Looking for the best isolation headphones for drummers? Look no further, as we’ve got the best list on the web. Keep reading.
Headphones are rather crucial to our daily life. Whether you’re using your Apple iPhone earbuds or your favorite Bluetooth headphones, there is a big chance you use them often. Many of these consumer-grade choices make terrible options for playing drums.
For starters, drums are quite loud, and these types of earbuds and headphones often won’t reduce the amount of volume that your kit puts out.
Many manufacturers make specific isolation headphones made to reduce the level of volume in your ears and from external sources: your drum kit, for example.
Best Isolation Headphones for Drummers in 2023
The main idea with these headphones is their ability to cancel out some of the loud noise from your drum kit. One of the great benefits of choosing a pair of headphones for drumming is that you can use these not only for drums but also in your everyday life.
I’ve used everything from crappy Sony headphones from the 1990s to noise
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many exceptional options (except for one) available for drummers at the moment. We are going to weed through the list, but don’t be surprised if a lot of these reviews are negative.
Myself? I use both isolation headphones and in-ear monitors. Both have applications whether it’s in the studio or playing live. That being said, let’s get into the list of best isolation headphones for drummers.
1) GK Ultraphones (Best For Acoustic Drums)
The GK Music Ultraphones are a blast to use with an acoustic drum set. The cans sound incredible and the isolation is next to none.
Let me start off by saying that I have never used a better pair of isolation headphones in my life. Whether it be the Vic Firth or the Extreme Isolation cans, nothing comes close to GK Music’s Ultraphones.
GK Music is headed by highly acclaimed drummer Gordy Knudtson. Gordy is the drummer for the Steve Miller Band, best known for 70s hits “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Rockin’ Me,” and plenty of others.
Gordy founded GK Music in 1995 and subsequently released the first line of isolation headphones — the DrumPhones (his current model is now named UltraPhones).
He suffers from tinnitus and hearing loss and made it a mission to design a product to aid drummers in protecting their hearing.
UltraPhones are SONY 7506 Studio Monitor components mounted in a hearing protection earmuff. Upon first putting them on and connecting them to my drum mix, I was blown away. Compared to all the other drum headphones I have, there’s no comparison.
Because each pair is custom made and the components used, they’re a little bit on the pricey side. However, the quality is there and Ultraphones are built to last. After using Ultraphones just once, I now can’t imagine a recording or practice session without them.
My head is rather large and these clamp down pretty hard. After a while, these do begin to hurt a little bit. Aside from that, these are still a favorite for monitoring my acoustic drums (outside of my in-ear monitors).
2) Roland VMH-D1 (Best for V-Drums)
Closed-back Electronic Drum Monitoring Headphones with 50mm Drivers, Noise Isolation, Detachable Cables, and Cable Retainer
The new Roland VMH-D1s are perfect for electronic drummers. They’re the best sounding cans I’ve used with my TD-50K-S drum set. They have tight, punchy bass response, a warm mid-range, and a smooth top end, ideal for making cymbals sound silky.
These headphones also have a bit of isolation, dampening the sound of our sticks hitting the pads. It’s not recommended to use these with an acoustic drum set, as they don’t isolate as much as the GK Ultra Phones. Read our full review of the VMH-D1s here.
3) Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (Best for Electronic Drums)
The DT 770 sports an awesome look and feels incredible when wearing. The sound quality of the speakers doesn't disappoint either.
- Incredible sounding
- Not great for acoustic drums
Before I get started on this set of headphones there’s something I have to say. There are two options from Beyerdynamic that you can choose from.
The DT770 M is targeted specifically at drummers due to the fact that the headphones are noise canceling. The other model that they sell is not much different in all honesty. Depending on your needs you’ll have to decide which one is right for you. If you play electronic drums, you probably don’t need the extra isolation.
The DT770 almost resembles earmuffs like I had mentioned using earlier. They are an over-the-ear monitor headphone that is all black in design. The pair is marketed towards both drummers and even sound engineers.
From an overall design standpoint the set of headphones looks really nice very sleek and well-built. A major downside is the cost, of course. On the inner portion of the headphones you’ll notice a gray cloth that’s very soft to the touch: a nice feature.
