priorities changed from listening to creating.

There came a point when my perception of Hip-Hop got more and more cynical, as I saw artists basically rehashing the same lines in different ways, with no one truly setting themselves apart (Flying Lotus is one exception on the production side of it).

There are only so many ways you can say how cool you are, you know?

I do still appreciate and respect artists that put their hearts and souls into it, relating life experiences through their music, and talking about real subject matter that people can relate to.

But by and large, I think the culture has gotten extremely gimmicky, even on the underground side of things.

Let me know if you like any of these artists. I would love to hear about your own experiences and opinions on Hip-Hop! I don’t live and breathe it like I used to, but I still enjoy it from time to time. 🙂


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El nai July 2, 2023 - 10:07 am

I appreciated your dedication.

One note, the Hifiman He400se don’t seem to me good for urban or hip hop genres as the bass has very little impact, they are inoffensive.

Stuart Charles Black July 3, 2023 - 2:25 pm

Thank you! It rolls off by around 5dB which isn’t all that much, but maybe a flat line bass would be better for you?


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