If you're a guitarist or bassist who wants to practice, record, or just jam without disturbing anyone around you, headphones are a great solution. Headphones can also help you hear the nuances of your playing more clearly, which is especially important when recording and producing music.
As a guitarist or bassist, finding the right headphones can be a game-changer. This guide will highlight essential features to consider, enabling you to make an informed decision when selecting headphones for guitar and bass playing. We will also present our top picks arranged according to price range.
Types of headphones
The most common types of headphones used for playing guitar and bass are over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear.
Over-ear headphones (or circumaural headphones) have large ear cups that fully enclose your ears. When it comes to playing guitar and bass at home, over-ear headphones are generally the best choice. They offer the most immersive and accurate sound, thanks to their large drivers. Over-ear headphones also provide the best comfort for long periods of use, as they distribute the weight of the headphones over a larger surface area. This is especially important if you're going to be practicing or recording for several hours at a time.
While on-ear and in-ear headphones can also work well for playing guitar and bass at home, over-ear headphones provide a great balance of sound quality, immersion, and comfort.
There are three main types of over-ear headphones:
Closed-back headphones have a sealed design that prevents sound from escaping or entering the headphones. This makes them a great choice for playing guitar or bass in noisy environments or when you don't want to disturb those around you. However, the sealed design can lead to a more confined soundstage and less natural sound compared to open-back headphones.
Open-back headphones, on the other hand, are designed to let sound escape through the back of the ear cups, which can provide a more natural sound and a wider soundstage. However, this design also allows external sounds to seep into the headphones, and let others hear what you are hearing. As a result, open-back headphones are generally better suited for quiet home studio environments where you don’t have to worry about disturbing others.
Semi-open headphones offer a middle ground between open-back and closed-back headphones. They have a partially open design that allows some sound to escape while still offering some noise isolation. This can result in a more natural sound than closed-back headphones and less sound leak than in open-back.
On-ear headphones (or supra-aural headphones) sit on your ears rather than enclosing them like over-ear headphones. They are typically smaller and more lightweight, making them more portable. However, they may not provide the same level of noise isolation as closed-back over-ear headphones, and are often less comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
In-ear headphones fit directly into your ear canal. They are the most portable option and can provide excellent noise isolation, making them a great choice for stage monitoring or listening to music on the go.
However, when it comes to sound quality, in-ear headphones tend to fall short compared to over-ear headphones. This is largely due to the smaller size of the drivers in in-ear headphones, which are typically less powerful than those in over-ear headphones. As a result, the sound quality may be less detailed and dynamic, with a narrower soundstage.
While in-ear headphones are great for their portability and convenience, they may not provide the same level of audio fidelity as over-ear headphones, especially for playing guitar and bass.
Factors to consider when choosing headphones
When choosing headphones for guitar and bass playing, there are a number of factors to keep in mind to ensure that you get the best pair for your needs.
When choosing headphones for playing guitar or bass, sound quality should be a top consideration. The headphones you use can significantly impact how you perceive your tone, and the right headphones can make a world of difference in your practice and recording sessions.
Your headphones should accurately reproduce the frequencies of your guitar or bass without adding any coloration to the sound. Look for headphones with a wide frequency range and a flat frequency response to ensure accurate representation of your instrument. Read more about frequency range and frequency response below.
Another important factor to consider when it comes to sound quality is the driver size. Drivers are the components in the headphones that produce sound, and larger drivers are generally considered to offer better sound quality, as they can produce deeper bass and clearer, more detailed mids and highs.
Ultimately, the best way to determine the sound quality of a pair of headphones is to try them out for yourself. If possible, test the headphones with a guitar or bass to get a sense of how they'll sound when you're playing.
Frequency range is another important factor to consider when choosing headphones. Headphones with a wider frequency range are better able to accurately reproduce the full spectrum of sound produced.
Frequency range is measured in hertz (Hz) and represents the range of frequencies that headphones can reproduce. The frequency range is typically presented as a range of numbers, such as 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, indicating the lowest and highest frequencies that the headphones can reproduce.
For headphones used by guitarists and bassists, it is recommended to have a frequency range that encompasses the entire audible spectrum, which ranges from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
Frequency response refers to how accurately a pair of headphones reproduces each frequency within its frequency range. In other words, it describes how uniformly a pair of headphones responds to different frequencies.
When a headphone has a neutral frequency response, it means that it reproduces all frequencies within its range accurately and without emphasizing any one frequency over the others.
Frequency response is measured in decibels (dB) and is typically presented as a graph showing the response of the headphones at different frequencies. A flat line on the graph represents a neutral frequency response, meaning that the headphones are equally sensitive to all frequencies within their range.
For guitarists and bassists, it is important to choose headphones with a neutral frequency response to ensure accurate and clear sound representation.
