Most electronic drummers are using headphones while playing. Sure, there’s a few of us playing over sound systems or PA’s every once in a while, but for the most part headphones are going to be the go-to listening option for most. Especially drummers who are apartment goers.
There’s quite a few headphone options out there and there are different types of headphones that will work better for electronic drumming than others.
What Makes A Good Pair Of Headphones For Electronic Drumming?
Believe it or not, there are some things to consider when picking a pair of headphones to use along with your electronic drum kit.
You will see us use the term noise attenuation when talking about headphones. Noise attenuation basically means the ability to passively block out environmental noise. If your headphones block out a lot of noise and you can’t hardly hear people talking around you, that would mean they have good noise attenuation. Not all headphones block out noise, and usually it’s by design whether they do or not.
If you practice drumming a lot, you will be wearing your headphones a lot. It’s not uncommon to wear them for an hour or more if you have longer practice sessions or practice more often. A comfortable pair of headphones is a must. What makes for comfortable headphones?
A softer or thicker headband and ear cup pads are a good start. You don’t want hard or thin padding that will fatigue you quickly.
Ear cups can vary. Larger ear cups that fit over the ears tend to be the most comfortable. Larger, thicker and softer ear pads are generally going to be better. Ear cup material can also range from harder to softer. The covering can also make a difference. Cheaper, fake leather materials can be less comfortable than something that’s higher quality.
Warmth is something to consider. Some headphones can get a lot warmer than others during longer sessions.
Tightness of the headband is another thing. You want the headband to be tight enough to keep the headphones on your head. If you move around a lot while playing drums or bang your head, this is something to consider.
With electronic drums a higher-fidelity sound is usually going to be better. And sound quality can range quite a bit through the various budget ranges of headphones. Generally the more money money you spend on headphones will equate to higher quality sound. However, in the world of headphones, there’s plenty of cheaper headphones that sound just fine if you don’t have a larger budget.
Sound quality can be subjective. You may prefer a certain type of sound and that could make certain headphones more preferable to you personally.
Clarity tends to be the biggest thing to contribute to perceived sound quality. Clarity is what allows you to hear the nuance and details in the sounds, which is what can make things interesting to listen to. For electronic drumming, if you have a higher quality sound module you will probably prefer headphones with better clarity.
Spaciousness and sound stage is used to describe how naturally spacious the sound feels or how wide the sound feels. When you are wearing headphones, the speakers are right next to your ears and the ear cups are probably covering your ears. That’s a very small physical space. Some headphones will do a better job of making the sound still sound naturally spacious as though you are listening on speakers in a room. Some will do a better job of separating the stereo field and placing the sound elements from left to right. Spaciousness is important when mixing and mastering, but may be a subjective thing for electronic drummers.
EQ curve generally describes how pushed certain parts of the EQ spectrum are. At the most basic level the spectrum can be broken down into lows, mids and highs. Some headphones have a fairly flat frequency spectrum with nothing sounding overly pushed and everything will sound more natural. Some headphones have more of a V shaped spectrum where they will emphasize lows and highs over the mids.
Harshness can be used to describe when certain frequency ranges on a pair of headphones are unpleasant to the ears. Harshness can be an issue with lower quality headphones at higher volumes.
Closed Back Design
Closed back design headphones are generally the most ideal for electronic drumming. The reason being that they will have higher noise attenuation. When playing electronic drums, this includes blocking the sounds of sticks hitting the drum pads. Most drummers would prefer to hear the sound module over the pad slapping sounds.
Drummers may decide they prefer a semi-open back design or fully open back design. Reasons for this might be that you want to hear the pads or certain environmental noises more easily. Or maybe you find closed back headphones to be too warm for your environment.
This might seem trivial but a longer cable is a good idea. Most studio level headphones will have at least a 3 meter cable (just under 10 feet). This is ideal. You’ll be moving around a lot while using your drum kit and having a longer cable reduces the chances of yanking the cable accidentally and damaging your headphones or the output on your drum module.
Our Top Headphones For Electronic Drummers
We’ll recommend a few different options here in different price ranges. What we’re mostly looking at is overall quality, comfort and value. We consider closed-back headphones with more noise attenuation to be the ideal option for electronic drummers as well.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones
The Sennheiser 280 Pro offers a nice combination of comfort, sound and value. Their strong point is noise isolation, as they reduce external sounds by up to 32db with just passive noise attenuation. They are known to be very comfortable for longer sessions with nice, thick padding on the headband and the ear cups.
beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Headphones
The beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones are designed for critical studio use. They can make a great option for electronic drumming due to their supreme comfort and sound quality. These headphones are available in 32, 80 or 250 ohm versions – so you can better match up with what your drum module or headphone amp can output and get the best sound possible.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X headphones are well known for studio and DJ use. The qualities that make them good for those situations are what makes them good for electronic drumming as well. They are very comfortable and offer excellent noise attenuation. The sound is great when plugged into a drum module. They are also designed to be collapsible and portable, which is a nice plus.
AKG K92 Headphones
The AKG K92 headphones are a basic, closed-back design that are comfortable for longer sessions. These make a good budget option and sound pretty good for their lower price. They can block a decent amount of external noise and they sound great when plugged into a drum module.