Nowadays almost every digital piano is equipped with a headphone jack where you can plug a pair of headphones and play at any time of day and night without disturbing anyone else.
It’s probably the most important feature of digital pianos that an acoustic piano cannot offer.
Unfortunately, people often choose to use cheap earbuds or low-quality over-ear headphones bundled with a digital piano rather than high-quality headphones with comfortable design and rich, accurate sound.
The right pair of headphones will allow you to hear the slightest nuances and details of your performance that are almost impossible to hear through the keyboard’s built-in speakers.
What are the best headphones for digital pianos? The truth is there are no “perfect” piano headphones, and every pair has its pros and cons.
However, there are a number of aspects that make one set of headphones more suitable for instrumental/classical music than another, which we’ll cover in our next section.
Sound quality and comfort are the two main things I was looking for, trying to find the best headphones to use with digital pianos.
Sound. Headphones that offer neutral well-balanced sound with even frequency response are best suited for piano sound.
DJ headphones including popular bass-oriented headphones such as Beats, Sony (Extra Bass line) should be avoided.
Comfort. If you’re a piano lover like me (otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this article), you’ll probably want to wear your headphones over long periods of time and not feel any pain or fatigue. Therefore, each pair selected for this list is comfortable for extended listening sessions and exert just the right amount of pressure on the head.
There are also a few other important characteristics to consider, such as soundstage, isolation, leakage and so on. These aspects will mostly depend on whether the headphones have open- or closed-back design.
Wondering what the heck any of that means? Let’s find out!
What headphone type to look for?
There are many different types of headphones including earbuds, over-ear, in-ear and on-ear headphones. While in-ear and on-ear headphones are not the best options to use with a digital piano, over-ear headphones are exactly what we need.
Each type has its pros and cons, so our “top 5 list” will include both closed- and open-back headphones for you to choose what works best for you personally.
This is most probably the most popular and familiar type of headphones, which you can find at any electronics store.
Unlike open-back, closed-back headphones have a solid outer shell, which doesn’t allow air to pass through the cups.
From the sound perspective, sealed ear cups provide more powerful and deep bass compared to the open-back cups.
But the main advantage of closed-back headphones is good noise isolation.
Closed-back cups block out a lot of outside noise, which makes such headphones much more suitable to use in noisy environments (background TV noise, kids, traffic, etc.).
They are also great to use in the office and for commuting, while open-back headphones are rarely used outside the home.
Now, let’s talk about some of the trade-offs of closed-back headphones.
Firstly, due to the lack of air flow, closed-back headphones tend to trap heat and moisture and, therefore, they are not very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. After a few hours of wearing you might want to take a break and let your head and ears to rest.
But, not all of the closed-back headphones are created equal. Those that have bigger ear cups and softer padding tend to be more comfortable than others, even then they often apply more pressure on your head (tighter feel) and are not as comfortable for long sessions as open-back headphones.
Secondly, the soundstage, which is the perceived depth and width of the sound, of the closed-back headphones tends to be smaller and less airy/open compared to open-back headphones, which tend to produce a bigger, “live” sound.
Open-back headphones are less common than closed-back partly because of its main disadvantage – the lack of isolation, which in many circumstances can be a real problem and makes this headphone type not suitable for everyone.
Nevertheless, many musicians and audiophiles prefer this type of headphones as they tend to provide more natural sound and wider soundstage making the listening experience more enjoyable.
The reason for poor isolation of open-back headphones is their ear caps have openings (perforations, grills, etc.), allowing air and sound to pass in and out of the headphone cups.
As a result, you’ll be hearing all the sounds from the surrounding environment, sometimes slightly reduced (depends on the model), which may be a problem if you live in a noisy environment (noisy neighbors, a lot of traffic noise, kids, etc.).
At the same time, it may also be an advantage as you’ll be able to hear everything that’s going on around you. It’s particularly useful if you have little kids or other people you need to look after.
Another important drawback is that open-back headphones tend to leak quite a bit of sound into the surroundings, which means others near you may be able to hear it, especially if you turn up the volume.
At the same time, there are two big benefits of open-back design.
Firstly, due to the air flow, the excess heat and moisture easily escape the cups, making open-back headphones more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. You can wear them literally for hours without fatigue or discomfort (heck, I often forget that I’m wearing my HD599 at all!).
Secondly, the open-back design usually provides a wider and more open/airy soundstage than the closed-back models. It feels like musicians are sitting around you and playing live, which makes the sound more natural and realistic.
It’s certainly more enjoyable than “in your head” experience of closed-back headphones, especially if we’re talking about listening to instrumental and classical music.
Now that you know all the pros and cons of both headphone types, we can move on to the 5 best piano headphones that made it onto this list.
We’ve tested 18 potential candidates and selected five winners that meet the requirements best. The headphones were tested with a Kawai ES8 digital piano.
