Home Genre Series The Best Headphones for Jazz [In Depth Guide]

The Best Headphones for Jazz [In Depth Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
The best headphones for Jazz

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  • 1/6/19
  • 9/14/19. Article cleanup. Added CB-1 to entry-level closed back. Added K240 to the entry-level open back. Removed outdated HD558 and added updated HD 599. Switched 80e for 60e as it’s cheaper and sounds identical. Added Utopia to Best Open Backs in Top-Tier. Added Images.
  • 1/25/21. Article/link cleanup.

2,985-word post, approx 7 min. read

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Hi friend and Welcome!

This is part 1 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 (This article)
  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 (Coming Soon!)

When it comes to finding the best headphones for jazz, certain things need to be taken into consideration. Before we get into things, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

I’m Here to Help!!

The best headphones for Jazz

The best headphones for Jazz

What I will bring you in this article

  1. Introduction
  2. Considerations
  3. Some great options
  4. Final Word and Link to official reviews

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!


Recently I’ve gotten a lot more into Jazz, and appreciate its relaxing qualities. It benefits my mood, productivity, and makes me feel at ease. It has a great way of boosting concentration if you let it play for a while. Some artists I’ve been getting into:

  • Miles Davis
  • John Coltrane
  • Bill Evans
  • Thelonious Monk
  • Chet Baker
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Duke Ellington
  • Herbie Hancock

Great stuff. Coltrane has such an exciting style, I remember when I first started listening back in July/August of 2015, I was groovin’ hard in my room! πŸ™‚ It evokes such a pleasure response in you that it’s easy to get lost in. “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane is still probably my favorite album from front to back. The energy, technicality, and raw talent that he displays are virtually unmatched.

If I’m feeling a bit more somber/reflective, of course, the go-to is “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. Timeless album. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you have some experience with Jazz (and may be significantly more than me!).

I also enjoy Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” as well. Being such a noob to Jazz, I didn’t even realize he was the piano player for Miles Davis’ sextet until just recently. *blush*

Anywho, when it comes down to finding a good Jazz headphone, some considerations need to be made:


  1. What is your budget? What are you looking to spend? This article will outline some budget options as well as some higher-end offerings.
  2. 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. I also have first-hand experience with many of these choices, and I have a good idea of what sound signatures pair best with this particular genre.
  3. 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 are meant for use in an isolated studio/home environment. You aren’t really going to want to wear open-back headphones in public, as they leak sound and disturb others.
  4. Do you know about the benefits of a good Soundstage? What is Soundstage? The soundstage is an important determinant in deciding whether or not a headphone will fare well with Jazz. Why? Because the genre tends to spread out the instrumentation left to right. A headphone with a good Soundstage will also open up things considerably, allowing you to get more of a live flavor with your experience.

Speaking of Soundstage, let’s talk a little about it!


Perhaps the most important ingredient in a good pair of Jazz headphones! Soundstage enables you to hear each and every instrument with startling clarity and realism. It allows for good separation of said instruments and gives you a sort of 3-d surround sound experience. What is Soundstage?

Instead of feeling like the music is in your head, you may feel as though it’s surrounding you.

Generally speaking, open-back headphones do the best job of this but don’t expect miracles. I’ve demoed countless headphones, and have come to the conclusion that while Soundstage is a real phenomenon, it’s not as realistic as people would have you believe.

Yes, the sound does open up quite a bit, but you’re never going to actually “feel like you’re there.” That feeling is extremely rare, as I’ve only felt it on a couple of occasions. Good Soundstage (in most cases) does not mimic surround sound speakers no matter what anyone tells you.

What you will experience is much better clarity, instrument separation, and depth. The Soundstage will expand, but in most cases, you’ll experience it just outside shoulder width, and in rare cases beyond that.

There will be times when you feel like the sound might have come from inside the room with you, but it’s not a constant occurrence if that makes sense. It’s a lot more subtle, but also very enjoyable from a music listening standpoint.

Video Discussion

I did a little video on it. Leave me some love! <3

How does Soundstage help?

Good Soundstage helps by creating space, width, and depth to the music. With some closed-back headphones, you may feel as though the sound is boxed in and claustrophobic.

An open back headphone has the opposite effect: It provides more air around the instruments, better separation, and more of a natural character. Related: Closed Back vs. Open Back Headphones!

