The Best Studio Headphones of 2018: The Ultimate Musician’s Guide

Best Studio Headphones

You remember using headphones ever since you were a kid and know what good headphones sound like, right?

Well, if you are an aspiring musician and have started up your own home studio for recording or mixing tracks, you should dig in much deeper when looking at the features of your new set of studio headphones.

There are so many types of headphones out there that the choice can be quite challenging. The size, shape, style, comfort level, noise cancellation tech, cabled or wireless is what music lovers look for when buying headphones for everyday use.

There are some specifics which differentiate the best headphones for studio use and those which you wear when enjoying your playlist in your iPod or mp3 player.

In general, there are two types of studio headphones. There are closed-back headphones which are the best choice for track recording. The others are open-back headphones which are the most suitable ones to wear when mixing. Both types offer a fantastic music listening experience and both have their pros and cons too.

The 5 Best Closed-Back Headphones for Recording Tracks


Closed headphones offer maximum noise and air isolation by creating a complete seal around or on the ears. These are great for those who enjoy listening to their favorite tracks in noisy and busy places without being bothered by the external noise and without leaking music to others. They are also perfect for recording tracks in the studio. These types of headphones typically enhance lower-level frequencies and provide an intense and punchier bass.

The downside of closed-back headphones is that the overall accuracy of the music can be diminished due to the feeling of the music being inside your head rather than flowing by your ears. Also, these headphones can really warm up the ears, so things can get sweaty and uncomfortable after prolonged use.

The good news is that there is a wide range of very good quality closed-back headphones for studio use to pick from. Here is the list of the ultimate best closed-back studio headphones for 2018.

Shure SRH1540 Premium Closed-Back Headphones

Best Studio Headphones
Best Studio Headphones


The Shure SRH1540 are easily the best of the best closed-back headphones for recording tracks currently available on the market.

Yes, this is a high-end set of headphones, which will definitely affect your budget, but the result will be an amazing music listening experience.

Pros:

  • The superior acoustic performance provided by the 40mm neodymium drivers
  • An expansive soundstage with a warm bass and clear highs
  • The closed-back design and adjustable ergonomic frame will provide you with hours of comfort when listening to music or recording in your home studio
  • No back noise
  • Very comfortable fit over the ears thanks to the Alcantara and low-density foam replaceable ear pads
  • Lightweight and durable construction thanks to the carbon fiber cap and aircraft grade aluminum alloy bondage
  • Steel driver frame with a vented center pole for better linearity and a consistent performance for all kinds of listening
  • cable reinforced with Kevlar and made of Oxygen-free copper
  • You will receive replacement ear pads and an extra cable and carry case for extended longevity of these headphones

Cons:

  • Some people find the angle of the ear pads not so comfortable and putting pressure on the bottom of the ears and causing clamping pressure

The SHR-1540 is definitely one of the best when it comes to delivering high-quality sound when it comes to closed-back headphones for studio use. Comfortable, durable, light and with great noise isolation, you will be recording your tracks with so much more passion once you get a set of these headphones from Shure.

Focal Spirit Professional Over-Ear Closed-back Circum-Aural Studio Headphones

Focal Spirit Professional Studio Headphones
Focal Spirit Professional Studio Headphones

If you want to concentrate on critical music listening or want to buy closed headphones which offer the sound quality rivaling that of some of the open-back headphones, these studio headphones from Focal are an excellent choice.

Pros:

  • They offer superb acoustic transparency
  • 40 mm Mylar drivers with titanium membranes and a light neodymium magnet
  • No distortion resulting in very detailed and precise sound reproduction
  • Perfect noise isolation
  • Full control of the audio band
  • Great comfort even after hours of use thanks to the memory foam padding of the ear pads
  • You hear exactly what you have recorded in the studio thanks to the flat response and non-colored, natural sound
  • Full range 5Hx-22kHz frequency response
  • High-quality Coiled cable for studio work and straight cable with remote control for connecting to smartphones or mp3 included
  • Come with a carry case

Cons:

  • The hinges could be more flexible for prolonged durability of the headphones

Final verdict:

These headphones from Focal are ideal for studio use where you need to hear exactly what you are recording without distortion. Also, they come at a great price for the amazing quality provided. These are definitely one of the top closed-back headphones for recording tracks and for studio use!

