Digital pianos are best sellers in the world of musicians and piano students. Whether you play a 61-key portable digital piano or a magnificent grand-type digital piano, these pianos are definitely here to stay.
One of the most important accessories to a digital instrument is digital piano headphones. Almost all digital instruments except the very least expensive include headphones. Sometimes these headphones are more than adequate; sometimes they are pretty bad. In the latter cases, it is wise to consider a headphone “upgrade.”
But which is the best set of headphones for your needs? Well, in this article, I’m going to dive deep into this question, as I provide you with 11 headphones I think are fantastic to use with virtually any digital piano! And, to better help you, please take a moment to view the interactive table below, where you can compare some of the best digital piano headphones currently available on the market:
|Sennheiser HD 650|
|Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro|
|Sennheiser HD 800 S|
How to Find the Best Headphones?
The technology for headphones has improved exponentially over the past 30 years. Some of these headphones allow the musician to hear the slightest whisper of sound for relatively small investment. Some manufacturers specialize in big booming headphones with lots of sound but little subtlety. Some types of headphones pick up beautifully on the upper ranges of notes but fail miserably in the bass ends or midrange.
How does a shopper know which are the best headphones for digital pianos? I went out on a “headphone expedition” to a local retailer with plenty of headphones to sample and a knowledgeable young lady (let’s call her Marsha) who just happened to be a sound engineer with a great deal of knowledge and experience. After extensive sampling of all of their headphones and a pair of long conversations with Marsha, I made some pretty important discoveries. The best brands on their shelves are these:
- Audio Technica
Open vs Closed Back Headphones: What’s the Difference?
First, some important information for anyone wishing to purchase headphones: you must first figure out how you want your headphones to function. Do you want to be able to hear environmental sound around you while you’re wearing the headphones? If so, you should consider open headphones.
These are headphones that have what appear to be a speaker on the back side of the ‘phones, as well as on the inside. These open headphones allow what you’re playing to be heard somewhat by people around you, and they also allow the musician to hear what’s going on in the room(s) around them.
If you do not wish for people around you to hear what you’re playing on the piano, or if you want to block out environmental noise while you practice, you should purchase closed headphones. These headphones have speakers on the insides—the parts that touch your ears—but are solid on the outside.
In the photo below, you’ll notice a pair of Beyerdynamic headphone sets that are similar in price. The headphone set on the left is a pair of closed headphones. The round black portion is the ear cover.
The set on the right is a pair of open headphones. You can see that the ear cover looks like a car speaker. I was surprised by the difference between the two sets in privacy and blocking out environmental noise. (I’ll talk more about that later on.)
Circumaurel headphones are those which surround and cover the ears. You’ll most often hear them referred to as “over the ear headphones.”
Almost all of the headphones discussed hereafter are circumaurel or over-the-ear by design. You can find all sorts of technological and manufacturing information online, but we’ll save that for another day. Let’s talk about the best headphones I found for digital piano learners.
You may notice that I will not include any wireless headphones. Marsha informed me that while Bluetooth and other wireless options are available, they tend to be only as reliable as Bluetooth and wireless networks. Because of this factor, I consciously left out any wireless options. All of the following headphones plug directly into a headphone jack on a digital piano.
I sampled the two headphone sets pictured above: the DT 770 Studio (the closed set) and the DT 990 (the open set).
The DT 770 Studio set retails for around $200. Immediately this set impressed me with its large ear covers, round in shape for maximum comfort and coverage, and the complete environmental silence. While I was testing all of the headphones I’ll be discussing today, there was a really noisy man in the store who was in the keyboard/piano section directly next to the headphones displays. This guy was channeling his inner Billy Joel or something and was not very good, to say the least.
The point is this—he turned the volumes on the keyboards up, so he was obnoxiously loud. And I was pleasantly surprised by the DT 770’s noise cancelling capabilities because these headphones cancelled him out completely. The highs were crisp and clear, as were the mid-range notes (usually the vocals). Sometimes the bass can get thump-y in a set of headphones. But not the DT 770’s! While still rich and full, the basses balanced beautifully with the rest of the sounds.
The DT 990 Pro headphones retail for about $150. Marsha (remember her?) told me that anyone wishing to be able to hear what’s going on around them—like a sound engineer, or a mom trying to practice on a digital piano while keeping an ear out for what her kids are doing—would be well-advised to choose an open set like these.
Like the DT 770’s, the DT 990 Pro headphones have large ear covers, round in shape, and are quite comfortable over the ear. These headphones lack a bit on the bass end, but they compensate by giving you more on the highs and mids. If you aren’t a big fan of a bass guitar or drum thumping in your ear, these headphones are a good choice.
