Headphones are one of the toughest purchases one can make. Unlike PC components, there is no such thing as a better or worse pair of headphones. At least not when you’re looking at the same price range and at actually decent pairs.
More often than not, it’s all a matter of personal preference and weighing out pros and cons. That’s why we decided to help you out with this task by giving you our 5 best studio headphone picks while also explaining why we picked them. So, without any further ado, let us get right into it!
Things to Keep in Mind
As we mentioned above, there is no such thing as a “better” headphone. There are headphones that are better at certain aspects – but nothing that’s a clear winner at everything.
If you don’t know why, this list of things to keep in mind will help you understand more about headphones and how to tell apart what’s good or bad for you!
- Enclosure: There are two types of enclosures – open back and closed back. Both have their own pros and cons. But, as far as studio usage is concerned, most people prefer closed-backs due to their noise isolation properties
- Noise isolation/cancelation: Noise isolation is how well the headphones can block outside noises. That can be crucial for tasks like monitoring
- Audio signature: While you can always use software equalizers to adjust how sharp or bassy the sound will be, it’s better to get headphones that are naturally good at what you’re after. Professionals usually prefer neutral-sounding headphones so that they can mix more accurately
- Comfort: As far as comfort is concerned, ear-pads, clamping force, and padding are some of the first things to keep in mind
- Build quality: Decent headphones are expensive and should last for a long time. You can usually tell how sturdy a pair is just by touching it but looks may be deceiving. So, always look at long-term reviews. Replaceable cables are something to keep in mind here as well
- Wireless VS Wired: Wireless options may be appealing. But, as far as studio usage is concerned, the audio delay can be a deal-breaker (High-end options do kind of eliminate these issues but they also cost quite a lot)
- Impedance: You won’t be able to power high-impedance headphones with portable devices so pay attention to that if it matters to you
Our 5 Best Studio Headphones
So, this is what we recommend to keep in mind when looking for studio headphones. If you need to use the same pair for other tasks, there are even more things to remember. Things such as portability, extra features (Surround, RGB, etc), controls, a microphone, and more.
But, as far as studio headphones are concerned, the aforementioned qualities are more than enough to remember.
So, with that out of the way, here are our best studio headphones!
The M40xs are generally one of the best pairs that you can get for studio use. The fact that you can generally grab them for just a bit under $100 is truly mind-blowing, to say the least.
- Impedance: 35ohms
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Removable cable and earpads, foldable
Their sound is generally as neutral as it can be for the price you pay which is what you’re generally after for studio usage. The closed-back design also makes them suitable for monitoring use in live situations.
Build quality is all-around pretty decent. There is quite a lot of plastic but the headphones still feel very sturdy and they can probably take a bit of abuse before breaking down.
A plus for us is the removable cable along with the pads that are extremely easy to swap out for 3rd party options or the originals in case yours wear with use.
Speaking of earpads, the ones that are included with the headphones are pretty soft. However, the clamping force can admittedly be a bit too much for some people. One way to make it softer is by replacing the earpads with 3rd party options that are even softer or also by leaving the headphones on a box to “open” them up. Still, as far as comfort is concerned, this isn’t exactly the most comfortable pair we’ve ever tried. It’s not bad. But, it’s also not that good.
Also, while the noise isolation is good in a studio environment, the same can not be said for the outside world. The rumble of an engine, for example, can easily break through the materials of the M40x.
- Superb value
- Soft padding on top
- Solid build
- Removable cables and earpads are always a plus for us
- Decent noise isolation
- Bass is a bit weak for a pair of closed-back headphones (But that’s to be expected from studio/monitoring equipment)
- Relatively strong clamp that can get fatiguing over long periods of usage
Best Mid-Range Studio Headphones
If closed-backs headphones feel a bit too claustrophobic and you want that extra soundstage that you can get with open-backs, the HD600 is one of the best pairs that you can ever get your hands on without paying a premium!
- Impedance: 300ohms
- Enclosure: Open back
- Features: Replaceable earpads and removable cables (Proprietary)
The open-back design gives them quite a lot of soundstage without sacrificing imaging which is rather impressive. This makes the HD600 quite possibly better for mixing as you can use them to accurately balance the sound and place the instruments in any way you want.
Of course, the downside to the open-back design is that there is absolutely zero noise isolation. This makes them useless for live monitoring or outdoor usage.
The sound is absolutely amazing for the money that you’re paying. Just keep in mind that you’ll absolutely need an amp to power those effectively.
If there’s one slight complaint from us, apart from the proprietary cables that are harder to replace, then that’s probably comfort. Don’t get us wrong. The padding on the top is pretty soft and the same goes for the earpads. However, the clamping force is no doubt noticeable on your head. Thankfully, the pads are very big and the pressure is being spread around equally which makes them about as comfy as the M40x!
Build quality is pretty amazing. This is still mostly plastic – but it feels very high quality and durable. Not to mention that most parts of the headphones are replaceable. Just keep in mind that the cables are proprietary. So, you can’t just grab the first 3.5mm cable you’ll come across.
- Wide soundstage with great imaging
- Good build quality
- Very comfy padding and earpads
- One of the most aesthetically pleasing headphones on this list
- Zero noise isolation by design
- A bit tight on the head
- Proprietary cable
- The high impedance can be an issue if you don’t have a dedicated amp
Best Budget Option
It’s no secret that studio headphones can get extremely expensive. However, not all of us can or are willing to spend a lot of money on our headphones. If you find yourself in that category, maybe check out the K240 Studio. They are as cheap as you can go without butchering the audio quality.
