The Best Headphones for Recording / Tracking - Closed Back

The Highest Rated Closed-Back Headphones for Recording

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Closed back headphones occupy a large chunk of the studio headphone sphere primarily because of their use in tracking. Good closed back headphones make a seal around the ears that keeps clicks and backing tracks from leaking into the microphone during recording.

They also enable the recording artist to hear themselves better, leading to better self-monitoring and better takes. Some even have a good reputation for use in mixing.

In this January 2022 edition we see great changes in the top picks as market sentiment shifts to favor different headphones. Our current selection includes a pair of headphones by Vic Firth originally targeted towards recording drummers but which have found a lot of use for vocal tracking.

These picks are all circumaural (they cover your ears completely) and are designed specifically for use in studio situations rather than for standard consumer applications, although audiophiles have been noted as fans of some of these models.

The Best Closed Back Headphones for Recording

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Under $50 Budget Options

Yamaha HPH-50

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$36
Yamaha HPH-50 Closed-back Headphones
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording Under $50 along with the LyxPro HAS-10.

The Yamaha HPH-50 are positioned as studio headphones for the more frugal engineer.

This doesn't mean they skimp on quality or performance. 38 mm Neodymium drivers provide crisp sound for accurate monitoring during tracking sessions.

Swivelling earcups add to the comfort and portability of the HPH-50. This lends itself well to some singers that prefer to have one ear out to hear themselves.

For plugging in, they come with a 1/8" plug and a 1/4" adapter.

Features

  • Driver Size: 38 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Sensitivity:103 dB
  • Max Input Power: 1000 mW
  • Weight:4.64 oz
  • Connectivity:6.5' cable

Pros

Users point out the strong price to performance value in their reviews. Given that these are on the "budget side", the HPH-50 was noted to outperform and outlast other headphones some users had in their possession. This is a good trait to have for recording studio gear as you want your gear to be durable and if ever needed, easily and affordably replaceable.

Cons

There are some who feel that they are a little too quiet for their taste, while a few users outright complain about the sound being thin.

Overall

If you want a pair (or more!) of headphones for studio use, the Yamaha HPH-50 is a great affordable pick.

LyxPro HAS-10

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
LyxPro HAS-10 Closed-back Headphones
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording Under $50 along with the Yamaha HPH-50.

The LyxPro HAS-10 are affordable closed-back headphones with a sound signature aimed towards monitoring in louder environments.

A low frequency emphasis keeps drummers aware of their kick drum timing and helps singers keep track of the rhythm.

They also feature elements seldom seen in this price range such as aluminum construction and leather pads.

Features

  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 26kHz
  • Impedance: Not Specified
  • Sensitivity: 98dB (±3dB)/li>
  • Max Input Power:Not Specified
  • Weight: 10.4 oz
  • Connectivity: 3 meter Cable

Pros

Many users felt that the HAS-10 is an improvement over similarly priced headphones especially for materials and sound quality. EDM producers and drummers particularly like the same thing about the unit which is their low frequency performance.

Cons

While better than most in this price range, the sound quality is noted to be up to par with more expensive alternatives.

Overall

The HAS-10 is an affordable pair of headphones to fully kit out your studio for tracking and monitoring. They're cheap enough to get multiple units and sturdy enough to last.

Best Closed Headphones Under $100

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 5500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Closed-Back Headphones

The ATH - M30x are positioned at the mid tier of the famed ATH series.

Like its siblings, the M30x features a circumaural design that provides great isolation. The collapsible design is also carried over to the M30x, making it very portable for mobile sessions.

The M30x has a midrange focused sound signature that helps singers sing in tune by hearing themselves better while tracking.

Features

  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 22,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 47 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Max Input Power: 700 mW at 1 kHz
  • Weight: 7.8 oz
  • Connectivity:3.0 m (9.8'), straight, left-side exit

Pros

Users note how the sound quality is better than most offerings at this price range. The closed back design and signature ATH house sound are present with a bit more forward midrange. They also note great build quality and materials despite being positioned in the middle of the line. Clamping force was secure without being uncomfortable, making them great studio tracking headphones for drummers. The included pouch, paired with the headphone's folding design gets points for portability.

