The critical importance of good headphones

If you’re exploring musical styles, e.g. via my guides to contemporary classical and modern art jazzremember to get some good headphones. This is obvious in retrospect but often neglected. When I switched from cheap to good headphones years ago, I realized there were entire instruments in my favorite songs that I hadn’t been hearing. When my boss Holden finally got good headphones, he started to like minimalism much more than he had previously. Seriously, get some decent headphones.

Which headphones, exactly? Probably just get whatever The Wirecutter recommends for your style: on-ear vs. over-ear vs. in-ear, wireless vs. wired, exercise vs. normal, etc.

You’ll hear a big difference between e.g. the default iPhone headphones and something that costs $70, and you’ll probably hear another difference between a $70 set and a $300 set, but I’m skeptical that most people can hear a difference beyond $300 (for headphones).

If you’re very cost conscious, go with the currently-$23 in-ear headphones here or the currently-$85 over-ear headphones here.

If you’re less cost conscious, go with either the wired or Bluetooth noise-canceling over-ear options here. (I suspect everyone can tell the difference between active noise-canceling and no noise-canceling, but few people can tell the difference between the very good sound of the best noise-canceling headphones and the absolute best sound quality available from non-noise-canceling headphones.)


  1. Toggle says

    My MDR-7506 headphones just came in today, and they’re far superior to other pairs I bought at the same price point. Thanks for the suggestion!

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