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

The Best Headphones for Metal [In Depth Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
Published: Last Updated on
>AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.<

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

This is part 4 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 (This article)
  5. The Best Headphones for Pop
  6. The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop
  7. The Best Headphones For Folk

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

I’m Here to Help!!

The Best Headphones for Metal

I bought myself a Gray Guitar. When everybody loves you, you can never be lonely.

What I will bring you in this article

  1. Introduction
  2. My First Metal Show
  3. Small Disclaimer
  4. Types of Metal
  5. Considerations
  6. Amp/DAC?
  7. Sensitivity
  8. Criteria
  9. Entry Level
  10. Mid-Tier
  11. High End
  12. Sub-Genre Pairings
  13. Final Word and Link to official reviews

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

Introduction

Metal music is a lot like Rock, in that guitars for the most part tend to drive the song, followed by the bass.

I’ve always been into Metal to some degree, but I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan of all its sub-genres.

I like a little Megadeth from time to time, some alternative metal like Rage Against the Machine, Doom metal like Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, and more recently, Progressive Metal/Rock/Math Rock from artists like Chon, Plini, Animals as Leaders, Polyphia, etc.

The good news is that what works for Rock mostly does work for Metal as well, given that the genres share a lot of similarities.

My First Metal Show

My experience with Live Metal is fairly limited, but a show that still stands out to me is when I saw Russian Circles with 2 of my good friends back in 2015 at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I had never heard of the band.

My friends assured me it would be a head-bangin’ good time, and so I obliged.

Loudest. Show. Ever.

As we walked out of the venue, mouths agape, we could do nothing but simply laugh hysterically.

I thought my ears were going to explode.

There was this awkward ringing feeling and I wasn’t sure if I was about to go deaf or not. Lol.

All in all, it was a lot of fun but I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it again.

My whole body was vibrating even days later, but I would say overall it was a good experience.

Russian Circles don’t F around. Kind of like Joe Pesci.

Small Disclaimer

As for Metal headphones, it’s almost impossible to write an article that covers everything.

I’m also not one to write something and then let it collect dust.

I will be updating this article as frequently as needed when new information comes to light, as well as when I demo and try out new headphones.

So please, if you have a suggestion let me know, but don’t be rude about it. Thanks!

Types of Metal

That said, I’ve been doing a ton of research on Metal itself, and was surprised to find out just how many different sub-genres there are.

As a disclaimer, I’m not professing to have experience with every different type, but I still find it extremely interesting to read about it.

This allows me to gauge which types of headphones work best for the various types, including:

  • Alternative
  • Black
  • Death
  • Doom
  • Goth
  • Grindcore
  • Heavy/Speed
  • Industrial
  • Power
  • Progressive
  • Sludge/Stoner
  • Symphonic
  • Thrash

So with that in mind, let’s look at some considerations when deciding on a pair of headphones for Metal.

Sennheiser HD25 Review


Considerations

Budget

What are you looking to spend?

Today’s article will cover some more affordable solutions, as well as some higher-end options you might consider.

There is a caveat though, and we’ll take a look at that next.

Mastering quality

Unfortunately, the general consensus is that Metal music is typically recorded badly (in most cases), and this becomes an issue when deciding on a more expensive set of headphones.

The reason is that the better the headphones, the more transparent and honest you’ll find the recording to be.

For example,

I have a pair of Sennheiser HD600s, and although they are a fantastic set, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

You’ll find that there are a lot of songs that simply don’t sound good because they were poorly mastered, and only an honest sound signature could reveal that.

Metal tends to be overly compressed and thus loses quite a bit of detail and clarity.

A good headphone will only magnify that issue, unfortunately.

With that in mind,

we’ll try to stick to the entry-level category today but still delve into some better offerings for the sake of being concise.

Source

Do you want a headphone that will work well out of a mobile device, or do you plan on purchasing an Amp/DAC?

Closed vs. Open

Do you intend on being out and about with your headphones, or staying indoors in a closed-off, isolated studio environment?

A big factor in determining is the type of sound you prefer.


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 just depends on the headphones in question.

Contact me for clarification!

A DAC:

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

Koss KSC75 vs. KPH30i vs. Porta Pro

Pictured: Koss KPH30i

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

That said, the quality of the song will still largely depend on the source file, as well as your DAC in some cases.

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, 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.

Now let’s get into the meat of it!


Criteria

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

Bass

The ideal Metal bass is not too overpowering, but also not weak.

It lies somewhere in the middle and could be construed as “lean” but still not lacking impact.

A good example of this is the HIFIMAN HE400se (pictured above).

It’s not for bass heads per se, but it’s also not lacking – in my opinion of course.

The bass has an excellent sense of weight but never becomes out of control or obnoxious.

We’ll talk a bit more about it later since it does make the list!

Mid-Range

We want the mid-range to be fairly flat/balanced so that instruments and vocals are heard with great clarity and detail.

Your typical V-shaped headphone (Too much bass combined with a sucked-out mid-range and overly bright treble) is not what we’re looking for.

It also helps a bit if the mids are slightly forward to bring out the crunch/liveliness of guitars and instruments.

Treble

The treble should be clean and exciting, but not overly bright.

That said, I’m a bit more forgiving of a brighter character since in most cases, it does tend to enhance the sound.

The best scenario for a good treble on Metal headphones would be a bit darker, to help offset some of the compression/artifact issues that we touched on earlier that are so prevalent in Metal recordings.

Soundstage/Instrument Separation

Because Metal tends to be so guitar and vocal-driven, we want the sounds to be distinct and separate, rather than layered on top of each other like most low-grade dog food cans have shown us in the past.

Comfort/Build

Obviously, we’ll want a headphone that is comfortable and built well.

I do tend to be more forgiving of lesser models in this regard, especially if the sound is stellar.

