Purchasing a pair of studio headphones may seem like a simple task, but I can assure you it’s not. We’re now spoilt for choice when it comes down to the selection process. So how do you know which pair of studio headphones will be the best match for your music production needs?
What Are The Best Studio Headphones?
Studio monitoring headphones are specifically designed for professional work. They’re best suited for music production applications and primarily focus on recording, mixing and mastering. This way you can focus on your beat making and producing in the best way possible.
Open-back And Closed-back Headphones
Open-back and closed-back headphones are the two main types of studio headphones you’ll come across. Open-back headphones allow the sound to pass through the back of their ear cups, whereas closed back do not. Closed-back headphones are more versatile in-studio applications for two main reasons:
- They don’t let any sound leak out from the cans. This means there is better sound isolation when recording instruments, making the mixing process easier.
- When it comes to mixing, closed-back headphones also block out exterior noise so you can properly focus.
Open-back headphones allow for longer exposure to loud music. The main drawback with closed-back headphones, is they have a very small enclosed environment. While this is by no means a deal breaker, it does mean your mixes could translate poorly to other sound systems.
For that reason, open-back headphones are the answer. They allow air to pass through their ear cups, meaning pressure can’t build up and affect your decisions. The end result is a much more natural and clear sound.
Purchasing a set of studio headphones should be well-researched and carefully tailored to your exact needs. If you’re someone who spends a great deal of time recording, commuting and listening in public environments – you’ll definitely want to opt for closed-back headphones. However, if critical listening and long exposure to the sound are more important, then you’re more than likely leaning toward purchasing open-back headphones.
Choosing The Best Headphones For Audio Production That Suit You
The three most important factors when it comes to open and closed-back headphones are; comfort, sound performance and build quality.
In any situation, you must be happy with the comfort of your headphones. If this is an instant problem you’re not going to perform well when using the headphones. It could affect your recording, mixing and even listening experience. Make sure you try lots of different headphones and compare how they feel. Whether you have a huge or tiny head, there’s a pair of headphones for everybody.
The sound of each pair of headphones is determined by their unique EQ curve. EQ means equalisation or equaliser. EQ has four main ranges: low frequencies, low middle, high middle and high frequencies. No pair of studio headphones are the same. Some people may love a pair of headphones, whereas others may hate them. So remember, try before you buy. Go in-store, ask a friend or even buy some on a 30-day return policy. You’ll not regret it!
Lastly, durability is key. Imagine you’ve found a really comfortable pair of studio headphones. They sound great and your music production skills have only gotten better since buying them. But within months, they’re falling to pieces. Pay attention to the types of materials used for the headphone’s construction.
Look for things like: Are they flexible, can you replace the ear cushions, is the cable’s connection solid and not flimsy, do they have any metal reinforcement or are they completely made of plastic? These are all things you should check before taking the plunge and splashing that hard-earned cash!
General Purpose Headphones vs Studio Headphones
You might be wondering, why can’t you just use any normal headphones? Why do they have to be ‘studio monitoring headphones’? Can’t I use my Sony, Apple or Beats headphones? The answer here is – you can use whatever you like.
No one is stopping you from creating great music on a laptop, with a pair of normal headphones. However, studio monitoring headphones can benefit you in a number of very important ways.
The EQ Curve
General-purpose headphones are not designed for mixing. Instead, they try to make the listening experience more pleasant by boosting the bass and high frequencies. Studio headphones tailored for music production offer a flat and balanced frequency response. If you use normal headphones for mixing, the sound is essentially lying to you.
How Will This Affect Your Music Production?
Certain EQ points will be overwhelming. You’ll start to try and carve out the nasty frequencies, and balance the tonality with compression and other forms of processing. This will start to cause fatigue to your ears, as you’re constantly battling with hyped frequencies. The sound being reproduced isn’t an accurate representation of your song’s production.
compression and other forms of processing. This will start to cause fatigue to your ears, as you’re constantly battling with hyped frequencies. The sound being reproduced isn’t an accurate representation of your song’s production.
This is very similar to mixing on speakers in a box-shaped room, with no tuning or acoustic treatment. The room itself has a frequency response, just like headphones do. Think of studio monitoring headphones like an acoustically treated room. It’s a much more accurate environment for mixing. Your ears won’t suffer fatigue, and your mix will translate so much better in comparison to an untreated room.
