We love headphones, as if you couldn’t tell. We’re also aware that it’s a pretty huge market out there, especially when it comes to that term ‘studio headphones’. It’s become a label that is pretty overused by bigger brands to attract those looking for ‘prestige’ pairs of headphones (not that cheap stuff you find at electronic stores). We’ve become pretty big in the audiophile community, so we did some research, comparing and contrasting to find the very best studio headphones for those looking to narrow down their budget a bit. Although some crazy pairs of cans come over that price, there are some solid models that will do just the job for you, especially for under $200.
Studio headphones are known to give detailed, natural and effective frequency distribution. They have the ability to produce high volume levels with a balanced audio output for each ear. They can handle casual use all the way to the most demanding studio routines. Many audiophiles pair up their new studio headphones with headphone amplifiers to boost the overall sound quality (and most headphones do not come with components to fully enhance their true capabilities). Their robust construction and excellent conforming features make them the ideal headphones for many users, whether you’re recording, making beats, mixing and mastering, or merely listening for leisure.
When it comes to studio quality models, you won’t finding many wireless headphones because those that want direct sound reproduction won’t risk trusting a frequency signal. Those that are wired can be used in many applications from the monitoring of video controls to adjusting audio output in the studio. People may decide to choose to use these headphones if they want to mix or record music. The two options available are closed back and open back and each one comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. Mixing typically requires open-back headphones, and they tend to be more natural and open, especially if they are of high quality. However, the closed-back microphones have now been improved and some of these can also be used for mixing.
How to choose your studio headphones under $200
- Your exact budget – We know this article is pin-pointed to under 200 bucks, but there’s a pretty big difference in headphones priced for $50 while others that stop right at $200 even. How much cash are you willing to spend? The more you invest, the higher quality pair of cans you’ll be getting.
- Closed-back, open-back or semi-open? We described this previously, but to reiterate, this gets into more technical terms. Although a larger percentage of studio headphones are closed-back (better for recording, sound isolation and leisure listening), some are also open-ear (best for mixing and mastering), while others hit right in the middle label as ‘semi-open’.
- Color choices – As you can see from our above photo, a lot of these are colored predominantly black. We wouldn’t blame the brands, however — most consumers purchase headphones in black, so they up the production on these particular colors. However, there are some out there that provide some cool aesthetics that may steer your choice.
- Accessories in the box – Many come with additional cables, converters, or even cases. Are these important to you?
The best studio headphones under $200
Sennheiser HD 380 PRO
We know a lot of you Senny heads will praise us for putting this first, and in our opinion, these are one of the best studio headphones under $200 in the market today. These closed-back headphones are ideal for both casual audiophiles and professionals making or recording music. They offer an extended frequency response with an increased pressure level for the accurate reproduction of the sound in different demanding applications. However, they go even beyond that since the rugged, secure and lightweight features give a comfortable listening experience when there is a need for a long recording or listening session. The accessories that come with these headphones include a foot coiled cable which can be detached, a carrying case, and a screw type jack adapter of 1/4 inch. The headphones are closed with a circumaural design that can be used for impressive sound isolation while you’re at. If you wanted a sure answer, grab these for under $200 and don’t look back.
AKG K 240 MK II
This is the updated version of their extremely popular K240 from AKG, and it is one of the most successful headphones of their studio line. The headphones have a self-adjusting leatherette headband with velvet ear pads that can last for a long time while offering amazing comfort. The single sided three meter cable is detachable and it is offered with a 5 meter coiled cable. The cable has gold plated connectors for the best conductivity. The pair has standard 3.5 mm plugs that offer wide compatibility and it includes a ¼ inch adapter that allows the user to connect with the pro-level equipment if that’s what you’ll be using it for. The MK II is a circumaural design which is semi open so if you wanted something in the middle, grab it. It has acoustic ventilation as well as patented ‘varimotion speakers’ to offer detailed and crisp sound.
This is the most acclaimed model in the M-series and is praised by many audio engineers and pro audio reviewers. If you’ve read other articles by us, it typically makes an appearance any time ‘studio headphones’ is mentioned for obvious reasons. The headphones feature the coveted sonic signature with added features and detachable cables. The headphones have large sound isolating earcups with amazing A-T construction. The M50X offers an unmatched experience for most critical audio professionals. They deliver accurate audio with outstanding comfort and are the perfect option for long sessions while on the go or in the studio. We use ours for both making music as well as listening to some tunes while we write or do homework. The contoured earcups seal tight with excellent sound isolation, and they have a minimal bleed and not much pain at all. The pro-grade materials used are comfortable and durable at the same time. They are collapsible and earcups swivel, which is a convenient option if the user is looking to save space. They also give us some decent color options, too.
I remember walking into a music store around 2008 and being recommended these. They caught my eye being priced at under $100, so if you wanted a solid, reliable pair that’s budget-friendly, check them out. They can be used virtually in any application whenever high quality sound is needed (aside from professional mixing and mastering, go for an open-back pair). The closed ear design of the MDR-7506 has become even more popular in home and pro recording studios as we know. It has a well-built design with convenient folding construction and 40 mm driver units with gold connectors for casual use or for studio pro use. The comfort is even more enhanced and won’t give you much pain (we’ve used them for almost 5 hours straight making beats) by the decently-built headband padding. The headphones come with a stereo ‘Unimatch plug‘ that can be used in 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch applications and it also comes with a soft case that is used for storage or travel.
Last but not least, and yes it hurts us to put a pair of high-end Beyer’s last, are the DT-990-PRO. The reason we did so was because of their price — they often hover at or around $200 so they’re not necessarily ‘under $200’, but if you have the cash we recommend investing in this. This is an open dynamic headphone that is ideal for studio applications because of its features and design; it offers excellent sound reproduction to achieve quality audio output. It has a rugged construction with a spring steel headband that ensures that there is a secure fit that can withstand the demands. The soft headband with an ear cushioning system (I mean look at them, they’re like plush pillows) will ensure high comfort for the user after a long period. The headphones have open diffuse-field studio headphones with 250 ohms which you’ll definitely need an audio interface or amplifier to get the most out of them. They’re also pretty lightweight and the package includes a drawstring bag to help if you’re roaming around with them.