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, mp3 player or mobile phone.
The problem with cheaper ear-bud type headphones is that they tend to be what we call “topsy”, meaning they exaggerate the top end of the sound and can be a bit hissy.
In addition, you don't get to appreciate the lower frequencies and the sound is a bit thin all round.
So it makes sense that to get the most enjoyment out of your music, you might want to get a better pair of headphones.
The thing about over-ear headphones in general is that they give you a more “in-head” experience. By this I mean you can shut the world out and really physically merge with the music.
Investing in better headphones will help you get the most out of your binaural beats experience, and indeed any other meditation-type music you choose to listen to.
Below I have listed options for binaural beats headphones that I have personally tested, and a few of which I own.
I have separated the headphones into three categories for low, mid and high budget ranges.
I am a trained sound engineer so I do have a solid amount of knowledge in this area, but you'll be pleased to know that I've kept the technical jargon to a minimum for you.
The only real technical requirement when it comes to choosing headphones specifically for binaural beats is to buy closed-back headphones, and generally over-ear headphones will be better. Open-back and ear-bud style headphones will do, but closed and over ear give you a more isolated experience.
If you don't know the difference between open and closed-back headphones, here's the Wikipedia definition:
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.~ Wikipedia
Best Headphones for Binaural Beats
- I have linked the pages on Amazon, so you can just click on each name and it will take you directly to the page.
- Occasionally models are upgraded and the page may show ‘unavailable', or ‘there is a newer version of this model'. Feel free to check out the new model, often it's cheaper or at least better.
Low Price Range
1. A fairly popular pair of cheap closed-back headphones are the Koss UR20.
These are very affordable and aren't bad in terms of sound, though they do look a tad cheap and the materials may not last more than a few years. If you're on a real tight budget these will serve the purpose.
2. Also worth looking at is the Superlux HD 668B. These are well balanced headphones for the price and will work well for all types of music; I'm just not too keen on the design.
I'd personally pay a little more and go for the Sennheiser 205 II, which have better sound and increased noise isolation. At $59 you cant go wrong.
I have two pairs of Sennheiser and they've never let me down over the years. One pair is almost antique – dating back to the 70s.
If these are unavailable in your country, the 206 model is decent and cheaper still.
3. If you can stretch your budget a little further, have a look at the Beyerdynamic Custom, which have much better clarity in the upper mid and high frequencies than most other offerings under the $100 mark.
Interestingly, they have a Custom Sound Slider, which gives you the ability to change the sound to closed, semi open, or open.
Closed is ideal for meditation music, and indeed when you want an “in-stage/head” sound and block the world out, and then semi-open and open work well in more public environments when you need to maintain some awareness.
They look slick too. And you get a 2-year warranty.
4. If it's something stylish you're after, take a look at the AKG Pro Audio AKG K72. AKG generally make very good headphones and these closed-back, well-balanced pair are a steal at $50.
If you find headphones generally don't fit you well, these have a versatile adjustable band for a snug fit.
They have a newer edition too, the K92, but people still dig the 72 sound. Have a look at both. They will do the job just fine.
5. If you want something specifically for your iPhone/iPad/iPod check out the Sony-MDRXB600IP. In fact, any of the MDR range (closed back) will give you a respectable sound.
2. Mid-Price Range
1. For ‘mid-priced' closed headphones around the $100 mark, you should check out the Shure SRH-440. My cousin uses these for DJ'ing and absolutely loves them. I had a listen and I thought the frequency response was good. They are collapsible too, for portability.
They have a coiled lead too which is good for keeping things tidy. Long cords draping around the place can be an annoyance.
2. If you intend on moving around a lot then check out the very durable Sennheiser HD 25 ($150). These made their name in the 90s as standard for DJs, and have since become iconic in new generations as a durable, long-lasting, great-sounding pair of headphones. I still have my pair from circa 1996!
3. The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus should get a mention in this category too.
These headphones have highly effective low-bass tuning and a broad frequency response that gives accurate sound. Perhaps a little bulky, but you do get a choice of two colors and a cable with microphone and remote: suitable for smartphone, iPad, tablets, home audio or Pro Audio devices.
4. If you can afford them I can vouch for the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. Like most producers I have a pair of these in my studio and they really are a great all-round, high-quality pair of headphones. Built to last and great sound.
3. High-End Range
1. At $299, the Audio-Technica ATH-M70x are a great pair of headphones. They look good, sound great – due to larger drivers and other high-end materials – and also have a handy fold down design. I really like these. They are studio-grade, so know that there's no compromise on sound. Comparable to the DT770, but look better.
2. The sophisticated Audio Technica ATH-W1000X ($350) are an audio enthusiast's dream, with large and comfortable earpads and a headband that offers superb comfort for those with larger heads.
