Music is a universal language and one of the most consumed forms of entertainment in the world. While most of us enjoy hearing music through the speakers of our smartphones and at live concerts, the best way to consume it is through the use of headphones. Headphones offer a direct way to experience the music in your own setting away from the world. Sure there are open back headphones that do a great job of letting ambient noise in but there’s also closed back headphones too. When it comes to isolating and creating a true surround sound experience you’ll want to make sure you have closed back headphones that have good bass in them. Without the bass your mix is likely going to feel empty, tinny and without depth. People often wonder how to know if headphones have good bass, but don’t have a real checklist for that.
Knowing if headphones have good bass is really important to know before purchasing any pair. With a well balanced sound field you can thoroughly enjoy your music, and having good bass is a huge part in that process. Here’s how we go about determining which headphones have good bass.
Check the frequency response levels
Choose large drivers at least 40mm or higher
Making sure we choose the right driver type
Looking for a bass boost feature
Measuring the db sensitivity levels
So you know that you want music that’s represented well in all the levels. You want those highs, those mids and of course you want that bass. The problem for many people is not knowing how what specs to look at in determining whether the bass will be good or not.
There’s a couple of ways to figure this out without ever trying the headphones on. Especially if you’re purchasing something like the Beats Studio 3 then you’ll want to make sure it’s going to work for you right? Read below for our 5 proven ways to know if your prospective headphones have good bass or not.
1. Know The Frequency Response
You often see the frequency response represented in the specs section of many audio products. If you’re not a true audiophile then odds are the frequency response probably means very little to you. However it should because this is probably the number one factor in knowing what that pair of headphones is going to sound like.
By definition, frequency response is the “dependence on signal frequency of the output–input ratio of an amplifier or other device.” In short it’s the measurement of dynamics in your headphones. The wider the range the more ability the headphones have to produce certain tones as well as certain dynamics clearly.
Knowing how to pick headphones with high-quality bass is easy if you understand the general frequency ranges. The average frequency range is 20 – 20,000 Hz, which is good enough for most music. That means you’ll clearly feel the bass guitar in your mix but also the high pitches of the clarinets and flutes.
If you expand that frequency range say to 4 – 40,000 Hz then much more is attainable. You’ll be able to hear sub 808’s at some of the lowest notes possible. Think about that piccolo player who’s playing a gorgeous pianissimo tone in the highest register. Basically the entire palette of dynamics is front and center.
For headphones with good bass we recommend sticking with frequency ranges that start at 20 Hz. 20 Hz is generally the area where you can achieve great sub-bass tones which are often heard in Rap, Pop and Electronic music on the radio. If you couple that with treble ranges of 40,000 Hz then you’ll get good brilliance. Sticking with those ranges helps to ensure that the sound is smooth and not distorted.
2. Pick Good Sized Drivers
The drivers in your headphones are key to delivering not just the sound but also the rumble you feel in your chest. The drivers are responsible for that full, immersive experience that listeners love.
Think of the movie theater and how engaging those speakers are in the room; drivers achieve a similar effect. There’s a couple of driver sizes to keep note of. Often you’ll see them range from 8, 10, 20 and all the way up to 50mm.
The larger you go the more sound you’ll get. Typically the 8mm – 15mm range is reserved for earbuds. Headphones usually start at 20mm and go up from there.
We recommend sticking with 40mm to 50mm driver sizes. These are the ones that simply deliver the kind of punch that ties those wide frequency ranges together. You don’t want something to sound compressed or tied up, so if you go with the larger drivers then the sound has room to expand and surround you.
Larger drivers equate to a bigger sound. This does not always mean the sound will have the kind of quality you want though which is why it’s important to pair the frequency range with this to make sure it makes sense. For example, you wouldn’t want to have a frequency range of 5 – 50,000Hz but have tiny drivers of 20mm; it just doesn’t work this way.
3. Know The Headphone Driver Types
The driver size is just one element. Knowing what type of drivers that are in your headphones is equally as important. There’s many types out there and it really depends on what the company wants to use from a cost and manufacturing perspective. Below is a list of the common driver types you’ll find in today’s headphones.
