10 Best Studio Headphones for Recording, Mixing & Mastering That Are Worth Buying 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 around the world are 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 for mixing and monitoring while you record, you obviously would not want any outside noise to influence what you hear. Choose a closed-back pair if you’re going to do a lot of monitoring while recording. It will let you hear the details with more clarity and will give you that consistent listening experience whether you’re listening in a small room, outdoors or a big space full of echo – it will work wherever you are.
  • If you want something for casual listening and if you’re also considering an extra mixing or mastering reference, then go for an open-back or semi-open pair of cans. This will not only give you a pleasurable listening experience but will also be good for comfortability – you’re less likely to sweat around the ears because it will let that space “breathe” a little.

Listening to closed-back headphones will let you hear music as if it’s playing inside your head, and the advantage lies in hearing the subtlest details that you might not hear on studio monitors or regular speakers. Meanwhile, open-back types will present the sound as if they’re playing all around you, with more space and distance

Pros and Cons of Mixing and Mastering on Headphones

Whichever type of headphones you use, there will always be some pros and cons, especially when it comes to mixing and mastering. Here’s a recap to take note of:

Pros:

  • Noise cancellation
  • Consistent listening experience (for closed-back types)
  • Monitoring subtle details in volume, pitch, distortion, noise, etc.
  • Portability
  • More affordable than buying a pair of studio monitors

Cons:

  • Possible ear fatigue or ear damage when used the wrong way and for long durations without breaks
  • Unnatural way of hearing music which might influence how your mixes translate to other 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:

  1. Sennheiser HD 650

Starting with one of the most high-end studio headphones, the Sennheiser HD 650 is a bit expensive but is definitely worth your money. With an elegant titanium-silver finish, this pair gives you a balanced, transparent, spatial sound, which is also optimized for high-resolution recordings. It is best suited for all types of audio and is also 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 very balanced reference. Remember that this one is an open-back type and noise cancellation will not be included. Despite that, it will still give you that comfortability while letting you hear music realistically.

  • 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 applicable for recording sessions.

  1. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Another open-back favorite used by most home studio producers and engineers, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro gives you that transparent sound, with an impressive soundstage, good bass response and detailed clarity. Priced at around $220, this pair comes in a durable design made with smooth memory foam earpads for comfortability and a sturdy metal headband.

Although some might be skeptical, given the fact that the rest of the headphones are made of plastic and don’t have a decent case or pouch, it is still worth buying for stationary studio use, as it gives the most natural-sounding listening experience while still paying attention to details.

  • Go-to choice for comfortability and sound
  • Open-back type without noise cancellation, perfect for mixing and mastering

  1. Audio Technica ATH-M50X

Another big player in the headphone game comes from Audio Technica, one of the leading worldwide brands in pro audio. Being one of the best-selling headphones on Amazon, this pair has an exceptional clarity in the mids and highs, while still giving that deep and accurate bass response.

Several key features that make it stand out include a 90-degree swiveling ear cup design with 3 detachable cables which is perfect for storage, traveling, or replacement.

  • One of the most affordable, popular for its portability, flexibility and freebies
  • Closed-back headphones which are perfect for recording, mixing and mastering

  1. Sony MDR 7506

The Sony MDR 7506 is one of the most widely used studio headphones and has been around since 1991. Popular for monitoring and tracking, these pair of headphones translate different frequency responses with clarity while giving it that neutral sound. It comes with a ¼ inch adapter, a foldable design and a decent headphone bag for storage.

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. Nevertheless, the Sony MDR 7506 still gives you a great value for your money, for as low as $100-$150.

  • Has been around for quite some time now, praised for its neutral sound signature and durability
  • Closed-back headphones perfect for recording, mixing and mastering
  • Not too comfortable when used for long listening sessions

  1. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

As worth it as it is with its open-back cousin, DT 990 Pro, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is another go-to headphones for recording, mixing and mastering. Available in 3 different impedances (30, 80, and 250 ohms), the DT 770 Pro has a sturdy, yet adjustable design with its soft, circumaural and replaceable ear pads for comfortability.

When it comes to sound, it gives a more prominent bass, transparent and detailed mids to highs with a less spatial feel. For a closed-back type like this, the noise cancellation is great for recording and monitoring.

  • Popular among music producers and audio engineers, known for its comfortability and sound accuracy
  • Closed-back headphones perfect for recording, mixing and mastering

  1. Bose Quiet Comfort 35ii

Although the Bose Quiet Comfort 35ii was originally made for casual listening, it has been quite popular with musicians and audiophiles due to its sound, comfort, noise cancellation and wireless features. If you’re looking to add another set of headphones as an extra reference while you’re outside of the studio, these are the perfect pair for you.

Some of its key features include three levels of world-class cancellation, Alexa-enabled commands, hassle-free Bluetooth pairing via the Bose connect app, as well as a noise-rejecting, dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice pick-up.

In terms of the sound, the low end is more pronounced and is a bit warmer throughout the frequency range. Maybe not as useful for transparent mixing and mastering, but definitely great for on-the-go referencing.

  • Most suitable for casual listening and on-the-go referencing
  • Wireless closed-back type with cool features

 

  1. AKG K 240 MKII

This semi-open pair of cans may be the most affordable among the list, but don’t be fooled by its cheap price. The AKG K 240 MKII Studio Headphones have a light yet sturdy design, with a self-adjusting headband for optimum fit, patented Varimotion 30 mm XXL transducer for accurate signal transfer and great dynamic range.

This pair has a clean and warm sound to it, a little bit tame on the low-end but definitely has clear mids and highs.

  • One of the most affordable studio headphones on the market
  • Known for its warm sound signature
  • Closed-back headphones perfect for recording, mixing and mastering

  1. Grado SRE80 Prestige Series

One of the most retro-looking, open-back headphones on the market, the Grado SRE80 Prestige Series is a unique pair on a quite affordable price range. This pair comes with large ear cushions on its swiveling ear cups perfect for comfortable listening, flexibility and portability while providing an adjustable, soft vinyl headband.

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A pair of great-sounding headphones with a flat response and a little bit of brightness; wide soundstage with clean mids that will surely give you that balanced and natural listening experience.

  • Vintage-looking headphones known for its unique design
  • Flat response with a little bit of brightness
  • Open-back type which is suitable for mixing and mastering, but not applicable for recording sessions.

  1. Sennheiser HD 800 S

Coming in as the most expensive pair on the list, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is one of the best open-back headphones for mixing and mastering. Made with the largest drivers ever used in dynamic headphones, has innovative absorber technology, a slightly angled ear cup design for a more natural and spatial listening experience, splurging on these pair of cans will definitely be worth the investment.

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.

How does it sound, you ask? The HD 800 S is well-known for its clarity 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.

  • Popular among audio engineers and audiophiles, known for its accurate response, clarity and superb sound
  • Quite expensive headphones perfect for mixing and mastering
  • Open-back type without noise cancellation

  1. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

Last but not the least, another Sennheiser contender – the HD 280 Pro. These dynamic, closed-back headphones have a lightweight and comfortable ergonomic design perfect 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.

For as low as a hundred dollars, these set of cans may not be the best looking, but is definitely one of the most neutral-sounding on the market.

  • Known for its affordability, flexible design and neutral sound signature
  • Closed-back type perfect for recording, mixing and mastering

Conclusion

Now that you have a list of headphones to consider, which one are you eyeing to buy? What are other headphones that you think are also worth buying?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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