Drummers make noise. Lots of noise. Anyone who has lived with, or next door to a drummer can attest to this. With modern living spaces becoming increasingly smaller than ever, practicing your skills has become more challenging due to room size constraints, and uncooperative neighbors. Thankfully, electronic drum kits have changed all that. Gaining in popularity in recent years, the once ear-shattering acoustic drum kit is now lightweight, compact, and easy to set up, replicating the sound of through a pair of headphones. While the pads and cymbals have a silicone-like surface to diminish noise, and your sticks hitting them will sound like incoherent clacking, all that comes across in your earphones is pure musical glory. Below, we break down what you need to know to make your electronic drum kit sing.
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Things to Consider Before Buying One
As with any niche purchase, you will need to take a few things into account when choosing the right headphone for use with electronic drumming.
Obviously, price will be a major (if not the number one) factor that most people consider. In a nutshell, the more expensive the headphone, the better it sounds, and the more comfortable it feels. Entry level phones will be around $35 to $60, with middle of the road around $70 to $100, above average between $100 to $200, and high-end audiophile quality north of $400.
The last thing you want is a lack of slack while you are thrashing away. Make sure the phones you are getting have a considerable amount of length on the cord. If your kit supports bluetooth, you might want to look at the cordless headphone options to eliminate any chance of getting tangled up while playing.
Some people want a really full, rich experience when they are using their electronic kit to replicate how an acoustic kit would sound. Others are happy with whatever gets the job done. The different styles of headphones also give you different levels of sound quality. If you want to hear the best sound from your e-drums, there are plenty of models in the $100 to $200 range that provide excellent performance, but a pair of high-end headphones will always top them.
The driver is what gives your headphones its sonic characteristics. This is achieved through driver size, materials and how it is tuned. Higher end brands usually have a larger driver, and use better, quality materials such as neodymium magnets to keep the headphones lightweight while justifying their cost.
Volume Output / Sensitivity
Take into account how loud the headphones can get without clipping / distorting. Depending on how you are using the kit, you might not need to have them go extremely loud, but you still want them to be able to drown out the room noise you are making as your sticks smash into the pads.
As any musician will tell you, time seems to fly by when you are playing. Headphones that have thick, dense padding on the cups and headband add considerable comfort when playing for long periods of time. Most cups will be covered in either faux leather or luxurious velour which can keep your ears from quickly getting sore.
Companies with a proven track record should be on the top of your short list. That’s not to say the little guys can’t make quality products, or that the big names never have duds. But a solid track record of durability and longevity allows you some peace of mind that your investment will give you many years of use. In addition, headphones that use higher quality components usually have a longer lifespan than the average set.
While you can take headphones virtually anywhere you go, some of them are more compact than others and can be folded up or collapsed, which can be critical when you are transporting them and have little space to fit them in your bag or luggage.
In-Ear Monitors vs. Overhead Headphones
From in-ear monitors, to ear buds, to on-ear headphones, to over-ear cans, it can be confusing to know which models do what, and how to decide between them.
The smallest option you have are ear buds. Ear buds are your basic and also cheapest headphone. They have decent sound quality but because of the small driver size, they usually have minimal low end and noise bleed from the outside environment, making their sound reproduction very one-dimensional.
In-ear monitors are a step up from ear buds and are very popular with performing musicians. IEM’s use an array of small speakers to give you a better overall sound. They sit in your ear canal, but differ from earbuds in that they create a seal around the ear canal, lessening ambient noise from bleeding into the music. This also makes them ideal for critical listeners.
Both ear buds and IEM’s are great choices for drummers that are very physical with their kit. Some models will have a sweat-resistant coating on them, and ear buds with security flaps can rival IEM’s in their ability to keep from falling out during movement.
Overhead headphones are your other option, and are more the “classical” style of headphone. Equipped with larger drivers than earbuds or IEM’s, they allow for the greatest audio clarity and high quality sound reproduction. Depending on the model, you may see some that claim to be bass-heavy, or professional studio quality, both of which cater to a certain demographic of listeners.
Overhead headphones come in two styles: on-ear or over-ear.
