If you plan on listening to binaural beats on a regular basis, you might want to consider investing in some decent quality headphones. We get a lot on enquiries on this subject, so hopefully this post will match you up with a pair that best suits your needs.
Headphone Consideration 1 – Minimal Enhancement
The first thing to consider is that you don't want headphones designed to overly enhance sound, such as those that boost bass massively or smooth frequency response to produce a blueprint “nice” sound.
The reason for this is that our binaural beats are engineered with a specific frequency blueprint designed to entrain your brain for a specific purpose. So in short, the less this is interfered with the better.
To clarify, it's not boosting the quality of the sound that is the issue, but rather boosting or cutting out certain frequencies. So in short, try and avoid headphones that manipulate sound to make it different as opposed to headphones that work to allow you to hear all elements of the track as it was meant to sound.
Please note that our own in-house tests have shown that the majority of medium-high quality headphones produce good results when playing back our meditations, even those that tweak the sound a tad.
However, we do recommend studio quality headphones that offer a “true” sound rather than an overly enhanced one.
Headphone Consideration 2 – Comfortability
You are likely to be focusing intently, in contemplation or meditating deeply, so you want to be wearing headphones that do not distract you from this purpose. Any discomfort you experience will reduce how effective the binaural beats will be, simply because you will be distracted.
With this in mind, it might be a good idea to choose pair that is comfortably padded. Of course, a comfortable, quality pair of headphones will set you back $40+, but there are some very reasonably priced, high quality headphones on the market, as we'll explore below.
Once you have chosen your comfortable headphones, the next considerations are closed vs. open, and frequency response. This can get a little confusing, but don't let the technical details overwhelm you; really, most headphones will do just fine, especially if you are just starting out.
Brands We Recommend
That's not to say other brands won't do, but if you love your music, you'll not be disappointed investing in one of these top brands. Sony also do some good models, but careful on the cheaper ones because the plastic tends to be a bit cheap and they don't wear well.
If you want a little more specific advice, please read on….
Binaural Beats Headphones – Technical Considerations:
Closed-back headphones vs. Open-back headphones:
- Closed back headphones are recommended because they isolate you from noise and keep others from hearing your music through leakage. It used to be the case that open headphones produced better sound (depending on the model), but at the expense of sound passing through the cups and out into the environment. This isn't so much the case nowadays, since closed headphones have come a long way over the past few years. Closed headphones are an excellent choice, particularly for noisy environments like the office because they are able to block out around 10-15 dB.
- There are two types of closed headphones you can purchase too; either full-size (circumaural) headphones like these lovely Sennheisers, or on-ear/earpad (supra-aural) types like these super Beyerdynamic headphones. The difference is that the circumaural type is bigger and more suited to indoors, whereas the supra-aural type is better-suited for being out and about.
- You will find that most audio professionals (DJs, sound reinforcement, location recordists, studio producers, etc.) use closed headphones, as these provide better concentration without intrusion of ambient noise distractions.
The frequency response numbers you see on headphones specification is the quantitative measure of the output. The low number represents the lowest boundary of your headphones frequency extension. Good headphones will go as low as 20 Hz, the lowest limit of our hearing.
The high number represents the highest boundary of your headphones frequency extension. Good headphones will reproduce frequencies up to 20 kHz, the upper limit of human hearing range.
So in short, as long as your headphones state the frequency response to be 20hz-20khz, they'll be just fine for listening to binaural beats.
Using Standard Earbuds
You may not be convinced that earbuds used with iPods and iPhones provide a good sound quality, but they will work well with binaural beats, particularly the phones that come with the new iPhone 6 or 7.
The specifications indicate a frequency response somewhere in the range of 20 Hz to 24 kHz, which not only beats expectations from consumer electronics at any level, but the playback specifications are better than your ability to hear. So don’t worry if you don't want to splash out on expensive headphones, earbuds will perform just fine.
That said, the issue with iPhone/iPod- type earbuds is that they don't rest well in the ear, which can be a little annoying if you have small ears. They may also allow internal sound into your ear while listening, and of course won't provide a listening experience on a par with the medium and higher-end brands. They are however convenient and plenty good enough for listening to binaural beats on the go.
If you want to go better than standard iPhone/iPod phones but still want earbuds, treat yourself to some Sure, like these superb Sure SE-425V.
Professional Level Headphones
If your budget is a little more generous, but you don't like the idea of having a fully enclosed sound – perhaps you have children to watch or simply don't like that feeling of being totally cut off – you should check out the AKG Pro Audio K240 MK 2 studio headphones.
They are semi-enclosed, so they block out most external sound, but not alarming sounds you wouldn't want to ignore, and the sound quality is fabulous. They only have one cable, so you never get tangled in amongst the wires, and they have an adjustable fit for increased comfortability.
Another popular pair of headphones is the Sony MDR-V7506 Studio Monitor Headphones. Although not as affordable as the AKGs, this pair of Sony’s have proven to be very popular for serious binaural beats enthusiasts. The Sony headphones have a strong bass response, and of course many people favour this for the “whole sound” experience.
If you do like a bit more of a bass-driven sound and want a brand name for a fraction of the price of the MDRs, try the Sennheiser HD 202 Headphones. These have a solid sound and are extremely affordable. But if your budget is on the larger side, treat yourself and go for my favourites, the Sennheiser HD-25s.
How About SleepPhones?
We haven't too much experience with SleepPhones headbands, but some of our users are using them and enjoy the freedom they provide for laying down and drifting off to sleep with tracks like Deep Sleep.
If you didn't know already, these are headbands that fit comfortably over your ears and allow you to lie on your side without squashing your face with the cup. They come in a variety of colours and sizes and are readily available on Amazon.com.
We hope this headphone guide has helped, and rest assured that any of our recommended brands over the $40 mark will give you a pleasant, effective listening experience. But if you still have a question, drop us an email and we'll help you out.