There are some really great closed-back models that do an impressive job with Soundstage as well. We’ll get into a few of those today.

A perfect example is the Status Audio CB-1.

The Best Headphones for Jazz

The CB-1 has a great Soundstage for a closed back.

It’s open and airy, with a great deal of space. Because of this, its detail retrieval is almost unmatched at this price point. You’d be hard-pressed to find something better for mixing, as it reveals even the most subtle nuances of a track with relative ease.


The other consideration is bass response. The models I’m about to mention all have a good, tight, and clean frequency, but it’s never overpowering. With Jazz, you never want the bass to drown out the other instruments.

The last consideration is adequate amplification. Some of the headphones I’m about to discuss need an amp, others don’t. If you need help on how to choose, check this article out!Β  How to choose a headphone amp!

That said, we’ll take a look at some really good budget options starting with closed backs. Oftentimes, an entry-level is all you’ll need. I’ve found them to more than suffice for all of your Jazzy goodness!

Closed backs

Because there aren’t too many closed backs out there that have a somewhat open sound, this list is going to be a bit short.

  • Status Audio CB-1. As an entry-level with great Soundstage, this is about as good a headphone as you’ll find with regard to an open type of character. It works really well for nearly everything including Jazz. It’s an open sound signature and laid back character that allows for long-term listening without fatigue. Learn more: Status Audio CB-1 Review!
  • AKG K553. This is about as close to an open sound as you’ll get with a closed-back headphone in its price range. I got an incredible sense of air and spacing with these, and because of their extremely balanced sound, they will also do exceptional with Jazz. Learn more: AKG K553 Review!
  • Sony MDR Z1R. This is an extremely pricey offering, but well worth it in my opinion if you can get one at around $1700. The sound signature is warm, open, and exciting. The Z1R is another example of a closed-back headphone that sounds very open. In fact, out of all the headphones I’ve personally heard, this one comes the closest to sounding like a true open back. Learn more: Sony MDR Z1R Review!

Open Back

Entry Level

  • Philips SHP9500. What makes this a great headphone for Jazz is its Soundstage and detail retrieval, despite what some elitist snobs would have you believe. In listening to John Coltrane’s Blue Train, I’m frequently experiencing that out-of-your-head sensation, where you pause to make sure the sound isn’t coming from the outside. They have a consistent knack for keeping you on your toes. Much like the 60e, the transient response is very good; attack, sustain, and decay are all above average and they do a fantastic job of keeping up. They also have the perfect bass response for Jazz. It’s lean, textured, and nuanced. You can actually hear individual notes which makes for a better overall listening experience. The other thing I noticed is how much more true to life the instruments are. After switching to the 9500 from something like an HD 600, I’m finding the sound to be a lot more fully fleshed out and exposed. The 600’s by contrast tend to sound kind of clammy and boxed in. There’s more intricacy here with regard to, well everything. Learn more: Philips SHP9500 Review!
  • AKG K240. You absolutely could almost never go wrong in purchasing a 240 for like, anything really. The bass here is probably leaner than a 9500, but the mid-range is what really shines with these headphones. Everything sounds extremely lifelike and natural, to the point of me wanting to go back and listen to songs I’ve long since forgotten about. There’s a bump here around 5k, and then the treble kind of rolls off and sounds really smooth and effortless. I wrote extensively about my excitement over these here: AKG K240 vs. Samson SR850.
  • Grado SR60e. The Grado SR60e is a great headphone for many genres including Jazz, as it provides an extremely revealing and open sound with some nice bass texture and impact. I would say there’s more bass presence here than a 9500, but the mid-range around 2k has always been a bit problematic. Still, the 60e’s sense of quickness and effortless detail retrieval make it a headphone I frequently go back to, even despite its shortcomings. Learn more: The Budget Superstar Grado SR60e: A Review
The Best Headphones for Jazz

The 60e makes for a great first Jazz headphone.

