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What are the Best Studio Headphones?

After writing about the best DJ headphones last month, I received several questions about which headphones would be best for studio work. After a long day of being the World’s most annoying customer at the local JB Hifi shop and several hours of research, I’ve come to some conclusions as to what I think are the best studio headphones. Of course, there isn’t a single ‘best pair of headphones’ as like many things, it all comes down to personal preference, but here are some of my picks that I felt really stood out.

beyerdynamic dt800 What are the Best Studio Headphones?

First of all, there are a few things you need to consider when buying a pair of studio headphones, which will account for some ‘personal preference differences’ in what people think are the best studio headphones. I’ve included a more in-depth overview of these differences at the bottom of the post, but the general things to bare in mind when buying studio headphones are: tone neutrality, closed-back design, comfort, and durability.

When it comes to buying studio headphones, there is a definite correlation between price & quality. At the very high end (e.g. the Sennheiser HD800s – £899) you really do notice the perfection in the sound, design, and comfort. Headphones on the cheaper end of the scale tended to feel cheap and sound very forceful (not great when you’re going to be wearing them for full days at a time). Here are a a few of my favourite picks

Beyerdynamic DT880

The Best Overall Studio Headphone

51LkFnfu9PL. SL500 AA300  What are the Best Studio Headphones? Despite being the ‘industry standard’, Beyerdynamic’s DT100, DT150, and DT250 models were surprisingly disappointing. While I have to admit that they’re built like tanks, it seemed hard to get a comfortable fit, and the sound was just very ‘meh’. All in all, I’d say they’re good but not worth the price tag.

Their big brother, the DT880s on the other hand are a different story. Despite being semi open-backed, these headphones sound great and were very well isolated. The ear cups and headband are incredible comfortable and they also feel very durable. Out of all of the headphones I tried, these were probably my favourite overall studio headphones.


4543756735 pre What are the Best Studio Headphones?


Audio Technica ATH M50


The best budget headphone for tracking
413ESTIuwwL. SL500 AA300  What are the Best Studio Headphones? If you’re looking for headphones to use whilst tracking, these are about as good as things get at a low price. The ATH M50’s have a closed-design to prevent bleed into the microphones. They’re very comfy, durable, and sound great. It’s worth pointing out that the frequency response for the ATH M50’s isn’t completely flat, so I wouldn’t rush to recommend these as a pair of mixing headphones, but for tracking they’re great.

4543756735 pre What are the Best Studio Headphones?


Sennheiser HD650 & Sennheiser HD600


The best headphones for mixing
41%2B4QN35BSL. AA300  What are the Best Studio Headphones? I’m a big fan of Sennheiser’s headphone range, and while some of their supposedly studio-designed headphones were a bit disappointing, I did really like the Sennheiser HD650 and the HD600. Both of these headphones are open back designs, which allows for a far more natural sound particularly around the higher frequencies. Both headphones were incredibly comfy, had a flat frequency response, and a durable design.

4543756735 pre What are the Best Studio Headphones?

What to Consider When Buying Studio Headphones

Closed vs. Open Studio Headphones
When it comes to recording, you have no real option but to use closed-back headphones, as the closed design prevents monitoring spill being picked up by the microphones. Traditionally, closed headphones tended to sound unnatural, so while they were a good choice for tracking, they weren’t great for mix-downs.

However, technology has caught up and closed-back headphones are usually quite neutral sounding these days, so you can certainly get away with using them for mixing, although many producers still prefer the ‘airiness’ an neutrality of open-back studio headphones.

Comfort
Many people prioritise sound quality over comfort when buying headphones, which has its wisdom, but sound isn’t the be all and end all. If you’re working in a professional recording environment, you and your clients are likely to be wearing these headphones for hours at a time, which is a long time to be wearing something that isn’t comfortable.

Durability
Your studio headphones will naturally go through a lot. It’s out of your power to prevent headphones falling on the floor and being on the receiving end of usual studio wear and tear. It’s therefore a good investment to buy a pair of studio headphones that can stand a knock or two.

At very least, ensure that the headphones you’re buying have easily replaceable parts and come with a warranty.

Flat frequency range
One of the key distinctions between studio headphones and DJ / standard headphones is the frequency response. DJ headphones are designed to emphasise specific low frequencies to help DJs hear the kick drum in a noisy club, whereas studio headphones are designed to be flat and have very little emphasis anywhere along the frequency response. This helps producers hear exactly what the raw audio they’re listening to sounds like,

Image Credit: Sebastian Cielen

About Marcus Taylor

In 2013, Marcus Taylor won the award for 'Young Visionary of the Year' at MIDEM. Marcus is passionate about marketing and the music industry, and has consulted to some of the biggest names in the music industry through his agency, Venture Harbour. Marcus founded this website in 2009, and has reached over half a million musicians ever since.

5 Comments

  • Theglobalguitarist says:

    Great post and review. I use the ATH M50s for mixing and tracking and have had fantastic results. I had a certain budget and needed a closed back design for the tracking purposes. I know there are some that are a bit better, but for anyone still deciding.. these sound really good and are pretty darn flat if you ask me. The Beyers have a bit more on the top end but truth is if you listen through your cans frequently to commercial releases, you will learn your can’s sound and know how to mix with them. Thanks for the tips here. Enjoyed the post. Cheers!

    Sean
    http://www.theglobalguitarist.com

  • Jason Taylor says:

    ‘The Best Studio Headphones’ probably means those headphones considered most appropriate for either tracking or mixing in a studio, unless there is a brand ‘best’. Did you mean ‘Which are the best studio headphones?’

  • Anglea Yao says:

    as for the DJ Headphone ,i prefer for the MONSTER BEATS.they are the best along here
    our factory located in China. so i know what’s best on them.
    angela365@live.cn

  • I have to say I am also a fan of Beyerdynamic headphones. As long as you do not sit on them at any point they should last a long time. Very good quality.

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