Buying the best studio headphones are in our opinion just as important as investing in a good bed — you know you’re going to use it everyday and if you’re putting a decent chunk of money in a pair that will last you many years. Just because certain headphone models and brands say ‘studio’ in the title doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best — this is something our society has gotten accustomed to with the emergence of super commercialized “studio headphones” and other mainstream brands using the word for marketing purposes freely. You need to really get down to the gritty specs, what exactly you need them for, overall price as well as what other experienced users of the product have said about it. Let’s see our picks for the top 10 best studio headphones available to buy today.
Choosing Your Studio Headphones
- What is your budget? We’ve seen some decent pairs at $100 or a little less, but some extremely powerful models beyond that. Who knows — you may end up wanting to hold off from buying as of now and save up some more cash. Here are some budget-specific guides have on studio headphones:
- Will you be recording, mixing or both? Simply looking for some studio headphones to record with? Keep your eye on a specific “type” (which we’ll explain below). What about mixing? Perhaps both? How about aside from music and instead everyday use? The gym? Your preferred activity will entail which type of headphone you need — open, closed, or semi-open.
- Are you shopping for headphones to just listen to music to? We prefer closed-back as the sound doesn’t leak and gives you more privacy and sound isolation. Otherwise, keep in mind what type of build of headphones you’ll need, which all depends on your intended use.
- Extra headphone features? To be honest, our favorites don’t often include ‘special features’ aside from giving us pure accuracy when hearing our audio sources — the term ‘studio headphones’ should always give us one concern — no buildup or embellishments of unwanted frequencies. You’ve got the popular noise cancellation headphones with nifty features here and there, however we recommend those only for leisure listening or traveling. Continue on reading if you want some raw, plain and powerful studio headphones.
Without a solid pair of headphones, you’re missing one of the most important factors when it comes to music making gear for your studio. However, let’s first look into the different headphone builds.
Open-back headphones are made ‘open’ with some room for noise to leak out for a reason. Studio headphones with open or even semi-open designs are better for mixing because it prevents the build-up of bass frequencies inside of the headphone and allows for a more flat, accurate sound. If you intend on mostly mixing and mastering professionally or even in your home studio, look for headphones we list with these designs and grab a pair of those. For example, we use Beyerdynamic DT-990 PRO for mixing our music, while switching in our pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x when we record. You can read our headphones for mixing and mastering for more information.
On the other hand, closed-back designs have been stated to be better for ‘tracking’ (recording) because it prevents external sound of the headphones from leaking into the microphone and being picked up on the track. This is also the most common type of design for a studio headphone. These are recommended for either recording, everyday use, or producing music in general. A frequently asked question is the definition of circamural is — it is merely a full-sized headphone that allows for better sound isolation (better for recording as opposed to mixing).
Of course, those who are in a studio are using an audio interface to power up their headphones. However, in terms of headphone amplifiers, this is necessary for studio headphones that have higher impedance (100-600 ohms). Since they’re more powerful, the impedance are too high and need an external amp in order to fully process that amount of power since it’s won’t fit in your headphones. It’s usually worth it if you’re investing in a costly pair of headphones and want as much power as they can offer. A lot of consumer brands and cheaper headphones don’t require this because they sacrifice impedance count in order to make up for the battery-powered interiors. Read our headphone amplifier article for some of our top recommendations.
Lastly, be aware of the brands out there that use the word ‘studio’ to merely appeal to a certain market (which is growing day by day now). The term ‘studio headphones‘ is becoming as saturated as ‘organic’ is with foods. Trust our top 10 as it is backed up by research and personal use. We link you to websites as they list a lot of these models under retail for cheap.
The Top 10 Best Studio Headphones
Now that you’ve taken some important aspects into consideration, let’s get down to our best studio headphones on the planet. Be sure to keep the elements we’ve provided into consideration while you shop, as we’ve tried to cover all grounds of studio headphones, including price range, headphone type and overall features included. Let us know which one you end up going with! We’ve recently written a best wireless headphones article as well, and since we don’t cover any of them in here, check it out if that’s what you may be looking for.