An example is the AKG K240.

It does feel like something you may find lying around the toy section of your local Wal-Mart, but its sound more than makes up for it.

Pictured: JDS Labs Objective 2 & DAC Magic 100


Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for. The Players! I will split this up into:

Entry Level ($0-100)

  • Closed-back
  • Open back

Mid-Tier ($100-300)

  • Closed-back
  • Open back

Top-Tier ($300 and beyond)

  • Closed-back
  • Open back

Entry Level ($0-100)

Closed-back

Sony MDR-V6/7506

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

Sony MDR V6

The V6 has been a quintessential studio headphone for many years.

Note: The V6 was discontinued. But, you can just get the 7506 as it’s almost the same exact headphone.

Yes, this is the best entry-level closed-back headphone, and for good reason.

Like the Porta Pro, it’s remained relevant since the ’80s, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

Both are considered the quintessential studio headphones, with crisp, neutral bass, balanced mid-range, and bright treble.

Standard issue sound. Can’t go wrong.

If you’ve never heard a good sound out of headphones and are accustomed to the drug store variety garbage, listening to the MDR-7506 will be a life-changing event.

Sony MDR-7506 Review

I’d put a lot of money on that. 

You’ll come to realize just how much of the music was missing before, and I’ll warn you upfront: there’s no going back once you hear it.

In other words,

you’re likely to venture down the rabbit hole with no hope of survival.

So plan accordingly.

Shure SRH440

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

Image credit to Alex over at Medium.com!

The 440 tends to be extremely revealing and crisp, and it bodes well for metal because of the immense detail it provides.

Yes, it will be a bit overly bright at times, but the sound is so clear and precise that it deserves a spot on the list.

This is a very similar sound as the above MDR-7506, only the 440 isn’t built quite as well and feels a lot bulkier.

There’s loads of plastic here and it’s a bit of a creaky affair, but the sound does make up for it which is why I included it in the list.

Open Back

Koss Porta Pro

Price: Check Amazon! | Official Review: Here!

Koss KSC75 vs. KPH30i vs. Porta Pro

Perhaps the best “cheap” headphone you can buy, this baby has been around since the ’80s and certainly looks like it could star in a John Hughes teen angst movie.

Aside from that,

it’s got an atypical sound signature for a headphone in its price range, providing great balance in favor of the dreaded V-shape (Over exaggerated bass, recessed mid-range, bright treble).

I suppose it’s why the Porta Pro is still relevant even today.

You’ll find the bass aplenty here without going overboard, in addition to a wonderfully smooth and revealing overall sound without the overly essy treble that most headphones in the budget category fall victim to.

Grado SR60e

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

Grado SR60e vs. 80e

Handmade in Brooklyn, NY, the Grado SR60e is going to sound marvelous for detail retrieval and overall excitement.

Most regular readers and subscribers will know I trash Grado incessantly, but I’ve always said the 60e can be a viable solution in some cases + it’s dirt cheap.

For instance, I really do enjoy them with Classic Rock and Metal, hence why I still sometimes recommend them.

I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t more excited pumping out Chon’s “Temporarily Destabilized.”

Go ahead, melt your face, do backflips, and get pumped!

The build here is somewhat questionable, but many have reported to me that they’ve had theirs hold up for years (even decades).

Still,

others have issues with them breaking down after only a few years and Grado’s non-detachable cables are pretty annoying overall.

Still, these work incredibly well for Rock, Metal, and even Hip-Hop which is why they still snag a spot on the list.

The reason here is simple: They’re incredibly detailed, with fantastic resolution and excellent Soundstage given that they’re on-ear headphones.

Speaking of, comfort is pretty good overall and the S-cushions feel fine.

You’ll be making some slight adjustments from time to time but I find that these don’t dig quite as much as you might expect and do rest quite well on your ears due to the softness of the pad.

Philips SHP9500

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

Philips SHP9500 vs. 9600

My 2nd go-to Budget King in the open-back category and a headphone that I’ve been ecstatically recommending to people since around 2017.

The extra emphasis in the lower mid-range/upper treble helps a lot with crunchy guitars and vocals, and the overall sound can be described as open, airy, and incredibly revealing.

I think of these as a better version of the 60e – they don’t suffer from that ridiculous 2kHz spike but remain crisp and clear enough to make you want to do backflips.

The bass is definitely rolled off below 100Hz, but there’s no unnecessary mid-bass bloat and you’ll love how well these render your favorite tunes, guaranteed or you can make me eat a sock. 


Mid-Tier ($100-300)

Closed Back

Sennheiser HD25

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

Sennheiser HD25 Review

Perhaps the overall best headphone in this entire lot.

The HD25s are an intense, exciting, immensely detailed, and overall in-your-face experience, best listened to in chunks.

These aren’t the type of headphones you’re going to be able to wear all day, so let’s get that out of the way.

They will fatigue you musically as well as physically.

The comfort factor is below average, but the sound and build both more than make up for it.

This is still widely considered one of (if not the best) DJ headphones ever made, but they also work well with a variety of different genres.

I hear details and lyrics in the HD25 that I simply don’t in other headphones.

They are very transparent, but they also slam with a certain authority that must be heard to believe.

Go ahead, I dare you to throw on Killing in the Name of by Rage Against the Machine.

Prepare to have your mind blown, dog.

I love all the extra guitar sounds you can hear with these puppies.

You’ll also notice many T.V. announcers, talk show hosts, etc. donning these as well.

They’re extremely portable, durable, and convenient, and make a great travel/on-the-go companion as well!

If there were ever a headphone I believe was made specifically for Metal (even though it technically wasn’t), it’s the HD25.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

Price: Amazon! |  Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay! | Official DT Shootout: Here!

