Hip hop is often accused of not being ‘real music’, especially by old people. However, true bass-heads are the only ones who can value its lively, energetic beat. But if you don’t own the right headphones, you’ll definitely lose some of its precious euphoria.
When it gets to the actual shopping, things might get a bit complicated. You’re not only searching for comfort, quality, and durability. You’re looking for headphones that sound especially awesome with Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Jay Z, etc.
That’s why I wrote this article. We’ll take a look at the best headphones for hip hop currently on the market. Without any further ado, let’s get going!
The 5 Best Headphones for Hip Hop
In each of the following reviews, I’ll explore things like performance, sound quality, comfort, and much more. You’ll also find some quick specs to quickly rule out incompatible headphones.
V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Metal Headphones – Best Overall
After reviewing quality, durability, and budget, I couldn’t find anything better than Crossfade M-100. Thanks to their 50 mm drivers, they’re able to produce a whopping frequency range from 5 to 30 kHz.
The first time I saw these headphones, I thought they’re strictly meant for bass-heads, based on their edgy construction. Luckily, I was wrong. These headphones are able to reach the lowest lows, without allowing them to overtake the mids and highs.
In fact, the Crossfade M-100 headphones are inclined a bit toward mids. As a result, you’ll start to hear some new details in your favorite tracks. Echoes will become clearer, the faint chorus will be apparent, and subtle breathes will turn audible.
Moving to construction, things aren’t less awesome. As their name implies, these headphones feature a sturdy steel construction that feels super solid above your head.
Typically, these headphones won’t pinch on your ears thanks to their thick mesh paddings. However, if you wear eyeglasses, you might want to opt for headphones with less force.
Although these headphones don’t run wirelessly, they don’t have a permanently attached cord. Best of all, they come with two free audio cables: SpeakEasy Mic and Shareplay Audio. This way, you can enjoy a quite versatile performance for the same price.
- ✓ Wide frequency range
- ✓ Uniquely clear mids
- ✓ Superior durability with metal construction
- ✗ Might be uncomfortable for people wearing eyeglasses
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Headphones – Most Affordable
Needless to say, Audio-Technica has been producing some of the best high-end headphones with unprecedented sound quality. Nevertheless, they also have some entry-level options that cut down a bit in the performance to save you some bucks.
If this is what you need, you should definitely consider the ATH-M40x. With their 40 mm drivers, they’re able to generate sound in the range between 15 Hz and 24 kHz. As you can see, not the best, but still fairly acceptable.
Based on the feedback of many online users, the ATH-M40x headphones excel in the mids and highs. The tones are accurate without that annoying distortion typically found in the affordable category.
However, toward the lows, things aren’t that great. The bass is mostly clear without much distortion, but it lacks strength. These headphones won’t ‘shake’ your ears as powerfully as more expensive options.
In terms of the construction, the ATH-M40x headphones present excellent value. With their 90° swiveling earcups, they’ll be awesome for one-ear monitoring in a studio. Furthermore, their heavy materials and thick padding guarantee a comfortable and isolated hip hop experience.
Just like the Crossfade M-100, these headphones come with 2 detachable cables: coiled and straight. Additionally, they also have a carrying pouch to safely store the unused cable.
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Accurate, distortion-free mids and highs
- ✓ Excellent construction
- ✗ Their bass isn’t powerful enough
Sony MDR-Z1R WW2 Signature Headphone – Best Value
If you’re serious about the sound quality, MDR-Z1R should be your obvious choice.
With their 70 mm drivers, these beasts will flood your ears with frequencies ranging from 4 Hz to 120 kHz! As you might imagine, this huge range will reveal every hidden tone in your tracks. Almost all the customers were astonished by how different their favorite music sounded.
Certainly, their gratifying bass makes them perfect for hip hop. Their beats are powerful enough to entertain, yet perfectly balanced with higher frequencies.
Expectedly, with a maximum frequency of 120 kHz, highs can’t be any better. Furthermore, turning up the volume won’t produce any distortion or stress.
Their premium sound is balanced with equally-premium construction. For starters, the headband is made from beta titanium and covered with genuine leather. This way, they can perfectly adapt to your head without the slightest bit of discomfort.
As you might’ve guessed, these headphones lie well within the expensive extreme. They’re certainly not for recreational listeners. But if you’re willing to allocate a large budget, they’ll be a no-brainer.
- ✓ Premium sound quality
- ✓ Huge frequency range
- ✓ All-metal housing
- ✓ Genuine leather padding
- ✗ Highly expensive
Hifiman HE-400I Over-Ear Headphones – Best Open-Back
If you prefer how natural the open-back headphones sound, you’ll probably love the HE-400I. The multiple perforations found in the ear cups are meant to cut down on the excessive echo. This way, you’ll enjoy a crystal-clear hip hop without being distracted by excessive beats.
Between the other open-back headphones, the HE-400I offer an amazing bass quality. It sounds powerful and punchy without being too distracting. The mids are equally euphoric with special stress on vocals. So far, these two perks make these headphones perfect for hip hop.
The highs, on the other hand, aren’t that great. With a maximum frequency of 35 kHz, you can’t expect to hear all the small details of your tracks. The good news is, they don’t produce any distortion at all.
The only thing I wish was different is the size of the ear cups. We can’t really categorize the current size under ‘over-ear’ headphones. They’ll cover your ear well, but not completely. That’s why I think they should be called ‘on-ear’.
