5 Best Headphones for Music Production 2018 [Review & Guide]

best headphones for music productionThe best headphones for music production are designed to reproduce sound in an honest and even unflattering way. They highlight the details necessary to make the right selection of sounds, effects, compression, and EQ settings easier.

According to the research done for this guide, the current best cheap studio headphones is the Status Audio CB-1. The studio headphones most popular among buyers is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. However, if you truly wanted the best for mixing and mastering, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 is you best choice for the money.

Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the results below for more details. Read through the reviews of each headphones and their description, as well as learn more about music production headphones from the buying guide section.


Table of Contents

Music Production Headphones – At a Glance

Reviews & Guide

Find other studio gear here:


Best Headphones for Music Production – At a Glance

Best 5 for 2018

Rated
Product Status Audio CB-1Status Audio CB-1
(check price @ Amazon)
(read review)
Beyerdynamic DT-880-PRO studio headphoneBeyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
(check price @ Amazon)
(read review)
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphoneAudio-Technica ATH-M50x
(check price @ Amazon)
(read review)
Beyerdynamic DT 1990Beyerdynamic DT 1990
(check price @ Amazon)
(read review)
Sony MDR7506Sony MDR7506
(check price @ Amazon)
(read review)
Overview One of the best low cost studio headphones on the market for recording and tracking, with surprisingly accurate and honest sound quality according to pro users, and a beautiful but rugged design that’s comfortable for long hours of non-fatiguing recording and tracking sessions. A semi-open back style studio headphones for mixing and mastering. It has an impressive build quality, durable design, and super comfortable earpads. The sound is considered one of the best its class, and for the price, with large, spacious soundstage, and fast yet smooth transient response.

 

Best for tracking and recording, these are one of the most well-known headphones for music producers and beat makers. It is also the most purchased headphone in this guide. One of the best sounding open-backs out there for mixing and master. It produces audiophile grade quality with a superb sub-bass extension and very accurate treble section. It shines best in the mid-ranges where troublesome details are exposed, and offers one of the best naturally sounding soundstages for the money The industry standard, these are the most popular professional headphones in the world for monitoring, recording, and tracking. You can find them in practically ever broadcasting and music studio. They have one of the sturdiest and durable build quality, and the sound in honest and unflattering, all for low cost.
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Flat frequency response provides honest sound reproduction
  • Compact and foldable for easy travel
  • Large comfortable earpads
  • Super comfortable
  • Solide and durable design
  • Great spacious sound perfect for mixing
  • Good bass response
  • Great, accurate sound
  • Earcups provide adequate isolation
  • Afordable price
  • Solid design that’s durable

 

  • Audiophile grade quality
  • Natural unhyped soundstage
  • Honest yet non-fatiguing sound quality
  • Large comfortable earcups
  • Very honest sound
  • Durable and rugged design
  • Comes with long 9 foot cable
  • Affordable cost
Cons
  • Produces some midrange resonance in some songs
  • Lackluster bass performance for some users
  • Semi-open backs, so there will still be some sound leakage

 

 

  • Sound quality may be considered “colored” and not entirely honest
  • Might be out of some buyers’ price range
  • Slightly recessed mids
  • The neutral frequency response may be too “unflatteryingly honest” for some
  • The 9-foot cable is non-detachable.
Style Closed-back Semi-open back Closed-back Open-back Closed-bacck
Earcup Circumaural (over ear) Circumaural (over ear) Circumaural (over ear) Circumaural (over ear) Circumaural (over ear)
Transducer 50 mm dynamic 45 mm dynamic 45 mm dynamic 45 mm dynamic 40 mm dynamic
Frequency
Response
15 Hz to 30,000 Hz 5 Hz to 30,000 Hz 15 H to 28,000 Hz 5 Hz to 40,000 Hz 10 Hz to 10,000 Hz
Impedance 32 ohm 250 ohm 38 ohm 250 ohm 63 ohm
Weight 0.825 lbs 0.65 lbs 0.625 lbs 0.81 lbs 0.5 lbs

Full Studio Headphones List

Headphones Purpose Design Transducer
1 Status Audio CB-1
(read review)
Status Audio CB-1 Mixing Semi-open Dynamic
2 Beyerdynamic DT-880-Pro
(read review)
Beyerdynamic DT-880-PRO studio headphone Tracking Closed-back Dynamic
3 Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
(read review)
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
4 Beyerdynamic DT 1990
(read review)
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Mixing Open-back Dynamic
5 Sony MDR7506
(read review)
Sony MDR7506 Tracking Closed-back Dynamic
6 AKG K702
(read review)
AKG K702 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
7 Sennheiser HD 600
(read review)
Sennheiser HD 600 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
8 Sony MDR-7520
(read review)
Tracking Closed-back Dynamic
9 Shure SRH1540
(read review)
Shure SRH1540 Mixing Open-back Electrostatic
10 Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
(read review)
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Mixing Open-back Planar Magnetic
11 Sennheiser HD 650
(read review)
Sennheiser HD 650 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
12 Stax SR-Lambda SR-507
(read review)
Stax SR-Lambda SR-507 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Electronstatic
13 Audeze LCD-2
(read review)
Audeze LCD-2 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Planar Magnetic
14 Audeze LCD-4
(read review)
Audeze LCD-4 studio headphone Mixing Open-back Planar Magnetic
15 Audeze LCD-XC
(read review)
Audeze LCD-XC studio headphone Tracking Closed-back Planar Magnetic
16 AKG K812
(read review)
AKG K812 PRO studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
17 Fostex TH900 MKII
(read review)
Fostex TH900 MKII studio headphones Tracking Closed-back Dynamic
18 Sennheiser HD 800 S
(read review)
Sennheiser HD 800 S studio headphone Mixing Open-back Dynamic
19 Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
(read review)
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Tracking Closed-back Dynamic
20 AKG K271 MKII
(read review)
AKG K271 MKII Tracking Closed-back Dynamic


Best Studio Headphones for Music Production Review

If you need help making a choice, check out the buyer's guide below the reviews. This section covers the top 5, as well as the full list of music production headphones on the market for this research.


Status Audio CB-1Status Audio CB-1

The Status Audio CB-1 studio headphones is a relatively new music production headphone that’s become very popular since its release. It’s also super affordable. It’s one of the cheapest professional studio headphones out there with a street price of under $100. Despite the price, the sound and build quality surpasses the cost, as it provides the standard professional grade neutral sound that’s suitable for monitoring, tracking, and recording.

Design, Features, & Specs

The Status Audio CB-1 music production headphones are closed-back style with an over-ear design. This is ideal for recording and tracking your music, since the isolation pads do a good job of keeping audio from leaking out on your mic. Consequently, they make great listening headphones in public, and when producing music in public they offer you enough isolation to focus on your beats. The Status Audio CB-1 studio headphones utilize 50 mm drivers that reproduce a neutral sound signature across the frequency response range. They are not “colored” like consumer grade studio headphones, as users report being able to hear errors and file distortions found in low quality recordings. The frequency response is 15 Hz to 30 kHz, which produces sufficient bass and treble, as well as adequately honest midrange. That said, the bass extension is good, but don’t expect the most powerful sub-bass response. It provides enough honest punch to keep you inspired. The midrange produces a crisp and natural signature, though a few reviewers have also noted that in some cases, it can be prone to resonance buildup. The high frequencies are well balanced at moderate volumes, though they can be a little bit harsh when turned all the way up.