Impedance is a term that describes how much resistance headphones have to the electrical signal that is being sent to them. Impedance is measured in Ohms, and different headphones will have different impedance ratings.
Generally, headphones with higher impedance require more power to drive them, and may not work well with devices that have low power output, such as laptops or smartphones. On the other hand, headphones with low impedance can be driven by devices with low power output, but may not sound as good with high-powered external amplifiers.
The ideal impedance level for headphones for guitarists and bassists depends on the specific device they are using. For most devices like audio interfaces, computers and smartphones, headphones with an impedance of around 32 to 80 ohms are considered to be a good match. However, if you are using a high-powered headphone amplifier or studio-grade equipment, headphones with higher impedance levels (up to several hundred Ohms) may be more appropriate.
Since you may be wearing your headphones for extended periods of time while practicing or recording, it's important to choose a pair that are comfortable to wear. If you're looking at over-ear headphones, make sure that the ear cups are large enough to fully enclose your ears without putting too much pressure on them. If you're looking at on-ear headphones, make sure that the ear cups are soft and comfortable, and that they don't press too hard on your ears. For in-ear headphones, make sure that the ear tips fit well and are made from a comfortable material.
Look for headphones with a headband that is adjustable, so that you can get a comfortable fit. Make sure that the material is soft and won't irritate your skin.
By taking comfort into account when choosing headphones, you'll be able to practice and play for longer periods without discomfort, allowing you to fully focus on your music.
There are a wide range of options available on the market, with prices ranging from around 50 dollars to several thousands. It's important to keep in mind that cost is not always an indicator of quality, and it's possible to find great headphones at budget-friendly prices.
While pricier headphones often come with superior quality sound, build materials and features, it's worth noting that less expensive options may still meet the needs of many guitarists and bassists.
It's important to strike a balance between cost and quality when choosing headphones. While it may be tempting to opt for the cheapest option available, it's important to consider the durability and sound quality of the headphones to ensure that they will meet your needs over time. Ultimately, the cost of the headphones should be weighed against their overall quality, features, and suitability for your specific needs as a guitarist or bassist.
Durability is another important factor to consider when choosing headphones for guitarists and bassists. Look for headphones made with high-quality materials that can withstand the demands of frequent use. Additionally, consider headphones with detachable and replaceable parts, such as ear pads and cables, as these can extend the lifespan of the headphones. While more durable headphones may come at a higher cost, they can ultimately save money in the long run by reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Noise isolation refers to how well headphones block out external sounds, which can be especially important in noisy environments. There are two main approaches to noise isolation: passive and active.
Passive noise isolation is achieved through the design of the headphones themselves. Over-ear and on-ear headphones, for example, naturally block out external noise because they fully or partially cover your ears.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones use built-in microphones to detect external sounds, and then produce an "anti-sound" that cancels out those frequencies. This can be especially effective for blocking out low-frequency sounds like the hum of an air conditioner.
While ANC can be very effective for blocking out external noises, it can sometimes introduce its own coloration to the sound, impacting the accuracy of the sound representation. ANC headphones also tend to be more expensive than non-ANC ones, however affordable options do exist.
Ultimately, the choice between passive noise isolation and ANC will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you're playing guitar or bass in a quiet home studio, passive isolation may be all you need. If you're playing in a noisy environment, or you simply want the most effective noise isolation possible, it may be worth looking at ANC headphones.
Wired or wireless headphones
Wired headphones are connected to your device via a cable, while wireless headphones use Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to connect. Wired headphones tend to offer a more reliable connection and can provide better sound quality, as there is no signal loss over the connection. They are also often less expensive than wireless headphones.
Wireless headphones have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their convenience and ease of use. However, they do have a few drawbacks that may be relevant to guitar and bass players. One of the main issues with wireless headphones is latency. Latency is the time it takes for a signal to travel from the source (your guitar or bass) to the headphones. In some wireless headphones, this delay can be significant enough to cause a noticeable delay between the sound you make and the sound you hear, making playing pretty much impossible.
Studio or normal (consumer-grade) headphones
While consumer-grade headphones are great for casual listening, studio headphones are the best choice for guitarists and bassists. Studio-grade headphones are designed with a focus on accuracy and a flat frequency response. These qualities provide an unaltered and unbiased sound representation, giving you a clear and precise listening experience. This is crucial when playing, recording, or producing music, as you need to hear every detail of your performance accurately.
Consumer-grade headphones are designed to enhance specific frequencies that appeal to certain genres, such as boosting bass for electronic or hip-hop music, or emphasizing vocals for pop or rock music. This type of sound coloring may be suitable for casual listening, but not ideal for musicians who need to hear a true and unaltered representation of their performance.
All of the headphones presented in this guide are “studio-grade” headphones.
Best headphones for guitar and bass
Our top picks
We compiled a list of headphones that we recommend based on their overall performance. Please note that there are countless other capable headphones available on the market.
