We offer a selection of our recommended headphones for studio use, picking out our top choices at a range of price points.
Choosing a pair of headphones for production is probably an even more personal decision than choosing a pair of studio monitors. Not only do you have the sound to worry about, but you’ve also got the ergonomics, build quality and even the appearance to consider.
The fact that many producers can’t justify the expense of multiple pairs of headphones complicates matters further. In an ideal world we’d all have separate headphones for different tasks – mixing, sound design, recording, DJing, listening for pleasure – but in reality, budgets often necessitate finding a compromise.
We’ve put together a selection of our favourite models, presented as a list of starting points for further research; what works for one person might not work for others, but we’d recommend checking out these models first (and do make sure to check them out in person if there’s any way you can).
Like monitors, you generally get what you pay for with headphones; more expensive models tend to offer a more accurate, less fatiguing sound and more comfortable fit for extended listening. But that’s not to say you can’t get different value for money at any given price point. All of the models recommended here represent good value for money when compared to other alternatives at a similar price.
Like monitors, you generally get what you pay for with headphones
All the headphones here are either on-ear (supra-aural) or over-ear (circum-aural) models, and we’ve included a mixture of open-back and closed-back models. Generally speaking the open models will have a purer, more neutral sound but poor isolation, meaning they’re less favourable for tracking and not suitable for use in noisy environments. Most of our selections are low impedance models that can be driven by any device. The few slightly higher impedance selections will benefit from a quality headphone amplifier, whether a standalone unit or one built into an audio interface.
As always in Ten Of The Best, the choices here are presented in ascending order of price. At the cheaper end of the scale we’re paying particular attention to models that fit the bill for multi-purpose use: models chosen primarily for producing, but and general listening. As we move on to the more expensive options, we focus in on production and headphones more suited to mixdowns.
I Can definitely vouch for the focal spirit’s. They’re incredibly detailed, but still give me the punch and sense of energy (a la HD25) when producing electronic music. Also versatile in that they can be warmed up with a nice DAC and used as casual listening headphones.
You can’t have an article that reads “Ten of the best: headphones for music production” and then almost only include budget headphones. Almost all these headphones are low-budget. What about Audeze’s LCD line and Sennheiser HD800? They beat the crap out of the HD650’s.
I have Focal speakers and absolutely love them so would be interested in hearing their headphones.
The best and most honest headphones I’ve ever used for production are the Shure SRH1840 (which are open back)
Title should say “best headphones for music production on a budget”.
Audeze make great headphones, but theyre not in the same price range as the other cans mentioned. Their cheapest model El-8 is twice the retail price of HD650s. Not to mention the high end headphones need an amp and proper DAC to achieve their full potential.
My friend has got the mx 40’s and holy moly they are amazing! The sound from them headphones are incredibly full and kinda vibrant, everything is crystal clear and literally just
Audeze’s are stupidly overpriced and not very good for producing. Nice flattering hifi sound and everything but I AB’d the LCD3’s against HD600’s and they’re nowhere near as revealing. I’d take the 600’s any time. Oh, did I mention they’re over a grand cheaper?…
I guarantee if you held a single-blind listening test, most producers and engineers tastes wouldn’t correlate preference with price point.
I have K240iis myself. They are nice and clear and I love the open back design sound. They do not feel as robust as some DJ headphones that I have, and that’s my only compliant, which is rather a moot point for their main purpose.
The KRK KNS-8400 are great for mixing they don’t cost a lot and at the opposite end of the spectrum sit the Sennheiser HD800 they are also great for mixing …. I’m actually somewhat surprised at what this article included and missed. Ah-well .. I hope somebody doesn’t use this as their sole reference when buying.
In fairness to the article, it sais “ten OF the best” headphones. Not “THE top 10″… Can’t expect the writer to have listened to every headphone ever made
Ha, I knew the MDR-7510 would be on the list. I literally only bought them because Aphex said they were the best he’d ever heard
I’ve got the HD600 and the HD650 and the 600’s are by far the better headphone for making critical mix decisions.
I love my DT-770’s for producing techno. Incredible bass, soundstage, and detailed high end!
Highly recommended phones!
Really love my DT-880. Great sound, good build quality and definitely worth the price.
No Denon’s? Though discontinued, the DH2000’s are remarkably flat, and dead-honest, while still having lots of balls. They’re linear down to around 30 hz, with no bump like the DT770’s f.e.
