The Best Headphones for Recording / Tracking - Closed Back

The Highest Rated Headphones for Recording - Closed Back

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During tracking, the last thing you want on your vocals are the backing tracks leaking into them. This happens when the headphones do not provide adequate isolation to prevent sound leakage. Thanks to their ability to prevent sound from spilling into microphones, closed back headphones continue to be essential for any recording setup.

In additional to being used for recording tracks (tracking) closed back headphones can also be used for mixing and there are some headphones in this list that perform well in this role too. Although open back headphones are most commonly used for this purpose, closed backs can have some advantages. Because they also tend to have an accentuated low frequency range, they can be particularly useful to check your mixes for low frequency balance. Also they are the best option if you need to mix quietly without bothering others around you. Finally if you only want to use one pair of headphones for the whole process due to portability or budget then closed back is your best bet.

Here we take a look at the what the market considers as the best closed-back headphones, updated February 2020.

These are all circumaural (they cover your ears completely) and are designed specifically for use in recording rather than for standard consumer applications, although audiophiles will appreciate their high level of performance.

The Best Closed Back Headphones for Recording

Under $50 Budget Options

LyxPro HAS-10

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$40
LyxPro HAS-10 Closed-back Headphones

The LyxPro HAS-10 is an affordable closed-back headphone with some great features for the price

For the money, you get features rarely seen on budget gear, including its NdFeB (Neodymium) Magnet system, 180 degree rotatable ear cups with aluminum ear shells, along with a leather headband and matching leather ear pads.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 26kHz
  • Impedance: Not Specified
  • Sensitivity: 98dB (±3dB)
  • Max Input Power: Not Specified
  • Weight: 294.84 g
  • Connectivity: 3 meter Cable

Pros

Value for money is its most popular attribute, exceeding the expectations of budget conscious users. Sound quality comes in close second, with many users loving the improved listening experiences over other generic headphones. Comfort gets a lot of good responses as well.

Cons

While sound quality is definitely an upgrade over most generic headphones in this price range, its not considered to be up to par with more expensive alternatives. There are also a few reports of build quality and reliability issues.

Overall

The Has-10 is definitely an upgrade over any no-name headphones for studio use. Get it if you need something that can be easily replaced but still sound pleasing enough for monitoring.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$49

The ATH-M20x is the most affordable pair of headphones on Audio-Technica's M-series. The ATH-M20x sports a similar aesthetic with its more expensive siblings and is primarily designed for tracking and monitoring with minimal sound leakage.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 47 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Max Input Power: 700 mW at 1 kHz
  • Weight:190 g
  • Connectivity:3.0 m (9.8'), straight, left-side exit

Pros

Many users praise the ATH-M20x as an affordable alternative to the more expensive M50x that sees a lot of use as a client-side pair of cans in studios. The clamping pressure allows the headphones to stay on even the most energetic of drummers while the price point keeps breakage anxiety at bay since the headphones are relatively affordable and available. For the price range, the sound quality is said to be good and neutral. There were no instances of bass or mid range peaking reported. They have have reasonable passive isolation, allowing for minimal sound leakage while monitoring. Many reviewers commended their durable build and sturdy cable. They are easily adjustable and moderately comfortable.

Cons

Sound quality is good but compared to its more expensive siblings, it still lacks some of the liveliness and clarity of more expensive headphones. Some long term comfort issues were raised by some users.

Overall

While being the "baby brother" of the more popular ATH-M50x, it still shares the same DNA with it's build and sound signature. It is adequate for general purpose studio applications like tracking and some mixing. Get it if you want to get into the Audio-Technica brand sound for mixing. Be wary though: you might end up hooked on the sound!

