If you need a pair of studio headphones for mixing and Recording, finding the best option for your needs can help you take your production to the next level. Closed-back headphones are ideal for live studio recording because they allow you to monitor the live recording without sound leaking into the microphone.
Many sound engineers, on the other hand, may prefer more spacious and immersive open-back headphones for mixing because they are more comfortable after a long day in the studio. The best studio headphones frequently have a coiled cable to allow you to move around your studio.
We’ve tested over 670 pairs of headphones, and our recommendations for studio use are listed below. Also see our picks for the best DJ headphones, best headphones for music, best wired headphones, and best audiophile headphones.
Best Headphones For Mixing and Recording
The Sony MDR-7506 are the best recording headphones we’ve tested. The closed-back design of these headphones reduces the possibility of audio bleeding into a recording. They also have a decently comfortable and well-built fit.
These retro over-ears have a neutral sound profile and deliver audio consistently across seats. Although their sound has a little extra thump, rumble, and boom to it, it doesn’t overpower the vocals and lead instruments. Because the mid-range is very flat, they are reproduced accurately. If you like to move around the studio, their coiled audio cable also helps prevent tangles.
Unfortunately, they have difficulty blocking out ambient noise such as ambient chatter. Their construction also feels plasticky and cheap, so when you put them on your head, they may creak. If you don’t mind their size, they have a well-balanced sound that is suitable for recording.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best mixing headphones we’ve tested. These high-end open-back headphones produce a wide, spacious, and out-of-head passive soundstage. They’re made of high-quality materials and have a very comfortable fit.
Their sound is very neutral, with a precise mid-range response that ensures vocals and lead instruments sound clear and accurate. Their treble response is also extremely well-balanced, allowing instruments to be present and detailed without being piercing or harsh. Their audio cable is detachable, and they include an extra along with a 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter in the box.
Unfortunately, they struggle to reproduce the thump and rumble of low bass, as do most open-back headphones. Also, the pin that holds the hinges together is prone to coming loose over time, which is inconvenient, and at their price, some may prefer a bit less plastic in the build. They’re worth considering if you’re looking for mixing headphones with neutral sound and an immersive soundstage.
Best Planar Magnetic Headphones For Studio Use
The HiFiMan Edition XS are the best planar magnetic studio headphones we’ve tested, and you may prefer planar magnetic headphones if you want an immersive passive soundstage for mixing. They have large drivers that can better represent the stereo image, so their soundstage appears natural, wide, and spacious.
They have a very neutral sound profile, which results in clear and present vocals and lead instruments. They have a great treble response, which adds brightness to sibilants like cymbals without making them piercing. Despite their size, they are well-built and reproduce audio consistently across multiple seats.
They’re not as comfortable as the HiFiMan Arya due to their heavy and conventionally designed headband. Their plastic hinges also feel cheap and appear to be prone to damage over time. However, these planar magnetic headphones have a few advantages over more common dynamic headphones that are worth investigating, particularly if you value passive soundstage.
Best Budget Studio Headphones
We found the Superlux HD 681 to be the best budget studio headphones we’ve tested. The semi-open design of these wired over-ear headphones contributes to a more immersive and spacious-appearing passive soundstage than most closed-back headphones. They also leak less audio than most open-back headphones.
They’re comfortable and have a fairly neutral sound profile, making them appropriate for a wide range of genres and types of content. Their mid-range response is very flat, ensuring that vocals and lead instruments are accurate and clear. While the slightly over-emphasized treble gives them a slightly sharp sound, some may prefer it for studio work because it helps to bring out details and emphasize flaws in tracks.
Unfortunately, the build quality is flimsy and plasticky, and they don’t feel very durable. Users with thick hair or who wear glasses may experience a drop in bass as the ear cups’ seal on your head is broken. They deliver fairly consistent audio, and if you’re looking for low-cost studio headphones, these provide a comfortable fit, well-balanced sound, and an immersive passive soundstage.
Alternative Video: Best Studio Headphones in 2021
The Best Headphones for Studio Tracking
Tracking headphones, which are designed to be worn by musicians while recording in a studio, are typically built to be thrown around and priced to be purchased in bulk. Unlike many consumer headphones, tracking models are less likely to have obvious boosted bass response.
