Digital pianos are great. They offer you a substantial musical experience that rivals some acoustic pianos, without the volume, the bulk or the significant maintenance cost that comes with an acoustic piano. However, a digital piano, in my opinion, is nothing without a quality pair of headphones. Sure, you can use the headphones that came with your iPhone if you really want to, but in order to get the best experience from your digital piano, in my opinion you need a quality pair of dedicated headphones, and this is what we’re going to go through today.
The 5 Best Headphones for a Digital Piano; In-Depth
Our #1 Choice: Roland RH-A7 Monitor Headphones
Our Rating: 4.5/5
Now, these aren’t the absolute most expensive set of headphones money can buy, but I’ve tried to orient this article to the more budget-conscious among us. As a result, the most expensive set of headphones I’ve picked are less than $100.
The Roland RH-A7 is a very high-quality headset that will serve your practice sessions for years to come. They’re very lightweight and comfortable, enabling extended practice sessions. Of course, the manufacturer, Roland, is synonymous with quality, and that’s exactly what you get here. The sound reproduction is phenomenal even on very low volume, with very clearly defined treble and a lot of power in the bass when you need it.
One of the key things I like about this set of headphones is the way they’re constructed. They’re designed for you to be able to hear other people when you’re wearing them. Now, this can be both a blessing and a curse; you don’t jump out of your own skin when your parents, children or significant other bothers you telling you it’s time for dinner.
However, if you’re planning to practice in the same room as others who are perhaps having a conversation, these headphones really don’t isolate noise very well (this is deliberate on Roland’s part) so you may want to look at some other options if you foresee yourself having to practice in the same room as others.
Another thing to consider is that some reviews have mentioned a buzzing sound while practising; suggesting these headphones might not be shielded very well from interference. However, I didn’t notice this when I tried these headphones, and the reviews in question mention that they were eventually able to fix it, so you shouldn’t let this put you off buying these headphones.
Our #2 Choice: Sennheiser HD 300 Around-Ear Lightweight Headphones
Our Rating: 4/5
We’ve come down in price for this recommendation. However, we haven’t compromised too much on quality, and for comfort, we’re getting what I feel are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever tried. First off, Sennheiser; a German brand that are renowned throughout the music industry for their professional-grade products.
These headphones are so comfortable. This is the reason I recommend them for long practice sessions. If you want to sit at your piano for three hours, you will find that even the highest-quality and most expensive headphones get quite uncomfortable after a period of time. Now, the Sennheiser HD300 isn’t immune from this effect, and after wearing them for a few hours while I was writing an article they did begin to get a little uncomfortable. However, I took a short break, and after I went back to work I forgot I had these headphones on after a few minutes.
As far as the sound goes, it’s excellent; not as good as the Roland, but not far off. The sound is well balanced, with a nice power in the bass. However I was a bit disappointed with the treble; it’s not as clear and bell-like as I would like. Occasionally the overall sound can get a bit muddy, especially if you’re using reverb effects and such. I can overlook this at this price point, however.
Some of the reviews for these headphones suggest that the cable is a bit short, and I have to agree; while a huge cable isn’t necessary for practicing on a digital piano, it would have been nicer for the cable to be a little bit longer. However, not a deal-breaker for me.
I would like to point out that these headphones do a great job of noise cancelling, so are the opposite to the Rolands in that respect. You will not have to worry about being bothered by ambient noise with these headphones.
Our #3 Choice: Sennheiser HD206 Stereo Headphones
Our Rating: 4/5
Another entry from Sennheiser here. These are cheaper again, but don’t compromise on sound and build quality. I have to say, while they are lightweight, these headphones feel very well built; they feel like you could throw them around as much as you wanted and they’d still work. This could be very useful for a gigging musician, or for someone who wants to give a pair of headphones to a heavy-handed child without being concerned that the headphones are going to be smashed into a million pieces after five minutes.
Although to be honest, even if that did happen, these headphones are at a price point where if something does happen to them, they are replaceable. They are comfortable to wear (although not as comfortable as the previous two headsets) and provide a good, well balanced sound. The bass is a little lacking, but the treble is clear and bell-like, which I like very much. One thing I did notice is that these headphones make my instrument sound very bright, which I do not like so much. In fact, I found it to be quite irritating after a while, so I probably wouldn’t buy these for myself.
One thing I will say is that while the headset itself appears very well built, the cable does not, and feels very flimsy. This is supported by some reviews of this product that have said that the cable has split. I don’t know how replaceable the cable is if it does break; however at this price point, it probably isn’t worth doing and you might be better off just buying new ones.
