The truth is, when it comes to using binaural beats, you can use low-end earbud headphones like those that come free with your iPod or mobile phone.
But, if like me you want a more “in-head” experience, and want to hear the quality of the sound composition and get the most out of your binaural beats, you will be looking to invest in a better pair for your listening pleasure.
Here's a run down of the best binaural beats headphones for low, mid and high budget ranges. I've tried to include something for everyone, and included my own purchases.
The only real technical requirement when it comes to choosing is buying closed back headphones. Open-back headphones will do, but closed give you a more isolated experience.
If you don't know the difference between open and closed-back headphones, here's the Wikipedia definition (they explain it a lot better than I can) so you can understand why:
Open-back headphones have the back of the earcups open. This leaks more sound out of the headphone and also lets more ambient sounds into the headphone, but gives a more natural or speaker-like sound and more spacious “soundscape” – the perception of distance from the source.
Closed-back (or sealed) styles have the back of the earcups closed. Depending on the model they may block 8-32db of ambient noise, but have a smaller soundscape, giving the wearer a perception that the sound is coming from within their head. One reason for this is that there are sounds reflected back towards the ear.
Low Price Binaural Beats Headphones
The most popular “cheap” closed headphones are probably the Koss UR20, mainly because they are very affordable and aren't bad in terms of sound. I personally have a pair of Sennheiser HD 201‘s, which are only a few quid more and much better in my opinion.
I must confess, I bought them originally because they have the word ‘binaural' in the series name 🙂 They give you a fair amount of quality for little money. I do, however have a much better pair, so do keep reading.
If you pay around $59 you can have the Sennheiser 205 II with slightly better sound and more noise isolation.
Bass lovers can choose the aesthetically pleasing Sony MDR-XB500 for around the same price, while the durable, high-end Beyerdynamic custom have much better clarity in the upper mids/highs than anything else at this price, albeit a tad more expensive.
Also worth looking at is the Superlux HD 668B. Other binaural beats enthusiasts have told me these phones have incredibly good-sounding tone.
Mid-Priced Binaural Beats Headphones
For ‘mid-priced' closed headphones under $100 you should have a listen to the Shure SRH-440, my brother uses these for dj'ing and absolutely loves them.
With a similar sweet sound but slightly warmer-tones, try the Sennheiser HD449 which look awesome and still come in at under $100.
If you intend on moving around a lot then check out the very durable Sennheiser HD 25-1-II ($200); these have a ‘split' headband that perfectly fits your head.
The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro should get a mention in this category too. These headphones have highly effective low-bass tuning and ultra-cool personalization options.
High-End Binaural Beats Headphones
If you can afford high end closed headphones, I can vouch for the AKG K550. These are amongst the best sealed headphone retailing at under $300 – they look great, feel great and sound great. I've had mine over a year and they look and sound brand new. Sound wise the KK550's have an accurate tone at all frequencies and never skimp on bass.
The sophisticated Audio Technica ATH-W1000X ($350) are an enthusiasts dream, with large and comfortable earpads and a headband that offers superb comfort for those with larger heads.
If you have $1,000 to spend, the upscale Beyerdynamic T5P is very efficient (32 Ohms) for non-amped use and has a modest tone with an extensive, spatially precise soundstage image.
Meanwhile the Ultrasone Edition 8 sounds both soulful and hard-hitting at the same time. The Edition 8 is beautifully fashioned with striking elemental materials, and sounds phenomenal. However, if I had $1,500 I'd probably go for the Signature Pro model.
These are sovereigns, offering well defined musical detail, extreme clarity and deep resolution power. Simply spectacular, but pricey as hell. The Fostex come in at $1,499 and the Ultrasone at $1,299.
I know there's a ridiculous amount of choice here, but hopefully this will help you a little in deciding what's best for you. In truth, anything in the low and mid range will do, but if you're an enthusiast with a generous budget, why not treat yourself!