The Absolute Best Studio Headphones - Over 56,700 Ratings!

The Highest Rated Studio Headphones

Disclosure

We recommend all products independently of 3rd parties including advertisers. We earn advertising fees from:
• • • • •
Sweetwater
• • • • •

Amazon

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
• • • • •

As you become more experienced in the studio, you will become more attuned to the smallest of details in your projects. Excess string noise on guitar becomes annoying, ringing bass notes become more obvious, and reverb trails are set too long or too short. These things are not always easily detectable when using studio monitors especially when your room adds to the resonance and skews your perception. The solution is to do referencing on studio headphones. The best studio headphones let you listen critically to your mixes or your tracking sessions and get a better sense of what could be done better during mixing or performance.

There are a multitude of headphones out on the market today and choosing the best one can become confusing because of all the reviews, ratings, and marketing surrounding each of them. Everyone has a subjective sense of hearing too because not all of us have the same sensitivity per frequency range. This is why you see a lot of conflicting reviews for this style of product; no one hears exactly the same as anyone else.

So how can we choose the best headphones in the middle of all this information and avoid paralysis by analysis?

We approached this guide by doing extensive research on various Studio Headphones in both open-back and closed-back configurations in a specific price range. We limited our search to a maximum price of $500 since most headphones we found above this price range are more catered to audiophiles or simply did not have enough user reviews to derive a more solid Gearank Score. Over 56,700 rating sources were taken into account. More information this process can be read here: Best Studio Headphones Selection Methodology.

We chose the highest rated among the highest rated for this guide. You may see that there are no closed-back and open-back categories; this is because the more advanced you become, you more you get to see beyond the rules of "Closed-back for tracking, Open-back for mixing". In the higher price ranges, many of the products have better engineering that addresses the inherent weaknesses of each design. Some of the best open back designs in this guide have managed to alleviate the problem of sound leakage and some of the best closed-back designs have addressed bass build-up in the chamber with well-engineered earcup designs.

Because of these advancements in tech, as well as personal advancements in the craft, we decided to assemble the best of the best, regardless of design.

With this data-driven approach, look no further as we present to you The Absolute Best Studio Headphones.

The Absolute Best Studio Headphones

Best Studio Headphones Under $100

AKG K240 Studio

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 3400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$69

According to AKG, the K240 Studio is their most popular model.

While the original K240 was created in 1975, it has gone through many minor revisions before branching out into the K240 MKII and the K240 Studio.

Both models are very similar. The MKII has a different aesthetic and has additional accessories but the Lower-priced "Studio Model" without the fancy accoutrements edges out it's more expensive sibling on our guide.

Specifications

  • Type: Semi-open back
  • Driver Size: 30mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 25000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 200 mW
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB SPL/V
  • Impedance: 55 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Cable and Connectivity: 3m cable. Stereo plug – 3.5mm (1/8-inch) with 6.3 mm (1/4”) screw-on adapter
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Gathering multiple responses from users, we found that engineers enjoyed the smooth top end and clarity of the midrange frequencies that balance between too scooped and too boxy. The light weight also makes them great for long mixing sessions.

Cons

Not enough bass thump according to some users. Others disliked the lack of isolation which makes them less than optimal for tracking. Both cons are because of the semi-open back design. The headband also took a bit of getting used to for several users.

Overall

The K240 design has been around for decades. The latest incarnation in the very affordable K240 studio brings together time-tested engineering with modern materials. If you can live without the fancy bells and whistles of it's more expensive (but nearly identical) brother the MKII, the Studio version rewards you with incredible midrange clarity and fast transient response.

Sony MDR-7506

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 10400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

The MDR-7506 was introduced in 1991 as a "studio" version of the DJ oriented MDR-V6 and has quickly become a favorite for studio engineers for their honest sound signature which helps make critical mix decisions easier.

The MDR prefix is an initialism of the Micro Dynamic Receiver trademark. Initially released with Samarium-Cobalt Magnets, Sony changed the spec to Neodymium somewhere along its nearly 30 years of production.