On-ear headphones are usually a bit lighter in weight, sit directly on your ear (which can cause ear soreness / fatigue during extended use), and allow you to be a bit more alert in situations that call for it, as background noise can still seep in.
Over-ear headphones encompass the entire ear for a circumaural experience. Open-back, or semi-open-back over-ear cans suffer from room noise bleeding into the music, but they also give the listener an excellent stereo-imaged, wide sound-staged, spacious mix. Closed over-ear head phones do the opposite, helping to eliminate environmental noise (some models even have a noise cancelling feature built-in), giving the listener a tighter sounding mix. Over-ear cans can also be used for longer periods of time, and are usually geared toward listeners that want to experience the music in its purest form.
Best Headphones for Electronic Drums
Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone Review
These reference headphones from Sony sport 40mm drivers and replicate the studio sound for a reasonable price. Designed with comfortability in mind, these generously padded cans encompass the listener’s entire ear to eliminate ambient room noise while providing a well-balanced range of tones. Not too harsh and not too bassy, they give excellent mids, and are lightweight at 8.1 ounces for long listening sessions, with an adjustable headband to accommodate a range of different head shapes. With an emphasis on quality, both the 3.5mm plug and 1/4 inch adapter are gold-plated for superior performance, and this specific model is considered an industry standard when it comes to over-ear phones. Traveling with them is simple as them fold-up and fit nicely inside their carrying pouch, ensuring you can have great tunes and the ability to drown out background noise where ever you go.
- Above average sound quality
- Comfortable for extended periods
- Long 10 foot cord
- Gold-plated 1/4 inch adapter included
- Comes with carrying pouch
- Can get hot
- No bluetooth
Alesis DRP100 Review
The DRP100 headphones from Alesis were designed specifically for electronic drumming, making them a great choice for players. Ensuring crystal clear sound reproduction, e-kit replication is solid and nuanced through the 40mm full-range drivers. If you desire, the volume on these can be cranked to ear-splitting levels, and due to the mids taking precedent over the low, the sound is less prone to clipping. Special attention is paid to audio isolation, as the over-ear design helps eliminate room noise and block out the sound of your drum sticks clacking against the pads and rubber cymbals. A thick band made out of silicone grips the user’s head well, and together with the 4 foot cord that is provided, these cans allow unrestricted head and body movements while playing. A great choice if you are on a budget and looking for something specific to electronic drumming.
- Great price
- Designed for electronic drummers
- Silicone headband for increased grip
- Gold-tipped 3.5mm jack
- Not the best choice for general listening
- Lack of portability
- No bluetooth
Roland V-Drums Stereo Headphones Review
E-drummers with a Roland kit will be happy to know that the RH-300V headphones are specifically designed for use with their V-Drums, as well as other Roland electronic products. Portable and flexible, the cups can be folded up for transport, rotated and finely adjusted for a perfect fit, or even flattened if you want to rest them around your neck comfortably in between jams. Optimized for sound isolation, leakage is minimal to non-existent, and the adjustable cans also demonstrate excellent full-range performance, articulating punchiness with deep lows and clean highs. The headband and padded cups are comfortable for long sessions on the kit, and are designed to stay on during your performance. In addition to the included 8 foot long cord, Roland also throws in a gold-plated 1/4 inch gold plated adapter for use with various applications and pro audio gear.
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Designed for Roland electronic drums
- Long 8 foot cord provided
- Includes gold-plated 1/4” adapter
- A bit pricey
- No bluetooth
Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones V2 Review
Drum gear giant Vic Firth designed these over-ear headphones to not only allow you to play along with songs, but to save your hearing in the process. While you can use these with e-drums or an acoustic kit, their intended use is to reduce your acoustic drum kit noise while you are listening to a mix or click track. They are a snug fit and provide outstandingly low 25 decibel background noise isolation at an attractive price point. Replacing the V1 model, the V2 50mm speakers are not overly bass heavy, but the mids are clean and the highs are clear. With an improved headband for comfort, you can wear these for long periods of time during rehearsal, live shows, or recording before needing a break. The 5 foot 3.5mm cord gives you a decent amount of slack, a provided 1/4 inch plug will adapt it for “professional” equipment, and while they are a bit bulky to be considered portable, you can still take them wherever you will be playing.
