An audiophile that loves listening to classical music will always have a harder time looking for a good pair of headphones than one that loves to listen to certain two-dimensional genres, such as pop or country music. Bass-oriented headphones are pretty much a dime a dozen these days and almost anyone can get in on all the muddy and distorted music bandwagon. But for those looking to listen to classical music, what are the identity marks of a good pair of headphones? Feel free to scroll down past our guide of the best headphones for classical music, for more detailed information as to how you should choose your new headphones.
You will thank us later.
Best Headphones for Classical Music Complete Guide
How Do You Find The Best Headphones For Classical Music?
While there are a lot of branding marks for an awesome pair of headphones for classical music, not a lot of them are superficial. As such, one will not be able to tell if a pair of headphones will be great for classical music by just looking at the design of the headphones. However, if one looks for transparent sound that is really complementary of classical music then an open-backed pair of headphones will do the job. Spotting an open-backed pair of headphones is pretty easy – just look if there are grilles or holes in the earcups for the drivers’ sound to bleed through. Some drivers are even exposed. Though sound bleeding may become an issue, transparent sound will really be hard to come by in a close-backed pair of headphones.
Our Top 3
Judging a pair of headphones in terms of comfort is pretty universal and transcends all music genres and in most cases, uses. A good pair of headphones – listening to classical music included – should be comfortable when worn even for long periods of use. After all, one will not want to have to pause their sound tripping just because the headband is too tight. The brandishing marks of a comfortable pair of headphones are primarily split into three: lightweight, soft earpads, and a flexible headband.
Pretty much most headphones nowadays are lightweight as the modern trend has been about flashy design and portability. The choice of materials in making headphones are mostly lightweight plastics, metal, and synthetic leather. The drivers are also not as heavy or bulky as they used to be. Ear padding has also progressed to a substantial degree. Memory foam is a godsend as manufacturers used to have to guess which size of earpads fit the majority of their customers. Now memory foam works like a charm and is most often paired with soft synthetic leather for aesthetic purposes. Remember that it is always best to stay away from stiff earpads. Finally, one should look for a pair of headphones with a flexible headbands. Some headbands are too rigid and may not allow leeway for different head sizes. Others may be too overbearing that leads to discomfort when worn during long stretches. On the other hand, others may be too flexible that the headphones may fall off when worn. Checking the right amount of flexibility goes a long way in comfort.
Durability, like comfort, is also universal in its brandishing marks. When selecting a good pair of headphones, always check for creaks in the body especially in the plastics used. See if the hinges are too loose or too tight if the headphones is foldable. Shake the headphones to hear if there are rattling noises within the earcups. Test the headband and see if it is fragile. The choice of materials is always a good indicator of the build quality. There are cheap plastics and there are good plastics. See if the cables look tough, generally a thicker cable is better. It would be great if the cable is removable so it can easily be replaced when broken.
Last is the sound quality that really, really sets a pair of good headphones for classical music apart from a sea of generic bass headphones. First thing to look for is the sound signature. It should be a neutral, flat-sounding pair of headphones which may feature great bass, but the mids and highs should stand out more. Detail and clarity is always important because one will want to hear the different instruments used in a classical track. Another thing to look out for is the sound stage which should absolutely have accurate representation. Transparent sound also greatly amplifies the listening experience as open-backed headphones generally have airy highs.
A great pair of headphones for classical music will greatly be appreciated primarily, by musicians. Not popstar musicians, though they will likely appreciate it too. Classical musicians, like those part of an orchestra, will want to hear the nuances each track has to offer. Basically, anyone who wants to hear detail and clarity over head-crushing bass will appreciate these types of headphones. Be it audio mixers, sound engineers, studio producers, or the average Joe.
What Are The Best Headphones For Classical Music?
1. Sennheiser HD 700 Review
Sennheiser’s range of HD audiophile headphones needs no introduction. The line is one of the most iconic in audiophile circles and are some of the best sounding headphones available today. One of the more popular headphones of that line is the Sennheiser HD 700. Known for balanced sound and precision audio, is the Sennheiser HD 700 suited for classical music?
If there is one thing that the Sennheiser HD 700 can be knocked for, it is design. Though it may become a bit of an acquired taste, average Joes will definitely find the appearance of the HD 700 obscure. The earcups look like an exposed driver though in reality the drivers are well protected underneath the outer shell. The headband is slightly angled but actually helps the headphones fit most head sizes.
The Sennheiser HD 700 is hands down the most comfortable pair of headphones to use. The plush earpads are ever so soft and press gently on each ear. Wearing glasses will not be an issue with this pair of headphones as the headband barely sandwiches the head while still managing to stay seated on it. For a pair of expensive headphones, one would expect premium materials to be present on the build. However, the HD 700 is largely a plastic affair though the plastics used are seemingly high quality. Other than that there are no issues with the built quality whatsoever.
The sound quality of the Sennheiser HD 700 is magnificent. It is one of the best sounding headphones existing today bar none. Great sound spectrum reproduction, great soundstage, perfect lows, mids, and highs, everything that comes out of the HD 700’s 40mm drivers just seem so perfect.
