Instruments

Best Bass Headphones

Our top pick for the best bass headphones is the Ultrasone Pro 900. Our primary criterion in selecting the best was to examine the sound quality and the bass. We loved the deep bass and the detailed, clear sound that this model produces. As a closed-back, it can attenuate ambient noise, making for an immersive listening experience.

Our second-best pair is the Sony XB950N1 headphones. We admired the quality of their bass and their noise-canceling technology.

As for our budget pick, we chose the Sony MDRXB950BT/B. These are affordable but still offer great features. For instance, they have a digital signal processor that provides enhanced low-frequency music. They are comfortable, as well as easy to pack and store.

A Little Background

At the basic level, headphones are a pair of small loudspeaker drivers that one wears either over, on, or in the ears. These electroacoustic transducers convert an electrical signal into sound waves your ears can hear.

The best thing about them is that they enable you to listen to your music in private. While loudspeakers blast sound into the open for everyone in the vicinity to hear, headphones restrict the sound to your ears only. You can listen to music to your heart’s content in a room full of people without causing any disturbance.

Bass is the term used for tones of low frequency, range, and pitch. Put simply, it is the lower registers of music. When you listen to music on a loudspeaker and you can feel its vibrations in your chest, that is bass; same thing for when you feel your car windows vibrating.

Bass is not easy to reproduce: lower sounds need a larger speaker area than higher pitches. In a sound system, the bass speaker/amplifier is the largest. The best type of cannons for bass are the larger headphones and digital stereo earphones.

Types of Headphones

1. Circum-aural

These are also known as full-size or over-ear headphones. They consist of circular earpads which completely cover your ears. They are the best at attenuating external noises. However, they can be bulky, with some weighing over 500 grams. They require an ergonomic headband and earpad design to minimize the discomfort of bearing their weight. Their large size makes them the best at incorporating additional functionality.

2. Supra-aural

Another name for them is on-ear headphones. Instead of surrounding the ears, these have pads which they press against the ears. They are smaller than the circum-aural, and not as good at attenuating outside noise.

3. Ear-fitting

They are more popularly known as earphones or earbuds. They are small, and you can fit them directly in your outer ear. They do not penetrate into the ear canal. They provide little acoustic isolation, allowing noise from your environment to seep in. Since this a best list, we will not have any products from this particular category.

4. In-ear

They are as small and portable as earbuds, but different. Another name for them is in-ear monitors (IEMs) or canalphones. While earbuds fit only in your outer ear, IEMs penetrate into the ear canal itself. They are popular with audio engineers, musicians, and audiophiles. They are excellent at blocking out ambient noise.

5. Further Classification

Circumaural and supra-aural cans are further classified according to the type of earcups as follows:

  • Open-back – The back of the earcups is open, allowing more sound to leak out and ambient sounds to seep in. They are also not as good at producing extended low-bass (sub-bass) as closed pairs. On the plus side, they deliver a better soundstage than closed ones. They are also more comfortable since they give the ears room to breathe.
  • Closed-back –The back of the earcups is closed. They are the best for blocking out ambient noise. They are also the best at producing strong, low frequency tones, which means they are the best bass headphones. They trap air in a confined space, enabling them to create more bass impact. On the other hand, they are uncomfortable due to their closed nature, and they do not have as good a soundstage as the open-back.
  • Semi-open – They are a cross between open-back and closed-back: a compromise.

The Anatomy of Headphones

1. Drivers/Diaphragms

They are the most important part, as they are the source of sound. The key qualities of a diaphragm are material and thickness (the thinner, the better, though there is a limit). They come in different forms:

  • Electrostatic drivers – The most prestigious. You find them in high-end cans.
  • Planar magnetic drivers – Second most prestigious.
  • Balanced armature drivers – You find them in high-quality IEMs as secondary drivers
  • Dynamic drivers – You find them in most cans, from those in the low-end to others in the top-end.

2. Audio Processor

In most headphone pairs, you will find tiny audio-processing boards within, forming part of the driver mechanism. Gaming headsets, however, usually have a discrete APU (Audio processing unit) inside the earcups or the USB connector; it performs functions such as processing virtual surround sound.

