The best beginner studio headphones in our opinion hold a combination of affordability, effectiveness (in regards to sound quality and doing their ‘job’ depending on your use), comfort, brand confidence, and longevity. We’re definitely no strangers to studio headphones in general — we’ve been reviewing these things for the past 5 years. We continue our series of guides that are directed towards more ‘specific’ audiences this year, and today we want to find some models that we recommend when we have friends or readers ask, “what’s the best starter pair of studio headphones?”. Of course, we first say that “it depends”.
Finding the Best Beginner Studio Headphones
Let’s survey some important information factors to look in to as you search through our beginner studio headphones recommendations. For one will be budget of course, and we made sure as to not get too crazy with price-tags in this one (considering there are some beastly studio headphones that hit the thousands at times). We do have some budget-friendly specific studio headphones guides you may like in case you want to prioritize this factor over everything else (such as studio headphones under $200), otherwise our range down here is from less than $100 all the way to about $300 or so.
Next, look into what types of headphones are out in the world. We’ll give you some short summaries below:
- Closed-back: These are the most popular ‘type’ of studio headphones, and they’re mostly used to listen to music leisurely, record music or vocals of any kind, or really just about anything that doesn’t involve mixing or mastering audio. The reason many preferred ‘closed-back studio headphones’ is because the ear cups trap as much sound as possible to disallow any from leaking out. This benefits leisure music listeners so others around them aren’t disturbed and gives them privacy, while those recording audio prefer it because extra clutter won’t be picked up in their tracks.
- Open-back: Studio headphones that are highly preferred by producers, audio engineers or any other use that really puts an emphasis on ‘sound accuracy’. Don’t get us wrong, closed-back headphones are very accurate in regards to quality, but after a while of listening can build up some frequencies in their ear cups without some leakage. Therefore, open-headphones and even semi-open headphones gives us some breathing room on the other side of our ears to keep the mix accurate. The downfall is having this sound present in mixes so we don’t recommend recording with them on (we do sometimes when we’re lazy). We know many who just switch to closed-back to record and then back to open-back for mixing. Our open-back vs. closed-back article can also help with some more information before you continue.
The Best Studio Headphones for Beginners
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
The HD 280 Pro headphones are one of the most sturdily constructed, high performance closed-back headphones on the market and one of the best options available for beginners looking for a quality pair of studio headphones. They’re legendary at this point, and are usually our go to for a quick recommendation in really any “what headphones should I buy?” question from people who learn about our profession. Some of the best features of the HD 280 pro in regards to build include leatherette ear cushions, adjustable headband, a sturdy design and a compact folding mechanism for easy storage. The coiled cable is ten feet long, which is long enough for practical studio uses and comes with an eighth-inch and quarter inch mini-plug which can connect to conventional plugs and also studio plugs.
The sound quality is great and is very clear even when turned up loudly and carry a deep bass line along with it which is one of its features. The headphones bring out quality sounds in flat detail, which is a high selling point and a reason they outshine the competition even outside of the studio headphones game. The phones themselves are very soundproof even when turned up to their highest setting and do not disturb others with that closed-back design. Possibly the only downfall is the high price for the headset but considering all the unique features, its well worth the price since they’re usually under a hundred bucks. The headphones are quite versatile and are able to work well with a wide range of any sound needs. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are a great option for beginner studio headphones without a doubt.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
The DT 770 headphone brings us to the open-back headphones game that is built with a durable frame and open and dynamic design which far succeeds many others like this regarding price-point. The headphones have a professional sound quality and features but are also a great option for those starting out looking for the best options in the studio headphones market. The DT 770 Pro have a sturdy, industrial look to them and come with a 3 meter long cable that is long enough to give the user access to other devices they can use at the same time. While other headphone brands have become more mainstream, Beyerdynamic are purely focused on the high-end market and have a reputation to back this up big time.
These open-back headphones have a solid feel to them and also come with soft plush cups and a retro padded headband while also remaining lightweight and very comfortable to wear. An 8ohm impedance and 45 mm driver are also included that can be used for both practical and professional use by anyone. The design is compact and easy to store away, perfect for those looking for a quick solution to headphones that are easy to get out and start using right away. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones are perfect for those looking for the best beginner studio headphones with an open-back design.
By far one of our picks as the best studio headphones for beginners, let alone for anybody really, brings us the ATH-M50x. They’re designed for professional use but are also aimed at starter pros seeking to enter the studio headphones game with a higher-end route. This edition used to be their flagship model but since they’ve introduced a few more versions; however, it’s still our favorite as it in the middle price-point of a lot of their studio headphones. The headphones come with interchangeable cables that can be adapted to studio uses and also practical everyday uses with an eighth-inch and quarter-inch mini-plug attachment. In terms of build, the cups themselves are quite large and while they are not so compact, they are very sturdy and feel very strong when used. They however aren’t anything different than other over-ear pairs out there.
