When you see a rock or jazz band playing live, you might notice that drummers usually wear headphones. “Why should they?” – some might ask. Indeed, there are many reasons for drummers to use drum earphones, and they influence the choice of a model. Not any headphones will do: Some requirements narrow down the choice to certain segments.
If you aspire to be a drummer or at least embrace playing drums as a hobby, you should also pay some attention to choosing the right headphones. This article focuses on what to pay attention to and what to avoid to prevent disappointment.
What to Look for in Headphones for Drummers
First of all, let’s look at what the headphones on a drummer’s head are for. The jobs they do are the following:
- Protecting the ears. It’s indeed loud when you’re behind an acoustic drum set. In addition, there is an entire band playing, amplified by powerful equipment, and often a crowd roaring;
- Delivering the sound of the other musicians;
- For electronic drums, that’s the only way to hear what you’re actually playing.
Given these aims, we can say exactly what to look for in the perfect headphones for a drummer.
- Good acoustic isolation. The acoustic drums sound very, very loud when you’re playing them. So does the entire band. The value to look at is passive noise reduction: 20-30 dB will do.
- Wide frequency range. You need to aim for something greater than the standard consumer value of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. That’s the guarantee you’ll adequately hear everything, from the lowest kicks to the highest hi-hats.
- Fast response. This means a solid NO! to any wireless models. This also depends on the preamp and the mixer, as well as the whole equipment chain the sound is going through.
- Comfortable design. You’re going to be wearing them for hours, so if they are too heavy or too tight, discomfort is granted. As if the rest of a drummer’s work isn’t hard enough. In addition, pay attention to the cable and the plug and/or adapter. They should sit firmly in the socket and not constrain your movements; coiled cables are better at that.
- This might go against the specialization we champion, but if you’re tight on budget or don’t want to switch them constantly, you can choose among studio headphones that comply with the rest of the requirements.
Knowing what to search for, we proceed to the matter of personal choice.
Over-Ear or In-Ear?
This dispute is among the everlasting ones. Since in-ear models with decent isolation appeared, they have found many fans among drummers. If we compare the two classes, we can point out the advantages of each.
In-ear model advantages:
- Provide a clearer sound;
- Have better (at least, not worse) isolation;
- Don’t squeeze your head with the headband;
- Allow you to choose the earbud sleeves that perform the best and irritate the least.
Over-ear model advantages:
- Easier to take on or off;
- Don’t cause sea sickness because of the pressure differential in the ear;
- Look rockier;
- Offer a wider choice of professional models.
At the end of the day, though, it’s a matter of personal comfort. Both classes are represented by dozens or even hundreds of models, and the price range for both of them is similar: A decent pair can be bought for as low as $50, while the upper limit seems to be nonexistent.
Which Brands Are the Best?
There are two categories of brands that we’d recommend looking at as you search for the best headphones for playing drums.
- Professional audio equipment manufacturers. These are Beyerdynamic, AKG, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Austrian Audio, and others.
- Drum manufacturers. Roland, Alesis, and some other brands also make headphones tailored for musicians and sound engineers.
Some also consider DJ headphones well-suitable for drummers, but here we’d rather disagree. A DJ uses headphones in a different way, often putting only one earcup on and listening to the monitor with another. This allows the DJ to match the beat. In addition, DJ headphones often come with boosted bass, which also makes beatmatching easier but distorts the overall soundscape a bit. Finally, if only one ear is covered, there is no need to care about isolation; for a drummer, though, it’s a key requirement. So, Pioneer, Technics, sorry.
Along with these brands, you can also do some research about Asian manufacturers from China, Korea, or Taiwan. Manufacturers like HiFiMan, Takstar, Superlux, and some others also offer decent professional headphones that can do the job. Some models by other manufacturers can also appear quite suitable, checking all the boxes.
Which manufacturers would we not recommend? These are the brands that specialize in smartphones and accessories for them. Forget about Apple along with Beats: They can be good for listening to music, but that’s it. The same is with Samsung and its subsidiary JBL. The only exception is Sony: The Japanese giant has some solid models that do the job for a drummer.
Specialized or Common?
The answer seems obvious, as professional headphones have been existing as a separate category for decades. It’s rather consumer models that once separated from the professional mainstream. Yet the specialization has gone even further, and though there are no models that are advertised exclusively as “headphones for drummers,” many mention it as a possible use case.
It’s better to choose among professional models. Audiophile ones often lack proper isolation, being great elsewhere. As for mass-market consumer headphones, sometimes, they also surprise with unexpected quality for the price (though it’s rather an exception). It’s better to search among studio-class headphones, given that the checklist for them is very similar. In addition, you can buy a studio pair that satisfies your requirements and use it for both playing and mixing or mastering.
So, you can choose any headphones or earphones you like, as long as they provide everything you really need. Don’t pay much attention to various gimmicks you don’t need such as turning earcups or optional Bluetooth; they don’t matter. Comfort, protection, and good sound are everything. We hope the headphones you choose will give you more close connection to music.