If you're looking for headphones that are great for music, the choices can be overwhelming. Depending on what kind of music you like, some headphones are better suited than others. Those who listen to more instrumental or vocal-centric content like jazz or folk may like a more neutral or balanced sound with a wide, immersive soundstage. Fans of EDM, hip-hop, and R&B, on the other hand, may like their bass to give their favorite tracks extra thump and kick.
We've tested over 705 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best music-oriented headphones based on sound profile, features, and price range. Check out our picks for the best wireless headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones, and the best audiophile headphones.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best headphones for music that we've tested. Their high price point and added costs (since you'll need an amplifier to get the most out of them) can put them well out of reach for most people. If you're looking for the best of the best, sparing no expense, these premium open-backs are among the best open-back headphones we've tested, as they can generate an incredibly natural, spacious, and wholly immersive listening experience that makes your music sound like it's coming from all around you. Their well-balanced sound profile will also please audiophiles. Their very neutral mid and treble response makes vocals and lead instruments sound clear, present, detailed, and airy, though some may find them to be a little too bright.
They're very well-built, with a sturdy-feeling design made of high-grade plastic reinforced by a metal frame and a braided detachable audio cable. Since they have a dynamic transducer design, they're less prone to imaging issues than planar magnetic headphones. Their spacious, breathable, and well-padded ear cups will also ensure you don't experience any discomfort, even during long listening sessions.
The best upper mid-range headphones for music that we've tested are the HiFiMan Arya. Unlike the Sennheiser HD 800 S, these headphones have planar magnetic drivers instead of dynamic drivers, which are more common. Thanks to this design, they can reproduce bass more accurately than competitors at this price point and create a better representation of their soundstage. On the other hand, their transducer is more complex, resulting in minor deviations in sound reproduction between units. They have a bulkier and heavier design than the Sennheiser and feel less premium. Their ski-band headband helps distribute the headphones' weight evenly, meaning you won't feel fatigued during long listening sessions.
They have a neutral sound profile that's versatile enough for most kinds of audio content. Their mid-range is well-balanced and flat, which results in accurate and natural vocals and lead instruments. However, their treble is a bit over-emphasized, so these sounds are also well-detailed. Sibilants are bright but not overly piercing. They have an outstanding soundstage that's wide, open, and spacious.
HiFiMan has re-released these headphones with a slight change in design. They're sometimes called the Arya V3 and have Stealth Magnets, which the manufacturer advertises to lower distortion and improve transparency. Although we tested the V2 model, you can still find this model via the manufacturer's website, but keep in mind that they don't have this feature. As we haven't yet tested the V3, there may be differences in sound quality between both generations.
If you're looking to spend a little less on audiophile headphones, the best mid-range headphones for music we've tested are the HiFiMan Edition XS. There are some trade-offs for the lower price, including a less comfortable and premium build than the HiFiMan Arya. That said, just like the previous pick, they have planar magnetic drivers to help ensure a good overall sound. They create a wide, spacious passive soundstage, so music seems to come from the room around you rather than from inside your head.
They offer a neutral default sound profile that brings a touch of extra warmth and boom to your music. Lead vocals and instruments are reproduced clearly and accurately, although these elements are weakened a bit by a dip in their high-mid response. Although they feel more plasticky than the Arya and many other high-end options, they still feel sturdy and have a comfortable enough fit for hours-long listening sessions. However, if your head is on the small side, their large ear cups and frame might result in a less comfortable fit. On the plus side, their sound delivery is consistent from use to use.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are the best lower mid-range headphones for music that we've tested. Unlike the more expensive options listed here, they have a closed-back design, which is more common at this price point. Because of this, they struggle to create a wide-seeming, immersive passive soundstage but can block out much more ambient sound than open-backs like the HiFiMan Edition XS. They also leak less audio, which is nice if you're listening to music in the living room or another shared space. They do a better job reproducing bass than many open-backs, so they can reproduce the thump and rumble in genres like EDM and hip-hop.
They have an analytical sound profile, which means their sound has a bit of extra treble. Some people might find it bright, but it can help bring out the details in mixes, and the rest of the response is flat and neutral, so instruments and vocals are clear, natural, and accurate. The headphones are very well-built and have a comfortable fit, with soft ear cup padding. They fit a bit tight, so they might be less comfortable if you have a bigger head.