Let’s Talk About Sound
Being at this set of headphones is a closed-back set, you’re going to really notice the increased quality in the sound of the music you’re listening to.
It’s especially noticeable in movies and games with great sound design.
What I really like most about the design is how comfortable they are after long periods of time.
One of the major issues with many isolation headphones is the fact that they become uncomfortable even only after, say an hour.
As I already said the sound is amazing. The bass sounds great, albeit a little over hyped, but not too much.
Other headphones in this price range, like the Audio Technica M50x, are flatt
If you’re not mixing music and are just playing drums, I think you’ll like these a lot more.
This set of headphones is also far more comfortable than the M50x.
One of the main gripes with this set of headphones is that the noise isolation is not as great as it is advertised. I have experienced this all too often.
I’ve had sets of headphones that when I go down to practice my drums that they’re just bleeding too much of the sound into my mix.
I’ve got a mixing board and bunch of microphones on my kit and I want to be able to hear the sound of the drums as if they were being recorded.
I don’t want to hear all the noise from the raw drums bleeding into my ears.
Being that this is the case with these headphones you may want to stay away unless this type of thing doesn’t bug you too much.
While this might not be the greatest solution for those drummers looking for total isolation, I think it is a great set of headphones that are both comfortable and sound incredible.
4) KAT Percussion Isolation Headphones
KAT Percussion's isolation headphones are similar to construction earmuffs worn on the job site. The KTUI26 reduces external noise by 26dB with frequency response of 20 -20,000 Hz.
Moving on, we’ve got a percussion company that I’m sure many of you have heard of. The KAT Percussion Ultra isolation headphones are similar to that of other headphone makers like Vic Firth who target drummers specifically when they make isolation headphones. These are what I would consider to be the traditional drumming headphones.
Let’s Talk About Sound
This pair, like the Vic Firth isolation headphones that we will be looking at later on, has an issue that many headphones marketed at drummers have.
The sound quality is not the greatest.
To my years it’s almost like a tinny, lo-fi type of sound that really doesn’t have a full mix feeling to it. It almost sounds weak, like you’re listening through old radio speakers.
Now if your goal is to reduce outside noise coming into your ears while still maintaining a clear presence of your sound, say if you have drum mics in a mixing board setup like I have, this might work perfect.
That being said I think there are better options available that will give you a better tonal quality.
One shining benefit of these headphones is the price point.
When it comes to buying headphones and other audio related gear, the cost can easily be a major issue for many of us who just need a cheap solution. While they’re not the cheapest available, they do offer that kind of mid-range point between extremely low-end and professional.
The KAT Percussion isolation headphones are extremely uncomfortable, I’m afraid. After wearing them for about an hour like the sides of my head are being clamped.
This is another glaring issue that many of these types of headphones face. If you’re just playing for a short half-hour, these might be perfect for you.
However, for those of us who want a great solution for sound, comfortability, sound, price, and other factors, these may not win.
While I don’t think that these are the top of the line drumming headphones, I do think that they are okay for the price point.
You won’t get the most comfortable feeling headphones or the best sounding, but unfortunately, you pay for what you get.
These to me are very much on point with Vic Firth set of isolation headphones.
5) CAD Isolation Headphones
The isolation headphones offered from CAD Audio are very affordable with a bit of compromise in the sound quality.
It is time that we have reached the cheapest headphones on our list. CAD’s drumming headphones feature high-output Neodymium drivers.
I’m not even going to pretend to know what that means exactly.
Similar to the KAT headphones, CAD has a similar design, though a bit smaller.
Let’s Talk About Sound
Being that these headphones are one of the cheapest on the list, you have to know that the sound quality is not going to be the greatest.
The low-end is okay and the mid-range is relatively clear, however, the high-end treble range is completely missing (at least to my ears).
Your cymbals are not going to shine and your snare drum will not have any bite. That being said, the sound itself is not exactly muddy.
The sound isolation from the CAD headphones is decent but it’s not as great as some of the other options available.
They’re rated only at 19 decibels of reduction. When playing the drums there is still going to be some bleed coming into your ears from your drums.
There’s a lot of people online saying that you can’t hear anything when you have these on, but I find that hard to believe.
You definitely can hear what you’re doing and it will be clear, but your drums are going to bleed in.