The next important aspect to focus on the Status Audio CB-1 music production headphones is the design quality and comfort. The design itself is beautiful in a generic, no-frills ways. They look professional but not boring, trendy but not outlandish. The earpads are probably the best feature on the Status Audio CB-1 studio headphones. They are large, cushy, and soft, being suitable for long hours of use without discomfort or ear pain. The large headband is also padded, and provides sufficient room for larger size heads, even with glasses. Most people find that they are a lot more comfortable that some of the music production headphones on the market.

What others are saying

The Status Audio CB-1 music studio headphones are super popular on Amazon and gets a ton of positive reviews. The clear winners are its comfort, cheap price, sturdy design, and honest sound. Where the Status Audio CB-1 studio headphones could improve upon are the punchier bass response, cleaner mids, and less harsh highs when pushing the volume. Otherwise, pro music producers have found it sufficient.

Read the customer reviews on Amazon.

Bottom-line

The Status Audio CB-1 is one of the best music production headphones for the price. In my research I haven’t found any better for the price range with this much positive reviews online. There are a few cons, sure, that come for the cheap price, but if you’re on a budget the Status Audio CB-1 is the one I’d most highly recommend.

Media

Status Audio CB-1 Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 50 mm
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohm
  • Weight:0.825 lbs

Beyerdynamic DT-880-PROBeyerdynamic DT-880-PRO studio headphone

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 OHM is a reference semi-open back studio headphone. It is the only semi-open back headphone that was able to make this list, so you can expect that it is probably the best semi-open back headphone that you will be able to find for music production, regardless of price. Because it is semi-open, you'll get the best of both worlds when using the DT 880: a natural and transparent sounding sound stage that is typical of open backs, with the power and focus of a closed back headphone.

Design, Features, & Specs

The DT 880 PRO studio headphones was specifically designed for use by studio and stage pro audio professionals. It uses a 45 mm dynamic driver that produces a frequency response of 5 Hz to 35 kHz. When you use it for the first time, there are a few things about it that you will notice. For one, the construction appears very durable in your hand. All the parts of this headphone is replaceable, meaning that you can service them on your own whenever you need to. The design is fairly rugged, which you'll probably find great for pro audio use when you're outside of your home or studio, or you need to do some stage work. It's super comfortable as well---the adjustable soft padded headband won't squeeze into your head like in some other headphones. They look, and feel, like fluffy pillows gently pressed against your head.

As far as the sound, the DT 880 PRO music production headphones has one of the best bass and treble response that you can get for the money. The lower end is regarded powerful yet accurate, the treble pristine clear without any harshness. Some people will, however, find the treble to be a little bit high, probably because of the very quick response in the high frequency response.

What others are saying

The DT 880 PRO studio headphones are often chosen by mastering and mixing engineers. Many like it because that open air sound that gives you a larger soundstage than a typical closed-back studio headphones would. But others have noticed they have that closed back "intimacy" as well for tracking and composing. Being semi-open, some complain that there will be some sound bleeding out, so they are not entirely ideal for recording. Otherwise, mixing and mastering engineers like it for having a flat frequency response that won't hype up too many frequencies.

Read customer reviews on Amazon.

Bottom-line

If you're a producer who wants an affordable referencing studio headphone that can do the double duty of tracking and mixing, these are for you. They are super comfortable, durable, and sturdy, with interchangeable parts. Know that you will get the best of both worlds with these headphones: the power and intimacy of a closed back, but the openness and natural stereo image that open backs will give you.

Media

Beyerdynamic DT-880-PRO Specifications
  • Style: Semi open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz-35kHz
  • Impedance: 250 Ω
  • Weight: 10.4 oz.

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphoneThe Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphones is the newer version to the ATH-M50. This is probably the most famous headphones in music production. It is certainly the most popular pair of headphones on this list, with most buyers opting to buy this pairs more than any other pair of headphones we’ve featured. This is thanks to the fact that they sit in comfortable cost that suits the budget buyer, but doesn’t skimp on quality at the same time.

Design, Features, & Specs

As mentioned, the previous model (ATH-M50) was frequently considered the most recommended studio headphones for pro audio at the price. Gladly, Audio-Technica didn't do anything to harm the quality in the newer version. The new ATH-M50x use 45 mm dynamic diaphragms that are closed-back studio headphones with an over-ear design making it suitable for recording and tracking music, as well as relaxed listening sessions. The studio headphones provide a frequency response of 15Hz-28kHz, which is considered honest, but not harsh. It’s regarded as providing enough bass that is accurate and not overly hyped, while the treble and midrange remains crisp. However, some users have considered the sound of the headphones a little “scooped” in the midrange, which gives a more “prosumer” sound. Otherwise, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x music production headphones proved very valuable when monitoring vocals. Comparably speaking, they may be considered a little bright because of the pronounced response in the presence frequency response. But the brightness is detailed, so the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is valuable at minimize any harshness and sibilance in vocal recordings.

The design quality of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphones is one of its best features. Besides the professional sound, it has a professional look that is very noticeable. The standard color is black, but Audio-Technica has made the music production headphones available in several colors to suite the customer, including certain special edition models. The earcups and headband are made of soft leather that are comfortable, allowing you to use them for hours without fatigue. The majority of users find that they have a great fit that stays on your headphone with clamping down too strongly. Additionally, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are portable, since they can fold up and to be carried in your bag.

What others are saying

As of this writing, there are thousands of reviews on Amazon on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphones, the majority of them positive 4 and 5 star reviews. The chief advantages that customers report on are their affordability and professional sound. They produce the sort of punch necessary to keep you inspired when producing, songwriting, or recording, but at the same time remain accurate. The downside, of course, is that the scooped sound may not make these headphones the most honest.

Read customer reviews on Amazon.

Bottom-line

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a great headphone to get for music production. It comes at a comfortable, and its high popularity and recommendation means Audio-Technica must be doing something right. In my opinion, it sits midway between prosumer and profession studio headphones. So if you want headphones you can enjoy listening to, without being fatiguing, but will produce professional result, this is a great buy.

Media

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz-28kHz
  • Impedance: 38 Ω
  • Weight: 10.0 oz.

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Beyerdynamic DT 1990 ProBeyerdynamic DT 1990

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is reference class studio headphones made specifically for mixing and mastering music. They are the buyer’s choice for professional music producers who want to get the best studio headphones for music production, and come a price tag to match the quality. Despite the price, it’s still considered better than some of the more expensive models out there. For that reason it gets a recommended spot in this studio headphones buying guide and review.

Design, Features, & Specs

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphones are open-back headphones that feature 250 ohms, 45 mm Tesla neodymium drivers that produce an audiophile grade frequency response. The high impedance (250 Ohms) means more voltage would be required to drive the headphones. This results in less distortion, but you’d need to get a headphone amplifier with these headphones if you plan on using it for relaxed listening (some audio interfaces provide sufficient amplitude to drive the diaphragms). The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro music production headphones also produce a wide frequency response of 5 to 40,000 Hz. It’s bass response is crispy and dynamic, yet accurate, even extending into the sub-bass region while remaining unexaggerated and unmuffled. The high frequency produces a truly neutral and natural response that’s not harsh. But perhaps the best place is the mid-range, which offers one of the best and most accurate response you’ll get from any dynamic music production headphone. In addition to that, the soundstage is another area where the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphones do well. Reviews have found that the soundstage is natural and open. You know that you’re listening to the soundstage from a pair of studio headphones, instead of being deceived by an unnaturally wide soundstage that you may get from some other music production headphones.

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphones are lighter in weight than some of the other more popular music production headphones at this size. The headband is well padded, with a naturally feeling clamp around your head. Users report that after extended use the headphones actually go unnoticed, as they remain comfortable without any unfortunate discomfort. This is thanks to comfortable velour ear-pads that the manufacturer uses. In terms of appearance, the headphones have a modern and beautiful design, clearly aimed at both the professional music producer and audiophile music lover.