This is considered a studio headphone, but like the M50x, doesn’t really live up to that moniker.

Both are headphones more suited towards pure enjoyment, and neither disappoints.

The DT770 is a little bit bass-heavier than average, but never really delves into Beats by Dre territory.

It’s got a nice slam and impact, with a shimmering treble and a slightly recessed mid-range.

The mids are in no way absent, but they do tend to take an ever so slightly downward trajectory into about 5k, before becoming brighter in the treble regions.

The comfort here is marvelous, and they’re certainly built very well.

I look at the DT770 as a bit more of an extreme HD25.

While that headphone is a bit more balanced, the 770 is V-shaped and isn’t ashamed about it.

So definitely keep that in mind before purchasing.

Audio Technica ATH M50/50x

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

Audio Technica ATH M50x Review

Another great all-purpose headphone, I owned a pair from 2013-2018.

They did come out with the 50x, which sounds about the same, but with a bit more bass and a somewhat tamed down treble.

If the 770 is a bit overly flamboyant, and the HD25 is a bit more balanced, the 50x is probably somewhere in the middle.

There’s a 5dB shelf across pretty much the entirety of the bass frequencies, but it doesn’t feel overpowering and bloated as it did with the M40x.

So the M50x is fairly similar to the HD25 but with better comfort and a bulkier overall profile.

These headphones will wow you if you’re new to audiophile-grade cans for sure – similar to what we discussed with regard to the MDR-7506.

It does well with many genres including Metal, Hip-Hop, and Rock.

Open Back

Beyerdynamic DT880

Price: Check Amazon! |  Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay! | Official DT Shootout: Here!

Could be the go-to in this category.

The DT880s have an incredibly clean signature, reminiscent of the HD600 but with more treble emphasis.

The Bass has punch but never gets out of line, and instrument separation is spot on as well.

Beyerdynamic DT990

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

These don’t sound nearly as bass-heavy or treble-happy as people like to claim, but they are bright and will be an immensely fun listen for Metal.

The differences between the 990 and 880 are slight.

The 990 is a more fun listen, with some added bass emphasis, while the 880 is more neutral.

One reason you may opt for the 880 is that it doesn’t mask the mid-range as much as the 990, due to its lean bass response.

This helps greatly aid the emergence of guitars and vocals, but do keep in mind the 880 is a leaner-sounding headphone with a bright character similar to the SHP9500.

Sennheiser HD600/650

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official 58X/600 Shootout: Here!

Sennheiser HD600 vs. 650

The 600s are my Gold Standard as far as audiophile headphones, and they do work for metal because they are so balanced, detailed, and revealing.

The treble on them is darker than the 880, and thus they can sometimes sound a bit dull.

This is really only realized when A/B testing them against something like an SHP9500, which sounds a bit brighter side by side.

If you were wondering about the differences between the 600 and 650, the 650 has a bit more bass and sounds warmer.

The HD600 sounds clinical and sterile by contrast, but it’s still a similar sound regardless.

One of the reasons both of these headphones work so well for Metal, and really any genre is because of their ability to pick up bass lines with astonishing clarity.

No longer does the bass sound like a jumbled mess.

You’re able to distinctly hear each note, which can yield some extreme excitement.

Other than that, the entire signature works well for Metal because it’s transparent and detailed, but also neutral and mostly balanced outside of the slight overemphasis around 3kHz.

You also may be wondering about the HD6XX.

I do tend to recommend it over these 2 because of the price, so definitely consider that as well.

HIFIMAN HE400se

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

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

The 400 series has undergone many changes throughout the years.

Currently, the 400se is dirt cheap and does make my top 5 under $500 on value alone.

The neutral profile means these will do well with most genres, with fantastic timbre and resolution; both mainstays in HIFIMAN headphones and why I tend to recommend them a lot.

For instance, Rage [Against The Machine] has a tendency of making guitars sound like nails on a chalkboard in the best way possible.

The 400se really helps to magnify how that actually sounds at its most detailed and raw.

In other words,

it almost seems like you’re listening in a studio space rather than hearing the sound through drivers.

Bullet in the Head is a great example of a track that sounds phenomenal through the 400se; the resolution is simply fantastic.

I think planar drivers outperform their dynamic counterparts, and nowhere is that more apparent than in a HIFIMAN headphone like the 400se.

Everything is just a bit better, but at the end of the day, the difference between the timbre of the 400se and something like a K702 is pretty close.

Speaking of,

AKG K702

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

AKG K612 vs. K712 vs. K702 vs. K701 vs. Q701

These will also do very well with Metal but will sound a tad more anemic as far as bass is concerned.

Some folks prefer this over a powerful bass, and your mileage will vary.

The K702 in my mind is certainly one of the top 3 mid-fi headphones ever conceived, and it just does so well with an array of genres.

The reason it works so well for metal is its clarity, incredible tuning, open, spacious sound, and raw honest portrayal of what you’re hearing.

If you want to hear metal as it actually is, the K702 is the solution.

I use one every day because I prefer that mostly flat, honest sound with a subtle emphasis on the mid-range and treble.


Top Tier ($300 and beyond)

As promised, I’m not going to go too crazy with these, as the majority of the time, it won’t be worth it to spend a ton of money on a headphone for Metal in particular (due to the problems we discussed earlier with regard to mastering issues).

Closed Back

I don’t currently have a closed-back recommendation for Metal in this price range. Stay tuned!

Open Back

Audeze LCD-X

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

Audeze LCD-X Review

Similar to the LCD-XC, this puppy is a bit toned down in that 1-2kHz region, and just maybe my favorite Audeze headphone out of the LCD line.

The bottomless bass is there in spades, and the LCD-X, as with a HIFIMAN, tends to outperform due to its planar drivers and propensity to deliver the music in an incredibly realistic way.