Considering these names don’t mean much to you on the surface, we’ll briefly focus on the most commonly seen one which are the Dynamic Moving Coil drivers.
Dynamic Drivers – Dynamic drivers are the most commonly seen on the market. They’re relatively inexpensive to produce and assemble so that plays a part into them being the popular option. They do produce great sound though. This driver is also called a moving coil and works to create movement through magnetism (click here to get more details on how moving coil works).
It’s compiled of 3 main parts which are the neodymium magnet, voice coil and the connector. What happens during operation is the voice coil becomes magnetized and a magnetic field is essentially created. Over that field travels a flow of current which shifts the air around it in different directions.
What you’re left with is a gorgeous sound. Especially if you’re into bass then these drivers are a great choice. You’ll typically find these drivers on low impedance headphones too which means less power consumption to achieve that good bass.
(CR: Gavin Whitner)
There’s a lot that we love about these drivers however their cheapness does have it’s drawbacks. Sometimes the sound will become distorted at higher listening levels and as the more distant frequency ranges are tested. Well respected brands like Sennheisser and Audio Technica headphones make good use of their dynamic drivers though.
You typically don’t find Planar Magnetic or Electrostatic drivers on cheaper headphones. In fact you’ll most likely see Electrostatic features on expensive home theater systems instead. With Planar magnetic you’ll often see those in open back headphones usually.
Planar is actually really good for distortion free bass and these types of headphones usually have a wider frequency response. The problems with Planar though are that they tend to be much heavier in weight and you’ve got to have an amplifier to power them up.
A simple smartphone or tablet won’t be enough to handle their higher impedance levels. We’re not saying that it’s not worth the investment, but it’s not necessary just to get good bass.
4. Bass Boost
We’re a little torn about this next point, but think it’s important to bring out the fact that many headphones are now offering this feature. Out of the box most cheaper headphone models sound great. But with the way the music industry is heading with more computerized music it’s important to make sure that the bass is adjustable.
Bass boost is a feature you’ll see on newer headphones that allow you to push them to their limits. The EQ of your headphones undergoes a massive change whenever you enable this feature though.
The first thing you’ll probably experience is quite a bit of distortion in your mix. The bass will be turned up but some other area of your mix will suffer. If you don’t care too much for the high ranges then it won’t be such a bad deal for you. Before you go out venturing for a pair of headphones with bass boost as a key feature we thought we’d recommend one that won’t disappoint you first.
The Sony Mdrxb950bt/b Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones are a quality choice for this venture. They are an over the ear style with good comfort and build quality. For the extra bass feature it’s much smoother than what you would find on a pair of earbuds (see some of our favorite audiophile earbuds here). It doesn’t just give you more quantity, but rather a good dose of quality too. It also features 40mm drivers which fits right into the type of headphones we like to see.
5. Headphone Sensitivity
The last specification which is key to how to know if headphones have good bass for your taste is the sensitivity levels. This is an often overlooked spec but a must know. The sensitivity is measured in dB levels. The more sensitive the headphones are the louder the volume will be over the less sensitive ones.
Usually when we’re listening to music and the bass is not there we turn up the volume. If you get a more sensitive pair of headphones you won’t have to do that as much and that has some benefits as well. That means less power being consumed by your devices and also safer listening for you.
We hope that you’ve got a better idea about how to pick headphones with high-quality bass reponsiveness. There’s so many specs out there and sometimes the manufacturers aren’t consistent with their labeling either. We suggest you start off by looking for what you know. Check out the driver size and make sure it’s somewhere between 40mm and 50mm.
The next step you’ll want to take a look at is what kind of drivers are installed. Remember that if you buy from a reputable brand like Beats or Bose then there’s less of chance for distorted sound at higher listening levels.
Lastly make sure to check out the sensitivity levels as well as if the headphones have any built-in EQ features like Bass Boost. If you’re looking for a good selection of headphones that we can recommend right now then check out our list of the best headphones for noise reduction.