2024’s Best Studio Headphones

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.

Oftentimes, having a good pair of reference quality headphones is better for mixing than speakers in an untreated home studio room. Having bad room resonance can cripple even the best studio speakers. By mixing with the top studio headphones, even in bad rooms, can make your tracks translate better.

For our recommendations, we limited our search to a maximum price of $500, as many headphones beyond this price are more tailored to audiophiles. The headphones below are all over $100, so if you’re looking for cheaper options then go over to our guide for Studio Headphones Under $100.

We included both open back and closed back units for a wider array of choices and for versatility in the studio. For those looking for affordable options, best budget studio headphones offer a great balance of sound quality, comfort, and durability, making them ideal for home studios and professional recording setups.

The Best Studio Headphones – 2024

Author & Contributors

The main headphones I use in my studio are the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (250 ohms) for tracking and Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro for mixing and mastering. Additionally, I also own the Grado SR325, Hifiman He400i and Philips Shp9500 for further referencing.

Best Studio Headphones Under $200 - Max 250 ohm

Note: If you're looking for more affordable options then take a look at our guide to Studio Headphones Under $100.

Sony MDR-7506

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 30350+ ratings and reviews.
$99.99
Sony
sony-mdr-7506-closed-back-headphones

Cons

  • May be too bright
  • Outdated design and earpads may flake

Pros

  • Comfortable clamping force
  • The impedance is just right for every application
  • Decent bass response
  • Great value

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are renowned in the audio industry for their balanced sound profile, making them suitable for musicians and audio engineers. They're great recording headphones for monitoring. In original tests, they have been preferred over nearly 150 other headphones in the same price range and more expensive models by a panel of experts and musicians.

Despite feeling somewhat plasticky, these headphones are surprisingly durable and can last for years with proper care. The wide headband design minimizes discomfort during long listening sessions, offering great comfort. Additionally, they are an incredible bargain at around $90, considering their quality and longevity.

However, some users find the design outdated and utilitarian, and the earpads may not be the most comfortable for extended wear, especially in warmer climates. While the headphones provide decent passive ambient noise isolation, they’re not as effective as some closed-back headphones with thicker ear cushions, which may require you to increase the volume in a noisy environment.

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are reliable, comfortable, and deliver accurate sound reproduction. Whether you’re recording audio, mixing tracks, or simply enjoying music, these headphones are a great affordable choice.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back
  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10-20kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,000mW
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms
  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8' Coiled Cable Connection, 1/8" (plug), 1/4" (adapter)
  • Best For : Recording, Mixing, Mastering

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 30100+ ratings and reviews.
$149.00
Audio-Technica

Cons

  • Proprietary detachable cable
  • Clamping can be a bit tight
  • Faux leather earcups

Pros

  • Deep and engaging sound
  • Good isolation for mobile use
  • Detachable cable
  • Works well with various systems

The ATH-M50x Improves upon its predecessor with a detachable cable as an extra feature. This simple improvement makes it more portable and easier to maintain - more importantly it allows for easier and cleaner setups. Note that the detachable cable uses a proprietary locking connector, this means you can’t use a generic replacement cord.

Like its predecessor the ATH-M50, the ATH-M50x features a 45mm Driver with a Neodymium Magnet. It has a deep and engaging sound with a wide frequency range that works great with various systems. It also has good isolation that makes it useful even when working outside of the studio, suitable for mobile setups that utilize laptops or tablets.

The headband is a bit stiff resulting in clamping force that’s a bit tight, but this helps with isolation and reduces the possibility of sliding out of position while moving.

It utilizes faux leather earcups, which may turn off those who are looking for high quality materials.

Hit albums have been produced and mixed with these headphones, really living up to its high ratings. Get it if you want a good pair of headphones for music production, both for recording and mixing, in the studio or on the go.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-back
  • 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.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (80 Ohm)

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 21950+ ratings and reviews.
$169.00
Beyerdynamic

Cons

  • Cable is not detachable
  • The sub-bass may not be deep enough for some

Pros

  • Flat frequency response in the midrange
  • Smooth low frequency bump
  • Ideal for home studios
  • Good build quality

The DT 770 Pro 80 ohm version shares the majority of features and sound signature of its 250 Ohm sibling.

