Picking the Best Headphones for Classical Music in 2020

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Ryan Harrell

Get a better listening experience with our pick of the best headphones for classical music.

Our Top Picks

Best overall: beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
“An enduring classic from beyerdynamic that marries precision, price, and performance”

Best for budget users: AKG K240 Studio Headphones
“The AKG K240 proves that audiophile-grade quality doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg”

Best wireless: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
“The compromise-free wireless headphones for classical music”

Best in-ear headphones: Shure SE425-CL
“Precise, studio-grade performance that fits in your ears”

Best noise cancellation: Bose 700
“The leader in noise cancellation takes things up a notch”

Modern commercial headphones are awful for listening to classical music.

Because of the popularity of hip-hop and headphones like Beats, practically every pair of consumer headphones over-emphasizes bass frequencies. That’s how you get the loud “thump” in the low-end.

That’s great for hip-hop and pop, but classical music has scarcely any low-end. All the action happens in the mids and trebles. The latter are often too shrill on consumer headphones. And mids are barely present.

If you want to listen to classical music, you want headphones that can handle the entire gamut of frequencies comfortably (especially the oft-ignored mids).

To help you out, we put together this list of the best headphones for classical music you can buy right now. We’ve covered every budget and use case. Jump to the section below to find the perfect pair of headphones for your needs.

We use rigorous research, reviews, and real-world performance when recommending products. Our reviewers include producers, performers, and active musicians. You can read more about our review process here. Be advised that MIDINation might earn referral commissions on purchases made through this website. This does not affect your final purchase price.
Note: As an Amazon Associate, MIDINation earns commissions for qualifying purchases made through Amazon links on this page.

About your reviewer
Ryan Harrell is the founder of MIDINation and an experienced producer/DJ. His first experience with electronic music production dates back to Cubase 3.0 in the summer of 1997, and he’s been a fan ever since. He prefers Ableton as his primary DAW these days, though he is still partial to Cubase and Pro Tools. He lives in San Diego and freelances as a producer and part-time DJ.

The Best Headphones for Classical Music

Here are my picks for the best classical music headphones for different budgets and needs:

beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are the best headphones for classical music right now

beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

The DT990 Pro isn’t the best sounding headphone on our list. But it definitely offers the best mix of price and performance. It isn’t as flat as the fantastic ATH-M50x, nor does it add as much color as some of AKG’s cheaper options. What it does is offer precision and finesse in a package that’s surprisingly affordable for an enthusiast.

Key features:

  • Open over-ear design
  • Made in Germany
  • 80 Ohm Impedance
  • 96 dB sound pressure level
  • Cable & Plug

If you are concerned about comfort, affordability, and overall sound performance, then you should closely consider the DT 990 Pro from Beyerdynamic. The headphones are rather dated, but they are still as good as or even better than more expensive studio headphones on the market right now. They have a unique feel and design that you just cannot find elsewhere.

While the build quality is dated and isn’t as good as some others on this roundup, it still feels solid. The all-plastic design feels cheap, with the only concession to metal being the metal band holding the cups together. However, while the plastic might feel hard, the padding on and around the earcups erases any discomfort. It feels soft on the ears and gives a premium feel.

With 80 ohms impedance, it is an industry-standard headphone. Sound performance is impressive on its own, although you can make it sound even better by adding an amp.

Sound quality is quite incredible, especially considering that these are mid-range headphones. In fact, you’ll likely not find any headphones as good in this price range. The low-end responsiveness makes it an excellent option if you want to listen to classical music. The mid and high ends are also impressive and give an overall unbelievable classical music hearing experience.

With an open-back design, you can hear the music naturally and have an excellent listening experience.

What I don’t like:

Well, I have briefly touched on something I don’t like about the headphone. It is quite dated, and the plastic build is not very durable. Additionally, although the cable is of a satisfactory length, it is not detachable. Therefore, if anything were to happen to it, you’d be in trouble.

Recommended for: For the mix of price and performance, I believe these are some of the best headphones for classical music you can buy right now. There are better sounding headphones out there, but they won’t be as cheap as the DT990 Pro. 

