10 Best Headphones For Classical Music 2021

SoundGearLab-Team | Last Updated On September 17th, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.

With very good headphones, you can recreate the feelings and sounds in a song.

Classical music is one of the genres that has a lot of details. Whether it’s from Baroque, classical, or romantic periods, a pair of headphones should be good enough to recreate the sound with vivid details. If you are looking for such a headphone, we’ve got you covered. This article features a list of the best headphones for classical music. Detail retrieval, realistic sound, sound stage, and imaging are some of the factors we considered. Enjoy.

Our Top 10 Headphones for Classical Music

HEADPHONES IMPEDANCE SENSITIVITY DESIGN DRIVER TYPE WEIGHT
AKG K702 62 ohms 105 dB Open-Back Dynamic 235g
Beyerdynamic DT880 Edition 250 ohms 97 dB Semi-Open-Back Dynamic 290g
Philips SHP9500 32 ohms 101 dB Open-Back Dynamic 320g
Sennheiser HD600 300 ohms 97 dB Open-back Dynamic 260g
Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation 600 ohms 102 dB Semi-Open-Back Dynamic 360g
Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 35 ohms 100 dB Closed-Back Dynamic 290g
Sennheiser HD800S 300 ohms 102 dB Open-Back Dynamic 330g
AKG K712 PRO 62 ohms 105 dB Open-Back Dynamic 235g
Etymotic Research ER4S 100 ohms 108 dB Closed-Back Balanced Armature 28g
HiFiMan HE400S 22 ohms 98 dB Open-Back Planar Magnetic 350g
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The Best Headphones for Classical Music

The Sennheiser HD 600 is a great all-rounder to handle most music genres with ease and its excellent imaging excels with classical music specifically.

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Design: Open-Back
Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 300 ohms
Sensitivity: 97 dB

The Sennheiser HD 600 arrived on the market in 1997. The HD600 evolved from the Sennheiser HD 580 and later in 2003 to the Sennheiser HD 650. The Sennheiser HD 600 and the HD 650 are some of the most referenced headphones when talking about the sound quality of other headphones. Though both headphones have a near-identical sound quality, the Sennheiser HD 600 is best suited for the classical genre, and it also comes at a cheaper price.

The build quality and design of the Sennheiser HD 600 are nothing short of great. The headphones feature mostly plastic, but the quality of the material is very good. The headphone’s grill and headband adjustment arms are made out of metal. The biggest advantage of the HD 600 is that it is modular. You can replace without using tools the headband, earcups, the shell, the drivers, the earcups, and headband foam without much hassle.

The comfort of the headphone is also very good. First, the headphone is light, which helps in keeping it from digging into the skull. The headband is also soft and well padded to avoid hotspots on the head. The earcups, which are padded with memory foam are thick and the shape fits over the ear very well. The clamping force is high when the headphone is still new, but with time it does reduce to reasonable and comfortable clamp.

The bass of the HD 600 is great but lacks quantity or the punch you would expect with closed-back headphones. However, the headphone does a very good job of accurately reproducing the low-end. The midrange is organic and comes out with clarity. Vocals, bowed, and acoustic instruments, are well reproduced with great detail. The treble also has details, it is clear but in some recording might be overemphasized. Though this seems like a bad thing, overemphasis might add life to dull recordings.

The soundstage is not super wide but the imaging is pretty good and overall accurate. A positive side of the soundstage is that it gives the HD600 a more intimate sound.

Read our in-depth review of the Sennheiser HD600.

What We Like
Modular parts, good build quality, lightweight and comfortable, detailed and neutral sound quality
Know Before Buying
Needs amplification to sound best, tight clamp at first
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If you are a classical fan, these are the headphones for you - they tick all the boxes and come at a great price.

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Design: Open-Back
Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 62 ohms
Sensitivity: 105 dB

The AKG K702 is one of AKG’s 65th-anniversary flagship edition that features the likes of the K701, Q701, and the K12. The K12 which also features on this list includes a bass boost. However, depending on who you ask, the K701, Q701, and K702 are the same headphone with a few differences in the overall design and sound quality.