Cons

The low and low mids, while beneficial for tracking, felt too colored for users who wanted to use these for mixing.

Overall

For tracking, having a forward midrange is key for pitch accuracy for singers. Having a good mid forward sound is also a benefit for instrumentalists who need to hear the metronome. With a good clamping force, comfortable earcups and sturdy build quality, the ATH-M30x is sure to survive even the most energetic of drummers.

Vic Firth SIH2

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$88
Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones

For high SPL tracking like drums, isolation becomes more important especially when playing along to a click. The Vic Firth SIH2 was designed for drummers to aid in tracking while providing hearing protection.

They feature passive isolation of -25dB from outside sounds as well as little to no sound leak from the headphones themselves. This makes them not only good for drummers but for monitoring louder singers as well.

The SIH2 can also be used as a tool for monitoring while placing mics around drums or guitar cabs, making looking for the "sweet spot" a lot easier.

Features

  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Mylarcon Dynamic Speaker
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 55 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: Not specified
  • Max Input Power: Not specified
  • Weight: 8.4 oz
  • Connectivity:Stereo plug – 3.5mm (1/8-inch) with 6.3 mm (1/4”) screw-on adapter

Pros

The Vic Firth SIH2 is noted by users as an excellent tool for monitoring drums, vocals and guitar. The isolation provided by the headphones also protects the hearing of the user when recording loud inside live rooms. Vocalists that liked the headphones noted that they could hear themselves better while tracking, leading to better takes.

Cons

The headphones were not designed for mixing and mastering so look elsewhere if these are your top priorities.

Overall

The SIH2 lands a spot on our recommended list as a great tool for monitoring during recording. Get them if you need a pair for loud recording sessions.

Sony MDR-7506

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 21400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

The Sony MDR-7506 is a long running product in Sony's headphone line. It has remained mostly unchanged over its nearly 30-year run with the exception of the switch from Samarium Cobalt magnets to Neodymium early on.

They have a mostly flat midrange with a slight lift in the treble region for more detail.

They feature a 40mm Neodymium Driver that gives just the right amount of low end without making the lower midrange too bloated or pushed.

Features

  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • Max Input Power: 700 mW at 1 kHz
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Connectivity:9.8 ft. coiled cable Connection, 1/8" Gold plated stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)

Pros

The MDR-7506 is a Swiss Army knife in the studio. They handle tracking tasks well because of the closed back design. At the same time, the flat frequency response makes them a great pick for mix referencing. Many users love this about the MDR-7506 and they consistently get high marks for versatility and durability.

Cons

Comfort was a bit of an issue for some, as the closed back design gets slightly hot after long periods of wear. The treble lift was noted by some as a bit excessive and counteracts the flat response of the midrange.

Overall

The MDR-7506 has been a studio staple for decades. Its sound signature, versatility and durability has earned it legendary status.

Best Closed Headphones Under $200

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 25350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording from $100 to $200 along with:

Yet another appearance of Audio-Technica - 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 an unmistakable sound signature that is neutral enough to make critical mix decisions with.

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 are frequently 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 these for recording.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO (80 Ohm)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 14500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$159
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm Closed Back Headphones
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording from $100 to $200 along with:

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.

For many home 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 often 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 commendations.

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 770 PRO (250 Ohm)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 10600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$159
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Closed-Back Headphones
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording from $100 to $200 along with:

The DT 770 PRO 250 Ohm differs from it's brethren in that it needs an audio interface or amplifier with enough power to drive it. Most Audio interfaces are rated to drive up to 300 Ohms. The reward for higher resistance headphones is allowing the amplifier or interface to work more optimally at a higher output. This gives more dynamic range, punch and overall clarity to the listening experience.

The headband is made of the same, high grade spring steel with removable padding as its siblings.

The DT770 PRO was designed to be very serviceable with basic tools so if a part breaks down, Beyerdynamic dealers often have spare parts for sale and offer repairs.

