5 Best Bass Headphones: A Guide to Bass Headphones
The Website Urban Dictionary defines Bass Head as:
Simple enough! In today’s world of audio, getting your fix of bass is never too far away. You can go to your favorite club and catch a great EDM, drum & bass, or hip hop set. You can get a ridiculous sound system for your car that will set off other car’s alarms as you drive by. You can also get a subwoofer to accompany your speakers, and take your bass at home or in your music studio to the next level.
But what about headphones? Reproducing and truly feeling those low lows within the confined space of a headphone ear cup is challenging. Lucky for you, nearly every headphone manufacturer has honed in on the need for headphones that excel at thundering bass, and today there are tons of options for you to consider. We did some serious research and put in hours of testing between dozens of models to bring you our guide to the best headphones for bass.
- How Are Bass Headphones Different?
- What To Look For When Buying Bass Headphones
- The 5 Best Bass Headphones
How Are Bass Headphones Different?
Most headphones for bass are not really that technically different than regular headphones. In fact, for some manufacturers it’s largely a marketing message, where they realize popular music (EDM, hip hop, etc.) is bass-heavy, so they try associate themselves with that movement. Beats, for instance, has done a really good job with that. But where some manufacturers spend marketing dollars, others spend on research and development to improve and refine headphone drivers to the point where they can reproduce the lowest, deepest bass tones.
In some cases, manufacturers will create and market a headphone specifically for bass. For example, Sony has the MDR-XB series, where the XB stands for “eXtra Bass.” In other cases, while a manufacturer intended on making a great all-around headphone, the basshead community adopts it for its better-than-average bass response (V-Moda comes to mind).
It’s important to note that bass headphones are not what you want to use to record and produce music in your home studio. Music producers value headphones that have a “flat” frequency response, meaning they don’t diminish or accentuate any frequencies; In other words they’re more honest. Bass headphones are typically meant to impress you with bass, and the frequency curve is more “V-Shaped,” meaning there’s emphasis on the bass and highs, while the mids are recessed.
The size of the driver might differ in bass headphones, in that it’s often larger so it can push more of those lower frequencies. Let’s talk more about that in the next section.
What To Look For When Buying Bass Headphones
Driver size: The driver is basically a tiny speaker in your headphone. It’s the element that converts an electrical signal into sound, and it’s measured in millimeters (mm). You’ll notice that in headphones tailored for bass, manufacturers will tout the size of the driver as a selling point. Driver size for on-ear and over-ear headphones spans between 20mm and 50mm. The larger the driver, the more capable the headphone will be to produce loud, thumping bass.
Comfort: Comfort is just about as important as sound when it comes to any headphone. One of the main reasons headphones get poor reviews is lack of comfort, and bass headphones are no different. Since you’ll be using these headphones for anything from casual music listening, to DJing, Netflix, video games, and more, it’s important that the ear cup cushions are soft and that the headband is not too tight around your head. Isolation is important too, since you’ll more than likely want to crank up the volume to feel the bass more, but don’t necessarily want everyone around you to hear your music.
On-ear vs. over-ear: This one belongs to the “comfort” category, and determines whether the headphone is designed to sit on top of your ear, or over your ear, covering it entirely. On-ear headphones have the advantage of being more compact and letting your ears “breathe” more, while over-ear headphones are larger, tend to have better isolation and a more immersive, deep sound.
Durability: All things equal, a headphone should be built to last. Headphones at lower price points tend to use more plastic as opposed to metal, which in some cases means they’ll break more easily. Durability largely depends on how much you use and abuse them, but either way you want headphones that can survive a few accidental drops on the floor.
Price range: Your price range is one of the most important things no matter what you’re buying, but it’s important to talk about it in the context of headphones. Not all headphones are on the same playing field, and it would be unfair to compare a $300 pair directly with a $80 pair. Per what you’re willing to spend, make sure to judge a headphone on that particular level. Sub-$100 bass headphones will definitely make some compromises, perhaps in build quality and versatility. It’s important to keep in mind that some compromises are OK, provided your needs are being met. If your needs aren’t being met, your headphones will end up in a drawer, so make sure to look at all your options and/or save up some more money to get something you really want. Ideally you’ll keep your headphones for many years to come, so it’s worth thinking about if you should splurge a bit to get something higher quality that you’ll love.