Other than this; these headphones are well sealed from ambient noise, and the price makes them pretty hard to beat.
Our #4 Choice: Panasonic RP-HT161E-K Headphones
Our Rating: 3/5
These headphones are the cheapest headphones on this list, and it definitely shows. Panasonic are a great brand and make some excellent products. This isn’t one of them. While they’re perfectly adequate if you’re on a budget, I’d thoroughly recommend stretching a little further to get something a little better. If this is all you can afford, however, they do have some redeeming qualities.
These headphones have a perfectly acceptable sound for the price. It’s nothing to write home about, but they work very well considering the low price. The bass is a bit weak, and the treble a bit muffled. The sound can get overwhelmingly muddy if you’re playing Liszt or Rachmaninov; when I was trying these out I longed for a nice, clear, crisp treble that unfortunately I never got. However, as I keep saying; as the budget option, they’re perfectly adequate.
My overwhelming gripe with these headphones is that the build quality feels extremely poor. Of course, this is to be expected at such a price point, but I feel like Panasonic didn’t really put a lot of effort into this product. It really shows, and often I felt like these things were going to fall apart while they were on my head. The other build quality issue I had was with the adjustable left and right cups; they slide up and down to accommodate different-sized heads.
Unfortunately this mechanism doesn’t lock in place, so when you put the headphones on or take them off, they often adjust by themselves, which gets very frustrating.
Our #5 Choice: Sony MDR-7506/1 Professional Headphones
Our Rating: 5/5
These headphones look and feel like they mean business, and they certainly do. Sony is a well respected name in the headphones and audio business, and they’ve created a cracking pair of headphones here. I did a fair amount of research on these headphones and I’ve found that Sony have actually produced these headphones for quite a long time; they’ve been the industry standard for at least ten years, which blew me away!
Of course, you might be thinking that you don’t want to buy ten year old tech, but I prefer to subscribe to the theory that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Of course, Sony will have made refinements and improvements along the way, but the basic product is the same. And as far as I’m concerned, if it’s good enough for the pros, it’s more than good enough for me.
The sound is exceptional. I truly mean exceptional; every little detail was there. I was so impressed I even plugged these headphones into my computer to listen to some recordings, and I was stunned by the quality. They offer an exceptionally immersive experience when playing a digital piano, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
One small gripe I have; these headphones are very heavy, and aren’t exactly what you’d call portable. They do fold up, but they might not be the best choice to take travelling with you from gig to gig if you require something light and compact. Having said that, it’s clear Sony have made no compromise on quality of sound here, and their bulk and weight is something I’d be more than willing to put up with if I needed to carry these around with me.
What is the standard stereo headphone jack size for a digital piano?
This is an interesting question, because digital pianos actually use a slightly different jack to most other electronic devices. The standard headphone jack size around today is 3.5mm. This is the same kind of jack that you get with your iPod, your phone; basically, anything that you can plug a headphone in will take a 3.5mm jack.
Most digital pianos actually don’t take a 3.5mm jack. Manufacturers overwhelmingly opt for a 6.35mm jack, which is much larger. Quite why manufacturers of digital pianos do this I don’t know, but there is a lot of high end audio equipment that will only take a 6.35mm jack and not a 3.5mm, so this is probably why.
All of the headphones here come with a standard 3.5mm jack. They will not fit your digital piano without an adapter. Fortunately, most of the headphones here include this adapter, and if for whatever reason they don’t, these adapters are ubiquitous and can be picked up on Amazon or eBay for very little money.
Using a digital piano without headphones?
Unfortunately I find that lots of digital pianos leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the internal speakers. Sometimes they’re just too weak to deliver the kind of power you need for playing certain pieces. For example, if you’ve got a basic Yamaha or Casio, such as the P45 or the Privia PX760, just try playing something like the Liszt sonata or a late Chopin piece; the power that you need to convey the expression in this music just isn’t there and your music-making just sounds pathetic. This is where you need a good pair of headphones.
I’m pretty demanding when it comes to headphones for my digital piano; I want something that brings out the tone of the piano, something that’s crisp but not too bright and doesn’t make the bass overwhelming. Unfortunately I find that most headphones I try do the exact opposite of this. However, I recognise that I prefer a much mellower tone than most pianists, so I’ve tried not to let this influence my choices here.
A great pair of headphones really elevates your digital piano experience, and even if you don’t decide to buy anything that I recommend here, I highly suggest that you try out a good pair of headphones with your digital. It will absolutely change your practice.
In conclusion; a pair of headphones is a must. And if you have a choice, opt for the Sony I’ve recommended here; you won’t have to buy another pair of headphones ever again.
In the meantime; happy practicing.