The earcups are almost always a generously padded circumaural (over-the-ear) design, and it must be a closed model that does not project any audio outward, as most open models do.
Most tracking headphones are significantly less sexy than reference models designed for mixing and mastering, but these constraints exist to serve the recording of live music with multiple musicians in the room. The sound signature will typically be flat, with clear but modest bass production. Because the emphasis is on clarity and detail, expect crisp high-mids and highs.
The Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
The primary concern in this category is accuracy, with sound signatures designed for critical listening scenarios that clearly depict the entire frequency range. In a mixing or mastering-focused design, you may notice some boosted bass or sculpted highs, but it will most likely be subtle.
The most noticeable difference between these models and traditional tracking designs is their construction—some will have semi-open designs that project sound slightly outward. There is also a significant price difference—for example, you can buy two tracking models for the price of one solid reference model.
These are the styles that are most like audiophile-level home stereo system headphones, with a focus on accuracy and detail, and often with an open design that lends a mix a more realistic sense of space. You’re less likely to find a pair in this category that’s suitable for use outdoors or with a mobile device, but many of the options in the studio/recording realm are.
The Best Custom Fit Earphones
A custom-molded earphone pair is another option that many serious musicians and recording professionals will want to consider. They are typically quite expensive and are made from audiologist impressions of your ear.
Many of the options are intended for live onstage performance, but there are also plenty of options for mixing and mastering. Almost all of these designs will also be suitable for in-studio tracking because they will not leak any sound.
Vocalists or musicians who typically record with one headphone cup off the ear to get a better sense of pitch or in-room acoustics will likely want to avoid these options as in-studio tracking monitors—sure, you can just remove one ear, but because these models perfectly seal off your canals, having one ear sealed and one open can feel a little disorienting.
If you usually record with both earcups covering your ears, custom-molded in-ears are an intriguing alternative—some can even be tuned to your bass and treble preferences, and the truly expensive options offer superb audio, often with multiple drivers dedicated to different parts of the frequency range rather than a single full-range driver.
Detachable Headphone Cables
While some manufacturers acknowledge that you may want to use your pro-audio headphones in non-professional, everyday situations, such as on your commute, this is not the norm. As a result, while many models include removable cables, a smaller percentage include cables with an inline remote control.
However, the cables that come with studio headphones are usually of high quality, and you may even get multiple pairs. Coiled or semi-coiled cables that can span the room are common, but straight cables will still have plenty of length.
Of course, removable cables pose the risk of the cord yanking out at the wrong time. To prevent this, many studio and DJ designs include a locking mechanism on the earcup. If this is a must-have feature for you, double-check before purchasing because it is not a universal standard.
There are a few studio headphone pairs that do not have detachable cables. This is most common with tracking headphones, particularly low-cost options.
How Much Should You Spend on Studio Headphones?
As previously stated, studio and pro-audio headphones are extremely expensive. At the low end, you might get lucky and find tracking headphones for $50 to $75, though anything under $100 is fairly common.
Custom-molded in-ears can cost more than $2,000 at the high end, but there are affordable, decent options in the $600 range. There are budget-friendly models in the $100 to $200 range for mixing and mastering headphones, though we’d caution going below this number. And you can certainly spend more—there are plenty of $300-500 options that sound great and are well-made.
FAQs Best Studio Headphones For Mixing And Recording
Which headphone is best for mixing?
Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones. The best studio headphones for all music production needs. …
Sennheiser HD-206 Studio Headphones. …
Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X. …
Sony MDR-7506 Studio Headphones. …
Sennheiser HD-25. …
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Studio Headphones. …
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X. …
Should you mix with studio headphones?
Unfortunately, headphones have an unnaturally wide stereo image, an asymmetric frequency response, and no crossfeed between your left and right ears. Keeping this in mind, mixing on headphones is entirely possible — and produces excellent results.
What are headphones used for in a recording studio?
In a recording studio, performers will frequently wear headphones to isolate their voice from other sounds, allowing them to hear the other tracks/instruments they are singing with without compromising the sound of their own recorded voice!
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