What others are saying

The typical owner of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphones is either a pro audio guide or an audiophile. All the reviews highly recommend this headphone because of the lack of coloration and powerful sound. It was difficult to find a negative review on the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro. The only criticism that I could find is that the midrange is slightly recessed, but not too noticeably.

Read customer reviews on Amazon.

Bottom-line

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphone is great if you’re looking for the best headphone for music production, and you have the budget to spend on it. The high points are the honest soundstage and frequency response that gives you all the sonic information you need to mix effectively.

Media

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 40,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 250 ohm
  • Weight: 0.81 lbs

Sony MDR-7506Sony MDR7506

The Sony MDR-7506 are the most popular professional headphones in the world for broadcasting and recording studios. They rival the Audio-Technica in terms of ubiquity, but the MDR-7506 has been around for a much longer time… since 1991. Since then, it has remained a music production headphone staple for major recording studios around the world, and they continue to be the go-to purchase for professionals. This is thanks to the combination of the low cost, and an honest, un-hyped sound quality.

Design, Features, & Specs

The Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones are closed-back headphones. So their best application is for monitoring, recording and tracking. Their ear-cups do a good job at sealing yours ear from external noises for passive noise-cancellation, while at the same time keeping audio from the drivers from leaking out on to your studio microphone, or from potentially disturbing members of your environment. As they are dynamic headphones with 40 mm diaphragm drivers, they produce a fairly wide frequency response of 10 to 20,000 Hz. Many consider the sound to be flat and natural, and hence it remains as the industry standard studio headphones, even though most people won’t be too impressed with the sound quality upfront. But when given enough time to “break-in,” they produce a sound that is honest for critical listening during recording sessions. This good, because that means if you can get something sounding good on this while monitoring, chances are that it will translate well to the mixing stage. Technically speak, they are also low impedance headphones, so headphone amps wouldn’t be necessary, but they also use gold-plated unimatchTM 1/8” and ¼” adapters to maximize on the quality of your audio signal.

The Sony MDR-7506 music production headphones are very light and easy on your head. They have a very basic, if not somewhat dated, design. But the design is very sturdy and you can expect it to be in continuous use for years in your studio. It’s also compact, as it can be folded up and stored for traveling. The ear-pads are made of faux leather, which is to expected at the price, but they are comfortable and do a good job of keeping your ear from burning after hours of use. The Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones also com with a 9.8-foot long cable, which is sufficient for walking around a studio during recording. Although it would’ve been great if the cable being detachable from the headpiece itself.

What others are saying

Being so ubiquitous, Sony MDR-7506 music production headphones will get a mixed bag full of customer reviews. The general user review is positive, however, with thousands customers rating it four or five stars. That said, when perusing forums, there are lots of other users who will claim that these headphones are not that great. In a sense, they are correct, they will not wow you will sonic performance, especially at first before a reasonable break-in time. So pro audio users will be the best source of opinions when getting these headphones for music production, out of which, there is an overwhelming thumbs-up.

Read customer reviews on Amazon.

Bottom-line

The Sony MDR-7506 is excellent for any kind of pro audio use, and this is especially so for music production. It may not be the most suitable “first pair” for someone just starting. But as an industry standard, it makes a top choice for monitoring applications.

Media

Sony MDR-7506 Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 40 mm
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 63 ohm
  • Weight: 0.5 lbs

AKG K702

AKG K702 studio headphone

The AKG K702 is a professional open-back headphone specifically was designed for the purpose of mixing and mastering. These are considered "classic" headphones that have a pro audio following that keeps them in production. There is actually a K701 version of this as well, which is exactly the same, except that the 702 is considered more "pro" because of the detachable cable. Just letting you know just in case you see the K701 version somewhere around and wondered what as the difference.

Design, Features, & Specs

The AKG K702 studio headphones are driven by a two-layer diaphragm, designed to help the action of the voice coil to drive the sound. The double-layer diaphragm also produces a frequency response of 10Hz to 39.8kHz that remains unflatteringly neutral throughout. It also has an excellent sound stage that is very accuracy in the details across the frequency response, impressive for a dynamic studio monitor headphone of this price. While some headphones seem to have preferences for bass, some for treble, and others have pronounced or recessed mids, this remains flat across the entire range, staying neutral without any coloring. That means also very good translation when you're mixing on your K702 studio headphones. The likelihood of hearing any unpleasant surprises when you play your tracks on another device after mixing with these will be minimal to none.

In live acoustic music as well as percussion music, the AKG K702 music production headphones is said to be "lively and dynamic," thanks to the two-layer diaphragm system I mentioned earlier. Comparatively, the bass is not as powerful as some of the other headphones on the list, particularly the Sennheisers. The AKG K702 music production headphones on the other hand, allows you to do more tweaking around in the midrange to get things sounding good. It's one of the reasons why these are such good referencing headphones also.

As they are open back headphones, they are ideal for mixing as well as mastering, and they seem to shine best at lower volumes. Due to the mentioned flatness and neutrality of the sound, these are meant for critical listening. The design on these headphones is sturdy and professional. The AKG is made of plastic with metal rings, and has a leather headband. It's also comparatively comfortable, as well, so you can keep them on your head for hours at a time without any issues. You can also expect them to be non-fatiguing, despite the flatness of the frequency response. In fact, you'll probably end up finding yourself using these headphones for enjoyable listening.

What others are saying

Many buyers found that these headphones went a long way in actually "helping" them to get the best sounds from their mix. The majority of positive review highlight the AKG 702 studio headphones for its strength: critical listening in the midrange. But a few may not like it for the “weak” bass. Hence the impression is that they make perfect music production headphones for referencing, but not so much for enjoyable listening.

Bottom-line

The AKG K702 are for professional music producers and pro audio professionals who want surgical listening sessions in mixing and mastering, certainly not for the amateur, or even beginner.

AKG K702 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 39.8kHz
  • Impedance: 62 Ω
  • Weight: 8.3 oz.

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Sennheiser HD 600

Sennheiser HD 600 studio headphone

The Sennheiser HD 600 is one of the most popular pair of over ear open back headphones for music production. So much so, it can even be considered a "cult classic." It can be compared to the HD 650 as well, but being the cheaper version. For that reason, the HD 600 and HD 650 studio headphones are often considered when a buyer is narrowing down their choices. Consequently, there are a couple of differences with this that you can consider, which also helps to understand how the HD 600 studio headphones sound.

Design, Features, & Specs

Firstly, the HD 600 are open back headphones, which make them ideal for mixing. In fact, these are one of the only headphones at this price that I see people using as reference studio phones for mastering as well. It has a frequency response of 12 – 40,500 Hz, which gives an ample sub-bass extension, with a tight response in the high end. They have an impedance of 300 Ohms, which means a better quality signal, but the potential to require a headphone amp if your audio interface cannot supply enough power. Long mixing sessions in the studio shouldn't be that uncomfortable either, users report that the sound of the headphones are unfatiguing, and can be used for pleasurable listening. Also, many find the large ear pads fit snugly over their ears, reducing any ear pain.  Added to that, the pads themselves are replaceable, so even if you find them uncomfortable, you can switch them out for another set. The headset itself employs a sturdy metal-open ear-cup grills to keep things from falling apart, as well as constructed out of carbon fiber. These are solid and can probably take some amount of abuse (treat them nicely, though!)

Back to the comparison. The HD 650 music production headphones are considered fairly heavy and low in the bass area, the HD 600 has a more balanced mid-range, yet remaining well balanced in the bass section. But the emphasis is more on the high-ends. Those that have used them have found that there's a good balance in the highs as well as the lows, making it perfect for electronic music genres where the bass end can be tricky to get under control in a mix. The HD 600 studio headphones are quite well-mannered in the midranges as well.

