There are plenty of headphones that are decent for studio use, whether it’s for recording tracks or sound mixing and mastering. You’ll need to be thorough with your research to filter out winners from the losers, and that could take weeks. If you don’t have the time or patience to evaluate the numerous options on the market – and believe us, there are dozens of them – then this product guide is for you.
In this product guide, you’ll find the top options currently available, with many of them coming from companies known for their professional audio equipment. The products included are separated into two sections: headphones best used for recording tracks and headphones that are ideal for sound mixing and mastering. All products are over-the-ear headphones.
Headphones for Sound Mixing and Mastering
Not all headphones are suitable for sound mixing and mastering in the studio. For those tasks, you’ll want headphones with a neutral sound profile for better accuracy. Open-back headphones fit the bill since they are generally more natural-sounding than closed-back headphones. Their more accurate audio reproduction allows you to analyze the audio better and discern flaws. In addition, their more breathable open design is beneficial for particularly long hours in the studio.
Open-back headphones are not suitable for all-around studio use, though. They are not recommended for recording due to their high sound leakage – the sound leaking out from them will be picked up by your sensitive mic, affecting the recording. The products below are the best headphones for sound mixing and mastering. A couple of semi-open headphones, whose enclosures are not fully open, are also included.
If you can spend more than $1,000 on a pair of headphones, check out the Sennheiser HD 800 S, which usually retails for around $1,700. They are wired over-ear headphones featuring massive ear cups with open backplates. They are some of the best and most neutral-sounding headphones on the market, which makes them suitable for sound mixing. They sound clear and extremely detailed, with a spacious soundstage.
The HD 800 S are premium headphones that are sturdy and durable, though their overall build quality might disappoint those who are expecting an all-metal construction. While their bulky design will suggest otherwise, they are not too heavy, which makes them less fatiguing on the head during long studio sessions. Their ear cups are well-padded and breathable while their headband is flexible, easily adjusting to large heads. The headband clamp is not too tight, adding to the overall comfort level of the headphones.
With their bulky design being an obvious indicator, the HD 800 S headphones are not meant to be portable and are not recommended for professionals who frequently travel. In addition to their physical size, they don’t fold into a more compact format to take up less space in your bag. They don’t include a case (only a soft pouch), which is disappointing for headphones selling for more than a grand.
There are two audio cables included in the box: one terminating in a 6.3 mm plug and one ending in a 4.4 mm plug, with Sennheiser also offering an optional cable with an XLR4 plug. None of the cables is coiled, but both of them are quite long, measuring roughly 10 feet. While the detachable cables add to the overall durability of the headphones, you can’t easily replace them with third-party cables. Thankfully, the audio cables are quite durable and will last a long time when given proper care.
Although not exactly advertised for professional studio use, the HiFiMan Ananda headphones are suitable for critical listening. Like the Sennheiser HD 800 S, they have a very neutral sound profile, which is beneficial for sound mixing and mastering. They can reproduce vocals and instruments with excellent clarity and detail and boast a wide soundstage. They are easy to drive, which is one of their biggest selling points, and are suitable for both studio use and simply enjoying music at home.
The Ananda are over-ear headphones with an open-back design, featuring nice-looking backplates with horizontal metal grilles. Unlike the Sennheiser dynamic headphones, they are equipped with planar magnetic drivers, which make for a heavier build. They include multiple audio cables that connect to both ear cups and have a transparent coating. Their dual headband design is composed of a sturdy metal headband and a leather strap that feels comfortable on the head.
With their spacious ear cups and soft cushions, the Ananda headphones are comfortable to wear for long hours in the studio, but they are not as breathable as other open-back headphones. Their tight fit is mitigated by their thick earpads, which are asymmetrical for better ergonomics. They stay securely on the head, allowing you to move around the studio from one audio equipment to another without worrying about them sliding off your head.
