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3 Reasons to Buy a Pair of Studio Headphones Today (and Which Are Best)

Microphone close - up on the background of a professional recording Studio. Workplace singers and musicians. Microphone stand and headphones for records vocals, speakers and sound of musical instrumen

3 Reasons to Buy a Pair of Studio Headphones Today (and Which Are Best)

Studio recording sessions can be noisy, which is why getting a pair of studio headphones is essential. Quality headphones can provide the kind of sound isolation that helps you focus on performing or recording despite the cacophony around you. Whether you’re a musician, music producer, or audio engineer, a quality pair of headphones is invaluable. If you think you may not need to bother picking up a pair, we think you should reconsider. Here are three reasons to buy a pair of studio headphones today, plus we’ll share a few options we feel are the best on the market.

Are Studio Headphones a Valuable Tool?

Mixing and mastering may not seem as important as the actual recording, but they are the final stages of the audio engineering process. It’s not the time to miss something because you aren’t able to hear your track with the precision it requires. You need to ensure all the sounds blend well in the mix and retain their sound across any number of devices. You can’t trust something so delicate and important to just any old pair of headphones.

Only studio headphones allow you to hear the delicate mix of sounds with the kind of accuracy that is necessary. They provide a tool for you to critically assess the musical and technical elements of the recording. They provide a faithful reproduction of the original sound recorded, and that is invaluable. If you are given an extensive range of frequencies, it becomes easier to distinguish individual instruments or pieces of dialogue. That then allows you to make necessary adjustments.

Reasons to Buy a Pair of Studio Headphones

There’s a reason why musicians in recording studios can often be seen wearing headphones. It’s because they enable musicians to listen to and focus on the accompanying instruments while recording their own performance. In the booth, studio headphones help audio engineers detect flaws in the audio track, giving them the information they need to assemble the best mix.

If none of that sounds important to you, you should know that’s just the beginning. There are many reasons that studio headphones are absolutely necessary for anyone who does any kind of sound recording.

Isolation is Critical for Clean Recording

Young female singer recording a new song album inside music production studio
Studio headphones allow you to record clean audio tracks without sound bleed.

Whether recording music or laying down automated dialogue replacement (ADR) tracks for a film, there’s the pretty common practice of wearing studio headphones. The reason for this is to ensure any playback sound does not escape into the recording space. If you are wearing a pair of standard, quality headphones, the guide tracks could possibly leak out into the studio. A hot mic will not be able to discern which sounds are which and will pick up the playback, mixing it in with the signal you intended to record.  

You may think of noise-canceling headphones in terms of how they block out the outside world. Studio headphones are similar in principle, only the opposite. They are actually used to prevent sound from leaking out and thus prevent unwanted sounds from bleeding into your audio tracks. It doesn’t matter if you’re laying down guitars, drums, piano, woodwinds, or any manner of vocals, any kind of unintended noise will be a huge problem. You definitely don’t want to deal with it after the fact. Fixing it in post-production should be a situation you avoid at all costs.

They Ensure Sonic Neutrality

If you’re familiar with studio monitor speakers, you’re probably aware of how they differ from the average hi-fi speakers intended for consumers. Studio monitors actually produce a far more accurate representation of the audio signal they are being fed. They give out a sound with minimal coloration or enhancement, it’s a much cleaner sound known as sonic neutrality. 

Essentially, consumer-grade audio equipment has a tendency to add its own effects to the sound it puts out. It also adds subtle changes to the frequency response, which can result in some level of dynamic compression, harmonic distortion, or time and phase response anomalies. To put it bluntly, consumer speakers often boost bass and treble levels to make the track more pleasing to listeners. 

However, when in the world of sound recording, that isn’t actually a good thing. What audio engineers want is a reliable, neutral reference so they can have an accurate picture of what was actually recorded to give them an idea of what they need to work on. Ideally, you could move a track back and forth between a pair of headphones and your studio monitors without any jarring surprises. 

