Best bass headphones
Using headphones with a bass-heavy sound can have some very real benefits. Headphone reviewers, ourselves included, tend to denigrate bass-intense headphones, but the bass isn’t always bad.
It’s only a bad thing for people who want headphones for general listening purposes. However, if you’re a bass guitarist, or just want the punchiest possible gaming experience, you might need the best bass headphones.
Quick disclaimer, We’re only going to be listing headphones that the average person can actually afford as The best bass headphones tend to get unattainably expensive.
Ultrasone PRO 900
The Ultrasone PRO 900 are reference headphones for the professional sector and avid music listeners who refuse to compromise when it comes to the quality of their audio equipment.
Featuring the cutting-edge S-Logic Plus technology from Ultrasone, these headphones promise unlimited precision in sound reproduction, and we know that Ultrasone is one of only a handful of headphone manufacturers in the world that can deliver on this promise.
If you’re a DJ and you like your headphones to be reasonably lightweight and comfortable, you’ll love the Ultrasone PRO 900.
Compared to many other closed-back headphones, the Ultrasone PRO 900 doesn’t weigh nearly as much as we first expected just from looking at the product pictures.
The amply padded earcups are just as comfortable as those on the HD650 from Sennheiser, but their size makes them more suitable for people with smaller ears.
Overall the Ultrasone PRO 900 headphones are our top pick. If they’re good enough for use as reference monitors from professionals, they’re good enough for us.
The Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2 monitoring headphones strongly inherit from their predecessor and use its already successful design as a solid base upon which they innovate and improve.
The result is a pair of DJ headphones with superb clarity and extremely comfortable construction.
The HDJ-2000MK2s take many design cues from their predecessor. Their key characteristic is a minimal design that doesn’t try to impress with flashy colors and over-the-top branding.
Instead, the effort has been put where it counts, with a deadly-effective seal courtesy of the soft earcups that result in some pretty incredible bass. You do lose some definition in the top end, but not so much that we’d consider it a dealbreaker.
Yamaha HPH-PRO 500
The Yamaha PRO 500 are headphones for people who don’t want to compromise. Their shiny piano black or racing blue exterior suggests that you are in for a powerful sonic experience.
The question is whether or not the quality of these headphones matches the rather expensive price.
It’s difficult not to compare the Yamaha PRO 500 to the Beats Studio headphones. Apart from the logo, the two look remarkably similar, due to the smooth, elegant construction that favors gentle curves over more aggressive, angular shapes.
Beats may be the most effective at
Bowers & Wilkins P5
When it comes to manufacturers of premium headphones, Bowers & Wilkins is often the first company that comes to mind. After all, they have been manufacturing some of the most stunning headphones and loudspeakers since 1966.
The P5 hi-fi headphones feature special drive units created to produce a natural sound with well-defined bass.
The headphones have almost a sensual quality to them: the way the stainless steel curves as it connects the earcups with the headband, the unorthodox construction of the earpads, or the soft leather that would feel right at home around a dashboard of an expensive Italian sports car.
What to consider when buying bass headphones?
Hardcore audio enthusiasts like to toss around obscure terms and make everyone think that it’s almost impossible to learn everything that one needs to consider when buying bass headphones. Consequently, many people strictly adhere to opinions of self-proclaimed experts, afraid to use their own critical thinking to decide which headphones are the best for them. We don’t like this attitude and are convinced that everyone can learn about the individual components that together make a fantastic pair of bass headphones. Please make yourself comfortable; you are about to embark upon a brief journey into the exciting world of portable music listening.
Type (In-Ear, On-ear, Over-ear)
People often mistakenly assume that the size of headphones is the best way how to determine the ability to produce booming bass. That’s not really the case. The technology has moved forward so much that even some of the smallest in-ear headphones can feature dedicated drivers just for lows. Still, the type of headphones is the first thing you need to decide on, so it makes sense to spend some time going over the advantages and disadvantages of in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones.
In-Ear Bass Headphones
In-ear headphones are often called earbuds, and they offer an unprecedented convenience and portability. You can fit them under your bike helmet, you don’t have to worry about knocking them off your head while working out, and you can just toss them into a pocket when you are done using them. Indeed, if you are buying bass headphones primarily to keep you company while exercising, this is the type to get.
When it comes to bass reproduction, you should prefer in-ear headphones with deeper fit over headphones that sit in the outer part of your ears. Not only will you get a much better passive noise isolation, but you also won’t have to play your music on such a high volume like you would otherwise. Form eartips are another way how you can improve the overall fit of just about earbuds.
In recent years, Bluetooth in-ear headphones have become incredibly popular. The complete lack of wires means an even higher degree of freedom, which is tremendously important for all active listeners. Their only real downside is the fact that you are limited to listening only to Bluetooth-compatible devices.