3. Housing

This refers to the exterior of the earcups. It contains the diaphragm. It is also where the earpad is stuck upon. Plastic housing is for cheaper models, but more expensive pairs come with housings made of metal (usually brushed aluminum) – or with a back made of metal.

4. Earpads

They determine your pair’s comfort. Specs such as clamping force and long-term or short-term comfort refer to earpads. The material they are made from is also crucial:

  • Foam earpads – The most basic kind. They are without any cover. You can find them in cheap non-branded cans or midrange pairs from respected brands. You are highly likely to find them in portable on-ear cans.
  • Pleather earpads – Slightly better than foam earpads. They have covers made of plastic leather. They deteriorate easily (within a few months or a year). The Pleather layer wears off to reveal the foam core. They are hotter and less comfortable than velour or leather earpads.
  • Velour/velvet/felt earpads – They are one of two premium earpad types. It is a matter for debate which of the two earpad types (velour and leather) is better. Though not as classy as leather pads, velour earpads are cooler.
  • Leather earpads – They are the classiest type of earpad, but hotter than velour pads. It is a matter of debate which of the two is more comfortable.

5. Earphone Tips

You can find universal earphone tips in in-ear monitors and some earbuds. They are detachable and replaceable. They come in a variety of sizes, including S, M, L, and XL. Materials include foam and silicone, and can affect both comfort and quality of sound.

6. Headband

It affects comfort.  Materials include: pure foam, pleather, velour, and leather. However, more important than material is a headband’s structure as it has a more noticeable effect on the top of your head.

7. Microphone

The difference between a headset and a regular pair is that a headset comes with a built-in microphone.

8. Controlling Module

You find these mostly in gaming headsets. Built-in controlling modules help in adjusting the volume, making calls, and turning on surround sound.

Consumer Research

Research done by Statista, a statistics company on the internet, guided us in selecting the best cans. In truth, it is not an easy task selecting the best from the hundreds of products out there. It’s also worth considering that our readers have different tastes and income levels.

The first question we had to ask ourselves was: how much would our reader be willing to spend on a new pair of cans? Statista’s survey of consumers in the United States in 2017 helped us arrive at an answer. The table below demonstrates how much people are willing to spend on cans:

Amount Willing to Spend

Share of Respondents

Up to $10

11%

Up to $25

27%

Up to $50

22%

Up to $75

7%

Up to $100

13%

Up to $150

9%

More than $100

11%

Consider that only 11% of the respondents of Statista’s survey were willing to pay more than $150. We will, therefore, not be recommending $500 cans. In our opinion, and many enthusiasts will corroborate this, the sweet spot is between $200 and $300. We will do our best to balance high-price, high-performance products with the more affordable ones.

Statista’s survey also enlightened us on the most common use cases for headphones. As you would expect, majority of the respondents (87%) said they used them to listen to music. 49% used them to watch movies or TV shows. 36% listened to the radio. 28% listened to audiobooks. 25% used them in phone calls. Only 9% of the respondent used them for music production or any other job/hobby that involves working with sound. The table below illustrates these statistics:

Use Case

Share of Respondents

Listening to Music

87%

To watch movies and TV shows

49%

Listen to the radio

36%

Listening to audiobooks

28%

Make calls

25%

Music production/working with sound

9%

Other

6%

How We Picked

1. Bass

We focused on the bass quality. We also had a preference for pairs that have an emphasized bass. However, the quality was the main consideration

2. Comfort

We had a bias for pairs that guarantee comfort. These are pairs you can have on for hours without feeling too much discomfort.

3. Adjustability

We had a preference for pairs which allowed for adjustment of sound levels. This enables you to adjust the bass to suit your tastes or the music you are currently listening to.

4. Noise Isolation

We preferred pairs that are effective at blocking out ambient sound.

Our Pick

Our best pick had to be something with a deep, punchy bass. That is what the Ultrasone Pro 900 headphones provide. It is a good, solid bass that, though deep, does not impose itself on the other frequencies. You can use these headphones at all listening levels. However, we found that they are at their best at loud volumes.

They have an impedance of 40 ohms, a frequency range of 6 to 42,000 Hz, and a sound pressure level of 96 dB. Without the cord, they weigh 295g.

