5 Best Headphones for Digital Piano 2018 | Buyer’s Guide

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 prefer to use cheap earbuds or low-quality over-ear headphones bundled with a digital piano rather than high-quality headphones with comfortable design and full, accurate sound.

In fact, choosing the headphones that can accurately and naturally reproduce piano sound is no less important than choosing a digital piano itself.

The right pair of headphones will allow you to hear all the subtle nuances of sound that are impossible to hear through piano’s 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.

best headphones for digital piano

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 like Beats, Sony (MDR line) should be avoided.

Comfort. It’s likely that headphones will be used for long periods of time, so each pair I’ve selected is comfortable for extended sessions and exert just the right amount of pressure on the head.

There are also some other important characteristics to consider, such as soundstage, isolation, leakage, etc., and they’re hugely depend on whether the headphones have open- or closed-back design. So in the next section, we’re going to talk about types of headphones and what type is the best when it comes to digital pianos.

What headphone type to look for?

There are different types of headphones including earbuds, over-ear, in-ear and on-ear headphones. While in-ear and on-ear headphones are not the most suitable options to use with a digital piano, over-ear headphones are exactly what we need.

  • There are two types of over-ear headphones:
  • Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Closed-back over-ear headphones

Each type has its benefits and drawbacks so our “top 5 list” includes both closed- and open-back headphones for you to choose what works best for your needs.

 Closed-back headphones

Closed-back Headphones

This is most probably the most popular and familiar to you 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 excellent 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 noise of TV, 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.

Not only does the closed-back design blocks out the ambient noise, but it also prevents music from leaking into your surroundings, so others in the room will be able to sleep, read, watch TV without a problem. 

However, there are some trade-offs for using 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, but still, they’re usually 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.

The sound of the closed-back headphones, on the other hand, can be described as coming from inside your head, like your own thoughts, rather than playing around you.

Pros

Great bass response
Noise isolation
Music won’t be heard by others nearby (low leakage)
Great for noisy environments

Cons

Soundstage seems less open and airy
Ears may become sweaty/hot after a few hours of use
Tend to “color” the sound
/

Open-back headphones

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 casual use.

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 really be a problem if you leave 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 a lot of sound into the surrounding area so that the audio from the headphones can be heard by other people nearby.

It makes opened-back headphones a bad choice for using in public places and commuting.

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.

Secondly, open-back design usually provides wider and more open/airy soundstage than closed-back. It feels like the musicians are sitting around you and playing live, which make the sound more natural and clear.

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.

Beautiful, spacious sound is probably the main reason why many high-end, audiophile headphones have open-back ear cups. And since we’re are looking for the best headphones to use with a digital piano, poor isolation isn’t necessarily a deal breaker as it all comes down to the environment you live in.

Pros

Wide and open/airy soundstage
“Music around you” effect
Accuracy and clarity of sound
Perfect for instrumental and classic music
More comfortable to wear for long periods of time

Cons

Sound leakage
Poor isolation
Not meant for outdoor use
Not very punchy bass
/

Now that you know all the benefits and disadvantages of both types of over-ear headphones we can move on to the 5 best piano headphones on the market.

But before getting to the reviews I suggest you to take a look at the comparison table with the main specs and brief summaries of the reviews.

We’ve tested 14 best potential headphones and selected 5 winners that meet the requirements best. The keyboard we tested the headphones with was the Kawai ES110.

Comparison table of 5 best headphones for digital pianos

  • Enclosure
    There are closed-back and open-back headphones depnding on whether the ear cups are completely sealed on the back (solid shell) or have perforations/grills, allowing air/sound to pass in and out of the cups.
  • Frequency Response
    The frequency range the headphones can reproduce from low bass to high pitch frequencies. The wider the range the better. Humans generally can't hear anything below 20 Hz and higher than 20,000 Hz , but many headphones still have wider frequncy ranges.
  • Impedance
    Low impedance headphones require less power to deliver high audio levels than headphones with high impedance, thus perfect for devices with weak amplification (mp3-players, phones etc.) High impendance (70+ Ohms) is reccommended to use with well-amplified sources. For digital pianos, the range of 32-65 Ohms is optimal.
  • Detachable Cord
  • Plug Type
  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Title
8.1
  • Open-back
  • 5-30 000 Hz
  • 48 Ohms
  • 3.5mm (+ 6.3mm adapter)
    • Wide frequency range
    • Huge soundstage
    • Spacious, open sound
    • Great clarity and detail
    • Comfortable fit
    • Bulky
    • Poor isolation
    • Leak a lot of sound
  • Best Soundstage
8.6
  • Closed-back
  • 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
  • Most Versatile
9.0
  • Open-black
  • 15-28 000 Hz
  • 50 Ohms
  • 6.3mm (+ 3.5mm adapter)
    • Premium quality
    • Extremely comfortable
    • High-fidelity sound reproduction
    • Wide soundstage
    • Decent bass
    • Bulky
    • Not great for mobile devices and computers
    • Poor isolation
    • Leak a lot of sound
  • Best Comfort
8.9
  • Open-back
  • 12-35 000 Hz
  • 32 Ohms
  • 3.5mm (+ 6.3mm adapter)
    • Very comfortable,
    • Great for long sessions
    • Airy and spacious soundstage
    • Full, detailed sound
    • Affordable
    • Non-replaceable ear pads
    • Bulky
    • Don’t block any noise
    • Leak a lot of sound
  • Best Value for Money
8.4
  • Closed-back
  • 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)
  • Most Trusted

