Best Headphones for Jazz Music

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

Miles Davis.  Thelonious Monk.  Charlie Parker.  Good jazz sounds great, but only as great as the peripherals you pipe it through.  So what are the best headphones for Jazz music?  And does it pay to spend more money?

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

Best Headphones for Jazz Music Under $100 – Audio Technica M40x

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

First on our list, we have the Audio Technica ATH-M40x.  The only-closed back headphone on this list, the M40x offers a rare combination of isolation, accuracy, and an open-back sound (kind of).  At $99, this headphone tip-toes a fine line between neutral sound and a revealing level of detail.

For every Jazz track on my list, this headphone never waxed too crazy on the lows or highs, while still handling everything with Gusto.  Whether bumping some Bird or Dizzy, the sound here remains clean and articulate, but still handles older, lower-quality recordings with delicate ease.

Extra features of note include removable cables, removable earpads, and the overall isolating nature of the ATH-M40x.  This can come in handy on a morning commute, or when your coworker wants to blast the sonic atrocity that is a Vannessa Carlton/Rage Against the Machine mashup, Garrett.

You can find the M40x for the best price at:

Audio46 (Use our promo code “majorhifi” to get 10% off.)

Amazon

 

Best Headphones for Jazz Music Under $300 – Grado SR225e

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

Grado headphones seem especially well-poised to handle jazz tunes.  In fact, most Grado headphones are designed and tested for quality with jazz in mind.  And while almost any Grado headphone sounds killer with jazz tunes, the $200 SR225e constitutes the best value for money.

Sporting a driver matched to a significantly low amount of distortion, the SR225e delivers the kind of sound you routinely find in much more expensive Grado headphones.  It’s a lovely, rich sound brimming with detail.  Tonal fidelity also makes the list of hallmarks, ensuring that I hear the real buzz of Lester Young’s sax, or the brazen trumpet of Ambrose Akinmusire, reaching up, ever up, heavenward.

With a low 32 ohm impedance, this incredibly open-sound can be experienced with a mobile phone or a computer.  Plus, the simple construction keeps the headphones lightweight but durable, and still easy to repair.

Cop the Grado SR225e for the best price here:

Audio46

Amazon

 

Best Headphones for Jazz Music Under $700 – HifiMan HE5se

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

This spot was a tough call, only because Grado Labs has multiple options vying for position in the under-$700 price bracket.  Yet, it’s the Hifiman HE5se that really takes the cake here, offer as wide of a soundstage, while including the kind of meaty, substantial sound you can really sink your ears into.

A thing of beauty, the HE5se comes across as well-balanced and attentive to detail.  It’s a luscious, verdant sound with a snappy, precise attack that breathes a kind of energy into any note.  Tracks from Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie seem to almost drip with a frenetic-but-barely-controlled pulse, that basic essence of Jazz.  The bass impact on the Hifiman HE5se also deserves mentioning:  decisive and powerful, it never waxes too exteme to sound either warm or dark.  Instead, the low end exhibits a precise, exacting nature that remains highly accurate and delightfully crisp.

Power requirements on the HE5se are fairly low, and this unit can still deliver a beautiful, mesmerizing sound with an entry level DAC/amp.  It also treats most source material well, though older recordings may show their shortcomings a bit more readily.  That being said, it’s hard to beat the overwhelming performance of the HE5se at this price.

Snag the HE5se at the lowest price from these sellers:

Audio46 (Use our promo code “majorhifi” to get 10% off.)

Amazon

 

Best Headphones for Jazz Music Under $1700 – Focal Clear

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

There’s a wealth of competition at this price point, but the $1499 Focal Clear comes out on top with a heady mixture of transparency, detail, and solid extension.  With a resonant, crisp character, this headphone will perform admirably with the highest-resolution recordings, while still handling older takes with ease.

The reedy rush of Coltrane’s Blue Train, or the soft, lilting whisper of Masabumi Kikuchi’s Little Abi – the Focal Clear transmutes these standards into new realms of sound.  The difference is one akin to seeing a painting or going to the scene which it depicts.  Everything, laid bare, takes on new life and flavor, a texture, or the distinct feeling of a tug at your heart.

Easy to drive and capable of enormous soundstage, the Focal Clear doesn’t need an amplifier but deserves at least a good DAC.  The overall quality of which will decide just how much of the detail you retain from your source.

Fetch the Focal Clears for the fairest price following these links:

Audio46 (Use our promo code “majorhifi” to get 10% off.)

Amazon

 

Best Headphones for Jazz Music Under $4000 – Final Audio D8000

Best Headphones for Jazz Music

While some folks might give a nod to the Focal Utopia here, I still find the Final Audio D8000 a better option for jazz.  The superb sound quality, touting an astounding level of accuracy and transparency, delivers an impressive listening experience.

And it’s that experience that makes this model the king of jazz headphones.  Less of a headphone and more of a time machine, listening to Monk on the D8000 is like hopping into a time machine and reappearing in some smoke-filled nightclub situated in a hazy New York past.  Every bang on the keys, the sharp sudden stops, and the precise jive of a sax cutting in and the resultant groove…these things (or the small details in between them) seem to only exist on a headphone of this caliber.  The airiness of the soundstage, too, lends more depth and realism to every one of my test tracks.

To really get the most out of this model, a decent amp and DAC are a must.  Despite a closed design, the earpads themselves feature a porous and open design, allowing some manner of isolation while still delivering a ton of soundstage.  Made in Japan with premium materials, the Final Audio D8000 still wears like a dream, but does justice to any Jazz track you throw at it.

Score the D8000 and it’s majestic sound from these fine merchants:

Audio46 (Use our promo code “majorhifi” to get 10% off.)

Amazon

 

Recommendations

It’s hard to narrow down a list of the five best headphones, knowing full well that any open-back cans will provide a greater sense of depth and space that most closed-back headphones.  Still, I believe this list hits the very best in terms of price and performance, but special considerations like isolation might require deviating a bit from this list.

That being said, certain brands like Grado (and perhaps even Final Audio) offer a wide array of headphones at multiple prices.  And all with the kind of balance and attention to detail necessary for a jazz connoisseur.

It should come as no surprise then, that in order to truly enjoy and appreciate your favorite jazz tracks, you shouldn’t need to spend an arm and a leg.  But spending more on some of these headphones will translate to a more detailed and more exacting listening experience.