HIFIMAN Ananda

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

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Edition X

Could be the best pairing in this price category, with its just-right bass response, great mid-range, and brighter-sounding treble.

This headphone honestly feels like chewing Winterfresh gum while skiing down a mountain in January sipping Lipton Brisk Iced Tea.

It’s cool and immensely detailed, with a near-perfect tonal balance and fantastic resolution.

Can’t recommend it highly enough!

Comfort is excellent and it’s built really well, but the main draw of an Ananda has always been its smooth, crisp sound with plenty of openness.

If you’re coming from one of the mid-fi homies like a K702 or 400se, you’ll feel this freeing sense of grand spaciousness.

It’ll feel like the sound has finally opened up completely, with every single minute detail having a place of its own.

So get excited because it’s surely boner-inducing and will make you do backflips and then some – while having a boner at the same time as you do the backflips.

Focal Utopia

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

Focal Utopia Review

Yeah, this is the best headphone on the planet (as least as far as what I’ve heard) so I naturally put it on almost any list.

All the stuff I talked about that makes the others on the list so great?

Take that and then multiply it by 1000. All the hallmark qualities are there, but they’re even better.

Resolution, attack, sustain, decay, timbre, balance, realism. It’s simply on a different level.

The Utopia is simply a perfect headphone and nothing I’ve heard comes close to it.

Sub-Genre Pairing

In this section, I will attempt to outline which headphones go well with the different genres of Metal. Let me know if you have any suggestions, omissions, additions, etc.


Entry Level ($0-100)

Closed-back

  • Sony MDR-7506. Best for Progressive, Alternative, and Heavy.
  • Shure SRH440. Best for Doom, Power, Symphonic, and Progressive.

Open Back

  • Koss Porta Pro. Best for Black, Alternative, Heavy, and Progressive.
  • Grado SR60e.Best for Symphonic, Progressive, Power, Alternative, Heavy, and Thrash.
  • Philips SHP9500. Best for Alternative, Black, Power, Heavy, Progressive, Sludge/Stoner, Thrash, and Goth.

Mid-Tier ($100-300)

Closed Back

  • Sennheiser HD25. Best for Alternative, Progressive, and Heavy.
  • Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. Best for Doom, Thrash, Industrial, Black, and Alternative.
  • Audio Technica ATH M50/50x. Best for Grind-core and Industrial.

Open Back

  • Beyerdynamic DT880. Best for Progressive, Death, Symphonic, and Doom.
  • Beyerdynamic DT990. Best for Alternative, Progressive, Heavy, and Death.
  • Sennheiser HD600/650. Best for Alternative, Black, Power, Heavy, Progressive, Sludge/Stoner, Thrash, and Goth.
  • HIFIMAN HE400se. Best for Progressive, Death, Alt/Funk/Rap Metal (Rage).
  • AKG K702. Best for Progressive, Symphonic, Goth, Power, Grind-core, Black, Death.

Top Tier ($300 and beyond)

Open Back

  • Audeze LCD-X. Best for Alternative, Doom, Heavy, Black, Symphonic, Thrash, Goth, Sludge/Stoner.
  • Focal Utopia. Best for everything because it’s a perfect headphone and did I mention it’s perfect?

Closing Thoughts

If I had to choose one headphone for Metal that won’t leave you without a kidney, It would most definitely be the Sennheiser HD25 without question.

It’s the one that stands out from the rest rather easily because of just how lively and intense it is.

In fact, if Metal and the HD25 were people, they would certainly be happily married and having sex daily.

Multiple times, many positions, what do.

Every time I put one on and fire up some hard tunes, my face melts like pimento cheese on a hot griddle.

It’s almost like the headphone was specifically made for this genre and nothing else.

Everything about it is hardcore; from the indestructible build to the thumping bass, to the flat as a pancake mid-range, to the sparkling treble.

Yeah, the treble is bright. So what? That’s what you want, homie!

The sound signature will make you wanna slap someone; that’s how good it is.

Anyway, I’ve done enough rambling for one day.

Learn More:

 

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on The Best Headphones for Metal.

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

Which of these headphones are YOU more likely to purchase? What do you think about the HD25? 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!

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

You may also like

41 comments

Aggie December 9, 2020 - 8:43 am

I have Grado SR 80e and, in my opinion, this headphones are great for rock and metal music. It has lively sound, good, controlled bass (not to muddy), amazing soundstage – sometimes I have to take off the headphones, because I think that something is happening near me 🙂 I discovered already known albums once again, because I hear sounds and notes which I hadn’t heard there before – just amazing.
Sub-genres which I listen to with this headphones are NWOBHM, doom, thrash, heavy metal, hard rock.
I wanted to try something new and I ordered HD 650 – the 2019 version (they should be delivered tomorrow) and I can’t wait how the sound and feeling will be different in comparison to SR 80e .

By the way, Stuart, this webpage is amazing! I found it so usefull and interesting – this is one of reasons why I ordered HD 650 🙂 I couldn’t decide between 600 and 650 but finally I made my mind and chose 650. I wanted HD 6xx, but fees and taxes for it (shipping to Europe) are so high that it is the same price as HD 650 🙁

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 11, 2020 - 8:34 pm

You made a great decision Aggie! No worries! Did you see my other reply? The HD650 will definitely be a different experience for you, but you’re going to love the headphone. I promise! Keep me posted on your findings and thank you so much for such kind words on my blog! Have you checked out the YouTube and subscribed? Great stuff there as well ?