What About Noise Cancelling And Wireless Headphones?
Brands such as Sony and Apple have become famous for their noise-cancelling and wireless features. Wireless headphones are supported via Bluetooth. Bluetooth connectivity relies on compression to work, which means it cuts certain parts of the audio signal that aren’t essential.
Noise cancellation technology is not 100% accurate all the time and is known to create errors. Most units will also diffuse a high-frequency hissing sound. Most importantly when mixing professionally, you need to hear the sound in the room. This is why open-back design headphones are best suited for mixing, as they let the room sound pass through the headphones.
Impedance is often overlooked when it comes to the tech specs of headphones. Essentially, impedance allows headphones to match an amplifier’s signal. Usually higher impedance headphones will sound better, but only if they’re paired with a high-quality amplifier. Low-impedance headphones (under 50 ohms) are more suited to use with smartphones.
High-impedance studio headphones are much better suited to home environments, as they perform best when in use with pro audio equipment. Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser studio headphones come in a range with high-impedance, with up to 600 ohm-rated designs.
What Should You Be Looking For When Buying The Best Headphones For Studio?
Avoid general-purpose headphones, and avoid wireless/noise-cancelling headphones for music production if you’re taking your craft seriously. Your primary focus is to find studio headphones that are comfortable, sound great and is made of solid construction for long durability. If you can, definitely try headphones out before you buy them.
When you do this, bring a handful of tracks you know like the back of your hand. These could be your own songs or clients’ songs that you’ve worked on. Or even music that you know really well, and by that, I mean how they sound in regards to mixing and mastering choices.
The headphones that reference your songs the best, will be a good starting point for narrowing down your choices. Once you’ve found a pair that tick all these boxes, then take a look at what comes with the headphones. Carry cases, varying audio cables with different lengths and jack plugs could sway you to purchase one brand over another.
The Best Studio Headphones For Music Production
So, without further ado, here’s our list of the best studio monitoring headphones for every budget.
1. Anderton’s Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones £169.00
The Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones from Anderton, are a professional-grade pair of headphones designed for use in recording and mixing studios. They feature high-quality drivers, a closed-back design, and a comfortable fit. The headphones provide accurate sound reproduction with a wide frequency range and low distortion.
They are also lightweight and durable, making them a great choice for long recording and mixing sessions. The Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones also come with a detachable cable and a carrying case for easy transport.
- Driver Type: 40mm Neodymium Drivers
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 102 dB
- Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
- Cable Length: 1.2m
- Connector: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack
- Weight: 220g
Pros & Cons Of Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones
- The Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones offer a high-quality sound that is perfect for studio recording and mixing.
- These headphones are designed for long-term use and feature comfortable ear cushions and a lightweight design.
- The Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones are built to last, with an aluminum frame and sturdy construction.
- The headphones are equipped with a detachable cable and a 1/4-inch adapter, making them compatible with a variety of devices.
- The headphones provide excellent noise isolation, so you can focus on the music without distractions.
- Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones are quite expensive compared to other headphones in the market.
- They are also quite heavy, which can make them uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
- Due to their size and weight, they are not very portable and are better suited for studio use.
- The sound isolation is not as good as some other headphones, which can make it difficult to hear the music clearly in noisy environments.
You can buy them this link here.
2. AmazonBasics Over-Ear Studio Monitoring Headphones £40.79
A great entry-level option, these might be one of the best budget studio headphones. If you are loooking for the best studio headphones for mixing, the AmazonBasics offers an over-ear monitoring system which will prove highly versatile when recording and mixing. As well as delivering decent sound, the AmazonBasics also feature a collapsible design making them great for commuting.
They have a detachable cable which is perfect for future-proofing any unwanted accidents, should they occur. If you’re someone who is often commuting and needs good isolation, a price tag that won’t leave you worrying and a compact and durable design, maybe the AmazonBasics is for you.