Here it comes: I’m going to get on my Yamaha soapbox once again. This time it’s all about the headphones I sampled. I tried out four different Yamaha models, although I’m only going to discuss two. (The only difference between the other two pairs was color; they both also came in white.)
The Yamaha HPH-MT7 headphones are a closed set of headphones, also with large ear covers to maximize comfort and sound quality. Because they are closed, they do an excellent job of cancelling out environmental noise and providing privacy while listening or practicing. On their web site they retail for about $300, but the retail store offered them for about $170. That’s a significant difference in price, so definitely consider shopping locally!
These headphones across the board covered all the sound ranges with crisp, clean clarity. I found the most impressive quality of the MT7’s to be so clean that I could distinguish every instrument in the demo selections offered. The vocals sounded live and the bass blended beautifully with the other ranges of sound. The HPH-MT7W is the white version of these headphones.
The Yamaha HPH-MT5 headphones retail on the web site for about $170, but the retailer I visited offered them for about $100.
The ear covers are oval-shaped, rather than round, although the size is sufficient to almost entirely cover the ear. They fit comfortably, but even though these headphones are a closed set, I could still hear environmental noise and the obnoxious guy pounding the keyboards. The high ranges reflect the Yamaha clarity and quality, but I felt the lows and midranges were merely adequate. The MT5W headphones are the white version of these headphones.
As a sound engineer, Marsha prefers the Sennheiser brand of headphones. I sampled the four models on display, all of which were closed-style headphones.
Sennheiser HD 200 Pro
The HD 200 Pro by Sennheiser, shown below, features nice, large, comfortable ear covers. They retail for about $80 on the web site and about $70 in the store. I was not terribly impressed with the high ends on this headphone set, but the bass and midrange areas were rich and clean.
The HD 280 Pro headphones retail for about $100 on both the web site and the retail store.
These headphone ear covers are not round but are more oval in shape. They cover the ear well, however, and they do a fair job of cancelling out environmental noise. They offer nice high and midrange sounds without sacrificing the bass. For the money, these headphones are an excellent value.
Sennheiser HD 300
The HD 300 headphones also feature oval-shaped ear covers. As with the 280’s, the HD 300 set offers good environmental cancellation, and according to Marsha, these are a bit more durable than the other two Sennheiser models discussed so far. I found the stereo separation to be outstanding in these headphones, probably better than any others except the Yamahas.
The HD 25 model looks and feels quite different than the other three Sennheiser models discussed.
The differences in the band over the head indicate the lightweight aspect of these headphones. Technically, these headphones are considered to be “DJ” headphones because they can be worn comfortably for long periods of time.
The ear covers offer thick, lightweight padding to protect the ears from discomfort. This style also allows a musician/DJ to play or work in loud environments. This model retails for about $150 on the web site and also in the store.
The Audio Technica ATH-M40X, features large ear covers and is a closed set.
The 40X model retails for about $100. The lower ranges of sound–bass and lower mid-range– sound good on this model of headphones. Unfortunately, the high ends seem a bit weak to my ear.
The ATH-50X seemed to be the best of the Audio Technica line that I sampled. They retail for $140 to $170, depending on whether you prefer the black version or the color versions. (They offer white, red, and royal blue.)
The bass impressed me on these headphones. Clear and clean to my ear, without any heart-rattling thumping in the bass, the M50X headphones clearly excelled in low and mid-range sounds. The highs exhibited great clarity, as well. The ear covers on the M50X models are well-padded ovals that cancelled environmental noise nearly but not completely.
Marsha mentioned that the Audio Technica brand of headphones tend to be a bit fragile. If that factor is not a concern for you, the M50X models may be one of the best affordable-but-not-cheap headphones on the market. If your five-year-old wants to play “airline pilot,” however, you might want to consider one of the other more durable brands of headphones.
Of all the headphones I sampled on my excursion, the AKG K52 headphones surprised me the most. I loved the clean, crystal-clear highs and midranges in this little set of headphones. While it won’t rattle your heart, the bass presented as well-defined and crisp as well. The lightweight nature of these headphones creates great comfort for the wearer.
These headphones are not available on the AKG web site, but retailed for only $50 at the local store I visited. Marsha did not mention any durability issues with this set of headphones, although I suspect they would not wear well in a high-use, professional environment. But if you just want a pair of headphones to use to practice your digital piano and you don’t need them to be an Ironman version, I highly recommend the K52 model.
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