Reply
Aggie December 14, 2020 - 11:58 am

You were right – I made a great decision 🙂 At first, when I listen to HD650 I thought that I don’t hear much difference to my Grado SR80e. But next day I started to compare these two pairs of headphones on the same tracks and….wow! It was amazing! I really thought that SR80e was great, but HD650 gives albums a new life. They sound more deep, have more power and more “wow effect”.
I hear exactly what you wrote in another comment – Grado is too forward @2k. But I noticed this only when I started to compare it with HD650.
So, to sum up – HD650 is really great for metal music: doom metal, NWOBHM, power metal, thrash, hard rock. I found pleasure to listen via HD650. (And these headphones are very comfortable)
Another nice surprise with HD650 was that I can plug it directly to my phone (LG V50) and it also sounds really good. I was sure that I would need an amp to give it more power, but my phone does a nice job.
Although, there is a little bitter taste in this honey – I think that sometimes I miss a little high tones in HD650, vocals are sometimes a little laid back. It isn’t a huge disadvantage, I still love HD650’s sound, but I think that adding some highs would make this headphones perfect.

I know that this is not a good article to ask this question, but can you recommend some closed headphones (portable) which sound simillar to HD650 or Grado SR80e? Now I use AKG Y50, but I found it a little muddy, I miss clarity.

I haven’t subscribe your YouTube channel (yet 😉 ), but I watched some youtube posts and I started to follow you on FB.

P.S. Sorry for my English, but I’m not native, as you could noticed.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 14, 2020 - 4:59 pm

Hey Aggie! Great analysis and so glad you’re enjoying them! I do agree that the 650 can sound a bit lulled at times; as if it could benefit from some extra treble zest. Coming from an HD600, I do appreciate the more relaxed mid-range presentation because I feel at times the HD600 overdoes it a bit. Aside from that, it’s a perfect headphone, but I do prefer the 6XX or 650. 🙂

No worries! Your English is pretty good for not being a native!

Hmm. A closed back? How about something like an AKG K553? That article could probably use a refresh, but it’s a fantastic headphone! Soundstage is exemplary and it’s pretty balanced across the board with great clarity and detail. Let me know!

Reply
Thibault November 3, 2022 - 6:58 pm

what is the best bluetooth headphone wit hi-res audio support for heavy/power metal ? I’m a helloween/gamma ray/sonata arctic/stratovarius listening dude :p

Reply
Amir August 10, 2021 - 6:58 pm

Great article and great read. Thanks Stuart. Would love to read similar article on IEMs for Metal and hard rock. Hope you like this idea 🙂

Reply
Stuart Charles Black August 11, 2021 - 12:44 pm

Thanks man! I will definitely keep that in mind though I’m not a huge IEM fan lol.

Reply
Antony August 10, 2021 - 11:55 pm

Stuart, fantastic article and great recommendations. Great info about the poor recording, I always wondered why metal sounds a bit flat on more expensive cans, and why I keep gravitating towards my Grados for metal! Now I know NOT to spend more on expensive headphones to make metal sound better.
PS- I like Grado MS1 and 325e for metal (and guitars in general).
Cheers.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black August 11, 2021 - 12:44 pm

Thank you so much, man! As much as I bag on Grado, I actually do love them for metal and rock. It’s just that 2kHz is way too forward. Other than that they’re mostly great cans 🙂 So glad you’re enjoying! Reach out anytime if you need a hand.
Best,
-Stu

Reply
Alex D February 15, 2022 - 2:39 am

Cool article, there aren’t many “audiophile” websites that would focus only on metal! Personally, I own the HD650 and I think it is the absolute perfect metal headphone. It’s never fatiguing for this ridiculous genre and presents every recording well, from terribly produced black metal to hyper produced djent/prog. I own a Grado SR80X, but for me it is too bright for metal. I really only use it for classical recordings (which it is amazing at.)

Thanks for writing this up, it was a fun read! I have enjoyed the SHP9500 in the past for metal as well!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 16, 2022 - 9:46 pm

Hey man, thank you so much, and great to hear! I’m actually going back and editing/revising this series so it should be interesting to read this again seeing if my impressions have changed any. I also really would like to try the Grado X series but haven’t gotten my hands on them yet. What is your favorite type of metal? And I totally agree about Grado and Classical. In fact, it still made the cut after the recent update.

Reply
Diego April 20, 2022 - 9:39 am

Hi Stu!
Beautiful article, very interesting. Can I ask you to draw up a similar list for in-ear headphones (or IEM)? I am looking for something mobile and small like in ear. I play and listen mainly to Metal (all sub genres), Rock (all sub genres), Goth, Dark, ElectroRock EBM and Nordic folk genres. They are all genres of alternative music, but they share a mastery of bass that must be powerful but precise without muddying mids and highs, keeping voices and guitars in emphasis. I kindly ask for an opinion and maybe advice for purchases for a budget 0-100 € at the moment for this type of product. Thank you so much

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 21, 2022 - 1:43 pm

Hey Diego!

Thanks for the love, my friend.

Unfortunately, I don’t have nearly as much experience listening with IEMs as I do with headphones, so I may not be a huge help to you. I will say that I love the Tin T2 and recommend them a lot as they’re pretty fantastic and sound great for all genres and fits right in your price range. Check out my review here. Aside from that, I’ve heard a few others but the T2 definitely stands out as being the best.

Let me know what you think!

Reply
Rachel July 24, 2022 - 3:54 pm

Where would you put Bose 700s on this list, or compared some of the mid or higher priced headphones? I got these for a better sound with post-hardcore, but Ive become pretty dissatisfied over time. I need a big step up.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 26, 2022 - 3:26 pm

Hey Rachel!

I haven’t heard the 700s. Really only have experience with a couple of their headphones including the QC35 and another one from long ago that was a gift.

If you’re looking to have your face melted off, I’d certainly go straight to the HD25 and not look back. You won’t be sorry, trust me lol.

Keep me posted!

Reply
Toast September 26, 2022 - 12:18 pm

Cheers for the fantastic guide Stuart!

