10 Best Studio Headphones for Recording, Mixing & Mastering in 2019.
Monitoring and mixing music can be tricky. Using studio monitors will let you listen to your mixes in the most natural and comfortable way, but the question lies in how much accuracy.
This is where studio headphones come help. While only very premium studio monitors can help monitor the tiny details, less expensive headphones can help you monitor the smallest details from background noise, offensive frequencies, to subtle volume changes, which you may miss if you’re monitoring with regular speakers or cheaper studio monitors.
For audio engineers, music producers and artists on a tight budget, using headphones will get the job done if you’re just starting out.
Although I’ll never advise you to mix and master with headphones alone, having a pair of transparent-sounding cans will be a reliable addition to help you make better mixes.
Closed-back vs. Open-back – Which One Should You Choose?
The two types of commonly used headphones in studios; closed-back and open-back headphones. Closed-back headphones are completely sealed around the back which enables noise cancellation from the outside and vice-versa, while open-back or semi-open ones aren’t sealed but lets you hear music more naturally.
When it comes to choosing which type is right for you, it will be good to consider these factors:
- If you’re using it to track music while recording, choose a closed-back headphone. You don’t want sound leakage from your cans to be recorded by the microphone.
- Casual listening or for mixing and mastering? Then an open-back or semi-open headphones might fit the job better, as they are usually more natural sounding. It also gives you a more pleasurable listening experience, which means you’ll be able to work longer on them.
Pros and Cons of Trying to Mix and Master on Headphones
No matter the type of headphones you use, there will always be some pros and cons – especially when it comes to mixing and mastering.
Pros for mixing on headphones:
- Gives you better attention to mixing detail.
- Monitoring subtle details in volume, pitch, distortion, noise, etc.
- More affordable than buying a pair of studio monitors – especially if you’re just starting your studio.
- Faster ear fatigue with long mixing sessions.
- Unnatural way of hearing music which might influence how your mixes translate on other playback devices.
Now that you have a background of what to expect as well as other factors to consider, here is a list of headphones that are worth buying in 2019:
Starting with one of the most high-end studio headphones, the Sennheiser HD 650 (open back) is on the higher end but could be worth your money. Besides the elegant titanium-silver finish, it is known to produce a balanced, transparent & spatial sound, specially optimized for high-resolution monitoring. You’ll find that it’s a favorite among mixing and mastering engineers.
When it comes to the sound, the bass is smooth while the mids and highs are clear enough to give you a balanced reference. Remember that this one is an open-back headphone, so people around you can hear what you’re listening to. That aside, rest assured that The Sennheiser HD 650 is one of the most comfortable studio monitor headphones around.
- High-end studio headphones, popular among audio engineers and audiophiles.
- Smooth bass, clear mids, and highs.
- Open-back type which is suitable for mixing and mastering, but not suggested for recording sessions.
Another open-back favorite used by many home studio producers and engineers, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro gives you a transparent sound, with an impressive soundstage, good bass response, and detailed clarity. Priced at $220, this pair comes in a durable design made with smooth memory foam earpads for comfortability and a sturdy metal headband.
Though sturdy, I wouldn’t recommend frequent traveling with this pair of headphones because it has many parts made of plastic, plus it doens’t come with a decent travel case or pouch. For stationary use in your studio, no doubt it’s a studio headphone with a transparent and natural sound.
- Go-to choice for comfortability and sound.
- Perfect for detailed audio editing and mixing.
3 – Audio Technica ATH-M50X
Another big player for studio headphones comes from Audio Technica. One of the best-selling headphones online, the ATH-M50X is chosen by many because of its sound clarity in the mids and highs. You’ll find that the ATH-M50 also gives you that deep and accurate bass response.
Several extra key features that make it stand out, especially for DJ’s include a 90-degree swiveling ear cup design with 3 detachable cables – making it perfect for on the road usage and touring.
- Popular for its great balanced sound.
- Long-lasting design with replaceable cups and cables.
- Closed-back headphones which are perfect for recording, tracking, and DJ-ing.
4 – Sony MDR 7506
The Sony MDR 7506 has been around since 1991. Popular for monitoring and tracking, these pair of headphones translate different frequency responses with clarity while producing a neutral, flat sound. As with most studio headphones, it also comes standard with a ¼ inch adapter, a foldable design and a decent headphone bag for storage. you can try this headphones on ps4 remote play mac as it was previously known as best headphone to generate awesome gaming experience on ps4 remote play apk.
These closed-back headphones might get a little uncomfortable after a long listening session, so don’t forget to take a break every now and then. However, with its price of $128, the Sony MDR 7506 gives you great monitoring and a great value for your money.
- Has been around for quite some time now, praised for its neutral sound signature and durability.
- You can trust a headphone that has been tried and tested through the years!