If you’re a new drummer and you need some sort of ear protection, you really can’t go wrong with these.
They’re not going to be the highest quality sound, but they will get the job done.
There’s no point in comparing these to more expensive headphones as they’re just not in the same category.
If your primary use is practicing your drums these are a perfect fit.
6) Direct Sound EX-29 Isolation Headphones
The Direct Sound EX29 are a favorite around the studio. I've owned two pairs of these and love the quality. I wish there was a bit more isolation, however.
I’ve had my Direct Sound isolation headphones since 2010 and they’ve held up over the years. They are a little bit more expensive than the CAD and Vic Firth options, however, I believe the investment may be worth your money. Since these have been around for a while, I’ve shifted on my opinion on these being the best, but they’re still worth a mention on this list.
Let’s talk about sound
One of the great benefits of the EX-29 is, in fact, the sound quality.
They are not going to be top-of-the-line headphones when it comes to sound, but they are far superior to any of the isolation headphones that are marketed towards drummers. Similarly to other headphones on the list, the high-end is not as bright as you would expect.
The headphones are very warm sounding; your cymbals will not have that sheen you may be looking for.
The Direct Sound EX29 features 29 decibels of passive isolation (fitting for the name). What is passive isolation you may ask? It means that the headphone is not powered by a battery to artificially isolate outside sound.
Speaker companies like Bose have released active isolation headphones that really work well. In this case, you won’t need to charge these as there’s no battery.
While 29dB of isolation does seem like a lot, they don’t isolate as much as you would think. When I compare these to my Vic Firth isolation headphones, there’s no comparison.
I can easily hear the sound of my kit out in the room underneath the music and the mix that I have going. This is a downfall, however, you’re getting a great sound whereas, with the Vic Firth headphones, you won’t.
While these isolation headphones are a little bit pricier than our last two options, it is most certainly worth it. Sure, you’re not going to get as much isolation as with other options, but the sound quality does make up in this area.
They’re not the greatest sounding headphones in the world, but they are far superior to CAD and Vic Firth.
7) Alesis DRP100 Isolation Headphones
The Alesis DRP100 headphones are big on isolation. They don't provide the greatest audio quality, being that the sound is a bit flat, but they perform behind the kit.
These things look like something straight out of a Tron movie. The Drum isolation headphones from Alesis are also on the more affordable end of the spectrum. Now, they’re marketed towards those using electronic drums, however I think you can still use these with an acoustic kit.
You know, I wonder why they even bothered to market these isolation headphones if the target demographic is drummers who play electronic kits.
They’re already quiet!
It’s important to note that user reviews of The DRP100 are less than favorable. in fact, a solid quarter of them are very negative.
Let’s Talk About Sound
Unfortunately, being that these are very cheap headphones, the sound is pretty dull. don’t expect to be blown away when you first put these on. The sound isn’t the only issue with these isolation headphones either.
A majority of users on the internet have reported that one of the two headphones will stop working after just a few months.
Shoddy wiring and poor build quality are probably two of the reasons why this pair of headphones is so cheap. Of course, if you’re handy, you can easily re-solder the wire that connects a faulty speaker.
Should you have to though?
Maybe. I mean it is such an affordable product. With cheap pricing comes cheap build quality.
Surprisingly, the headphones are relatively comfortable. I really do like the way that they look and they feel pretty good when you’re wearing them.
You can easily play your kit for hours with minimal annoyance from these cans.
While I might not be one to purchase these, they are a decent pair of headphones for a beginner player. The only thing that really worries me, though, is the fact that so many people have had issues with the speakers cutting out after only a little use.
Your headphones should not go bad after a few months. Now, it could just be that this large number of people are all terrible when handling their gear. That being said we move on.
8) Vic Firth SIH2
Vic Firth's isolation headphones are the standard in many recording studios, loved by many drummers all over.
I think we found a winner for the best overall drum isolation headphones. Vic Firth has been making this style of headphones for as long as I can remember. They were the first set of isolation headphones I got when I was learning how to play the drums.
The newest version, the V2, reduce is outside Noise by 25 decibels. Has a frequency response of 20 Hertz to 20 kilohertz.