Unlike hi-fi consumer equipment, studio headphones do not smooth out any rough patches in the audio. They are specifically designed so that you can catch any flaws that may be in the recording. This way the audio engineer can make any necessary adjustments before the track is released to the public. 

They Provide a Wider Frequency Response

Sennheiser Game One Gaming Headset
Studio headphones allow you to hear a wider range of audio frequencies.

Wide frequency response is just a technical way of saying that studio headphones can detect a bigger range of audio signals than most consumer headphones. This is more important than it seems because it provides a more accurate representation of everything that the microphones were able to pick up. In the same vein as sonic neutrality, this can let you know if your track contains any unwanted sounds. This allows you to edit them so that sounds that shouldn’t be there don’t end up in the final recording.

Regular headphones, much like regular speakers, are designed to boost certain frequencies to manipulate the sound to one that more closely aligns with consumer listening preferences. This is a problem in the pro audio world, however, because boosting one frequency can unintentionally block out others. Luckily, studio headphones don’t do anything like this. They are a dependable tool to accurately reproduce sounds across their proper frequency range.

The Best Studio Headphones

Before we get to the list, it’s important to understand that studio headphones come in two basic styles: closed-back headphones and open-back headphones. 

As their names would imply, these two styles are polar opposites of each other. Closed-back headphones are designed with sound isolation in mind. Unfortunately, maximizing isolation comes at the expense of sound quality. On the other hand, open-back headphones are designed to do the opposite — they prioritize sound quality at the expense of isolation.

Open-Back Studio Headphones

As a general rule, as sound isolation increases, sound quality decreases. This is why each style of headphone is designed with different purposes in mind. For those who need a pair of recording headphones to wear while laying down vocal or instrumental tracks, isolation should be the priority. A set of closed-back headphones will help prevent the sound from the headphones from bleeding into the microphone. 

Closed-Back Headphones

On the other hand, if you’re in the studio mixing, or maybe playing an electric instrument that doesn’t require a microphone for recording, you should prioritize quality. If you’re laying down tracks for a keyboard or electronic drum kit, isolation doesn’t really make a difference. So a pair of open-back headphones could be exactly what you need to significantly improve the sound.

Best Overall: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Best Overall
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
  • Closed-back studio headphones
  • Balanced audio reproduction
  • Comfortable design
  • Detachable cable
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x has such a reputation as a quality set of closed-back headphones that you’ll see it in a majority of recording studios and audio production houses. Audio Technica’s sound quality, paired with comfort and durability, make this pair of headphones a value at any price. Despite that, the ATH-M50xs are surprisingly affordable. 

These headphones provide a wide frequency but also a balanced sound with an output that can achieve an impressive volume. This makes them the ideal choice for monitoring and mixing. The ATH-M50x has a plush headband, soft earpads, and comfortable ear cups. If none of that seems important to you, then you clearly have never worn a pair of uncomfortable headphones for hours.

Audio Technica, in general, has a reputation for durability. The sturdy construction of the ATH0M50x is no exception. They can easily withstand the standard abuse a set of headphones will encounter in a recording studio’s daily operations. Despite Audio Technica’s high-quality construction, ATH-M50x has a reasonable price point, especially when compared to other professional-grade headphones of a similar caliber. 

ProsCons
They provide high-quality, balanced audio reproduction.Noise isolation isn’t their strong suit, as they have a tendency to leak slightly.
The build is as sturdy as it is comfotable.There are no buttons or built-in audio controls.
They are very affordable for the level of quality you get.

