Best headphones for electronic drums: over-ear and in-ear models

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Drum sets are mostly loud and have an assertive sound – this is the perception most people have about the instrument. However, this is only partially true as drums and drumming collectively don’t always have to be loud, especially with electronic kits. 

Electronic drum sets are a great option for playing or practicing at reasonable volume levels. They are especially good if you live in an apartment or have your neighbors close by. But electronic kits are much more than just attenuating volume levels and overall playing. They are also great at sampling the wood tones of different types of acoustic kits. 

If you currently own an electronic drum set or are planning to buy one soon, you can either go for an amplifier or a pair of headphones to listen to the processed sound of the kit. If one of the main reasons for you to play an electronic drum set is to practice at low to medium volume levels without disturbing your family or neighbors, you’ll be better off with a pair of good headphones.

How well do headphones go with electronic drum sets? 

If it’s your first time on electronic drum sets or are switching to an electronic kit from an acoustic kit, the idea of listening to your playing using headphones may seem odd at first. However, a significant part of the function or advantage of electronic kit has got to do with playing or practicing in isolation using headphones. 

In almost all electronic drum sets, the sound module that does all the sound processing work is also designed for headphone input and not just for amplifier input.

Image credit: Guitar Center YouTube

Image credit: Guitar Center YouTube

In many premium electronic drum sets, the sound module also includes headphone-specific control parameters, including overall wood-tone simulation, reverberation, and equalization. 

Electronic drum set headphones – does quality matter? 

It can seem off-putting when you have to go through another expense of buying a headphone after you’ve already spent money on buying your electronic drum set. However, as it is with almost all types of electric musical instruments, the sound output (whether it’s a headphone or an amplifier) can either elevate the overall sound or be a bottleneck. 

Cheap headphones aren’t good for electronic drum sets as they become a bottleneck in getting the best performance out of your new kit. Cheap headphones have low-quality sound drivers that do not have the amount of fidelity needed to accurately reproduce the sounds of each cymbal, each tom, and the snare and the hi-hat. 

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What are the right types of headphones for electronic drums? 

Not all types of headphones work great for electronic drums, both in terms of the overall design and audio performance. It’s best to go for either over-ear headphones or in-ear earbuds/in-ear monitors as they are great at isolating external noise. 

Over-ear headphones have a circumaural fit and cover the whole ears. As such, they are effective at blocking out ambient noise. This, in turn, helps you get fully focused on your playing or practice sessions.  

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Similar to over-ear headphones, in-ear earphones and monitors are effective at eliminating external noise. They insert inside the external ear canal and form a seal that does not let ambient noise in. 

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The best part about over-ear and in-ear headsets is they work well for acoustic drum sets as well. By blocking out the noise to a significant level, these two types of headphones help you keep your ears safe and protect your hearing. 

Checklist for choosing headphones for electronic drums

Even if you explore different options in the over-ear and in-ear headset category, it’s important to note that not all consumer-grade models work well for edrums. Whether you have a high or limited budget, it’s important to consider some of these factors to make sure that you do not go wrong on the model you plan on buying:

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1. It’s best to not go for open-back over-ear headphones

There are two types of headphones in the over-ear fit category, closed-back headphones, and open-back headphones. The latter is not best suited for electronic drums as they have openings on the ear cup enclosures. The openings let external sound in and therefore defeat the purpose of isolating yourself from background noise when you are playing or practicing. Learn more about open-back headphones here.

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2. Bluetooth headphones can be an unnecessary purchase

Many modern electronic drum sets include sound modules that support Bluetooth connectivity. However, it’s best not to pair such a kit with wireless Bluetooth headphones. This is because the Bluetooth headphone may, at times, lag in delivering real-time audio production of your beats and therefore cause sound delay. This, in turn, can make your playing sloppy.  

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3. Bass boosted headsets are a strict no

Bass-rich headphones do not deliver accurate reproduction of the bass/kick drum and floor tom of electronic drums. Therefore, it’s best to avoid bass-boosted headphones or models that have a dedicated bass boost mode.  

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4. Large-sized sound drivers are better

The larger the size of the sound drivers, the better when it comes to drumming on an electric kit. Larger sound drivers of headphones cover more frequency spectrum. Also, they respond better to playing dynamics by covering a wide spectrum of volume levels and overall headroom. 