With one of the best sound outputs available in headphones today, there is no doubt that the Sennheiser HD 700 will perform admirably on classical music. It is just one of the very best out there.
2. Shure SRH1440 Review
Lots of headphones on the market today claim to be audiophile headphones. Not a lot those claims are true. Most are just ‘all about that bass’ affairs that is really getting tired now. Actually, very few live up to their branding. But one that certainly does is the Shure SRH1440 Professional Open-Back headphones. At $300, it promises an audiophile-grade listening experience for a reasonable price. But how well does Shure’s promise hold up?
Checking out the design of the Shure SRH1440, one will get the impression that it is simply a hulking piece of headphone. The design is not special in any way, it is very nondescript particularly when placed among its competitors at the $300 price bracket. The body is all-black with just Shure’s logo, the model number, and indicators for left and right printed in bold white. Truth be told one will not want to pick the SRH1440 because it looks good. But as an audiophile pair of headphones that is beside the point.
What the SRH1440 lacks in design chops, it makes up for in comfort. The thing just feels great when worn. It may look bulky, but boy is it light. One really needs to hold it in the hands to really believe how lightweight it is as the promo shots do not do it justice. And the earpads are just unbelievably comfortable. They also provide a great fit in the ears. The build quality is also excellent and no creaks or rattling noises can be heard from the body.
Sound quality is where the SRH1440 really shines – deep lows, bright mids, and clear highs. Though bassheads will find the bass in the SRH1440 lacking, those looking for a more balanced sound will have no problems with that. The open-backed design contributes a lot to help the SRH1440 attain a natural sound signature that is really bright and airy.
While not a lot of ‘audiophile’ headphones live up to their promise, the Shure SRH1440 surely does and does so at a reasonable price. It is one of the best headphones for classical music in today’s store shelves.
The HD 598’s securely fit to your ears, and comfortably rests without any unnecessary pressure or tension on the sides of your head. The headphones may look a bit bulky, but are actually very lightweight, which is nice.
“..they sound great with a wide sound stage and an overall balanced sound…”
Sennheiser consistently manufactures great earbuds and headphones in all price ranges. The Sennheiser HD 598 headphones are no exception. With sound quality comparable to the ATH-M50x’s we reviewed above, it is not surprising that these are highly recommended by our PricenFees review team, other experts in the field, and through user reviews across the web. Overall sound quality is great, but may be a little bit lax more when it comes to the edgy bass that other headphones are able to provide. This is not to say that these headphones are lacking at all in sound quality, in fact they sound great with a wide sound stage and an overall balanced sound. The bass, mids, and highs are all delivered to your ears with precision, and do not drown each other out.
The only downside (or in some cases a positive feature) is the eye-catching cream color that envelops a large part of the design; this is paired with brown earcup pads and some high-gloss brown finish on a portion of the headband. If you tend to gravitate towards the more “all black” design when it comes to headphones, these may not be for you. If you happen to be open to other colors, this classy design may be just what you are looking for. The soft cream-colored design matches the dark brown nicely, and makes for an expensive-looking product. If you’re looking for some crystal clear and balanced audio, and a classic design, these may be some of the best headphones for classical music, all for under $200.
This same review can also be found in our Best Headphones Under $200 list.
4. Beyerdynamic DT 880 Review
Closed-backed headphones have a notorious reputation of outputting sound that is unnatural and canned. Open-backed headphones has a similarly infamous flaw in that sound bleeding is painfully apparent, in that people will likely hear what is being played. Beyerdynamic has come up with a semi-open design that in theory should provide the best of both worlds. The Beyerdynamic DT 880 carries this semi-open design, but how well does it implement it?
First off is the superficial design of the Beyerdynamic DT 880. The dual tone grey finish of the DT 880 looks really unique. There are no flashy accents or signature marks on the DT 880’s body. The earcups are largely covered by a chrome grille with a nameplate with DT-880’s logo inscribed in it. The design of the body is discreet, monolithic, and traditional. Nothing too fancy.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 is one of most comfortable headphones available today. The soft, velvety earpads hug the ears with such delicacy that wearing the DT 880 for long periods of time feels like nothing. The headband is also padded with feathery foam for added comfort. The earcups swivel vertically though the headphones is not foldable so portability takes a little hit. The DT 880 also feels extremely durable. Beyerdynamic really used premium materials and it shows. A lot.
The sound quality of the Beyerdynamic DT 880 is nothing to scoff at. The audio fidelity of the sound that the drivers produce is nothing but accurate. This is thanks to its large soundstage and semi-open design. The full sound spectrum is represented well, balanced portions of the lows, mids, and highs provide a great listening experience. While the semi-open design will still allow some sound bleeding, it is not as drastic as a full open-backed design. One thing to note though is that the usual smartphone or ipod will likely not be able to drive this pair of headphones adequately. The DT 880 requires more power than an ordinary smartphone may output so a portable external amplifier is a must for one to enjoy its true sound quality like most audiophile headphones.
The semi-open design is no gimmick and the Beyerdynamic DT 880 proves it with great audio quality paired with supreme comfort and superb build quality. This is definitely one of the best headphones for classical music available today.
