Music production is an industry that heavily relies on speakers and headphones. After all, these two devices are your only real connection with the music you are mixing. Studio headphones are most often considered to be the shortcut to studio monitoring, but that isn’t really the case.
Table Of Contents
|Image||Studio Headphones / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| Shure SRH1840 |
Total of 4.88/5
One of the most clinical open back headphones available on the market.
|+ -|| Sony MDR 7520 |
Total of 4.80/5
Simple, effective and reliable tool designed to meet the demanding professional standards.
|+ -|| Sennheiser HD 600 |
Total of 4.78/5
Currently one of the best bargain deals for proper, efficient studio monitoring.
|+ -|| Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro |
Total of 4.68/5
A hybrid that brings a combination of performance and insight that's rare.
|+ -|| AKG K271 MKII |
Total of 4.57/5
The most precise representation of what affordable studio headphones should be like.
|+ -|| AKG K553 PRO |
Total of 4.42/5
A proper set of studio monitoring headphones that bring lots of versatility.
|+ -|| Audio-Technica ATH-M40x |
Total of 3.95/5
One of the best bang for the buck deals in their price range.
|+ -|| Shure SRH440 |
Total of 4.15/5
Affordable yet effective solution optimize specifically for good performance and user comfort .
|+ -|| AKG K52 |
Total of 4.00/5
Currently one of the most attractive setups in the budget market segment.
|+ -|| Audio Technica ATH-M20x |
Total of 3.88/5
An impressive solution for those who are limited by a tight budget.
The epitome of balanced, flat and crystal clear open-back studio headphones.
Shure took it above and beyond to deliver a set of cans that gets the job done with efficiency but also style.
It also doesn't hurt that these are some of the best looking high-end headphones on the market.
For a long time, Sony's MDR 7520 were regarded as the go-to choice for professionals around the world.
Unlike many brands today, Sony gave very little value to looks, but that is not what MDR 7520 is all about.
Instead, the performance you get from these makes them so popular.
It is no secret that Sennheiser knows how to design a set of headphones. Their HD 600 is a bit different, though.
Compared to the usual Sennheiser stuff, HD 600 packs a whole lot more performance for the money.
At this point in time, HD 600 are an insane bargain.
Going with a semi-open design was a gamble on Beyerdynamic's part.
However, in a world divided between fully closed or fully open headphones, DT-880 comes across as a breath of fresh air.
The type of sound these deliver is transparent, but very interesting to work with.
K271 Mk II is the very definition of what affordable studio headphones are all about.
AKG has designed and created a set of cans that are comfortable, very well adjustable and bring that necessary transparent sound.
In terms of bang for the buck, these are very hard to beat.
Another AKG favorite that packs a whole lot of bang for the money. The style, build quality and performance K553 PRO offer is exceptional. On top of that, they are very easy to drive. You can hook these up to a mobile device and tap into that awesome potential.
Audio-Technica's ATH M series of headphones created a lot of turmoil on the market.
One of the best models in that lineup has got to be the M40x.
It is just the right size, packs enough juice for proper mixing, and is very competitively priced.
At the lower end of Shure's SRH series we find the 440.
These headphones aim at giving the user plenty of padding, thus ensuring the comfort necessary for serious use.
On top of that, the performance you get is more than adequate for the job.
AKG keeps up with surprises by producing one of the most well rounded studio headphones in the super affordable segment of the market.
This design is great from a comfort stand point, but also from a build quality one.
The performance is great and perfectly good for beginners.
The smallest member of the ATH M series, M20x embodies what this family of headphones is all about.
Audio-Technica used what is essentially the same platform as most other models in the series, with the main difference being the hardware inside.
Overall, these are great for those on a budget.
You can click on any of the links below to check out the detailed article about each price range.
