Studio headphones serve a unique niche in the headphone ecosystem. While they get their name due to being specialized for professional work (and they’re built with sound signatures ideal for recording and mixing), a good pair of studio headphones can work perfectly suitable for just listening to music as well.
The goal with studio headphones is generally to create as neutral of a sound as possible, and good studio headphones are a practical necessity for DJs and music producers. Our list covers a broad range of choices from some of the biggest and most popular manufacturers around. The headphones that are right for you are naturally going to be a choice of personal preference, but this top ten list can serve as a great starting point.
- The Best Studio Headphones
- 1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
- 2. Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back
- 3. AKG K240STUDIO Studio Headphones
- 4. Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphone
- 5. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
- 6. Sennheiser HD280PRO
- 7. Tascam TH-02 Closed Back Headphones
- 8. Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones
- 9. Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
- 10. Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
- Best Studio Headphones Buyer’s Guide
The Best Studio Headphones
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica are widely renowned by audiophiles for their studio gear, but their most popular product is the ATH-M50x. Their remarkably high ratio of sound quality to price makes them arguably the best best budget studio headphones on the market, and they've gained a huge amount of popularity among YouTubers and those just starting off with sound engineering. You can count on them to provide you with strong clarity across an extensive frequency range, and their design is both highly durable and aesthetically pleasing. The shape isn't all about style either. The ear pieces lock in the sound to provide you with focused listening even in noisy environments. That said, these stylish headphones don't occupy the top tier as far as quality is concerned, but their a workmanlike choice that can provide you with a lot of mileage and last an exceptionally long time.
2. Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back
The second set of Sennheiser headphones on our list comes with a significantly steeper price tag, but it packs a lot more power than you'd find in the HD280 PRO. It's an "all-arounder" that can serve you admirably for years, and it's easily one of the most famous sets of headphones to be released in the past two decades. It may cost a decent chunk of change, but it offers some of the best value around. Out of all the headphones on our list, it's top of the line in terms of delivering neutral sound quality, and it fits comfortably and gently. It's also a highly durable set of headphones, but even if something happens to it, repairs are a simple and painless process. The treble and mid-range sound are pristine and crystal clear, and while the bass isn't perfect, that shouldn't be a dealbreaker.
3. AKG K240STUDIO Studio Headphones
These AKG studio headphones may be a bit underwhelming in design, but they provide a decent level of quality sound reproduction. While they aren't the best headphones that AKG has to offer, they can promise you better than average audio reproduction with a modest price tag. Just be aware that as far as the headphones on are list go, they offer some of the worst noise reduction. But while they won't do a lot to block out surrounding noise, they're very comfortable in design. While their bass performance isn't anything to write home about, the treble is strongly reproduced, and there's above average performance in terms of the mid-range. Due to their open design, they're something of an unconventional studio headphones, but they're bound to be a solid choice for listeners who don't want to drown out all the surrounding sound in a room.
4. Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphone
The sheer breadth of consumer electronics products that Sony produces is staggering, but that doesn't mean that Sony studio headphones are run of the mill. While many studio headphones split the difference between the demands of mixing and listening to music, the MDR-7506 focuses exclusively on the needs of the latter. That makes them one of the most highly regarded industry standards for work in the studio. Despite their modest price tag, they offer superb sound quality, a feat that they accomplish largely through the inclusion of neodymium magnets and 40mm drivers in each can. They're also surprisingly comfortable despite the lack of memory foam padding. The 9.8 foot coiled cord allows a decent range of movement when you're using them for work, and they offer a flat level of sound regardless of where the sound falls in terms of range.
5. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
Beyerdynamic is one of the leading manufacturers of high-end studio headphones, but it's comfort that puts the DT 770 a cut above the rest. The availability of these headphones in both an 80 ohm and 250 ohm variant means that you can find a set that meets your needs for monitoring, recording, and mixing. Unless you have the most highly tuned ear, you likely aren't going to recognize the difference. The closed-back design promises almost zero noise bleeding, and that's allowed it to continue to serve as one of the top choices for vocalists for decades. 45 mm drivers in each can provide a level of audio fidelity that's largely unsurpassed, and a ten foot cable allows you plenty of movement space in the studio or posted up in front of your stereo or your home theater system.
6. Sennheiser HD280PRO
Sennheiser might not be a name which much awareness outside of the audiophile community, but they're a stalwart of the industry, producing a diverse and consistently high-quality selection of studio gear. The HD 280 PRO is simply the best studio offering they have at under $100. The heavy duty design and professional approach to manufacturing makes these Sennheiser studio headphones a lasting choice for dedicated professionals, while the soft padding provides a fit that's snug and secure without pinching your ears. The hinge and swivel design is an efficient choice for producers and DJs. Some headphone manufacturers go a little too strong with the bass, but Sennheiser has taken a more modest tact here, a great choice when you need to really evaluate sound in the studio. And the sound signature is high-quality - offering the sort of value you'd expect from much more expensive cans.
7. Tascam TH-02 Closed Back Headphones
You simply won't find a pair of studio-grade headphones as cheap as the Tascam TH-02. Retailing at a low $29.99 and often going for less, they're the most economic pair of headphones around, and while they don't offer the level of quality to pricing that you'll find with the ATH-M50x, they're a perfect choice if you're on a tight budget. But they offer a respectable amount of crispness throughout the highs, mid-range, and low-end, and they look pretty stylish to boot. The ear cuffs are plushly designed, and the padded headband is designed to ensure maximum comfort even during long nights in the studio. Both cuffs offer 90 degree rotation, lending them an extra level of versatility, and they're an incredibly compact pair of headphones that you can easily stuff into a bag and take with you on the go.
8. Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones
When a producer with the fame and reputation of Dr. Dre endorses a set of studio equipment, it's worth taking the time to check them out. The Beats Studio3 are headphones made for the 21st century, and their technological innovations are challenged only by Bose's QuietComfort 35. These Beats studio headphones are completely wireless, and their batteries can provide you with up to 22 hours of performance on a single charge. The fast Fuel technology can provide you with an additional three hours of performance with just ten minutes of charging. Their Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling puts the Studio3 near the top of the list in terms of drowning out external sounds, while the inclusion of Siri support allows you to make phone calls, adjust the volume, or change tracks with a simple voice command. A huge array of color choices let you pick a look that suits you.
9. Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
The on-ear but open backed design of the SR80e is an oddity, but it's one that somehow works. And while they barely block any outside sound, that's not necessarily what every studio professional is looking for. The sound, however, is undeniably solid. That's especially apparent in the treble and mid-range, but the bass is also incredibly strong (an issue where a lot of headphones tend to fall short). The "Prestige Series" moniker is well placed. These are aesthetically interesting, calling back to the times of old timey radio, and they're sure to become conversation starters around the studio. Particularly worth of note is how open the stage is with the SR80e. That's because of the larger ear cushions and the four conductor cable connecting them. Grado is a bit of an odd duck in the field of headphones, but there's a clear amount of love and personality in these headphones.
10. Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II headphones have regularly topped the lists of best studio headphones for years, and they manage to maintain their position despite only making iterative improvements since they were first released. But this is a case of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". The latest addition (and admittedly a cool one) is the inclusion of dedicated compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant so you can access your music and pertinent information with simple voice controls. Bluetooth pairing is simple, and its synchronicity with the Bose Connect app provides it with even more versatility. But the sound performance here is also worthy of your attention. Three layers of noise cancelling allow you to get use out of them in any environment, while the balanced audio performance remains consistent no matter the volume. That makes these one of the best studio headphones for mixing.
Best Studio Headphones Buyer’s Guide
Advantages of Studio Headphones
Headphones designed for use in the studio tend to emphasize more specialized functions than more generic headphones that are marketed more directly to consumers. And while that makes them great for professionals, those same traits can be of value to more casual customers as well. There are three primary advantages you’ll find in studio headphones that are often neglected in other types of headphones.
Aural Neutrality: Studio headphones aren’t inherently designed to make music sound as pretty as possible. On the contrary, they’re designed to be as neutral as possible so that producers and recorders can identify flaws in a performance and resolve them. While that means that the best studio headphones aren’t going to provide you with the neatest sound, they will provide you with the most authentic sound, and that makes them great for both professionals and listeners who want to develop a more nuanced understanding of music.
Durability: Studio headphones are almost universally built to take a licking and keep on ticking. Many of the most revered headphones have been in production for decades, and the iterative nature of new editions means that a good pair of headphones for your studio could last into perpetuity. They’re built with the rigors of professional work in mind. Most studio headphones are built to last, and in instances where they do break, the modular nature of their design means that you can replace defective or broken components with little effort.
Value: While some of the headphones on this list cost in the hundreds, it’s important to consider not just the price of them but also the value you get for that price. The fact that studio headphones are catered to a specialized market and are often based off of designs that are decades old means that they generally offer you a whole lot of bang for your buck. While many of them aren’t as aesthetically pleasing or packed with modern technology features like their more consumer-based brethren, you’d be hard pressed to find non-studio headphones that offer the amount of performance for the price.
Related: You may like our guide on the best over ear headphones.
What is Frequency Response?
In practical terms, frequency response likely won’t mean much except to the most diligent connoisseurs of music. In short, frequency response tells you how much range there is for bass, mids, and trebles. In other words, it tells you what sounds a pair of headphones will pick up. Most headphones cover a range from 20 to 20,000 Hz, with the lower range representing bass and the higher number representing the treble.
While many headphones offer a wider range, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they offer a higher level of sound quality, and the ability for the headphones to register frequencies doesn’t necessarily mean your ears can. Bass below 20 Hz will typically feel more like vibration than sound, and many frequencies above 20,000 Hz aren’t going to be audible at all. The frequency response of your headphones may tell part of the story about their level of quality, but it likely shouldn’t be the major mitigating factor in your purchase.
What is Sensitivity?
When speaking about headphones, sensitivity refers to how effectively the drivers convert an electrical signal into acoustic noise. The results are clear sound without distortion. This isn’t a case where a lower or higher number is necessarily better or worse, as there are advantages to both.
Higher sensitivity headphones allow you to achieve better performance from a source with less power, but they can also display distortion at higher volumes, and that can in turn lead to damage to either the headphones themselves or the ears of their wearers. Lower sensitivity headphones require more power from their source, but they’re more durable and less prone to damage. Ultimately, sensitivity likely won’t be a make or break factor in picking the right set of headphones, but it’s something worth considering with your final purchase. Almost all headphones come with a sensitivity ranging from 90 to 110 dB due to the risk of serious damage that higher decibel levels can cause.
Closed-Back vs. Open-Back
There’s no simple answer to whether you should get closed-back or open-back headphones, as they both offer their own distinct strengths. A good pair of closed-back headphones will generally offer you much better sound isolation, drowning out unnecessary noise in the background while slightly boosting the bass. Open-back headphones, on the other hand, tend to offer a more natural and less manufactured sound, but they offer much less in the way of noise dampening.
See our noise cancelling headphones guide if you’re looking for specifically noise dampening headsets.
Studio headphones aren’t reserved solely for producers and DJs. The traits that make a lot of studio headphones great also make them a good choice for your daily commute or your home stereo system. That said, you need to ask yourself what you’re looking for in a pair of headphones. If a higher level of fidelity, durability, and value for price is worth it for you, any of the headphones on our list will be a reasonable choice for you.