The first thing I want to talk about is the build quality of the AKG K702. The K702 is well built. The headphone features a combination of plastic, metal, and leather. Overall, all the materials feel sturdy and have good quality. The earcups are made out of plastic while the headband features two metal wires with a suspended movable leather headband that rests on top of the head. The earcups are covered with velour, which is soft and has good comfort. The earpads are also removable, which is great in the long run. Apart from the removable earpads, the cable is also removable, which allows a user to replace it in case of any accidents or customization.

The comfort of the AKG K702 is a major plus for the headphone. The velour covered earpads are soft and very comfortable. The earpads are also large, and the ear opening has sufficient space. The padding is thick, which keeps the ears from touching the headphone’s drivers. The headband is somewhat a grey area of the headphone. The self-adjusting headband is good, but for people with large heads, it can feel as if the headphone is being pulled. The leatherette headband can also feel hard and uncomfortable at first, but after some time I can assure you it does get comfortable.

The K702 is an open-back headphone. While this design comes with its advantages, it also has some disadvantages. The major disadvantage is the K702 will not isolate sound at all, and will also leak a lot of sounds. These are not for portable use and should be enjoyed at home where it is quiet and you are not disturbing anyone.

The AKG K702 is a very good neutral headphone. The bass is present but for bass-oriented genres, this is not the headphone for you. The midrange is what the K702 does best. The mids are neutral with great details and transparency. They also have a natural tonality with vivid voice reproduction which is especially noticed with female vocals. The treble is also a bit emphasized, and though it might come out as bright at times, it is insanely clear, which makes string instruments pop out and cymbals sound wonderful.

The soundstage is wide with very good instrument separation. Detail retrieval is also a major plus of the headphone, which also makes it a very good studio monitor. The K702 will give you a sense of what you feed it. Feed it garbage and you’ll hear it. Give it quality recordings, and you’ll appreciate every detail. A good headphone amplifier also works wonders on the AKG K702.

What We Like
Wide soundstage, detailed and revealing, realistic vocals, Comfortable, amazing sound quality across the board
Know Before Buying
Not for bass-oriented genres, the headband can be a little of a problem
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Overall, the Beyerdynamic DT880 Edition is well built, has good comfort for most people and the overall sound quality performs well for the classical genre.

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Design: Semi-Open-Back
Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 250 ohms
Sensitivity: 96 dB

Beyerdynamic is one of the market leaders with its great headphone offerings. The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Edition in this review has an impedance of 250 ohms. Before you choose to buy this headphone, consider also getting a headphone amplifier if you do not have one. This also applies to other headphones in this list with high impedance values. The bass response is one among many other things that is greatly improved when properly amplified.

The Beyerdynamic DT880 Edition like most of Beyerdynamic’s headphones has a great build quality. The headphone is lighter and flexible than you would expect it to be. All the connection joints of the headphone feel strong with no creaking or any reason to feel any part might break. The earcups are big and ride around the ears which is great for comfort. The headband is non-removable and well padded. The DT880 Edition differs from the DT880 Pro which includes a removable headband. A hard-wired cable is a disadvantage that comes with the DT 880.

The comfort of the DT880 Edition is great. The earcups are covered with velour which is soft. The earcups like most of the Beyerdynamic headphones are round on the inside. Though this might not be a problem for people with small to medium ears, folks with larger ears will have a problem. The oval-shaped ear cups of the Sennheiser HD 600 offer better comfort. The headband is well padded with foam and covered with leather. The clamping pressure is good, and if you feel its too much, you can bend the headband a little.

The DT880 Edition being marked as being semi-open makes people think they have a bit of isolation. However, just like open-back headphones, these will allow ambient noise in and also leak sound. However, they are nowhere near as open as other headphones like the AKG K702 or the HD 600. Not great for use outside or in an environment demanding quiet, but round the home, the DT880 Edition is good.