1) Audio Technica ATH- AD700X – open-back

Audio Technica ATH-AD700X Audiophile Headphones

The ATH-AD700X are one of the best open-back headphones you can find in the 100$ range.

These are open-back audiophile headphones that not only deliver clear and detailed sound but are also very comfortable.

Sound.  The 53 mm drivers and bobbin-wound CCAW voice coils provide an incredibly open and airy sound; the soundstage is probably the best in this price range. The sound of the ATH- AD700X can be described as neutral and well-balanced with less prominent bass.

Such a sound signature is perfect for a digital piano sound. The treble range though is not as well-balanced and clear as bass and mids, but it still shows above-average performance.

The instrument separation is great with these headphones, allowing you to experience the music in amazing detail and depth.

Design. The ATH- AD700X are pretty big, but not heavy and weigh only 9.35 oz. They are also very comfortable with their self-adjusting 3D wing support that reliably fixes the headphones and prevents them from falling down.

The headphone’s ear cups exert just the right amount of pressure on your head, so you won’t feel any discomfort even after a few hours of wearing.

The open-back cups with stylish aluminum perforations ensure sufficient ventilation for your ears. With this also comes very poor isolation from ambient noise and high amounts of sound leakage.

So the headphones are not great to use in public places and noisy environments. For home use, they’re perfect though.

The AD700X has 3.5 mm plug and comes with an 1/4” (6.3 mm) adapter, so regardless of whether your digital piano has 3.5 or 6.3mm headphone jack you’ll be able to plug them in.

Pros

Wide frequency range
Huge soundstage
Spacious, open sound
Great clarity and detail
Comfortable fit

Cons

Bulky
Very poor isolation from ambient noise
Leak a lot of sound
/
/

2) Audio-Technica ATH-M40x – closed-back

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Headphones

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 into lower frequencies and has well-balanced sound across the whole frequency spectrum.

The soundstage seems a bit narrower and less airy compared to the open-back headphones, but still, the sound of the ATH-M40x is very accurate and detailed, which is what these headphones are liked for.

Design. In addition to a sleek and attractive design, the headphones feel very sturdy and well put together. The plastic is pretty hard, plus the headband is reinforced with a metal frame. The ATH-M40x’s headband and ear pads are made from professional-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 1/4” (6.3 mm) adapter so regardless of whether your digital piano has 3.5 or 6.3mm jack you’ll be able to plug them in.

You might also have heard of the even more popular ATH-M50x (next model up).

And the reason why I put the ATH-M40x in this list and not the ATH-M50x is that the ATH-M40x  tend to provide a little more balanced and neutral sound, which is great for classic and instrumental music.

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 would be a better choice, not to mention the M40x is around 50$ cheaper than the M50x.

Pros

Sturdy construction
Flat tuned, neutral sound signature
Low leakage
Suitable for outdoor use
Comes with two cables

Cons

Slightly narrow soundstage
Average isolation
 /
/
/

3) Sennheiser HD 579 – open-back

The HD579 audiophile headphones offer phenomenal sound and comfort for a very nice price. A while ago the price on them was something around 200 bucks, which is a reasonable price for them, but now you can find the HD579 for around 100$!

So what do you get for the money?

Design. The padding on the HD579 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 fatigu. After a while, you will start to forget that you’re wearing them at all.

The HD579 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 HD579 are open-back headphones, so they leak a lot of sound, which people near you will be able to hear. But at the same time you get wonderful 3-deimensional soundstage; instruments come from all directions providing an amazing sense of depth and separation.

The headphones provide neutral and well-balanced sound. They have clear highs and mids, and the bass is very good, considering these are open-back headphones. The bass isn’t over emphasized though, which is important for an accurate reproduction of music.