They come with Ultrasone’s S-Logic Natural Surround Sound Plus technology which ensures a musical separation and imaging that is clear and detailed. The drivers are 40mm and titanium-plated. These drivers provide a clear, detailed, crisp sound. They are closed-back headphones and are therefore great at attenuating external noise to give you an immersive sound experience.

Flaws but not Deal-breakers

They require some time to burn them in. When fresh out of the box, the sound may seem somewhat artificial. But after about 70 to 100 hours of use, the sound transforms, becoming smooth and detailed.

Step-up Pick

Our choice for the second-best pair is the Sony XB950N1 Extra Bass Headphones. What attracted us to this pair is the extra bass. While many audiophiles look down on bassy headphones, preferring the “neutral” sound, most people enjoy bass. It is exciting while neutral sound is boring. These cans are bass-heavy and unapologetic about it.

Another attractive feature is the digital noise-canceling technology. There is a difference between noise-canceling and noise isolation (see the FAQ section). The noise-canceling in these cans is so good you might want to use them only in isolated environments where it doesn’t matter if you don’t hear what is happening in your surroundings. It makes for an immersive listening experience. They also come with high-quality wireless audio with Bluetooth and NFC as well as LDAC.

Budget Pick

Few people are willing to spend over $200 on a pair of headphones. For the sake of our readers who are not ready to spend large sums, we chose as our budget pick the Sony MDRXB950BT/B Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones. With this pair, you can connect to your audio devices wirelessly via Bluetooth.

They have Bluetooth audio streaming with AAC and apt-X support and Electronic Bass Boost circuitry which ensures extra bass emphasis. They have 40mm drivers, which provide a wide frequency response. They have a Bass Boost button which you can press to deliver an impressive bass response. A digital signal processor delivers enhanced low-frequency music that will make you feel as if you are in a club.

The Sony MDRXB950BT/B Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones are very comfortable. You wear them around the ears. They come with a swivel design, which makes them easy to pack and store for portability. On matters portability, the headphones have a rechargeable battery that can power up to 20 hours of music.If you want to call someone, they have a built-in microphone to ensure hands-free phone calls. The Bluetooth connectivity is also crucial in this regard.

Best Bass Headphones for DJs

The best pair for DJs are the Sennheiser HD8 DJ Headphones (descendants of the HD 25). They have an over-ear closed-back design that ensures maximum attenuation of ambient noise. They also deliver comfort, enabling the DJ to have them on for hours.

You can swivel the earcups up to 210 degrees, which ensures flexibility. The best DJ headphones are flexible, allowing the DJ to adopt different wearing positions. This makes it easier for the DJ to perform one-ear monitoring while at the turntable more easily.

The sound quality is impressive. The headphones have a high SPL capability (115 dB). They have an impedance of 95 ohms, which ensures optimum computability with DJ equipment. The bass is excellent, and not muddy. They have a great soundstage.

Best Wireless Bass Headphones

If you are looking for the best wireless bass pair, consider the Bluedio U Plus Headphones. They work with Bluetooth version 4.1, and have a Bluetooth operating range of up to 10 meters in free space. The Bluetooth music/talk time is approximately 25 hours. They have a 10 Hz to 22,000 Hz frequency response.

They have PPS12 technology, which comprises a combination of three drivers specially built for trebles, and another three for mids and bass. This ensures you enjoy a broad range of frequencies, giving you the best listening experience.

They have a cavity design which achieves three things: blocking out ambient sounds, enhancing the bass response, and pushing airflow of back and front cavity to attain resonance. There are also specially designed vents for ventilation adjustment. The cavities and the vents are instrumental for a vibrant, bouncy, full-bodied bass reproduction.

You can rotate the ear cups backward 180 degrees, which is great if you are a DJ. It’s a neat trick too for when you want to have awareness of whatever’s going on in your environment.

In the box, you will find the headphones, a carrying case with a buckle, a USB charging cable, an audio cable, a 6.3mm patch plug, and the user manual.

Best Noise-Cancelling Bass Headphones

If you want to listen to music or your audiobooks in a noisy environment, there is nothing better than the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. They are compatible with both Apple and Android devices. You can also use them with your Samsung phone.

