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Why Should I Get a Pair of Headphones For Rock Music?

Mar 9

It's impossible for a headphone manufacturer to make a single headphone best suited for all the variety of reasons consumers use them. Even the most expensive headphones have shortcomings, in fact, I would argue many of the more expensive headphones fit smaller and smaller niches, but often fulfill those niches exceptionally well. That's why it's extremely important to know how you intend to use your headphones the most before you buy them. For those of you who enjoy and primarily listen to rock music, I have come up with some things to think about and some of my top picks in the headphones for rock music category.

In general, you want clear, quick, and bass shy headphones. Clear to let the musical qualities that actually add to the enjoyment shine through, quick to keep up with the pace of the instruments used in this genre, and bass shy to keep the mid frequencies free from being lost. But more specifically you want a rock music headphone to have...

  • Resolution - Genres, like rock, have dominant sounds that most people associate with that type of music. However, those same sounds are made much more enjoyable with contrast from other sounds, and it's those instruments in the background that need to be reproduced and not drowned in the guitars. What makes a great pair of headphones for rock music, is one that separates the bass guitar, drums, and vocals out and reproduces them in the way they were intended. A few key words to look for in reviews are instrument separation, clarity, and accuracy. This can be a bit misleading though too as there are many headphones that do this well, but not some of the things below. So, make sure all of the characteristics are accounted for; the recommendations above are great examples.
  • Aggressive - Rock music is not laid back, so neither should your headphones. "Neutral" headphones are often great at resolution, but are very boring for rock music. Good headphones for rock music are slightly colored and fast-paced, so that guitars (often the dominant instrument) and vocals are given that edge we expect from rock music.
  • Bass Shy - I love bass as much as the next guy, but it just doesn't belong in my rock music. The biggest reason in my mind is because it's almost impossible to not sacrifice at least some mids in bass-heavy headphones. Even with the most highly touted bass-heavy models, laws of physics still apply. The mids and highs are where rock music live, but if you have an unusual collection of bass-heavy rock songs, look for a can that has tight and punchy bass. Tight, punchy bass emphasized cans are best at keeping bass out of the mids and reproducing many of the drum-heavy tracks well.
  • Well Extended - People often associate the upper registers of female voices with high frequencies, but some of the most demanding upper register songs come from the rock genre in the form of guitar riffs and climatic vocal shrills. If you have headphones that fall off in those upper registers, you often miss or hear an entirely different version of the most important part of the song. Having a well extended "can" is imperative in my mind and something to not sacrifice on. Headphones for rock music often sacrifice in the bass in order to deliver on this.


If you want a way to introduce some more of the above qualities in a headphone you currently have, you could pair a more neutral headphone with an aggressive amplifier as well. That way you would have a neutral headphone unamped and a more rock-centric headphone when amped. Only a couple of amp models do this well and you can read more about rock headphone/amp combos at the head-fi's forums here. There are several good threads on this topic there, just use the search function. 

As an electrical signal passes through the wires and into the attached metal coil it can turn it into a magnet and influence its polarity. Since the metal coil sits next to a magnet and the metal coil is now itself magnetized, the metal coil and magnet can either attract or repel each other depending on how the electrical signal influences the polarity. When the metal coil and magnet repel each other, this forces the cone (diaphragm) upwards. When the metal coil and magnet attract each other, it pulls the cone towards it.

I could go on and on... bottom line is how headphones work is pretty simple as they are essentially speakers that technology has allowed us to shrink in addition to the fact that they are up against your ear versus filling a whole room/car. And after many reviews, its apparent to me headphone companies have done a good job of improving sound quality as they move up the price scale. There is however a diminishing returns once you move past the couple hundred dollar range.