The 5 Best Bass Headphones
Let’s jump right in and discuss our top 5 picks for the best headphones for bass.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100
As the direct link between you and your music, your choice of headphones is an extremely important and personal one. With so many headphones now on the market it can be a difficult task to settle on the right pair for you. While no headphone is perfect, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 comes about as close as possible. Stellar sound, fantastic bass, and immaculate construction make it one of the top performing headphones around.
Build and Features:
The M-100 is one of the best-built headphones you will ever find. Every piece feels premium and is built to stand up to the highest standards.
Most noteworthy is the resilience of the STEELFLEX headband. Twist and bend it how you like, it can take it and then some. Unless you are diligently trying to break it, it will endure any stress you throw at it on the road.
Then there is the frame, which is made of steel rather than the usual plastic. The strength of the steel means that, instead of the bulky builds of most headphones, The M-100 is able to be both very strong and surprisingly light. The V-Modas unique ‘Clique fold’ hinges, which, as the name suggests, make a very satisfying click as the headphones fold, allow the M-100 to collapse into one of the smallest bundles on the market. In the provided hard case, the M-100 is compact, well protected, and suitable for transport in the harshest conditions. DJs will feel perfectly comfortable tossing them in their bag for the trip to their gig and casual users will never have to worry about damaging them in transit.
Even the cables are prepared for any scenario. The Kevlar reinforced build is able to withstand over a million bends (Which is over 100x the industry standard).
For such a compact and heavy duty headphone the M-100 is also surprisingly feature rich. First is the detachable cable. Now, removable cables are in themselves not that big of a deal, and are found in most pro-grade headphones, but V-Moda takes it to the next level. The cable is capable of plugging into the left or right ear cup meaning you can take your pick (this is particularly useful for DJs who need to switch sides with mixers). The additional port can also be used to daisy chain with another pair of headphones to share your music! As a precaution, V-Moda provides two plugs which can be used to protect the unused cable inputs from dust or other small refuse which, without a barrier, can harm an otherwise exposed port.
Two cables are included in the box with the headphones. The first is equipped with a phone remote, allowing you to control your music and leave your phone in your pocket. The second has a split at the input and a second port, which allows a friend to plug into the cable and listen alongside you.
Finally, comes the best “extra” of the M-100, and this isn’t even a physical attribute. V-Moda’s Immortal Life Program states that, “In the unlikely event you run over your headphones with a tank...” you are eligible to receive a 50% discount off your next pair. This program does not expire; by owning a pair of M-100s you are eligible, for life, for the discount replacement.
Sound and Bass Response:
The fantastic build and extra features mean nothing however if the sound quality isn’t there and fortunately the M-100 provides excellent sound across the spectrum. The highs shimmer and have a warm feel to them, which is a nice contrast to the shrill piercing highs of many lower end headphones. That’s not to say the high end is reduced at all. On the contrary the M-100 can reach frequencies of up to 30kHz, about 10kHz higher than the human ear can detect. It’s simply that those high frequencies are not screeched into your ear. Instead the best tones are brought out and the harshest ones are reigned in. The middle range is less prominently featured. It certainly doesn’t disappear; it just won’t jump out at you. It complements and reinforces the high end and the low end well.
On to the Main event: The bass of the M-100 is a force to be reckoned with. V-Moda’s 50mm “Dual Diaphragm Drivers” pump out some of the most powerful bass on the market. Reaching down to 5Hz (the average person can only hear down to ~20Hz) the M-100 has no difficulty reproducing even the deepest sounds in your favorite music. The sound is as pure as it gets with no distortion, even at the lowest frequencies, played at the highest volumes. Despite having such a strong low end the bass does not overpower the higher registers (which is a common issue with other bass heavy headphones). Instead, it feels more like placing a subwoofer along two already nice speakers, enriching the sound rather than overpowering it.