- Design: Closed, around-the-ear
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Drivers: 40mm (neodymium magnets)
- Frequency response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
- Impedance: 63 Ohms
- Maximum power: 1000mW
- 9.8 foot cord with gold-plated plug
- 1/4″ adapter included
- Foldable for portability\storage
These are one of the best pairs of studio headphones we’ve used and heard of. I have numerous music making friends that swear by these things. Sony electronics is a name we all know and for good reason as they’re not too expensive either, coming in at around $100 retail. Features a (relatively average) driver size at 40mm, but that isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about with studio headphones as their impedance goes a bit higher than others that cost more. A very comfortable feel, accurate sound with nice lows, decent mids and rather crisp highs — just an all around accurate headphone. The comfortable pads, headband and closed design is better for recording or everyday use. Also comes with a soft case for travel, but we’d recommend getting a hard shell to ensure it’s protected if you plan on traveling.
The Sony MDR7506 headphones are one of the best out there.
Beyerdynamic DT 880
Features and specs:
- Weight: 10 ounces
- Design: Semi-open, diffuse-field
- Frequency response: 5 – 35.000 Hz
- Impedance: 250 ohms (available in higher versions)
- Nylon carrying case included
- Adjustable soft-padded headband
- Cable: 9.8 ft. coiled
- Replaceable ear pads
- Comes with nylon carrying case
We’re into a higher price range and with that you get some of the best studio headphones available today. Beyerdynamic is a solid brand and shouldn’t be overlooked. These are said to be better for mixing (semi-open design). They’re equipped with a very analytic and refined sound that’s rather wide in range in terms of frequencies. Headfonia added these in their old school trio studio headphones article. We love the detail included with these, and the more powerful the better as you go higher in terms of the models of OHM’s. Some may complain about the lack of the ‘high-end sparkle’, but these are for accuracy — they’re studio headphones. If you want some pizzazz go for a more consumer-type like the M50x. The earpieces are also replaceable, coming in soft padded and are adjustable/sliding.
Although great for mixing, the Behringer BT 880 headphones are also superb for everyday listening, just keep in mind that the semi-open design may leak some of the Katy Perry you’re guiltily listening to for others to hear on the train. There are quite a few other versions of the DT headphones as well to check out, such as the DT 770 (closed-back) or the DT 990 (fully open) if you want a specific design.
Sennheiser HD 600
- Weight: 9 ounces
- Design: Open, circamural
- Drivers: Unspecified (neodymium and aluminium voice coils)
- Frequency response: 12 – 39000 Hz
- Impedance: 300 ohms
- Open metal mesh make
- Detachable cable (Kevlar-reinforced)
- Cable: 9.8 feet
- Comes with 1/4″ adapter
Seinnheiser also brings an open-ear, circamural design with this one, stated to be one of the best studio headphones for mixing engineers. With the open design, some may complain about ‘sound leakage’, but that’s what they’re made for — sounding better, not privacy. Allowing some sound to leak out prevents buildup. These aren’t advised for iPods or any other smart device for that matter — due to the power of these things, you’ll need a headphone amp to get the full sound out of them. If not, it’ll be a bit of a waste of money.
The main advantage of the Sennheiser HD 600 headphones is the quality and overall resolution being very, very high. They’re also comfortable too (as we’d hope for the price). You can also go higher with their HD 650 for a few hundred more bucks.
- Weight: 12 ounces
- Drivers: 40mm (neodymium dynamic)
- Design: Closed-back, circamural
- Impedance: 44 Ohm
- Frequency response: 5 Hz – 25 kHz
- Cord: 9.8 ft coiled (detachable)
- Adjustable, moisture-wicking and padded headband
- Memory foam earpads (replaceable)
- Collapsible for easy travel and storage
- Gold played 3.5mm stereo mini plug
- Comes with 1/4″ adapter
Shure audio has always been a solid competitor in the audio game, although with headphones not as much since they’re mostly known for their microphones. However, this model right here is a huge hit among the studio headphone market. Featuring standard drivers and impedance, we aren’t necessarily concerned with that, however — the important thing is that they’re monitoring headphones, the bass is deep and treble is clear to give it a nice balance. I’d say these are the best studio headphones within the $200 range because it does what studio headphones are supposed to do: give you an accurate, clean sound. A few other pluses include an extremely comfortable, memory-foam ear pad (they’re also replaceable for a longer life), is collapsible for storage/travel and also features an interchangeable cable (a feature we love in the M50x).