If you're looking for something more wallet-friendly, the best budget headphones for music are the Philips SHP9500. If you're willing to sacrifice build quality for sound, these open-backs are worth checking out. They have an extremely balanced and neutral mid-range, making them well-suited for genres like classical and folk that rely on the accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. Although they lack more bass than the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO due to their open-back design, they have a touch of extra high-bass to add warmth to your mixes. Thanks to their open-back design, they have a great passive soundstage. Although it doesn't feel as out-of-head or as immersive as the soundstage created by higher-end headphones, it still feels wide, open, and spacious.
These over-ears have a very comfortable fit with spacious and well-padded ear cups. They're also decently well-built, although the fabric padding feels like it could rip over time, and the swiveling ear cups seem prone to breaking under stress. Their audio cable is detachable, so if it gets damaged, you can easily replace it.
If you don't want to trade features like noise cancelling and portability, you might prefer a pair of headphones intended for more casual use, like the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. They're Bluetooth headphones, which makes them easier to use when you're out and about, and they have an ANC feature that can block out noise like ambient chit-chat or rumbling engines. They're comfortable and have a long 37-hour battery life. Their bass-heavy sound profile is well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop but might disappoint fans of a more neutral sound for music since it can make some mixes sound muddy and vocals less clear. Also, even compared to closed-back audiophile options like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, they struggle to create an immersive, out-of-head passive soundstage.
That said, unlike most dedicated audiophile headphones, they work with a companion app that has a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization. They have a surround sound feature to help create a more immersive experience, although you need to use it with a compatible streaming service. Then again, if you like your music with a lot of extra rumble and punch, it's worth checking out the Skullcandy Crusher Evo Wireless instead. These wireless over-ears have a haptic bass slider that can increase bass in your audio. Using it can also add intense vibrations to your music, giving you the feeling of being at a live show. Unfortunately, they're prone to more inconsistencies in bass delivery than the Sony headphones. They also lack ANC and struggle to block out background noise.
If you prefer an in-ear fit, the best headphones for music with this design we've tested are the MOONDROP Aria. They're wired in-ear monitors (IEMs) with a comfortable fit and a neutral sound suitable for different music. They have a slight bump in high bass to add warmth and boom to your mixes. It doesn't overwhelm vocals and lead instruments, though, and they're reproduced clearly in your mixes. Their treble range is underemphasized, though sibilants like cymbals are dull and lispy. They can't create an immersive soundstage either, as their shape bypasses your outer ears, which need to be activated by sound to create a more natural, wide, and large sound.
Their in-ear design is very comfortable, and some people may even prefer the fit compared to open-back headphones as it can help block out some background noise like ambient chatter. Once you get a good fit with the provided ear tips, you'll get consistent audio delivery each time you use them. They won't block out commuter noise like rumbly buses, and they don't have a mic built-in, although you can purchase an audio cable with an in-line mic separately.
If you're still looking for more in-ear headphones, check out our best sounding wireless earbuds article!
Jan 04, 2023: Made minor updates to the text and checked that the products are available.
Oct 07, 2022: We've revamped this article to better match user expectations. We've added the following headphones: the HiFiMan Arya and Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro. We've changed the title of 'Best Commuter Headphones For Music' to 'Best Casual-Use Headphones For Music' and removed the Jabra Elite 7 Pro True Wireless. We've also cleared the Notable Mentions of any picks that are out-of-date.
Jun 06, 2022: Complete article restructure. We've created several different categories: 'Best Mid-Range', 'Best Entry-Level', 'Best In-Ears', 'Best Commuter', 'Best Commuter In-Ears', and 'Best With Intense Bass'. We've removed the Jabra Elite 75t Truly Wireless, and the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO and Superlux HD 681 has moved to Notable Mentions. We've added the Philips SHP9500, MOONDROP Aria, Jabra Elite 7 Pro True Wireless, and the Skullcandy Crusher Evo Wireless to our picks.
Apr 07, 2022: Replaced the HiFiMan Arya with the HiFiMan Edition XS as the Arya have been updated with stealth magnets and we haven't tested this variant. Removed the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless as they've been discontinued.
Feb 08, 2022: Replaced the JBL CLUB PRO+ True Wireless with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO as the Beyerdynamic offer an even more neutral mid-range. Added the JBL to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for musical content to buy for most people. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews, ranked by their suitability for neutral sound. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and where you use the headphones will matter more in your selection.