What others are saying

The Sennheiser HD 600 studio headphones are very popular and get a lot of great reviews on Amazon from buyers. Users comment that they work uniquely great on vocals. It is generally difficult to find a negative review. But the few that exist highlight that the HD 600 studio headphones lack authority in the bass region compared tot it's bigger brother.

Bottom-line

The Sennheiser HD 600 music production headphones are ideal for mixing and mastering engineers, as well as audiophiles looking for an entry level audiophile open back headphone with an excellent stereo stereo image. They are “safe” for those who can’t decide, but looking for something of high quality.

Sennheiser HD 600 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 12 - 40500 Hz
  • Impedance: 300 Ω
  • Weight: 9.2 oz.

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Sony MDR-7520

Sony MDR-7520

The Sony MDR-7520 studio headphone is one of Sony’s high-quality headphones for monitoring and critical listening. You’ll find them a lot in broadcasting studios, on DJ mixing consoles, as well as music studio desks. But, as monitoring headphones, you’ll find that their main advantage is the volume and heavy bass.

Design, Features, & Specs

The Sony MDR-7520 music production headphones is a closed back on-ear dynamic headphone with a 50 mm diaphragm. It is one of the few on-ear headphones you can find for pro use, with enough sound isolation to keep the drivers from leaking sound onto studio recording equipment. For that reason, this is one of the best headphones when it comes to recording musicians in a recording room, as they provide accurate monitoring over other instruments. It also has an ultra-wide frequency response of 5 Hz to 80,000 kHz that has a fast response and very transparent, albeit a little bit colored. First time listeners often remark on how impressively balanced they are. Even when you turn up the volume, there is no harshness or distortion. The MDR-7520 studio headphones is able to hold everything together and keep accurate and controlled representation across the frequency response. And on that point, there is something be mentioned. These headphones are loud. So be careful with that. They are super-efficient (low impedance) so you can pump volume into these things at the risk of your eardrums and still get everything sounding nice and flat. But more importantly, the are also super accurate at low volumes, which is ideally the level that you want to be making your music, anyway. They make great pleasure listening headphones as well. And as referencing headphones, they will quickly point out any sort of errors that went through in low ends of a mix, whether yours or someone else's.

The Sony MDR-7520 has a strong and durable design, and are comfortable to wear for long hours of beat making. You'll even forget that they are on your head. As closed back headphones, they're also good for making recordings if you're rapping or singing into a microphone, as the phones do a good job of keeping the sounds from bleeding out. Also, thanks to the on-ear design, it has a compact design making it easy to carry around with you.

What others are saying

The Sony MDR-7520 gets a lot of good ratings from users based on it portability, loudness, and powerful sound. Despite it being on-ear, many users review that they remain comfortable during long recording sessions. But the fewer general negatives reviewer criticize the leatherette covered pads being prone to peeling, and crumbling in time.

Bottom-line

The Sony MDR-7520 studio headphones are great for recording and monitoring purposes, and therefore are recommended for music producers who spend a lot of time in recording large bands, or need a pair of headphones that can do the double duty of studio work and DJing.

Sony MDR-7520 Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: On ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 50 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 80kHz
  • Impedance: 24 Ω
  • Weight: 9.5 oz.

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Shure SRH-1540

Shure SRH1540 studio headphone

The Shure SRH1540 studio headphones is a high quality music production headphone that can be used for monitoring and tracking, as well as critical listening, or relaxed listening. It offers a no-frills design with exceptional sound quality for the price. It doesn’t have interesting features, bells and whistles, unique designs, wood trimmings and so on. But one of the beautiful things about these headphones is that Shure seemed to focus more of their efforts and energy into creating a pair of headphones that would get the job done, and do it so that you feel comfortable.

Design, Features, & Specs

The Shure SRH1540 studio headphones are closed-back over ear headphones. The cups contain 40 mm dynamic drives that generate a frequency response of 5 Hz to 25 kHz. The studio headphones frequency response is considered to be neutral and unhyped. There is not an overwhelming bass drive, or harsh highs, but warm and “neutral.” As far as the quality of the sound is concerned, you can expect the "ideal" sound from these music production headphones. The best way to describe the dynamic drivers on this is that they definitely won't do anything "wrong" for you. Ample deep bass is to be expected, pristine and accurate trebles for high-hats that won't just "splash about" with uncontrolled harshness -- you'll be able to properly monitor your sound designs and recording sources properly without worry. As closed-back headphones, they are ideal for recording and tracking, since the large circumaural earcups do a great job of minimizing sound leakage. But I have also found owners in forums who find these closed-back headphones excellent for mixing and mastering purposes. This is thanks to the relatively open sound and large soundstage normally found on open-back headphones. This makes the Shure SRH1540 an excellent pair if you just want to get one music production headphones for multiple purposes in the studio.

The build quality is solid. They are pretty big, but not super heavy. They also look as well as feel comfortable on your head. In fact, this is one of the most comfortable headphones on this list. The ear pads look like a pair of pillows. The largeness doesn't translate over to weight either. They are light, very light, in fact, at just over 10 ounces.

What others are saying

The user impressions on the Shure SRH 1540 studio headphones are general positive. Positive reviews highlight its comfort, strong and sturdy design, and excellent unhyped sound quality, and massive sound stage. Negative reviews, and there are just a few, consider the sound “boring,” lacking the “sparkle” in the high frequencies found in some other studio headphones at this price.

Bottom-line

The Shure SRH1540 studio headphones are ideal for recording engineers who want closed-back headphones that can rival the big open sound of an open-back headphone. They make great alternative choices for producers of acoustic, orchestra, pop, or world music. But beatmakers may find the frequency response unsatisfactory.

Shure SRH1540 Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 40 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 25 kHz
  • Impedance: 46 Ω
  • Weight: 10.1 oz.

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Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x studio headphone

The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is a critically acclaimed studio headphone for music production. It’s the first open-back style headphones by the manufacturer, and its key features are its light weight, beautiful design, and clear sound quality. Despite being fairly new, and their first attempt at the open-back headphones market, the ATH-R70x studio headphones have received enough good reviews to warrant it a mention in this list as a worthy purchase for Audio-Technica fans.

Design, Features, & Specs

As mentioned, the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x are dynamic open-back headphones that driven by 45 mm diaphragms, and producing a very wide frequency response of 5 Hz to 40 kHz. It is a fairly high impedance headphone, measuring at 470 ohms. This produces an ultra-clean sound signal, though the necessary power from headphone amps or audio interface would be required. The fit is circumaural (over ear), and uses breathable-fabric earpads and headband materials to provide both a comfortable experience, and durability for long hours of use. In terms of sound quality, the ATH-R70x studio headphones are often considered to be similar to the other headphones in the Audio-Technica brand. That is, there is a certain degree of “high-end” color. However, in the case of the ATH-R70x, the perceived coloring is minimal, so that means a "professional sound" over a sound that makes you go "wow." That sound has been described as smooth, unassuming, and balanced. The R70x has consistently been rated by professionals as not being bright, warm, or any other unique identifying quality. That said, the midrange is probably the place where the R70x shines the best. Owners of these headphones have found that they're "not pronounced, just noticeably balanced."

Design-wise, the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x uses honeycomb mesh housings on each earcups, which allow you to see the back of the drivers. The exposed drivers also allows for the acoustically transparent open-space audio reproduction, which makes it great for mixing purposes. It comes with a detachable cable, which is a major plus, and weighs just under half a pound, making it easy to carry and to wear, despite the size.