Aside from the stock audio cables, the Ananda headphones include a 6.3 mm plug adapter for interfacing with your studio equipment. But that’s it for the accessories. There is no travel case or soft pouch included, which is quite disappointing for premium headphones selling for around $700, even if they are not meant to be portable and are best used at home or in the studio.
The Audeze LCD-1 headphones are excellent planar magnetic headphones and are some of the more affordable Audeze headphones on the market. They are wired headphones with an over-ear fit and open-back ear cups. With their neutral sound, they are designed for critical listening both in the studio and at home. They sound clear and detailed and will sound consistent among different users, but their soundstage is not as wide and spacious as that of the Sennheiser HD 800 S and the HiFiMan Ananda.
The LCD-1 headphones have a more casual look, with their all-black color scheme making for a more discreet profile. Their build quality is good, with their metal-and-plastic construction appearing sturdy and durable and leather-coated memory foam earpads adding to comfort. While their ear cups are a bit smaller than that of other over-ear headphones, they will easily fit on most ear sizes. They are comfortable to wear due to their lightweight frame and soft earpads, making them suitable for long hours in the studio.
Of the headphones in this section, the LCD-1 headphones are the most portable and most suitable for professionals who sometimes need to do their work on the road. They can be folded into a more compact format – which is one of their main selling points – and include a travel case. Their foldable design allows them to take up less space in your bag while their case protects them from minor physical damage.
The default audio cable is detachable, allowing for easy replacement when damaged. It connects to both ear cups and ends in a 3.5 mm analog plug. Like the headphones themselves, the stock cable is durable and doesn’t feel cheap. There is only one audio cable included in the box, along with a 6.3 mm plug adapter, which is a common accessory among professional and audiophile headphones.
The AKG K702 are terrific headphones for sound mixing and mastering in the studio, with their neutral sound allowing for accurate analysis and critical listening. They sound clear and detailed and have a spacious soundstage, but their bass is a bit lacking. They will allow you to pick out faults in the recording – which is a good thing for studio use but undesirable for some people when simply enjoying music at home.
A pair of over-ear headphones with open-back ear cups, the K702 are bulky headphones with a retro aesthetic that some might find clunky. They will look at home in a studio environment. Unlike the similarly designed K701, their audio cable is detachable, allowing you to easily replace it, which adds to their overall durability. The default audio cable connects to the left ear cup and terminates with a 3.5 mm analog plug, with AKG also including a 6.3 mm plug adapter in the box.
For long hours in the studio, the K702 headphones are comfortable to wear. They are lightweight – though their bulky design and large, circular ear cups may suggest otherwise – and don’t feel too tight. Their leather strap feels good on the head while their headband is flexible and adjusts easily to large heads. If, however, you have a small head, you might find the headphones too cumbersome and unstable on your head.
Compared to the Audeze LCD-1, the K702 headphones are less portable, especially considering their larger ear cups. They don’t fold into a more compact form, not to mention they lack a travel case or soft pouch for better portability. Depending on your workflow or preferences, their mediocre portability is either a bad thing or a total non-issue. If you prefer studio headphones that are easier to take with you for on-the-go work and for simply listening to music while traveling, there are better options out there, like these headphones for travel and commute.
The Sennheiser HD 600 are some of the most popular headphones among both headphone enthusiasts and professionals. They are open-back headphones with an over-ear fit and a detachable audio cable connecting to both ear cups and terminating in a 3.5 mm plug. A 6.3 mm plug adapter is also provided, but that’s about it for the accessories. You can get these headphones for around $300, making them much more affordable than the previously mentioned HD 800 S.
However, compared to the more premium HD 800 S, the HD 600 headphones have less impressive construction, with their headband feeling less durable. Their build quality is still solid, though; their ear cups, which include metal grilles, are sturdy while their earpads are soft and thick. Their large, oval ear cups can easily fit around most ear sizes and are decently breathable, but they don’t fold into the frame for better portability.
