8 Best Headphones for Classical Music And Jazz: Explained & Reviews

best headphones for classical music

For the most part, any high-quality pair of headphones will make Top 40 hits sound superb. But, that’s not always the right parameter to find the Best Headphones for Classical Music and Jazz.

Classical music is vastly different and more complex than most of the stuff produced today. It has tons of subtle nuances, immense dynamic range, and stunning timbre. Your average pair of headphones won’t do those tunes any justice!

To really appreciate classical music, you’re going to need a pair of cans that can faithfully recreate orchestral sound to a tee. In this guide, we’re going to help you sift through the saturated music market and find the best headphones for classical music and jazz.

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Headphones

Classical Music On Good Headphones

Anyone who is serious about classical music will tell you that the quality of your headphones can make a huge difference in the listening experience. We agree! While you could certainly use any old pair of cans for a quick listen, you’re not going to be able to enjoy all those details that make those centuries-old pieces so beautiful.

Truth is, classical music wasn’t made to be recorded. “Classical” music is generally used as a catch-all term to describe very old works of art. But in reality, it covers several distinct periods in music. Many of the pieces that people are familiar with actually come from the Baroque or Renaissance period, which dates back several hundred years before the official Classical period.

Semantics aside, none of those pieces were created before the advent of modern recording. They were written in a time where massive concert halls reigned supreme! Performance venues were strategically designed to make every last detail audible from anywhere in the room.

You can’t expect to get that same open listening experience from a cheap pair of headphones! Only the best headphones for classical music can reproduce that ambient. Even today, modern orchestral pieces tend to sound boring and flat on basic equipment. Musicians go to such extreme lengths to make the music come to life. It’s a shame when you can’t appreciate the work for what it is.

Truth is, classical music is simply more complex than modern pop music. It’s not about keeping consistent levels or ensuring that dynamic range is kept within the headroom space.

It’s about creating those subtle details that make the music come to life. With a cheap pair of headphones, you’re not able to hear things like the attack, decay, or soft sustain. Those details are what bring about an emotional response in classical music. To hear them, you’re going to need headphones that are capable of recreating them. And that is why we thought it was necessary to make a list of the best headphones for classical music out there right now.

Why Open-Back Headphones Are Important for Classical Music

One of the easiest ways to recreate the experience of enjoying music in a concert hall is to use open-back headphones. As the name would suggest, these headphones feature perforations or ventilation holes that open up the cans. They let air pass through, which helps to regulate pressure a bit.

Many music lovers tend to go with closed-back headphones because of the benefits they provide in terms of sound isolation. A lack of air ventilation indeed helps to keep the sound contained in the cans. Closed-back headphones are perhaps more suitable in a home recording studio environment but, this can be problematic when it comes to classical music.

You see, closed-back headphones are known to create an echo chamber effect. Sound waves have nowhere to go. So, they bounce around the can and affect the audio quality. It’s like the music is playing in your head, resulting in a fake-sounding tone. Remember, classical music is meant to sound like you’re hearing it in a hall. Closed-back headphones do nothing but make it sound lifeless.

With that bit of air seeping in, the audio can blend nicely. It creates that open sound that you want out of classical music.


The 8 Best Headphones for Classical Music and Jazz

Our review of the Best Headphones for Classical Music and Best Headphones for Jazz is the result of hours of research. We aim to give you the best listening experience while scaling down the time of the search. Which one do you like the most? They are all great options.

1. Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Headphones

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Headphones

Pros:

  • Produces high-fidelity audio
  • High-powered drivers
  • Flat frequency response
  • Good sound delivery
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons:

  • Might be too bulky for some

Key Features:

  • Open-back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz to 40 kHz
  • Impedance: 30 ohms

There’s a lot to love about these Philips headphones. Certified to produce high-resolution audio, the headphones are a fantastic choice for classical music. The large drivers do a great job of recreating audio how it was recorded. This includes all of those dynamic changes and subtle details. Sound is crisp across the frequency spectrum, too.

There are a couple of interesting features that do a lot to improve the sound. The first is the Layered Motion Control technology. The diaphragm is encased in dampening gel, which minimized distortion and makes sure that the audio profile is as flat as possible.