5 Best Headphones for Digital Pianos
- Frequency Response
- Detachable Cord
- Plug Type
- Our Best Pick
- 12-38 500 Hz
- 50 Ohms
- 6.3mm (3.5mm cable included)
- Premium quality
- Extremely comfortable
- High-fidelity sound reproduction
- Wide soundstage
- Decent bass
- Poor isolation
- Leak a lot of sound
- Most Versatile
- 15-24 000 Hz
- 35 Ohms
- 2 x 3.5mm cords (+ 6.3mm adapter)
- Sturdy construction
- Flat, accurate sound
- Low leakage
- Suitable for outdoor use
- Comes with two cables
- Slightly narrow soundstage
- Average isolation
- Best Budget Pick
- 12-35 000 Hz
- 32 Ohms
- 3.5mm (+ 6.3mm adapter)
- Wide frequency range
- Huge soundstage
- Spacious, open sound
- Great clarity and detail
- Comfortable fit
- Poor isolation
- Leak a lot of sound
- Non-removable pads
- Best Sound
- 5-35 000 Hz
- 32 Ohms
- 3.5mm (+ 6.3mm adapter)
- Very comfortable
- Great for long sessions
- Airy and spacious soundstage
- Full, detailed sound
- Made in Germany
- Non-removable cable
- Leak a lot of sound
- Poor isolation
- Most Trusted
- 10-20 000 Hz
- 63 Ohms
- 3.5mm (+ 6.3mm adapter)
- Immersive sound experience
- Detailed, neutral sound
- Trusted & Reliable
- Very low leakage
- Decent isolation
- Not as comfortable for longer wear
- Lack of air flow (ears get warm after extended use)
1) Sennheiser HD 599 – open-back
The HD599 audiophile headphones offer phenomenal sound and comfort for a very good price. I’ve been using these headphones for years now (first the older HD598 model, now this) and I’m very satisfied with how they perform.
So what makes these headphones so good?
Design. The padding on the HD599 is super comfortable. The headband and ear pads have very thick, luxurious velour padding, which feels very soft and pleasant and allows your ears to breathe!
You can wear them all day long without feeling any discomfort or fatigue. After a while, you will start to forget that you’re wearing them at all.
The HD599 don’t fold out like some other more portable headphones out there. They also have quite big ear cups, which makes the headphones pretty bulky and thus not very portable, but again from the comfort perspective, it’s a big plus.
Sound. The HD599 are open-back headphones, so (you guessed it) they leak sound. But at the same time you get wonderful 3-dimensional soundstage; instruments come from all directions providing an amazing sense of depth and separation.
The HD599’s cable ends in a 1/4” plug, so in most cases, you’ll be able to connect them to a digital piano without using an adapter. If your digital piano is only equipped with a 1/8″ (3.5mm) jack, it’s also a no-issue since the headphones come with a 1/4” to 1/8″ a
2) Audio-Technica ATH-M40x – closed-back
The ATH-M40x are professional monitor headphones with a closed-back design.
Sound. Unlike many other closed-back headphones, the M40x doesn’t put emphasis on lower frequencies and has a well-balanced sound across the whole frequency spectrum.
The soundstage seems a bit narrower and less airy compared to the open-back headphones, the sound of the ATH-M40x is still very accurate and detailed, which is what these headphones are loved for.
Design. In addition to a sleek and attractive design, the headphones feel very sturdy and well put together. The plastic is pretty hard, and the headband is reinforced with a metal frame. The ATH-M40x’s headband and ear pads are made from pro-grade materials, offering high comfort and durability.
The sealed ear cups block out outside noises pretty well though it’s not enough for comfortable listening in trains, planes, etc. The sound leakage is low and allows people around to hear the sound from the headphones only at high volume levels.
The headphones come with two cables (straight and coiled), which you can use interchangeably. The package also includes a 1/4” (6.3 mm) adapter so regardless of whether your digital piano has a 3.5mm or 6.3mm jack you’ll be able to plug them in.
You might have also heard about the even more popular big brother of the ATH-M40X, the ATH-M50x (next model up).
The ATH-M50x, on the other hand, tend to color the sound a bit, offering a stronger, more emphasized bass response.
It’s not always a good thing, and for digital pianos, the M40x with its neutral sound is a better choice, in my opinion. Not to mention that the M40x is more affordable than the M50x.
3) Philips SHP9500 – open-back
The SHP9500 are the dark horse of this list and are easily the best open-back headphones in the sub-$100 range. The headphones are perfect for those on a tight budget and offer an incredible price/value ratio that’s hard to beat.
About a year ago, I had to remove this model from the list simply because it disappeared from all the major retailers and it was almost impossible to buy them (except for a few eBay listings wanting $200+ for them). Anyway, they’re back, so get excited!
Maybe the SHP9500 don’t look and feel as luxurious as the Sennheisers HD599, but they are still one of the most comfortable cans I’ve tried. While the padding material of the headband and ear pads may seem a bit cheap, it feels very comfortable once you put them on.
The only disadvantage I’ve found is that ear pads are not removable, so you won’t be able to wash or replace them.