Pros

  • Impressive frequency range
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Mediocre build quality and durability
  • No detachable cable

Best Open Back Headphones: Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser HD 599 SE are the best headphones for classical music if you want an open back option

Key features:

  • 3.5mm stereo connector
  • 2-year warranty
  • Open-back design
  • 3m/1.2m cable

While a closed-back unit will not ruin your listening experience, open-back headphones are especially suited for listening to classical music, and the Sennheiser HD 599 SE is the best of all the open back options I tested.

It is a studio headphone that has an open back design. One advantage of the design is that it feels very comfortable to wear over extended periods and acoustically; it keeps the sounds clear of any unnatural reverbs.

Another notable sound feature of the Sennheiser HD 599 SE is that it does not over-focus on the low frequencies. Instead, its strength lies in the midrange. Thus, it is one of the best headphones for classical music.

Due to this feature, the classical music you play sounds full, and each note is easy to distinguish. Additionally, it is a versatile and powerful headphone that can give you plenty of volume without using an amp.

Design-wise, it is a highly comfortable pair of headphones. It comes with velour ear cushions that allow you to wear them for hours without irritation or heating up. There is sufficient padding all around, even on the headband. Despite the open-back design, the earcups are made to direct music straight into your ears for a natural sound.

What I don’t like

While the open-back design comes with several advantages as outlined above, this design means that sound isolation is practically non-existent. If you are looking for a pair of headphones with sound-isolation, steer clear of this model.

Recommended for: Overall, it offers good value for money and is a good choice for anyone that wants clear mids and treble from their headphones. Given that they’re open back, these headphones are also extremely comfortable. If sound leakage isn’t something you worry about, you’ll find these to be among the best headphones for classical music.

Pros

  • Has a pair of interchangeable cables
  • Comfortable
  • Wide, concert-like sound stage

Cons

  • Zero sound isolation

Best for Audiophiles: Shure SRH1840

Key features:

  • 40 mm neodymium drivers
  • Open-back design
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum construction
  • MMCX connectors

If you are ready to spend up to half a grand or more on a pair of headphones, then these are some of the best headphones to splurge on. The Shure SRH1840 comes with several features, including unbeatable durability, and importantly for your classical music listening experience, high fidelity playback.

They are super comfortable despite the aircraft-grade aluminum construction. The yoke is made from aluminum alloy while the grilles are from stainless steel. This makes it a highly durable unit that certainly looks premium. With an adjustable headband and ear cups, you can listen to your favorite pieces of classical music for hours without feeling uncomfortable around the ears.

Internally, the Shure SRH1840 has a steel driver frame that controls internal resonance and gives you a rich, consistent sound, regardless of how high you turn up the volume. This driver also reduces the chances of sound leaking. Therefore, while it is an open-back headphone, it doesn’t leak sounds.

Performance-wise, the mid-range here is impressive. While the frequency range responsiveness is somewhat wide, I didn’t particularly fancy the lows or highs. However, the clarity of sound saves the Shure SRH1840 from being a complete disappointment in this regard.

What I don’t like

First, it is heavier than I am used to. I chalk this weight down to the high-quality materials of construction. I also did not like the low-end performance of this headphone. It’s not a huge issue for classical music but definitely something that would bug you given its price.

Recommended for: If you want pure performance, great build quality, and highly precise playback, you’ll love the Shure SRH1840. Sure, they’re expensive, but for the price, you get one of the best headphones for classical music in the market.

Pros

  • Impressive mid-range
  • Durable construction
  • Natural, intimate sound

Cons

  • Costly
  • Needs an amp

Best Wireless Headphones: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless

Key features:

  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 22-hour battery life
  • 2-year warranty
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 16 Hz – 22000 Hz frequency response

Released back in 2015, these headphones are rather dated, but they still give excellent performance. The good thing about the world of audio technology is that it moves slowly. Hence, good headphones remain good even as the years roll by. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless were among the first headphones to bring Bluetooth and Wireless technology to headphones, and five years later, it is still as good as it was back then. The excellent performance is even made sweeter because of the drop in price.

