Listening to binaural beats does not require special equipment; they are just not that demanding. More often than not, beat frequencies are out of the range of human hearing: they are perceived artifacts of phasing rather than “actual” sounds. The critical issue is to be able to hear the binaural beat carrier frequencies in stereo and any set of funcitoning headphones or ear-buds will take care of that requirement.
As most binaural beat carrier frequencies are between 100 and 1200 Hz – this frequency range can be accurately reproduced on almost any headphone on the market.
When buying headphones to listen to binaural beats, consider comfort. It is likely that you are meditating, sleeping, or focusing on something and in any of these situations, discomfort will reduce the effectiveness of the binaural beats. Personally, I would choose an enclosed headphone with comfortable padding to block out the outside world. I would then go for maximum dynamic range and frequency response.
How They Work
Like I said earlier, binaural beats are the byproduct of how your brain perceives the nuances of stereo phasing: slightly different tones are played into each ear and your brain perceives the difference of the tones as a beat frequency.
Let’s say that we play a 220 Hz carrier tone into the left ear and a 226.5 Hz carrier tone into the right ear. While processing the audio stimulus, the superior olivary nucleus portion of each hemisphere of the brain will also perceive a 6.5 Hz beat frequency, a frequency associated with the frontal midline theta rhythm.
Obviously, headphones make easy work of the stereo requirements of the binaural beat carrier frequencies. The left channel is fed directly into the left ear, the right channel is fed directly into the right ear, and your brain does the rest of the work. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is possible to effectively listen to binaural beats on speakers, but to get the best results, great care should be taken in the positioning of the speakers relative to your head.)
Although you might question the sound quality of earbuds that are common with iPods and iPhones, in my own experience they work well with binaural beats, and since the iPhone 4S in 2011, iPhone specifications feature a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, which is as good as one can expect from consumer electronics at any level and better than most people’s ability to hear.
I use three kinds of headphones: earbuds for use with my iPhone, AKG K-240 Studio headphones around the house, and the Sleep Sonic pillow for when I’m lying down and planning on sleeping.
When I am traveling, I use earbuds with my iPhone. They are not the best quality and they are uncomfortable, but they are convenient — and, believe it or not — earbuds are good enough to listen to binaural beats and music enhanced with brainwave entrainment technologies. The most popular earbuds for use with binaural beats and Hemi-Sync are the Sony MDREX310LP In-Ear Headphones.
One reader commented that he likes the Beats by Dre ear buds, but I have yet to try these myself.
Most often, I use the AKG K-240 Studio headphones. They are enclosed so they partially block out external sounds, they sound incredible and they have only one cable so that I never feel trapped inside a bunch of wires. Also, they feature an adjustable fit that feels great.
Another popular pair of headphones is the Sony MDR-V900HD Studio Monitor Headphones. I used these for several years before switching to the more natural sounding (and more affordable) AKGs, but the Sony’s have proven to be quite popular for listening to binaural beats. The Sony headphones also have a strong bass response, which many people like.
If you like a lot of bass, I also recommend the Sennheiser HD 202 Headphones. I visited KSER a while back and they used these headphones, which are very affordable and have the strongest bass response I’ve ever come across.
For the most part, I meditate in an upright position but sometimes I change things up by lying down. In this case, I really like the Sleepsonic® Pillow. It is extremely comfortable, it allows me to lie down without clunky headphones getting in the way and these great little speakers don’t block my hearing like my earbuds or enclosed headphones.
Honestly, I have yet to try the SleepPhones headbands, but they come highly recommended from a good friend. Essentially, they are headbands that fit comfortably over your ears. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and based on the customer reviews at Amazon.com, they are highly regarded by the people that use them.