Here at MajorHiFi we demo a lot of headphones. And while most of our writers’ tastes are broad, specific headphones can lend something special to individual genres of music. As a hip hop fan, I have comprised a list of the best headphones for listening to this oft-underappreciated genre. So sit back, put on some Wu-Tang, and read on.
Best Headphones for Hip Hop
Best Headphones for Hip Hop Under $100 – Audio Technica WS770iS
The Audio Technica ATH-WS770iS utilizes a plastic-and-aluminum construction for a lightweight but comfortable fit. Vocals seem a little recessed, but the saving grace of the WS770iS comes in the form of a robust, deep low end. Music sounds powerful and distinct, with sharp, articulate drums that contrast with relaxed vocals. A vibrant, explosive bass response wells up in the low end, making this a solid option for bassheads as well.
Compared to other headphones priced under $100, the WS770iS offers more bass and a competitive amount of detail. The only other headphone that might come close – the Audio Technica ATH-M40x, features a flatter, more neutral sound. And, while the sound on the M40x might be a little more detailed or revealing, the lackluster-to-nonexistent bass response may leave diehard hip hop fans wanting more.
Get the Audio Technica ATH-WS770iS for the best price here:
Best Headphones for Hip Hop Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 770
A step up in build quality and performance over the WS770iS, the Beyerdynamic DT-770 offers a more refined listening experience while still not breaking the bank. In the mids and highs, vocals remain clear and distinct with better accuracy than other headphones at this price point. This rich, articulate listening experience allows a listener to better understand a hip-hop artist’s diction and flow, or to pick apart heavily-juxtaposed recording samples.
The low end comes across as accurate, but also features a slightly-emphasized bass response. Punchy and precise, this bass response is on par with that of the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, but the Beyerdynamic DT 770 doesn’t suffer the same frequency bump in the high end. This results in an overall cleaner sound, and one that still hits every mark for our hip hop test tracks.
Get the Beyerdynamic DT 770 for the best price here:
Best Headphones for Hip Hop Under $500 – Audeze EL-8
Exhibiting impressive extension in the low end, the El-8 doesn’t skip on mids or highs, either. While slightly relaxed for other genres, the mids and the highs showcase the perfect amount of detail for hip-hop. This sound ensures vocals register clean and precise, with optimal contrast against an articulate, three-dimensional background. But it also works great with purely instrumental tracks, where the low end highlights the general rhythm while the mids and the highs deliver stunning vocals.
Frankly, the Audeze EL-8 sounds like it was made for hip hop, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better-sounding option at this price. But Audeze also has a leg up in terms of build quality. Made in America, Audeze headphones utilize premium materials. And while this does add some weight to the EL-8, it also imparts a strong impression of craftsmanship.
Get the Audeze EL-8 for the best price here:
Best Headphones for Hip Hop Under $1000 – Mr Speakers AEON Flow
The Mr Speakers AEON Flow provides a rich, expansive sound with some pleasant warmth to boot. Offered in an open-back and closed-back design, this headphone (in either variation) sounds fantastic for hip hop. Folks who want more soundstage should opt for the open design, though, whereas the closed back iteration will deliver better isolation (at the expense of some soundstage).
Pumping some MF DOOM/Madvillain, the Mr Speakers AEON Flow brings vocals to the fore, with a slightly forward presentation. But the well-balanced sound profile here keeps the naturally-extended lows and and highs present. The result crystallizes into a precise, exacting sound with ample bass and treble, and a fine midrange that emphasizes vocals.
Get the Mr Speakers AEON Flow for the best price here:
Best Headphones for Hip Hop Under $2000 – Audeze LCD-XC
Like the EL-8 and the AEON Flow, the Audeze LCD-XC uses a planar-magnetic driver that delivers a more natural low end and bass response. Marked by this strong low end, as well as a relatively full midrange, the LCD-XC sounds fantastic for hip hop. On tracks like Atmosphere’s Virgo, the LCD-XC exhibits great tonal accuracy and tons of resolution, bringing vocals to life alongside more intricate instrumentation.
Compared to other headphones around this price, the LCD-XC offers more detail in the mids, while still retaining a rich, extended bass response. Compared to the likes of the Fostex TH900 Mk II, the LCD-XC offers a more lifelike and resolving sound – the perfect sound profile for vocal-heavy hip hop. For fans of more soundstage, though, and picking apart layers and layers of sampling, the LCD-X might offer a close second or runner-up.
Get the Audeze LCD-XC for the best price here:
Well, there you have it folks. The best headphones for hip-hop. Are there even more expensive, higher-end options out there? Absolutely. Models like the Sennheiser HD820 and the Audeze LCD-MX4 come to mind almost immediately. While more expensive, these models would offer much more detail than those models on this list. However, that being said, any headphone on this list will provide an excellent place to begin exploring hip hop, or to waken your ears to nuances and contrasts you might be missing out on.