On-Ear Bass Headphones
Depending on your outlook, on-ear headphones can either represent the best of both worlds (in-ear and over-ear headphones) or the worst. On one hand, you get a much better portability than you would get with over-ear headphones. One the other hand, you sacrifice the listening comfort of over-ear headphones. The question is which is more important to you.
If you are commuting to and from work or school on a daily basis, you probably don’t want to haul with you a pair of large, heavy over-ear headphones just to benefit from their superior comfort during those 20-30 minutes it takes you to get to where you need to go. But perhaps you listen to music mostly at home or at work. In that case, the pressure that even the most comfortable on-ear headphones put on your ears could become a significant issue over time.
The smaller size of earcups also means that it’s not as effortless for the headphones to reproduce deep, spacious bass as it is for over-ear headphones with large drivers. This can be especially noticeable if you choose a closed-back model. However, if you look long enough, you will surely be able to find on-ear headphones that work great for bass-heavy music. A good example is the legendary Koss Porta Pro. These small, foldable on-ear headphones deliver such an enjoyable bass that they’ve been in production now for more than 20 years. One thing that has definitely contributed to their success is their incredibly low price.
Over-Ear Bass Headphones
Big, powerful bass goes hand-in-hand with large, imposing over-ear headphones. Their sheer size gives manufacturers plenty of room to incorporate extra-large drivers capable of reproducing the deepest sub-bass frequencies. It also helps with redistributing the pressure across a larger surface area, allowing for long hours of comfortable listening. No wonder then that over-ear headphones are so popular among professional musicians and audiophiles.
Serious bassheads can tweak the sonic characteristic of their headphones by experimenting with different earpads and other small modifications. Earpads made out of velour, which is a heavy fabric that resembles velvet, tend to let in more air and make lower frequencies sound less prominent. However, the extra air also prevents your ears from getting all sweaty during hot summer months. Pleather earpads to the exact opposite, so it pays off to have both types on hand and switch them as you need to.
When it comes to bass over-ear headphones, DJ headphones definitely should receive the most attention from you. These headphones tend to be extremely durable, foldable, and capable of reproducing even the deepest sub-bass frequencies without any struggle at all. They also isolate quite a bit of outside noise, making them suitable even for office use or commuting.
To understand frequency range, it’s first necessary to know how sound is transmitted through the air all the way to our eardrums. As you probably remember from you high-school physics class, the sound is a vibration that spreads as a typically audible mechanical wave of pressure and displacement, through a medium such as air or water. As the source continues to vibrate the medium, the vibrations propagate away from the source at the speed of sound, thus forming the sound wave. The unit of frequency of these vibrations is hertz (symbol Hz). It’s defined by the International System of Units (SI) as one cycle per second.
We perceive frequency of sound waves as pitch. Infants are able to hear frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but most humans are limited to just sounds between 20 Hz and 16,000 Hz. High-end headphones are often able to reproduce frequencies from 5 Hz to 33,000 Hz. The lower the frequency, the deeper the sound is, and vice-versa.
The sub-bass part of the frequency ranges from 20 HZ to 60 Hz. These numbers are not arbitrary: 20 Hz is the lowest frequency that most humans can hear. Go below 20 Hz and you start to feel the sound, rather than hear it. The bass guitar has a lowest achievable pitch of 41 Hz, but you most commonly encounter sounds in this frequency range when you listen to electronic music. Headphones that are not able to properly reproduce sub-bass sounds tend to sound too weak, and headphones that amplify it too much often sound bloated and unclear.
Bass ranges from 60 Hz to 250 Hz, and it’s where the fundamental notes of rhythm are centered. So, don’t think that bass is important only for certain types of music. We often like to describe certain headphones as “warm” or “cold”. What we often mean is the slight boost around 250 Hz, which can add a feeling of warmth to the bass. Some headphones manage to do this without losing any definition, but others are not so successful and end up making the sound too boomy.
Moving on from the low end of the frequency range, we enter midrange, which is commonly divided into three categories: low midrange (250 Hz to 500 Hz), midrange (500 Hz to 2 kHZ), and upper midrange (2 kHz to 4 kHz). The low midrange is crucial for lower-stringed instruments, as it contains the low order harmonics. You can try boosting it for extra clarity, or you can take it down a few notches if the music sounds too muddy. The midrange and upper midrange are what our ears are naturally fine-tuned for. That’s because it’s the area of human voice. Even the slightest boost around 2 or 3 kHz can cause a noticeable listening fatigue. If you ever decide to adjust this part of the frequency spectrum, proceed very carefully.
Sounds between 4 kHz to 6 kHz are referred to as presence. If you lower the prominence of this part of the frequency range, you will make the sound more distant and transparent. From 6 kHz to 20 kHz is the brilliance range, which is composed entirely of harmonics. In other words, it adds a certain sparkle and sense of air to the sound. Monitoring headphones tend to have a noticeable boost in this region, which allows the audio engineer to spot any signs of sibilance.