The powerful bass means that these headphones may not have a neutral enough sound to act as studio monitors (the Audio Technica ATH-M50x or Sony MDR-7506 may serve you better there); but for any other purpose, such as DJing (where the emphasis on bass and the kick drum are imperative for beat matching) or just listening for pleasure, these are just about the best sounding headphones you will find.
One additional fun feature of the M-100s is the customization. In addition to the four color options currently offered, you are able to have any logo you want laser-etched into the “shield” on the side of the ear cup. These laser-etched shields can be a multitude of colors in aluminum or fiber. Alternatively if you really want to step it up, you can choose to have your design 3D printed into the shield. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, you can even choose to have your shields made of precious metals such as silver, gold, or Platinum (it should be noted that these are purely aesthetic choices and the more valuable materials do come at an up-charge).
The striking appearance, rock-solid construction, and powerful bass alongside overall superb sound quality of the M-100s make them an excellent choice for anyone looking to step up their headphone game. While they carry a premium price tag, you truly get what you pay for, and some. Not just the best bass headphone; one of the best headphones around in general. Best of the Best.
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 Over-Ear
It’s hard to make a “best headphones” guide and not have Sennheiser show up to the party. The German company is no stranger to making very well-loved headphones for all applications - super high-end audiophile, studio, DJ, casual listening, in-ear... and now, amazing bass response. To be fair, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 Over-Ear Headphones, much like the V-Moda M-100, are not marketed specifically for their bass response. These are marketed as achieving audiophile sound quality, yet maintaining daily portability. And granted they do a really good job at that, but the reason they are on this list is because they are widely regarded as some of the best headphones for bass. Let’s find out why...
Build and Features:
First, let’s get one thing out of the way - these headphones are premium. They look, feel, and sound expensive (we’ll talk more about their sound in a little bit). If you’re looking for the best bass headphones under $100, you probably shouldn’t be looking at these, since they’re more than 2X that price.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 are the top-of-the-line of the MOMENTUM series, and improve on the first generation MOMENTUM over-ear headphones in just about every way. From the moment you take these out of the box, they ooze quality and polish. You get a luxurious semi-hardshell case covered in a felt-like material, and a soft pouch for even more protection. This headphone folds for portability, which is a plus (folding mechanism seems durable). While you don’t have as much customization available as the V-Moda M-100, these do come in 3 color options: Black, Ivory, and Brown. It’s all subjective, but we’re not a fan of the brown. Ivory is nice if you’re going for more of a classy look, but the ones we opted for are the lean-and-mean black color which looks great (you can never go wrong with black). Style-wise, these are on-point. Whether you’re just looking at them or wearing them on your head, they look really proportional and polished. You’ve got brushed metal, a leather headband with contrast stitching, and the Sennheiser logo is hologram-like and changes color depending on the angle you’re looking from. Again, premium all around. The construction overall is very solid, and mostly metal and leather (as opposed to Bose and Beats that have a lot of plastic).
The MOMENTUM 2.0 comes with a detachable 3ft cable of pretty average quality (V-Moda’s cable wins hands-down here). When you’re buying these from an online store, you can pick between Android or iOS, which affects the integrated in-line remote. The 3.5mm plug has a unique locking mechanism so that it stays in place and can’t easily be yanked out (a feature we can appreciate).
Let’s talk about comfort: These might be some of THE MOST comfortable headphones we’ve ever tried. The previous version of the MOMENTUM had some comfort issues, and Sennheiser seems to have fixed everything. The leather ear cups are plush and soft (almost like a memory foam). There’s a ridiculous amount of padding, and even after several hours none of us felt fatigue on our heads and ears. The top headband isn’t the most plush one around, but it doesn’t seem to matter as the pressure is distributed very easily across your head. The ear cups are of ample size and truly do fit over the ear, creating a great (yet comfortable) seal.