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro Studio Headphones
These German-made closed-back headphones are among the top preferred for monitoring and for studio use by professionals. They are sturdy, extremely comfortable and have all features you need to be looking for when buying headphones for track recording.

Pros:

  • Professional range closed-back headphones for studio use
  • Great for recording, monitoring, and mixing
  • Very comfortable soft and replaceable velour ear pads
  • Very sturdy, high quality, made in Germany
  • The single-sided convenient coiled cable on one side
  • 250 Ohms – perfect for studio monitoring
  • Available in other variations too (32 Ohms for portable devices, 80 Ohms for studio recording, 80 Ohms monitoring for loud surroundings)
  • Very detailed listening experience – perfect for pros and for music lovers
  • Superb external noise isolation
  • Available at a reasonable price

Cons:

  • The cable is non-detachable
  • Not so good for portable use, these are specifically designed and made for the studio

Final verdict:

The Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones are a superb choice for professionals as well as for home studio use. They are affordable, very comfortable and provide an amazing hi-fi musical experience without external disruptions.

Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone


If you want truly unobtrusive headphones for your track recording sessions, which are not overly pricey and at the same time are of very high quality, the Sony MDR7506 could be the ones for you.

Pros:

  • Detailed and powerful sound thanks to the 40mm drivers and neodymium magnets
  • Superb outside noise reduction provided by the diaphragm closed ear design
  • Non-detachable 9.8 ft. cord with a gold plated plug, and an included ¼ adapter
  • Collapsible design for compact storage and traveling in the soft case provided
  • A frequency response of 10-20 kHz and an impedance of 63 Ohms
  • Lightweight and comfortable for prolonged wearing
  • Durable make

Cons:

  • Your ears could get warm and sweaty after hours of wearing these headphones

Final verdict:

This classic closed-back model from Sony is probably the best option to buy for the price offered. With superb noise isolation and an excellent and precise reproduction of sounds and music, the MDR7506 are an exceptionally good and durable set of headphones suitable for recording tracks and studio use.

Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones


If you want reasonably-priced reference headphones for your studio, the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro could be the most suitable ones for you. They provide very precise sound reproduction which is perfect for monitoring and for use in a studio.

Pros:

  • Designed for professional monitoring
  • Closed-back design provides up to 32 dB of ambient noise reduction
  • Extended frequency response and increase sound pressure level of up to 110 dB for precise sound reproduction
  • Lightweight and yet rugged and secure design
  • Very comfortable to wear for hours
  • Detachable single-sided 2-foot coiled cable can be extended to 9.8 ft.
  • Includes a carrying case and a screw type ¼ inch jack adapter
  • 2-year warranty, very sturdy construction
  • The ear pads are replaceable to increase the longevity of the headphones
  • Can be used with new generation tablets
  • Excellent clarity on high-frequency instruments

Cons:

  • Not as glamorous looking as some of the higher-end closed-back headphones

Final verdict:

These are possibly the best reference headphones available in this price range right now. They do exactly what they are made for – serve as perfect closed-back headphones for studio use. The HD 380 Pro are perfect both for experienced and for new studio artists and musicians.

The 7 Best Open Back Headphones for Mixing


Open-back headphones are not as common as closed-back ones, at least not in the traditional electronics retail stores. These types of headphones don’t offer too much noise isolation due to the free air flow to the ears.

With a pair of this type of headphones you can enjoy listening to music and at the same time remain aware of the surroundings. This is essential if you are cycling or running, or if you need to listen to family members or colleagues.

The presentation level of open-back headphones is exceptional due to the free flow of the music and sounds past the ears. They have a larger, deeper and more open soundstage than closed-back ones.

The sound they produce is more like listening to a well-set speaker set. They deliver more realistic and natural sounding music rather than feeling like the music is in your head with the other type of headphones.

The drivers respond faster to audio signal changes allowing for improved clarity and accuracy of the sound.