The price sits in the medium range which may seem a lot for a headphones but the sound quality more than makes up for it. The sound is crystal clear and has a solid bass underlay that really shines through – the headphones can take quite a beating in terms of turning up the sound. Also included are three backup cables, one 1.2m cable and two coiled cables great for professional DJ work as well as at home uses. For those looking for a more professional looking and reliable pair of beginners studio headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are a perfect option to consider.
The MDR-7506 are a comfortable and stylish headset that are marketed towards beginners that seek the a decent quality pair on the lower-end of the price-point spectrum. These were actually the first studio headphones we’ve ever used when we used to make beats back in the day. We walked into a music store and we’re thankful the dude recommended these to us as we used them for about 10 years (literally!). The headphones come with wide headband and large ear cups for the over-the-ear design that provide a great isolated sound that does not leak much out when listening. The design is very secure when placed over the ears and the ear cups are only lightly padded for the user meaning the insulated cups sit well over the ears.
The headphones come by themselves without the addition on additional audio cables and also do not have an added control scheme which doesn’t make it very versatile for the listeners who need this for leisure use, but studio users won’t care at all about that. The headphones sit at a low price point which makes sense due to the simple design and “not too flashy” build, features or specs — these just do their job by providing a flat response and a closed-back design. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are definitely for those who are casual listeners or beginners looking for a great pair of starter studio headphones.
The K240 headphones are a great pair of beginner studio headphones that have a unique feel and a very stylish finish to the design which makes them a nice option for those looking for another lower-priced recommendation. These studio headphones come with a 10 foot detachable mini XLR with attached to a 3.5mm cable and a 6.3mm adapter giving enough length for those who need to switch it up sometimes. The sound quality is known for being very even and flat and has a very quirky sound that does not leave much room for bass undertones; for the more modest listener that doesn’t mind leaving out the large booming bass. Many want this with studio headphones because we’re not into aftermarket, over-saturated bassy headphones, especially if we’re making music. The vocals, guitar and other instruments sound relatively clear and shine through quite well which rivals many of the more high-end headphones on the market.
The headphones are marketed toward those that like to listen to more classical, soft rock, acoustic and detailed listening where the sound is gives a unique and crisp tone rather that a drum and bass feel. In high volumes, the sound performs quite well although they can be turned up a little louder compared to other models and may give a slight humming sound if turned up too loud (some have reported). The AKG K240 headphones sit at an affordable price range, which is great and well worth for starters seeking studio headphones that best suit simple needs and some light professional needs also.
The SRH840 are a large over the ear studio headphone that have a sleek black finish to them and a unique stylish overlay with a large design for beginners looking for the best immersive experience in their headphones. The design is quite versatile and does fold up nicely for the on the go traveler although they are still very big compared to other models on the market making them stand out in their own way. The headphones can be carried around in the case that doesn’t take up much room given the size and the ear cups have a 180 degree function that allows the listener to mix with one ear cup at a time. The headset is still quite stylish given the size and matches well with the metal band holding it together.
The SRH840 build remain very sturdy and durable to last us quite a while in regards to an investment here. Although the headset itself is quite strong, the wires that lead out of the cups are thin and are susceptible to breaking if pulled too tightly. The devices comes with a quarter inch gold plated adapter that is very strong and is great for using studio equipment along with its leather case. For the relatively higher price point (at least compared to others in this best studio headphones for beginners guide), the Shure SRH840 headphones are well worth the cost and are professional built that provide a crisp sound with great frequency distribution.
Sennheiser HD 650
The HD 650 model is a beautiful pair of open-back studio headphones for beginners, but we’ve placed this last due to the price being nearly double and triple than other models in here. One of the highest rated ever, they’re clear sounding headphones that provides an open sound that is good for critical listening to all the tones of the music which gives the listener an excellent experience for mixing, mastering or producing. The headphones are very sturdily built and definitely marketed towards a professional user although those starting out looking for the best option for a great studio pair won’t go wrong with this baby — they’ll be an investment that will last you for years. The headphones themselves leak out a lot of sound which is great if they are used in isolation without the need for noise cancellation but are not so great for casual users or those recording, as we’ve explained before.
The ear cups are large and very comfortable to wear that are not so tight to put around the head meaning one can listen for a long time without clamping the head too much. The sound is very warm, clear, precise — really anything you want to use to describe accurate, these are them. The Sennheiser HD 650 is just simply a beastly pair of studio headphones for beginners. For its high price, the headphones are definitely worth the money spent and will provide a great listening experience for all.