Best Headphones for Bass Heads

| May 27, 2012 | 7 Comments

Everyone has those moments where they think to themselves, “I wish these headphones had more bass!” – or at least I think most people do. Hopefully after browsing through these recommendations, you won’t have to say that to yourself anymore, as you will have a headphone capable of delivering those goods.

You will see that I have categorized each headphone. They are not necessarily self-explanatory so here are quick descriptions:

  • Pure Basshead: The focus is largely placed on the low frequencies. The mids and highs are recessed.
  • Versatile: There is a clear emphasis on the bass but the mids and highs are not overpowered.
  • Aggressive: The sound signature is not particularly warm and does not chase smoothness.

[Disclaimer: these recommendations are not comprehensive. Instead, we have tried to find something for everyone while keeping the lists short. At the same time, this is a living document so let us know what we’re missing!]

In order of increasing price:

JVC HA-FX101 – $15 (Pure Basshead)

After making several improvements in sound over the HA-FX1X, I can finally recommend the Xtreme Xplosivs as solid entry-level bass-monsters. The frequency response is seriously V-shaped with insanely powerful (and well-controlled) bass, recessed (and unfortunately a bit muddy) mids, and energetic (but peaky) highs. They are very fun headphones for rap, drum & bass, and dubstep but they sound downright unacceptable for most other genres. Available in red, pink, violet, blue, black, and green (FX101G is the green model for example). [Buy at Amazon]

 

Soundmagic E10 / E10M – $35 (Versatile)

The E10 has the potential to be one-and-done purchase, especially thanks to the built-in microphone which only costs an extra $10. The bass is powerful enough to satisfy bass-heads, but not so overpowering that it takes complete control of the music. The mids and highs are surprisingly clean and detailed but the bass still steals the show. The presentation is warm and forward which pairs well with all types of music. Also available in red, gold, and purple. [Buy at Amazon]

 

 

MEElectronics SP51 / SP51P – $45 (Versatile)

The “Sound Preference” SP51 lacks the raw bass power and clarity of some of the headphones lower down on this list, but the overall sound is very pleasing. The Sound Preference system is identical to that of the Hippo VB where you have three interchangeable plates that you can use to tweak the sound (MEElec dubs the plates “balanced”, “enhanced bass”, and “extreme bass”). While they have this feature in common, they are very different sounding headphones. The VB is dry and aggressive in style while the SP51 is smooth and warm. The soundstage is impressive, rounding it out as a very solid choice in the sub-$100 category. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Sony MDR-XB500 – $50 (Pure Basshead)

Without hesitation, I can say that the Sony XB500 is the one of the best bang-for-your-buck bass-head headphones. They are absolute bass monsters once you EQ them. The mids are forward (if a tiny bit shy) and the highs are definitely recessed and dampened a bit. They can give you the awesome feeling that you have sub-woofers strapped to your head with the right songs. Comfort is good thanks to the large fluffy ear pads, clamping force is average, and they offer above average isolation. They do lack definition throughout all frequencies, but audiophiles don’t call them a guilty pleasure for nothing! If you are willing to expand your budget a bit, the XB700 is worth a look but it is not an out-and-out improvement. The XB500 has punchier bass while the XB700 delivers more sub-bass rumble. If you are unsure which to get, the easiest way to find out is to try both! Many companies offer free returns these days. [Sony XB500 Review] [Buy at Amazon]

 

Fischer Audio Eterna – $70 (Versatile)

The Eterna houses a sound similar to the cheaper Soundmagic E10 but with significantly more thickness. The bass power is shy of the Hippo VB but is slightly ahead of the E10 and SP51. The mids are warm, full-bodied, and emphasized a step behind the bass.  The treble is impeccably smooth and relaxing but lacks the fine details. The Eterna’s biggest improvements over the E10 are actually non-sound related: better build quality, comfort, isolation, and accessories. The soundstage is also bigger but because of the overall thickness, the Eterna lacks any sort of pinpoint accuracy. All in all, the Eterna is a very fun headphone and it nails the “versatile” bass-head sound.

 

Hippo VB – $80 (Aggressive)

The VB pumps out gobs of bass with hi-fi precision (better than any earphone under $250), but the mids and highs are not recessed like most of  the other headphones on this list. Another unique characteristic of the VB is its Variable Bass system (hence the name). The earphones come with three metal plates that can be screwed on to the back of the housings, and each one slightly modifies the sound.