Open headphones allow your ears to breath and thus are more comfortable for most people who wear headphones for hours.

Some negative aspects of open-back headphones include the music leakage, the less punchy lower level frequencies as well as the possible risk of listening to music at unsafe volume levels to compensate for the surrounding noise.

This type of headphones is perfect for mixing in your home studio and for mobile recording.

Here are the top picks for the best open-back headphones for studio mixing for 2018.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System


If you want to be the proud owner of the crème de la crème of open-back headphones for studio mixing, the Sennheiser HD 800 S should be the first ones you take a closer look at. The amazing industrial design of these open-back headphones is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding just how great they really are.

Pros:

  • Built in Germany with high precision and state-of-the-art material and components
  • Striking design – both in functionality and in form
  • Unique ear cup design for the ultimate music listening experience – spatial and natural
  • Patented absorber technology allows for playing very high frequencies without a masking effect
  • Handmade ear pads from microfiber for exceptional comfort during prolonged use
  • Minimal weight combined with added sturdiness thanks to the advanced materials used
  • Different connectivity options including a 6.3mm connector as well as an XLR-4 balanced cable
  • 56mm sound transducer is the largest used in dynamic headphones and the transducers are specially angled for a spatial presentation unlike any other headphones can offer
  • Enhanced acoustics
  • Damped headband for eliminating unwanted vibrations
  • Allow for a unique listening experience directly to the original performance by the artist
  • 2-year warranty
  • Included in the box also are the two cables and connectors (6.3mmjack and XLR4), a USB flash drive, a microfiber cleaning cloth and a manual

Cons:

  • Very high price

Final verdict:

Even though it is the most expensive one on our list, the HD 800 S is definitely worth the investment if you want to best music listening experience. If you are looking for open-back headphones which are absolutely perfect for studio mixing, this set is definitely what you are looking for.

Sennheiser HD 650 Open-back Professional Headphone


Looking for top quality dynamic open-back headphones for a perfect hi-fi listening experience or for use in your home studio? The HD 650 open-back headphones from Sennheiser could be the best option for you.

Pros:

  • Exceptional design with a titanium and silver finish
  • Narrow tolerance systems are hand-picked in pairs
  • Acoustic silk which is specially developed is used for uniform attenuation can reduce THD to as low as 0.05%
  • Detachable OFC copper modulated cable with low structure-borne sensitivity to sound and low handling noise
  • Maximum efficiency resulting from the high power neodymium magnets
  • Very light
  • Very fast Transient response thanks to the aluminum voice coils
  • The elliptical design will adapt to the shape of your ears for ultimate comfort
  • 2-year warranty
  • Can connect directly to hi-fi components such as DVD-A, SACD and CD players
  • Amazingly natural, accurate and spatial sound

Cons:

  • More expensive than some of the other headphones in this class

Final verdict:

The HD 650 open-back headphones from Sennheiser are very well made, with hand-picked components added for better performance and precision. They are definitely among the best open-back headphones for studio mixing which we strongly recommend!

Shure SRH1840 Professional Open-back Headphones


Are you dreaming of the perfect set of open-back headphones for the ultimate music listening experience which you can use for mixing as well? The Shure SRH1840 provides just that.

Pros:

  • Personally picked and individually matched 40mm neodymium drivers
  • Open-back design provides a wide stereo and an amazingly natural sound with a greater depth of field
  • Consistent performance at all levels thanks to the steel driver frame with a vented center pole for better linearity
  • Very comfortable and lightweight ergonomic frame, padded headband and ear cups
  • Comes with extra ear pads, 2 detachable cables and carrying case

Cons:

  • The two cables are the same length instead of having one shorter for mobile use

Final verdict:

The SRH 1840 open-back headphones are extremely comfortable and light, and they are made with top quality materials and hand-picked components for an amazing listening experience. You can use these for mixing or for enjoying your favorite music, and you will never get tired of the performance they offer.

Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones


Do you spend hours and hours in the studio mixing tracks? You should consider purchasing Samson’s SR850 semi open-back reference headphones because they are probably the most comfortable headphones of this type.

