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How to choose the right headphones for different music genres

Whether you listen to EDM, rock, or classical, we have you covered.
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Published onMarch 13, 2024

Six of the best headphones surrounding the SoundGuys recommended badge.
Adam Birney / SoundGuys

Headphones come in all shapes and sizes and have varied qualities. This makes choosing the right headphones a tricky business. What sounds good to your ears may not sound good to someone else. Likewise, everyone’s head shape is different. This means that headphones that are comfortable for you may be uncomfortable for others. Some prefer over-ear headphones, while others enjoy true wireless earbuds. Indeed, some of the best headphones on the market are lauded as being the best all-rounders. Different models of headphones can sound very different from each other. Similarly, each music genre you listen to has a sonic signature, meaning a different tonal balance built into the music itself. Read on to find out how knowledge of the frequency makeup of music can play a part in deciding on the best headphones for you.

It is worth pointing out that this article is a guide, not an iron law. Preferences vary from person to person, and we always recommend trying headphones before purchasing. If in doubt, consider reading reviews and getting recommendations from users with similar tastes in music. For our top picks of the best genre-specific headphones, skip to our rundown list. Otherwise, read ahead for more details.

Editor’s note: this article uses our hover-enabled glossary based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.

FAQs

Everyone’s preferences are unique, so it is worth trying headphones or reading reviews before you buy them. However, you can make an informed purchasing decision by considering which type of music you listen to the most. If you enjoy EDM and metal, consider buying headphones with a loud bass profile, such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 ($387 at Amazon.) If listening to a lot of pop and hip-hop, try to find headphones with solid bass reproduction and a balanced midrange. For guitar music like rock, indie, and country, open-back headphones may provide the wide soundstage required to place each instrument in a pleasing auditory spatial field. Finally, classical, jazz, and piano music often have broad dynamic ranges and nuanced musical details. Likely, open-back headphones with a flat midrange response will serve you best.

This is subjective. However, a few of the most crucial purchasing considerations are how much bass you enjoy, how comfortable the headphones are to wear, whether you require passive isolation or noise canceling, and whether you are already invested in a specific smartphone ecosystem. Addressing some of these points should help you to ascertain which headphones are best for you.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 ($228 at Amazon) are excellent for bass heads. However, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ($239 at Amazon) have some of the most pleasing sound reproduction on the market. If you are nonplussed about noise canceling, the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 ($149.99 at Amazon) have xMEMS drivers that deliver excellent sound. Ultimately, we always recommend reading reviews before purchasing.

Music producers and audiophiles look for headphones with a neutral frequency response. This means the headphones reproduce the audio more truthfully without emphasizing any particular frequency band. In short, music production requires headphones with a neutral frequency response so that the audio remains as close as possible to the source material.

 

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