The frequency response is V-shaped, meaning that the bass and treble are emphasized. The bass is unfairly good for the price, but it does not go after smoothness or thickness as many other bassy headphones do. Instead it is very revealing, displays excellent texture, and packs a huge punch. The mids are clear and accurate, but may sound thin to some. The treble is forward and crisp, but may sound harsh to people who are sensitive to treble. The resulting sound is raw, aggressive, and energetic. [Full Hippo VB Review] [Buy at Jaben]

 

M-Audio Q40 – $120 (Versatile)

The Q40 has the best bass in a full-sized headphone of this price. It is powerful and well-textured all the way to the sub-bass frequencies. The mids are full-bodied and the treble never sounds harsh. It was designed as a studio monitor but does not need to be restricted to studio use: they fold up nicely and isolate well enough for use as an everyday portable set. They do come with a long cord (9 ft) but it is detachable so you can easily find a shorter replacement one. You may find comfort to be the weak point of these headphones, but there are several modifications you can try to improve them in this aspect (earpad replacement, cotton stuffing, etc). [Buy at Amazon]

 

Ultrasone HFI-580 – $125 (Aggressive)

The HFI-580 is a great introduction to the Ultrasone sound. Powerful bass, clear mids, and energetic highs. I think the HFI-580 is very underrated, mostly because it is not the “safe” choice compared to the all-too-often-recommended ATH-M50. But the 580 has made it to this list for a reason, and the M50 did not: the 580 delivers much more low-end punch with added texture as well. The HFI-580 is a very versatile headphone but the bright treble and edgy presentation will make it love or hate. As I have mentioned before, the great thing about big online retailers these days is that returns are painless, and with that considered I think the HFI-580 is well worth a shot. [Buy at Amazon]

Klipsch Image X10 – $160 (Versatile)

The X10 eeks out as much bass as it can from its balanced armature driver and delivers surprisingly big bass (more than any other single BA earphone). The full-bodied mid-range is placed clearly in the foreground and is almost emphasized as much as the bass. Treble is smooth but is clearly played down. Clarity and detail are where the X10 set itself apart from the sub-$100 options. The X10 passes as an excellent do-it-all IEM for those with a bass-oriented yet analytical mindset. [Buy at Amazon]

 

 

Audio Technica Pro700 MK2 – $175 (Pure Basshead)

The Pro700MK2 is the king of Pure Basshead headphones. Those ready to throw versatility out the window and revel in the world of massive bass can stop their search here. The bass quantity falls just short of the XB500 yet manages much better definition all the way down into the sub-bass region. Headphones with less bass quantity are typically better in terms of speed and precision, so that is a trade-off decision that has to be made. The mids and treble are super recessed, giving the Pro700MK2 a supremely dark sound signature. It somehow manages to make even the AiAiAi TMA-01 and Sennheiser HD 650 sound bright in comparison. Clarity lovers will find much to be desired in the mids and highs, but for those seeking out maximum bass capabilities, the Pro700MK2 is the ticket. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Ultrasone Pro 900 – $400 (Aggressive)

The Pro 900 delivers huge quantities of bass (almost as much as the Pro700MK2) but with no bleed into the mid-range, giving it a very clean sound. The mids are recessed and the treble is forward and sparkly. It sounds awesome with typical bass-head music such as electronica and hip-hop, but those sensitive to treble might want to stay away, although the Kees mod helps reduce the harshness. Compared to the XB500, there is less sub-bass but more mid-bass. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Sennheiser IE 8 / Sennheiser IE 80 – $400-$450 (Versatile)

These two headphones are almost identical and and carry a somewhat typical bass-head sound signature with the exception of their enormous soundstage, which is a highlight of the earphone. It expands out in every direction and imaging is ridiculously good. Their spaciousness contrasts the forwardness of the other headphones on this list. The bass is very powerful and expectedly superb for this price. The quantity of bass can be adjusted with the 5-setting bass knob on the outside of the earphone. Notable is the fact that the low end can keep up with very fast bass lines with no problem. The mids and highs sound recessed due to the low end beefiness, but these frequencies are commendable in their own respects. The mids are thick and laid back while the treble is well-extended but void of any sibilance. The IE 80 is the newer model and delivers slightly better detail, clarity, and more sub-bass, but at the expense of some mid-bass quantity.  Both these headphones are very unique bass-head earphones and certainly worthy of a top recommendation. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Unique Melody Merlin – $800 (Versatile)