Best Closed Headphones Under $100

Status Audio CB-1

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Status Audio CB-1 Closed Back Studio Monitor Headphones

The Status Audio CB-1 is a brand you've probably never heard of unless you crawl forums and online communites. It's a brand being sold directly on Amazon and while relatively affordable, sports several premium-grade features. It has a cult following by studio engineers who need a big, chunky headphone for tracking and monitoring. Its 50mm Drivers put out big sound; uncommon at this price point.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Impedance:32 ohm
  • Sensitivity: 97 db +/- 3 db
  • Max Input Power: Not Specified
  • Weight: 13.2 oz
  • Connectivity: 3 meter Cable

Pros

The build and sound quality of the CB-1 headphones gets many positive responses from users. Many also praise the comfort offered by the large padding. Some have made comparisons to the Audio Technica ATH-M50 with a flatter midrange. This makes it good not just for tracking but checking your mixes as well.

Cons

While overall build quality is excellent, some felt that the materials used feel cheap. Other reports of users who bought multiple pairs say that the build consistency is varied with some pairs breaking down after a few months. The pads are large which also means heat builds faster when worn; something to avoid when wearing them leisurely outside the studio. Midrange bloat/muddiness has been an issue for some.

Overall

The CB-1 is a cult favorite for a few reasons: It's affordable, has great sound quality for the price and is quite comfortable. Get it if you plan to stock your studio with headphones (they offer a bulk discount program) or need a good reference headphone that definitely punches above its weight class.

Sony MDR-7506

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

These have long been Sony's most popular budget headphones for both professional tracking and mixing and can be found in many home and professional recording studios. They've been around since 1991 and are still being sold today. This is a testament to it's timeless sound signature which is well suited to hearing yourself properly while tracking or making critical mixing decisions.

They're designed to be foldable and come with a soft case for portability.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB
  • Max Input Power: 1,000 mW
  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Connectivity: 9.8 ft cable with 1/4" and 1/8" plugs

Pros

The positive reviews are consistent in saying that they have a great flat response and produce a level high clarity when used for monitoring. They also report that they're a durable set of headphones. These two qualities alone are what make the 7506 an enduring piece of gear for many studios around the world.

Cons

There were a few people who complained that the coiled cable can get tangled with itself into a knot which is hard to untangle. This also makes it difficult to travel with as the cable might snag on things. The sound signature better suited to tracking and monitoring than for casual listening

Overall

It may be a bit harsh for casual listening but time has proven that if a mix that sounds good on the 7506 will sound good anywhere. It has been compared to the legendary Yamaha NS-10 studio monitors for this reason. The inherent honesty and unforgiving nature of these headphones is a necessary tradeoff for listening enjoyment. If you're looking to get serious about music production, these are a must-buy.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 3950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Closed-Back Headphones

The middle child: the one that often gets ignored for the more dutiful bigger siblings and the younger, more fun little ones. But don't let the ATH-M40x and its middle child status throw you off. If anything, it offers more than the middle should suggest. It shares most of the tech and sound signature perks of it's bigger brother the ATH-M50x. Despite sporting a smaller 40mm driver compared to the ATH-M50x, The ATH-M40x still has enough muscle to handle most audio engineering chores while being affordable for people on tighter budgets.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 35 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • Max Input Power: 1,600 mW
  • Weight: 240g (8.5 oz) without cable and connector
  • Connectivity: Two detachable cables - coiled 1.2m to 3.0m (3.9' - 9.8') and straight 3.0m + 6.3 mm (1/4") screw-on adapter

Pros

Many owners say that these headphones produce a relatively flat response making them quite good for mixing as well as tracking. Users sometimes prefer this over the ATH-M50x because of its tighter and clearer bass response.

Cons

A few people reported that they broke more easily than expected - this appears to be a problem if you twist the cups in the wrong direction.

Overall

If you're in the market for a good pair of monitoring headphones at an agreeable price point, the ATH-M40x is a great pick especially if you've tried the ATH-M50x and feel the bass could be more relaxed. Rest assured, you're not cutting corners too much from it's bigger sibling.