Most of us like to listen to audiobooks when we are driving in traffic on our way to and from work during rush-hour. The loud noises of hooting, honking, and revving can seep in and drown out the sound of our audiobook. Noise-cancelling headphones help block out this ambient noise, giving you personal space in the midst of a cacophonous environment. This QuietComfort feature is this model’s best quality.

They have extra cushions for increased comfort. Just what you need when you are worn out during your travels: cushiony headphones with noise-cancelling ability to drown out the external world and put you in a relaxed state of mind.

The sound quality is good and the bass is deep. However, their best feature is the noise-cancelling capability and the comfort.

Best In-Ear Bass Headphones

If you are a basshead looking for the best IEM, we got you covered. Our pick for the best IEM is the RHA T10i In-Ear Headphones. They have a high-fidelity dynamic driver that is designed to reproduce all music genres with accuracy, clarity, detail, and imaging.

The design is noise-isolating, enabling you to block out the world and be alone with your music. The bass-filter is impressive, making you feel as though there are subs booming next to your ears. If you are a fan of bass-heavy headphones, the RHA T10i will please you.

They come with a tuning filter system that enables you to customize your listening experience. You adjust the sound signature to put more emphasis on bass or treble frequencies. This enables you to enjoy the best sound reproduction for different music genres.

Best On-Ear Bass Headphones

On-ear cans are not as good at attenuating ambient noise as over-ear. However, this can also be seen as an advantage. If you want something that incorporates the external noises for a more natural sound, then they are a good choice for you. We picked the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 as the best on-ear pair.

They are compatible with Apple devices, including: iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 2nd generation and after, and all iPad models. The remote is compatible with all iPod Classic models, iPod Shuffle 3rd generation onwards, and iPod Nano 4th generation and onwards.

The drivers are engineered to work like the drivers of a Hi-Fi speaker, with a precise, controlled movement. As a result, they provide a superior sound quality. The lowest bass frequencies are pronounced. The soundstage is great, enabling you to hear the space between instruments.

The earpads are acoustically optimized: they have a grille pattern which enables air to move through the pads, thus minimizing acoustic impedance.

Magnets hold the earpads in place, and it’s easy to detach them whenever you want to change the cable or to replace the earpads. Instead of purchasing a new pair of headphones when your earpads get damaged, all you have to do is replace them.

Best Open-Back Bass Headphones

Open-back cans have the best soundstage. If you want to combine your love for bass and an excellent soundstage, the Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 Pro Studio Headphones are the best option for you. They are ideal for professional mixing, mastering, and editing.

They have a strong bass as well as treble sound which is at the same time transparent and spacious, a quality that makes them perfect for studio applications.

Another advantage that open-back pairs have over the closed-back is comfort. These headphones have soft, over-ear, replaceable velour ear pads which guarantee the best levels of comfort. They are made in Germany, and have a robust workmanship that guarantees durability.

Best Bass Headphones Under $50

You don’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars to get headphones that have a great bass sound. The Sony MDR-XB600 headphones are affordable, yet their bass performance is commendable. These cans have 40mm diaphragms, which make for a powerful, deep base. They have direct vibe structure to ensure a phenomenal bass response.

The ear pads are built for comfort. They are made of pressure-relieving urethane foam, which ensures a quality fit, and reduces ambient noise.

They have a dual-folding design which enables you to fold the headphones for storage. This compact design makes them suitable for travel.

These cans come with a 1.2m flat cord with serrated finish which helps reduce tangles. As a result, you will have fewer annoyances when using them, and can listen to music in tranquility.

The Competition

There are few things as subjective as determining the quality of music, especially bass. It was therefore a real slog for us to test and retest our selection of headphones in the effort to ascertain the best ones.

We avoided pairs that are more pronounced on the higher frequencies than the low. We also avoided uncomfortable headphones, those that let in ambient noise (except as a compromise with better soundstage), and those which leak out too much sound.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is impedance?

A: Impedance refers to the resistance an alternative current encounters moving through a circuit.  The current encounters resistance as it moves from one terminal to the other. That is the electrical definition. Impedance is measured in ohms.