The UM Merlin devours the IEM competition when it comes to the bass quality/quantity combination. It uses a hybrid configuration with a dynamic driver dedicated solely to the bass. The impact of the bass is resemblant of the vigorous Hippo VB but with improved realism and clarity. The Merlin, like the VB, doesn’t house your typical bass-head sound signature. Instead it has a thick midrange, clear and airy treble, and the powerful bass acts more as a third party rather than a spotlight. Note that these are custom IEMs, so you will have to make a trip to the audiologist to have a set of impressions made. [Buy at Unique Melody US]

 

JH Audio JH16 – $1,150 (Aggressive)

No budget? Consider the JH16. The sound signature is not typical bass-head (it is actually close to analytical), but the reproduction of the bass is simply uncanny and any bass-head would be able to appreciate it. It features a whopping four drivers dedicated to bass on each ear (that is not a typo) and they have the capability to sound like a full-size sub-woofer. Interesting is how despite the four bass drivers, it manages to keeps a good sonic balance with the mids and highs. The speed and punch of the bass is fantastic, arguably the best in any in-ear headphone, and it remains well contained. Mids are neutral and smooth. Treble is bright and crisp. Note that these are custom IEMs, so you will have to make a trip to the audiologist to have a set of impressions made. [Buy at JH Audio]

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Category: Best Headphones

Comments (7)

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  1. Dan says:

    wat about the future sonics atrios?

  2. antonio says:

    Nice article, l am sure it will help people decide what cans to get…

    IMHO, l don’t think the Audio-Technica PRO700MK2′ mids and treble is “super recessed”, but we know sound is subjective.

    I simply love the PRO700. l have a pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 and Sehnnhaiser HD558, and l always have to go back to the Audio-Technica. Their sound is special (and it’s not only the bass!). They are simply very, very enjoyable to listen to!

    However, if you think of buying them make sure you also get the M-50 earpads 🙂

  3. Gabriel says:

    How much bass do you lose with theM-Audio Q40 compared to the XB500?
    I need the headphone with great bass but also leak must be minimal and not totally unbalanced.
    I do listen to a lot of classical (mainly Piano sonatas etc).
    Thanks!

    • mark says:

      Gabriel,
      If you listen to classical music, you’d definitely want the Q40 over the XB500. The XB500 doesn’t do treble all that well. That being said, if you listen to a lot of classical music, going with open-back headphones would be even better because they have a wide soundstage which is crucial for recreating the “concert hall” environment. Try this one: http://headphonescout.com/superlux-hd668b-review/

      • Gabriel says:

        Thanks for the quick reply!
        Unfortunately I need it at work so it needs to be closed :/
        How about the JVX RX700? I just got the Sony MDR X10 from Best Buy and plan to get one of the ones we have been discussing to compare both and keep the one that fits me better.
        Any idea of how this X10 compares to the XB500 for example or my other choices?
        Thanks again for the great article!

  4. Greg says:

    If you guys are extreme bassheads like I am, then you should definitely check out this forum thread:

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/716711/the-best-bass-headphones-are-the-extreme-bass-club/

    Basshead Cans recommended:
    JVC HA-SZ2000
    JVC HA-SZ1000
    JVC HA-MR77x
    HPH Yamaha Pro 500
    Sony XB700
    Sony XB1000
    ATH – PRO 700MK2
    Ultrasone Signature DJ
    Monster/Beats by Dre Pro
    Monster Npulse
    Denon AHD600
    American Audio Pro DJ
    XONE XD2-53
    Numark Electrowave
    Ultrasone Edition 8 “Ruthenium”
    Pioneer SE-MX9-K
    SMS DJ PRO
    Akai Pro AP-HPH-002
    Razer Kraken

    There is even a wiki for bassheads:
    http://www.head-fi.org/a/the-best-bass-headphones-a-head-fi-wiki

    Credits to the masters over there: Hawaiibadboy, cb3723, NewWaveAudio, PocketSmiley etc..

    2 other threads that might interest you:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/573826/the-basshead-club
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/715697/the-audiophile-bass-lounge-basshead-club-part-ii

    Check out this as well:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/567149/my-200-and-under-bassheads-buyers-guide

    • mark says:

      Thanks for sharing, Greg!

      On that list you posted, I’ve only tried the Pro700-MK2 and wasn’t impressed. I really want to try the new Denons since my AH-D2000s need repair, the ear cups fell off =(

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