Sennheiser HD-280 Pro
Features and specs:
- Design: Closed, around-the-ear
- Weight: 7.8 ounces
- Drivers: Not provided
- Frequency response: 8 – 25,000 Hz
- Impedance: 64 Ohms
- Cord length: 3.3 – 9.8 ft. coiled
- Replaceable: ear pads, headband padding and audio cord
- Collapsible earpieces of portability
- Swiveling ear cups
- Ergonomic design
We love this pair of studio headphones by Sennheiser. In actuality, their entire line of HD headphones is famous in the studio headphone world, regardless of use — they have mixtures of all types of builds and headphone types. This particular pair is praised by a lot of music junkies out there, having one of the most comfortable ear pads out there, is very lightweight and collapsible for portability. It’s around-the-ear so better for recording and sound isolation, but one of the most awesome features of this is the replaceable parts, helping extend the life by multiple years. They have over 6+ years of life as reported by many — this is an investment and very much worth the money. In terms of sound quality, all levels of frequency are reported to be clear.
The Senny HD-280 Pro headphones give us a very clean signal, bass is pretty precise and there’s no reports of hissing in the highs. They fit a bit tight but that’s because of their noise attenuation is passive — helps with ambient noise getting through to your ears. A huge steal for near a Benjamin and seen for even lower at times depending on where you look. PCMag rated them highly in their HD-280 Pro review.
Features and specs:
- Design: Circamural, full-sized
- Weight: 10 ounces (without cable)
- Drivers: 45mm (earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum coils)
- Frequency response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
- Impedance: 38 ohms
- 90 degree swiveling ear cups
- Collapsible for portability
- Detachable cables (comes with a 1.2m to 3.0m coiled, a 3.0m straight as well as a 1.2m straight cable for customizing)
Audio-Technica headphones have really dominated the game for a while now. Their original ATH-M50 are one of the most popular models out there. This new version of the M50 studio headphones includes an interchangeable cable to give you some options for connectivity, as well as 90-degree swiveling ear cups to help with mixing or portability. As far as ‘professional’ mixing and mastering, not too many gear heads are high on these as they’re between the line of pro mixing and/or mastering and the consumer-based listeners.
We’d recommend grabbing a pair of ATH-M50x headphones if you’re in a low-budget home studio, plan on using your headphones for everyday use or merely a mixture of the two. You can read our full review of the ATH-M50x headphones for more information. They’ve also just come out with a brand new upgrade to these, although they’re about twice the price. Read our ATH-M70x headphones review for some more info.
V-MODA Crossfade LP
- Design: Circamural, closed
- Weight: 9.5 ounces
- Drivers: 50mm (dual-diaphragm)
- Frequency Response: 5 – 30,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
- Impedance: 32 Ω
- Memory foam ear pads
- Steel frame
- Comes with hard carrying case (perfect for travel)
- Remote/mic cable for compatible devices
These things are tanks and have been a round for a very long time. What we love about V-MODA‘s most popular model is the security you get knowing there are reviews out there still saying their pair is working after numerous years of use. With hefty drivers of 50mm, an accurate, tuned flat sound and not to mention well-made all around (Kevlar cables and plugs, steel frame of metal and form-fitting case), this thing is a solid investment. Memory-foamed ear pads always attract me and these have it as they’re replaceable as well. Solid bass, a nice blend of mids and the highs aren’t amplified. The Crossfades are a little less known among the market, but the true headphone heads praise this pair for studio use.
The V-MODA Crossfade LP headphones blow those Dre models out of the water — it still baffles us that a celebrity name can sell so many mediocre headphones. There’s also a new limited edition, the V-MODA Crossfade LP2 that’s out for around $200 retail you can check out. But we’ve listed the OG pair because you can’t go wrong with years of back up.