In creating this roundup, I tested scores of headphones, and I must say that these are the best wireless headphones in terms of design, at least. It combines looks, materials, and ergonomics to give a highly comfortable option. The materials, leather and brushed metal, set this apart from the hundreds of models on the market. It looks and feels premium. And it isn’t all for show. It is as durable as they come.

Despite looking like a one-piece model, it comes with a foldable design that makes it easy to carry around with you. The cups are made of high-quality leather and plastic that improves comfort.
The USP of these headphones is the wireless connection. Well, it doesn’t disappoint. It is Bluetooth and NFC compatible. It also uses the NoiseGard technology to improve noise cancellation.

With up to 22 hours of use with Bluetooth and NFC turned on, these headphones have a really impressive battery life.

Performance is still impressive despite the age. Noise cancellation is superb, but the shining light is sound performance. It is simply incredible. The sound is warm, but not so much that it becomes unbearable. Of special note is the mid-range. Vocal and instrumentals are crisp and direct. The soundstage is also pleasing and wide.

What I don’t like

Well, the shortcomings cannot be helped really. Other wireless models, especially newer options, have more features. It doesn’t have things like a dedicated button for Virtual Assistants, proximity sensors, and other Smart features.

Recommended for: If you want a beautiful, great sounding pair of wireless headphones with noise cancellation, then the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless should be a top consideration.

Pros

  • Gorgeous design
  • Very comfortable
  • Good noise cancellation

Cons

  • Fewer features than newer models

Best Budget Pick: AKG K240

Key features:

  • Semi-open design
  • 3-meter cable
  • 55 Ohms impedance
  • 3.5 mm stereo plug

Some of the models that I have reviewed so far come at fairly high prices. However, if you are looking for a cheap option, you will do well to consider the AKG K240 headphones. AKG is a popular brand and has made some of the most impressive headphones I have used. The AKG K240 headphones are a budget-level model that will still let you enjoy listening to classical music.

Design-wise, these headphones are not so different from hundreds of others on the market. However, it is differentiated by the semi-open design. This design incorporates oversized transducers and Varimotion diaphragm, resulting in headphones that have more than decent frequency response and sound stage.

While lows are somewhat disappointing in this unit, the treble and mid-range are truly impressive, which are what you need for the best classical music sound performance. With 55 Ohms of impedance, it is not for studio use, but since all you care about is your classical music, you will have a good time with this headphone.

What I don’t like

As a budget level, it doesn’t look expensive in the least. The plastic build feels cheap, and it isn’t as durable as more expensive models. The bass is also explosive, but I don’t think that would be of great concern if you are listening to classical music.

Recommended for: As a budget level headphone, I recommend this for anyone who isn’t looking for an expensive model. It doesn’t have the features of more expensive models, but it will still be adequate for your needs.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Good highs and mids
  • Accurate response

Cons

  • Looks and feels cheap
  • Too much bass

Best Active Noise Cancellation: Bose 700

Key features:

  • Stainless steel build
  • 20 hours runtime
  • 11 noise cancellation levels
  • Active EQ

Bose was the company that made noise cancellation popular, but as the years rolled on, rival manufacturers caught on. Well, the Bose 700 is Bose’s return to form. This pair of headphones focuses on noise cancellation and still manages to excel in other performance metrics. It sports a new design, better sound performance, USB-C charging, and a gesture pad.

In real-life use, these headphones are simply delightful to wear. While there are a few kinks to straighten out, the general consensus is that these are great headphones. They are easy to wear, look beautiful, and are durable.

It comes with a minimalist design and a futuristic gesture pad that replaces any playback buttons. The earcups have 90-degree rotation, which allows you to fold them or rest them on your neck when not in use.

There are up to 11 levels of noise cancellation on the Bose 700, which can be accessed via the Bose Music App. Battery life is great, as it can push up to 20 hours.

Performance is important, and during my testing, I was pleased with the performance. While it isn’t the best sounding pair of headphones, it is sufficient. Notes are clear and crisp with the highs, mids, and lows sounding great.

