Best Studio Mixing & Reference Headphones

Best Studio Headphones

Last Update: October, 2019

If you enjoy creating music or are curious about getting into the world of music production, one of the first things you're going to need is a good pair of studio headphones. Studio headphones are basically non-commercial headphones that are designed for music production, mixing, and creation.

It's really easy to get confused about what actually qualifies as studio headphones. Basically, studio headphones are headphones meant to be used in a studio.

Consumer headphones, such as earbuds and common headphone brands, often edit sound to improve the listening experience. Studio headphones don’t edit sound at all, setting them apart from the consumer headphones you can get at most places.

It’s also important to remember that just because headphones have the word ‘studio’ in their name, it doesn’t mean that they are actually studio headphones.

Before buying headphones for studio purposes, you’ll want to make sure they are actually meant for music production, not just labeled with the word ‘studio’ as a marketing tool.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on a good pair of studio headphones, especially if you’re wanting to make the music you create as good as it can be.

You’re going to be using your headphones quite frequently and you’ll want them to last you a long time. Beyond that, spending money on headphones with great audio quality is only going to make your music creation better.

Today, pretty much anyone with a computer has the ability to create, mix and produce music, and you don’t necessarily need a studio to need studio headphones. Where and how you produce music should be a factor you consider when choosing studio headphones.

If you're an on-the-go producer, a portable pair of headphones is vital. If you work out of a studio, a good pair of high-quality studio headphones will do the trick.

Whether you’re just diving into the world of music producing, mixing and creating or you’re a seasoned expert, a good pair of headphones is not something you can pass up.

Choosing the right headphones may seem complicated and confusing, but taking into consideration your preferred style, studio situation and desired features will make the search easier.

Headphones

Summary

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

For the beginner music producer, these headphones make a great starter pair. They have many awesome features for an affordable price.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

This option from Audio-Technica would be great for that next-level music creator. Praised for their sonic performance, these headphones match amazing quality with comfort.

AKG K240STUDIO

AKG K240STUDIO

These sleek, classically designed headphones come at an affordable price point. They are a great option for use inside and out of the studio.

Sennheiser HD280PRO

Sennheiser HD280PRO

These closed-ear headphones promise warm and natural sound. They are designed for a professional studio environment and are perfect for monitoring.

Beyerdynamic DT 990

Beyerdynamic DT 990

Perfect for sound mixing, these headphones have an open design, providing airy, spacious sound. They are perfect for the music mixer looking for great headphones for studio use.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Come with an adapter
  • Seal around ears

Cons:

  • May not last long

More About The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

With these headphones, you're getting good quality for an affordable price. The M20x headphones come with many features vital to any studio headphones, such as a comfortable, durable design and great sound isolation.

In addition, they are specially tuned for better low-frequency performance, which will assist in sound mixing.

If you’re just starting in music production or enjoy creating music at home on your own computer or home studio, these would be a great option for you. They aren’t too elaborate or pricey; they simply get the job done well and won’t break your bank.

>> Related Content: Best Headphones For Drummers

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OneOdio Monitor Headphones

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

Sony MDR7406

Sony MDR7406

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

Pros:

  • Swiveling earcups
  • Multiple color options
  • Collapsable for maximum portability

Cons:

  • Ear cups may be small for some

More About The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

At a higher price point than the M20x, these headphones are basically an upgrade from their lower-value counterparts.

They come with many of the same features as the M20x, including maximum sound isolation by sealing around your ears, but are designed for enhanced performance through a wide frequency range.

They would be perfect for a more seasoned music producer looking for great headphones for use in the studio and on the go. They are a bit pricier than some other options, but the quality they provide is worth the cost if you’re looking for the best studio headphones.

Shop Related Products

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

Sony MDR7406

Sony MDR7406

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

Pros:

  • XXL transducers
  • Replaceable cable
  • Durable and portable

Cons:

  • Low volume

More About The ​AKG K240STUDIO

The AKG K240STUDIO headphones are a classic, professional option at an affordable price. They have many great features, including a semi-open design, suspension to enhance comfort and a detachable cable in case of cable damage. This is great if you’re someone who gets frustrated with cables breaking.