- Studio monitor headphones with over-the-ear design help isolate sound and block outside noise; ideal for studio and field recording
- Contoured ear-cups and self-adjustable, flexible leather headbands promote long-lasting comfort
- 90-degree swivel for single-ear use; ear-cups fold in for compact space-saving storage and transport
- 40 mm diameter drivers; DJ-style 3 m cord; detachable standard 6.3 mm plug
Pros & Cons Of AmazonBasics Over-Ear Studio Monitoring Headphones
- AmazonBasics Over-Ear Studio Monitoring headphones provide great value for money as they are much cheaper than other brands.2
- The headphones are lightweight and feature soft earpads that provide comfort during long listening sessions.
- The headphones deliver clear sound with good bass, making them suitable for studio monitoring.
- The headphones are made from durable materials and are designed to last.
- The headphones are compatible with most audio devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
- Poor sound isolation.
- Weak bass response.
- Unsuitable for extended listening.
- Shoddy construction.
- No replaceable components.
- No in-line controls or mic.
- Narrow soundstage.
- No rotatable earcups.
You can buy them here.
3. AKG K240 MK II £51
Second on our list is the AKG K240 MK II. These AKG studio headphones are classed as ‘semi-open’ over-ear studio headphones. This means they have good isolation, but still allow air in to reduce sound pressure. For that very reason, these headphones could prove to be a great all-rounder for commuting, recording and mixing.
However, the design is bulky meaning they could be difficult for travelling with, but they do still benefit from a detachable cable. The semi-closed back design allows for an impressive frequency response from 15Hz-25,000Hz, resulting in a powerful and accurate low end.
- 15Hz – 25000Hz frequency bandwidth
- 55 Ohms, 104 dB SPL/V
- Semi-open over-ear design
- Patented Varimotion 30mm XXL transducer for great dynamic range
- 3m straight cable and 5m coiled cable, with a 3.5mm to 6mm adapter
Pros & Cons Of AKG K240 MK II Studio Headphones
- The AKG K240 MK II Studio Headphones have a semi-open design which provides a natural and spacious sound, allowing listeners to experience their music with a greater sense of depth and detail.
- The headphones have a self-adjusting headband that provides a comfortable fit for any head size.
- The headphones feature a detachable cable which is convenient for storage and travel.
- The headphones feature a professional-grade frequency response that is perfect for studio monitoring and mixing.
- The headphones are designed with a low-impedance design which allows them to be used with both professional and consumer audio devices.
- The headphones feature a 3-D-Axis professional folding mechanism for easy storage and portability.
- The ear cups are made of soft velour for a comfortable listening experience.
- The headphones come with a two-year warranty.
- Not noise canceling
- Not wireless
- Not as comfortable as other over-ear headphones
- Not as durable as some other headphones
You can buy them here.
4. Røde NTH-100 £149.00
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Impedance: 150 ohms
- Sensitivity: -38 ± 3 dB (1 mW/Pa)
- Maximum SPL: 136 dB SPL (1 kHz, 1% THD)Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Connector Type: XLR-3F
- Weight: 340 g (12 oz)
Pros & Cons Of Røde NTH-100 Studio Headphones
- They have excellent sound quality with a wide frequency range.
- Their noise cancellation is excellent, allowing you to focus on your music or podcast without outside noise.
- They are lightweight and comfortable for long listening sessions.
- They are reasonably priced for the quality of sound they provide.
- They are compatible with many devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
- The NTH-100 headphones are not noise-canceling, so they may not be suitable for use in noisy environments.
- They are not wireless, so you will need to be tethered to your device.
- They are not waterproof, so they should not be used in wet conditions.
- They are not foldable, so they may not fit easily in a bag or pocket.
- They are not compatible with all devices, so you may need to purchase an adapter.
You can buy them here.
5. KRK KNS 6400 £87.50
Third, on our list is the KRK KNS 6400. Similar in design to the AmazonBasics, but with improved bass frequency definition allowing you to make critical mixing decisions. Even though they’re closed-back headphones they offer great imaging. This ensures a great sense of depth and space, without having to sacrifice isolation from the outside world.
A great option if you want to mix while in un-ideal environments, but still deliver great and accurate results. A lovely added bonus is the replaceable cable, carry case and even ear cushions to ensure long life.
- High-efficiency Neodymium 40mm driver.