Best Closed Headphones Under $200

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 11200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones

This is Audio-Technica's thrid appearance in our closed-back headphone guide - a testament to the high regard this brand's headphones have. A darling for many studio engineers, the ATH-M50x is a staple for large, small and mobile studios for it's unmistakable sound signature that is neutral enough to make critical mix decisions on.

The ATH-M50x has 45mm drivers and these help with providing a solid bass response without it being out of proportion to the mids and highs.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz to 28 kHz
  • Impedance: 38 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB
  • Max Input Power: 1,600 mW
  • Weight: 10 oz (285 g) without cable and connector
  • Connectivity: 3 cables in total - Detachable 9.8' (3 m) straight and coiled cables + a single 3.9' (1.2 m) straight cable all with 1/8" plugs + a 1/4" screw-on adapter.

Pros

Expert reviewers, audio engineers, and regular home recording enthusiasts all praise the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for neutral and revealing sound quality and durability. Customer reviews also talk about them having a tight bass sound while having a realistic response for the mids and highs. These qualities earn it praise in several discussion forums and groups and is always recommended without hesitation.

Cons

A few people complained about the ear cups having fake leather, however this was also a feature that appealed to vegans. Some complained about the proprietary cord locking connector - this means you can't use a generic replacement cord.

Overall

Being able to score high marks with the huge amount of sources is an impressive feat. The ATH-M50x manages to rake in thousands of user ratings and reviews that are overwhelmingly positive. Hit albums have been produced and mixed with these headphones. If budget permits, there is absolutely no reason not to get it for recording.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (80 Ohm)

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 3150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$179
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm Closed Back Headphones

The DT 770 Pro series comes in 3 options: 32 Ohms (Amazon link) for consumer use, 80 Ohms designed specifically for tracking and mixing in recording studios and a 250 Ohms (Amazon link) version designed specifically for use with high power amplifiers. The 80 Ohm version inches out its 250 Ohm brother in this guide. For most studios, 80 Ohms is the sweet spot for dynamic range and amplification requirement. Some audio interfaces may have trouble driving a 250 Ohm pair of headphones which is why we recommend getting the 80 Ohm version.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 35 kHz
  • Impedance: 80 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Max Input Power: 100 mW
  • Weight: 270g without cable (0.55 lbs)
  • Connectivity: 3m coiled cable with a gold plated 1/8" plug and 1/4" adapter.

Pros

Many professional audio engineers say these are surprisingly good as mixing headphones, a claim supported by many home recording enthusiasts as well. Many customer reviews also say these are very comfortable with no ear fatigue after hours of continuous use. The sound accuracy and flat frequency response also gets many positive comments.

Cons

A few people complained about the fact the cord is not detachable, however the cord doesn't often need replacing. Most of the complaints came from people identifying as consumers rather than recording enthusiasts and their complaints primarily centered around the lack of additional bass - this is something that is actually desired from a mixing point of view.

Overall

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is a headphone with a track record for being comfortable and mostly neutral favoring the lower frequencies. If you need a tracking and mixing headphone to keep track of the low frequencies such as on bass or keyboards, the DT 770 Pro is a good pick.

Beyerdynamic DT 150

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$199
Beyerdynamic DT 150

The Beyerdynamic DT 150 are studio headphones that offer good noise isolation for straightforward and professional monitoring, suitable for both loud environments and studios. Their neodymium magnets provide a wide frequency response and extended bass response. The headband and earphone cushioning systems provide a comfortable design as well as serviceable and replaceable parts.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB
  • Max Input Power: 100 mW
  • Weight: 250 g
  • Connectivity: Straight cable, 3 m with 3-pole 1/4" stereo jack (6.35 mm)

Pros

When it comes to recording vocals or instruments, these headphones provide great sound isolation with only reports of minimal bleeding. A number of audio engineers who work on location say they just throw these in the bag without any concerns about damaging them as well as saying they reproduce clean and transparent highs and mids along with a very wide soundstage.