Sound and Bass Response:
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 headphone has an 18 Ω impedance, and a frequency response of 16Hz - 22kHz, which spans well beyond what humans can hear, so you’re definitely covered in that respect. Of all the bass headphones we talk about in this guide, these are probably the most detailed overall. The bass - while not as impressive as that of the V-Moda M-100 - is still very round and powerful. Most user reviews out there make mention of their particularly punchy bass response. If you’re into bass heavy music, you will love listening to it through these. This user review articulates it well:
“Immediately apparent over the previous iteration is the tighter control of the attack and the more precise rendition of decay resulting in one of the best bass performances that I have heard, period.”
However, the sound quality extends well into the mids and highs. The mids in particular are extremely detailed, making these well-suited to listening to genres like jazz and classical; The smallest nuances can be heard in vocals and guitars. In terms of isolation, while they don’t block external noise to the extent of a noise-cancelling headphone, the MOMENTUM 2.0 does a really nice job. Unless you crank them to near max volume, they don’t leak much noise to the outside due to a good seal.
The first generation of Sennheiser MOMENTUM headphones was good, but lacking in the comfort department. Sennheiser listened to user feedback and remedied that, and much more. In terms of the best bass headphones for your money, while they won’t rattle your brain with bass, they’re probably the best well-rounded sounding headphones that happen to have particularly good bass. They’re a bit on the pricey side, but the sound + premium details make it feel like you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. If you’re into bass-heavy music but occasionally listen to softer genres, these headphones will suit you well. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also extremely good looking!
Unlike the V-Moda M-100 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM, the Sony MDR-XB600 on-ear headphones are specifically marketed as bass heavy headphones; In fact, the XB in the name stands for “eXtra Bass,” and we’re happy to report these absolutely deliver on that promise. The street price of these comes in comfortably under $100, making these the best bass headphones under $100 you can buy. Let’s talk about their pros and cons.
Build and Features:
The fit, finish, look, and feel of the MDR-XB600 is pretty nice overall. Unlike more premium headphones, at this price range you get a plastic build as opposed to metal (to be expected). Luckily, the top of the headband has some nice leather on it. The unboxing is a nice and straightforward experience. They don’t come with a carrying case or pouch, and all you’ll find in the box is some documentation, and the headphones with their non-detachable cable. It’s a shame there’s no carrying case because these fold up nicely and are great to take with you on-the-go (you can buy a case separately made by Sony specifically for these).
This headphone definitely gets points for style, with a nice brown/black/gold color combo. You shouldn’t be surprised if you get a compliment or two with these wrapped around your head. Despite the all-plastic construction, they feel relatively well-built. The ear cups have a generous amount of tilt, and they are easily adjustable to find your most comfortable headband length.
Speaking of comfort, these headphones are actually massively comfortable, even for extended wearing periods. You’ll probably grow tired of listening to so much bass before you tire of the way they feel around your head and on your ears! These are ON-EAR headphones, not over-ear, meaning they rest on top of your ear. The pads are very plush and soft, and tend to mold to you over time. Comfort can truly make or break a headphone, so we’re happy to say we lasted several hours before wanting to take these off.
The cord that’s attached to the Sony MDR-XB600 is flat, and supposedly tangle-free (for what it’s worth, it stayed relatively tangle-free for us). It’s a nicely designed cord that ends in a right-angle 3.5mm plug. One minor annoyance is that the cord attaches to both the left and right ear cups, as opposed to just on one side.
Sound and Bass Response:
Alright, onto the main show. How do these things sound, and specifically how good is the bass? In short, they sound good, and as Meghan Trainor says these are all about that bass. On paper the frequency response is 4Hz - 24kHz, and due to the 40mm drivers these deliver some seriously big bass. It’s big and it’s overpowering, and it’s absolutely IDEAL for bass heavy electronic music and hip-hop. We wouldn’t recommend these if you’re looking for something well-rounded for music genres with high dynamic range and subtlety. Basically, for folk, jazz, classical, etc. you should look elsewhere. These are great headphones to throw on and enjoy Jay-Z, Biggie, Drake, Skrillex, Noisia and truly feel the bass. The midrange and highs are unremarkable. They’re not terrible, but that’s not why you should be getting these. The bass tends to be overpowering for non-bass-centric genres of music.