The sound quality of the DT 880 Edition tries to balance the sound but with a boost in the high-end frequencies. The bass is present, not powerful but reasonably defined. The midrange is good, present and sounds natural and intimate. The treble is a bit forward but with great balance in transparency and details.

The soundstage is more spacious than and engaging on the DT880 Edition. Instrument separation and detail retrieval are also very good. This makes them sound good particularly in classical and instrumentals.

What We Like
Wide & spacious soundstage, comfortable, good build quality, good clarity and detail
Know Before Buying
Non-removable cable
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Overall, the SHP9500 is a great all-rounder headphone for the price. While bass-heavy genres will not benefit from its sonic characteristics; classical, metal and rock lovers will love the engaging quality of the sound.

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Design: Open-Back
Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 32 ohms
Sensitivity: 101 dB

The older Philips SHP9500 was discontinued. This review is for the new model the Philips SHP9500s. The older version comes with a longer 10ft coiled cable while the new version includes a 5ft cable. The older version also included a cloth carrying bag, which does not come in the package of the Philips SHP9500s. Apart from those differences, the headphone driver, and the overall design seems unchanged.

The SHP9500 is very light. This is because of the extensive use of plastic materials in its construction. Apart from the metal grills on the earcup and the metal strip in the headband, the rest of the headphone is all plastic. The headphone is not built like a tank, however, they feel solid, but only time will tell. The headband and earcups are covered with a mesh material that is very breathable for enhanced comfort. The earcups are huge and feature large identification for the right and left sides.

The headphone’ s overall weight, a good headband padding, and the wide earcups all add up to improve its comfort. When it comes to buying headphones for use during extensive sessions like listening to music, comfort should be among the priority areas you should factor in your buying decision. The SHP9500 is comfortable to wear. The earpad pads are huge and oval-shaped, which fits the ears very well. The headphone’s clamp is also not much especially once you select the correct size of the headband.

Isolation is non-existent with these headphones. They also leak a lot. So don’t use these headphones in public.

The sound quality of the Philips SHP9500 right out of the box is nothing short of amazing. The sonic character of the headphone is mids/treble-centric. The bass is present and sounds good, but does not rumble or come out powerfully. However, if you are not a bass head, the bass present is enough to enjoy music. The midrange is the sphere where the SHP9500 shines. The midrange is clear and the male vocal is neutral sounding while female vocals are slightly forward but less refined. The treble is slightly emphasized with more details and precision. For classical music and string instruments, the sound reproduction is wonderful. At high peaks, however, the treble might sound a bit grainy.

The soundstage and imaging out of this headphone are also great. They might not have super wide soundstage like high priced flagship models out there, but for the price you pay for them, they are great.

What We Like
Cheap, excellent overall sound quality, detachable cable, comfortable for long listening,
Know Before Buying
Bass is lacking a little bit
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Overall, the T1 2nd Generation is a good performer across the board. Though it has a few flaws, these are quickly forgiven. Comfort is top-notch, the build is great and worthy of a recommendation.

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Design: Semi-Open-Back
Driver Type: Dynamic
Impedance: 600 ohms
Sensitivity: 102 dB

There are a few headphone brands that can be considered best in the world of headphones and audio, and Beyerdynamic is one of them. Ever since its early years in 1924, the family-owned company has a great portfolio of headphones to boast about. The T1 was released back in 2010 and received much praise as one of the best to grace the headphone world. The Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation is the latest iteration of the T1, and it sure does live up to the high praises.

For the price you pay for the T1 2nd Generation, you expect the build quality to be awesome and with an equally premium selection of material. The build quality is commendable and exudes German-made precision. The earcups are big and well padded. They are covered by velour just like most of the Beyerdynamic headphones. The headband is also nicely padded, but instead of leather, it is covered by pleather that seems of good quality. At this price, however, leather or velour would have been nice.