While their well-padded ear cups and headband and lightweight frame allow for better comfort, the HD 600 headphones are not the most comfortable for long hours in the studio. The biggest culprit is their very tight clamp, which makes them more fatiguing on the head. But on the bright side, their tight clamp adds to their stability, preventing the headphones from sliding off your head easily when you are moving around the studio.
Regarding audio reproduction, the HD 600 headphones are excellent. They are some of the best-sounding open-back headphones under $500. They sound transparent and detailed, with a flat mid-range, a balanced treble, and a spacious soundstage. They can cleanly reproduce vocals and instruments and have minimal distortion. While their build quality and comfort level are not the best, they are superb for sound mixing and mastering in the studio due to their neutral sound profile.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro are over-ear headphones with semi-open enclosures. They have a more neutral sound profile than both the DT 770 Pro and the DT 990 Pro, which makes them more suitable for sound mixing and mastering. While they are more expensive than those two headphones, normally selling for around $250, their price regularly drops to below $200.
Like their open-back and closed-back counterparts, the DT 880 Pro headphones have a utilitarian design, featuring circular ear cups and a metal headband. Their build quality is good and better than some headphones selling for a higher price. Their padded headband is sturdy and flexible while their ear cups feel durable and include metal grilles composed of tiny holes. For comparison, the open-back DT 990 Pro headphones have plastic grilles. The non-detachable, coiled audio cable connects to the left ear cup. It ends with a 3.5 mm plug, with the included 6.3 mm plug adapter allowing for secure connectivity with studio equipment.
Although they are a bit tight on the head, especially out of the box, the DT 880 Pro semi-open headphones are comfortable to wear for long hours. They are more breathable than the DT 770 Pro headphones due to their semi-open backplates and can easily accommodate most ear sizes. Their earpads are coated with velour material, which feels more luxurious than synthetic leather. You can easily replace the earpads when they get damaged or worn out after repeated use.
With their neutral sound profile, the DT 880 Pro headphones are suitable for critical listening. They can accurately reproduce vocals and instruments, boasting flat and near-perfect mid-range performance, and have a spacious soundstage. They sound clear and detailed, even at low volume levels, and will impress both professionals and audiophiles. Their sound isolation is not much better than that of the DT 990 Pro headphones, though; their noise isolation is poor while their sound leakage is high, which makes them unsuitable for recording tracks.
The Philips SHP9500 are some of the best and most popular headphones under $100. Their sound quality is excellent, while their build quality is decent for the price. They sound neutral and balanced and have a good soundstage. They are recommended for those who don’t want to break the bank for a pair of studio headphones and simply want relatively budget-friendly headphones that are comfortable to use for long hours.
The SHP9500 headphones are a pair of over-ear models with open enclosures and a low-profile black color scheme. They have large ear cups with distinct left and right markers on the grilles and include a detachable audio cable terminating in a 3.5 mm analog plug, with a 6.3 mm plug adapter also provided. Their metal-reinforced headband is flexible and sturdy and has markers for the adjustment, which is convenient.
The SHP9500 are some of the most comfortable headphones to wear for long continuous listening sessions, making them perfect for long hours in the studio. They are lightweight despite their bulky design and don’t feel tight on the head. Their open-back design makes them more breathable while their roomy, well-padded ear cups easily accommodate large ears. On the other hand, the material covering the earpads feels a bit cheap and not as soft on the skin as velour and leather.
Unlike some budget headphones under $100, the SHP9500 headphones have few accessories. In fact, the only other item included in the box (aside from the audio cable) is the plug adapter. There is no soft pouch or carry case included to protect the headphones from minor physical damage like scratches. But that’s easy enough to swallow for many people, considering the headphones already bring a lot of value for the money.
If the Philips SHP9500 headphones are still not within your budget, check out the Superlux HD 681 headphones instead. They are semi-open headphones selling for just around $30, which makes them the most affordable product in this entire guide. They are some of the best-sounding headphones under $50, with their neutral sound profile making them suitable for sound mixing. Their bass and mid-range are both accurate while their soundstage is good for semi-open headphones, but their treble can be piercing in some tracks.