The Wikipedia definition of sensitivity can be a little bit hard to understand, “Sensitivity is a measure of how effectively an earpiece converts an incoming electrical signal into an audible sound. It thus indicates how loud the headphones will be for a given electrical drive level.” Confusing, right?
Allow us to explain it in slightly different words. When you connect a pair of headphones to your smartphone or audio player via a standard audio cable, your music is transmitted as an electric signal of a certain voltage. The more sensitive headphones are, the more sound pressure is produced when the same voltage is applied. This measurement is given in decibels of Sound Pressure Level per milliwatt, or dB SPL/mW. For example, for a headphone with a sensitivity of 100 dB (SPL)/V, an amplifier with an output of 1 root-mean-square (RMS) voltage will produce a maximum volume of 100 dB, which is roughly equivalent to sound levels produced in a loud factory. You should always avoid listening to your music at such high volumes to avoid ear damage. Even 2 hours at 100 dB can cause minor damage, which will likely manifest as a buzzing noise when you wake up the next day.
Apart from sensitivity, it’s also possible for you to stumble upon efficiency, which tells you the sound pressure level produced when a certain power is applied. As explained by lini from head-fi.org, “A headphone with higher sensitivity is especially welcome, if you have an amp with a rather low voltage swing, because it will be able to draw more current out of that amp than an equally efficient but less sensitive headphone at the same position of the volume knob.”
Drivers are that vibrating part inside all headphones and speakers that send ripples through the air. If you’ve ever seen a large speaker without the front cover, you might remember seeing a large driver at the bottom of the speaker and one or two smaller drivers above it. The large driver is called woofer, and its job is to produce exciting bass. The smaller drivers can either be tweeters for highs or midrange drivers for, well, the midrange.
Most headphones have to pack all these separate drivers into just one (although there are headphones with 2, 3, or even multiple drivers). The most common type of driver for headphones is the dynamic driver. The dynamic driver is a transducer that converts an electrical signal into an acoustic signal through electro-motive force. “The basic principle at work rests on the fact that when you put current through a wire it creates a magnetic field around the wire proportional to the amount and direction of the current flow. If you immerse the wire within another magnetic field, the magnetic field around the wire will react with the larger field and force the conductor to move.” explains Innerfidelity.
Other types of drivers include planar magnetic, electrostatic, balanced armature drivers, and other more exotic types that you commonly don’t run into all that often. If you really want to dive deep into how each type works, we encourage you to visit DIY Audio Heaven and read the relevant article. Those of you who would like to skip all that and just know which type is the best can be rest assured that the type of driver makes much less of a difference than how the manufacturer tuned it. Even a basic dynamic driver can sound absolutely stunning in the hands of expert sound engineers.
There are several ways how manufacturers and customers can boost the level of bass and make the music sound more powerful. Some achieve bass boost by physically modifying the headphones and adding vent holes to make the headphones give a deeper sound. Others replace stock velour earpads with pleather ones for a better seal.
However, the most straightforward way how to increase the amount of bass produced by your headphones is to use an equalizer on your smartphone. If you own an iPad or iPhone, you can just head over to sound settings and choose one of several pre-defined presets. Apple did a pretty good job, and, upon activating the preset, you will be greeted with a slight but noticeable bass boost that doesn’t distort other parts of the frequency spectrum.
Those of you who would like to take things into their own hands can install a third-party music player that comes with a multi-band equalizer. This way, you can adjust individual bands directly and completely customize the sound signature of your headphones.
Of course, you can also look for headphones that advertise a bass boost functionality. Such headphones usually do some sort of equalization for you.
For some reason, designers of bass headphones seem to have a competition among themselves about who can create the craziest looking pair of headphones. If bright colors and unorthodox shapes are your thing, you will have plenty to choose from. Others who prefer a subtle approach to design can still find plenty of great looking bass headphones, but their selection might be slightly more limited.
Of course, unless you are buying the headphones with a singular intention to impress others, you probably won’t prioritize design oven sound quality. And you shouldn’t. What looks hip now may seem obnoxious just a few years down the road, but simple, timeless design stays relevant even after 20 years, as exemplified by legendary headphones such as the Koss Porta Pro or the Sony MDR-7506.
Comfort and Construction
Never underestimate how important comfort is for enjoyable music listening. Headphones that cause pain only after few hours of use will most likely just end up tossed aside. If you cannot try the headphones in person before you make your online purchase, read as many customer reviews as you can. If many customers complain about discomfort, chances are that you will too.
Bass headphones must be constructed in such a way that all materials fit precisely and don’t produce any resonance even when you crank up the volume. Other than that, you just want to make sure that all stressed parts are properly reinforced to withstand daily use.
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