- Closed-back headphones perfect for recording, mixing and mastering.
- Can get uncomfortable when used for long listening sessions.
5 – Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Different from its open-back cousin, DT 990 Pro, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is a nice closed-back studio headphone for recording, mixing and mastering. Available in 3 different impedances (30, 80, and 250 ohms), where you can choose to go with the model with higher impedance if you’re only going to monitoring in your studio. The high impedance models have better sound clarity, better bass definition, and a bigger soundstage.
However, if you travel a lot, getting the lower impedance headphones would make better sense – since even portable devices like your smartphone would be able to amp it.
However, generally, all three models sound good and are well-suited for mixing and mastering work at the studio. It’s ear pads are also replaceable and amazingly comfortable.
- Popular among music producers and audio engineers.
- Known for its comfortability and sound accuracy.
- Closed-back headphones perfect for recording, mixing and mastering.
6 – AKG K 240 MKII
This semi-open pair of cans may be the most affordable and seemingly simple among this list, but never look down at it because of its price.
The AKG K240 is a super sturdy headphone that will last you many years of use and wear and tear, with its metal band. Fitted with a 30mm driver, they may lack a little depth in bass response but overall it produces a clean and well-balanced sound with good accuracy.
The dynamic range on the AKG K240 is well pronounced, making it ideal for mixing your tracks. Simple, lightweight yet amazingly functional in its sound reproduction, many other manufacturers like Samson and Focusrite, has even come out with their own headphones (OEMs) like the Samson SR850, that follows the same design of the AKG K240.
- One of the most affordable studio headphones on the market
- Known for its warm sound signature and accurate sound response.
- Semi-open headphones for mixing and mastering.
7 – Grado SRE80 Prestige Series
Grado headphones may not very popular compared to other earmark brands like Audio Technica or Sennheiser. However, if you’re after a good pair of headphones that would last you many years, look no further than the Grado SRE80 Prestige Series.
A unique headphone at quite an affordable price, its large ear cushions design fits perfect for comfortable listening and sitting through long mixing sessions. Soundwise, they offer a flat sound response and an accented bit of brightness – giving you a well-balanced frequency response and natural sounding listening experience.
- Love or hate its vintage looking design.
- Flat response with a little bit of brightness.
- Open-back type which is suitable for mixing and mastering.
- Great pair of cans for sound editing work.
8 – Sennheiser HD 800 S
Coming in as the most expensive pair on the list (a whopping $1,499), the Sennheiser HD 800 S may not be the choice for most – but it’s one of the best open-back headphones for mixing and mastering. Made with the largest drivers, 56mm ever used in studio monitor headphones it offers a larger than life, super accurate and transparent sound.
The open-back structure makes it a very comfortable headphone to listen on to. Another feature to watch out for is that it comes with two cables – a 6.3mm connector and another one with a 4-pin XLR balanced connector.
The HD 800 S is well-known for its clarity, great sound stage and balance while having superb stereo imaging. If you want a three-dimensional listening experience with an excellent representation of details, this pair of headphones is your perfect match.
- Great sounding, high clarity and sound imaging.
- Expensive open-back headphones but worth it if you’re big into using a pair of headphones for mixing.
9 – Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
The HD 280 Pr0 is a well-built, lightweight and comfortable headphones, designed for long hours of listening sessions. Its swiveling ear cups and foldable design also makes it perfect for storage, flexibility as well as on-the-go mixing and mastering.
They don’t look very sexy, but the sound reproduction on the Sennheiser HD280 Pro is neutral and flat. It’s also pretty accurate and you’ll be able to listen to the little details in your track. Cost-wise, it’s suited for music producers who are budget conscious but need headphones that they can rely on for mixing work.
- Affordable studio headphones. Known for its neutral and transparent sound signature.
- Closed-back type perfect for recording.
- A great can for mixing too.
10 – Bose Quiet Comfort 35ii
Okay, what are Bose headphones doing here in this list? Well, hear me out.
Every piece of music that you mix and master in your studio, will eventually be listened on a consumer grade audio playback system – headphone or speaker. This is where the Bose Quiet Comfort 35ii comes in.
Soundwise, I’ll be first to admit that the Quiet Comfort 35ii has accented bass response and is not very precise. However, they make great cans for long listening and would be great to work on a rough mix with them. After all, most of your listeners will also be listening to headphones like this – so it makes sense to reference your mix on the Bose QC35 to understand how your mix translates to the playback system for most.
Some of its key features include three levels of world-class cancellation and also being wireless – which would be a nice addition for referencing work, as part of your production workflow.
- Good for referencing your mixes.
- Extremely comfortable. You’ll be able to work longer hours with them.
I’ve recommended a list of good studio headphones you can consider for mixing and mastering. Are there any headphones that should make this list? Which studio headphones are you currently using now?
Let us know by leaving your comments below.