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Best headphones for electronic drums – over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones with a closed-back design come as an unmistakable choice for electronic drums. Here, we have compiled a list of over-ear headphones that are well-suited for electronic drumming and available across various price ranges: 

1. Shure SRH440 – check it out here

Shure headphones have been the go-to choice for professional audio requirements over the years. Shure SRH440 is one headphone from the brand that you cannot go wrong with for electronic drumming. 

This model does not fail in delivering accurate audio reproduction which makes it one of the best headphones for electronic drums. The sound drivers of this headphone have been tweaked for an enhanced frequency response that’s just needed for covering all the audio details of every electronic drum part. 

Pros:

  • Dynamic audio performance
  • Detachable audio cable
  • Foldable design

Cons:

  • Not the most lightweight and compact form factor
  • No dedicated controls on the ear cup

2. Audiotechnica ATH-M40x – check it out here

Audiotechnica ATH-M40x comes as the perfect choice if you want an un-emphasized representation of your electronic drum kit’s sound. With a linear frequency response, this headphone stays true to the original sound of your electronic kit and helps you fully understand your instrument’s tone. 

Audiotechnica ATH-M40x looks compact and cool than many other professional headphones. Its comfortable ear cups also make it a great choice for long hours of usage. The ear cups also ensure a high level of noise isolation which is important for focused practice sessions. 

Pros:

  • Professional studio-grade audio performance
  • The ear cups have a countered and ergonomic fit
  • Premium look and feel

Cons:

  • Linear frequency response is not preferable for music listening

3. Sennheiser HD 300 Pro – check it out here

Sennheiser HD 300 Pro comes as one of the best headphones for electronic drums in terms of capturing even the most sensitive subtlety in playing. Also, this model does not fail to cope up with your energetic playing or practice sessions with its highly dynamic sound drivers.

Wood tone simulations of acoustic kits sound the most natural, thanks to the wide frequency spectrum coverage of the sound drivers. Compared to other over-ear headphones under the $200 mark, this model has considerably better acoustic properties which make it natural sounding. 

Pros:

  • Sound drivers fine-tuned for linear frequency response
  • Comfortable ear pads and foldable design
  • Coiled audio cable included

Cons:

  • Not the most lightweight design
  • No dedicated controls on the ear cups

4. AKG K371 – check it out here

AKG is one of the pioneers in the modern audio realm and the use of its sound drivers across different audio products of several brands bears the perfect testimony. AKG K371 is one of the models from the brand that is best suited for electronic drums. To categorize this model among some of the best headphones for playing electronic drums would totally justify it considering its dynamic audio performance. 

AKG K371 benefits from the signature AKG sound with its fine-voiced sound drivers that use titanium-coated diaphragms. This headphone is also great at isolating external noise and maintaining a high level of comfort even during long hours of usage. 

Pros: 

  • High-quality sound drivers used
  • Lightweight and compact overall form factor
  • Foldable design 

Cons: 

  • Not the best noise isolation

5. Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro – check it out here

Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro captures the essence of the brand’s commitment towards professional audio. This headphone is great at reproducing accurate sound with its transparent audio performance. The dynamic performance of the headphone’s sound drivers gives you the flexibility to make different kinds of tonal adjustments to your electronic drum kit.

Despite a large-sized form factor, Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro has a lightweight build. The plush ear pads on the ear cups ensure a high level of comfort. Also, the ear cups maintain just the right amount of noise isolation to help you get immersed in your drumming. 

Pros: 

  • Studio-grade audio performance
  • Dynamic frequency response
  • High-quality build

Cons:

  • Non-foldable design
  • Not the most lightweight model

Best headphones for electronic drums – in-ear headsets

If you don’t prefer the large-sized form factor and bulkiness of over-ear headphones, the best alternatives for you are in-ear headsets in the context of practicing or playing electronic drums. Many high-end in-ear earphones and in-ear monitors deliver full-range audio performance while ensuring a high level of external noise isolation. Here are some of the models you cannot go wrong with: 

1. Shure Aonic 215 – check it out here

Getting your hands on a premium in-ear earphone under the $100 mark may seem wishful thinking, but Shure has made this possible with its Aonic 215. This earphone uses studio-grade components, including high fidelity sound drivers, gold plated 3.5 mm connectors, and a high-quality audio cable. 

Despite having a compact form factor, Shure Aonic 215 delivers earthy bass, pronounced mids, and bell-like highs. In essence, it covers a lot of sonic ground for an earphone that’s almost the size of many modern wireless earbuds. 

Pros:

  • Hi-fi audio performance
  • Suitable for versatile use cases
  • Compact and well-built. 