Cons

A few reviewers mentioned they found the pads a bit too tight and that it takes some time to break them in. This can be compensated right away by installing velour pads. The bass response can sound a bit heavy and thick on some systems or songs, but they still provide a fairly tight sound.

Overall

These are ideal headphones for tracking, recording and live stage monitoring. The different pad choices affect the sound slightly with the velours sounding more balanced across the spectrum.

Best Closed Headphones Under $500

Closed- back Headphones in this price range are more geared towards mixing and referencing though they can still be used for tracking especially when top-notch sound quality is desired. Most in this category trade off isolation for a more "airy" feel while having the stronger low frequency impact of the closed-back design. This makes them great for checking low frequency balance on your instrument or mixes.

Sony MDR-7520

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$293
Sony MDR7520 Professional Closed-back Studio Headphones

The Sony MDR range has been a reference for several decades now and we've covered the MDR-7506 on this guide as well. With the MDR-7520, Sony presents this model as their flagship of the MDR line. It features a lightweight magnesium alloy housing to decrease weight and increase comfort. The design also aims to reduce fatigue, and help prevent unnecessary vibration. It includes a detachable cable.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5-80kHz
  • Impedance: 24 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 108 dB/mW
  • Max Input Power: 4,000mW
  • Weight: 9.5 oz
  • Connectivity: 3 meter Cable

Pros

The headphones are noted to be very revealing and honest with its sound signature. This means bad recordings will sound bad and good recordings will sound good. This is essential for any critical listening and mix decision making. Isolation was said by several users to be excellent, offering very minimal sound leakage. Mixes done on the headphones are said to translate well to other listening devices.

Cons

Some users found that the revealing and critical nature of the headphones too unforgiving. This is the same problem some people have with Yamaha NS-10m Studio monitors with it's revealing midrange. Several found the headphones to be uncomfortable.

Overall

The MDR-7520 is a serious piece of kit for more discerning ears that don't care for exciting bass or flattering midrange. For critical listening and mixing, the sound signature of the MDR-7520 does well with presenting you an accurate representation of your mix. If you prefer hi-fi sounding references, you may be better off with a different pair.

Shure SRH1540

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Shure SRH1540 Mastering & Studio Closed-Back Headphones

The SRH1540 is the flagship studio headphone from audio giant Shure. These are high-end premium headphones that will be too expensive for many home recording studios, but to quote Robbie Stamp from Future Music who gave them a 5 star rating, "It is often the case that you can't imagine better sound quality until you hear it, and the 1540s opened our ears to the possibilities".

These headphones feature high tech materials like carbon fiber, and aircraft-grade aluminum paired with their best 40mm driver design with proprietary materials for better linearity and lower Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). The ear pads feature memory foam for enhanced comfort over long sessions. Closed-back headphones are not as popular for use with mixing but the soundstage and response of the SRH1540 offsets that.

Features:

  • Driver Size: 4 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 25 kHz
  • Impedance: 46 Ohms
  • Sensitivity:99 dB at 1 kHz
  • Max Input Power: 1000 mW
  • Weight: 10.1 oz / 286 g
  • Connectivity: 1.8m

Pros

User and expert reviews take note of its expansive and open soundstage despite being a closed back design. The sound signature is said to be balanced though not neutral. Despite this, many found that mixes done on the headphones translate well across systems because of the level of detail reproduced. Comfort is noted for being luxurious and a joy to wear for long periods.

Cons

The isolation isn't the best for tracking especially with loud volumes. The bass is not as hard hitting as some people would like but this is a trade-off for the clarity on offer.

Overall

Though there were several contenders for this price range, the SRH1540 came out as the winner with regards to consistent user experience. It provides an excellent monitoring experience that translates your mixes well across different listening devices, all while providing luxurious levels of comfort for long sessions.

