Even though most people don’t work in the music or media technology businesses, there is no doubt we all know the difference between good headphones and bad ones. If you’re a musician, you know that there are different technologies behind the headphones that are used in recording studios and you may need some direction on finding the best studio headphones.
Choosing a pair of headphones is actually a very important decision. Like most other things, you get what you pay for – sturdy headphones will last a long time, whereas cheaply made headphones (<$20) won’t. The great news, however, is that you can find great pairs of headphones without breaking the bank. To help you pick, we have compiled an outline and a list of the best studio headphones that will help you decide.
How to Choose Studio Headphones
Types of Studio Headphones
First, it is important to understand the different types of studio headphones. There are two types: closed back headphones and open back headphones. In simple terms, closed back headphones are best for recording, and open back headphones are best for mixing.
Closed back headphones are very useful for recording tracks, as they keep external sounds out so they do not “leak” into the microphone and get mixed into the tracks. Arguably the more common design of headphone, these ensure that only the proper sounds get recorded and no unwanted sounds will come in.
Open back studio headphones are purposely made to allow some noise to “leak” out. These are perfect for mixing because they minimize excessive bass frequencies, which in turn ensures a more accurate sound. In a sense, these make the recording sound more “real” and how it would sound if the track was playing in an open room.
One type is not better than the other. Both types of studio headphones have their pros and cons, so most musicians own a pair of each and use them at different times. If you’re not sure which type you should buy, this link might help you.
Check for Sound Quality
If your headphones don’t sound right, the tracks aren’t going to sound the same to other people either. The best studio headphones won’t have incorrect amounts of treble, mids, or bass. When purchasing headphones, it is important to remember that expensive doesn’t always mean perfect quality.
Comfort is Key
As with any other type of electronic, you want to feel comfortable with your headphones on. Seasoned musicians and studio personnel know that headphones are often worn for several hours at a time and some of the most annoying feelings are an indentation or irritation on your skin while wearing them and after taking them off.
In general, studio headphones with plastic headbands that don’t adjust probably are not the best choice. Instead, good studio headphones will have excellent padding that does not collect sweat, because nobody wants to have itchy and sweaty ears.
You also don’t want a pair of studio headphones that is heavy or does not fit your head right. There are plenty of bulky options available, but after a while they might become bothersome. Also, make sure they can be easily adjusted in case you do become uncomfortable.
Below are some of the best options to choose from when searching for the best studio headphones.
9 Best Studio Headphones in 2018
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
The Superior Studio Headphones
First off, we’ll discuss the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones. Available in 32 Ohm, 80 Ohm, and 250 Ohm, these come in black or gray and have been deemed one of the most excellent choices if you’re looking for closed back headphones.
These headphones work well for just about any kind of music or recording, and the “earcups” actually cover your entire ear, which makes more sense seeing as they are closed back headphones. The headband is padded nicely, as are the earcups. The bass is excellent and they are made well for in-studio use.
Costing about $175, these headphones are superior to many other options. They are handmade in Germany and are truly excellent regardless what Ohm you buy. If you prefer a certain type of cable, the 32 Ohm option has a 1.6-meter straight cable; the 80 Ohm option has a 3-meter straight cable, and the 250 Ohm option has a 3-meter coiled cable.
- Different Ohm options depending on users’ needs
- Midrange isn’t great
The Most Versatile Headphones
Next up are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones. They just happen to be Amazon’s Choice, and it’s for good reasons. They are great regardless what you need them for, whether that be listening to music or a movie on an iPad, recording in a studio, or even gaming with friends.
The bass and treble on these headphones are not overstated like many other sets are. They work well for any type of music, whether you like to listen to or record heavy metal, jazz, or rap. Some users have complained that these studio headphones do not fit their bigger heads, but if they fit yours, you can guarantee sound will not be leaking out of these, even at very high volumes.
These feature a frequency of 15 to 28,000 Hz and an impedance of 38 Ohm. They are easily foldable and come with a detachable 1.2 m – 3.0 m coiled cable and detachable 1.2-meter straight cable, which is nice because you can pick which you prefer. Priced around $150, these are a great option for anyone.
- Work well with all devices including smartphones
- Different cord options
- Strong bass quality
- Not great for big heads or big ears
- Cheaply made in certain ways
The Best Budget Studio Headphones
Oftentimes referred to as the industry standard when it comes to studio headphones, the Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones are a great option for the price of around $100. These closed-back headphones are lightweight, weighing in at only 285 grams.
These headphones feature an extended frequency response as well as padded earcups that go around the ear. Despite not being noise-cancelling headphones (meaning you can hear outside noise), they themselves do not leak sound; therefore, you can listen on loud without getting dirty looks from outsiders.
It’s a great idea to get these for in-studio work, as they have an optimal impedance of 64 ohms and a 1 meter – 3-meter coiled cord that is easily replaceable should you need a replacement. Overall, however, Sennheiser has provided consumers with yet another great product.
- Widely respected
- Good for all head sizes
- Not the greatest treble
- Can get uncomfortable after a while
Worthwhile Headphones from Shure
One of the more expensive sets of the bunch but still on many lists of the best headphones under $200 are the Shure SRH840 headphones. Priced at about $200, they give the accurate sound you’re looking for. They offer one of the better bass/treble combinations and they are perfect if you are looking for monitoring headphones.