- Large dynamic range with extremely consistent low-distortion detail and clarity.
- Extended bass frequency definition without boominess reproduces the low end of your music accurately and clearly.
- Transparent reproduction of high-frequencies, resulting in highly accurate imaging.
- Highly durable 2.5M single-sided, oxygen-free copper straight cable.
- Replaceable cable, head, and ear cushions to ensure long product life.
- Soft carrying case included.
Pros & Cons Of The KRK KNS 6400 Studio Headphones
- The studio headphones offer an accurate and balanced sound that is perfect for studio mixing and mastering.
- The headphones feature an adjustable headband and large ear pads for maximum comfort during long listening sessions.
- The studio headphones are built with high-quality components and materials, making them durable and reliable for years of use.
- The studio headphones feature a detachable cable and a variety of adapters, allowing them to be used with a wide range of audio equipment.
- They are not noise-cancelling headphones.
- They are not wireless headphones.
- They are not very durable and may break easily.
- They may not be comfortable for long periods of time.
- They are not suitable for use in loud environments.
You can buy them here.
6. Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro £105
The DT-770 has been a studio staple for years now. Most professional studios have a pair and for a good reason. They sound great, they’re built like a tank and are super comfortable. Entering this higher price bracket brings a lot more to the table. The DT-770 range is now available in four different headphone variations.
The DT-770 Pro is the highest impedance model (250 ohms) in the range. The high impedance of this model results in increased dynamic frequency response and perfectly suits closed-back mixing in the studio. While these headphones offer phenomenal build quality, they don’t however offer a removable cable or carry case.
- Closed over-ear headphones for professional mixing in the studio
- Strong bass response and superior top-end clarity.
- 250-ohm high-impedance circuit
- The soft, circumaural and replaceable velour ear pads ensure high wearing comfort
- Hard-wearing, durable and robust workmanship Made in Germany
- Practical single-sided cable (3.0 m coiled cable)
Pros & Cons Of The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro Headphones
- The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro provides high quality sound with a wide frequency range of 5 Hz to 35 kHz. This ensures that you get accurate sound reproduction with good clarity and detail.
- The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro is designed with comfort in mind. It features an adjustable headband and soft earpads that make the headphones comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
- The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro is built with high quality materials and is designed to last. The headphones are also designed to be resistant to dust and moisture, making them suitable for use in a variety of environments.
- The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro headphones are one of the best studio headphones for gaming.
- The headphones are also compatible with a wide range of devices, including PCs, laptops, and phones.
- The Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro headphones are not noise cancelling, so they may not be suitable for use in noisy environments.
- They are not wireless, so they will require a wired connection to a device.
- The ear cups are not very adjustable, so they may not fit all head sizes.
- They are not very portable due to their size and weight.
- They are not very durable, so they may not last as long as other headphones.
You can buy them here.
7. Audio Technica ATH-M50x £109
Although not at the very top of the list, I can say from experience that these headphones are absolutely fantastic. I have owned a pair for almost 6 years now and they have never let me down, and still perform solid to this day. Extremely comfortable, it has fantastic sound and stellar build quality.
You’ll really struggle to beat the Audio Technica headphones when it comes to value. They’re considered a modern classic in many professional and home recording studios. You can even see world-famous artists such as John Mayer using them when recording.
As well as the key specs, they come with a truckload of accessories for every application (three different-length cables and a very durable padded case).
- Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminium wire voice coils
- Frequency response: 15 – 28,000 Hz. Professional-grade earpad and headband material delivers more durability and comfort
- Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments
Pros & Cons Of The Audio Technica ATH-M50x Headphones
- Excellent sound quality with accurate and balanced audio reproduction.
- Durable construction with detachable cables.
- Comfortable fit with large ear cups and adjustable headband.
- Good noise isolation.
- Great value for money.
- Wide frequency range.
- Professional studio monitoring headphones.
- Great for mixing and mastering.
- The ear cups are not adjustable.
- The sound quality is not as good as some of the more expensive models.
- The ear pads are not very comfortable for long listening sessions.
- The cable is non-detachable, so if it gets damaged, you will have to replace the entire headset.
- The soundstage is not as wide as some other headphones.