What I don’t like

The lack of folding hinges means they are not as portable as I’d have liked. While you can use it to make calls, the microphone sometimes cuts of lower notes.

Recommended for: If you really want noise cancellation, then these are the best headphones for classical music you can get right now. It combines 11 levels of noise cancellation with impressive sound performance. Despite tons of competitors, Bose’s ANC remains unmatched.

Pros

  • Impressive noise cancellation
  • Intuitive gesture pad
  • Lovely design

Cons

  • Lack of folding hinges
  • Price – the Bose QC series is cheaper

Best Earphones: Shure SE425-CL

Key features:

  • 20HZ – 19 kHz frequency response
  • 22 Ohms impedance
  • Wired connectivity
  • Dual HD Micro drivers speakers

This is a deviation from the headphone design that I am reviewing. The Shure SE425-CL is an in-ear pair of earphones that are the finest models you can find at this price range.

Without beating around the bush, let me just say that these are super impressive earphones, especially when compared with others in a similar category.

The main thing going for these earphones is the performance. The success of these earphones lies in the details. Plug them into your music player, and you will be impressed by the immersive sound you will get. Immersive is even an understatement where these earphones are concerned. At this price, you simply will not find a model that will help you hear things you didn’t know were in your favorite piece of classical music.

From the lows to mids and highs, nothing is overdone. Listen to a guitar pick, and you will never experience any brashness. Shure has kept quite a lid on the sounds to create enough room for fun and excitement without making it sound annoying.

Although these earphones do not pack the same punch as headphones might, it is still very impressive.

The design is where the unit somewhat falters (more on that later). However, despite the fumble, it is still more comfortable than several similarly designed options. It is solidly built and will last you for some time.

What I don’t like

Sound-wise, there is almost nothing to complain about. The complaints lie in the design. The foam tips can be very annoying to fit into the ears. That is the only thing that I hated about the earphones. However, if you are fortunate, you can have a unit that would fit perfectly.

Recommended for: Overall, these are recommended for everyone, really. They give excellent sound and come at an excellent price. If you want earphones to accompany your classical music, then these are a good option.

Pros

  • Energetic sound
  • Impressive mids
  • Immersive sound experience

Cons

  • Relatively low bass
  • Fitting into ears can be annoying

Best All-Purpose Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x 

Key features:

  • 45mm large-aperture drivers
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups
  • Detachable cable
  • 96 dB sensitivity
  • 15-20,000 Hz frequency response

The last on this list, but certainly not the least, is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphone – one of my favorite headphones that offers something for everyone. It offers impressive build quality and excellent sound performance. It is also very comfortable to wear and has a detachable cord design.

The headphones have a thick, sturdy build that feels like it will last for a long time. The sturdiness is seen in the cord as well. It comes in a thick design and ends in a heavy-duty plug. Thus, it can take a beating without breaking.

Comfort is assured with these headphones. The model has thick, padded earcups that feel great on the ears without getting overly warm. The headphones are foldable as well, which means that you can carry them around without hassle.

While these headphones are marketed as monitor headphones, they are very versatile and can actually be used for so many other things. This is majorly due to the impressive lows, which you won’t find even in more expensive headphones.

What I don’t like

While the sound is decent for most uses, I found the sound stage to be a tad disappointing. It’s a little too close for my taste. While the intimacy works well for music production – the ATH M50x’s original purpose – it feels too tight for classical music.

Since these are monitors, not just headphones, the frequency response is flat as well.

Recommended for: The ATH-M50x has dominated the serious producer/starting audiophile/enthusiast chart for years. The sound performance remains top notch. Along with the price and versatility, I have no hesitation in saying that these are some of the best headphones for classical music you can buy right now.

Pros

  • Super-tough build quality
  • Versatile performance
  • Well-priced for the performance

Cons

  • The sound stage is too intimate

Over to You

Finding the best headphones for classical music isn’t easy – you can never be sure what to get for music as challenging as classical music. Hopefully, this guide will help you make the right decision.

For more recommendations and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also Read:

References:

Changelog
  • Sep 15, 2020: Article first published

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