The earcups also swivel outward to enable you to hear your environment or voice better during tracking.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back
  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,000mW
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8 ft. coiled cable Connection, 1/8" Gold plated stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)
  • Best For: Tracking, Monitoring, Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Users found the folding feature to be handy for on-the-go monitoring and mixing especially with working with live sound and field recording. Many users note impressive isolation for tracking for a passive design. Decent soundstage despite the closed-back design allowed some to make confident instrument placements.

Cons

Earcups get warm according to a few users. High frequency emphasis may be fatiguing over long mixing sessions.

Overall

A perennial favorite, the MDR-7506 is a must-have for any studio, large or small. With its clear and critical frequency response, good isolation, portability and price range, it's a good pick for those who want one headphone to do as much as possible.

Best Studio Headphones Under $200

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO (250 Ohm)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 3650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$152
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Closed-Back Headphones

The DT 770 Pro reference level headphones from Beyerdynamic.

From low to high range frequencies, they are designed reproduce sound with precision in situations where you play back or monitor recordings.

They also have a robust spring steel, soft padded and adjustable headband built for sturdiness.

These are the 250 Ohm version which is best suited to use with higher end pro audio gear and the manufacturer also recommends this version for mixing. There are also 32 and 80 Ohm versions which are more suited to mobile devices and home studio/listening respectively.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back
  • Driver Size: 45mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 35,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: Not Specified
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8 ft. coiled cable Connection, 1/8" Gold plated stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Comfortable was one aspect mentioned by most users. Their comfortable cushion earpads and lightweight build were factors that made these headphones capable of letting users wear these headphones and listen for long hours. Sound quality also plays a huge part with a clean and crisp frequency response from basses to high dynamic ranges. One user mentioned that he used them to fix minuscule details, such as boosting or cutting certain frequencies, which makes them a complementary tool for monitors especially when checking reverb and delay levels in the mix.

Cons

Even with the comfort factor, some users found these not to be portable enough since they don't fold and their cable isn't detachable.

Overall

Much like most in the Beyerdynamic "house sound", the DT 770 PRO have a balanced and smooth frequency response extending towards the low frequencies. Couple this with supreme comfort and you have a luxurious pair of headphones for your mixing and mastering needs.

Best Studio Headphones Under $300

Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro Semi-open Studio Headphones

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 aims to combine the advantages of open-back headphones with those of closed-back studio headphones.

The moderate level of isolation prevents major sound leakage while providing a more open-sounding monitoring experience; useful for singers that want to track while hearing their voice.

The newly designed headband for the DT 880 PRO grants better wearing comfort, especially during long studio sessions.

Specifications

  • Type: Semi-Open back
  • Driver Size: 45mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 35.000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Cable and Connectivity: 3 m Coiled connecting cable with mini-jack plug (3.5 mm) & ¼“ adapter (6.35 mm)
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Aside from the excellent sound quality, the one thing most mentioned by users is the comfort. Some were able to wear theirs for hours on end with no discomfort. Many note that the sound signature has a smooth low midrange to low frequency curve without any narrow spikes in frequencies at that register. This enables critical mix decisions to translate better when balancing lower frequencies.

Cons

High frequencies shift with headphone positioning over the ears as a few have reported. The solution was to find a good neutral position for the ideal balance of frequencies. While careful engineering was put into making isolation better, it will still leak sound.

Overall

Although open-back by design, the DT 880 Pro is a spectacular performer for mixing and mastering duties. Singers who prefer open back headphones for monitoring will be comfortable with the pair. While there will still be some leakage, it's nothing a good noise gate cant handle during mixing if it means capturing a better performance from a singer that prefers to hear themselves.

Best Studio Headphones Under $500

Sennheiser HD 600

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 1400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$339
Sennheiser HD 600 Open-Back Professional Headphones

These are designed for professional studio engineers and audiophiles alike.

A recording community favorite that features a circumaural design with open metal mesh earpieces that deliver a more natural, spatial and accurate sound.

They also have optimized magnets for dynamic and wide frequency response, and for the purpose of minimizing distortion.

Specifications

  • Type: Open-back dynamic
  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium-ferrous
  • Frequency Response: 12 – 40,500 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 200 mW>
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.17 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8 ft oxygen-free copper cable
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Audiophiles, professional sound engineers, and enthusiasts gave feedback on how clean and neutral sounding these headphones were when it comes to sound quality. From smooth highs to clear lows, a lot of them were pleased with the accurate and transparent frequency response. Some also mentioned the mid-range response and stereo imaging were also exceptional. While Sennheiser's higher tier offerings are geared towards audiophiles, the HD 600 was tuned with critical listening in mind. This doesn't take away from the experience that these are also very fun to mix with according to expert reviews.