3. If you have $900 to spend and want superb headphones that will be the envy of all your friends, the upscale Beyerdynamic T5P provide next-level tech that reduces unwanted vibrations and ensures exceptionally harmonic sound reproduction.
If you like your bass, the second generation of these exquisite closed-back headphones has extremely precise bass reproduction.
I tested these at ADE and would love a pair. I simply don't have the money for such a luxury.
4. At the very top of the pile are the Fostex TH-900 , with housings made from Japanese Cherry Birch and finished with Urushi lacquer. These are often out of stock and hard to get hold of. If they are, check out the TH-610 instead. What a dream – complete with wooden housings.
The build is high end, right down to the gold coated jack. The sound is equally as impressive, giving a wider stereo field, higher sound resolution and very transparent reproduction. The price is just over $1,000.
Bluetooth can work with binaural beats but you need to go high end to ensure the frequency response process isn't comprised. On that basis I recommend the Bose Quiet Comfort Series.
These are the only Bluetooth headphones I have tested, apart from a pair of really cheap $10 ones I picked up in Thailand. I'm not saying others won't work well for you but Bose is seriously good.
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?
If you're still stuck, I recommend going for a pair of closed back headphones from any of the following brands:
While most brands do a broad range covering a wide budget, with these brands you can guarantee a baseline of quality, and a good warranty.
There are so many pairs of headphones on the market that in many cases it's very difficult to say x is better than y. It really depends what you want out of the headphones: exaggerated bass, silky highs, flat response, lightweight, sturdy, the list goes on.
If I had to give you some very general advice, I'd say don't rush in and buy really expensive headphones, unless you are an enthusiast. Invest wisely in a known brand in the mid-range – over $100.
If you want me to give you an opinion on a particular pair of headphones, please leave your comment below.
Hi, thank you so much for this article!
Thanks to you, I am now a proud owner of Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80, and I am so happy with every detail of them!
I would appreciate your advice on DACs. Do we need them for iPhones if FLAC files are played with VLC or similar? For now, I am using regular lightning to 3.5mm. With all the reading online, I still cannot understand if the frequency of tones is maintained without 300$ adapters. Thank you 😊
Using a DAC with a phone is a waste of time if you are using a headphone port, because you won’t be bypassing the internal DAC of the phone, so it is the same quality. If you want higher quality sound out of your computer then an external soundcard is a good investment. Also, depending on the Ohms of your headphones you may need better amplification to get the best sound out of them. In terms of the binaural beats frequency response, it is not going to be affected by using a iPhone with your DDT770 plugged straight in.
Do you have any recommendations for sleeping with delta beats? Affordable bluetooth buds would be ideal. I have a cheap pair of buds that attach at the neck that are comfortable for sleeping, but the sound isn’t great (I just use it for audiobooks/podcasts to drown out noise). Unfortunately, most quality buds seem to be uncomfortable sleeping on my side. And there’s no way I could sleep all night on my back with giant phones. Thanks!
Hey, have you tried sleep phone, see here: https://amzn.to/3GaPrps
These are a comfortable solution.
I’m new to all this and I’m abit confused about the requirements for headphones. Standard phones have a range between 20hz and 20 khz. The top of the line headphone you recommend here starts at 8hz.
What about the Delta waves or even Epsilon waves below 4hz? Would these headphones pick these up?
Hi Jonn, sorry I missed this one.
The normal frequency range of headphones is about 20Hz/20,000Hz, and the human ear can detect sounds and recognize them as audible tones as low as 20Hz and as high as 20,000Hz.
But binaural beats are not created by the headphones but rather two carrier frequencies (both of which ARE high enough for standard headphones to reproduce them) that create the effect inside the brain, so they are not affected by the frequency response of headphones.
However, also consider that frequencies do NOT need to be audible for the brain to be affected by them. We are exposed to frequencies daily which are outside of the audible zone, many of which are part of the natural environment and stimulating our senses as we interact.
In short, using a set of headphones which fall within the 20Hz/20,000Hz range will work perfectly fine.
what about earphones? I’ve been looking for a good pair for binarual beats, but I heard noise canceling and noise isolating earphones are not good for brain training.
That’s not strictly true. While you don’t want headphones that overly boost particular frequencies and interfere with the sound too much, closed back headphones are ideal. A good pair of earphones will be more than adequate. There’s another solid article on this here: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/choosing-the-best-headphones-for-binaural-beats/ They go into detail about specific brands of earphones.
Yes, this is true as you don’t want any added bass or high head interfering with the frequency response process.
This is why it is worth buying good quality headphones, like those listed in this post, which are designed to provide “true sound” clarity without bass boosting.
ellen gara says
I was looking at the equisych website and it said not to use high bass headphones. Do you know if this is true for all binaural beat listening?