For most home studios, 80 Ohms is the sweet spot for dynamic range and amplification requirements. Some audio interfaces may have trouble driving a 250 Ohm pair of headphones while 32 Ohms may not maximize the dynamic range that a higher end audio interface can provide.

Sitting at this comfortable middle ground, It has just the right amount of dynamic range and efficiency so you can listen properly with your studio setup and on a mobile devices for mix checking / referencing.

The DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm puts you front and center to a virtual hi-fi sounding studio monitor setup, with a relatively flat midrange and a smooth low frequency bump that extends further than other headphones. The lows are not as deep as some would want it, but it is tight enough for use in mixing with its good sound stage.

If you want a good studio headphone pair that can give you all the information you need to balance out your low frequencies without a sub, while maintaining a tight response and being efficient enough to be used with most mobile devices, the DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm is your best bet.

Specifications

  • 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.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 18950+ ratings and reviews.
$169.00
Beyerdynamic

Cons

  • Open back leaks sound by design
  • Non-detachable cable

Pros

  • Treble exposes poorly mixed tracks
  • Expansive, speaker-like soundstage
  • Excellent comfort and fit
  • Great Long term durability

Beyerdynamic headphones have been on my radar for a long time. The first one I got was a Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro, which is a closed back headphone. While the 770 Pro had a wide soundstage and great bass for low frequency balancing, what it lacked is a sense of “airiness” that helps balance treble during mixing. I realized I needed an open back pair to complement the DT 770 pro and the DT 990 Pro fulfills that need.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO driver enclosure
The DT 990 Pro has a vented open back. It's not as open as headphones like the Sennheiser HD 600 where you see the driver directly

They provide pleasant bass and precise trebles when it comes to frequency response. In addition, they come with a single-sided coiled cable with a gold-vaporized 1/8 inch (3.5mm) stereo jack plug and a 1/4 inch adapter, which is useful for switching from studio use to casual listening.

The sound signature is bright and clear. It has a treble spike around the 10khz that audiophiles criticize for being too sibilant for some recordings. However, I use that spike to my advantage to avoid sibilance on my own mixes.

Another good thing about the headphone is how uncluttered the midrange is. Paired with its relatively wide soundstage, it helps place elements in a dense mix; something that I find the DT 770 Pro can’t do quite as well.

The bass frequencies have a focus around the 100hz to 200hz range which gives it a bit more thump than sub extension. This is good for balancing kick and bass guitar but because of the reduced sub frequency extension, cleaning up the lows is a task better suited to my DT 770 Pro.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO driver enclosure
The plush pads are comfortable for long listening sessions. My well loved pair however, is in need of a replacement set after 5 years of use because the foam has started to collapse.

A feature I like is their robust and soft padded headband, along with their cushion ear pads that are washable and replaceable. One important thing to note though that the DT 770 Pro and the DT 990 Pro have different earpads. The size and density of the foam are different. I’ve experimented with swapping them around and it throws off the sonic balance of both headphones. So if you’re looking to replace them, be sure to get the one that is specified for the model you’re using.

Overall, the DT 990 Pro is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a pair of mixing headphones to balance your high end and be more aware of sibilance. It’s not the best for tracking as its open back so it’s better as a supplementary pair than your main pair.

Specifications

  • Type: Open-back
  • Driver Size: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 35,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Impedance: 250 Ohms
  • Weight: 8.82 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8 ft. coiled cable, 1/8" Gold plated stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter

Best Headphones Under $500

Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro

93
GEARANK
93 out of 100. Incorporating 1850+ ratings and reviews.
$249.00
Beyerdynamic

Cons

  • Minor sound leakage
  • Need proper ear position for optimal treble response

Pros

  • Smooth low midrange to low frequency curve
  • Ideal for singers who want to hear their voice
  • Moderate Isolation
  • Comfortable fit

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro aims to combine the advantages of open-back and closed-back over ear 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.

