Join us for a rundown of our favourite headphones for listening to jazz. We have something for everyone here. Whether you’re an audiophile with a big budget or a studio musician looking for a pair of headphones for your next recording session, read on for our top tips for finding the best product for your needs!
All headphones are designed with different genres, budgets and purposes in mind. People who listen mostly to electronic music on their commute to work will be suited to different headphones than classical music fans listening to records on a state-of-the-art turntable, for example.
The same goes for jazz music. If you spend a lot of your time listening to the likes of Coltrane, Dizzy, Getz and other acoustic musicians, a well-balanced, neutral sound profile is a must for hearing the subtle nuances of your favourite players.
In this article, we’ll be taking you through some of the most important features to consider before purchasing a new pair of headphones for listening to jazz. We’ll also be taking a closer look at five of our favourite headphones on the market.
Table of Contents
Our Overall Top Pick: The Audio-Technica M40x
It’s one of the cheapest pairs of headphones on this list but offers fantastic audio quality, robust design and great noise-isolating capabilities, making it a top all-rounder for jazz fans.
What to Consider When Buying Headphones for Jazz
Soundstage is one of the most important factors to consider if you’re looking for the best headphones for jazz music. It distinguishes each instrument from the other to create a crisp, surround-sound effect. Rather than feeling like the music is playing inside your head, it gives the impression that the music is inside the room with you.
Good soundstage produces a sound with greater depth, so if you want to hear the fine details of your favourite jazz recordings, this is a feature you should definitely look out for.
Most headphones today are designed with contemporary pop and hip hop in mind. Strong bass is a must for these listeners, with many actively seeking out headphones that accentuate the bass over other frequencies.
But, if you’re a jazz fan, it is best to avoid headphones with overpowering bass frequency response. Headphones like Dr Dre’s Beats are known for overemphasising the bass which can result in other instruments being drowned out.
For acoustic jazz, you want to look for headphones with a tight and clean bass response and an overall balanced sound.
In-ear vs Over-ear
Most audiophiles would tell you to avoid in-ear headphones at all costs, citing tinny sound, comfort and eardrum damage as reasons to ditch your AirPods.
However, advancements in audio technology mean there are plenty of great quality in-ear choices to choose from. And if you’re travelling light or looking for a pair of headphones to accompany you on the daily commute, an in-ear headphone might be the best option.
Although the sound quality won’t match that of high-quality over-ear models, in-ear products can offer better noise-cancelling capabilities and portability. Another option to consider is on-ear headphones which offer a middle ground between over-ear and in-ear. They’re less bulky than the former and often more comfortable than the latter.
Closed back headphone vs Open Back headphone
If you’re set on a pair of over-ear headphones, next you’ll need to decide whether you want headphones that are open or closed-back.
Open back headphones are generally favoured by serious listeners because of their clear and airy sound. They feature grills or holes in the ear cups to allow air to pass through freely, preventing the build-up of low frequencies. Without a doubt it produces a cleaner sound, however, this also means that more external frequencies are allowed into the cup making them far less effective for cancelling out background noise.
Closed back headphones are generally cheaper and are able to block out noise much easier. If you do a lot of listening on the move or in public spaces, closed-back headphones could be a better option.
Cable or No Cable?
Although there are some impressive Bluetooth headphones out there – the Sony WH-1000XM3 for example – there is a limit to the quality of sound that you can achieve with its limited bandwidth.
You can get a perfectly good sound with wireless headphones and in reality, the average listener will not be able to distinguish between the two up until a certain price point.
If convenience and portability are what you‘re looking for, Bluetooth headphones could be the way to go but keep in mind that you may be losing out on performance and audio quality compared to wired headphones.
Top brands to look out for
There are lots of great brands out there but some stand out from the crowd for creating some of the best headphones on the market.
Sennheiser, Sony, Phillips, Audio-Technica and Shure are all well-respected brands that offer fantastic quality headphones across a range bof budgets.
Meanwhile, brands like Bose and Grado have established themselves as go-to brands for audiophile headphones.
Bose is known for developing market-leading active noise cancelling technology, while Grado has built a strong reputation for its high-end, handmade headphones with incredible sound quality that audiophiles can’t get enough of.
Our Five Top Picks
We’ve picked out five of the best headphones for jazz to fit a range of budgets and requirements. Whether you’re looking for a pair of headphones for the studio or for the daily commute, read on for our recommendations.