The HD 681 are over-ear headphones with a mediocre plastic build that doesn’t feel durable, which isn’t surprising considering their price. They are large and bulky headphones that are not meant to be portable, especially with their non-folding design. They look bland and unappealing, with the red accents on the ear cups not helping them stand out, which is either good or bad, depending on your preferences. They have a dual headband design with an artificial leather strap below the headband arc and include a non-detachable audio cable terminating in a 3.5 mm analog plug. A 6.3 mm screw-on adapter is also included, along with a soft pouch.
While their build quality is unimpressive, the HD 681 headphones are comfortable to wear for long hours, partly due to their lightweight plastic construction. They have large, circular ear cups that will fit around most ear sizes, and they don’t feel too tight. They are decently breathable, but their earpads are subpar and are better off replaced with different ones.
Like the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro, the HD 681 headphones are not much better at sound isolation than fully open headphones. They will hardly block any background noise and have high sound leakage even with the volume set to moderate levels. This leakage makes them unsuitable for recording tracks as well as other usages aside from sound mixing in the studio and listening to music at home.
Headphones for Recording
Recording in the studio requires a different type of headphones. Open headphones are ill-suited for the job due to their practically non-existent sound isolation. If you use open or semi-open headphones for monitoring your recording, their sound leakage will be picked up by the mic. Closed-back headphones are more suitable for recording, with their sealed ear cups allowing for lower sound leakage. They will still leak sound, especially at high volume, but compared to open-back and semi-open headphones, they are better at sound isolation to keep the audio from being picked up by the mic.
On the other hand, closed-back headphones are less breathable than open-back headphones, which makes them a bit less comfortable for prolonged continuous use. And while some products are at least decent for critical listening, closed-back headphones are generally not recommended for sound mixing and mastering – their sound profiles are less natural-sounding compared to that of open-back headphones.
The Shure SRH1540 are premium headphones that sound good and are comfortable to wear for long recording sessions in the studio. Their sound is close to neutral while their sound isolation is decent, with low sound leakage unless the volume is cranked up. Their build quality is good and feels durable, with their non-folding design translating to fewer moving parts that are vulnerable to wear and tear.
A pair of wired headphones, the SRH1540 are bulky models featuring a metal headband with ample padding coated in synthetic leather. They have metal yokes and large ear cups with outer shells made of carbon fiber. Their soft earpads are covered with perforated material that feels nice on the skin. The audio cable is detachable and connects to both ear cups, which makes it easy to replace when damaged, and terminates in a 3.5 mm analog plug that can be connected to the provided 6.3 mm plug adapter.
Although they are not as flexible as other headphones, with no option to rotate the ear cups to a flat position, the SRH1540 headphones are comfortable to wear for long hours. They are lightweight and have a secure fit without being too tight on the head. Their earpads are spacious and should have no problem accommodating large ears. While they are not as breathable as fully open headphones, they are not fatiguing to wear continuously for long hours, making them suitable for long recording sessions.
For accessories, the SRH1540 headphones include a hard case, an extra pair of earpads, an extra audio cable, and the aforementioned plug adapter. The extra earpads and audio cable allow for easy parts replacement while the hard case is useful for those who travel frequently and also want to use the headphones for travel due to the passive sound isolation they provide.
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The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones are a wired, over-ear model explicitly designed for studio use. But while they are advertised for sound mixing, they are better used for recording. Their sound profile has an emphasized bass and treble and a recessed mid-range. They are not as neutral-sounding as the open DT 990 Pro and the semi-open DT 880 Pro. They are still some of the best-sounding closed-back headphones under $200, though, boasting excellent bass performance and a fairly decent soundstage.