What others are saying

The majority of customers find positive things to say about the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x. On the positive end, customers like that these studio headphones are non-fatiguing, providing hours of critical listening that doesn’t get unpleasant. On the negative side, some customers dislike the cumbersome design, and the relatively smaller earpads compared to some other headphones for the same price.

Bottom-line

The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is popular among mixing and mastering engineers. They are great if you area music producer that prefer to do your mixes, and are balanced enough to be used for enjoyable listening as well.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 40,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 470 Ω
  • Weight: 7.4 oz.

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Sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser HD 650 studio headphone

The Sennheiser HD 650 is one of the most recommended studio headphones for music production. It's often a go-to "safe" choice for music producers simply because it's so popular. But it has good reason for being so popular. It's still within the price range to consider it "pro audio gear," but it's not "break the bank" money for some people.

When listening for the first time, you'll like the fact that the dynamic drivers will produce near zero harmonic distortion, with well balanced bass that is crisp but at the same time genuine. Meaning, the bass is not "hyped" like is some other headphones you'll hear made for making beats.

When you're mixing vocals, you'll find that the ability to isolate annoying frequencies will come in handy, because the mid range sounds very accurate and balanced. And thanks to the super fast and accurate diaphragm, transient responses have allowed many users to monitor compression levels far better than many other headphones would normally.

The bass response is flat, which makes these good for getting honest and accurate results when mixing drums and bass. They are also powerful enough to still have that "speaker" feel -- when you listen to the HD 650, you'll even start to feel like you're listen to speakers and not headphones. Plus, you'll find the HD 650  highly intelligible in the high-midrange, making them very detailed, even a little on the bright side (because of the accuracy, not because of any frequency "hype.") This makes them easy for you to mix vocals with.

The HD 650 is the little brother to the HD 800 (a high end studio headphone), so you're not going to get the same level of performance. But you'll get the same Sennheiser quality from open back headphones. Pro users who've used this have described the sound as being the best for the price, clear and crisp in the details, but without too much of the excitement you will find in some other high performance headphones at this price.

They are also super comfortable. This is one headphone that will make you "forget" that you're even wearing headphones in the first place. They aren't heavy, plus the pads fit comfortably around your ears for hours long use, so you'll also find them to be non fatiguing. The speakers are pretty large, and little further away from your ears than in many other models, so you don't get the impression of the music pressuring against your ears. The design is also durable. I read one user who said that his client dropped his from height of 4 feet. 5 years later they still work perfectly (albeit some paint stripping). These are solid cans that can take a beating for sure. If you're concerned about that, you know that you can rely on these headphones to last you for some time to come.

So who is the Sennheiser HD 650 for? They are open back headphones. So you can expect that they are for mixing engineers and music producers who do their own mixes. They've been known to work ideally at mixing vocals as well as acoustic music.

Sennheiser HD 650 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic "open air"
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 39.5 kHz
  • Impedance: 300 Ω
  • Weight: 9.1 oz.

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Stax SR-Lambda SR-507

Stax SR-Lambda SR-507 studio headphoneThis is an exciting headphone that many studio engineers tend to get enthusiastic about. The Stax SR-Lambda SR-507 are not just headphones, they are called "earspeakers." If you look at the design, you can sort of see why.

Ok, let's try to get over the design aspect of it for a second (can you really? It's so cool...). These electrostatic speakers (more on that in a bit) are credited with providing one of the clearest and crispest sounds you can get from any pair of headphones, and especially for this price. It has been described by other engineers as  extremely transparent, albeit a little bit bright.

That brightness comes from the fact that they are so responsive to the higher frequencies that nothing goes amiss. You will hear every single detail. So these are great for purists and perfectionists. If you're looking for super accurate headphones that will point out to you any stray frequencies, the Stax is definitely for you. Comparatively speaking, The Stax can be compared to the Audeze high end headphones. The Audeze tends to be king of the bass response with superb accuracy. But the Stax tends to have the best treble response you can find. Expect to be able to mold the absolute most perfect treble frequencies using these as your mixing headphones.

On the technical side of things, the Stax Lambda 507 use electrostatic drivers to deliver sounds to your ears. As you may have known about this technology (you can read more about it here), this produces the most accurate transient response out of any headphone technology. Because of that you can also expect to get accurate compression monitoring with these as well, making it exceptional for mixing and mastering music. Additionally, I would recommend this to you if you're into film score type of music, or classical music or any sort of acoustic recording. This is because, you want to be able to hear every detail your condenser microphone picks up. That said, the Stax is considered less suitable for bass driven music. That isn't to say that it won't work well, but comparatively, if you want to produce or mi bass driven music, you might need to look elsewhere.

The build quality is impressive. The design is very nice, as the square cans look like something from the World War II radio era. Unlike the the typical audiophile headphones, they are comparatively light and considered very comfortable, despite how interesting they look. These are also open back headphones, meaning they serve very well as mixing and mastering headphones. Because they are electrostatic headphones, they would need a special kind of headphone amplifier to get the best result.

So all that said, who is the SR-507 for? If you're an audio enthusiast, audiophile or a producer that needs a mixing headphone that you can use to master, this is one of the best choices you can get. Why? Being electrostatic, you get frequency and transient response that run circles around every other headphones on this list (including the most expensive ones). Also they do a very good job in the high frequencies than the lower frequencies, so as I said before, I'd recommend this to you if the music you work on is acoustic type music or require a lot of complex sound designing.

Stax SR-Lambda SR-507 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: On/Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Electrostatic
  • Driver size: N/A
  • Frequency Response: 7 - 41,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 145k Ω
  • Weight: 18.8 oz.

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Audeze LCD-2

Audeze LCD-2 studio headphoneIf you read a lot about high-end studio headphones for music production, you'd see the the Audeze name come up often. The Audeze LCD-2 is the cheapest headphones by the brand that you can get. As you'd expect, they are audiophile referencing headphones. And for this price range, you probably won't find many that can surpass it mixing and even mastering. Particularly when it comes to monitoring the low end.

Those who've used LCD-2 consider it one of the best headphones in the world. Probably when you factor in value for money, you can see why. It has been accredited with an incredible full sound and a flat sonic signature. This includes its bass response. Dynamics are usually credited with having the best bass response, but the LCD family of headphones are repeatedly praised for a deep and accurate bass response that goes into the sub levels.

Technically speaking, these are planar magnetic diaphragm headphones. The drivers give you unparalleled accuracy across the frequency response, and particularly in the highs. Meaning that these headphones are able to produce sounds that extend beyond the human hearing range. Being open back in design, you get a very wide and natural sounding sound stage. If you want mixing headphones to be up close with your frequencies, but you don't want to compromise on the stereo image, you'll definitely like this. They are also non-fatiguing, which is good.

The build quality is excellent. The ear cups are made of soft lambskin leather designed for comfort as well as acoustic accuracy. If you're vegan, there is also the option polyester microfiber (faux-suede) ear pads instead. Some people consider them a little heavy, which is to be expected from headphones of this kind. But they don't give you the feeling of swallowing your head, and stay comfortable and secure without producing fatigue.

So all that said, who is the Audeze LCD-2 for? If you're an audiophile or a mixing and mastering engineer, this is the best that you can get for under 1,000. Every mixing engineer I've had time to read their reviews has had only good things to say. From the clarity of the highs to the uncompromising bass power and accuracy. Being non-fatiguing, you'll be able to have fun while you work for hours.

Audeze LCD-2 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Planar Magnetic
  • Driver size: 39.8 square cm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 50kHz.
  • Impedance: 70 Ω
  • Weight: 21.2 oz.

