The Top 5 Studio Headphones Reviewed
When it comes to recording or mixing music, either as a professional or a more dedicated hobbyist, you soon come to learn that standard consumer-grade headphones don’t quite do the trick. You need precise, high-quality audio to ensure that you hear every decibel of the track with the clarity that helps you record and produce them to the best possible standard.
Here, we’re going to look at a range of professional standard studio headphones, their features, pros, and cons, to help you find which is best for you. However, it’s important to understand what you should be looking for, so here are a few elements to pay specific attention to when you’re looking through the market:
Performance: Their ability to isolate sound, good frequency range to keep sound clear no matter what frequency it’s in, sensitivity to pick up everything that the mic can pick up, and more.
Comfort: Given that you’re going to be wearing them for long stretches of time, knowing that you can wear them comfortably without issue is going to be of great importance.
Build: Similarly, since they’re likely to be used for a long time, you also want to know that they’re going to go the distance without starting to fault on you.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the best studio headphones around.
Best Studio Headphones
The most expensive pair of headphones, on average, we will be looking at here, these open-ear headphones represent a true professional standard, with high quality sound and sturdy design that makes it a good fit for use in the studio.
The clarity and frequency range on these headphones are unmatched, to the point that especially high frequencies can be extremely sharp in your ears. However, it also means that the lows are much easier to pick up, especially for those with a more analytic approach to mixing. The strengths of its recording capabilities are a dynamic range, though the texture and quality of the highs is slightly better than what you pick from the bass. Overall, great transparency and detail when listening back to recordings.
The beyerdynamic headphones are also well built and easy to use. The headband is made of aluminum, and the rest is comprised of ABS plastic, so it’s sturdy and hard-wearing, but it’s also extremely light. This means that’s certainly one of the most comfortable pair of studio headphones you’re likely to find, and at a decent price, too.
One of the slight drawbacks is that the cable is hardwired to the headphones. This doesn’t impact the performance itself, but it means you can’t easily switch it out for other 3.5mm cables as some of the other choices allow. As such, if the cable breaks, it will take a little effort to fix it. Again, not a deal breaker, just a consideration to think about.
- Open over-ear headphones, ideal for professional mixing, mastering and editing
- Perfect for studio applications thanks to their transparent, spacious, strong bass and treble sound
- 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 (3.0m coiled cable)
A little cheaper than the beyerdynamic, exceptional clarity and studio-grade quality are just as easy to find with this Audio-Technica pair of headphones. They are closed design, unlike the beyerdynamic headphones, which means that they are a little better as isolating you from sounds of the surrounding environment, which means that they could work a little better for those who are mixing and want to be fully enveloped in the listening experience.
Another pro in favor of the Audio-Technica is the ability to remove the cable and switch it out easily, meaning it’s much easier to fix faults if they do happen. These are true studio headphones, with an enhanced quality and clarity of mids that isn’t found in consumer grade headphones (which tend to emphasize sharp highs and strong bass, rather than anything in the middle.)
It still has a somewhat bass heavy profile compared to other studio headphones, and the sound staging isn’t as comprehensive as some of the other options out there, but the excellent isolation and range more than make up for it.
If there is one con, it’s that the ear pads aren’t really representative of the quality of the build, as a whole. They can get a touch uncomfortable for long recording or mixing sessions, and wear a little easily compared to the rest, but it’s relatively easy to replace them with something more comfortable and resilient.
- Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
- Proprietary 45 millimeter large aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper clad aluminum wire voice coils
- Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response
- Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments
- 90 degree swiveling earcups for easy, one ear monitoring, and professional grade earpad and headband material delivers more durability and comfort
Another pair of closer ear headphones, the Sennheiser are a touch cheaper than both options mentioned above, and are one of the most comfortable pairs on the market. It’s light, yet sturdy and ergonomic, with high quality earpads meaning that wearing them for long stretches isn’t going to get uncomfortable, making them a must-have for professionals as well as audiophiles.
Of course, in the end it all comes down to the quality of the sound. They have a dynamic range, able to offer real clarity on not just highs, but they have great quality bass, too. With some headphones, the bass can be overpowering, and, on others, it feels underrepresented, but the Sennheiser headphones seem to find the just-right sweet spot. With great sound isolation, it makes it a good pair of headphones for mixers with a more analytic approach to sound.