- Impedance: 55ohms
- Enclosure: Semi-open
- Features: Replaceable earpads, removable cable, and self-adjusting headband
These are semi-open-back which means that while they are open back, a part of their enclosure is closed. This gives them more soundstage than most closed-back headphones while still delivering a tiny bit of noise isolation (you still can’t use them outdoors though).
Of course, you can’t expect to get anything that’s anywhere near as good as the HD600s at this price point. But they do share the same sort of sound signature. We’re talking about balanced mids and highs but very weak base that rolls off extremely quickly and doesn’t caress your ear as the HD600 does. But, again, the HD600 is more than 3 times more expensive which means that this is not a valid comparison.
Still, as far as studio usage on a budget is concerned, these are worth checking out. Comfort is one of their strongest points as the clamp isn’t strong and the earpads don’t feel rough. Just keep in mind that there is zero padding on top and that can be an issue for some.
As expected, one of the biggest downsides here is build quality. The same applies to most budget headphones, though. One of the first things you want to sacrifice in order to make headphones cheaper is build quality so that you can focus more on the drivers and sound design/tuning.
- The cheapest headphones you can get for studio use
- Great for the money that they are asking
- Removable cables and pads are a huge plus at this price point
- Clamping force isn’t too strong
- Good-sounding mids and highs despite being cheap
- Bass is almost nowhere to be found
- Mediocre build quality
- Bad noise isolation by design
Best Closed Back Studio Headphones
It’s kind of hard to say that the DT 770 Pros are without a doubt the best closed-backs cause quite simply, when you put them against Audia-Technica’s ATH-M series, they are just different.
For example, the M40xs are not the best as far as lows are concerned but they do deliver superb mids and highs. The exact opposite applies to the DT 770 Pros as they deliver great bass and mids but are slightly sharper than we’d like them to be.
- Impedance: 32 up to 250ohms
- Enclosure: Closed back
- Features: Replaceable earpads
Due to their closed-back design, they naturally offer much better noise isolation than open-back headphones. Also, a much stronger base that’s not overemphasized. Though, as we mentioned above, the highs do get a bit too sharp at times.
Comfort-wise, while the earpads are generally soft and there’s plenty of padding on top, the clamping force can certainly be a bit too much for some people. We’d say they are just a bit lighter on the head than the M40x.
The build quality is quite possibly the best on this list. Most of the parts seem to be made of metal and the headphones feel extremely sturdy and durable. However, keep in mind that the cable is not removable and that replacing the earpads can prove to be a bit of a challenge.
We like that there is the option of choosing from multiple impedance versions of the same headphones. It starts from 32ohms for mobile use and goes all the way up to 250 for high-end studio equipment. Do keep in mind that the 32ohm version comes with a 1.6m cable while anything higher than that uses a 3m one. That can be an issue for mobile usage since that cable is non-removable, though.
- Great base and mids
- Very good build quality
- Multiple impedance versions to choose from
- Lightweight despite their mostly metallic construction
- Relatively strong clamp
- Treble reproduction is somewhat inconsistent as far as studio headphones are concerned
- Relatively narrow soundstage by design
Best Open Back Studio Headphones
If you don’t mind audio leakage and having zero noise isolation, the HD800 S is quite possibly all-around the best pair of audiophile headphones you can grab. That’s if you leave the multi-thousand-dollar Orpheus out of the picture, of course.
- Impedance: 300ohms
- Enclosure: Open back
- Features: Removable cables and earpads
Apart from the obvious downsides that open-back headphones come with, the only real downside here is how much they cost. They are by far the most expensive pick on this list. So, only buy them if you want the absolute best.
In exchange for your hard-earned money, you get the gold standard for comfort, all-around superb sound that’s neutral yet dynamic, great build quality, and some of the widest earcups we’ve seen yet.
That said, we’re still not fond of the proprietary cables that Sennheiser keeps on using. It makes their replacement much tougher in case that something goes wrong.
But, other than that, we really can’t find any other negatives. These are the most comfortable and best-sounding headphones on this list – at least as long as you like open-back sound.
- Superb sound
- Comfort is out of this world with very little clamp force, lots of padding, and great earpads (Even if a bit thin)
- Premium build quality
- Wide soundstage and great imaging
- Very expensive
- Leaky with bad audio isolation by design
- The high impedance makes them hard to use without an amp
- Proprietary audio cables
These are our top 5 picks. To wrap things up as quickly as possible:
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: Offers the best value on this list by offering decent build quality and neutral sound on a budget. Their only downside is that they are a bit tight on the head and they don’t offer a lot of soundstage by design
- Sennheiser HD600: One of the best open-back headphones you can get without paying a premium. Just keep in mind that it offers zero noise isolation
- AKG K240 Studio: The cheapest studio pair of headphones that we can recommend. You can’t expect to compete with the other picks at this price point. But, if you can’t afford anything else, it’s worth checking out
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro: Our top pick if you want a closed-back pair for the studio. It’s a little bit tight on the head and sometimes a little sharp. But, other than that, we don’t have any other complaints
- Sennheiser HD800 S: All-around the best-sounding headphones on this list if you like “airy” sound. The only downside is that they cost a lot and they also offer zero noise isolation by design
That’s about it for now. If you want to make any other recommendations or if you want to ask anything, feel free to let us know about it in the comments section.