If you need a pair of headphones for use in a studio, picking the right pair for your needs can help elevate your production to the next level. If you need something for live studio recording, you'll want closed-back headphones as you can monitor the live recording without sound leaking into the microphone. On the other hand, for mixing, many sound engineers may prefer more spacious and immersive open-back headphones as they can be more comfortable after a long day spent in the studio. Studio headphones also require an instantaneous response, so latency is very important. While some wireless headphones may have low enough latency for mixing and mastering, you'll want the zero-latency response of wired headphones for recording purposes. The best wired studio headphones often have a coiled cable to give you enough range to move around your studio.
We've tested over 450 pairs of headphones, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best studio headphones to buy. See also our recommendations for the best DJ headphones, the best headphones for music, the best wired headphones, and the best audiophile headphones.
The best studio headphones we've tested so far are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. These very popular wired over-ears are well-known within the recording community, and for good reason. They provide amazing value and feel surprisingly well-built and durable despite their low price point. They're comfortable enough for long recording sessions, with large ear cups and a well-padded headband.
Their sound reproduction is accurate and well-balanced and their closed-back design means they leak much less audio than open-back options, making them a good choice for recording, mixing, or mastering. Their ear cups can swivel, and they feature a detachable cable so you don't need to replace the entire headphones should the wire get damaged. They also come with three different cable options, including a coiled one that can stretch up to ten feet, so you can move freely around your studio.
Unfortunately, none of the included cable options feature an in-line remote, so they may not be the best option for casual use if you like to be able to quickly change your music. They also may not be the best for very noise-sensitive recording situations, as they do leak a little bit of audio. While this will likely be fine if you're monitoring from a separate room, it may be an issue if you're recording yourself.
The best studio headphones for recording that we've tested to date are the AKG K371. These wired headphones are decently comfortable, and even at loud volumes, they leak less audio than most other over-ears we've tested, making them a good option for noise-sensitive live recording sessions. They come with a few different detachable cable options, including a long coiled wire, and are reasonably priced.
Their sound profile is very neutral and accurate, making them great for studio use. However, unfortunately, the amount of bass you hear will depend on how well they seal on your head, so people with long hair or glasses will likely experience less bass. This won't be much of an issue while recording, but you'll want to switch to something more consistent once you start mixing.
They also isolate background noise better than most studio headphones, which is great if you want to monitor a loud performance without cranking your volume up too high. Overall, while they aren't consistently accurate enough for mixing, their very low leakage makes them the best headphones we've tested to wear while recording.
If you have a very noise-sensitive recording setup and want a pair of in-ear monitors that leak even less sound, go for the TIN Audio T3. They aren't as comfortable as the AKG K371 due to their in-ear design, but they isolate even more background noise and leak a lot less sound, so what you're monitoring won't get picked up by the mics. They feel much more durable than the AKG thanks to their metal construction, and they even feature replaceable cables, which is rare for in-ear headphones. While they do a good job at blocking out background noise, the Etymotic ER4XR isolate even better, but they're a lot more expensive.
If you prefer the fit of over-ears and can handle a tiny amount of audio leak, get the AKG, but if you're tough on your headphones or need the absolute minimum amount of leakage, go for the TIN Audio.
The best studio headphones for mixing we've tested to date are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Mixing usually takes advantage of open-back headphones thanks to a more spacious soundstage and since you don't have any recording microphones on, the leakage isn't something to worry about. These headphones are also very comfortable and feel lightweight even if they have very large and spacious ear cups.
These headphones have an exceptionally neutral sound signature, especially in the mid and treble ranges. Some might feel like they're a bit too bass-light, but nothing a professional EQ can't fix. These also have one of the widest soundstages we've tested so far. They're well-built and should last you for a while as well.
While these are the best audiophile headphones we've ever tested, they are very expensive and you'll need to get an amplifier to drive them. If you're more on a limited budget, you can check out the HiFiMan Ananda, although there are some reports of quality control issues. However, if don't mind spending your money to get an amazing listening experience, these headphones are a great choice.
If you generally have many people in your studio at the same time and need several pairs of headphones, get the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. Their soundstage doesn't sound nearly as wide and spacious as the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but they're much more affordable. These open-back over-ear headphones are popular with many studios thanks to their durable build and accurate and well-balanced audio reproduction. Unfortunately, their tight fit makes them a bit uncomfortable for very long sessions, but their great value makes them an excellent choice if you need multiple pairs of headphones in your studio.
If you're only getting headphones for yourself and want the best headphones money can buy, go with the Sennheiser. However, if you're looking for something that still performs well but is much more affordable, get the Beyerdynamic.
The best studio headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested to date are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. While Bluetooth wireless headphones will have too much latency for studio use, these headphones use a dedicated wireless transmitter that helps them respond very quickly. They also feature Bluetooth, which you can pair to your phone simultaneously so you can quickly take phone calls without having to reconnect them to your computer after.
These headphones have a very well-balanced and accurate sound profile out-of-the-box, and while they tend to sound slightly different to different people, their wireless transmitter features an onboard EQ so you can fine-tune them to sound more natural. Since these headphones are designed for gaming, they have a boom microphone, but it can easily be retracted when you don't need it. Their 15-hour battery will likely be long enough for most mixing marathons, and they come with an extra that can be charged on their base station, so you can quickly swap them out.
While their 37ms of latency will likely be responsive enough for mixing and mastering, a well-trained ear may notice a slight amount of lag while recording instruments or vocals, making a wired pair of headphones a better choice while recording. These headphones are also rather large and bulky, though their gamer-centric design is meant to be comfortable during long listening sessions. Overall, while most people will likely benefit from wired headphones, if your studio setup requires you to go wireless, these are the best wireless studio headphones we've reviewed to date.
The best studio headphones in the budget category that we've tested so far are the Superlux HD 681. These wired headphones have a semi-open design that offers a good passive soundstage. They're also quite comfortable thanks to their large ear cups and good padding. They also come with a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, which is always appreciated.
Their sound signature is quite well-balanced, which is amazing for their price point. They have a very neutral sound, although they do tend to get a bit bright with higher frequencies. Due to their design, they also leak quite a lot, so be sure not to use them when you're recording something as they'll be better suited for mixing and mastering.
Additionally, the build quality of these headphones is quite disappointing. They feel very plasticky and fragile. There's nothing premium about them, but they still offer great overall performance. If you'd like a better-built option that could last you longer, check out the very popular Philips SHP9500, although they're a bit more expensive.
05/08/2020: Verification for accuracy and small text updates. No changes in recommendations.
02/12/2020: Complete article overhaul to better pinpoint the differences in studio headphones.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best studio headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.