My current favourite set for the majority of my metal listening is the Soundmagic HP151. It has the most pleasing punch; the guitars and bass seem to align nicely in a focused aural assault.
If you need your death metal to slam, these will do the job with aplomb. Lots of weighty thwomp to the breakdowns in Suffocation’s ‘Pierced Within’.
Proggier stuff is also served well here – I especially enjoy the ‘In Contact’ album by Caligula’s Horse on these – ‘Graves’ being the standout song. Karnivool’s ‘Sound Awake’ album in its entirety is also an excellent reference piece.
Black metal, in particular the bad lo-fi recordings, could suffer to some people’s ears on these – I reckon that they are a touch too warm for the bleakness inherent in that genre.
There is something lacking in the HP151’s mids, so it’s perhaps not the most versatile set of headphones; I wouldn’t reach for them when wanting to consume lots of classical or soundtracks.
Build quality isn’t great either, my first set (bought back in 2018) developed the dreaded breaking at the hinge problem, and therefore lost all of its clamping ability on the left side. I did use them for almost two and a half years straight, and they broke during the height of the pandemic, so wear and tear is expected take its toil on the plastic structure.
I missed their sound signature a lot, and decided to get a replacement late last year. It was great to reunite with an old friend.

I prefer these over my other closed backs:
The K371 is too shouty for my tastes; everything sounds like it’s turned to up to eleven, and it becomes difficult to focus in on an individual instrument.
Cooler Master MH752 (via 3.5mm jack) – too relaxed for heavy music.
Denon Music Maniac AH-D600 – I mostly use these for movie watching, since they have too much excess bass presence for music, but are surprisingly not muddy enough to become a complete write off. The low end in Dream Theater’s Lie will knock you off your perch!

I’ve yet to try the HD-25, since it is more expensive than the HP151 (here in the UK), but I may add it to the consideration list eventually.

It’s trickier to settle upon a winner within my small collection of open backs:
I appreciate the detail of my K702, but to me its presentation can feel too thin + sterile. Maybe the perfect headphone to grab when you want to digest the coldness of …And Justice for All.
The X2HR can almost approach the HP151’s level of punch, but it gets too bright at times; cymbal hits are especially fatiguing after a while.
The Fidelio X3 is far too polite and will oftentimes expose a bad recording with its extreme detail, but lead guitars really sing on these.
The HD 599 SE is ridiculously comfortable, so I do listen to metal on it, but to me it’s a master of none in terms of sonics. You can wear these things for many hours without cooking your noggin, so I just turn off the critical part of my listening habits.
I’ve tried the SHP9600 at my Dad’s place. I’ve not used them for long enough to form a complete opinion, but they seem to excel with the glammier side of eighties heavy metal.

I’m wondering whether this new company, Heavys, will actually produce the ultimate headphones for metal. Axel Grell looks to be involved, but I am not certain whether a portable multi-driver Bluetooth headset will knock it out of the park upon a first attempt.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 28, 2022 - 4:11 pm

Thank you so much! I put a lot of effort into this so glad to see it’s helping someone.

Just favorited that In Contact album. I love prog! I will also try the K702 with …And Justice For All. I do like some metal from time to time. Currently, I’m going through Pink Floyd’s entire catalogue again.

Agree about the 599. 500 series headphones in general are quite boring. I think the 560S was masterfully tuned but ends up still being too dull for my tastes.

9500 is such a great headphone for micro detail. I didn’t like the 9600 much and ended up selling it, but kept my 9500. Bought it in 2017-2018. Can’t remember which year.

The HD25 to this day is the best headphone for metal imo. It’s just so perfect. I can’t even describe it in a way that will do it justice. But if you can get your hands on one while you wait for the Axel Grell project, I’d say go for it.

Reply
Toast September 29, 2022 - 3:29 pm

Cheers for the reply, Stu.

The Karnivool album that I mentioned is also worth checking out, the production is pleasingly organic.
A lot of interesting & exciting prog bands have been emerging from Australia over the past decade and a half.

I got the HD 599 SE a few months ago since it was going for super cheap, and it’s my first proper Sennheiser in a long time, barring a gaming headset (PC 350 SE) acquired in 2016. The 599 is certainly the most lively Senn. I’ve owned so far, but that’s not saying much when the PC 350 SE sounded really sterile and thin. I’ve read elsewhere that it’s based on old HD 595 drivers, and these are housed in a closed back set.
I was looking into jumping up to the 600 series, but they are extremely expensive in the UK, and the Massdrop 6XX is only available via import and costs just as much, if you factor in shipping and fees.
The 560S looked to be a sidegrade to the K702, so it got eliminated.

I’ve not tried out the SHP9500, but I am aware of it being highly recommended, especially for gaming.
My Fidelio X3 is a fantastic all rounder; I use it mainly for consuming music, gaming and movies/TV on my PC. It really excels with soundtracks and classical.
The X2HR is a better choice for metal since it has more low end punch, but there are tonal shortcomings – as mentioned in my previous post. The X3 beats it in terms of comfort, weight, materials & build quality.

The Heavys have been delayed, again, according to their Kickstarter page.
I’ll put the HD 25 on my Christmas list.

Enjoy your Pink Floyd journey!

Whoops.
Correction: Suffocation’s ‘Pierced from Within’

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 2, 2022 - 9:28 pm

Yeah, the 560S is def a side-grade to the 702. Good headphones, but as mentioned in my 560S video and article, I wouldn’t buy it if I already had a 702.

And thanks! The Floyd journey has been fun so far. I’m on Meddle now 🙂

Will add the Karnivool one as well! Also would def like to try the X3 at some point. Heard great things.