A Step Up

  • Sennheiser HD 599. As far as pure warmth and relaxation go, there likely isn’t a better option than the HD 599. Comfort, Soundstage, and detail are all on point here. The 599 works for Jazz because it’s effortless and graceful sounding, with an open character that allows the instruments to breathe. The bass is lean enough to stay out of the way, and the mid-range is phenomenal. All in all, a solid choice for Jazz and one of those “can’t go wrong” options.
  • The AKG K702. I’ve written a ton about these headphones and their other siblings. Some called the K701’s Soundstage unnaturally wide, which was fixed in the Q701 version. The K702 basically has a bit more bass emphasis but it’s almost negligible. If it were up to me I’d probably go with the K702 and call it a day. πŸ™‚ Probably the best overall choice for most people with regard to Jazz in this price range.
  • HIFIMAN HE400i/Sundara. This is a bit of a warmer affair, with a ton of clarity and detail. In fact, I’ve gone back and forth so many times between the two that it’s always hard to make an outright recommendation when people ask me. Learn more: HIFIMAN HE400i Review! I got a chance to try out the Sundara and it’s a definite step up from the 400i in pretty much every way. Some of the newer batches of 400i’s had QC issues with the headband yokes, but the Sundara improves upon build quality in all aspects. It also provides a better, more crisp overall sound. While the 400S was a bit too abrasive and grainy, the 400i was maybe a tad too glossy. The Sundara strikes a perfect balance between the two. Here’s my review: HIFIMAN Sundara Review!
  • Beyerdynamic DT880. A very similar headphone to the HD 600, but noticeably more of a harsh, sibilant treble range. What does sibilant mean? For Jazz, they would be a good option but are a last resort out of the headphones mentioned. They too have a leaner bass similar to the K701, but slightly meatier.
The Best Headphones for Jazz

The Sundara makes a fantastic first foray into Planar Magnetics.

High-End Stuff

  • Grado GS1000e. This is an incredibly airy and open headphone, and even more open than your standard open back. What makes these special is their fit, as they make you look sort of like E.T. when you put them on. Aside from all that Jazz (no pun intended), these are remarkable for the genre. The bass is light but still has an impact, and the mid-range is phenomenal. I would say this is a detailed headphone on steroids. In a quiet studio environment, I’m able to pick apart songs with startling accuracy, to the point of being able to hear things I’ve never heard with any other headphones. Are these worth the price increase from the Grado SR60e? I would say no, but if money is no object, go for it. They will sound better, but it’s not light years better. Learn more: Grado GS1000e Review!
  • HIFIMAN Edition X/Ananda. This is an incredibly warm, intimate, and pleasant sounding headphone that’s perfect for Jazz. The bass is there, but it’s not overbearing, and the mid-range and treble are both extremely balanced. It’s easy listening all the way, and the headphones themselves also make you look like an Alien but are very comfortable overall. Learn more: HIFIMAN Edition X Review! The Ananda improves upon the Edition X by also improving build quality (as with the 400i vs. Sundara), and the sound is much more open, airy, and crisp in my estimation. The Edition X was a bit smoother/warmer sounding. I personally believe the Ananda represents the $100o price range almost perfectly. Here’s my review/video: HIFIMAN Ananda Review!
  • Audeze LCD-X/LCD-2/LCD-2 Classic (or anything from the LCD line). It’s hard not to put the LCD-X on pretty much every headphone list, and for Jazz these certainly deliver. They’ve got a buttery smooth sound signature, with almost flawless bass and an overall balanced character. The mid-range is fairly flat, and the treble rolls off fairly considerably. I would say these are a bit cooler and more analytical than an Edition X, but still not too surgical where you can’t enjoy them with a genre like Jazz. Learn more: Audeze LCD-X Review! I’m listening to the LCD-2 now and they’ve got such an amazing Soundstage. I keep hearing stuff off in the distance that sounds like it’s coming from inside my apartment!
The Best Headphones for Jazz

The OG LCD-2.

  • Focal Utopia. Out of close to 100 headphones demoed at the time of this writing, the Utopia is still the best I’ve heard and it’s really not even close.Β The Focal Utopia Will Change YOUR Life!! Everything about this beauty exhibits class: from the materials to the build, to the effortlessly graceful sound signature, to the perfect comfort, and everything in between. It works for Jazz because of its open Soundstage and propensity to deliver even the most minute of details. It does this in a way that never really feels cold, clinical, or lifeless; instead, it comes across in the most transparent of ways imaginable. I frequently refer to this sound as “Door 3.” While Door 2 reveals most of what you’ll hear in a Tier-2 audiophile type of headphone, the Utopia shatters that by providing even more subtle nuance that you never knew was there. Can’t recommend it enough. Learn more:Β Focal Utopia Review

Final Word

So with that in mind, which of these do I personally recommend? That’s a tough one. Overall I think you’re going to find the sound of the AKG K702 to be perfectly in line with what a headphone should deliver in terms of Soundstage and Jazz specifically. It’s a quintessential studio headphone that provides dynamic width and spacing between instruments, which really comes in handy for Jazz and how it kind of pans instruments hard left and right.