If you’re looking for well-built, attractive, and budget-friendly headphones that can deliver some tremendous bass, the Sony MDR-XB600 fit the bill perfectly. We’re surprised how good these are as on-the-go headphones, since they’re relatively compact, very comfortable, and have minimal leakage of sound. Again, if your focus is not on bass music, you might want to skip these (but then again, you’re reading a guide on the best bass headphones so you’ve probably taken a wrong turn somewhere). We deem these both the best bass headphones under $100, and the Best Bang for your Buck overall.
Japanese company Audio-Technica is well-regarded in the headphone world for making some “best in class” headphones for all sorts of uses. We’ve previously written a glowing review of Audio-Technica studio headphones, so we were excited to try out some of their bass-heavy offerings. The Audio-Technica ATH-PRO700MK2 takes a spot as one of the best headphones for bass available today.
Build and Features:
Audio-Technica calls these “Professional DJ Monitor Headphones,” and a slant towards the performing DJ can definitely be seen in their build quality, features, and included accessories. Don’t let the label put you off, though. Since these are made to withstand the rigors of DJing and live performance, they most certainly can handle regular everyday use and jamming your bass-heavy music genres.
“Built like a tank” comes to mind when you first take this headphone out of the box. Plastic is used for most of the construction, but despite this there’s something about the way it’s put together that feels very strong and robust. When testing them we didn’t quite try to destroy them, but numerous reviews we read mentioned that these survive being dropped, crushed, twisted, and even having liquid spilled on them without as much as a scratch. With the DJ in mind, these fold up to a very compact size and include a soft case, as well as a detachable cable (which plugs into the right ear cup). Actually, the ATH-PRO700MK2 comes with two cables: a 1.2m straight cable (1.2m), and a coiled cable which is ideal for DJ use (1.2m coiled, extending to 3m at full stretch). You also get a 3.5mm to 1/4” adapter to use with the coiled cable, which accommodates more pro-audio DJ equipment.
The ear cups have a large amount of rotation on all axes, which again is great if you’re performing with them. The adjustability on these is good, and the headband has nice padding on the underside. One small downside is that these are a pretty tight fit at first. They will loosen up over time (according to reviews), and you can expedite this process by stretching them over the box they come in overnight. The included ear pads are unfortunately not that comfortable, but there’s a solution for this which we’ll cover shortly.
Sound and Bass Response:
In terms of tech specs, the Audio-Technica ATH-PRO700MK2 has an impedance of 38 Ω, and a frequency response of 5Hz - 35kHz. 53mm drivers are responsible for pumping out some really nice sound. We’re definitely not the first ones to call the ATH-PRO700MK2 good bass headphones. Around headphone/audiophile communities this is a well-known fact, but the sound quality and spectrum of this headphone is actually pretty interesting. Unlike the Sony MDR-XB600 where the bass is very overtly the focal point, these have a good balance across the lows, mids, and highs, with very clearly defined bass (aptly described as “movie theater bass” by an Amazon reviewer). The middle frequencies and treble are clean and crisp; nothing earth-shattering, but not bad either.
They are definitely not as refined as the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, which won top honors in our Best Studio Headphones guide. If you’re looking to produce electronic music in the studio, go for those instead as they are more “honest.” These exaggerate bass, and are definitely better-suited for DJing, or listening to bass-heavy music genres like electronic, pop, or hip-hop. Sound isolation is good both from the inside and out.
Remember how we said the included ear pads aren’t very comfortable? Nearly every review we read recommends buying the ATH-M50 pads and spending a couple of minutes switching them out. This user’s comment made us laugh, but is also pretty accurate:
“...make sure you order the M-50 pads at the same time to avoid having to deal with having stones against your head. The M50 pads make ALL the difference. Literally ridiculous. Like softness scale: knuckles to boobs.”
You can find the ATH-M50 pads here.