Also, I think Hifiman didn’t pay enough attention to the padding. It feels comfortable until it starts to gradually flatten out. On the other hand, the overall construction is surprisingly sturdy. Although the hinge joints are made of plastic, they’re equipped with enough thickness.
- ✓ Natural sound quality
- ✓ Premium construction
- ✓ Somewhat affordable
- ✗ The ear cups aren’t large enough
- ✗ The highs aren’t detailed
Sennheiser HD25 Pro Audio Headphones – Most Lightweight
Bulky headphones are the best in terms of sound isolation, but they don’t suit everybody. I, for one, prefer lightweight headphones that don’t put too much pressure over my head. If you’re like me, you’ll probably love the 5-ounce Sennheiser HD25.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, though. In spite of their light construction, their audio quality is rather superb. Their drivers are capable of producing rich and crisp sound in the range between 16 Hz and 22 kHz.
The mids and highs feel great with a lot of details and clarity. The vocals are given extra attention, making the tracks sound considerably different.
The lows, on the other hand, aren’t the HD25’s strong suit. They miss some major frequencies since they can’t go lower than 16 Hz. But on the bright side, they don’t add those infernal distortions, not even on the highest volume.
If you like the ‘lightweight’ concept, you can go even lighter by opting for the HD25 Light. These headphones have a notably minimalistic headband intended for continuous hours of use.
Unlike most of the other brands, the HD25 doesn’t come with any accessories. Instead, Sennheiser releases another version called HD25 Plus. This one comes with 2 cables, a storage pouch, and extra velour ear pads. Unfortunately, it costs nearly double the original.
- ✓ Excellent mids and highs
- ✓ Distortion-free lows
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Lightweight
- ✗ They don’t come with any accessories
What to Consider Before Buying Headphones for Hip Hop
As you saw, the market is full of awesome options that come in a wide range of prices. If you already picked your favorite headphones from the previous section, then lucky you!
If not, this section should help you. I’ll discuss the main criteria you have to bear in mind. If you’re not that experienced in the technicalities, don’t worry. I’ll try to keep things simple.
Consider the Sound Signature
The sound signature describes how your headphones interpret sound. When you pick a flat signature, for instance, this means that the headphones won’t enhance any frequencies.
Choosing a signature is a mere personal choice. There’s no good or bad. It depends on your previous experiences and how you define ‘good’ music.
Nevertheless, hip-hop music generally works great on a ‘v-shaped’ signature.
As the name implies, these headphones enhance lows and highs, producing that unique ‘in-your-face’ music. This way, they’ll also work perfectly for rock music loaded with screeching guitars and soaring vocals.
If you crave a bass that literally thumps your ears, you should go for ‘extra-bass’ headphones. If you prefer to keep things normal with slight tweaks, consider ‘balanced’ headphones.
Search for Wide Frequencies
Without a doubt, headphones must go well into the low frequencies to be considered suitable for hip hop. Otherwise, they’ll miss a lot of the bass, leaving your tracks sounding weaker than normal.
However, I always recommend getting headphones that also soar up the frequency range. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy whatever genre that comes your way.
For that matter, the baseline range should be between 10 Hz and 25 kHz. The wider it gets, the richer the sound. Nevertheless, the wider range doesn’t necessarily mean better quality .
In other words, well-made 20 kHz headphones can sound clearer than a poorly-designed pair supporting 30 kHz.
Open vs. Closed Headphones
To differentiate between open-back and closed-back headphones, look at the back of their ear cups. If you find perforations, you have open headphones. Surely, the opposite is also true.
Deciding between these styles is another matter that depends on personal taste. But the following comparison might help you choose.
Closed Headphones Mutes the World
Since their ear cups are solid, outer sound can’t interfere with closed headphones. They don’t even have to be equipped with an active noise cancellation system. Rather, they cancel the noise with the inherent thickness of the padding and housing.
That said, closed headphones are the obvious choice for day-to-day listening. They can perfectly fit commuters who want to create a peaceful space in crowded subways and traffic.
In a similar fashion, closed headphones are the obvious choice in a quiet workplace. Why? Well, the thick construction can’t really differentiate between noise and music. It blocks music from going outside and disturbing your coworkers, just like it blocks noise from going inside.
Open Headphones Sound More Natural
As I said, closed headphones are almost mandatory in the workplace. But if you’re living alone, they’ll do more harm than good. Their thick construction will inevitably cause an annoying echo. It might not be that clear, but true audiophiles should be able to hear it.
That’s where the open headphones come in handy. The perforations in the ear cups ‘vent’ some of the music. This way, you’ll enjoy the same powerful bass without getting uncomfortable after a while.
As you might’ve guessed, open headphones will be awful in public. Since they don’t block external noise, you won’t have a pure hip hop experience.
To conclude my roundup, I can say that the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 is the best headphones for hip hop. Their wide frequency range and metal construction provide the right balance between performance and durability.
If you want something more affordable, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. Although their bass isn’t that powerful, they won’t flood your tracks with those annoying distortions.
On the other hand, Sony MDR-Z1R should be perfect for people willing to spend a lot. With 70 mm drivers, they won’t miss out on any frequency.
Remember, the frequency range doesn’t necessarily guarantee excellent audio quality. If you stumbled on other headphones, check the reviews well before you purchase.
See you with another buying guide!