Best Headphones for the Serious Listener – Grado Labs GS1000e
If your budget allows, we recommend seeking out a high-quality pair of open back headphones to get the most out of your jazz records. In general, open back headphones produce a better soundstage than closed-back.
Grado Labs’ GS1000e offer an incredible listening experience with an open and airy sound that lends itself to jazz music. The bass isn’t too pronounced but still packs a punch, whilst the mids are crisp and clear.
The headphones are hand-built in Brooklyn and feature mahogany housing, a leather headband, super comfy ear pads and a de-stressed driver which provides greater detail at lower volumes than your average headphones.
These state-of-the-art features do, however, come with a hefty price tag. You can get your hands on a pair of these beautifully designed headphones on Amazon for £1,1999.95.
Best value headphones for listening to jazz on a budget – Audio Technica M40x
Sadly, not all of us can fork out hundreds or thousands of pounds on a pair of headphones, but there are thankfully a bunch of products out there that can give jazz fans a great listening experience without breaking the bank.
The Audio-Technica M40x is a popular choice for those on a budget and produces an accurate sound that brings out the details of each individual instrument. The sound is quite neutral, meaning neither the highs or bass are accentuated, making it an excellent choice for small band and acoustic jazz.
Audio-Technica is a Japanese company that designs and procure professional microphones, turntables and, of course, headphones. They have a great reputation for both their high-end and budget ranges.
The ATH-M40x is a robust pair of headphones with a comfy fit, noise-cancelling capabilities and a collapsible design that makes them relatively easy to transport.
The M40x is tuned flat to provide accurate audio across a wide frequency range – this means that none of the frequencies, such as the bass or mids are emphasised, offering a sound that’s closer to the original recording. They’re a great option if you’re looking for a professional sound on a budget.
You can pick up the M40x new from Amazon for £78 or bag it second hand for less than £50 on eBay.
Best Headphones for Studio Musicians – Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones
If you’re looking for headphones for recording and tracking, you’ll need a good pair of closed-back headphones. They will keep the noise inside the cup, preventing noise bleed from being picked up by the microphone.
Focal Listen Professional Headphones are a great all-rounder with neutral bass frequencies and clear mids, making them a great choice for jazz musicians in the studio.
As it features a closed-back, over-ear design, there is minimal noise bleed with the Focal Listen Pros. And the comfy ear cup mean you can easily keep your headphones on for hours at a time.
If you’re focused more on mixing and mastering, these headphones are probably not for you. Instead, look for a pair of open back headphones with a neutral sound. This will better resemble the sound of studio monitors.
Best Headphones for Listening to Jazz on The Go – Shure SE215-CL
If you’re a music fan that often finds themself listening to jazz on the road, a pair of small, lightweight headphones that don’t sacrifice sound quality are a must.
Shure’s SE215-CL in-ear headphone marry convenience with excellent sound quality. They can be used either as wired or wireless earphones and are able to block out up to 37db of external noise, creating an immersive experience no matter where you are.
Like the vast majority of in-ear headphones, the SE215-CL doesn’t offer a great soundstage, but its subtle bass and warm, crisp sound more than makes up for this.
Earbuds often come under criticism for being uncomfortable, but you won’t need to worry about ear fatigue with the SE215-CL; it fits into the ear perfectly despite its strange shape.
Best Headphones for Noise Cancelling – Sony WH1000XM4
Jazz is a genre of music that lends itself to deep listening. If you want to keep as much background noise out as possible, you should consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones of which there are two types: active and passive.
Active noise-cancelling headphones monitor the external ambience around the ear cups with a microphone, which is then cancelled out with an ‘anti-noise’ signal.
Passive noise-cancelling headphones, on the other hand, simply enclose the ear and minimise the amount of noise coming into the headphone. Many closed-back headphones are marketed as either passive noise cancelling or noise isolating.
If you‘re looking for a pair of headphones that can almost completely block out the sound of the outside world, we recommend taking a look at Sony’s WH1000XM4. This over-ear wireless headphone is super comfy with a simple, sleek design and active noise cancellation technology that can drown out sounds that many noise-cancelling headphones struggle to.
Sounds that do leak through like nearby loud voices, for example, sound distant and rarely interfere with the music that you’re listening to.
Despite being closed-back, the WH1000XM4 has an impressive soundstage and comes with a handy feature that allows you to create your own custom sound profile or choose from a range of presets.
We hope you found this article helpful in your hunt for the best headphones for jazz. If you have any questions or suggestions, drop us a comment below!