Excellent sound staging is another benefit of the Senneheiser, meaning that wearing them does feel awfully close to being in the recording booth, being able to pinpoint the direction of each instrument and sound down to a tee. For those who prefer a more natural sound to their music, and works very well for classical amongst its competitors.
However, one thing worth noting is that it can take a while for the studio burn to unveil the real quality. Bass sounds might sound a little quieter at first, and you might find yourself fiddling with the volume, but with repeated use, the clarity of bass gets significantly better.
- Dynamic, closed ear headphones.Weight w/o cable: 285 gram Ear coupling is circumaural
- Lightweight and comfortable, ergonomic design, Cord Length 3.3 9.8 feet Coiled
- Extended frequency response and warm, natural sound reproduction. Nominal impedance 64 ohm. Sound pressure level (SPL) 113 dB
- Around the ear design with padded ear cups Dynamic, closed ear headphones with up to 32 dB attenuation of outside sound. Frequency response (Headphones) 8 25000 Hz
- Ear pads, headband padding, and audio cord are easily replaceable, ensuring long life
4. Sony MDR7506
If you like to take your mixing work on the road with you, or you collaborate with other musicians at their recording studios on the regular, then these very lightweight and compact headphones could be perfect for you, as portable as they are. The fold up feature makes them easy to stow away and take from place to place.
Excellent clarity across all ranges is one of the biggest selling points of this pair of headphones. Inaccurate bass representation, even amongst studio headphones, but this pair manages to keep it comfortable and natural, not boosting it too much, but also able to offer great precision down to the low ranges. The highs and mids are well represented without sounding too sharp, as well, making it easy to pick apart different instruments with great clarity. Add to that great noise cancellation and you have a pair of headphones built for the mixing environment.
Though the rather slim design might cause some worry about their build quality, they are rather sturdy as well, and are also highly comfortable to wear. Large, soft earcups that stay in place easily enough but envelop the ear rather than pressing against means that they’re easier to wear for a longer time.
Again, the fact that the cord isn’t detachable is something of a drawback, though by no means a deal breaker. It’s a high-quality, 9.8-foot cord with a gold plug and great coiling design, so it is particularly durable.
- Neodymium magnets and 40 millimeter drivers for powerful, detailed sound
- Closed ear design provides comfort and outstanding reduction of external noises
- 9.8 foot cord ends in gold plated plug and it is not detachable; 1/4 inch adapter included
- Folds up for storage or travel in provided soft case
- Frequency Response: 10 Hertz to 20 kilohertz
Last but not least, we have the AKG’s entry on the list. These semi-open headphones are the lowest priced pair that we’re going to look at. Still more expensive than consumer-grade headphones, these represent a great entry-level pair of headphones for those starting to get into music recording, mixing and sound production.
Another little benefit is the screw-on adapt for the 3.5mm cable, which makes it easy to swap in cables when necessary. This comes as a slight surprise, given the relative inexpensiveness of this pair and the fact that some of the higher-budget options on the list don’t have this.
As they are open back, however, they do experience a little more-sound leakage and don’t have the kind of isolation shown above. Some don’t like too much isolation so your mileage may vary. Otherwise, the bass is a little underrepresented, but not too much that it becomes a deal breaker.
However, highs and mids are much clearer and higher quality, without getting too sharp. They have a somewhat flat (or natural) sound to them that doesn’t emphasize frequencies in particular but does offer a beautiful clear sound across the range. Light as they are, they’re also extremely comfortable to wear for long recording or mixing sessions.
- Professional studio headphones
- 3 m replaceable cable
- Audio Interface type: Stereo plug – 3.5mm (1/8-inch) with 6.3 mm (1/4”) screw-on adapter
Beginners Guide To Studio Headphones
Here is a good video that talks about the basics of studio headphones, and what to look for when purchasing a pair:
Out of all the headphones recommended above, the Sony MDR7506 might offer the closest to studio perfection, in large part thanks to how well it handles the bass. Comfortable, well-built and highly portable, it’s a good fit for musicians and mixers who stick to their studio as well as those who need to take them on the road, and all at a decent price as well. However, if you’re not a fan of having too much noise isolation, then the beyerdynamic studio headphones might be more up your alley, instead.