Cons:

  • Audio can seem a bit compressed 

2. Sennheiser IE 100 Pro – check it out here

You don’t necessarily need to have a high budget in order to get your hands on a pair of well-performing in-ear monitors. Sennheiser IE 100 Pro delivers professional-level audio performance just under the $100 price point. 

This in-ear monitor is versatile enough to work for electronic drums and also for various other requirements, including audio production, and live performance. Also, it’s equally comfortable to wear and its noise isolation comes close to that of several high-end over-ear headphones. 

Pros:

  • Powerful and dynamic 10 mm transducers used
  • A high level of noise isolation
  • Stage-proof robust design 

Cons:

  • Does not include a custom fit option

3. Sennheiser IE 300 – check it out here

If you want to get your hands on a pair of in-ear monitors that can do it all for meeting your electronic drumming requirements, you cannot go wrong with Sennheiser IE 300. This model undoubtedly comes as one of the best electronic drum set headphones as it includes German-made transducers that have distortion-free audio performance. 

Also, the dynamic performance of the transducers helps this model cover a lot of sonic grounds and be versatile enough for home practice sessions as well as live gigs. This in-ear monitor is also great in terms of comfort. It uses memory foam ear tips that ensure a high level of comfort while attenuating ambient noise to a significant extent. 

Pros:

  • Hi-fi audio performance 
  • Distortion-free audio reproduction 
  • Broad frequency spectrum coverage

Cons:

  • No suitable for a custom fit

4. Shure SE 425-CL – check it out here

It’s a totally different experience when you play your electronic drums with in-ear monitors that have dual sound drivers on each side. Shure SE 425-CL is one such in-ear monitor that uses two high-definition sound drivers on each side to help you make the most out of your electronic kit’s tone variations. 

This model also offers customization flexibility in terms of ear fit as well as audio jack connections. The extra ear tips included in the packaging open up the option of tweaking the in-ear monitors’ fit to your preference. Also, high-quality audio cable and overall durable build make this model a good option for live performance. 

Pros:

  • High-fidelity dual sound drivers used
  • Detachable audio cable
  • Rugged and durable build

Cons:

  • No option for a custom fit

5. Ultimate Ears UE 5 Pro – check it out here

If you do not want to make any compromises when choosing a pair of in-ear headphones for electronic drums, you cannot go wrong with Ultimate Ears UE 5 Pro. The balanced armature sound drivers of this model use two-way crossover and combine high-fidelity audio performance with it. The result? You get to access full-range audio in a compact form factor. 

Also, the sound drivers are fine-tuned to deliver the level of clarity that’s needed to improve your snare and cymbal skills. The overall audio performance of this model is versatile enough to meet practice as well as live performance requirements. 

Pros:

  • Well-balanced armature sound drivers used
  • Great noise isolation with a custom fit
  • Waterproof and durable overall design

Cons:

  • Not the most compact in-ear form factor

Are sound-isolating headphones good for electronic drum sets? 

When exploring headphones for electronic drums, you are likely to come across what are called ‘sound-isolating headphones.’ For beginners and intermediate, these types of headphones can seem like the right choice, especially considering the fact that drumming brands such as Vic Firth offer them. 

However, they are not technically great for electronic kits. This is because these types of headphones are mostly geared towards sound isolation and do not have powerful audio performance. But if you mostly play acoustic kits, you cannot go wrong with these types of headphones as they attenuate drumming noise to a significant extent and help you protect your hearing. 

Image credit: Vic Firth

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Conclusion

There are two main aspects of getting the best sound out of your electronic drums, with choosing the right headphone being the first. Once you have chosen the right headphone, the next step is to really understand your electronic drum set. 

It pays to learn how the sound module of your kit works and the different customization options it offers. Refer to the manual that is included with your drum kit and watch YouTube videos to fully understand what the sound module is capable of. 

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Having a basic to medium level of understanding will help you work your way around to adjusting the best settings and get the tone you want from your electric kit. Many users often complain about the quality of headphones without actually figuring out the right adjustment options in the sound module. 

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If you are an experienced drummer and feel that the acoustic kit simulation from your electric kit’s sound module isn’t realistic, you can explore your options in several drum VSTs and sync them with your module. Here’s a post that has compiled several VSTs.

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Another important point to remember is that if you switch back and forth between an acoustic kit and an electric kit, remember to set up your electric kit in ways that it becomes easier for you to seamlessly make the transition. This can help you focus more on your playing and musicality. 

Check out: best headphones for digital piano

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