Also discontinued and recommended for AWESOME BASS LOVERS (dubstepelectrotrapwompwobbleetc.)…
I highly recommend the Sony MDR-XB700.
I have no idea why Sony discontinued them, only to watch the price rise over triplefold in used auctions and the like. The XB700s are warm, punchy, and deliver an ultra low-end that’s relevant to a lot of modern dance music — great for nailing those sub tones without monitor speakers! Yes, you can entirely mix & master on these. The phat bass doesn’t obscure shiny details in the upper registers. When using with a computer, consider pairing with a quality preamp like RME’s audio interfaces.
See if you can find a pair and hear if they’re right for you… I originally got my pairs for $60-80, an impressive bargain.
The Sennheiser 600 is more neutral, flatter frequency than the 650.
It`s cheaper too
The ATH M40x seems to have a balanced, flatter frequency response curve than even the 50. Seems like a top notch buy for the price although there’s a slight 4Db variation around the 100-400hz mark between L & R. Still, incredibly accurate responses on the bass and high frequencies (12,000 – 20,000 Hz)
Disappointed that Beats by Dre weren’t in this list. You just can’t beat the de boxing specs
above – LOL beats by dre … really? Peace of crap!
I am surprised that the beyerdynamic dt 880 pro are listed but the dt 990 pro not. They are so much detailed, brilliant and punchy! Really missing that one.
Well as we all know the most important thing about a good pair of headphones is how cool you look wearing them, some of these are ugly! Where are the beats headphones by my main G Dr Dre?
The Shure 840 are great. I’ve been using them for 4-5 years now and love them. Switched from Sony’s and Sen’s and never looked back.
This article was very helpful! Thanks a lot
Great article – like the Focals, might buy a set on payday 🙂
Thanks, this was a great article. I can appreciate they are looking after producers with a budget. 🙂
This headphones you should listen for the overall development.
Price low to high
Yamaha RH-5ma — great budget, detail sound, great bass
AKG 545 — clear, detail sound, good bass.
Yamaha HPH 220 — undervalued, i think best for electronic music, they have all you need.
Beyerdynamic 770\80 — frequency resp have downturn on mids, a.o. the sound in 770 like in speakers, wide space.
Beyerdynamic 250/250 — very dry and monitor sound, great hi and mid. Downturn on bass from 20 to 100. But if you have monitors with great bass its headphones for you.
Sennheiser HD600/HD650 — classic.
Audeze LCD series — great, but for this price you can buy good speakers)
Had a pair of Sennheiser HD 25A for 13 years, with me on travels, gigs, in the studio for 10 years. Finally, I gave them to a kid I met in California. Still working of course. My point? Read that again.
I think the Shure SRH 1440s are a total classic and I love mine!
I have the Focal Spirit pros and they sound amazing but after about 6 months of careful use cracks are appearing on the sides, this has been well reported elsewhere, and could be due to size of head I just hope they can improve the build quality. I also have Focal monitors and they pair really well with those.
I think Audio Technica ATH M50x is missed in this list.
DT990 FTW 🙂
I have the HD25 sp ii …for almost 4 years as of now…My production has been tight , as the Lo Mid and Hi mid frequencies are outstanding ….The Mixes are sounding are phenomenal , after churning the Masters .
For the music lovers who understands digital technology: Turtle Beach has headphones that process in the digital domain, with dual band wi-fi, multiple soundfields, EQ presets, pure digital processing right up to the ear cups, user selectable EQ, programmable memory wheel, 50mm rare earth drivers, OFC, and Dolby Digital Surround, user selectable 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 DTS. Comparable to audiophile headphones when using analog wired connection. When used in digital dual band wi-fi and bluetooth, they are superior to an analog OFC connection. Flat, extended response, incredible detail, powerful and clean. They are not for studio engineers who process in analog, but have a microphone (removable) that could be handy for DJ’s and all the bell and whistles with quality sound and hours of comfort that an audiophile would want. They can run as high as $300+ for some models. 3 year warranty is typical, not 90 days like some headphone brands. Give a listen, read reviews, this technology is going to obsolete speaker wires when speakers have self contained bi-amplification.
I agree about the sound quality of the Focal Spirit Pros. It was a bit shocking going from Sony MDR 7506s to the Focals, I hadn’t realized just how hyped up the low and high ends were on on my MDRs.
Shure SRH 940????