Add to that you won’t have an issue with the anemic/sort of lifeless bass issue present in the K701. It doesn’t roll off quite as hard. Still, choosing between the K701 and K702 is kind of like the choice between Sea Salt and Pink Himalayan; it’s still salt and still tastes almost exactly the same.

Overall, the K702 is probably the best Jazz headphone for most people.



The Best Headphones for Jazz

The Champ is Here.

If you’re looking for the best of the best, the Utopia wins by a landslide and I think I’ve done a good job of explaining why πŸ™‚




Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best headphones for jazz, and have a better idea of what you should consider.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know in the comments or contact me!!

Which of these headphones are you most likely to purchase? Who is your favorite Jazz composer? 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!

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Christine March 21, 2016 - 3:16 am

I have had the Sennheiser HD 600 for only a couple of weeks and believe that it is the best headphones I have ever owned. I agree with you about the bass and the K701. I am thinking of purchasing it as well just to have a different sound from time to time.

Miles Davis is the best jazz artist around as far as I am concerned.

Stu March 25, 2016 - 3:34 am

Ahh thank you much for the recommendation! If I may suggest, go with the Q701 over the K701 as it’s sound-stage has been much improved, with more bass and a more natural sound. The big gripe with the K701 was it’s abnormally large sound-stage and non-existent bass. But, all that said it works extremely well for jazz and mixing because there’s less of a demand for a thumping low end in jazz recordings, and they’re very honest, which allows them to work great as an in studio reference monitor.

Thanks for stopping by!


Raymond March 21, 2016 - 3:33 am

Well I got to say, I have never heard of open back headphones. It’s quite interesting how headphones have developed. I bet what you’re experiencing with headphones you have reviewed have sharpened your judgement of picking out subtle sounds.

Most of the time when people buy headphones, they want to get the one that gives good bass because it gives the impact. Well our music today has really become more interested in that in my opinion. More flare but not much meaning and substance.

You’re article is really cool and interesting. Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

Stu March 25, 2016 - 3:27 am

Yes Raymond I would agree. A friend of mine today was trying to tell me that his Power beats ear buds were better than my M50’s. I just had to laugh. His weren’t bad headphones or anything, in fact I gave them roughly a 4/5. But The M50’s are the standard right now for an excellent closed back consumer grade model (not for jazz however). The numbers don’t lie! Thanks for stopping by!


Yifei Gong April 29, 2016 - 12:44 pm

Great article! I’d say the Sennheiser HD598s are also great for jazz especially if you don’t have budget for an decent amp.

Besides, could you please recommend a few IEMs that are great for jazz? I would like to use them on my iPhone.

Bud Powell is IMO the most talented jazz pianist and it’s a shame he had a rather tragic life.

Stu April 30, 2016 - 12:37 am

Hey man!

It’s funny you mention that. With as many times as I’ve recommended the 598’s, you’d think I would have remembered to include them in this list! Lol. Thanks for the reminder, I will have to add those in. They are phenomenal for jazz as well, while serving as a very flat and even sounding headphone. The bass is lean, but overall they are a joy to listen with.
After some digging on IEM’s that are great for jazz, I came across a lot of options! Let me know your budget and what kind of sound signature you like and I can narrow it down further. You can contact me! I will try and narrow down my search quickly here though. The ones that came up most were: The VSONIC GR07, GR01, Etymotic HF5, Shure SE535, the Sony EX1000, and the Sony MDR XB90EX. Check out this article as well from Tyll at Inner Fidelity. InnerFidelity’s “Wall of Fame” In Ear Monitors. He goes into some affordable options as well as more expensive ones.

I appreciate you stopping by! Any other questions just holler.


Geoff July 7, 2017 - 6:23 am

Hey Stu,

Great post but had a couple of questions.

I’m still very much an amateur, and your post gave me a lot of information to research. I currently have AKG240 MKII and absolutely love them if it wasn’t for the very small ear enclosure it provides. These cans have produced the most astonishing sound quality I’ve heard especially for Jazz and are under $100. I’ve been comparing countless headphones on HeadRoom and even the S600’s, AKG701, Q701, but none produce as distinct of a curve in the mids which afaik is the main frequency used in Jazz. You mentioned in a review on the Senn 600’s that the mids are flat — this frightens me a bit as the graph somewhat shows a much gentler slope and this is counter-intuitive with my knowledge thus far. Any thoughts?