Best Open-Back Studio Headphones: Sennheiser HD 800 S

Best Open-Back Headphones
Sennheiser HD 800 S Over-the-Ear Headphones (Black)
$1,399.95
  • Open-back studio headphones
  • Consistent bass and treble
  • Comfortable design
  • Provides natural soundstage
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/10/2024 06:46 pm GMT

If you’re in the market for a high-quality set of open-backs, then the Sennheiser HD 800 S might just be what you’re looking for. Compared to closed-backs, open-backs are preferable when it comes to mixing as opposed to recording. The open-back design allows audio to escape through the ear cups. As a result, the sound interacts with your surrounding environment, creating a more immersive and natural soundscape. 

While the Sennheiser HD 800 S are arguably some of the best open-backs money can buy, they do require a lot of said money. Right away, this is a deal-breaker for a lot of people. On top of that, they require a powerful amp to drive them. So, unless you have already invested in one, this additional purchase could drive up the overall cost.

That high price tag does get you a quality set of headphones with a very neutral sound profile, however. They also have an accurate mid-range response, which will ensure a clean and accurate sound for lead instruments and vocals. The treble response is terribly well-balanced, never sounding piercing or harsh. They do struggle to accurately reproduce the thump and rumble of low bass, but this is a common problem with open-back headphones.

ProsCons
They provide a natural passive soundstage.They are extremely expensive.
The fit is comfortable even during extended use.The design is a bit bulky and cumbersome.
Bass and treble delivery are clear and consistent.

Best Budget Closed-Back Headphones: Sony MDR-7506

Affordable Quality
Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
  • Closed-back studio headphones
  • Accurate audio reproduction
  • Prevents sound leakage
  • Folds up for easy storage
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Simply put, the Sony MDR7506 headphones provide extraordinary audio quality without breaking the bank. These headphones have become the go-to for many audio engineers because their overall quality makes them extremely versatile. Providing crystal-clear audio and a dynamic range of sound, the MDR-7506 allows you to hear subtleties in your recordings at a level you won’t find with lower-quality headphones.

A useful and unique feature of these headphones is that they have almost no sound leakage. That degree of noise isolation gives you the freedom to immerse yourself in your track without any unwelcome distractions. This allows you to take advantage of the privacy they provide, whether you’re in the studio, on set, or even at home.

The design and sturdy build quality are enough to withstand heavy use. This makes them a great choice for anyone who may need headphones suited to a high-traffic professional setting. The Sony MDR7506s are unique among studio headphones in that their quality makes them versatile enough to be used for high-quality music production, or just as effectively as studio monitors.

ProsCons
They provide accurate audio reproduction.The build isn’t all that sturdy.
Their design makes them portable and easy to wear.
Noise isolation is their strong suit, as they have very low leakage.

Best Budget Open-Backed Headphones: Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo

Budget Open-Back Headphones
PHILIPS SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones (Black)
$140.00
  • Open-back studio headphones
  • Consistent audio delivery
  • Creates a natural soundstage
  • 50mm neodymium drivers
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/10/2024 06:48 pm GMT

The Philips SHP9500 is built with the intention of delivering the level of clear, crisp, detailed sound required for audio monitoring. A perfect combination of performance, comfort, and quality, these headphones have a wide response range that supports a variety of frequencies. You’ll hear every nuance and detail, thanks to their ability to deliver accurate sound.

The open-back design allows for a smooth flow of sound through the headphones, which creates a natural soundscape. These are a good choice if you sweat a lot because the open backs also allow for a flow of air. Combine this with the breathable material they are made of, and the SHP9500s will keep your ears and entire head cool even during those endless mixing sessions.

ProsCons
They provide a quality passive soundstage during performance.Their build is bulky and they don’t provide a stable fit.
Their audio delivery is consistent and sharp.

Best Studio Headphones for Beginners: AKG K-612 Pro

Great for Beginners
AKG Pro Audio K612 PRO Over-Ear, Open-Back, Premium Reference Studio Headphones
$169.98
  • Open-backed studio headphones
  • Neutral soundscape
  • Stylish classic design
  • Comfortable to wear
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/10/2024 06:56 pm GMT

The AKG K612 PRO can reproduce frequencies with incredible accuracy. Anything from sparkling highs to booming bass, these budget headphones cover a very wide range. This is an indispensable tool for audio engineers who need to hear every detail when recording audio.