Their cheap price and durable design would make another great starter pair of headphones for someone who wants to use them for many different situations. Their durability and portability make them great for on-the-go use as well as studio use.

Shop Related Products

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

Sony MDR7406

Sony MDR7406

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

Pros:

  • Headband padding
  • Closed-ear design
  • Noise canceling

Cons:

  • Not very portable

More About The ​Sennheiser HD280PRO

Perfect for monitoring, these headphones will deliver accurate sound and eliminate ambient noise. They are specifically designed for a studio environment and aren’t as portable as some other studio headphone options, so if you typically work in a studio environment these are the headphones for you.

Another great feature of these headphones is their replaceable earpads, headband padding and cord for increased longevity. If you are looking to equip your studio with great headphones that you won’t have to replace for a while, these headphones would be perfect.

Shop Related Products

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

Sony MDR7406

Sony MDR7406

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

Pros:

  • Black and grey color options
  • Single-sided cable
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Trebles sound a bit too strong

More About The ​Beyerdynamic DT 990

If you prefer headphones that are open instead of ones with a closed design, these headphones would be the ones for you. They are designed to control bass and are perfect for both studio monitoring and sound mixing.

In addition, if you typically have trouble with ear pads, you may like the soft velour ear pads on these headphones.

These headphones are lightweight and sleek, making them a great alternative to heavy, closed, noise canceling headphones.

Shop Related Products

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

OneOdio Monitor Headphones

Sony MDR7406

Sony MDR7406

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Audio-Technica ATHM50X

Beats Studio3

Beats Studio3

What are Studio Headphones?

Studio headphones are basically special headphones that are specifically meant to be used for music creation in a studio environment. They are different from commercial headphones and earbuds that are simply meant for listening to music for pleasure and leisure.

Studio headphones serve a specific purpose and are usually much higher quality than consumer earbuds and cheap headphones.

The main difference between studio and consumer headphones is that studio headphones do not alter frequency; this means that they have a flat frequency response. This means that they don’t boost the bass or treble, so you can hear the music accurately how it is.

Your headphones using certain elements of what you’re listening to are perfectly fine for commercial use and pleasure because it makes music sound more appealing, but for music production, you want to hear everything honestly and naturally.

Studio headphones can be used for music creation, recording, mixing, mastering and monitoring. They also come in many different styles for different kinds of use.

Closed-backed headphones cancel any and all outside noise and don't allow any sound out. Open-backed headphones allow sound in and out, which can be a disadvantage.

However, they create an airy sound and contribute to the spatial dimension in the music being edited.

Studio headphones are commonly designed to sit over the ear, using a headband and ear pads, but they can also come as in-ear headphones, more similar to commercial earbuds.

Different studio headphones may be better for different elements of studio production and depend on personal preference. Which studio headphones you choose simply depends on your style and how you choose to achieve the best music creation.

Aspects to consider

When you are looking for headphones it is important to consider why you need them and what features you need to have to get the best experience possible.

Are You Using Them For Recording Or Mixing

It is important to know what you are planning to use them for because there is a difference between the quality needed for recording and mixing. Recording headphones do not need to be as sensitive as those used for mixing.

So if you are just looking for a pair of headphones for the recording you do not need to focus on higher quality models with extra features. But mixing headphones need to be able to pick up on and distinguish between the subtle differences in frequency, volume and everything else.

You can always look for something more versatile that can be used for both, but it is important to make sure that it will be good enough for mixing.

Comfort

This is recommended because having a matched pair gives you the chance to obtain the most sound from your instruments. Along with that, these will be produced together so they will easily work in singularity for better recordings.

Having unmatched microphones also has the chance of causing discrepancies in the sound. This becomes the most noticeable when the mic is closer to what you are recording.Comfort is key in finding the right headphones for you. If your headphones are too tight or loose, or just feel a bit off, you can spend more time adjusting them than actually listening.

You need to consider how long you will be wearing your headphones and if you will be comfortable with wearing those headphones that entire time.

If not, you will waste time and possibly miss something important by fiddling with your headphones or repeatedly taking them on and off.