Things to Consider When Buying Headphones For Recording

  • Tracking

    When it comes to tracking, that is recording a new track while listening to a mix in your headphones, the best option is to go for closed-back headphones because they have the best sound isolation and prevent the mix you're listening to from spilling over into the live microphones you're recording with.

  • Mixing

    Although most experts agree that open-back headphones are best for monitoring and mixing in cases where you don't want to use studio monitors, advances in headphone technology in recent years means that some closed-back headphones can also perform reasonably well in this role meaning that getting a single set of closed-back headphones to use for both tracking and monitoring is a viable option.

  • Comfort

    This is a very subjective topic. If you are only going to be using your headphones for less than an hour at a time then you don't have to worry too much, but if you'll be using them for many hours continuously then you'll need to consider how comfortable a set of headphones are likely to be for you. In some cases manufacturers supply data on how much force the ear cups are pushed towards each other with, but the resulting pressure will be different on different heads and ears because pressure is a function of both the force and the resulting surface area of the cups on your head. Different weights also have different perceptions of comfort with different people. If there's a particular brand or design that's worked well for you in the past then choose something similar, otherwise read what other's have to say, or if possible try actually wearing a particular set before you buy them.

  • Breaking In

    This has become a bit of a controversial topic. Many professional headphones are said by some audio engineers and audiophiles that they don't sound their best when you first take them out of the box, and say you generally need to run them for 12 to 24 hours for the drivers to 'loosen up' to their optimum level for use. They say if you don't do this then you might find they sound a bit harsh during their first few hours of use. But some people completely disagree and others have a slightly more nuanced opinion. Our advice is to do it if you want to but it doesn't seem essential anymore - in any case they will become 'broken in' after using them for a while.

Best Closed Back Headphones Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on March 31, 2016 written by Jason Horton and the most recent major revision was published on February 4, 2020 written by recording engineer Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones, Jason Horton and Denise Azucena.

For this 2020 update, we looked at the most current ratings and customer feedback for 43 sets of closed-back headphones. The sources we gathered went over the 59,000 mark, all of which were then processed via the Gearank algorithm. We used the resulting ratings to narrow down the list to just the best of the best in each of the price brackets above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

The following set of

The following set of headphones came off the recommended list above when we updated this guide in February 2020: KRK KNS 8400.

Biggest issue for recording

Biggest issue for recording headphones are the small 1/8 in jack. The 1/4 in jacks work much better without the adapters.

Hey,

Hey,

I was under the impression mixing headphones need to be open-back headphones thus I am confused why you would even mention mixing here? Im not tryna be a d*** or anything, but I am actually trying to understand if there's something that I am msising or do not know yet.

We discussed this in the

We discussed this in the 'Things to Consider' section above, but I'll add a little to that.

The best solution for mixing is using Studio Monitors.

Next best is open-back headphones and we'll have a new guide covering this topic very soon.

Then you have the option of using closed-back headphones which is an acceptable way to go if you're working on a limited budget because you can also use them for recording tracks. You generally shouldn't record tracks with open-back headphones due to the monitor mix spilling into the new tracks. You might also want closed-back if you're in an environment where you have to keep the noise down for others.

Don't forget that technology moves forward - what may have been a 'hard rule' a few years ago is becoming a 'rule of thumb', and new developments might make it a non-issue in the future.

Yo thanks for sharing your

Yo thanks for sharing your best closed-back studio monitoring headphones. The best closed-back mixing headphones for me are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro because they perform incredibly well for their very cheap price tag.

But if I have to make an unbiased choice, it would be the V-MODA Crossfade M-100. They don't have an online presence as strong as the Audio Technica ATH-50X or Sony MDR 7506, but these mixing headphones are impressive. I think they should be more popular than they are now.

We haven't analyzed open

We haven't analyzed open backed headphones yet, but we will do so in a future gear guide and we'll provide a link at the top of this page when it's done.

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