When it comes to headphone audio, impedance affects the loudness of the sound. The higher the impedance, the lesser the current that goes in. This results in less power for the headphones. When impedance is low, the opposite happens: it drives more current to the speakers, which leads to a louder audio in a certain voltage. In other words, impedance is inversely proportional to sound level.

Low impedance pairs work best with on-the-go devices like smartphones and portable music players, while high impedance pairs work best with home audio devices.

Q: What is soundstage?

A: Soundstage is how you perceive the instruments used in a piece of music. It is the depth and layout you are able to perceive in the sound. “Narrow soundstage” is when it sounds as though the band is playing right in front of you and you cannot properly separate the instruments. With a wide soundstage, you feel as though you are attending a live performance, and you can tell with clarity the position of each instrument.

Regular speakers provide the best sound stage because they are sending this information to your ears from several feet away, and that enables you to perceive the space between instruments.

Headphones do not as good as soundstage since they present the information to your ears from only a few inches away. In this case, the onus is on the diaphragms and drivers to create some sense of space in the music.

Open-backed cans have the best soundstage. They allow sound to come in through the earpiece’s back, which creates an open, natural, accurate sound. Their soundstage gives the impression of being wider and having more presence.

Q: What is the difference between noise-cancelling and noise-isolating headphones?

A: Noise-cancelling headphones have microphones which listen to incoming sound; after which inverse waves are created and fed back into the headphones. It is these inverse waves that cancel out the ambient sound. Noise-cancelling works best with car engines, air conditioners, and other low-droning sounds. They have a low effect on mid-range sounds such as voices.

Noise isolation is a more familiar concept. Unlike noise cancellation, no electricity is used. Noise isolation, occurs in in-ear and over-ear pairs. The in-ear do it by plugging directly into your ear canal and completely sealing out external noises. The over-ear do it by covering your ear from all sides with high density foam. The success of noise isolation depends on the materials used to make the seal, and the seal’s ability to remain intact.

Q: What is frequency response?

A: Frequency response measures how well your cans are able to reproduce all frequencies equally. It is represented in the form of a graph, with the range of frequencies (Hz) on the x-axis and the amplitude (dBr) on the y-axis. At the lower end of the frequencies is the bass, then the midrange, and then the treble.

The frequency response graph draws a curve that shows what amplitudes your cans have at different frequencies, starting from the bass (left), to the midrange (middle), and the treble (right). When the line is high on the left side but low on the right, this means your headphones are bass-heavy. When low on the left but high on the right, they are “bright” sounding, with emphasized highs and a lean bass response.

Q: What is frequency range?

A: The frequency range is simply the range of frequencies a pair can deliver. It is usually declared on the packaging. Frequency range is divided into three: bass (low frequencies), midrange, and treble (high frequencies).

The bass comprises of frequencies starting from 20 Hz to 250 Hz. The midrange is all frequencies from 250 Hz to 6 kHz. Everything above 6 kHz is treble.

Q: What are drivers?

A: Inside your headphones is something called a driver unit. It is the driver unit that converts an electrical signal into sound. Think of it as a tiny loudspeaker inside your cans. The driver unit consists of a magnet, voice coils and a diaphragm. The driver unit size gives the measure of its ability to produce sound.

The larger the driver, the more power and the better the output frequency range. Higher-end models have more drivers, enabling them to handle different frequencies better than cheaper models. Headphones sound better than earphones because of their larger size.

Q: What is sensitivity?

A: Sensitivity is the effectiveness with which the drivers use power to convert an electrical signal into an acoustic signal so as to produce a clear sound that has no distortion. Sensitivity is related to impedance and must be compatible with it to ensure you enjoy the best audio experience.

It is measured by decibels (dB) of Sound Pressure Level per milliwatt. That is dB/mW or dB SPL/mW. Sensitivity tells us the magnitude of loudness that can be attained at a certain level of power from the source (which is usually 1 milliwatt). The standard sensitivity ranges within 90 to 110 dB/mW – too high and you would have a painful listening experience.

Higher sensitivity ensures better driver performance while using less power; but it also increases chances of distortion at higher volumes (and that may damage your earphones or your ears). Conversely, lower sensitivity earphones need more power and are more durable since they don’t damage the driver unit in spite of all the power they require. Therefore, pair lower sensitivity over-ear cans with high power supplying devices as this will give you the best output sound quality.

