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Best headphones for drummers 2021: sound isolation for the studio, rehearsal room and stage

Drummer puts on a pair of headphones before playing an electronic kit
(Image credit: Future)

Drummers need headphones. Whether it’s for playing along to a metronome or backing track in a live setting, recording with other band members, or practicing at home, a pair of the best headphones for drummers can make for a significantly better playing experience. Not to mention they’re a necessity if you’re playing on an electronic drum set.

Moreover, playing the drums - whether electric or acoustic - can be incredibly loud, so taking care of your aural health is important. Having a pair of drummer-friendly headphones will allow you to direct and control which specific sonics you need, right to your ears. Some pairs will even help protect from harmful frequencies.

Not sure where to start? Hit the buying advice button above for more guidance, or keep scrolling for our top choices.

Best headphones for drummers: Our top picks

First and foremost, we’d point you towards the Beyerdynamic DT770s. These are the best overall drumming headphones out there, since they cover all bases. They deliver clean sound representation, sturdy build quality to help protect them from flying drumsticks, and they don’t cost the earth.

If you’re more inclined towards in-ear monitors and your budget is healthy, we’d suggest going for the Shure SE846s. The high price point pays for itself if you’re in need of a good pair of in-ear monitors for touring, rehearsals and home practice; especially if you’re not looking to fork the additional premium for custom molded ear plugs.

Finally, we can heartily recommend the Vic Firth SIH2 headphones. They’re made by drummers, for drummers. These are an excellent - and very well priced - option that do their bit to protect your hearing as well as giving you the sonic feedback you need in most drumming situations. They’re perfect for practicing, teaching and, in particular, electronic drum kit players.

Best headphones for drummers: Product guide

Best headphones for drummers: Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

1. Beyerdynamic DT770 (80 Ohms)

Industry standard for a reason. These are the best headphones for drummers overall

Specifications
Launch price: $179/£129/€149
Style: Over-ears
Ideal for: Recording drums, writing music, home sessions, rehearsals, most gigging situations
Cable length: 3 m
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sound delivery+Solid price point +High build quality +Synonymous with recording studios the world over 
Reasons to avoid
-Bulkier than in-ears 

Some gear is so legendary that it has a sort of iconic status. The Shure SM58 microphone, the Ludwig Supraphonic snare and the Beyerdynamic DT770 headphones are amongst such musical royalty. The most obvious reason that the DT770s get so much love is that they sit at a perfectly affordable price point whilst delivering some of the highest quality sonic performance on the market.

These classic cans are so well rounded that it’s hard to find anything genuinely critical to say about them. In a studio situation drummers will be able to hear themselves cleanly, enabling them to strike that perfect balance between playing with intent and not overplaying. The closed-back design also gives the 770s some isolation, which is useful for all types of drumming, whether you’re sat behind an acoustic or electronic kit.

They come complete with a durable 3m cable, mini and regular jacks and a handy bag for carting them between home and the studio or venue. The frequency response of 5-35,000 Hz will suit a wide range of musical situations and the 80 ohm version we’ve opted for here is perfect for all but the most serious of audiophiliac producers. 

Best headphones for drummers: Shure SE215 Pro

(Image credit: Shure )

2. Shure SE215 Pro

The best in-ear headphones for drummers not looking to break the bank

Specifications
Launch price: $119/£99/€109
Style: In-ears
Ideal for: Playing live, rehearsing at home, listening to music.
Cable Length: 162 cm (removable)
Reasons to buy
+Dynamic sound quality for the price+Comfortable in-ear design+Customisable ear buds+Removable cable 
Reasons to avoid
-There are better options for pro players 

In our experience, Shure is an exceptionally reliable brand when it comes to musical equipment, and the SE215s epitomise that. They feature dynamic microdrivers to deliver deep, responsive sonics, particularly for such small headphones. This enables them to focus on a customisable, comfortable design that feels sleek.

As far as in-ears go, many swear by the 215s and say there’s no need to upgrade further. This of course, is down to personal needs and preference, but hobbyists to semi-professional musicians certainly couldn’t go wrong with these. The 162cm cable is a little short for drumming applications, however it can be removed with ease and replaced if you find yourself needing more.

The included transport case is sturdy and protective, the cable itself is wire enforced and the extra ear bud options - different sizes and materials are supplied - are perfect for customising your pair to your level of comfort. We’d recommend looking slightly higher up the price bracket for serious touring or recording options, but for everyone else looking at in-ears, these would be an excellent choice.