Of course, you have the option of amping with these headphones, but you don’t absolutely need to. These headphones do just fine on their own and they are very comfortable, even if you are going to be wearing them for several hours. Many users report that they last them a long time, meaning several years.
Even though Shure is better known for their microphones, this nifty set of headphones is worth the higher price.
- All around excellent frequency range
- Easy to store
- Great noise isolation
- Some sibilance has been noted
Sennheiser HD 650
Headphones that are Definitely Worth the Price
The Sennheiser HD 650 headphones are hard to beat. With a frequency range from 10 to 39,500 Hz and 300 Ohms, you really can’t go wrong with these. These open back headphones really pack a punch when it comes to comfort, as the padding is just right and they fit nicely over users’ ears.
Headphones oftentimes have trouble with either the bass, treble, or mids, but this set doesn’t seem to have many issues with them. The clarity is exceptional, which goes to show you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for an excellent set of studio headphones.
A high-quality titanium finish makes these really stand out amongst other brands, and they boast a neodymium ferrous magnet system that makes sure sensitivity and dynamic response are on point. With a price in the range of $350, you better believe you’re getting some of the best recording studio headphones.
- Smooth bass, treble, and mids
- 2-year international warranty
- High price
- Fully open back, so no chance of blocking out sound
The Best Affordable Studio Headphones
Grado Labs has been making quality products for several decades now, so it’s no surprise they have come out with another solid set of affordable headphones. Sold for about $80, the Grado SR60e headphones are handmade in New York and are one of Grado’s least expensive options, though the company also sells sets that cost well into the thousands.
Even the CEO of Grado Labs says that these are the first place to start when picking up your first fancy pair of headphones. These headphones are on-ear and open back. The frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hz is comparable to many other pairs, and these are relatively lightweight; however, note that they are not very portable.
Grado’s SR60e headphones are affordable and one the best studio headphones under 100 dollars. If you’re a hardcore record producer, these probably aren’t sophisticated enough for you, but if you’re a hobbyist or newbie to the music world, these might just be perfect for you.
- Good for someone new to upgraded headphones
- Leak sound a lot
- Long cable
Sennheiser HD 800
The Beast of All Headphones
Most Sennheiser HD 800 owners have no regrets about spending $1,000 on studio headphones. With 300 Ohms and the frequency of 6 to a whopping 51,000 Hz, this is an excellent pair for the pros. The sound that is emitted from these is close to perfect and they are comfortable enough to be worn all day.
One of the most prominent features that sets this pair of headphones apart is the new 56-millimeter diameter driver because it’s one of the largest to have ever been put in a set of headphones. This works to deliver the best sound regardless what you are using them for.
These open-back headphones are made in Germany with tough, insulated cables that work to block out unwanted noise. Sennheiser has definitely kept its name in the headphone business with this set, and if you have the money to spend, they are worth it.
- Exceptional sound all around
- Bass, treble, and mids all surpass other brands
- Standout design
- Very high price
- Headphones don’t come with a case
Excellent Headphones for Mixing
The Sony brand has been around for a long time and has made itself a household name. Costing around $90, the Sony MDR7506 headphones are arguably the best studio headphones for mixing for those on a budget.
This set has an impedance of 63 Ohm and the frequency ranges from 10 to 20,000 Hz, which is less expansive than other headphones but is still enough to produce clear sound. Despite the lower price, these are some of the best studio monitor headphones on the market. The bass isn’t the greatest, but if you are not one of those “bass-heads,” it shouldn’t be an issue for you.
Very similar to their competitor, the Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones, the Sony MDR7506 headphones produce the desired sound and have excellent highs, lows, and mid-ranges but they also may have an edge when it comes to comfort. The original pads are very comfortable and do an extra good job of resisting sweat.
- Good for mixing
- Bass isn’t great
- Heavy and long cable
Award Deserving Closed-Back Headphones
Last but certainly not least are the Shure SRH1540 headphones. Priced at an even $500, these closed-back headphones feature 40-mm neodymium drivers that work to provide you with the acoustics you are wanting. With an impedance of 46 Ohm and a frequency ranging from 5 to 25,000 Hz, this set of headphones delivers smooth sound and a lot of comfort.
Shure boasts that these are made with aircraft-grade aluminum alloy yoke and carbon fiber cap, which both enhance durability so that these will last a long time and be worth the price. The cord is a dual-exit, detachable copper cord and the set also comes with an additional cable in case you lose the first one.
The pads are some of the most comfortable out there, as they are made of a microfiber/suede-like fabric and sit nicely over the ears. Lightweight and attractive, you will be looking like a pro in your studio with these on. It’s no wonder these headphones have won several titles and awards – they are possibly some of the best recording studio headphones on the market.
- Durable and can last several years
- Highs are clear and mids are smooth
- Not a lot of bass
- Ear cups do not rotate
There is a slew of different types of headphones available to consumers, including the popular wireless headphones and noise-cancelling headphones, but there are also affordable headphones made for recording and/or mixing in the studio.
We can always tell if we’ve bought “bad” headphones because of choppy sounds, static, a bad bass, and other annoying quirks can really ruin the sound, so we try to avoid that. This guide has listed some of the top, trusted picks for studio headphones and now it’s time for you to make your decision.