Regardless of the option you choose, each pair of headphones listed below offers exceptional performance and are great choices for playing, recording, producing and listening to music. Keep in mind that all of the options in this list have a lot of additional features not mentioned here and that this guide provides just a basic overview of each one.
Budget-friendly options (under $100)
Beyerdynamic DT-240 Pro
The beyerdynamic DT-240 Pro headphones are a budget-friendly option that provides great sound quality. They have a detailed and balanced sound with a frequency range of 5Hz to 35kHz, which is wider than most headphones in their price range. The closed-back design provides good sound isolation, while the lightweight and durable construction makes them ideal for practicing, recording, or casual music listening. The DT-240 Pro headphones also have a comfortable fit with soft ear pads and an adjustable headband. In addition, the ear cups and cable are replaceable, which can help extend the lifespan of the headphones.
Headphone type: Over-ear, closed-back
Frequency range: 5 Hz - 35000 Hz
Impedance: 34 Ohms
AKG K240 Studio
The AKG K240 Studio headphones are another budget-friendly option that provides a natural and airy sound, making them ideal for guitarists and bassists. These headphones have a semi-open design that delivers a well-balanced sound with a frequency range of 15 Hz to 25000 Hz. The self-adjusting headband and soft ear pads make these headphones comfortable, even during long playing sessions. They also come with a detachable cable for easy replacement if needed. The AKG K240 Studio headphones are a great choice for practicing, recording, or casual music listening.
Headphone type: Over-ear, semi-open
Frequency range: 15 Hz - 25000 Hz
Impedance: 55 Ohms
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are a mid-range option that delivers exceptional clarity and detail. With a frequency response range of 15 Hz to 28000 Hz, these headphones are renowned for delivering exceptional sound quality, capturing a well-balanced and accurate representation of your sound. The closed-back design provides good sound isolation, while the swiveling ear cups and cushioned ear pads provide excellent comfort and a secure fit. They also come with three detachable cables.
Headphone type: Over-ear, closed-back
Frequency range: 15 Hz - 28000 Hz
Impedance: 38 Ohms
Sennheiser DT 770 PRO
The Sennheiser DT 770 PRO headphones are another mid-range option that delivers a well-balanced and accurate sound. These headphones have a frequency range of 5 Hz to 35000 Hz, providing a detailed and dynamic sound that is perfect for guitarists and bassists. The closed-back design provides excellent noise isolation with minimal noise bleed. The adjustable headband and soft ear pads provide maximum comfort, allowing you to wear them for extended periods of time without discomfort. The well-balanced sound signature, noise isolation, and comfortable fit make these headphones a great choice.
Headphone type: Over-ear, closed-back
Frequency range: 5 Hz - 35000 Hz
Impedance: 80 Ohms
Cable: Not replaceable
Sennheiser HD 650
The Sennheiser HD 650 headphones are a professional-grade option that deliver a natural and spacious sound. These headphones have a frequency response range of 10 Hz to 41000 Hz, ensuring that you get a full and accurate sound representation of your music. Whether you're listening or playing, you'll be able to hear all the notes clearly and with excellent sound quality. The open-back design provides a wide and detailed soundstage.
Headphone type: Over-ear, open-back
Frequency range: 10 Hz - 41000 Hz
Impedance: 300 Ohms
Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO
The Sennheiser DT-1770 Pro headphones provide an exceptional listening experience for guitarists and bassists who demand the highest sound quality. These headphones have a frequency range of 5 Hz to 40000 Hz, delivering a detailed and dynamic sound with clarity across the entire audio spectrum. The headphones feature 45mm neodymium drivers that provide exceptional accuracy and detail, producing a well-balanced sound that accurately represents the original recording. Additionally, the headphones have a detachable cable and a rugged and durable construction that can withstand frequent use, making them perfect for studio recording, live performances, or casual music listening.
Headphone type: Over-ear, closed-back
Frequency range: 5 Hz - 40000 Hz
Impedance: 250 Ohms
Using headphones with plugins
Using headphones with guitar and bass plugins is very straightforward. All you have to do is plug your headphones in to your audio interface, download a free trial of any of our plugins, and start playing. Read our guides on choosing an audio interface and connecting your guitar or bass to your computer for more information.
Having a great pair of headphones will enhance your music-making experience and enable you to play your guitar or bass without disturbing others. Headphones can also enable you to hear the subtle nuances of your playing more distinctly, which is particularly crucial when you are recording or producing music.
Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank to find a pair of headphones that offer excellent sound quality, as there are plenty of options available that are both high-quality and affordable.
If you're looking for more guidance on studio gear, be sure to check out our guide on studio monitors for guitarists and bassists. If you're looking to take your tone to the next level, check out our guides on getting started with guitar and bass plugins.