Read the full Shure SE215 Pro review 

Best headphones for drummers: Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones V2 (SIH2)

(Image credit: Vic Firth)

3. Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones V2 (SIH2)

Drummers around the world swear by these brand-name noise blockers

Specifications
Launch price: $89/£59/€69
Style: Over-ears
Ideal for: Home practice, small-scale recording sessions, electronic drum kits
Reasons to buy
+Aimed at protecting drummers’ hearing +Built to last +Long cable and adapter included 
Reasons to avoid
-There are better options for audio quality 

The original Vic Firth Stereo Isolation headphones were revolutionary, geared towards helping drummers protect their hearing when playing at loud volumes. This updated version includes cleaner mids, heavier lows and a more comfortable headband, and all for well under $/£100.

If you’re looking at doing a lot of home practice on an acoustic or electronic drum kit - regardless of your age - you’ll want to protect your hearing as best you can. This is the main purpose of the Vic Firth SIH2 headphones. 

But there’s more to them than pure sound isolation. Once you’ve got your chops in good enough shape to get into the recording studio, these puppies will give you all the sonics you need to hear yourself cleanly and play with more finesse.

These cans are built to last and are significantly chunkier than most other over-ear options. Considering the very modest price point, there’s not much to complain about here, and we can highly recommend them for entry level, hobbyist and electronic drummers alike.

Best headphones for drummers: Shure SE846

(Image credit: Shure)

4. Shure SE846

The professional in-ears of choice without going custom-made

Specifications
Launch price: $1,099/£849/€949
Style: In-ears
Ideal for: Gigging, mixing drums, practicing, listening to music
Cable length: 162 cm (removable)
Reasons to buy
+Impeccable, high definition sound performance+Sturdy build quality +Sound isolation up to 37db +Tons of added extras included for customisation 
Reasons to avoid
-They're very expensive

If the Shure SE215 Pro’s look good to you but you think you’ll need more firepower, this is the next set to look at. The stalwart brand has really pulled out all the stops for their SE846 models. With deep, bassy quad-drivers providing rich low-end and an uncoloured overall sound; these IEM’s give a true representation of your playing and will allow drummers to play with comfort and precision.

Speaking of comfort, the Shure SE846s come with a boatload of added extras, including 8 different pairs of interchangeable sleeves (the bit which actually sits inside your ear), as well as 3 different filters which you can manually change to achieve a more balanced, warm or bright sound. On top of this they come with a premium carry case, 1/4” adapter and accurate cleaning equipment.

Overall, the SE846s are a generous alternative to custom-made in-ear monitors at a fraction of the (admittedly high) price. They will serve professional drummers in most situations and can be seen as an investment in yourself and your career. With a two year warranty, if you’re not ready to commit to moulded ear plugs just yet, these are a workhorse pair you can rely upon long-term.

Best headphones for drummers: Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

5. Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro

Gamers and streamers swear by these, but should drummers too? Yes.

Specifications
Launch price: $179/£129/€149
Style: Over-ears
Ideal for: Recording drums, writing music, most gigging situations
Cable Length: 3m
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sound quality+Clear and crisp dynamic representation +Comfortable 
Reasons to avoid
-Open back, so slightly less isolation than the DT770 

The Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro is a famous headset because video game streamers such as Ninja like to use them. In terms of purpose, they essentially serve as the ‘open-back’ offering for those who don’t like the idea of the DT770’s closed backs. What this means is that the dynamic representation is more realistic for most listening experiences, because they take into account ambient noise. Now, while this is better for mixing, in a drumming situation the closed-back design wins out because any extra sound isolation is an added bonus.

Sibling comparisons aside though, the DT990s are an excellent set of cans that feel very comfortable over the ears, have deep rich bass and clean crisp highs, as well as perfectly balanced mids. In our opinion, these are the best option for drummers playing on electronic drum kits, especially if also dabbling in a little bit of production.

As with the DT770s, these come with a 3m cable, a handy carry case, a jack adapter and a very similar price point. The build quality is incredibly high so you shouldn’t need to worry about replacing them in a hurry. All in all, if you’re looking for a pair that you can use for almost anything, these will make an excellent choice. 

Best headphones for drummers: AKG K72

(Image credit: AKG)

6. AKG K72

If you want bang for your buck, look no further. AK-jeez!

Specifications
Launch price: $49/£29/€39
Style: Over-ears
Ideal for: Recording drums, writing music
Cable length: 3 m
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value for money+Closed back design+Comfortable to wear 
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly coloured mids might put some drummers off 

The AKG K72 headphones come with everything you need, at a good enough price for most beginner to semi-pro drummers. If that’s all you’re looking for, look no further. For those wanting a bit more information, let’s elaborate on some of the specifics.

