Table Of Contents
|Image||Guitar Amplifier / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| AKG K52 |
Total of 4.00/5
Affordable set that brings the core of AKG performance and great comfort.
|+ -|| Audio Technica ATH-M20x |
Total of 3.88/5
Entry level model of an iconic series, bringing you already proven performance.
|+ -|| Superlux HD-681 EVO |
Total of 3.83/5
By far one of the most impressive headphones in the affordable segment.
|+ -|| CAD MH300 |
Total of 3.60/5
Great model that delivers core specs necessary for proper studio monitoring work.
|+ -|| CAD Audio MH110 |
Total of 3.55/5
Most affordable set of headphones that still offers decent transparency and comfort.
AKG is a household name in the headphones community. They offer a variety of audiophile and studio monitoring models that have shown to be real contenders. However, it's their affordable series which are the most interesting. AKG K52, being one of the more noticeable models of this type, brings impressive core feature and performance. With a fairly transparent output, plenty of volume and a great headband design, it is one of the most promising headphones you can get on a tight budget. User comfort is on a much higher level than average for this price range. That can be attributed to K52's light weight and overall design simplicity. These are definitely among the best studio headphones available for budget users.
Audio Technica's line of studio headphones has been an instant success from the moment it hit the markets. It didn't take long for users to figure out the impressive value Audio Technica offered at a much more affordable price range. The cheapest and model from that lineup is the ATH-M20x. These headphones pack a set of great 40mm drivers and a fairly solid build. While the materials aren't the best, Audio Technica made sure to offer plenty of padding where it is needed the most. At the end of the day, what we got was a set of headphones that didn't cost much, offered great performance for the money, as well as decent user comfort. That's impressive for budget headphones.
The amount of turmoil caused by Superlux and their headphones has really made an impact on the budget segment of the market. When they first appeared, a new standard was set which forced everyone else to catch up. Superlux HD681 EVO are still one of the best bargains in town. This set offers great performance out of the box, with an upgrade that is easily attainable for free. Their design is great as well as their build quality. On top of that, Superlux implemented some solutions which aren't seen in this market segment. The sole fact that you get a detachable cable makes them so many times more versatile than their competition. Overall, HD681 EVO is definitely worth checking out.
CAD may not be a name as popular as some out there, but they definitely know how to cater to the needs of their users. CAD MH300 is one of the most capable budget studio headphones you can find. Truth be told, CAD didn't focus all that much on aesthetics nor the balance of these headphones. Rather, they have put all their eggs into one basket, and that is performance. With two 50mm drivers that dig pretty deep into the spectrum, these have plenty of potential right out of the box. In practice, this potential is turned into pure performance. Transparent, easy to correct and responsive, CAD MH300 are absolutely worth looking into. Especially if you insist on larger drivers.
CAD is one of those brands that is well known for their more affordable solutions. MH110 is about as affordable as you would want to get with studio headphones. The only question is, do they actually work? What CAD has done right with MH110, is to focus on hardware and performance over aesthetics. They have still kept the necessary levels of build quality, but MH110 isn't much to look at. That becomes irrelevant once you hear those two 50mm drivers cranking some serious volume. Overall frequency response is decent but requires some work if you want proper transparency. A bit of equalization can make all the difference with CAD MH110. While an inconvenience for sure, some tuning is absolutely recommended.
No matter what you’re told, the short answer is yes. We would all like to have expensive gear right off the bat, however that is something only a handful of beginner producers can afford. In a way, starting with lesser quality equipment is actually a good thing. Chances are you would have a hard time noticing the difference between cheap and best studio headphones on the market. Your ears need time to adapt to this type of equipment, especially if the only thing you have used until then were standard consumer grade headphones.
Even the models we are looking at today are better than using regular headphones. The reason being that every pair of consumer headphones is biased. Most of them express this bias in the lower end. Modern music is full of bass, so brands tune the transducers to offer rich lows with little regard to trebles and mids. Studio headphones aim to offer flat response across the range. That is something even the $50 studio headphones can offer to a certain extent. Once you get used to the idea of monitoring headphones, you will likely appreciate the performance of $500 models much more.
Here’s the deal. It is no secret that lower prices usually mean barely acceptable materials. Manufacturers can only cut the price of a product in so many ways. With that said, as long as you treat the headphones right, you should really run into any issues. The models listed above all have a great track record in terms of build quality, meaning that your chances of getting a lemon are super slim.
The only component you need to worry about is the cable. Since most of the models in this segment of the market come with a fixed cable, and not a very sturdy one, you should try to avoid twisting it. The main issue with headphones that have a fixed cable occur when that cable breaks or stops working. Replacing it is not impossible, but it sure is a pain.
Other than that, the most you will ever have to deal with in terms of build quality, is probably going to be that feel of cheap vinyl and plastics. Considering how affordable these headphones are, that is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
This is a very good question. Before we go any further, transparency isn’t the only metric that makes good studio headphones. There are other things that need to be considered as well. However, having a flat response is ultimately what it all comes down to. Affordable studio monitors offer a decent compromise. The response is going to be acceptable in most cases, which allows you to get the job done with enough insight into your mix. You probably won’t be able to hear every single subtle detail, but that’s perfectly fine.
One thing you can do is even things out a bit using an equalizer. Most headphones these days come with a frequency response graph which tells you exactly where the dips or spikes in the response are. By boosting or cutting frequencies that stand out, you can increase the the performance a little. Naturally, equalizing the signal won’t solve the issue, but it will make the whole experience much better.
To answer the question from the title of this paragraph, affordable headphones can be transparent enough. It all comes back to the fact that even bad studio headphones are better than regular consumer grade ones.
As the price of headphones goes down, the number of features also tends to slim out. The very first thing you should look for in studio headphones of any kind, but especially cheap ones, is raw performance. Everything else comes second. Aesthetics and comfort are always going to be an issue, however some of the headphones can be upgraded using aftermarket parts. Your main concern should be transparency.
When you have that covered, look into how the headphones are made. Is there enough padding? Are the ear pads removable, and if so, do they match any high end model? One little trick that many brands like to use is to make their cheaper models compatible with their higher end ones. By doing so, they allow the user to mod the headphones and boost comfort.
One feature that you most likely won’t find is a detachable cable. There are brands out there who include this feature even with their cheap models, but they are rare. Having a detachable cable reduces the chances of you having to deal with cable failure. On top of that, it allows you to get the length of the cable that you need. After all, not all studios are the same nor does everyone like to be close to their workstation.
Affordable studio headphones are a powerful tool when you are limited by a tight budget. Long gone are the days when cheap automatically meant bad. These days, brands are racing against each other to design and launch a product that is better and cheaper then what their competition has to offer. Models we’ve shown you above are all great examples of good, affordable studio headphones. Starting out with any of these will allow you to get into music production with enough insight into your music. Sure, you’ll probably upgrade in near future, but this will get you started just fine.