For under $150, these are pretty outstanding bass headphones, and just solid headphones overall. The build quality definitely feels like that of a more expensive model (despite plastic being used). If you’re a casual listener looking for a headphone that can handle some serious bass, and you want to dabble in the art of DJing, this one is a great fit. If these are above your price range and all you really care about is bass, the Sony MDR-XB600 is be a better bet. Otherwise, these are a great value and get our seal of approval.
Bassheads, listen up - your headphone Holy Grail has arrived, and it goes by the name of JVC HA-SZ2000. These are imported from Japan, but luckily Amazon makes it easy to get your hands on a pair (you might have to wait 2-3 weeks before they arrive at your doorstep). These are some serious bass headphones, made for the person who seriously loves bass. That’s not to say they are a one-trick pony. With the right setup, they can be a fantastic sounding headphone for numerous applications. In this review we’ll go over some of the pros and cons of the JVC HA-SZ2000, and talk about what you should do to bring the best out of them.
Build and Features:
These headphones are quite large, heavy, and built like tanks. They’re definitely not made with portability in mind (though they do come with a nice little bag for protection). The materials are a mix of metal and plastic, and the construction quality seems pretty good overall (they’re a little creaky and noisy, but that’s only an annoyance when you’re handling them - once they’re on your head they’re fine). The headband is thick and feels comfortable against your head. The stock ear pads are decent, but many reviewers recommend swapping them out for JVC HA-M55X pads:
“Swap out the stock pads for the ones used on the JVC HA-M55X headphones. The pads are capable of transferring so much more kinetic kick to your skull that they don't even feel like the same headphones! (And they had plenty straight out of the box.)”
Sound and Bass Response:
Of all the headphones we recommend in this guide, these are without a doubt capable of the most thunderous bass. They’re often described as being like subwoofers right up against your head. For this reason, they’re quite polarizing - people either love them or hate them. What some people might be missing, however, is that to get the best performance out of them, some setup work is necessary as well as investing in a little more gear. In fact, if you plug them into your music player right out of the box you might even think they sound underwhelming, falling way short of the hype.
First of all, these are pretty sensitive to being properly broken in. Expediting the break-in process for headphones involves playing white, pink, and brown noise through them on repeat for many hours (even several days). Any headphone will be broken in eventually from normal use, but for these it seems to be particularly important.
Finally, an equalizer is recommended to not only push the bass to its fullest potential, but also to customize the tone and make the HA-SZ2000 much more versatile.
When you have these set up right, the bass is absolutely no joke. The mids and the highs are unremarkable right out of the box, but if you use them with an amp and EQ, you’ll find they can improve significantly. From a user review:
“ You don't just get bass, you get all of it, and the sub-bass is just nuts. Think 80's Hardcore club tower speakers and you're 3 feet from them. Your drink clearly shows the ripples from the bass? THAT'S what it's like to listen to the HA-SZ2000s.”
Another reviewer talks about how versatile the HA-SZ2000 are with a headphone amp:
“Once I threw an amp on it, these became different headphones. By far the most "customizable" tonal headphones i've ever listened to. You want stupid monster bass, and crystal clear highs that will impress your friends, as well as being a treat to listen to rap/hip-hop/dubstep? This does it with flying colors. You want unbiased flat tonal playback? Sure, just adjust the eq. You want to listen to an opera in 24 Bit? Sure, they sound phenomenal.”
Trying out the JVC HA-SZ2000 headphones is probably one of the most interesting gear tests we’ve ever done. We had no idea headphones were capable of producing this much bass, especially from 30mm drivers (the secret is in JVC’s “carbon nano tube diaphragms”). If you’re a bona fide basshead, these need to be on your short list. They’re a little bulky and heavy, a tad pricey, and you’ll have to be patient as they ship to you from Japan. You’ll also need to invest in a headphone amp to get the best results out of them (and if you’re serious about your bass, you should). If these things don’t bother you, then no headphone can really match the JVC HA-SZ2000 when it comes to bass. And, believe it or not, with the right setup you can turn them into near audiophile-quality, tonally balanced headphones.