Every drummer who owns an electronic drum set should have a good pair of headphones. One of the biggest benefits of e-drums is being able to play without producing much noise, and headphones allow you to feel like you’re at a rock concert without anyone around you hearing loud drums and music.
There are things you should know before getting headphones, though, and we’ve learned the hard way that using the wrong pair will sour your drumming experience.
How Pick The Right Headphone
There are four main aspects to consider when choosing headphones for electronic drums. If your headphones of choice succeed in all these aspects, you’ll undoubtedly be happy with how they perform.
Sound quality is one of the biggest aspects to consider.
Drum kits cover every aspect of the entire frequency range, so you want to get headphones that sound good in the lows, mids, and highs. Some headphones sound better in certain frequency ranges, but it’s best to stay away from those if you want the best overall drum kit sound.
When looking at a drum kit, the bass drum and floor tom produce low tones, the snare drum and rack toms produce mid-frequency tones, and the cymbals produce high-frequency tones. That’s why you need a wide frequency response from your headphones to hear everything in detail.
A good number would be 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
Sound isolation should be the next aspect that drummers look for in headphones. It’s a lot more important if you play acoustic drums, but it’s still a factor to consider for drummers with electronic drums.
If you don’t have any sound isolation, you’re constantly going to hear the tapping of sticks on rubber and mesh pads. You’ll get a much better immersive playing experience without hearing that.
The best way to make sure that your headphones have adequate sound isolation is by steering clear of open-back headphones. They leave your ears exposed, so more sounds will come in.
All closed-back headphones offer some degree of sound isolation, so those are the best to get. You then need to decide exactly how much sound you want blocked out and find headphones that fit your preference.
Cable length isn’t something that you’ll immediately think about, but it will come back to bite you if you get headphones with a cable that is too short.
All electronic drum kits have modules positioned quite close to you. However, shorter cables will be hanging in the air when you’ve plugged headphones in, and that will limit your mobility when you’re drumming.
You could get a cable extender to make things more comfortable, but most cable extenders don’t have long lifespans, leading to frustration with your gear.
It’s always better to get headphones with a longer cable that can run across the floor and back up into the drum module. The cable should allow you to move your arms as much as you want without it getting in the way.
Comfort is the last thing to factor in. All headphones are designed to be comfortable to some degree, you’ll always find some headphones more comfortable than others.
If you play an electronic drum kit, they need to feel comfortable around your ears for long periods, and they need to feel secure when your arms and legs are moving around to play the drums.
We’ve actually found open-back headphones to be more comfortable in this case, but they don’t give as much sound isolation. We’d suggest trying both designs but preferably finding closed-back headphones that are as comfy as possible.
Connecting Headphones to Electronic Drums
When you have your set of headphones for your e-kit, setting them up with the kit will be very easy. However, here’s a quick guide for connecting them if you’re still a bit unsure.
When checking electronic kits out, you’ll see that all drum modules have a 3.5mm headphone input for a 3.5mm jack. That’s the connecting jack that most headphones have, so you just need to plug that into the module, and you should hear the drums coming through the headphones when you play.
If you have headphones with a ¼ inch jack, you’ll need to get an adaptor that converts that big jack into a small one before you plug it into the audio port.
Once you’re plugged in, it’s a good idea to run the long cable along the floor. Depending on how long it is, you could possibly wrap it around your hi-hat stand.
We’ve found that to be the best way of stopping the cable from shaking around your arms when playing.
Just make sure to protect your cable from the feet of your drum throne.
The final step is to place the headphones over your head. If you hear a bit of fuzziness coming through, the small jack may have not been pushed in properly. This is a problem that most of us musicians occasionally have, especially if you’re using a big jack to small jack adaptor.
Using a Mixer
If you want more control over the tonal quality you get from your electronic drums, you should get a mixer. Mixers have EQ and mixing knobs.
These allow you to adjust the levels of the lows, mids, and highs that you hear when playing the drums. Dialing in sweet settings with them will give you a fantastic drum kit sound.
If you want to connect headphones to that mixer, you’ll most likely need to put them into a ¼” jack port. You may need to get an adapter that converts a 3.5mm jack into a ¼” one.
You’ll then need to get a ¼” jack cable to connect the drum module to the mixer. The mixer will have an audio out port, and you’ll run the cable from that to one of the channel ports on the mixer. The knobs to control the mix you hear will then be in a line underneath where the cable is plugged in.