Included in the box is the standard 3.5-6.3mm jack adapter and the ‘phones come with a 3m cable attached, which is nice and long for recording sessions. There’s no flashy case included here, but for the price the K72s are still a bargain. What these headphones do so right is they cover the bases that the majority will need. The sound is compressed in such a way that everything can be heard clearly, albeit without many subtleties, the build quality is solid and the purpose is fulfilled. Everything is good enough.

However, as there are no frills included here, some might find the absence of specific sonic definition a bit lacklustre. For example, if you are playing with a very jazzily-tuned kit, the playback through these headphones will be unlikely to capture some of the subtlety you’ll be used to hearing live. While not a game-changer, this might be the deciding factor between spending the bargain price on these, or going for something a little more detailed.

Best headphones for drummers: Sennheiser HD25

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

7. Sennheiser HD25 Plus

The best on-ear headphones available for drummers right now

Specifications
Launch price: $199/£159/€179
Style: On-ears
Ideal for: Live gigs, recording drums, writing music, home sessions, rehearsals, mixing
Cable length: 1-3 m coiled (comes with 1.5m wire cable also)
Reasons to buy
+Dynamic and responsive sounds +Sleek design +Closed back for good isolation +Additional extras included 
Reasons to avoid
-Dynamic compression is not the most accurate 

If you prefer the idea of on-ears and are looking for something that will suit a live scenario, we would wager these will come up time and time again in your research. The Sennheiser HD25 headphones are something of a go-to pair for drummers (they work as great DJ headphones, too) due to their sturdy build, excellent dynamic sound and ability to withstand very high sound pressure.

A gigging drummer - especially one in the field of electronic music - would do well to utilise these. Their dynamic compression; whilst not the most accurate or clean, has a really nice vibe that enhances most mixes sent through it. The lightweight design also really helps you feel connected with the gig, not to mention there’s actually some pretty solid sound isolation on offer here, too.

The ‘plus’ version amps all of this up a notch with their inclusion of some useful extras such as the coiled cable. Definitely a matter of preference, but this alone will be enough to make some drummers want to spend a little extra, as coiled cables tend to last a bit longer. Also included are a carry pouch and some extra cushions for the ear pads, adding even more value to an already great value set of cans.

Read the full Sennheiser HD25 review 

Best headphones for drummers: Audio Technica ATH-M50x

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

8. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

A solid, stylish option for drummers looking at over-ear headphones

Specifications
Launch price: $189/£139/€159
Style: Over-ears
Ideal for: Recording drums, writing music, home sessions, rehearsals, most gigging situations
Cable length: 1-3 m coiled, 3m straight, 1.2m straight cables all included
Reasons to buy
+Very sleek design. Also available in White and Purple+Solid sound quality +Detachable cable included 
Reasons to avoid
-A bit uncomfortable for longer sessions 

Let’s be real. Style is important. If you’re the kind of person who finds blacks and greys boring and tends to veer towards more colourful offerings, that’s probably the first thing you’ll notice with the ATH M50x’s: they come in 3 different colours. Our personal favourite here is still the Black, but the purples definitely stand out from the crowd.

Aesthetics aside, these are a solid pair of headphones that, while not as impressive as some of Beyerdynamic’s offerings in the same price range, definitely have their own thing going on. For instance, the ATH M50x’s come with three different cable styles included; one of which is the coveted ‘coiled’ design, which a lot of drummers will love. They also come with a travel case and are collapsible, meaning they’re perfect for use on the tour bus as well as on stage. Moreover, since the cable is fully detachable and they are a closed back design - with passive noise cancellation included - they work great as ear protection too.

In terms of sound, they shine brightest when used for their predominant purpose as monitor headphones. Using these whilst recording is a delight, due to their accurate sound depiction and clear mids. In a live setting they do a great job of representing drum tones whilst blocking some external noise, however they are a little uncomfortable during prolonged wear, so it might be worth giving them a trial run before committing fully to them.

Read the full Audio-Technica ATH-M50x review 

Best headphones for drummers: Sennheiser IE400 Pro

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

9. Sennheiser IE400 Pro

In-ear monitors from Sennheiser that offer great sound at a great price

Specifications
Launch price: $319/£229/€269
Style: In-ears
Ideal for: Touring, recording and home playing
Cable length: 1.3 m, detachable
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money+Clear, punchy sound profile will keep you locked in live+Durable cables 
Reasons to avoid
-Known to be a little uncomfortable 

The world of in-ear monitoring can get very expensive, very quickly. That is what the IE400 aims to solve. Think of these as a gateway pair of earphones for drummers wanting a tailored on-stage sound, but are tentative about spending four figures on something they might not get on with.

