You’ve got your turntables, whether budget, vintage or high-end, now pick your headphones, for the ultimate and most intimate vinyl listening experience. Continuing our quest for the perfect hi fi, Paul Rigby talks you through the 8 best headphones for listening to vinyl, and explains just why they’re so important.
So why headphones for vinyl play, specifically? Headphones are headphones, surely? Doesn’t matter what you hook them up to, you’re still going to hear a noise, aren’t you? Why should vinyl have its own selection of headphones?
Well, there is a point to this. In fact, there are a few points. Firstly, if you have a half decent turntable at your disposal then you have, my friend, the best quality source in terms of detail currently on the market. That is, despite its age, vinyl can extract more information from its grooves than any other source in the world. That includes CDs, that includes high resolution downloads up to 24bit/192kHz or even 24bit/384kHz, if you like. That also includes SACD and DTS. You name it? Vinyl walks all over it. More to the point, vinyl never stops getting better. Every time you improve your hi-fi source, your vinyl will improve alongside it. There is no glass ceiling in terms of sound quality, unlike CD for example.
So, if you are extracting all of this detail, you really don’t want a pair of headphones which will mask it do you? Such ‘phones would be fine for an MP3 player or even CD play, but not vinyl.
Also, don’t forget that vinyl play has a ‘warmth’ all of its own, it’s a tone that many people love. There are some headphone variants out there, however, which also have an inherent ‘warmth’ of their own. Put both together, though, and you end up with a mushy sound that lacks bite and attack. These particular headphones are great for more clinical CD or MP3 play, as they act as a sonic balance to some digital sound output options. Not for vinyl, though.
There’s also a comfort issue. You might think this aspect rather frivolous but you can get away with uncomfortable headphones for mobile players because you probably won’t have them on your head for that long but vinyl play is synonymous with sitting for long periods of time and listening to long pieces of music. You really don’t want to be getting pressure points on your head, chafing or headaches.
What follows is our Top 8 headphones for vinyl play, covering a variety of prices.
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