Let’s Talk About Sound
When I originally owned my pair Vic Firth isolation headphones, I never thought the sound quality was that great. The newer version has improved the quality of sound a bit, but it’s still not incredible sounding.
Despite that being the case, I still believe these headphones to be far superior to every other product we’ve listed thus far.
This is where these headphones truly shine. Despite only being rated at 25 decibels of reduction, the Vic Firth headphones managed to isolate far better than any of the other headphones on the list.
I think it has something to do with how the headphones make contact with your ears and your head. For some reason, there’s just a better Tight Seal allowing less sound to intrude your ears.
As I stated earlier I do like using in-ear monitors far more, and this is one of the reasons why. With any set of headphones, there usually will be some fatigue on the part of your ears and head.
This is one of the things that drove me nuts about these when I was learning drums so many years ago. The headphones put a kind of pressure on your ears and head that can really be a major annoyance when you’re just trying to practice the drums.
These isolation headphones are a winner in my book and I believe that they are the best and value quality of anything on the list.
They aren’t too expensive for what you get. If you’re just going to be using headphones for practice purposes this is the way to go.
That is our Roundup list of headphones for drummers! I think there’s a lot in this list that we looked at, but there’s still more we can hope for in the future.
A company will eventually have to come along that offers an incredible set of headphones that isolates far better than any we’ve listed here.
Now, I haven’t seen any other isolation headphones worth talking about other than the ones we’ve mentioned here, but maybe I’ve just missed them. Please let me know if you have a set of headphones that you think should be on this list that I missed. Thanks for reading! Cheers.
Hi! I´m looking for headphones for my 6-year-old drummer, he´s been practicing for a year now, and I am stressed about he hurting his hearing. So, I came across your useful article, and about to purchase one of your recommended headphones, but wondering if there´s a kid option instead. Thank you so much!! Maybe these ones: Vic Firth Kidphones??
Kidphones are great! The only downside being—you can’t listen to music with them. But, if that’s not a big deal, then go for those! I suggest getting them immediately, though, as you’re right, protecting hearing is a huge deal!
BUT, a workaround would be to use Apple Airpods (or any other type of earbuds) first, before putting the Kidphones on. So, basically he would wear them underneath the Kidsphones. Aside from that, I don’t have much experience with headphones for younger kids.
Hi, thanks for the reviews. A key factor for me is how my drumkit sounds whilst wearing the headphones ie what tonal balance and quality reaches my ears from the acoustic drumkit. After all, it’s no fun playing along to recorded music if you’re hearing your own acoustic kit sounding like a muffled mess, or too bassy/trebly/middly etc. For example, I invested in a pair of the Direct Sound headphones and they are unusable because they let in such a weird balance of frequencies from the drumkit, and actually make my rack toms appear louder than with the headphones removed! It would be great if your reviews commented on the quality and tonal balance of the drumkit sound leaking into the ear through the headphones. Hope that makes sense! Any comments?..
I actually mentioned this point when I talked about my pair of Direct Sound headphones. They don’t isolate as much as I’d like and I end up hearing more of the kit than I’d like. In fact, a lot of the headphones on this list will have some level of bleed and you’ll still hear frequencies from your kit. Out of all the headphones on the list, the one pair the isolates the most and sounds the best, is the GK Ultraphones. After a while of wearing them, they are a bit fatiguing (they clamp down a little tight), but there’s really no better choice available.
But if you want even more isolation, I recommend trying a pair of in ear monitors, like the Shure SE425s.
I just found your site, this article and joined your facebook page. I like what I see, thanks for doing it. I’ve been using a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that I’ve been happy with. Lately I always have them cranked up all the way which concerns me. So I have been looking for some headphones to do the job of reducing the volume of the tubs so I can turn the music down. The GK Music Ultraphones sound like what I want but I”m looking for Bluetooth. I couldn’t run out and buy them today anyway because of my budget. However I think I found a temporary work around with your response to Samantha and her 6 year old. I can grab a pair of shooters or racers earmuffs and put them over my existing ear buds. Tone may not be the best but they will protect my ears while I find a better option. And they are cheap.
This review says-
-GK are the best, beyond compare, sound incredible
-EX29 has superior sound quality to everything else on the list (except it’s super dark/warm so you won’t hear cymbals details coming through the mics). And I thought GK was the superior one?