Features:

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

Pros

The number one most mentioned positive is comfort. Many users that mix for long hours adore the comfort of the DT 770 PRO series and the 250 Ohm is no exception. With better dynamic range, the signature frequency response of the 770 Series is augmented with deeper low frequencies that don't interfere with the reproduction of the mids and highs. One user mentioned that he uses the DT 770 PRO 250 Ohm to fix minuscule details, such as boosting or cutting certain frequencies. This makes them a great complementary tool for studio monitors, especially when checking reverb and delay levels in the mix.

Cons

The primary complaint would be the portability; these headphones are larger than most designs and don't fold up.

Overall

With plush padding and an even more luxurious sound, the DT770 250 Ohm punches well above its weight with top tier sonics. If you have an audio interface capable of driving it, you will be handsomely rewarded with great transient response, supreme clarity and tight low bass.

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.

Beyerdynamic DT 150

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$219
Beyerdynamic DT 150
At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Closed Back Headphones for Recording from $200 to $500 along with the Shure SRH1540.

The Beyerdynamic DT 150 are presented as headphones for monitoring in loud studio environments. Unlike other high isolation headphones, The DT 150 does not sacrifice sound quality for isolation.

The Neodymium magnets provide a wide frequency range and fast bass response for accurate monitoring.

As with many Beyerdynamic headphones, they are fully serviceable with spare parts readily available, making them an ideal long term piece of gear for studios.

Features

  • Driver Size: 45mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 30,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB
  • Max Input Power: Not Specified
  • Weight: 8.82 oz
  • Connectivity: 9.8 ft. straight cable with 3-pole 1/4" stereo jack

Pros

Comfort and durability are the most often mentioned positives. The earcup shape was also noted to accommodate ears of different shapes and sizes while the headband and pads were praised for their comfort. The midrange and high frequencies are transparent and airy, rare for closed back designs and even rarer in headphones designed for maximum isolation.

Cons

Bass can be a bit overwhelming at first. Some noted the pads needed break-in time to soften and provide maximum isolation.

Overall

If you want isolating headphones, but don't want to sacrifice sound quality for referencing, the Beyerdynamic DT150 is a great pick.

Shure SRH1540

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Shure SRH1540 Mastering & Studio Closed-Back Headphones

The SRH 1540 is Shure's top of the line monitoring headphones for the studio.

They feature top tier materials like aircraft aluminum and carbon fiber for the enclosure and a tightly matched pair of Neodymium-powered 40mm drivers for their low Total Harmonic Distortion.

Despite being a closed-back design, the SRH1540 touts a massive soundstage which makes them versatile enough for tracking, mixing and mastering.

Features

  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 25,000Hz
  • Impedance: 46 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB
  • Max Input Power: 1000 mW
  • Weight:10.1 oz
  • Connectivity: 6 ft dual-exit, detachable oxygen-free copper cable; Gold-plated 1/8" stereo mini jack

Pros

Users and experts note that the SRH1540, gives an immersive, almost speaker-like experience with their expansive sound stage for a closed back design. Even though the headphones were designed for critical listening, the frequency response is balanced in just the right way for a pleasurable listening experience. They give a good yardstick for what your mixes will sound like on higher end headphones and sound systems. Comfort was also praised thanks to memory foam pads and plush lining.

Cons

Bass response was compromised for clarity. Despite being a closed-back design, isolation was noted to be sub-optimal for some users.

Overall

If you're looking for a top tier pair of headphones that strike a great balance between critical listening and pleasurable listening, the Shure SRH 1540 is the top pick.

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. The closed chamber design can be particularly useful to check your mixes for low frequency balance. This is because a closed chamber, especially well-engineered ones, can be tuned to resonate at a specific low frequency. Closed back designs also allow you to mix in private since the sound leaking from them will be minimal; perfect for producers working on the road or away from the studio. 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 because their versatility.

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

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on January 26, 2022.

For this 2022 edition, we looked at the most current ratings and customer feedback for 46 sets of closed-back headphones. The sources we gathered totaled over 144,900 -- all of which were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. 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.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

Contributors

Denise Azucena: Supplemental writing.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the Neumann NDH20, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 Ohm headphones.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

I still recommend Sony MDR

I still recommend Sony MDR 7506. Over 35 years, it's still and always will be the best basic and standard monitor headphones in the whole wide world music industry.

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.