Maximum SPL is how loud your headphones can get. It is measured in decibels (dB). The threshold of pain is 120 dB, but the risk of permanent hearing damage begins at 90 dB.

Q: What do these three words mean: bright, warm, neutral?

A:  These are terms used to describe the type of sound your audio gear produces. A warm sound tends towards the bass frequencies, with the bass and vocals having more prominence. The higher sounds are quieter. Warm audio gear is described as being “comfy”, “pleasant”, or “musical”. At the extreme of warm, however, are the bass-heavy, thumpy audio gear.

Bright is the opposite. It refers to gear that reproduces high-pitched sounds. Phrases associated with bright gear include, “sparkle”, “crisp”, and “clarity”.

Neutral is what most audiophiles look for in their equipment. Neutral headphones provide a more pure sound. However, like the Holy Grail, neutral is more of an idea than something that exists. For audio gear to be truly neutral, it would have to reproduce every sound frequency across the entire hearing range equally, which is not possible. Speakers are able to achieve more neutrality than headphones.

Q: How do I take care of and maintain my headphones?

A: There are several steps you can take to take care of your headphones. Some of these include:

  • Keep them in a bag or case when you are not using them. If they didn’t come with one, you can buy one for $30 or less.
  • If you can, hang them on a stand so as to reduce contact with dirty surfaces.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the surfaces (that is headband, pads, cups).
  • Don’t expose them to humidity, high temperatures, direct sunlight, heat vents, and so forth.
  • For velour pads: wipe them regularly to get rid of dust. Alternatively, you can use a battery-powered mini-vacuum (the ones that clean keyboards).
  • For pleather/synthetic leather/protein leather pads: don’t use leather conditioners as they are not intended for synthetic materials. Some leather care oil products can cause pleather to crack over time.
  • For leather pads: plain tap water is appropriate for cleaning leather. Use a soft, damp cloth or leather cleaner. Apply a coat of leather conditioner on the pads two times or so every year.
  • Don’t wind your IEMs around your player as this can result in cable damage, particularly if you wind them tightly. If you wind them like this while still plugged in, there will be strain on the plug too, and this will result in worse damage to both the headphones and the player.
  • Instead, unplug the headphones first, after which you loosely coil them separately to the player.
  • See that the device is not playing anything and the volume is turned right down whenever you connect or disconnect the headphones. If you don’t do this, there may be a “pop” in the driver, resulting in early driver failure.
  • Ensure that the cable is free of tangles or knots.

Q: How do I get more bass out of my headphones?

A:

  1. Velour pads – They are soft and comfortable, sealing out ambient noises. Without the distraction caused by the noise, you are able to better hear the details and the deep bass undercurrent.
  2. Position – Move your headphones around on your head until you find the best position – where comfort and audio are balanced. When you can hear the bassline loud and clear, it means you have found the best position.
  3. Amplifiers – Amps surge more power through the music. However, amps only amplify the source audio. For that reason, always ensure you use good quality audio files.
  4. Equalizer – Use the equalizer settings in your device’s music player to alter the lower frequencies for better bass. If your device does not have equalizer settings, you can download an iPhone or Android equalizer app.

Q: What should I look for in a gaming headset?

A: Gaming headsets are different from musical headphones. They have edgier designs, with emphasis on things like RGB and LED. They have surround sound, whether in virtual or true surround form. They must have a mouse. They often have wireless/Bluetooth connectivity. Their sound tends to be tuned more for low frequencies and surround spatial recognition as opposed to pure audio quality.

Q: What should I look for in a communication headset?

A: They must have a mic. However, unlike gaming headsets, they need a compact form rather than huge. They need to be wireless/Bluetooth-compatible, with a large signal range and stable signal quality. Sound quality usually doesn’t matter.

If it is aviation headsets, they do not have to be wireless. They can also be large. However, they do require extreme durability and excellent isolation.

Wrapping It Up

In spite of the subjectivity of judging audio devices, we were able to select the Ultrasone Pro 900 as the best bass headphones. They deliver a high-quality, deep sound that is detailed, and they block out the noises in your environment.

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