Headphones are an incredibly important aspect of a producer’s studio. Whether you are making edits, mixing, or mastering, a quality set of headphones not only affects the outcome of your work, but also your personal experience while doing it. Quality of the build, comfortability, closed- or open-back, and sound are all important things to consider when buying a pair of studio headphones.
The right headphones should be able to be worn for long periods of time, last long, and produce as natural sound as possible so that you are hearing the music as it is when mixing and mastering. Some may prefer open-back headphones that high-end headphones often offer because of the reduced low-frequency build-up. Closed headphones may be better for vocalists; however, they will have less bleed than open back, meaning the microphone won’t pick up sound from the headphones during recording.
Fortunately, there are some great headphones available to fit these needs in every price range. Let’s take a look at seven different options, listed from lowest to highest in price.
These headphones are great for anyone looking to get started at the lowest price point without compromising much quality. Their semi-open-back design is a nice compromise between open- and closed-backs, and the build of these headphones is solid too. They are fairly comfortable right out of the box, but the ear cups are replaceable, so anyone can upgrade that aspect of them as they wish.
The AKG K-240 headphones are often issued by audio programs at schools, and for good reason. Their quality and affordability make them very appealing and are great if you need multiple headphones for group situations.
The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are the industry standard when it comes to studio headphones. They are the classic workhorse and, if treated well, will last a very long time. I’ve personally owned a pair of these for years and still enjoy using them often.
These are comfortable and should be easy to wear, even when buckling down for long sessions. They provide a very accurate and clean sound that is honest but not harsh. For the price, I would never argue against these headphones. If you are looking to save some money but have a quality set of cans that will last, this is your pair of headphones.
Around the same price point as the Sony MDR7506 headphones, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pros are considered just as good, if not better by some music producers. In terms of sound they are on par with the Sony option, but they do offer a bit more comfortability. I would recommend demoing these two at a store or borrowing a friends and deciding for yourself as they are both great headphones at the same price.
For about $50 more than the last two pairs, the Audio-Technica ATH M50x headphones are a worthy improvement. On a simple design level, they are sturdy, and the ability to use any 3.5mm cord is a plus. The sound replication is absolutely wonderful, and it’s even across the board. While they do not fit my head perfectly, they are comfortable, and I know people who could wear them for 12+ hours. If you have a little more to spend but do not want to wander into a more expensive territory, these are the studio headphones for you.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm open-back studio headphones are only a little more expensive than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x option, and that being said, they are only marginally better. The sound is clean and uncolored, and they are comfortable for long sessions. They do, however, boast an impressive frequency response range of 5-35,000hz. If you are looking to spend a little more than the previous pair on the list, but not too much more, these are a great option.
If you are looking to shoot for the moon and invest more money into your studio headphones, then look no further. Shure is a company known primarily for its versatile, sturdy, excellent-sounding microphones, but they also make solid headphones and in-ear monitors. The SRH1540 headphones definitely fit that bill.
While the frequency response range only extends upwards to 25khz compared to other options, they sound fantastic nonetheless. The human ear can only hear up to 20khz, so having some range above that is important for mixing but much beyond 25khz is a little excessive.
The design of the studio headphones is simple and elegant, and the earcups are ultra-comfortable. They do clock in at 16oz but, to be honest, they do not feel heavy when wearing. All in all, you won’t regret the higher price tag for this option.
These headphones by the beloved company Focal are priced high for a reason. On the technical side, they have a 5Hz to 28kHz frequency response and a sensitivity of 104dB. They also have a 40mm driver and can supply all the volume and smooth, uncolored tones you need. Their open-back design is commonly found in high-end phones like this, and it makes them a pleasure to produce with.
This option is not only remarkably comfortable, but as an added bonus, they look super cool. Although they are expensive, their sound and design are solid and pristine.
No matter your price range, if you are in the market for a new pair of studio headphones, there are some great options out there. Whether you’re looking for comfortability, sound quality, design, or sturdiness, the studio headphones on this list will not disappoint!
About the Writer
Nick K. is an instrumentalist, performer, songwriter, arranger, and producer from the Philadelphia area. With a degree in Arts in Music from Columbia College Chicago, Nick enjoys playing the guitar and bass guitar and is currently recording and producing an album.