It has smooth low midrange to low frequency curve without any narrow spikes in frequencies at that register, which makes it easier to make critical mix decisions when balancing lower frequencies.

The newly designed headband for the DT 880 Pro grants better wearing comfort, especially during long studio sessions. The comfort of this headband, together with its semi-open design make it a good choice for those who have to work on mixes for long hours.

High frequencies shift with headphone positioning over the ears, the solution was to find a good neutral position for the ideal balance of frequencies. While careful engineering was put into making isolation better, there will still be some sound leakage.

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.

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

Sennheiser HD 600

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 3450+ ratings and reviews.
$349.95
Sennheiser
At publication time these were the Highest Rated Studio Headphones from $200 to $500.

Cons

  • No isolation, not ideal for vocal tracking
  • Thin detachable cable
  • Clamping force and pads are initially stiff

Pros

  • Natural spatial sound
  • Clean and neutral lows and highs
  • Comfortable to listen in to, and to wear
  • Sturdy build quality

The Sennheiser HD 600 is a recording community favorite that features a circumaural design with open metal mesh earpieces which deliver a more natural, spatial and accurate sound.

Matching it's open-back design are optimized magnets that provide dynamic and wide frequency response. The resulting sound is clean and neutral, with distortion free clear lows and smooth highs.

But it's not just for professional studio engineers, because audiophiles can also appreciate how comfortable it is to listen to, and to wear. It's not too overbearing, which makes for a more relaxed listening experience, be it for mixing or for simply enjoying music. The initial clamping force and pads were stiff at first but they became comfortable over time.

The included detachable cable is a bit thin and has proprietary connectors, but replacement parts are available.

Being open-back, it has little to no isolation, making it unusable for tracking vocals.

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 their pedigree and lineage owe more to audiophile ears, details are not lost with the HD 600.

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

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

93
GEARANK
93 out of 100. Incorporating 1050+ ratings and reviews.
$349.00
Audio-Technica

Cons

  • For optimal sound, use a high-powered headphone amp
  • Not ideal for use in non-studio environments

Pros

  • Open, spacious and airy sound
  • Balanced highs and mids
  • Deep bass but not too overwhelming
  • Comfortable fit

Audio-Technica have been producing quality professional studio quality headphones for years, and this includes highly rated headphones like the ATH-R70x.

These open-back headphones feature transparent aluminum honeycomb-mesh housings engineered to provide a chamber free from standing waves and unwanted resonance. This results in an open, spacious and airy sound that makes it easier to listen to the tiniest details of each instrument in the mix.

The mids and highs are balanced without coloration, while the bass is deep without being too overwhelming.

Their light-weight yet robust construction, fabric earpads, and self-adjusting headband provide comfort for long hours of listening.

With an impedance of 470 Ohms, this is meant for use with amps that have high output level, so pro studio gear or a dedicated headphone amplifiers are recommended. But it still provides good enough sound quality even when connected to less powerful devices, although this is not the intended use.

If you’re looking to invest heavily in headphones for mixing, the ATH-R70x is head and shoulders above many. Transparency is the name of its game. 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. A top-of-the-line feeling with great studio headphones.

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

Sennheiser HD 660S

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 2250+ ratings and reviews.
$499.95
Sennheiser

Cons

  • Bass is a little lacking
  • Not ideal for vocal tracking

Pros

  • Pleasing and neutral sound
  • Comparable to near field monitors
  • Less ear fatigue
  • Superb build quality

More than just a successor to the venerable 600 line, the HD 660S continues the standards established by the original flagship HD 600 as a set of critical listening headphones. For this iteration, Sennheiser improved and refined the winning formula by tuning the HD 660S to have a more hi-fi sound compared to its predecessors

Despite this direction, it still keeps the transient response and tightens up the low frequencies for a more accurate representation of the music and mix. The sound it produces is comparable to that of near field monitors, with frequencies that sit between pleasing and neutral.