Stu July 7, 2017 - 2:06 pm

Hey Geoff!

Could you show me where I said that specifically? I’m looking at my review and don’t see it. The mid-range on the 600 is actually a bit forward, which I mention a few times in the article. But as for what you’ve said, I love the K240’s as well! Great headphone, but I agree wholeheartedly about the fit. The ear-cups are too shallow, and I’m glad you pointed that out because I need to go back and mention that in my review.

As for Jazz, all of these are good but something with a big Soundstage and lots of air (room for the sound to breathe) is what you’re after. I would probably go with the K701/702 or Q701, though the Q has a bit of a deeper bass response. A great budget headphone for Jazz would be the Sennheiser HD558. I’ve found that this handles bass extraordinarily well because it’s more balanced than most headphones, but also has a lot of air. You’ll definitely want a phone that’s kind of bass lean as well, as anything above that kind of muddies things up. You’d be surprised how easily Jazz can get that way. I presume it’s because most of the bass notes are actually not that low. Something that articulates sound and detail is ideal.

Let me know if that helps!


Sebastian Malleza September 6, 2017 - 6:53 pm

Hey, great post! I am trying to decide between the 598 and 600. Should I spend the extra money if I can’t afford a nice amp or is it just not worth it? Cheers

Stu September 6, 2017 - 7:00 pm

Hey Sebastian!

It’s not worth the purchase if you don’t plan on getting an amp/DAC to go with the 600’s. I would just wait until you have the funds, and go with the Schiit Magni/Modi combo + HD600. That’s not to say the 598’s are bad, but there’s a huge leap in sound. You’ll thank me later. πŸ™‚

Let me know what you decide!


Michael Contreras August 20, 2020 - 8:59 am

Wow man, I saw u on YouTube like a week ago talking about dragonflys, I bought the black in 40 eu because of you. Now I’m here going through the net searching for a good invest in 7 years ( I have been using audiotechnica’s A900x ). The chain will be my computer or phone to Aune T1 tube DAC or dragonfly black to the one I have to choose. I study music, playing piano and percussion. 80% of what I listen is jazz, 50% is piano -namely Bill Evans Trio’s, Keith solo’s, Tigran Hamasyan, etc-, 20% is trumpet (and here relays lot of my problems in the past with equipment ) like Chet bakers Holland era, dizzys cuban stuff, Christian Scott, etc.
So, from what I have watched in your articles and in the headfi threads of jazz I can buy right now second hand in mint condition and cheap the K 702, the K 601, the grado’s sr80e the Senn HD 598, and the Bey DT 880.
What would you say for jazz and classical?
Thank you so much for your article and your knowledge.

Stuart Charles Black August 20, 2020 - 9:11 pm

Hey Mike, my pleasure!

Love Bill Evans Trio and Chet Baker. My mom and her friend were over the other day and he loves Chet and Stan Getz. We were listening via BT with my receiver through some Andrew Jones Pioneers. Gosh his music is so calming and peaceful right? Timeless. It really takes me back.

Jazz is a pretty hard genre to replicate effectively, but Classical even more so. My favorites in the genre are definitely Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. There’s something about their compositions that just really strike a chord within my soul, to the point of tears most days.

I’ve found that the K612 and K702 do very well with Jazz and Classical. K612 probably better with the latter because it’s a bit more warmed over. Classical tends to go from quiet to loud in hurry! And most combinations have trouble because they sort of pierce your ears and you quickly find yourself reaching for the volume knob. I’ve found that this is in unfortunate fact of life when it comes to Classical.

HD598 will also do very well for both, as well as a DT880. The 880 tends to be very bright though, maybe not as good.

I have both the K612 and 702. I mostly use the 612 for Classical and in my living room when I’m watching Netflix, and the K702 with Jazz and Gaming. I find it’s more crisp and lively, with better articulation and spacing for Gaming, though I’m not opposed to using a K612 for that.

So my final pick for you and Jazz is the K702. For Classical, K612 but you can still listen with a 702 with Classical. It just won’t be quite as ideal.

Hope that helps! Let me know man πŸ™‚


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