Sound Signature

It is important to consider the evenness of the sound signature of your headphones. Too much bass can become overbearing and make it difficult to hear and understand the rest of the audio.

Too little bass can be underwhelming. That is why it is so important that you find a pair of headphones that have a neutral sound signature.

How Do You Want It To Sit On Your Ears

There are three types of ways a headphone can sit on your ears. You can have the headphones that sit inside your ears, which provide less comfort that headphones that sit on the outside of your ear.

They are also not going to block out any outside noise so they are not recommended for mixing. You also have an on-ear option that will sit directly on your ear and allows you to listen in comfort, but not block out outside noises.

Over-ear options are not only covering your ear but what is around it, which allows you to block out the outside noises and focus on what is playing. If you are looking for the more isolated experience and better sound quality, over the ear headphones are the way to go.

Frequency Response

While it is not a sole representation of the sound quality of the headphones, it is important to make sure your headphones have an appropriate frequency range.

Frequency is measured in hertz, or Hz and human normally hear between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. Consider how great you need your frequency range to be and make sure the headphones will be able to register them.

How Much Can You Spend

High-quality headphones can be on the pricey side so it is important to have a budget set when shopping. You can get a great pair of studio headphones without spending a lot of money to find out what you can afford and what you will be comfortable spending on headphones and look for options that fit in that bracket.

Types of Headphones

There are three types of studio headphones that you need to choose from. Each serves their own purpose and have pros and cons you will need to weigh to find the right pair of headphones for you.

Closed Back Studio Headphones

Closed back studio headphones are completely closed over the ear with either high-quality foam or leather ear pads to create a completely isolating experience. This means you are completely canceling out noise from the outside world and focusing entirely on the audio coming through your headphones.

This makes them ideal for those trying to work in areas where there is a lot of outside noises that can complicate your ability to fully take in what is playing in the headphones. However, if you use closed back studio headphones you can also be subject to soundwaves bouncing off the headphones.

Because they are completely closed, it not only keeps everything else out but traps what is being played inside. When these soundwaves bounce it can cause an audio reflection which makes it difficult to fully take in what you are listening to.

It can also affect your hearing over long periods of time because of the intensity the sound is played into your ears. This means that after prolonged use you can have hearing loss if not used sparingly.

Open Back Studio Headphones

Open back studio headphones are designed to provide a mesh over the ears rather than fully closing it off. This will give you a way for the sound to escape so you do not get sound waves bouncing back inside the headphones and causing distortion.

They also allow you to hear what is playing in the headphones and the outside world. This makes them ideal for those who DJ or perform live shows because they can hear the music they are playing without blocking out the audience that you need to be entertaining.

However, open back studio headphones can be an issue for those trying to mix in loud spaces. You won’t be able to block outside noise with these headphones and it can become hard to focus and pick up on every detail when you are also taking in outside noise.

Semi-Open Back Studio Headphones

If you want to have a pair of headphones that is a halfway point between an open back and a closed back then you should consider a pair of semi-open back studio headphones. They are solid over the ear like the closed back headphones but feature several holes to allow the sound waves a place to get out, rather than being stuck inside.

This means you have a good middle ground that will prevent any possible ear damage from occurring. It also allows you more isolation from the outside noises as well as preventing what is playing from getting out.

It is not as noise canceling as the fully closed headphones, but it will be much more effective than the fully open headphones. This makes them more versatile and can be used at both live events like concerts or DJing, as well as in the studio.

They are slightly less accurate than either the fully open or fully closed headphones but will be able to do the job in a wider variety of situations than if you were simply using one or the other.

That means one pair of semi-open back studio headphones can easily be used in a variety of situations throughout the day rather than needing separate headphones for different scenarios.

Conclusion

A quality pair of headphones can make a world of difference when it comes to the studio. That is why it is so important to find the right pair of headphones for your needs. Consider what you will be using the headphones for and what kind of fit and sound you want from them.

There are so many fantastic models out there with plenty of features so take your time and figure out exactly what you need and how much you are willing to spend.

Once you have the right pair of headphones, it will make your work and fun so much better and you will never want to go back.

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