Cons

Despite the sturdy construction of the overall headset, there were a few people that found the cable to be thin and fragile. Replacing it with a sturdier cable was no problem though. Some of them recommended its best to use a headphone amp since they require a lot of power to get louder volumes. Some reviewers found the initial clamping force and pads were stiff at first but they became comfortable over time. Little to no isolation to begin with so no chance using these for tracking vocals.

Overall

Sennheiser has hit a home run with the HD 600. They are a well-engineered marvel that has stood the test of time with the quintessential Sennheiser house sound tuned towards more critical listening. While its pedigree and lineage owe more to audiophile ears, details are not lost with the HD 600 and it does not flatter mixes like say, the HD 800.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Professional Open-Back Headphones

The ATH-R70x showcases transparent aluminum honeycomb-mesh housings engineered to provide a chamber free from standing waves and resonance with an open-back design.

Magnet selection and design are carefully done to reduce distortion to ensure the best quality reproduction.

Their light-weight yet robust construction, fabric earpads and improved wing support provides comfort for long hours of listening.

Specifications

  • Type: Open-back
  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 40,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,000 mW
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB
  • Impedance: 470 Ohms
  • Weight: 7.4 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: Dual-sided detachable cable
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Audio-Technica have been producing professional studio quality headphones for years and the ATH-R70x are no exception. The wing and paddle mechanism for the headband provided convenience and comfort for users with narrow heads. Many users mentioned it was lightweight. With the sound quality, the soundstage gives an open, spacious and airy sound with great width and depth. Many users were impressed that they could hear even the tiniest of details of each instrument in the mix. The bass response extends accurately down to even the lowest frequencies. The mids and highs were also balanced without any coloration. In his Sound on Sound review, Sam Inglis described the high frequencies to have "a definite high–frequency lift, but on most material it manifests itself much more subtly as a soft, airy, understated presence rather than a brash treble boost". He goes on to say "The bass is excellent: deep, clear and even, and slightly forward without ever sounding unbalanced or overpowering. The mid–range, meanwhile, seems pure and uncolored, albeit slightly recessed and soft."

Cons

With an impedance of 470 Ohms these going to shine the best with a higher level of output so pro studio gear or a dedicated headphone amplifier is recommended. Some users have reported they sound good even on mobile devices but this is not the intended use.

Overall

If you're looking to invest heavily on headphones for mixing, the ATH-R70x is head and shoulders above many. Transparency is the name of its game. There is not much to say about the amazing sound quality they have that hasn't been said in other reviews for other products. What these excel at is disappearing from your perception and letting you hear the music without paying too much attention to what you're wearing. Surely a top-of-the-line feeling.

Shure SRH1840

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Shure SRH1840 Open-Back Studio Headphones

Resounding echoes of "It's a budget Sennheiser HD 800" populate message boards and social media groups which propelled the popularity of the SRH1840 with the home hi-fi and audio engineering crowd.

The SRH1840 are open-back headphones made for mastering or critical listening. They have matched neodymium drivers for smooth and accurate frequency responses.

Built with an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy yoke and stainless steel grilles, these headphones are both lightweight and durable. The headband also has a padded and ergonomic design for extra comfort.

These are the lowest impedance open-back headphones we are recommending coming in at just 65 Ohms. So they're well suited for use with home consumer grade gear and even mobile listening.

Specifications

  • Type: Open-back
  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 30,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1000 mW
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Impedance: 65 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.44 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: detachable 6.9 ft Cable, 1/8" Gold-plated stereo mini-jack
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

Pros

Many users were impressed with the SRH1840's sound quality. These headphones produce a good balance between the high, mid and low frequencies. They reproduce instrument timbre with great accuracy, clarity, and detail when used for mixing, monitoring or listening to different genres of music. With their simple and ergonomic design they were seen to be very comfortable. Many comparisons were made with the top-tier Sennheiser HD-800 in terms of sound signature which makes them slightly less analytical sounding for mixing but what they do well is how they handle dynamics. Tweaking compressors, reverbs and delay levels becomes more intuitive with better perception of fast impacts.