-VF are the best overall despite sounding subpar like KAT and uncomfortable.
This is one of the most confusing reviews I’ve ever read. There can only be one “best” (or superior) and one “best” per aspect. Lastly why is GK not the editors choice or even on the list if it’s ‘beyond compare’ and there are no cons except price?
While SE425s have better isolation (as many earbuds will), none of the Shure stuff has any low end at all. I’ve tried multiple pairs of 425s, 535s, etc. I’m also a live sound engineer and a drummer and the “i can’t hear the bass guitar” “can I get more kick? and what is that really slappy sound when I hit the kick” …”it’s turned all the way up man” phenomenon is always the case with those. The Shure cables also break a LOT. I’ve run sound for many churches that use them and there’s always a handful of them that only work on one side, constantly needing repair.
Thanks for the feedback, Sid. I should dive back in and make this a little less confusing. I completely agree with you. But, the GK headphones are my favorite I’ve used. I did add them in later on, so I may have missed that point in regard to the EX29.
I do like the Shure IEMs, but I agree they don’t have much low end. In a perfect world, drummers would use custom IEMs like UEs. I’ve replaced the cables on my Shure’s two or three times in six years, but I know UE cables can go bad fast, as well. It depends on the performer, their movement, and how they take care of their gear.
Started playing with JamKazam in response to the pandemic. Playing a NC acoustic kit. What headphones would work best with this type set up, with mix coming over computer from other players in other cities.
Thanks for the run down it got me thinking about what I actually need verses what I wanted. I have found that where several of these phones are good for recording and track overlays what I actually need at the moment is a set of blue tooth headphones with the noise-isolation. This would allow me to play tracks through my phone or tablet at home without the need of cables. Do you have any Blue Tooth recommendations for practice applications not necessarily studio applications?
That’s a great question. I haven’t seen too many bluetooth isolation headphones that are good for drumming, but I did find one pair. The Metrophones Studio Kans might be a good option. They’re special order from Sweetwater, but have no reviews. I haven’t had any experience with them, but they do say they offer 29dB of reduction, which is better than Vic Firth’s wired headphones.
Oh, and it does look like Guitar Center and Amazon carry these cheaper, but appears they are the non-bluetooth version. It may be a brand-new product.
Nick, Thank you so much for the response. If it helps your review I will follow up with what I end up getting and how well they perform. Thanks again.
Great reviews, I am looking for a set of headphones that I can use for practicing along with a music track, I would like to be able to hear the drums in the room rather than through the headphones themselves, not block them out completely. Of course I want to protect my hearing and I don’t plan to use them for recording purposes, just practice. I plan on adding sound treatment (bass traps etc) in my new drum room I am building. What would you recommend for headphones?
Hey Jeff! Using the Vic Firth headphones, or any can-style isolation headphones, I like to wear them slightly off of my left or right ear, so I can let some of the room sound into the headphones. I just offset one of the cans off my ear a little bit on my head. That’s probably the easiest solution. It’s tough to pick a set of headphones that would work good, since drums are so loud, that they overpower most regular headphones that don’t isolate.
Scratch the CAD cans off the list.. I had 3 of them crap out on me, and the foam is hard, falling apart and hurts after about 30min. I’ve decided to try 3M Worktunes. They’re built rugged, have bluetooth and a 3.5mm aux input, and only cost $40. We’re spending too much on our headphones.. You can also get gel ear seals, which are sooo comfy. 3M sells the gel seals for an additional $20, or you can buy aviation-style gels for about $12 and 3d-print an adapter with a free file from thingiverse.
It is a very useful article. Thanks a lot about it.
I have a 9 years old son. He just began playing drum. We have a Yamaha DTX electronic drum.
One of my question is, does these recommended headphones differs by drum models? Which earphone is best combination with Yamaha DTX?
I am living in Turkey and unfortunately, most of the models above are not sold in Turkey. For example we Vic Firth Kidsphone is not available in Turkey. Is there any other Kidsphone model, that u can recommend?
Took me a while. Got the GKs after seeing Clem Burke using some phones with red inserts at a Blondie concert and scouring the internet for pictures. Expensive to start with. Then costly shipping. Then import tax to UK on top. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Worth every penny. Brilliant.