Even the position of the drivers plays a role in producing good sound. They’re tilted about 15 degrees, which works with the position of your ears. Sound is delivered directly into your ear to create realistic sound.

2. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Headphones

Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO open Studio Headphone

Pros:

  • Good Soundstage recreation
  • Strong bass response
  • Great for long listening sessions
  • Attractive design

Cons:

  • Requires a strong amplifier to power

Key Features:

  • Open-back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz to 35 kHz
  • Impedance: 250 ohms

Here’s another option from Beyerdynamic. The DT 990 headphones do a fantastic job of recreating classic music. But, they can be used for so much more. The impressive sound quality these headphones can produce makes them a suitable option for everything from pop music to movies.

The best part of this equipment is its ability to create spatial sound. The backs are fully open, making ambient noise audible at any volume. This influx of air creates an open feel. It blends with the music nicely, making it sound like you’re in the same room as the performers.

The sound quality is nothing to complain about either! Every frequency band is strong and crisp. This is due, in large part, to the power requirements. You will need an amplifier to use these headphones. Thus, they’re not exactly portable. But, that extra power can do wonders to improve the sound.

3. Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 660 S

Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 660 S

Pros:

  • Low harmonic distortion
  • Premium low-noise copper cables
  • Comes with several cable options
  • Balanced stereo imaging
  • Velour cups and heavy padding

Cons:

  • Tight clamping on the head can be uncomfortable for some

Key Features:

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz to 41 kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms

The HD 660 S headphones from Sennheiser take audio fidelity to the next level! This model uses German-engineered transducers with some innovative technology.

The voice coils are made out of lightweight aluminum, which provides detailed and dynamic sound. From the highest transients to the lowest bass, the coils offer impressive accuracy. Sennheiser pairs the coils with new diaphragms crafted out of stainless steel fabric! The fabric offers precise movement that helps to reduce distortion. Plus, the accuracy of the diaphragm ensures that both cups have very tight tolerances.

The design of the headphones doesn’t disappoint. The open-back cups cover the entire ear. But, they manage to keep your ears cool and give you the auditorium feel you need to appreciate everything that jazz and classical music has to offer.

4. Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Headphones

Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Headphones

Pros:

  • Crystal-clear sound
  • Minimal distortion
  • Sound is directed into the ear
  • Cozy leatherette headband and Velour cups

Cons:

  • Prone to clipping at louder volumes

Key Features:

  • Open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 12 Hz to 38.5 kHz
  • Impedance: 50 ohm

Sennheiser is no stranger to the headphone market. The HD 598 headphones are one of the best in the brand’s lineup. The most impressive part of this gear is the frequency response. It’s ultra-wide, making it perfect for listening to those nuances in classical music.

Another great feature worth noting is the E.A.R. technology. Standing for Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement, this technology directs music directly into your ear. As a result, audio sounds clear and lively. Pair that with the open-back design and you have the perfect recipe for achieving that sought-after Soundstage.

Overall, the sound quality of these headphones is outstanding. High-quality components are used throughout. This includes Duofol diaphragms, optimized magnets, and a surround reflector. Those features work in tandem to minimize distortion while producing audiophile-level sound quality.

5. Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium Edition Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium Edition Headphones

Pros:

  • Transparent bass response
  • Comfortable breathable materials
  • Good for analyzing specific instrumentation
  • Flat frequency response

Cons:

  • Can have issues with ultra-high frequencies

Key Features:

  • Semi-open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz to 24 kHz
  • Impedance: 16 ohms

From Beyerdynamic are these unique over-ear headphones. This particular model is specifically designed to cater to jazz and classical music lovers. The sound is very transparent and flat, allowing the details to come alive. The bass range deserves a special shoutout. The lower frequencies come through very well. But, they’re not overbearing.

These headphones have a semi-open back. It’s a nice middle-ground between full-open and closed-back units. You still get decent sound isolation. However, some outside noise can get in. It’s just enough to prevent echo-chamber issues. However, you’re still getting some attenuation to truly immerse yourself in the music.

When it comes to comfort, the DT 880 headphones don’t disappoint. The cups are covered in plush Velour. Aluminum is used as well so that you’re getting ample support as you listen.

6. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Headphones

Pros:

  • Large drivers
  • Good head support
  • Impressive Soundstage

Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable for some

Key Features:

  • Open-back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz to 35 kHz
  • Impedance: 38 ohms

The ATH-AD7000X headphones have a pretty distinct design. Rather than a traditional headband that crosses the top of your head, Audio Technica went with 3D support wings. They’re meant to provide greater support so that you can listen to music for much longer. These wings certainly do their job, but they can be uncomfortable for some users.

Design aside, let’s get into what really matters. The sound quality of these cans is great for classical music. The frequency response is very wide. Not only that, but the drivers are considerably larger than what you’d get on standard headphones. The larger size helps to produce good treble and midrange tones.

The headphones are open-back as well. Aluminum honeycomb mesh is used to let a lot of air in. This results in a good three-dimensional spatial effect while you’re listening.

7. AKG K240 MKII Stereo Studio Headphones

AKG K240 MKII Stereo Studio Headphones

Pros:

  • Good dynamic range
  • Mostly flat frequency response
  • Great for critical listening
  • Self-adjusting headband

Cons:

  • Could have the better bass response
  • Might be too large for some

Key Features:

  • Semi-open back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 15 Hz to 25 kHz
  • Impedance: 55 ohms

AKG is a respected brand within the professional audio community. Taking a look at the K240 MKII headphones, it’s not hard to see why. While they might be a bit large and bulky for some users, the sound quality is very respectable.

AKG uses unique patented transducers. They’re moderately sized. However, they are engineered to transfer signals very accurately. This is beneficial for music with a lot of detail, such as classical pieces. You can experience all that dynamic range that makes classic music feel alive.

These headphones have a partially open back. So, you’re going to experience some attenuation with ambient noise. But, the headphones still allow some air to come through, preventing any distortion.

8. GRADO SR80e Prestige Headphones

GRADO SR80e Prestige Headphones

Pros:

  • Solid bass response
  • Flat and neutral sound
  • Low distortion

Cons:

  • Not great for long listening sessions

Key Features:

  • Open-back
  • Over-ear design
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohms

With the low price tag, these headphones are definitely worth considering. They’re a good option for those who are on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice sound quality. These headphones might not be the most attractive or comfortable to wear, but they excel when it comes to delivering crisp sound.

You can expect to hear neutral sound with very low distortion. Grado uses a unique driver with an innovative design. The driver is installed in a traditional plastic housing. But, polymers are incorporated into the housing as well. The material helps to dampen resonate distortion.

The result is crystal-clear audio that sounds true to life. The cans are fully open-back as well. The air blends with audio waves nicely, creating spatial audio that’s great for classical pieces.


How About Jazz?

At face value, jazz music and classical music couldn’t be any more different!

Classical music is all about structure and theory. Some would say that composers took a somewhat mathematical approach to their pieces. Meanwhile, jazz focuses on the “dirtier” side of music. It thrives on syncopation, strange chord progression, and deliberate off-keys.

But despite their obvious differences, jazz and classical music go hand-in-hand in the audio world!

Many audiophiles who enjoy classical music also enjoy the tunes of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and big band musical acts! Even musicians and instrumentalists will dabble in both worlds.

What Makes the Best Headphones for Jazz?

If you’re looking for the best headphones for Jazz, look no further than our recommended list! Believe it or not, any pair of headphones that are fine-tuned to work with the subtleties of classical music will offer the same results for jazz tunes.

Why is that? Well, it all comes down to the two genres’ similarities.

While they sound different, jazz tunes and classical pieces are both largely instrumental and performance-based. Jazz can include vocals. But most records are pure brass and percussion!

Like classical music, jazz got its start in the performance scene. Sure, it came about a hundred years after Beethoven. However, jazz music is meant to be heard live just like classical music. In fact, the earliest jazz songs were all improvised on the spot. Even newer jazz music offers plenty of wiggle room for performers to show off in a music hall!

As a result, all of the same parameters for classical music will serve your jazz collection well, too.

The open-back design will help create a suitable soundstage to let you enjoy those brassy melodies as they were meant to be heard. Meanwhile, the neutral tone and wide frequency response ensure that you will hear every single detail. From transient trumpet frills to every dissonant harmony, a good pair of headphones will let you enjoy it all!