The HD579’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 3.5mm jack, it’s okay as well as the kit includes an 1/4” to 1/8″ adapter.

 

 

Sennheiser HD 598 – My personal choice

Update 29 December. As for now, you can get them on sale on Amazon for a very attractive price.

If the budget is not a problem and you want to get the best possible sound out of your digital piano, you might want to consider the superior HD598 (next model up).

The HD598 offer a bit more spacious soundstage and more refined sound. You’ll also get more luxurious materials and premium look, but in terms of comfort they are very similar to the HD579 .

Pros

Premium quality
Extremely comfortable (large ear cups, velour padding)
High-fidelity sound reproduction
Wide soundstage
Decent bass

Cons

Bulky
Not great for mobile devices and computers (3.5mm adapter is needed)
Very little isolation from ambient noise
Leak a lot of sound

4) Philips SHP9500 – open-back

Philips SHP9500 Headphones

The SHP9500 is the dark horse of the list and a strong contender to be the best pair of headphones for digital piano. The headphones are perfect for those on a tight budget and offer an incredible value for the 70$ (ish) price.

These headphones have gathered hundreds of positive reviews, and are often compared to the much more expensive Sennheiser HD 558/598 and even HD600/650 headphones.

Because of the rave reviews and high demand, the 70$ price tag was raised up to the 120$, but you still can find them on sale for as little as 70$, which is a fantastic price for them.

Design. Maybe the SHP9500 don’t look and feel as luxurious as Sennheisers, but they are still among the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever felt. 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. Some buyers claim that it’s possible to remove the ear pads by removing  4 clips and a plastic ring that holds them, but unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance check it myself.

The overall built-quality is excellent. The SHP9500 are quite flexible and have an adjustable metal headband. Despite the huge size, the headphones are  quite lightweight.

Sound. The open-back design combined with a large 50mm neodymium Drivers provide an extremely wide soundstage and clear, detailed sound. The instrument separation and accuracy of sound reproduction is amazing.

When it comes to sound, it’s hard to beat the SHP9500 even in the 200-300$ range.

Don’t forget these are extremely open headphones and they do leak a lot of sound into the surroundings and also provide no isolation from the ambient noise.

The headphones come with a long 3m detachable cable ending with 1/8″ plug. The 1/4” adapter is also included so you can use them with your digital piano out of the box.

Pros

Very comfortable
Great for long sessions
Full, detailed sound
Airy and spacious soundstage
Affordable, great value for the money

Cons
Non-replaceable ear pads
Bulky
Don’t block out any ambient noise
Leak a lot of sound
/

5) Sony MDR7506 – closed-back

Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphones

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.

Today you can get them for as little as 80 dollars. But, don’t be fooled by the price, the sound quality put them on par with 200-300$ headphones.

Sound. The reason why the MDR7506 are so popular in studios is that they very accurately reproduce audio without “coloring” it, exactly as it was recorded. The headphones’ neutral sound signature allows for natural reproduction of all kinds of musical instrument sounds, including piano.

The headphones offer average soundstage, it’s not as wide and deep as 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 comfortable and secure fit for everyone. The padding is quite comfortable, but not as comfortable as the HD558’s velvet padding or the ATH-M40x’s leather pads, which provide a little more room inside the ear cups.

The passive noise isolation (closed ear cups) is particularly good with these headphones. The headphones do a great job blocking out a decent amount of outside noise, providing a truly immersive listening experience.

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 home digital piano but also outside the home environment, listening to music from your portable devices without disturbing others nearby.

On the picture, you can see Adele wearing the Sony MDR7506 in the studio.

 

Pros

Immersive sound experience
Detailed, neutral sound
Trusted & Reliable
Very low leakage
Decent isolation from ambient noise

Cons

Lack of air flow (ears get warm after extended use)
Not as comfortable for longer wear
Design
/
/

 

Conclusion

I hope the article has helped you decide what digital piano headphones are the best according to your needs. 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.

For my part, I  did my best to pick out, test and present to you headphones that deliver the most value for the money and reproduce instrumental/classical music as accurately as possible.

All 5 headphones in the list tend to have neutral well-balanced sound with great instrument separation and clarity. You can’t actually go wrong with any of the above headphones as long as you keep in mind benefits and drawbacks of closed- and opened- back headphones.

If you live in a quiet environment where no one will be bothered by a significant amount of leakage, I’d definitely go with the open-back headphones and enjoy 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 a greater 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 sounding is often pretty subtle and to me not worth extra money unless you’re a professional music producer.

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2 Comments

  1. Pawel November 5, 2017
    • Lucas Welter Lucas Welter November 5, 2017

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