Pros:

  • Ambient noise isolation resulting from the over-ear design
  • Impeccable reproduction and a wide dynamic range provided by the 50mm drivers
  • A frequency response of 10-30 kHz and an impedance of 32 Ohms
  • Included 1/8 to ¼ gold-plated cable jack adaptor
  • Extremely comfortable due to the self-adjusting headband
  • Clear highs and a solid bass these headphones are great for professionals and for music-enthusiasts
  • Great for playback and for mixing for long hours without discomfort or fatigue
  • Allow for very accurate monitoring
  • Available at a great price for the quality provided

Cons:

  • The cable provided could have been sturdier

Final verdict:

These semi-open headphones are an excellent option for people on a tight budget who still want the best headphones for mixing or simply for enjoying music. They are very comfortable, well-made and provide a remarkable listening experience.

AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Studio Headphones


If you are a fan of the classic AKG K 240 Monitor headphones, there is no doubt that you will absolutely fall in love with this new upgraded semi-open studio version of the model.

Pros:

  • Semi-open design
  • The replaceable long cable comes with a 1/8 inch plug and a screw-on ¼ inch adapter
  • 55 ohms impedance provides a much higher volume level for noisier environments and when used with portable studios and other portable studio gear
  • Very accurate dynamic transducer producing natural open sound quality
  • Comfortable circumaural ear pads
  • Frequency range is 15-25,000 Hz
  • Self-adjusting headband for ultimate comfort
  • Powerful bass, accurate mids and detailed and clear highs
  • Rugged construction to withstand touch handling use and transport
  • Cost less than $100

Cons:

  • Sound leakage due to the semi-open design

Final verdict:
This is a superb option for headphones for studio mixing, especially if you don’t want to break the bank when buying a good quality, durable and high precision set of headphones for your home studio or for portable studio equipment.

AKG K702 Reference Class Studio Headphones


For this price range, the AKG K702 are probably the best studio professional range headphones you can buy at the moment.

Pros:

  • Extremely comfortable and lightweight – suitable for long hours of use
  • Open-back technology for an airy and spacious sound
  • Two-layer diaphragms provide better high-frequency range and better performance at lower frequencies
  • Replaceable 3-D foam ear pads are ergonomically shaped and incredibly comfortable
  • Excellent for mixing, listening and mastering
  • Frequency bandwidth range from 10 to 39,000 Hz, and impedance of 62 Ohms
  • Very authentic sounding

Cons:

  • Not as sturdy as some of the other headphones in this class

Final verdict:

These open-backed headphones from AKG are an excellent option if you want to buy very light and comfortable headphones which you can wear for long hours while listening to or working on music. They are fairly priced and provide a clear and accurate sound suitable for any home studio.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Studio Headphones


Need a reasonably priced open-back set of headphones for your mixing, editing or mastering sessions? You should definitely try out the DT 990 Pro Studio headphones from Beyerdynamic.

Pros:

  • Open-back headphones
  • Great for studio use
  • Provide a strong bass and treble sound – spacious and airy
  • Natural and precise sounding
  • Made in Germany from top quality materials
  • Single-sided, convenient coiled cable with a ¼ inch jack and an adapter for a 1/8 inch jack
  • Very comfortable fit
  • Great price for the quality of the product

Cons:

  • The cable is not detachable and replaceable

Final verdict:

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open-back headphones are the best you can buy for this price if you are looking for a mid-range open-back set of headphones to use for mixing or other work in your studio. They are well made, very comfortable and provide an exceptionally spacious and natural listening experience.

How to choose best studio headphones

Getting the right headphones for recording or mixing is crucial if you want the job done properly and according to your plans and ideas.

For amateur and for professional studio work you should get a set of headphones designed to be used in a studio rather than one of the everyday headphones which we use for listening to music on the train or while out jogging.

The reason is that this type of professional range headphones are designed to be much more accurate than consumer headphones. And you surely need that accuracy if you want your musical product to end up sounding perfect, right?

Here is what features to look for when buying studio headphones

Open or closed-back headphones?

Depending on what you plan to use them for, you need to decide whether you need closed-back or open-back ones. In most cases, professional headphones are closed-back and cover the ears completely to eliminate and isolate as much of the outside noise and airflow as possible. They also prevent the noise from leaking out of the ear cups and interfering with your work too.