Much like the AKG K72s, Sennheiser has on offer here a set that will do everything you need them to do and nothing more, and won’t charge you through the nose for it. The ‘TrueResponse’ driver system provides a deep, clean sound that provides all the clarity in instrumentation a drummer needs on stage or in the studio. Bass is deep, mids are present and highs are choppy as ever. The buds themselves are a little uncomfortable, but thankfully there are six different adapters for these to choose from, so most people should be able to customise to their liking.

Also included is a transport case, the standard jack adapter and a cleaning tool. Overall these IEMs do an excellent version of the job they’re designed to do, and won’t break the bank when doing so. If you’re thinking about dipping your toe into the world of in-ear monitoring, they’re well worth a try.

Best headphones for drummers: Buying advice

Drumming wearing Vic Firth headphones

(Image credit: Future)

The first thing to consider when looking at a pair of the best drumming headphones is what your specific needs are. Are you about to embark on a month-long tour and need some cans to kick out those backing tracks with clean precision? Perhaps you’re a hobbyist who’s just looking for something to use with an electronic drum kit you just bought? Working this out will inform the type of qualities you’re looking for in your headphones. 

Drumming headphones types 

In the world of headphones for drummers, there are three distinct categories:

In-ears: These are, as the name suggests, smaller earbuds that go directly into your ears. Anyone who’s used a pair of earbuds like Apple’s AirPods will know what to expect in terms of comfort. When it comes to in-ears, a cable connects the earphones together, and this can be wrapped behind your neck to make them extra secure and avoid you accidentally pulling them out as you play. Some in-ears specifically designed for live performance are attached to a monitoring pack and are known as ‘in-ear monitors’ (or ‘IEMs’ for short). The technology used tends to make these a more expensive option, so these are probably only essential if you’re embarking on long tours with a very sophisticated live set-up.

Over-ear headphones: These will sit over your whole ear and thus block out quite a lot of external sound, making them ideal for recording situations. They are able to kick out a deep sonic range and can give very accurate monitoring feedback in quiet environments. Over-ears are considered quite a safe option as they can give good, accurate feedback at low volumes and do not need to be inserted in or over the ear, which some might find the most comfortable option. As well as drumming, over-ear headphones make for an excellent tool for producing music at home or in a studio.

On-ear headphones: These are similar to over-ears in that they sit over the ear instead of inside them, except on-ears won’t cover the entire ear. Again, this comes down to preference and comfort. Largely speaking, on-ears are a good option for home practice, especially with an electronic drum kit. Since they sit just over your ears, they won’t feel so isolating, which some drummers might find more comfortable - it allows a combination of directed sounds vs natural acoustics. 

Connectors 

So, we’ve covered the different types of headphones, now let’s look at some of the other specifics, starting with the connector. Most headphones will come with a 3.5mm “mini jack” as standard, but since the universal standard connection for most musical inputs is 6.5mm (also known as a “jack”), often there will be an adapter included. This might sit on the end of the headphones and will need to be twisted off to reveal the 3.5mm connector underneath, or it might come disconnected and will need to be twisted on. 

Headphone cable 

Another thing to consider is the length and durability of the supplied cable. If you are going to be using the headphones in a studio setting, you’ll want a long and strong - possibly even coiled - cable, that will be able to withstand some movement. If you’re just using them at home or in the studio, this is less of an issue. In fact, if you’re only looking for a pair to plug into an electronic drum kit, you won’t want an extensively long cable because it will likely get in the way. 

Young drummer plays an e-kit wearing headphones

(Image credit: Future)

Looking after your ears 

If you’re using headphones to make music, it’s important to remember that you’ll still be receiving higher volumes than normal directly into your ears. With this in mind, you should be conscious of regulating the volume that you intake music at. A good guideline is always to start as quietly as you are comfortable with and then only increase the volume incrementally as you need.

Secondly, clean your ears! Ear wax clogging up your ear canals can be quite harmful and impede the actual levels of what’s being sent to your ears. This can result in higher-than-necessary listening volumes and possible infections. When you have the time, ensure to clean your ears out; especially if you’re thinking about getting in-ear headphones.

Jai Widdowson-Jones

Jai is the drummer for Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, who have worked with Jay Z, Tyler the Creator and more. He has also played for Jaguar Skills, Haelos, Willie J Healey and recorded various sessions. When he's not playing, Jai writes for MusicRadar, specialising in drums, touring and mental health within the music industry. Outside of music he enjoys drinking hipster coffee, collects video games and loves all sports. Oh, and dogs.