5. Sennheiser HD 650 Review
The Sennheiser HD 650 is the gold standard of neutral-sounding headphones. It is the entry path of most audiophiles into the wonderful hobby of, well, listening to music. It has been around for more than 20 years – a testament to its quality and staying power in a new world dominated by Beats and Skullcandy. But the HD 600 has an identical twin that is the Sennheiser HD 650. Priced slightly higher, how does it differ from its iconic twin?
The Sennheiser HD 650 features a classic design that may not click for some people. Unlike the stone pattern finish of the HD 600, the 650 features a marble-like beige smooth finish. The drivers are open-backed and are covered by a grille. Like the HD 600, the 650’s body is modular so swapping broken parts will be a breeze.
The cables are removable and the earcups can be folded so portability will not be an issue. The velour pads are extremely comfortable when worn. There is also additional padding in the headband for added comfort. Unfortunately, like the HD 600, the HD 650’s headband feels a bit flimsy. Overextending it could potentially break it in two, so extra care should be applied. Thankfully, the rest of the body feels sturdy and there are no other issues with build quality.
The Sennheiser HD 650 is also a reference headphone and as such, delivers a balanced neutral sound. Instruments sound as accurate as they do in real life so this pair of headphones is perfect for classical music. Like other neutral-sounding headphones, the HD 650 trades punchy bass for extra clarity. The mids are full and ever-present, the highs are bright and clear, while the lows are deep but controlled. The sound spectrum is accurately reproduced by the drivers and the soundstage is large and full.
If one wants to really hear the nuances an audio track has to offer, the Sennheiser HD 650 will surely get the job done. Though build quality is a little suspect, nothing quite matches the sound quality it delivers.
6. Grado Prestige Series SR80e Review
There are many options a person can choose from when it comes to choosing a pair of headphones for listening to classical music. But those options most likely will cause a fortune because a decent pair of neutral-sounding headphones is hard to come by in the low end of the market. But what if a pair of headphones promises a great balanced sound for as little as a single Benjamin? That is exactly what the Grado Prestige Series SR80e headphones promises. For roughly $100, are Grado’s claims real or is it another set of ‘audiophile-grade’ bassy headphones?
Grado went for a retro vibe with the design of the SR80e. Embossed on the earcups are the words “The Prestige Series”, “Grado Labs”, and on the center “SR80e”. There are also grilles as the SR80e employs an open-backed design. The setup is on-ear and not over-the-ear so the body is much smaller than other audiophile headphones. A leather headband and foam earpads complete the SR80e’s design chops. Oh, and the SR80e is hand-assembled.
The SR80e feels quite comfortable when worn though not as comfortable as over-the-ear setups. The foams used on the earpads are serviceable though they can be replaced with something that feels better. The leather headband is very flexible and does a good job of hugging the head so the headphones does not fall off. The build quality is great and the entire thing feels really solid. Grado used great materials for the SR80e sans the earpads.
The sound quality of the Grado SR80e is solid. It is extremely good in regards to accurately reproducing sound and no qualms can be made about its reproduction of the sound spectrum. The sound signature is characterized as bright and clear and the bass is not sacrificed for the mids and highs. The soundstage is spacious and wide which is good for distinguishing the different instruments in a track.
Overall, the Grado SR80e is a positively surprising revelation. For a hundred bucks this pair of headphones is absolutely a steal.
7. Philips Fidelio X1/28 Review
Philips has been around for a while and has delivered incredible products through the years. Its pedigree in the audio business cannot be questioned but its presence in the headphone market is not as pronounced as its other businesses. The Philips Fidelio X1/28 hopes to change that with promises of delivering neutral sound perfect for classical music. But does it achieve its goal?
The design of the Fidelio X1/28 is rather odd, though not in a negative way. The earcups are bulky and are reminiscent of Philips’ hi-fi speakers with its black grilles and silver accents. The rather large earpads are also very noticeable. But all that contrasts with the brown leather headband. The design strangely feels elegant and bulky at the same time. There is also very little branding on the headphones, the “Philips Fidelio X1” is written only on a portion of the metal accent surrounding the drivers.
The Philips Fidelio X1/28 is really comfortable when worn. The bulky velour pads do a good job of lightly sandwiching the ears so that there is no fatigue even for long periods of time. Sadly, the earpads are not replaceable so should it become damaged it will be harder to fix (or to live with!). The build quality is good, everything feels tight and well machined in. Perhaps too tight, but the materials used certainly do a good job of evoking a premium feel.
The sound quality of the Philips Fidelio X1/28 is a bit of a conundrum. Yes, it is good, it features great bass and clear trebles. But it does not deliver neutral sound that most would prefer to have when listening to classical music. The Fidelio X1/28 is perfect for pop songs but isn’t really apt for classical music listening like the others we have reviewed above. The drivers lean more towards the lows than the mids and highs though the latter two are still very much present.
The Philips Fidelio X1/28 is undoubtedly a great pair of headphones – But they are more apt for the larger, average consumer market, than the top-end audiophile market.