- Attractive price
- Tight fit
- Excellent noise isolation
- Designed specifically for drummers
- Lack of portability
- Average sound reproduction
- No bluetooth
OneOdio Fusion Wired Over Ear Headphones Review
If you are looking or a feature-heavy headphone, this over-ear model from OneOdio might fit the bill. With a super comfortable padded fit, they not only block out 80% of background noise, but also deliver thumping bass and an overall clear sound by way of the 40mm drivers. The headband is adjustable, the ear cups swivel 90 degrees for a precision fit, and portability is achieved by folding them up easily. A 10 foot cord is provided that, not only gives you plenty of reach and physical freedom when you are drumming, but also doubles as an in-line mic if you need to stop the music and take a call. Dual inputs on the cans give you much needed flexibility, allowing two separate sources to feed into your headphones at the same time (ie. tablet or phone plus live instruments via audio interface), and daisy-chaining this model is also an option so you can share your live music feed with another person, or persons.
- Extremely affordable
- Comfortable for extended use
- Well-rounded option
- Long 10 foot cord
- 1/4” adapter included
- In-line mic included
- Dual inputs for simultaneous listening
- Option to daisy-chain headphones
- Not wireless
- Not audiophile quality
Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones Review
These Samson circumaural headphones deliver strong studio-quality performance for the price point they sell at. The semi-open-back design won’t remove ambient room noise like closed headphones do, but it does give you a bit more of a spacious listening experience when it comes to the sound stage. The over-ear design helps with extend jam / listening sessions, and the cans are outfitted with plush velour cushioning, providing deep comfort to the user. An 8 foot long cable with the standard-size 3.5mm jack is attached to the headphones giving you plenty play during performance, and a 1/4 inch adapter is included in the box. Fitting nice and snug, the headphones can be a bit stiff but they also stay on very well and are adjustable for all head sizes. With deep bass, good mids, and shimmering highs, these cans are an excellent “bang for your buck” option.
- Excellent price
- Velour padded cans for long sessions
- Long 8 foot cable
- Excellent sound stage for the price point
- Cable is attached to cans
- No bluetooth option
- Not noise cancelling
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Review
A studio-grade headphone for the masses, Audio-Technica has a reputation for making some of the best headphones available and the ATH-M30x is a favorite among musicians and audiophiles alike. Lightweight at under 8 ounces with neodymium magnets driving their output, these over-ear cans produce a rich and clear sound with realistic bass response. Flexible for a variety of applications, the cups swivel 15 degrees and the entire phones are collapsible for transporting in the provided carrying pouch. 10 feet worth of cord come in the box, ensuring you will never be short, and the 1/4 inch adapter transform these cans for use with professional-grade audio products. While not entirely noise cancelling, they do a fine job of removing ambient noise, and at under $100 they rival headphones 2 to 3 times the price.
- Professional studio sound
- Quality build
- Long cord provided
- 1/4 inch adapter included
- Punches above weight class
- Cord is attached to headphones
- No bluetooth
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Headphones Review
Available in black or grey, these pro audio headphones from beyerdynamic employ an open-back design, allowing for wide stereo imaging and realistic sound replication that is both spacious and detailed. You can drum ’til your arms fall off as the velour ear pads make them extremely comfortable, with a padded, adjustable headband giving you a precise fit. While they lack portability, these are the type of headphones you would keep at home or in a studio, and not really bring with you on long journeys. Serious listeners may want to invest in an amp to boost the signal sent to these cans, as they tend to be on the quiet side, but you can be sure that with the right amount of volume, you will have a listening experience rivaled by few.
- Superb performance
- Dynamic sound stage
- Excellent sonic profile
- Solid construction
- Very comfortable for extended sessions
- Recommend to have an amp drive the headphones
- Not noise cancelling
- Cord attached to body
- Lacks portability
As the saying goes, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. This could not be more true when it comes to audio. Everyone’s ears are slightly different, and everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to how their music sounds. Headphones for electronic drummers need to be flexible enough to be used in rehearsal spaces, during live shows, in studio, as well as taking on the different sonic characteristics that music demands, but only you can determine how high-quality they have to be.