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Audeze LCD-4

Audeze LCD-4 studio headphone

The LCD-4 is a super high-quality pair of headphones that you'll find perfect for mixing and even for mastering music. You won't have any trouble finding and pinning down the slightest EQs. In that way these headphones are amazing.

In terms of it's technical details, the LCD-4 uses planar magnetic drivers to produce sound. This kind of driver results in better low distortion sounds and better transient responses than the typical dynamic driver found in other headphones. Meaning, more accurate mixing and monitoring. You'll also find that they provide a deep and solid sound stage and listening environment, and one of the best stereo image you can get from a pair of open-back headphones. They also give you great monitoring for the bass and lower-mid frequency response as well.

In terms of comfort and design, there doesn't seem to be any compromise in terms of build quality for these headphones. The Audeze LCD-4 is the Rolls-Royce of headphones. The ear cups are made of real soft leather that fit around the ear. The combination of polished metal and real wood will give you a very tasteful appearance. And because this is a modern pair of headphones anyway, it has carbon fiber trimmings. Because of that, it can be a little bit heavy, of course, because of it solid design. However, the sound quality make them them fatiguing -- they may be super accurate and flat, but they sound good.

So who is the Audeze LCD-4 for? If you're an uncompromising sound engineer professional or enthusiast audiophile, serious about getting the best mixes and mastering that translate well, with an accurate and solid sound stage, these are for you. Plus, if want something that will sound good for pleasure listening, at this price range, you'll definitely find these Audeze LCD-4 most satisfying.

Audeze LCD-4 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Planar Magnetic
  • Driver size: 106 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 to 50,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 100 Ω
  • Weight: 21.2 oz.

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Audeze LCD-XC

Audeze LCD-XC studio headphoneWhereas the LCD-4 was the best headphone you can get for mixing and mastering, if you wanted a comparable model but for recording and tracking your music, the Audeze LCD-XC is the the best you can get. Just like I mentioned above, the LCD line of Audeze headphones is really the most praised. And so, the closed back XC comes in at the most recommended high-end pair for recording.

One of the challenges that comes with choosing a pair of headphones for recording and composing music, is getting a reliable sound that translates well no matter where you play your music. Not just recording, but sound designing and choosing the best samples is the first step of any record. Getting it right from the start means not having to fix it in the mix. And if you want to be able to tell whether or not the sound you got is the best or crap, you'll find that the Audeze LCD-XC will be very good at letting you know.

Technically speaking, the LCD-XC uses planar magnetic drivers. That means, like the LCD-4, the results you get will be very low in distortion and produce and excellent transient response. According to user reviews, they are pretty excellent at reducing external noises, as well as reducing the amount of noises that "leak" out of the ear-cups themselves. You want to be up close and personal with the music that your putting together? Minimize the amount of bleed out onto your microphone, or from your environment if you happen to have noisy neighbor or doing a little beatmaking in the airport? The LCD-XC will be satisfactory for you.

In terms of comfort and design, there doesn't seem to be any compromise in terms of build quality for these headphones. The ear cups are made of real soft leather that fit around your ear comfortably. You'll find the combination of polished metal and real wood gives this a very tasteful appearance. And because this is a modern pair of headphones anyway, it has carbon fiber trimmings. Because of that, it can be a little bit heavy, of course, because of its solid design, but it's sound, and comfort makes up for that.

Speaking of earcups, they are made of equatorial African Bubinga wood. For comfort, the makers chose real lambskin leather, and the ear pads filled with "carefully chosen acoustical foam." I read one user who said that it was the most comfortable headphones he's worn despite the weight. Yes, the handcrafted LCD-XC are a little heavy, but the earpads are plush and will do a good job at sealing you off from the world when you're music making. The appearance is very tasteful too and, except for the cups themselves, are little understated. Meaning that you won't be embarrassed taking them out if you ever have to use them on the road.

So who is the Audeze LCD-XC for? Well, if you're a sound designer/audiophile and recording engineer serious about getting the best experience from a flat sounding headphone, then you really can't do any better than the LCD-XC. Simply put, the LCD-XC is a Rolls-Royce in the form of a headphone. If you want the best, this is for you.

Audeze LCD-XC Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earpad design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Planar Magnetic
  • Driver size: 106.0 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 to 50,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 20 Ω
  • Weight: 22.9 oz.

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AKG K812 PRO

AKG K812 PRO studio headphoneThe AKG K812 PRO is, like the Sennheiser on this list, a name that sounds cozy and familiar to sound engineers and producers. AKG manufacturers some of the best studio gear, including microphones. So you can't talk about the best headphones for music production without having an AKG on the list. And many professionals conclude, that the K812 is their best model.

The K812 can be compared to the Sennheiser HD 800 S. It is cheaper than the Sennheiser, so that's one consideration. Overwhelmingly, the HD 800 S is considered "better" and more accurate than the K812. But not so much so that, if you want to shave off a few hundred dollars in your spending you wont be compromising too much on quality.

Technically, the AKG 812 is a dynamic open back style headphone. So it is ideal for mixing purposes, and one of the best mixing headphones you can buy on the market right now. It has a truly neutral and flat sound that doesn't flatter your mixes, but doesn't sound unpleasant either. They do an excellent job of letting you know when you need to fix something, and rewarding you very nicely when you've done something right.

In terms of build, the AKG K812 looks and feels sturdy. It doesn't have the heaviness of the other audiophile headphones in this list, so it's pretty light (for a well made studio headphone). It's black with polished metal fittings around the ear pieces, giving you the impression of professionalism. It's really a beautiful and understated pair of headphones. If the Audeze was the Rolls-Royce, the Sennheiser the Mercedes-Benz of studio headphones, the AKG K812 feels definitely like an Audi.

Their earcups have a unique "3D" design. This means they are made to fit seamlessly around your ear, while providing the best comfort you can imagine. You'll feel like they're firmly but gently snuggling your ears without swallowing your head whole -- the latter a complaint people tend to have of profession headphones.

These are dynamic headphones, so you can expect that, for hi-fi headphones, they will provide an authoritative bass response while not compromising too much on the midrange and treble. All AKG headphones are considered a little bit bright, and this one is not going to be an exception for you. But that "brightness" will come from the dynamic driver's ability to be highly responsive to higher frequencies. You'll find that this will complements and balance well with the lower end monitoring.

So who is the AKG K812 for? They are for mixing and mastering engineers who are on a specific budget and don't want to spend the extra hundreds of dollars on the Sennheiser HD 800 S. That's really about it, because otherwise, this is AKG's best headphone for mixing, and they will not disappoint your either way.

AKG K812 Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 50 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 54kHz.
  • Impedance: 36 Ω
  • Weight: 18.8 oz.

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Fostex TH-900 MKII

Fostex TH900 MKII studio headphonesThe Fostex TH-900 MKII is probably one of the most exciting headphones on this list. It's a Japanese made closed back audiophile headphone that you can use for enjoyable tracking and recording of your music. Best for producing beats or sound designing your compositions.

Technically, the Fostex TH900 MKII are dynamic closed back headphones. Being dynamic, that's seems be to be what gives them more authority in the bass as referencing headphones. Also being closed back, you can get to be up close and personal with whatever you are creating. In addition to that, you may not need an amplifier with this headphone, because of its low impedance.

As you'd expect with headphones in this price range, there isn't going to be any compromise when it comes to build quality. They were hand built in Japan, with the ear cups made out of Japanese Cherry Birch (Betula Grossa), and the housings finished by traditional “Urushi” lacquer done by a century old artisan group. Since comfort is going to be important to you, the last thing that you want is the feeling of ear pain interrupting your enthusiastic composition or recording sessions. So they made the ear pads out of protein leather from eggshell membrane. This is for providing maximum support.