If you’re looking for headphones that produce a warm, rich, powerful, and accurate bass, these headphones will pique your interest. These AKG headphones provide a natural listening experience during playback without adding any artificial enhancements, creating a truly immersive soundstage. All of this is surprising given the affordable price point. 

ProsCons
They provide a very neutral and well-balanced sound profile.They have poor noise isolation.
Their build is stylish with an appealing look.They’re unstable with a tendency to fall off.

Wrapping Up

It’s important to factor in your individual needs and consider the kind of work you will be doing with them before choosing the headphones that are right for you. If you do a lot of work in the mixing studio, finding the right open-back studio headphones can elevate production quality. If you’re in the studio a lot for live recording, a set of closed-back headphones can help you monitor the recording without risking a sound leak being picked up by the microphone. Either way, a pair of studio headphones can be an indispensable tool to have in your arsenal. 

  1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
    • Closed-back studio headphones
    • Balanced audio reproduction
    • Comfortable design
    • Detachable cable
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  2. Sennheiser HD 800 S Over-the-Ear Headphones (Black)
    $1,399.95
    • Open-back studio headphones
    • Consistent bass and treble
    • Comfortable design
    • Provides natural soundstage
    Buy On Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/10/2024 06:46 pm GMT
  3. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
    • Closed-back studio headphones
    • Accurate audio reproduction
    • Prevents sound leakage
    • Folds up for easy storage
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  4. PHILIPS SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones (Black)
    $140.00
    • Open-back studio headphones
    • Consistent audio delivery
    • Creates a natural soundstage
    • 50mm neodymium drivers
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/10/2024 06:48 pm GMT
  5. AKG Pro Audio K612 PRO Over-Ear, Open-Back, Premium Reference Studio Headphones
    $169.98
    • Open-backed studio headphones
    • Neutral soundscape
    • Stylish classic design
    • Comfortable to wear
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/10/2024 06:56 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use wireless headphones in the studio?

For everyday activities like gaming or at-home listening, wireless headphones are great. Unfortunately, wireless connections cause a delay between the source playing it and your headphones picking it up. Timing is crucial to mixing, recording, and creating music, so latency is not ideal. That’s to say nothing of the reduced quality of most wireless headphones. Inconvenient as it may be, we recommend sticking to wired headphones in the studio.

Are studio headphones comfortable?

Most studio headphones are designed to be worn for extended periods of time, and as a result are typically comfortable. Padded ear pads may be a feature as a way to create acoustic isolation, but they also often provide comfort as a bonus. If you’re in doubt, try the headphones on for a little while before committing. 

Is an amp required for studio headphones?

Most modern studio headphones have a low impedance which allows them to be plugged into the regular audio outputs. Some models, however, offer a variety of impedances and the models with higher impedance will require a separate headphone amp. Just be aware of this and pay attention to the impedance rating of anything with a super high price tag. 

Is there really a big difference between studio headphones and normal headphones?

Most consumer-grade headphones are intended for day-to-day listening or gaming, so they will typically have an inherent boost at a few points in the frequency range in an attempt to enhance the listening experience. This usually makes things sound better by boosting the bass and treble. This is less than ideal for a studio headphone, which needs to accurately reflect the music being created, rather than artificially making it sound better. For this reason, consumer headphones will never be able to replace studio headphones when it comes to professional-level audio work.

Should I get open-backed or closed-back studio headphones?

The type of headphones you purchase should depend on what kind of work you intend to do with them. Open-backed headphones are prone to sound leak, so these tend to be more useful for mixing and editing. Closed-back designs are far more versatile and can usually be used for a variety of studio-related tasks. Their design reduces spill, which makes them a must-have for recording, as spill can be picked up on microphones and ruin a track.

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