Re: HD25. You won’t be sorry; unless of course, you’re a weenie. Which I know you’re not. xD

Keep in touch,

-Stu

Reply
Toast October 3, 2022 - 10:30 am

Your written review of the K702 certainly helped me make the right choice.

Got an email from Soundmagic. They are knocking off 30% via vouchers on their Amazon stores.
You can get the HP151 for 70 bucks. That’s a bargain and a half! Would be curious to get your opinion of them…

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 4, 2022 - 3:12 pm

Nice! So glad it helped. I will probably have to hold off on that for now. Me and gear are just not going well together at the moment. xD

Reply
Toast October 4, 2022 - 4:42 pm

I hope that the minor gear problem gets resolved! Can’t be conducive to this site’s raison d’être.

Let me know how you get along with Karnivool & Caligula’s Horse.

P.S. – Heavys have delayed their debut Bluetooth headphones to March 2023!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 6, 2022 - 1:28 pm

Well, this site is ultimately about the home studio and music, less so gear. That said, I like headphones but generally loathe dacs. Which is why I’m veering away from them moving forward.

Will do!

Reply
TOAST January 1, 2023 - 8:36 pm

A small update: I didn’t end up getting the HD25 for Christmas.
I got sick of my old Sennheiser PC 350 Special Edition headset’s weak sound delivery, even after fitting new velour earpads a couple of months ago, so I decided to look for a total replacement.
I ended up getting the EPOS H6PRO Open Back headset (the classy green version), as it was heavily discounted in December. You can detach the microphone arm, and use them purely as normal headphones, which is a nice bonus.
To my surprise they are actually quite adept at playing a lot of metal music genres, since they provide a decent level of low end and are very slam capable. They don’t go quite as deep as the X2HR or HP151, but have the advantage of not having the harsh high end of the former, and are more comfortable + airy than the latter.
I would describe them as semi-open back, since the side grilles only expose half of the inner workings. Very good for games in general, as intended, but I wouldn’t use them for more relaxed genres or critical listening.
I was interested in getting the EPOS PC38X, but importing Mass Drop stuff to the UK is annoying and expensive. Apparently the H6PRO uses the same driver as the PC38X, so it’s somewhat related sonically.
I hope that you had a nice Christmas and New Year, Stuart.
Toast.

Stuart Charles Black January 2, 2023 - 6:20 pm

Hey man thanks for the update! Glad you’re liking them 🙂 Same to you and hope you have a fantastic 2023! Keep in touch and let me know if you have any questions moving forward.
-Stu

mehr March 30, 2023 - 11:13 am

tnx dude for this article !
im planning to buy a tws specially for metal music ! what do you suggest ?
could you please give me options in all budgets !
tnx again

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 3, 2023 - 2:46 pm

Hey there thank you for your comment and my pleasure! Unfortunately, I’m not really the guy to ask about TWS/IEMs; I haven’t heard enough of them to formulate any sort of solid opinions on which would be best for a genre like metal. I wish I could be of more help! Let me know if I can help in any other way.

-Stu

Reply
Victor April 15, 2023 - 9:05 am

Hello there,
First of all awesome guide and awesome site. I’m a complete neophyte to the audiophile world and after reading this guide I decided to try the AKG702 first and the HE400se after a few days. I used them directly from my laptop, without any amp or DAC and from my experience the AKG work well directly, while the HE does not, the sound feel muffled and not clear. I saw from your Top 5 headset under 500$ that you suggested using an amp with both of these headset so I have some questions:
1) You suggest an AMP just because of volume or it also influence the quality of the audio? Because both headset reached a high enough volume (I use the AKG around 40-60% while the HE at 90%)
2) If so would you say that there is a big difference in using the AKG with or without an AMP/DAC?
3) The mid to high frequence of the HE feel really lucklaster, do you think that it has to do with the lack of an AMP/DAC or is it just that it has a different sound from the AKG?
4) At higher volume both headset scratch a little, does this have to do with the DAC?
Thanks in advance

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 17, 2023 - 12:06 pm

Hey man thank you for your nice comment!

I would say it really depends on your PC/Laptop and the quality of the internal Soundcard. What are you using?

Not sure about the mids because they have a presence boost around 2kHz which I really like. I also like the highs, so it could come down to what you’re running with them.

I say this because the K702 is pretty inefficient and while I wouldn’t mortgage away my kidney to buy an Amp/DAC, they do need something fairly substantial like an ATOM or K5 Pro/K7.

In other words, your PC/Laptop may be hindering you.

Could you go into more detail about the scratching thing?

Thanks again for reaching out!

-Stu

Reply
Victor April 18, 2023 - 3:08 pm

I couldn’t find any informaton on the soundcard since I’m using the integrated one of my laptop, it’s a gaming laptop of the hp pavilion series, all I know it’s that it use realtek high definition audio. With scratching I mean that the treble when at high volume becomes a little distorted.
Also, my old man has a ROTEL RA-810A that he used to amp his speakers, so I was thinking of trying it with both the headset to see if I hear any difference

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 22, 2023 - 12:53 pm

Yeah man try it out and let me know! Thanks for clarifying. Yeah given what you’ve said, I would probably try an Amp/DAC. I can’t remember if I mentioned them, but the K5 Pro or ATOM would be my recommendations! That said, the Rotel may be perfectly fine too.

Reply
Em May 9, 2023 - 10:47 pm

So I’m surprised I didn’t see a LCD 2 or 3 on the list. Anyone use either of them for metal? Surprisingly I think I like a bit of controlled treble for metal ala grado.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 10, 2023 - 8:59 pm

Actually thanks for mentioning those! I may have to add the LCD-2 as I love the headphone for pretty much all genres. It’s actually one of my go-to cans above mid-fi and I recommend it a lot. The LCD-3 also changed my life, so it’s tough to decide between the 2.