Like their open and semi-open counterparts, the DT 770 Pro are some of the best-built headphones in their price range. They are sturdy and durable, and their external parts are easily replaceable, which adds to their longevity. They have an adequately padded, metal headband and circular ear cups with velour-coated cushions and plastic outer shells. Their non-detachable audio cable is coiled, allowing for more movement freedom in the studio. The default cable connects to the left ear cup and ends in a 3.5 mm analog plug, with a 6.3 mm plug adapter also provided.
Lightweight and well-padded, the DT 770 Pro headphones are comfortable to wear. Their earpads are soft and feel luxurious while their large ear cups are glasses-friendly and should easily fit around most ear sizes. Unfortunately, their tight fit and less breathable design make them more fatiguing to use for particularly long recording sessions in the studio. On the bright side, their tight clamp allows for a more secure and stable fit, preventing them from sliding off your head.
Regarding sound isolation, the DT 770 Pro headphones are decent. Their noise isolation performance should be good enough for studio use, and they don’t leak too much at moderate volume. If you want to use them for content production while in a non-studio environment, their decent sound isolation will allow you to work in peace without disturbing nearby people.
Available in three colors, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are some of the most popular headphones on the market. They are versatile over-ear headphones that are suitable for both studio use and DJ-ing, with their rotating ear cups allowing for easy one-ear monitoring. Their sound quality is good, with a clear and detailed mid-range and a deep bass, while their mostly plastic build is sturdy and durable. Their sound leakage is also low, with their sealed ear cups doing a better job at keeping the audio from leaking out compared with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones.
The ATH-M50x headphones are lightweight due to their mostly plastic build and are comfortable to wear. They have a metal-reinforced headband and oval ear cups with adequate padding. Their ear cups can fully rotate and swivel to a flat position while their headband is flexible and doesn’t creak alarmingly when adjusted. Their earpads are not as soft and comfortable for long listening sessions as that of the DT 770 Pro, though.
Of the best studio headphones in this guide, the ATH-M50x headphones are some of the most portable. They collapse into a compact format, with both ear cups folding neatly under the headband. And as mentioned, their ear cups can swivel into a flat position. Both features allow the headphones to take up less space when stored in your bag. A soft pouch is included for basic protection against physical damage.
The ATH-M50x headphones are generous on the accessory front. In addition to the soft pouch, they include three audio cables and a 6.3 mm plug adapter. One of the audio cables is a coiled cable that can stretch up to around ten feet. The other two audio cables are straight cables of different lengths. All three cables lack an in-line remote for controls – a common omission among professional headphones.
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If you are limited to a $150 budget, the AKG K371 are another pair of headphones that are worth considering. While they are inferior to the similarly priced Audio-Technica ATH-M50x in many areas, their sound leakage is lower. Among the closed-back headphones in this section, they are the best at preventing the audio from leaking out. Their sound profile is on the neutral side, with an accurate mid-range and bass. Their reproduction of vocals and instruments is clear, detailed, and balanced, but their soundstage is mediocre.
The K371 are over-ear headphones featuring a sleek, modern design with a discreet matte black color scheme that looks pleasing. Their mostly plastic build is decent, with their detachable audio cable also adding to their overall durability. Their oval ear cups are large and have soft cushions covered with artificial leather. They are comfortable to wear, but their earpads are a bit shallow and will not be the most comfortable option for those with large ears.
Like the ATH-M50x, the K371 can be folded into a more compact form, making them more portable and easier to carry for travel. Their ear cups fold neatly into the headband, allowing them to take up less space in your bag. However, the folding design adds more moving parts that are vulnerable to wear and tear. A soft pouch is also provided as a storage for the headphones, but it’s not as good as a hard case and will not provide protection against physical impact.
For accessories, the K371 headphones include a 6.3 mm plug adapter – an accessory commonly included with both professional and audiophile headphones – along with three audio cables. The three audio cables include a coiled cable, a long straight cable, and a short straight cable, with all of them terminating in a 3.5 mm analog plug.