Closed headphones are preferred by performers who work with others and want to concentrate better on their own performance rather than get distracted by the other performers and instruments.

One of the problems with closed-back headphones is that they can create some false low frequencies. This normally is not a serious problem for people recording music, but for critical listening it is damaging, so in this case, open headphones are more suitable.

Open-backed headphones allow more air flow and more sound leaking in and leaking out of the ear cups. They are useful if you need to locate a certain instrument in a mix due to the more airy and spacious sound they provide. Also, they sound more accurate and natural which is great for mastering and mixing.

If your recording involves using a microphone you will need closed-back headphones to keep sounds leaking to the microphone feed. In case you are using software-based instruments or direct input this will not be an issue so you can opt for open-back headphones in case you prefer them.

You don’t really need noise isolation if you are mastering or mixing music only, so you can use open-back headphones in order to get a more accurate and natural sound.

What if you want the best of both?

There is a compromise between the two main types of studio headphones called “semi-open” headphones. They do provide a more spacious sound and yet keep most of the noise out and the music or sound in, usually at an affordable price.

Best headphones for different types of recording

When recording in a studio, isolation is one of the key factors to keep in mind when choosing headphones. If you do recording involving more than one person or involving different instruments, you may want to invest on several different studio headphones for your studio.

For drums and percussion

Drummers need the highest acoustic isolation so that they can hear the mix and keep the mix from bleeding into the microphones. This is why headphones which have a minimum of 25-29 dB of sound isolation are recommended for recording drums. Also, look for studio headphones with low-frequency reproduction.

Electric guitar and bass

These can be recorded with closed, semi-open-back headphones or with no headphones at all.

Acoustic guitar

Closed-back headphones will prevent any bleeding of the mix to the microphone, so play it safe and use one of these.

Vocals

Vocalists rely on proper frequency balance and pitch to sing right. This is why it is recommended that you use open-back high-end headphones for recording vocals. This is an investment worthwhile if you want to record the perfect track with impeccable vocals!

The fit of the headphones

Studio headphones are usually on-ear or over-ear. The latter have ear cups which fit completely around or over your ears. On-ear headphones have ear pads which rest on the ear itself. On-ear models are usually more compact, but over ear are in most cases more comfortable which is important if you plan on spending long hours wearing them.

The plug

Studio headphones need a ¼ inch plug for the studio equipment, unlike the 1/8 inch plugs of consumer headphones made for connecting to smartphones and mp3 players. Good pro headphones have adapters for both types of plugs.

Headphone amplifiers

If you have a small home-based studio you most likely won’t need a headphone amplifier as the interface you are using most probably has a built-in one for your headphones.

For recording sessions involving more than 1 performers, you will need a headphone distribution amplifier, which will provide independent control of the levels for each performer.

Durability

When you are investing in a good set of studio headphones, you need to make sure that you are making a wise long-term investment. This means choosing headphones which are made by reputable manufacturers, out of top quality materials and have removable and replaceable parts which can help increase the longevity of your headphones. Also, look for headphones which come with a guarantee from the producer.

Quality of the sound

The quality depends on your budget and the design, so once you make your choice about these, you can go ahead and narrow down the options. Choose from entry-level, mid ranged and high-end models and then compare their specifications, or if you get the chance test them before making your choice for the best studio headphones for your needs.

Conclusion

Hopefully, our ultimate guide for buying the best studio headphones has helped you clarify exactly what type of headphones you are looking for, and managed to help you pick the best one to use in your home studio for music recording or mixing.

All of the above-mentioned studio headphones on our list have been thoroughly tested and reviewed for their strengths and weaknesses. The data gathered could be useful for any newbies in the world of music recording and mixing, as well for those of you who are not sure which model to pick due to the wide range of options available.

Anyway, thank you for taking the time for reading this article, and we wish you good luck in your musical career and endeavors.

Hopefully, you will soon be the proud owner of new headphones which will make work in the studio a much easier, successful and enjoyable experience!

Leave a Comment