The overall built-quality is excellent. The SHP9500 are quite flexible and have an adjustable metal headband.
Despite the huge size, the headphones are very lightweight.
The open-back design combined with a large 50mm neodymium drivers provide an incredibly wide soundstage and clear detailed sound.
The instrument separation and accuracy of sound reproduction is amazing. When it comes to sound, it’s hard the SHP9500 can compete with many higher-priced models in the $100-200 range.
Don’t forget these are very open headphones and they do leak a lot of sound into the surroundings and also provide no isolation from the ambient noise. So the headphones are only suitable for home use and quiet environments.
The headphones come with a long 3m (9.8 ft.) detachable cable ending with a 3.5mm (1/8″) plug. The 1.4” adapter is also included so you can them with your digital piano out of the box.
4) Beyerdynamic DT 880 Edition – semi-open back
It would be a big mistake not to include the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Edition on this list.
For those who have never heard of Beyerdynamic before, this is a German brand founded in 1924 that has been making pro-grade audio equipment for almost a century.
The DT 880 are a direct competitor to the Sennheiser HD 579 and HD 599. They have a lot of similarities, starting with the design and ending with the sound signature and quality.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Edition are semi-open back headphones, so not as ‘leaky’ and isolate a tiny bit better compared to the open design headphones.
Otherwise, I’d still wouldn’t use them in noisy environments, and especially outside.
The DT 880 are available in 3 modifications with different impedance: 32 OHMs, 250 OHMs, and 600 OHMs.
Unless you’re going to use headphones in a studio with higher-voltage pro/amplified equipment, I recommend going for the 32-ohm version. It will work best with consumer-grade devices such as mp3-players, laptops, and, in our case, digital pianos.
Design. The DT 880 are built to last! Just like the majority of Beyerdynamic headphones, the DT 880 are made in Germany.
The headband is made of metal and covered with soft leather. In terms of comfort, they’re equal to the HD-579/HD-599 and are among the most comfortable headphones on the market today.
Therefore, the DT 880 would be a great pick if you’re going to use them for extended periods of time. You can literally forget that you wear them, which is, for me, the main benchmark for comfortability.
The sound through the Beyerdynamic DT 880 is just beautiful. Big, spacious soundstage, neutral sound signature, and high accuracy make them ideal for classical pieces, or actually any genre.
The headphones have a long 3m (9.8 ft) nondetachable cable ending with 1/8″ plug (3.5 mm). The 1/4” adapter is also included so you can use them with any digital piano out of the box.
5) Sony MDR7506 – closed-back
These are professional high fidelity headphones that have been around for quite a while.
The MDR7506 are legendary, industry-standard headphones trusted by many audio professionals in studios all around the world.
The headphones are fairly affordable, but don’t be fooled by the price, the sound quality put them on par with many $200-300 headphones.
Sound. The reason why the MDR7506 are so popular in studios is that they very accurately reproduce audio without adding any coloration, which allows you to hear the sound as close as possible to the original source.
The headphones offer average soundstage, it’s not as wide and spacious as what open-back headphones provide, but among closed-back headphones, it’s above average for sure.
Design. The MDR7506 being closed-back headphones are not as comfortable to wear for extended periods of time as open-back headphones. The longer you wear them, the more warmth and heat builds up inside the cups, so you might want to take a break to let your ears rest after a few hours.
The MDR7506’s movable ear cups combined with an adjustable headband ensures a comfortable and secure fit for everyone.
The padding is quite comfortable, but not as comfortable as the HD599’s velvet padding or the ATH-M40x’s leather pads, which provide a little more room inside the ear cups.
Another great thing I should mention is very low sound leakage; you’ll have to put the volume really high for others nearby to hear what you’re listening to.
It enables you to use the headphones not only with your keyboard or digital piano but also with your portable playback devices outside the home.
On the picture to the right, you can see Adele using the Sony MDR7506 in the studio.
I hope the article has helped you on your journey of choosing the best headphones for your lovely digital piano.
As I said before there are no perfect headphones, each pair has its pros and cons and often it all comes down to one’s personal preferences and needs (I know, I know, but it’s the truth).
I tried my best to select headphones that deliver the most value for money and reproduce instrumental/classical music as accurately as possible.
All 5 headphones on this list tend to have neutral well-balanced sound with great instrument separation and clarity. You can’t really go wrong with any of these models as long as you keep in mind all the benefits and drawbacks of closed- and open-back headphones.
If you live in a quiet environment where no one will be bothered by some amount of sound leakage, I’d definitely consider buying open-back headphones and enjoy the spacious sound stage, “breathing” ear cups, and “sound around you” listening experience.
For noisier environments, a pair of closed-back headphones is a better choice, which will provide more isolation from ambient noise, low amounts of leakage and immersive listening experience.
I deliberately didn’t include super expensive headphones that cost hundreds of dollars as the difference in sound is often pretty subtle and often not worth the extra money unless you’re a professional music producer.