One of the more heated arguments in the community is about whether or not studio headphones are a good way to mix music. One side is adamant that you can use these for mixing and recording, while the other insists that studio monitor speakers are the only way. If you would like to check out which studio monitors are hot right now, check out our guide dedicated to studio monitor speakers. Back to the issue at hand. The truth is somewhere in the middle. General rule of thumb is to mix on studio monitors and then review the same mix with a pair of headphones to catch anything that slipped through. In a sense, studio headphones are like a magnifying lens.
That is the best case scenario. Since not everyone can afford a good set of monitors and a good set of headphones, using either one alone is going to be enough. Both headphones and monitor speakers are tools that help you get towards the same goal. It is like to comparing a screwdriver to a larger one. The real question you should be asking yourself is which one of these two tools going to do you more good in the beginning. The answer will depend on your studio conditions, budget and more.
Now that we have done away with that little discussion, let’s talk about different types of studio headphones. This won’t be too complicated as there are only two that really matter. We are, of course talking about open back and closed back models. Each of these offer a performance aimed at slightly different things, but are essentially suitable for any kind of studio use.
Closed Back Headphones
The idea behind closed back headphones is to eliminate all outside noise. The closed-back part relates to these headphones’ ability to prevent any sound leaking out, but also any noise leaking in. The result is you having an insight into the finest details of your mix or project you are working on. In the context of studio use, closed back headphones are the preferred tool for recording. This is partially due to them drowning out any instrument sounds but also because they put that instrument’s or vocal talent’s performance right into your ears. You almost have a feeling that the music is originating in your head.
Open Back Headphones
Open back headphones are a completely different story. Where closed back ones have sealed driver housings, open ones pack come with a fully transparent driver enclosure. As you would expect, the ability of these headphones to cancel outside noise is very poor, but that is the price we have to pay to get all the benefits. Speaking of which, a set of open back headphones introduces spatial dimension to your music. In other words, the sound produced by these headphones creates an illusion of a sound stage as you are listening to music. You can pinpoint where the sound of each instrument is coming from relative to the headphones, which is definitely an experience of its own. Open back headphones are mostly used for mixing music as they give you a better handle on how the mix is arranged.
The current offering of studio headphones is overwhelming. There are so many awesome models out there in all segments of the market. Even so, there are only three requirements that need to be met. You are looking at raw performance, comfort and build quality, in that order.
Performance of headphones means a couple of things. The most important aspect of studio headphones’ performance relates to transparency, or their ability to give you neutral tone. On top of that, you want a good frequency range and good sensitivity.
Comfort is one of the most underrated and most essential aspects of headphone designs. Wearing headphones inevitably leads to fatigue. Your ears start to hurt, your head starts to ache, neither of which are something you want to experience when working in a studio. Padding is essential here. You want headphones with sufficient padding on the headband, as well as ear pads. Ear pads are a lesser issue considering that most headphones allow you to swap them out, but headband can be problematic. Clamping force also comes to mind as some models out there can really be aggressive in this regard.
Lastly we have build quality. This is something that mostly depends on the price of the headphones as higher end ones are usually made to last much longer. If you can find something that has a metal frame and fits your budget, you’re golden. However, sometimes we have to deal with plastic headbands and sub frames, which is where you need to be careful.
Cables are also an issue that needs to be addressed. The standard these days is to have a detachable cable, mostly since it allows for a bit of versatility in terms of cable length. The main benefit of detachable cables is the fact that you can switch them out if one goes bad. With fixed cable headphones, that is not an option. again, these features start to appear as you the price increases.
At the end of the day, studio headphones are an essential tool in the world of music recording and production. Models we have shown you today are by far some of the best on the market and cover a whole spectrum of price ranges. If you have a somewhat limiting budget, hopefully this guide has shown you that there are some awesome headphones that don’t cost a fortune. Either way, a solid pair of studio headphones will become your best friend in those situations that require absolute precision. If you can add a set of decent studio monitors to this equation, you will be set.
If you need more help with setting up your studio, check out the related buying guides for recording gear:
Laptops For Music Production