For dynamic headphones, the super fast transient response is one of the best you can get. The sound stage is also one of the best you will get from a closed back listening experience. Even though it is closed back, you'll get an open and even airy experience that'd you normally get from an open-back headphone. But unlike an open style headphone, you won't experience any sound bleeding in or out, which is great for exact purpose of sound designing and recording.

So who is the Fostex TH 900 MKII for? It's for recording engineers and producers and well as sound designers who want the best attention to detail when it comes to recording. Audiophiles will love these, too. And composers and beat-makers will benefit a lot from this because of the authoritative bass.

Fostex TH900 MKII Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 50 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 45kHz.
  • Impedance: 25 Ω
  • Weight: 14.0 oz.

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Sennheiser HD 800 S

Sennheiser HD 800 S studio headphoneA studio headphone review would not be complete without a mention of Sennheiser in the list. Even though I didn't try to squeeze any particular brand in the list. But when it came to high end headphones, for the price, the Sennheiser HD 800 kept coming up. These are open-back headphones. And as far as dynamic headphones goes, these are the best you can buy. Particularly the "S" model.

As I implied just now, there are actually 2 version of the HD 800: the one without the "S," and this. So what's the difference? Well, the "S" is just newer than the other, and hence a little pricier. The "S" is improved in the sense that it is less picky when combined with with different amplifiers. But I like to think of the S like the S Class in Mercedes Benz, when it comes to quality and performance.

In terms of performance, you can expect pristine high ends that are exceptionally accurate and brilliant. As long as you give them enough time to "burn in," you will be able to mix and even master recordings using these headphones. And do so with confidence. The rich and super fast transient response gives you the most accurate bass monitoring in a set of dynamic headphones as well.

As I mentioned, these are dynamic headphones. They are open back so that makes them good for mixing purposes. The German made studio headphones use handmade ear pads which have been described as super comfortable for hours long work or enjoyable listening. They are also very light, so you'll forget that they are even on your headphone after a while. Another thing that has been constantly raved about these headphones are their sound stage. The more complex the sound of your audio, the more rewarding is the experience. Mixing requires being able to accurately monitor minute fluctuation in frequencies, particularly the troublesome ones. But also, you need a pair of headphone that will give you detail stereo image, so that you're not guessing how much you're able to manage the "space" of your mix. The Sennheiser HD 800 S will definitely take the guesswork out of that decision making for you.

So who is the Sennheiser HD 800 S for? Being open designed, they are for critical listening by pro and enthusiast mixing engineers and even mastering engineers who don't want to compromise enjoyment for fatigue when it comes to accuracy and precision. German engineering all the way.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Specifications
  • Style: Open-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic (ring radiator transducer)
  • Driver size: 56 mm
  • Frequency Response: 4Hz - 51kHz (-10dB)
  • Impedance: 300 Ω
  • Weight: 11.6 oz.

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Sennheiser HD 280 PROSennheiser HD 280 Pro

Review coming soon...

Sennheiser HD 800 S Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 8Hz-25kHz
  • Impedance: 64 Ω
  • Weight: 0.49 lbs.

AKG K271 MKIIAKG K271 MKII

Review coming soon...

Sennheiser HD 800 S Specifications
  • Style: Closed-back
  • Earcup design: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic
  • Driver size: 30 mm
  • Frequency Response: 16Hz-28kHz
  • Impedance: 55 Ω
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs.

Studio Headphone Buying Guide

headphone

There are number of things to take into consideration when you're trying to find the best headphones for music production.

First of all, what do we mean by music production?

To some of us, that may just mean pre-production stuff like beat making, arranging, or sound designing, but to others, it involves mixing, and even post production work like mastering. And still further, there are those who want to do all of the above.

Another thing to take into account is that there isn't just on type of microphone called "studio headphones." There are several words used to refer to them. A couple terms you'll come across is "audiophile" and "referencing."

What are Audiophile headphones?

A lot of time, audiophile gear will be just as good for music production work. So audiophile headphones will be great for pro audio users because audiophiles, like pro users, are enthusiasts who are purist when it comes to sound reproduction. The true audiophile, like the music producer, doesn't want to much hype, but hear exactly what the engineer and producer intended in their productions.

However, some audiophile gear is designed for more relaxed and enjoyable listening, which might not be entirely suitable for pro audio use.

All the headphones in this guide were chosen for "pro audio" users. Most of the headphones in this list can be considered audiophile headphones as well. So if you're an audiophile, many of the headphones in this list will give you the best quality of sound, without any of the so called audiophilia "hype" that you might get from other headphone marketing.

What are Reference headphones?

Referencing simply means referring the sound of your audio signal using another monitoring device, such as studio monitors or studio headphones. They are essentially the same as any audiophile headphone, because they provide an accurate reproduction of sound for you to reference any changes in detail in your mix.

How this headphones guide is structured

You can use the table of content (jump link) to help you navigate through the headphones on this post. You'll find that the headphones are listed in 3categories based on the price tag.

There is a table listing all of the headphones right before the list to quickly reference and compare all the headphones together based on some key features, price, and a cumulative rating structure, factoring the ratings by users on Amazon,  as well as forums such as Gearslutz.com and Head-Fi.org forums.

When compiling this list I did extensive research on all the products listed, studying each in detail to find out what was truly the best headphones for music production in each price bracket.

At some point, I felt this post needed to exceed to 30 or even 50 items. But you're not going to have enough time or patience to read about every headphone.

So, if you know how much you're willing to spend, navigate to the table of contents and choose from one out of 5 products in each category.

How to Choose the Best Headphones for Music Production

Your choice is going to be based on a few factors. Do you want headphones for mixing? Mastering? Recording and arranging? What sort of music are you working on?

I answer each of these questions in each of the product reviews. I tried to keep the specifications to a minimum. I felt that you'd rather know about the general impressions that headphones give to their users, and provide an expectation of what you will get, instead of too many details. Otherwise, the most important specifications are listed below each product.

Types of studio headphones

You want to make sure that you're not just getting the best headphone for music production, but the best type of studio headphone as well. Here are the main things to watch out for when making a decision:

Style

open back headphones vs closed back headphones

In the buyer's guide that you're reading, this refers to design of the ear pieces.

There is Open-back.

And then there is Closed-back.

Open Back Headphones

Just like the name suggest, open back headphones mean that the back of the ear cups will allow sound to radiate out of the ear cups while you're using them. So yes, other people will be able to hear what you're listening to.

Why would you want open back headphones then?

...  well, because they allow sound to radiate outward, what you'll hear is a natural "airy" sound. Listening to open-back headphones feels like listening to speakers in a spacious environment, like a room. You generally get a more realistic sound stage and stereo image with them.

For this reason, they are the go-to choice for mixing and mastering engineers.

Closed Back Headphones

Like the name suggests, closed back headphones seal the sound within the ear cups. You can turn these up as loud as you'd like and know you're not disturbing other people in the room. They do a good job of isolating you from the sound in the environment.

Once you turn on the music, you'll definitely not hear the world around you.

When it comes to pro audio, closed back headphones are especially good for recording and arranging music. If you record your own vocals, or you have a vocalist that needs headphones to listen to the music while you record her sing, a pair of closed back headphones will keep the sounds of the headphones from bleeding out onto your microphone, ruining your mix.

Additionally, they make great sound design tools, since it you'll be up close and intimate with all the sounds you'll design within your DAW.

Circumaural Headphones

Circumaural headphones (aka "over ear headphones") are headphones where the ear cups are designed to cover around your ears. These are also called "over ear" headphones. The opposite version of this is the "on ear" headphones, where the ear cups are actually placed on your ears.