The earcups are nice and feature a mixture of metal and high-grade plastic. The yokes are metal and easily adjust with a nice clicking sound. The T1 2nd Generation comes with a detachable cable, which is one of the negatives of the original T1. Both earcups feature the headphone port, which eliminates the exposed cable like in some DT models.

The headphone is very comfortable. Velour earcups and a nicely padded headband all make it very comfortable to wear. The headband also has plenty of up and down adjustments to get a good fit. The earcups have a wide and deep area for the ears to sit without discomfort.

Isolation is very minimal by design. Though the Semi-Open design might make it look like they have isolation, they do not. The T1 2nd Generation will not isolate like most of the open-back headphones. They also leak sound, which might disturb people around you.

The sound quality of the T1 2nd Generation is amazing with some good aspects. The bass is present, punchy, tight, and clean perfect for classical, folk, classical rock, rock, and vocalists. The midrange is smooth and clean with the vocals getting some special attention. The treble is airy but slightly boosted, and comes out a bit sibilant on some tracks. However, the highs have details with good instrument separation.

The soundstage is deep and wide. The headphone gives a good sense of distance and instrument placement, especially with good records.

What We Like
Great build quality and craftsmanship, detachable cables, comfortable, musical sound
Know Before Buying
Pleather headband
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Classical Music Headphones Buying Advice

Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones

When choosing a headphone, open-back and closed-back headphones are some of the choices a user is required to make. Choosing the right type will depend on mostly a user’s preferences. Your decision should be based on the benefits, and disadvantages you get from each headphone style. Weigh the options and see which benefits you the most.

philips-shp9500-headphones

Philips SHP9500 Open-Back Headphones

The physical difference between open-back and closed-back headphones lies in the earcup enclosure. In open-headphones, the earcup is ventilated to allow free passage of air in and out of the headphone’s enclosure. In closed-back headphones, the earcup encloses the headphone’s drivers. While closed-back headphones seem easy to implement, a lot goes in the design of a proper closed-back headphone.

Apart from the earcups design, open-back and closed-back headphones have different sound signatures. Open headphones have an open natural sound, which allows for a more immersive experience, a wider sense of presentation best for critical listening. The downside of open-back headphones is that they are best for home listening or in a quiet place. The bass impact of open-back headphones is also not the best-preferred choice for bass-driven music genres.

Closed-back headphones have the “in your head” sound. This is music that feels like it is emanating from your head. It is slightly less musical and has a centrally located sense of presentation. However, closed headphones offer more isolation and with it a greater bass impact.

Read more about Open-back vs closed-back headphones.

Headphone Design: Over-Ear vs. On-Ear vs. In-Ear

Over-ear headphones are also known as circumaural or full-size headphones. They are large and cover the entire ear when worn. When talking of headphones, most users picture over-the-ear headphones. Over-ear headphones are a preferred choice largely because of the comfort and sound quality. Generally speaking, over-ear headphones offer better sound quality than on-ear or in-ear headphones though not always.

beyerdynamic-dt880-edition-headphones

Beyerdynamic DT880 Edition

On-ear headphones also called Supra-aural headphones are the most common headphone design due to its wide array of styles, prices, and applications. On-ear headphones mostly rest on the ear. On-ear headphones aren’t as good sounding as over-ear or in-ear headphones, though ultimately the sound quality will depend on the manufacturer. On-ear headphones are best for users who want portable audio that sounds good. Most on-ear headphones are compact and can easily be folded to fit into a bag back or hang around your neck. The comfort of on-ear headphones, though largely dependent on the materials used, is usually not good. As they press on the ear, the pressure can be unbearable especially with high clamping headphones.

In-ear headphones are the smallest of all headphones and offer the most ambient noise isolation of all the headphone types. In-ear headphones are available in different styles like IEMs, earbuds, clip-on, or even CIEMs. The best in-ear headphones can match the performance of some over-ear headphones. In-ear headphones are great for portable use. They are also best for performers, musicians, or people working out. Depending on the type, some in-ears will fit deep into the canal while some fit shallower into the ear. Most manufacturers include a set of usually three tips for users. It is critical to choose the right type of ear tip as it affects the seal, sound quality and ultimately the comfort of in-ear headphones.