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Headphones for Classical Music and Jazz

There are a few things to consider when you’re looking for the best headphones for classical music and jazz. You won’t find any equipment out there marketed towards classical music lovers. Ideally, your headphones should sound great no matter what you’re listening to. But if classical music is your main game, here are the features that will matter most.

1. Wide Frequency Response

In music, frequency response refers to the spectrum of sound waves a piece of gear is capable of reproducing. Having a wide frequency response is critical for classical music.

There’s a popular misconception that orchestral music doesn’t have any bass. Plenty of instruments can rival a booming bass drum! The piano, for example, can get down to about 27.5 Hz! You’ll need that low response to hear every detail of instruments like the piano, cello, bass, and more.

The same goes for higher tones. But, it’s not just about hearing specific instruments. Unique details like the plucking of violin strings during a Pizzicato section won’t be heard if your headphones can’t go that high!

The range of human hearing is about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Most people can’t even hear the low and high ends of that range. Thus, this is a good base level to go for when searching for headphones.

2. Soundstage

If you have been to a few live performances, you probably noticed that the arrangement of musicians is usually the same. This isn’t a coincidence. Orchestral and symphonic are arranged strategically to improve the view of the conductor and deliver sound throughout the hall.

The way that sound travels from each musician to your ears creates a three-dimensional soundscape. If you were to close your eyes at a live concert, you could hear where each individual element is located on the stage. It makes the music deep and alive.

With only two cans on your headphones, is creating a 3D soundscape even possible? We’re happy to say that it is! It’s called Soundstage.

Many audiophile-quality headphones can recreate the Soundstage. Believe it or not, headphones do a much easier job of this than speakers do. With speakers, you have to fiddle with positioning and make modifications to the acoustical environment. Open-back headphones are like a contained environment in itself, making it easy to create that audible space.

Of course, you can only experience the Soundstage with high-quality files. Engineers and mixers will perform tricks to create the Soundstage, such as panning and effects. But, a good pair of headphones will translate those effects nicely, allowing you to feel like the musicians are in the room with you.

3. Neutral Tone

One of the biggest problems with consumer-grade headphones is that they are heavily colored. Manufacturers want the music to sound as good as possible, so modifications are made to the frequency response curve. Typically, the bass is boosted while the mids are reduced. This is what’s known as a Smiley Face Curve or bell curve.

Colored sound is fine for pop music, but it’s not exactly the best for classical tunes. You need to have a neutral tone and flat frequency response. The goal is to replicate the sound as it was originally recorded. Coloration will only remove subtle details and make pieces sound different than they are supposed to.

4. Comfortable Design

Last, but not least, you’re going to need headphones that are comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions. Classical pieces are usually far longer than three minutes in length. A symphony can last over an hour!

Look out for basic comfort features like adjustable fits and well-cushioned cups. Memory foam that conforms to the shape of your head is ideal. The same goes for plush fabrics like Velour or leather.

The End of the Opera

As you can see, there are plenty of great options on the market for classical music lovers. The best headphones for classical music and jazz are going to highlight all the great elements of a piece while making you feel like you’re in the same room as the orchestra.

Each one of our recommended picks deserves your consideration. But, we have to give a special shout-out to the clear winner for the best headphones for the classical music contest to the Fidelio X2HR headphones from Philips.

These headphones are very well-built. They have a much wider frequency range than any other model on our list. It beats out options from Audio Technica, Sennheiser, and Beyerdynamic, which are all heavy-hitters in the audio world. Not only that, but you’re getting extra features that improve sound quality even further. The drivers are strategically positioned to give you the best sound quality possible. On top of all that, the headphones are comfortable to wear. What’s not to like?

Ultimately, the Philips headphones are designed to make any music sound great. However, they do a particularly good job with songs that have a bit more detail, such as classical pieces. Whether you like the romantic melodies of Schumann or the intricacies of Liszt, the Philips headphones won’t disappoint.

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Giorgio P
Giorgio P
Music has always led the path and I’ve been following doubtlessly. After many years of recording in studios as a singer of a swing/cabaret band, I decided to create my own home recording studio and built a blog about it. It involves exactly the things I love the most which are writing, creating, and learning. And that’s why I called the blog Sounds Wow. It really does!