Cons

Some users found the headband and ear cups allowed only minimal adjustments and they're not foldable enough to be portable.

Overall

Without making comparisons to other models by a different brand, the SRH1840 hold their own as a great studio mixing and mastering tool with just the right mix of power, speed and finesse with the sound signature to handle a multitude of genres.

Things To Consider When Buying Studio Headphones

  • Open vs Closed Back: A Case of Isolation and Frequency Response

    As mentioned previously, closed back headphones are ideal for recording and monitoring because they prevent any sound leakage and block out external noise. They are also a better choice for listening to guitar amp mic positions. Open-back headphones are suited to mixing and mastering as they have a more natural sound and even frequency response. However they allow a lot more sound to leak out and in so you may have to be more conscious of how the sound might get picked up by microphones in proximity. With better engineered headphones however, the compromises between both blur: Closed back headphones can be used during mixing to check the low frequency balance for transients like kick drums versus sustained lows like bass. Open-back headphones can be used for tracking to some extent where the artist is in the control room while an amplifier is in the live room. This gives them a more natural sensation of their amp compared to monitoring with closed back headphones.

  • Frequency Response and Transient Response

    Manufacturers build headphones that have an extended range below and beyond the average levels of human hearing, which is from 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz. It's highly suggested to look for headphones that provide as close as possible to a balanced and neutral frequency response, especially for mixing and mastering. For monitoring, this isn't as crucial as the performer usually isn't hearing a complete mix but it is still desirable to have the best sound possible.

    Transient response refers to how fast the diaphragm returns to the neutral position after a sound is played. This affects clarity and bass tightness. Faster transient response enables you to perceive impacting sounds better and more accurately set compressor attack settings to squeeze out more percussive sounds from drums and slapped bass.

  • Comfort and Durability

    Comfort is one of the essential features when looking for a pair of headphones, especially when you plan to use them for producing music or casual listening for long hours. All the studio headphones in our list are circumaural which means they fit around the ear. This is the most comfortable style for listening over longer periods of time.

    If possible, you should be able to place the ear cups around your ears with the right amount of space for them to fit nicely. Ideally you shouldn't need to be at the end of the range of any adjustments allowed by the headphones. The earpad cushioning material should be soft enough for comfort and ideally allow some breathability. The weight of the headphones and headband can also have an impact after long hours of listening. Finally, another factor is having the right amount of clamping force so they sit comfortably and securely on your head without too much pressure.

    Most quality headphones are made with durable materials that can last you a lifetime. But sometimes various parts such as the earpads can wear out over time. It's best to check if there are replacement parts available for the headphones you invest in and also check the manufacturer's warranty.

  • Cable Connectivity

    Most headphones have a single sided cable attached to one ear cup. It's recommended to avoid really long cables since they can tend to get tangled. Also, having coiled cables provides useful flexibility. Some headphones have detachable cables which offer greater flexibility as they can be replaced with whatever length or type you need. They're also less prone to damage and can allow easier storage.

  • Impedance

    Impedance is how much resistance the headphones provide to the source. Higher output amplifiers or interfaces are generally best for higher impedance headphones while lower impedance would be easily driven by most interfaces and mobile devices. Running a low impedance headphone with a high output interface or amplifier is fine if you control your volume. However, matching a high impedance headphone with a low output sound source like cheaper interfaces or mobile sources may result in the driver being underdriven. Cranking low output sound sources may result in output stage distortion and may affect your perception of the mix.

Best Studio Headphones Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on February 22, 2018 written by Denise Azucena and the latest major update was published on February 19, 2020 written by recording engineer Raphael Pulgar.

We looked all studio headphones below $500 designed for studio use available from major music gear retailers in the USA and entered them into our music gear database - we had a total of 43 sets on our short-list for closer examination. We then gathered over 56,700 ratings, reviews and forum posts by users and experts. Processing this enormous amount of data would be time consuming to analyze manually. Hence all data gathered was processed with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 you see above. Our selections reflect the best of the best according to all these sources. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Post a Comment or Question

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <b> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.