Read our detailed guide on over-ear vs on-ear vs in-ear headphones.

Read our IEMs vs Earbuds guide.

Read our Headphones vs Earphones/Earbuds guide.

Headphone Driver Types Explained: Dynamic vs. Planar vs. Electrostatic

There are different headphone drivers and all feature different properties, which is the reason for their existence. Dynamic drivers are the most common in headphones and can vary in size from small in-ear drivers to large over-ear headphones. Dynamic drivers use a permanent magnet with a suspended voice coil attached to a diaphragm to move air and thereby create sound.

akg-k702-headphones

AKG K702 Headphones

Planar magnetic headphones, also referred to as ortho dynamic driver or ISO-dynamic driver have a diaphragm suspended between two magnets, which is why they are most often heavy. Because of the driver design, planar magnetic headphones overcome most problems associated with dynamic headphones. Orthodynamic headphones are also generally more expensive than dynamic headphones and are seen as a good substitute if you cannot own an electrostatic headphone. See our best planar magnetic headphones.

Electrostatic headphones are some of the most expensive headphones in the world. Electrostatic drivers work by the principle of static electricity. The design of the driver is created to reproduce near-flawless sound quality. They require a powerful headphone amplifier to work optimally. Due to costs associated with electrostatic headphones, they are rare among many users.

Read our in-depth guide of the different headphone drivers.

SoundStage & Imaging Explained

Put simply, the soundstage is the virtual distance from right to left, between and beyond where the sounds seem to come from. This is usually a sense of space ( width, depth, and height ) you hear when listening to music and the headphones seem to disappear. Imaging or localization is the ability to locate the placement of instruments or performers on a virtual soundstage giving the sound a three-dimensional presentation.

HD 600

Though most people say headphones do not create soundstage like speakers, I disagree with their opinions. The virtual soundstage can be simulated on headphones. The type of headphone and mostly the record you are listening too will largely influence the soundstage and imaging of a headphone.

Read more about soundstage and imaging.

Neutrality Explained

Neutrality in headphones is keeping the sound as truthful as it was when being reproduced. A neutral headphone aims to avoid any coloration to the audio, giving a user a presentation of the music as it was recorded. Classical music is usually played dynamically between soft and loud. For a classical headphone, the tonal balance should be usually flat with some treble lift.

Impedance & Sensitivity Explained

The two factors that largely determine how hard or easy to drive a pair of headphones properly are impedance and sensitivity or efficiency.

Impedance measured in ohms shows how hard a headphone’s driver hinders (resistance ) the flow of electrical signal transmitted by an amplifier in the voice coil. If an amplifier or your source cannot generate enough power, insufficient volume or clipping dynamic peaks will be the result. Headphone impedance range from as low as 16 ohms to as high as 600 ohms like the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation.

beyerdynamic-t1-2nd-generation-headphones

Beyerdynamic T1-2nd-Generation 600 ohms impedance rating

Sensitivity/efficiency has to do with energy transfer. It is basically how effective a headphone’s driver converts a supplied electrical signal into sound. A low sensitivity headphone will require more power to give out a higher volume. So, a lower sensitivity headphone will be harder to power. Read more about headphone sensitivity.

Checking both the impedance and sensitivity of a headphone will help you better understand a headphone’s power requirement. Headphones with high impedance rating and low sensitivity will require an amplifier to work properly. If you will be using a headphone with a smartphone or other portable players, it is best to select a headphone with an impedance rating of 16-32 ohms mostly. If you are using an amplifier, you can easily drive higher impedance headphones.

Back to Our Classical Headphones Comparison Table

In Summary

Thank you for reading our guide to the best headphones for classical music. Above, you’ll find a summary of our recommendations – best of luck to you in your quest!