If you’re like me and do a lot of practicing on a digital piano, it’s a good idea to invest in a nice pair of headphones. I’ve found that a good monitoring system results in more productive practice sessions. My piano software of choice is Synthogy’s Ivory II. It’s a great virtual instrument, and I love the Steinway D and Yamaha C7 samplesets. I’ve also used Pianoteq in the past, but it hasn’t seen much use since I purchased Ivory II. I play through Apple MainStage with a Focusrite Saffire PRO 40 audio interface. The setup isn’t audiophile by any means, but it does sound pretty good! I’ve used a variety of headphones with this setup, and now I’ll let you know which once have worked for me.
I’ve owned a pair of Shure SE535 IEMs since 2011, and I mainly use them to listen to music on my iPhone. They’re fairly comfortable for commuting to school and casual listening, but using them for long practice sessions can be fatiguing. I’ve also found the SE535’s sound signature to be a little too bright for practicing piano. While they’re awesome for listening to music, I no longer use them for practicing.
I loved the SE535s, so I decided to purchase the Shure SRH840s when they came out. I was not disappointed. The sound signature is pretty flat, so they’re also great for checking mixes if you’re into that stuff. I found the coiled cord a little annoying, but they also come with a straight cord. They’re a little uncomfortable at first, but get really comfortable after some use. The SRH840’s soundstage is also pretty large for a closed design.
The most inexpensive pair of headphones I’ve tried also happens to be the one I like the least. Since the MDR-7506 is such a studio standard, I thought it would be good to own a pair just for the heck of it. At $85, they’re pretty cheap for a decent pair of headphones. It turns out they’re way too bright for practicing piano, and the soundstage is pretty small. I just couldn’t get into the music with this pair of headphones. I didn’t sell them though. They’re great for tracking vocals, and general monitoring for recording.
Okay, this is it. Sennheiser wins. The HD650 is the best pair of headphones I own, and they’re awesome for practicing piano. The frequency response is pretty flat (though not as flat as the HD600), and the soundstage is huge compared to the other headphones I have. They make Ivory II sound eerily close to a real grand piano. The earcups are also really comfortable, and I have no issue wearing them with glasses either.
Nowadays, I like to switch between the Shure SRH840 and the Sennheiser HD650. If you’re on a budget, go for the Shures. For a few hundred dollars more, you can get the Sennheisers…headphones that you can also use for high end listening. I don’t think the HD650s necessarily sound three hundred dollars better than the SRH840s, but they both have their uses. The Shure’s closed design isolates much better than the Sennheiser’s open design, so that’s also something to consider. Bottom line is you’ll be happy with either of these headphones.