You can buy them here.
8. Sennheiser HD 660 Open Back Professional Studio Headphones $129
The godfather of the list. By no means a cheap set of studio headphones, but certainly a serious investment. The 660 is the successor of the legendary 650. The 660 has improved performance over the 650, after lowering the impedance to 150 ohms.
This means these may be the best open back studio headphones and are a high-end solution for every application. These are truly the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn, with the most stunning build quality. The remarkable frequency response of the 660 delivers very low harmonic distortion, and spectacular imaging of stereo spatial characteristics.
- Hand-selected transducers for precise ( 1 dB) left / right matching tolerance insure ideal accuracy and presentation of stereo spatial characteristics
- 150-ohm nominal impedance allows direct connection to home and mobile hires audio devices
- With two connection cables: One with a 6.35 mm stereo plug, and the other with a 4.4 mm Pentaconn balanced stereo plug, you also get a 6.35 mm to 3.5 mm adaptor
- Frequency response is 10 – 41,000 Hz (-10 dB)
Pros & Cons Of The Sennheiser HD 660 Open Back Professional Studio Headphones
- The Sennheiser HD 660 headphones offer a very accurate and detailed sound with a wide frequency range.
- The headphones are designed to be comfortable to wear even for long periods of time.
- The open-back design allows for a more natural sound with better soundstage and imaging.
- The headphones are made of high-quality materials and are built to last.
- The detachable cable allows for easy replacement if it gets damaged.
- They are not noise-cancelling, so they may not be suitable for noisy environments.
- They are not very portable due to their size and weight.
- They are not suitable for bass-heavy music genres.
- They can be uncomfortable for some users due to their large size and weight.
- They are relatively expensive.
You can buy them here.
9. Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X £219
- Frequency Response: 5 – 33,000 Hz
- Impedance: 250 ohms
- Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 96 dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.2 %Connector: 3.5 mm jack
- Cable Length: 9.8 ft (3 m)
Pros & Cons Of The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X Studio Headphones
- The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X headphones offer excellent sound quality with a wide frequency response range and accurate sound reproduction.
- The headphones have a comfortable fit and are lightweight, making them ideal for long listening sessions.
- The headphones are built with robust materials and are designed to withstand heavy use.
- The headphones are suitable for a variety of audio applications, including music, gaming, and studio work.
- The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X headphones are available at a very reasonable price, making them an excellent value for money.
- The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X headphones are quite expensive compared to other headphones on the market.
- The headphones do not have any active noise cancellation technology, so they may not be suitable for use in noisy environments.
- The headphones have a relatively low battery life of only 8 hours, which is not ideal for long listening sessions.
- The headphones do not come with any additional accessories, such as replacement ear pads or a carrying case.
You can buy them here.
10. Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones £219
- Type: Closed-back, circumaural headphones
- Driver: Dynamic, neodymium magnet
- Frequency Response: 8–25,000 Hz
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Sensitivity: 112 dB SPL/V
- Connector: 3.5mm, 6.3mm adapter included
- Cable Length: 3.0m (9.8ft)
- Weight: 250g (8.8oz)
Pros & Cons Of The Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones
- Great sound quality with a balanced frequency response.
- Lightweight and comfortable design.
- Good noise isolation.
- Detachable cable for easy replacement.
- Robust construction.
- Compatible with a wide range of devices.
- Affordable price.
- The Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones do not have any active noise cancellation, which can be a drawback if you are looking for headphones that can block out external noise.
- The sound quality of the Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones is not as good as other headphones in its price range.
- The Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones are not designed for long-term use and may break easily.
- The earpads on the Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Studio Headphones are not very comfortable and can become uncomfortable after extended use.
You can buy them here.
At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you what pair of headphones you go for. However, if money is an issue or you’re just starting out, the best budget studio headphones for music production are probably the Amazon Basics studio headphones.
Remember, the most important thing when it comes to purchasing studio headphones for music production is your budget. Decide whether you want open or closed back, depending on where and for how long you’ll be using them. Sound, comfort and durability are the most important factors to consider when you make your final decision. Finally, ensure you try the headphones before you purchase them. Good luck!
We hope you enjoyed our review of the best studio headphones for music production!
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