Aviom System for Personal Mixing
If you have a band practice space where everyone plugs their instruments into a single mixer, you could use an Aviom personal mixer to control your own mix without affecting anyone else’s.
This mixer connects to the large mixer, and then you plug your headphones into an audio port at the back of it. You can then adjust everything you’re hearing through your headphones without affecting what the rest of your band hears.
These mixers are often used in gigging venues and churches, but they work brilliantly if you use your electronic kit in a shared practice space with a band.
Do Bluetooth Headphones Work with Electronic Drums?
It’s possible to use Bluetooth headphones with electronic drums, but it’s not something that you should aim to do if you can use wired headphones.
Bluetooth headphones become more and more popular every year, so it’s only natural that drummers would use them to play to music with. They work fine with acoustic drums in that way, but they’re not as ideal for electronic drums.
Here’s a quick guide on how to set them up, along with a compelling reason why you shouldn’t use them even though it’s possible.
Connecting Bluetooth Headphones to Electronic Drums
Many drum modules offer Bluetooth capability, but it’s only for connecting audio devices to them. For example, you can connect a phone or media player to play music through the drum module.
No drum module has Bluetooth connectivity for headphones from the get-go. To pull this off, you’ll need to purchase a Bluetooth transmitter that has a 3.5mm jack.
You’ll need to plug that into the headphone input, and then your wireless headphones will be able to connect to that.
Once that’s set up, you’ll be able to hear the drums being played through your headphones. You can control the volume on the drum module.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Bluetooth Headphones
The biggest reason to stay away from Bluetooth headphones is latency. All wireless headphones have more latency than wired headphones, and you’ll experience that a lot clearer when you’re playing an instrument.
You’ll notice that the sounds will be delayed between hitting the drums and hearing the corresponding drums that you hit.
You get some high-quality wireless headphones with less latency, but they’ll still never be as good or reliable as wired headphones. Trying to play drums with latency issues will make the whole experience very frustrating.
The other reason for not using Bluetooth headphones is that they mostly sound worse than wired headphones. Depending on the quality, wired headphones will always be clearer.
Can You Play Electronic Drums without Headphones?
Yes, you can play electronic drums without headphones. There are a few ways to do this. The easiest and most practical would be to use an amplifier. This is our favorite option next to using headphones.
Any amplifier will work, but the most ideal option would be to get an amplifier that was made specifically for electronic drums. These will always cover all the frequencies from drum kits well.
You can control the volume with a knob on the amp. Some amps even have a few EQ knobs.
You can use a normal pair of computer speakers as well. You’d need to plug an aux cable into the headphone output port. We’d say that this is the worst method, as the sound quality is never great. You’ll also be very limited with volume.
The final method would be to plug the electronic kit into your computer with a USB cable. You can then use the kit as a MIDI controller through a DAW, and the audio will come out of whatever speakers are connected to your computer.
Your Ears Deserve The Best
While amps will give you the most volume and control over the drum sounds, every drummer with an electronic kit should also have a good pair of headphones.
They’ll allow you to have personal practice sessions without the people around you getting bothered by the drum sounds.
When choosing a pair of headphones to get, make sure they have great sound quality, a good amount of sound isolation, a long cable, and are comfortable enough to wear for many hours.
Also, be sure to keep a few small and big jack adaptors around. Drummers with electronic kits always end up needing them at some point.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you listen to music while playing electronic drums?
Most intermediate and professional electronic kits have Bluetooth functions that allow you to play music through the module. If a drum module doesn’t have that feature, you’ll need to use a mixer with multiple channels. The module will connect to one channel while the device playing music will be connected to another.
How do you connect headphones to electronic drums?
All electronic drums have a 3.5mm headphone outport port on the drum module. You simply need to plug the jack of your headphones into that. If your headphones have a ¼” jack, you need to use an adaptor.
How can I listen to my electronic drums without headphones?
You can use an electronic drum kit amplifier. Keyboard amps also work well, as you get decent audio that covers all the frequencies that drum kits produce.
If you don’t have an amp, you can plug your kit into small speakers with an aux cable. They just won’t handle high volumes too well.
Should I wear headphones while drumming?
Yes, as wearing headphones while drumming often gives you a more immersive experience. You also get the benefit of keeping sound levels down so that people around you only hear the light tapping of pads instead of the standard sounds of drums and cymbals.
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