Reply
Em May 13, 2023 - 9:07 am

I bet. I included a test track of you still have either of those.

https://ulcerate.bandcamp.com/album/shrines-of-paralysis

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 14, 2023 - 9:21 am

Crap, don’t have them on hand at the moment but next time I’m at AudioAdvice I will make a note to try and get them on loan again. The LCD-2 with the Black Label was next level for me!

Reply
WARNER December 14, 2023 - 1:17 pm

AWESOME! I THINK THESE HEADPHONES ARE REALLY GOOD FOR METAL.THANKS FOR SHARING.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 15, 2023 - 4:17 pm

Warner,

You’re Welcome!!

-Stu

Reply
Eeshan Dev February 26, 2024 - 12:30 pm

Hello Stuart! Great article! Never seen such a comprehensive article about headgear for metal music specifically. I wonder how I didn’t come across this website and article before this! As you can guess, I’m searching for good open back Headphones for listening to metal music. My library consists primarily of metal, rock and instrumental music. I already own few IEMs that I enjoy with metal but in the headphones department, my K361 and HD599 don’t do this genre justice. So, after reading your article, I’m considering this:

Get HifiMan HE400Se with iFi Hip Dac 3. I just moved to a new city, so I have space restrictions at my new place. Hence desktop setup is out of the question currently. Otherwise I would’ve gone with Fiio K11. Hip Dac 3 would be portable and then I would be able to use it with my laptop, my phones and Sony Walkman DAP. I have two questions. One, would the HE400Se be a substantial upgrade to my current Headphones? Second, would you recommend getting iFi Hip Dac 3 if I already have a dongle DAC, xDuoo Link 2 Bal. Its output power is
3.5mm: 125mW@32ohm
4.4mm : 270Mw@32ohm

Is it advisable to invest in iFi Hip DAC 3 when I already have xDuoo DAC for HE400SE? In the review for HE400SE, I saw that you were able to drive it with Fiio BTR3K, BTR5 and Dragonfly Red. So I’m just confused. I have decided on HE400SE, but unsure about a new DAC. Please help me out!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 29, 2024 - 7:59 pm

Eeshan,

Thank you so much for the vote of confidence! Share if you can and spread the word 🙂

I think you’ll love the 400se but I will caution you about the mid-range decline after 1kHz. It can render the headphones (and thus the music) a bit dull at times, but it’s a minor nitpick.

Hmm. With those parameters, yeah, the hip will be fine.

As for the 400se being a substantial upgrade from K361 and HD599? I haven’t heard the K361 but have heard the 371. They’re pretty similar, so yes. And the 400se is certainly a step up from the 599. Substantial? I’d say so. The planar sound is something you can only experience once, and it is indeed quite unforgettable. The biggest difference you’ll notice is the timbre and resolution are much better, but the source file is super important here too.

Because Metal music is typically not mastered all that well, you may not be blown away with certain recordings. I also find Metal to be very thin and anemic (at least older Thrash/bad recordings). I guess it depends on what kind you listen to. For rock and everything else, the 400se is perfect.

And LOL. I’m probably NOT the guy to ask if you want to upgrade DACS as I really hate them, so no. I’d keep what you have. It has plenty of power for most anything. If you were curious as to why (and my general philosophy on gear), read my ethos.

The hip series, to me, has become a colossal waste of time and money. I was over that lineup after the hip-dac 2 came out and finding out it was the exact same thing as the hip 1 with a different color (*eye roll*). The hip-dac 3 does make some small improvements (USB-C and some other things) but it’s still unnecessary in the long run.

Hope that helps man!

Please let me know and keep me posted with any questions.

-Stu

Reply
Eeshan Dev March 9, 2024 - 11:59 am

Hey Stuart! Received my HE400SE today along with iFi Uno. And I’m having a blast! None of my IEMs or other two headphones come even closer to the HE400SE. These are insane for the price I paid! I got the Uno because it is really portable and I will only use it with my laptop. I try to use either Apple Music or local Flac files 16 bit/24 bit when I listen to music.

Bass is just perfect. Not overdone, not lacking. That’s just how I like the bass. I’m not treble sensitive so I feel that treble could use just a little more sparkle but still then I feel its great because I won’t have to worry about listening fatigue. Riffs sound so great on these! Grainy, growly! I agree wholeheartedly with you. Planar sound and timbre is really something else and so addictive.

I do listen to a lot of 80s metal and I agree that 80s metal was recorded very poorly and sound thin and muffled. HE400SE don’t show any mercy towards such recordings but it is good in a way that I get to listen to the recordings as they were intended. I’m so glad that I came across this wonderful website and this article that helped me decide for such an insane audio setup. Thank you so much Stu for all the help and inputs. And just like you, I also believe that different DACs don’t sound different. Even if they do, my ears aren’t trained enough to notice any differences.

Thanks again! If I ever feel like upgrading from this setup, I’ll definitely post a comment here to get your inputs and advice!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black March 9, 2024 - 10:41 pm

Eeshan,

Dude! That’s awesome! So glad to hear you’re enjoying them 🙂 Please do keep me posted on your impressions and yeah, you may be getting sucked down the rabbit hole hahah. I feel like it’s kind of inevitable to be honest with you. Enjoy the honeymoon phase and try to remain satisfied for as long as you can! 😛

Yup, there’s nothing like the planar sound when you first hear it. That’s what makes it so hard not to get sucked in.

In any event, thank you so much! I’m super thankful for your readership and hope to chat again. Browse the site! There’s a lot of good stuff here. And don’t worry about DACS. Trust me on that. Your ears are trained fine and there’s nothing to discern. I’m coming out with a video on this actually, so stay tuned for that on my channel.

Talk soon man!

-Stu

Reply

Leave a Comment