This makes critical mix decisions easier to perceive, and at the same time, makes listening less fatiguing over extended mix sessions.

While it does have tight low-end, it can sound a bit lacking for those who prefer more bass oomph when they are mixing.

As expected from Sennheiser, build quality is top notch, reliable enough for professional use. If you want a high fidelity neutral sounding headphone with natural ambience then this is for you.

Specifications

  • Type: Open-back dynamic
  • Driver Size: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 41000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 500 mW>
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.17 oz
  • Cable and Connectivity: 9.8' cable, 1/8" stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter
  • Best For: Mixing, Mastering

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. This sound isolation makes them the better choice for playing guitar through headphones. And they are ideal 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. Open and Closed Back Headphones have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Studio monitors and recording studio headphones are essential for examining the low end in a non-biased way and for crafting a mix that will translate well everywhere.

Frequency Response and Transient Response

The best headphone brands 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. Wired headphones are favored in professional settings for their consistent audio quality and reliable connection, making them ideal for studio work.

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 monitor 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 cushion material should be soft enough for comfort and ideally allow some breathability. This is why a good ear pad material matters, velour ear pads are the favorites when it comes to comfort.

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. While stylish headphones with Bluetooth offer convenience for day-to-day use, they are not recommended for studio work due to potential latency issues with wireless headphones, along with audio quality concerns.

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.

In this edition, we decided to limit our Under $200 selections to headphones below 250 Ohms. Anything beyond 250 Ohms won't be optimal unless you use separate amplification. In our research, 250 Ohms is the upper limit for many audio interfaces.

Best Studio Headphones Selection Methodology

The first Edition was published in 2018. The current edition was published on May 28, 2024

We looked at all headphones for mixing and mastering below $500 commonly used in home and even professional studios. We also considered their availability from major music gear retailers in the USA, then entered them into our music gear database - we had a total of 36 sets on our short-list for closer examination.

We then gathered over 160,200 ratings, reviews and forum posts by users. Processing this enormous amount of data would be time consuming to analyze manually, hence all gathered data was processed with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. Our selection of the best studio headphones reflect the cream of the crop according to all these sources. 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

Some of the studio recording gear I use 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

Jerry Borillo: Product research.
Alexander Briones: Editing.
Jason Horton: Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Sennheiser HD 660S, Audio-Technica ATH-R70x and Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO headphones.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers with the exception of the additional photos for the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (250 Ohm) and Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro which were taken by the author.

5 thoughts on “2024’s Best Studio Headphones”

  1. Why is the DT 880 priced higher than the 770 and 990? Is it better quality? Like maybe the drivers are better matched or the grills or damping in it is better in some way?

    1. Hi Matthew,

      As far as I know, the number isn’t meant to denote any tier or quality difference though historically, the DT880 was the flagship headphone for Beyerdynamic for a long time before being superseded by the T1. So maybe it has more to do with the engineering behind them.

      Judging by the specifications:
      DT770 = closed
      DT880 = semi-open
      DT990 = open

      There is also the distinction between the “Edition” and “Pro” versions of these headphones with the “Pro” versions directed towards the studio market segment with higher Ohm ratings, reportedly harder clamping force and coiled cables. The “Edition” models are more geared towards the audiophile/prosumer market and are generally priced higher. The two versions are tuned slightly different from my limited testing experience.

      As for driver matching, I can’t say much about Beyerdynamic’s manufacturing process but to my knowledge, they are all Made in Germany with different enclosures and maybe different driver spec for each.

      I own a DT770 Pro and it’s the pair I use to check my low frequency balance. I just placed an order for a DT880 Pro and DT990 Pro after writing this guide too (side effect of doing a lot of research!)

      Anyway, I hope that helped!

      -Raphael

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