AKG K 240 MK II
Features and specs:
- Weight: 10 ounces
- Design: Semi-open
- Frequency response: 15 to 25000 Hz
- Impedance: 55 Ohms
- Detachable cable (comes with coiled and straight)
- Gold plated plug
- 30 mm XXL transducers
- Self adjusting headband
AKG microphones and headphones is one of the better brands out there, giving us their famous original K240 headphones that have received a huge following. These particular headphones are semi-open, so a little sound will leak out but again that is to prevent build-up. Typically better for mixing, they also offer a self-adjustable headband with some very comfortable ear pads. The reason we’ve chosen the 240 MK II over the original K240 is because this version is merely a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” model with some improvements: comes with an extra cable and the cushions are a bit softer. Other than that, same specs and features with the same sound — just an all around accurate, flat sound. Bass and treble balance is matched…no complaints for their price. Also nifty is the interchangeable cable (they come with both a coiled and straight for your preference).
One of the best semi-open studio headphones out there. Grab the AKG K 240 MKII headphones while they’re cheap.
Ultrasone HFI-780 S-Logic
- Weight: 10 ounces
- Design: Circamural, closed-back
- Drivers: 40mm (Mylar gold-plated)
- Frequency range: 10Hz – 26kHz
- Impedance: 35 Ohms
- 1/8″ gold-plated plug, adapter and carry bag included
- Foldable for portability and storage
- Surround Sound technology
- Adjustable headband
Out for almost 13-14 years, these are still one of the best pairs we could find. In our opinion, this is Ultrasone’s best pair of headphones. Featuring a 40mm drivers with a nice Mylar make, they’re very rich and warm for a great studio sound. The entire build is stable coming with nice acoustics (metal shielding helps with isolation). The bass is actually pretty deep for a studio headphone, but not too amplified to where it’s obvious in the mixes. Earcups are comfortable as you won’t experience a lot of pain while you wear them.
The Ultrasone HFI-870 headphones are versatile for pretty much all genres of music and can be used for regular, everyday activities quite nicely. CNET’s review of the HFI headphones rates them quite nicely.
Grado Prestige Series SR80i
Features and specs:
- Weight: 5 ounces
- Design: On-ear, closed
- Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Replaceable ear-pads
- 1/4″ screw-on adapter included
- Vented diaphragm
- Non-resonant air chamber
These have disappointingly become discontinued but are still readily available on the internet as of today. These headphones by Grado Labs have extremely positive reviews, stating to be great for 4-5 years or even longer of use. They are pretty big as compared to others but are quite comfortable and lightweight. The sound quality has been documented by more than enough people who state the lows and highs are evenly matched and is worth looking at if you want a pair of studio headphones that are backed up by years of use by fellow audiophiles. A lot of headphone users who listen to rock said these stood out to them on Head-fi’s SR80 review, so if you’re into that particular genre these are a must. However, I wouldn’t necessarily discriminate in terms of type of music. We recommend this one if you’re in the $150 range and want a pair that you know works as documented by many.
Grab the Grado Prestige Series SR80i headphones while you can as they’ll continue to run out until extinct or can only be found used.
The Final Word on the Best Studio Headphones
We’ve never been the type to choose the actual best of something, especially with such an ambiguous and giant market such as the studio headphone realm. We do however recommend grabbing one of these ten we’ve listed as we carefully constructed our choices through a lot of research and personal usage. Be sure to remember the aspects we’ve provided and choose which best suits your needs and most importantly, your budget. Don’t fall for that Dre or other mainstream brand marketing BS!
Grab a real pair of studio headphones and you won’t be disappointed, especially as many of these come with replaceable parts. We just love the honesty of a lot of the brands because the major market companies wouldn’t dare choose replaceable part incorporation being they want you to buy a brand new pair every year or so if/when they break. They also don’t tune their headphones as accurately as possible like the brands we’ve mentioned today. A lot have magnified lows to appeal to the larger market, saturating the ‘studio’ word. We fear it’ll go out of style soon seeing as they’re draining that term as much as they possibly can until every cent is made out of it.
Let us know which pair you end up going with or already have!