Some may find the over ear design more comfortable because they don't place any pressure on your ears themselves. On the other hand, they are normally larger and bulky, while on ear headphones are smaller and more compact.

The majority of professional audiophile and studio headphones are circumaural. Professional on ear headphones are usually used by DJs.

Read more: Closed Back vs Open Back Headphones – Which is Better?

Transducer principle

This simply refers to the driver that's producing the sounds. There are three main types, all of which are in this list:

  1. Dynamic
  2. Electrostatic
  3. Planar Magnetic

dynamic headphones driver

Dynamic transducers use moving magnetic coils that drive a diaphragm in a piston-like action. This movement results in a frequency that you perceive as sound.

Dynamic headphones are the most popular because dynamic transducers are the simplest and most affordable of the three transducer technologies. They may not be the most accurate when it come to high-end, but they tend to have a good reputation when it comes to monitoring the bass frequencies.

Regardless, the high-end dynamic headphones produce accurate and detail sounds across the fluency range. 

electrostatic headphones driverElectrostatic transducers are drivers that use a very thin electrically charged membrane to produce sound. Whereas the dynamic transducer, the diaphragm is vibrated because of the piston motion of the magnetic coils, the very thin membrane itself is moved by electrical impulses directly.

These types of headphones are considered to produce the most accurate and detailed sounds across the frequency response without any particular coloring or distortion.

You can read more about dynamics and electrostatics here if you'd like.

Planar magnetic transducers are drivers that use a series of magnets to drive a thin diaphragm to produce sounds. They are something of a compromise between dynamics and electrostatic. They are similar to electrostatic in that it is the entire diaphragm that is producing the sound. On the dynamic microphone setup, only a small portion of the diaphragm is driven. Planar magnetic transducers causes exceptional low distortion, yet are also very powerful in low ends.

You can read more about planar magnetics here if you want to.

plana magnetic headphones driver

Frequency Response

This refers to how wide across the frequency response the headphones are able to reproduce.

Human hearing is limited to 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. But having a pair of drivers that can push beyond that limit will offer increased accuracy for the frequencies that you can actually hear.

However, a lot of people equate a super wide frequency response with higher quality. I remember walking into a pharmacy once and picked up some cheap earbuds. Out of curiosity, I looked at the frequency response on the back. It went all the way up to 40 kHz! Does that mean they are pro audio worthy?

No.

Headphones generally tend to have a very wide frequency response range. However, in choosing your best headphones for music production, you should look at the frequency response as a guide only if you know the type of music you'll be working with.

If you need a lot of bass monitoring, then the lower is the better for you, for instance.

If you need work with a lot of vocal and acoustics that need referencing in the troublesome upper mid frequencies, the higher the range is the better.

Impedance

ohm resistance

If you remember from physics class in high-school, impedance refers to the amount of resistance in an electrical circuit. This is measured in Ohms, with the universal symbol being Ω.

Higher impedance in a headphone means that they require more voltage to run. When there is more voltage driving the headphones, there is less electrical current needed to drive the audio signal. The result is a purer sound in the headphones, because more current results in a noticeable "hiss" from your headphones.

On the inversion, headphones like consumer headphones and ear buds have far lower impedance, meaning that they need more current to run. Turn it up, and you'll notice a "hiss" in the headphones during the silent parts of your music.

Some of the headphones on this list are low impedance and some are high impedance. If you should get a high impedance headphone, you'd need a dedicated headphone amplifier for the best results.

Headphones with low impedance ratings will do well without the need of an amp. But because your device would need to drive more current through them, you'll still get a noticeable "buzz" or "hiss" sound with them.

In either case, a good audio interface is often times enough to drive your studio headphones. See my guide on audio interfaces.

Budgetstudio headphones cost

Finally, how much are you willing to spend?

Getting a good pair of referencing headphones is nothing you want to skrimp on. Especially if you're planning on doing any mixing (see my posts on mixing vocals and drums).

But even when it comes to sound designing, monitoring your recording sessions, and choosing samples to work with, you'll need either a good pair of studio monitors or headphones that will honestly say to you whether or not you're making the right decisions.

But in the real world, and for many of the people reading this post, spending thousands of dollars (USD) on a pair of headphones is simply impractical.

However, you can rest assure that any of the headphones on this list are truly the best and most recommended for each price range.

jump back to table of contents


Final Thoughts

Now that you've read through the guide, hopefully, you would have found the one for you 🙂

If you've come this far, you've learned quite a bit about the various types of headphones that exists. You learned about the different types of headphones, such as closed-back and open-back, and which purpose those serve. You've also learned about the three main types of drivers used, dynamic, planar magnetic, and electrostatic. You also would've found out which headphone was right for different styles of music.

In other words, this post would've helped you to make an intelligent buyer's decision.

If you're already familiar with some of the studio headphones on this list, please let me and other readers know your thoughts on them. Did your headphones make the list? What's the best in your opinion? Let me know in the comments! They would be gladly appreciated. 

Otherwise, share this post with your friends or anyone else you feel would find this information useful.

6 Comments on “5 Best Headphones for Music Production 2018 [Review & Guide]”

  1. I really need to get myself some studio headphones soon, so I’m in the process of researching something that will be good enough, but within my budget. At the moment I’m relying on my iPhone ear buds, which certainly isn’t ideal for music production.

    This is actually a very in-depth post that doesn’t just list a bunch of headphones, but really explains what to look for. This is just what I need to help make a choice. I’m definitely bookmarking this page for reference.

    You’ve certainly given me lots to think about. With the open back headphones for mixing and mastering, if they don’t isolate sound at all, wouldn’t it be better just to mix and master using the studio monitors?

  2. Hi Darren thanks for stopping by.

    It would be “better,” yes, to mix and master using studio monitors instead of headphones. Open back headphones are still pretty loud so anyone else who’s in the room with you will certainly hear what you’re working on. 

    But let’s look at the advantages and disadvantage of each.

    If you live in a studio apartment, for instance, and don’t want to disturb your neighbors, a good quality open back headphone won’t disturb them, but still provide a balanced sound for an accurate mix, as well a more natural sound stage (because they are open back). In this case, it’s preferable to get an open back headphone. Make sure to check out them out in this list, based on what your budget can afford.

    If, on the other hand, you do live in a place where you can play moderate volumes that would be disturbing, I’d suggestion getting a pair of studio monitors instead. Check out my guide on which ones you should get, based on your budget.

    Finally, if you can, I’d get BOTH studio headphones and monitors. Why? Headphones provide a great second reference to spot anything you might have missed in your monitors. This covers all your bases and makes sure there is proper translation across all speakers no matter where you play your mixes. Also, studio headphones are closer to your ears, and usually have a much higher frequency response than monitors, so they make critical listening for stray frequencies very easy for making decisions in your mix. Whereas the benefit from studio monitors, compared to studio headphones, is the sense of space, stereo image, and how your music will actually sound in a room that a headphone cannot give you.

    Hope that helps. 

    Cheers

  3. Great stuff! thanks! I mainly produce electronic/italo music, so bass is important but I don’t want to overdo it.
    I’ve been mixing with beyerdynamic (closed) 770 80 ohms.
    Do you think the DT-880pro’s will really make a lot of difference? or would you advise something like the sennheiser 600/650 for me?
    Thanks in advance!

  4. Hi, I think you narrowed down your choices pretty well to 600, 650, and DT-880pro. For you, I think it’s really just a matter of budget. Otherwise, if you plan on depending more on headphones for mixing bass music, the 650 might be the best option, in my opinion. It’s considered to have one of the best sub-bass extensions out there.

    Hope that helps.
    Cheers!

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