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Selling for just around $100, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are relatively budget-friendly headphones designed for professional use. Their build quality is decent for the price while their sound quality is good. Their sound profile is transparent, with an accurate mid-range, a deep bass, and a balanced and clear treble. While they are not the best for sound mixing, they are suitable for recording tracks in the studio, especially considering their low sound leakage.
The HD 280 Pro are wired over-ear headphones with a bland aesthetic, which is either good or bad depending on your taste. Their overall design is practical. While they are mostly plastic, their build quality is decent, with both the ear cups and headband appearing durable. The default audio cable is non-detachable and terminates in a 3.5 mm analog plug, with a 6.3 mm adapter also provided. The single-sided cable is coiled and can stretch up to around ten feet, which is beneficial for studio use.
Although the HD 280 Pro headphones are lightweight and have well-padded ear cups that easily accommodate large ears, their comfort level is only decent at best. Their headband has a very tight clamp, especially out of the box, which makes them uncomfortable to use continuously for more than an hour. Their thick earpads help lessen the discomfort of the tight clamp, but not by much. If long studio sessions are the norm for you, then these Sennheiser headphones are not recommended.
Considering their bulky frame and lack of a travel case, the HD 280 Pro are not the most portable studio headphones. But due to their foldable design, they are easier to pack for travel than most full-sized over-ear headphones. They will take up less space in your bag, but you need to put them in a case or pouch to protect them from scratches and minor water spills.
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The Sony MDR-7506 are popular headphones for professional use. They are over-ear headphones that sound good and are decently built, with their foldable design making them more portable and easier to pack for travel. You can get them for less than $100. While other products offer more value in this price range, they are still a reliable option, especially if portability is an essential factor for you.
Like other professional headphones, the MDR-7506 have a boring but practical design that will not look out of place in the studio. They have large, oval ear cups that will fit around most ear sizes and feature a metal-reinforced headband coated in synthetic leather. Terminating in a gold-plated 3.5 mm analog plug, their coiled audio cable can extend up to around ten feet and is non-detachable, which is disappointing but hardly a deal-breaker. A 6.3 mm plug adapter is included in the box, along with a soft pouch for storage.
With their lightweight frame and well-padded ear cups, the MDR-7506 headphones are comfortable to wear for long recording sessions. Their wide headband has a considerably looser clamp compared to that of the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones, which makes them less fatiguing on the head. On the other hand, the material covering the earpads feels cheap and looks delicate.
Easy to drive, the MDR-7506 are good-sounding headphones, but there are better-sounding headphones in the same price range. Their bass is powerful but not too emphasized while their mid-range is clear and balanced. Their sound isolation is also decent, which is especially beneficial when recording in the studio. Their sound leakage is low even at high volume levels, while their noise isolation performance is adequate for a studio setting.
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If you are looking for budget headphones for recording, check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, which sell for around $50. Compared to the more expensive ATH-M50x headphones, they are less portable and have fewer accessories. Their build quality is also cheaper, as expected from a low-end product, but on the other hand, their sound quality is good for the price while their sound leakage is low.
The ATH-M20x are over-ear headphones that look similar to the higher-end ATH-M50x headphones, with oval ear cups and a metal-reinforced headband. Their build is primarily plastic, but both the ear cups and the headband appear decently durable. They have rotating ear cups that allow for easy one-ear monitoring and include a non-detachable, single-sided straight cable terminating in a 3.5 mm plug. While their earpads are not the best, they are comfortable and don’t feel too tight on the head.
Unlike the ATH-M50x, the ATH-M20x headphones don’t collapse into a more compact format, making them less portable and more cumbersome to carry from place to place. Their ear cups don’t swivel into a flat position, and they lack any form of container. Their mediocre portability is not going to be an issue for most people, though.
As mentioned, the ATH-M20x headphones have fewer accessories than the ATH-M50x headphones. This isn’t surprising for budget headphones. The only accessory included in the box is the usual 6.3 mm plug adapter. There are no additional cables included, forcing you to look into other solutions if the stock audio cable is not to your liking.
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