Whether you have a podcast, own a studio, or are an up-and-coming artist, you need a good pair of headphones that will reproduce tracks and audio as intended by the creator. Also, depending on the studio use, leakage may be a big deciding factor as well as the durability, comfort, and price of the headphones. The best studio headphones typically do well in all of these regards and may even come with a coiled cable to give you enough range when moving around in your studio without any latency issues.
We've tested nearly 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best studio headphones to buy in 2020. 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 headphones have received rave reviews over the last few years and for good reason: they sound really good. Their audio reproduction is neutral with deep and thumpy bass, well-balanced mids, but might be a bit bright on some tracks. They're suitable for a wide variety of music genres and are often used in studios as well. These are also a comfortable option for your longest mixing sessions. The cups are larger than other models in this lineup, which is great for larger ears too, but some might find the cup padding to be a bit stiff at times.
As with other models in this lineup, Audio-Technica employed a function-over-form design. They're sturdy but bland. Although they're comfortable enough to use on-the-go, the passive isolation isn't good, and the overall stability may cause them to fall off with heavy head movement. Nevertheless, these headphones are a great option at a fairly affordable price.
If you're looking for a good pair of studio headphones, these will certainly do the job.
If you need a pair of headphones that are more portable than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the Sony MDR-7506 are a good choice. The use of plastic in their construction may cause some concern over their durability, but it's also the reason that they're easier to use when you're out and about. Their light weight and low clamping force make them comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. Sadly, the cable isn't detachable and doesn't have an in-line remote or mic either. These headphones have more bass than the Audio-Technica, but Sony was careful to not make them sound boomy or muddy. The treble is good as well but has a hint of harshness on overly bright tracks.
If you're looking for a more neutral sound, get the Audio-Technica, but if you need a more portable design, the Sony fits the bill.
If you want a pair of open-back headphones and would also prefer something that feels more durable, then get the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO instead. They have a metal frame that feels very high-end and can withstand a lot of stress. They're even more comfortable than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x thanks to wide circular cups with suede-like padding. They sound a bit brighter than the M50x and some may find that they lack a bit of bass due to their open design. On the other hand, this design helps with how open they sound, which some may prefer to recreate a more speaker-like experience. You can also check out the even more premium Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO if you prefer having detachable cables.
If silence is a must in your studio, the closed-back Audio-Technica are a better choice. If you need something sturdier, however, the Beyerdynamic are a great option.
If your studio recording setup is particularly noise-sensitive and you’re looking for in-ear headphones that leak very little sound, get the 1More Triple Driver, the best in-ear studio headphones we've reviewed so far. Even at loud volumes, they don't leak very much sound, which is important if you’re recording instruments or vocals with a microphone.
These in-ears reproduce audio very accurately so you can hear what you’re recording as intended. They’re very breathable, so you won’t need to worry about feeling overheated while wearing bulky over-ears, and they’re also super portable, which is great if you’re always recording on-the-go.
However, some people might feel like the in-ear fit isn't as comfortable to wear for long periods. It might also not be the best option for critical listeners who prefer having great audio quality with over-ear headphones. They are also don't feel very high-end and don't have detachable cables, making them a bit less durable than the TIN Audio T3. On the upside, they do feel a bit smaller in the ear, which some may prefer. Overall, they're still a decent option if you need in-ear headphones for your studio if you want to minimize the amount of sound leakage.
If you need in-ears for studio recording but want something that feels built to last, then get the TIN Audio T3. The buds are a bit bulkier than the 1More Triple Driver, which puts a bit of pressure on your inner ear, but they have detachable cables, which makes them easier to repair if it gets damaged. You will just need to replace the cable instead of buying a new pair of headphones. They can also be used with an ear-hook design, which assures a more stable fit while recording. Soundwise, they have a bit of overemphasis in the bass range, which adds a bit of extra thump and rumble. They also sound noticeably sharp and piercing on sibilants like S and T sounds.
You’ll want the 1More if you prefer a more neutral sound, but if durability is what you’re after, the TIN Audio are a good choice.
Wireless headphones generally aren’t ideal for studio use, but if you’re dead set on a wireless design, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. It may seem odd to get a gaming headset for studio use, but they sound great and have low wireless latency thanks to their base transmitter, which makes them suitable for mixing and mastering.
These headphones have an impressively neutral audio reproduction, which is important when you’re trying to mix a track just right. Their wireless transmitter is easy to set up, so you don’t have to waste too much time pairing them to your devices, and they have a swappable dual battery system which means you’ll be able to use them wirelessly for as long as you want if you always keep one battery charged.
Although 37 ms of latency should be fine for mixing or mastering, it’ll still be too high for most studio recording. On the upside, you can simply use these headphones wired with any of the included audio cables they come with to nullify the latency issues. Some people might feel like they are a bit bulky, especially with a dedicated dock, for studio use, but if you're looking for a versatile and wireless setup, then the Arctis Pro Wireless is a surprisingly good option.
If the idea of a gaming headset doesn’t appeal to you, then the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are the next best option. They don't come with an EQ like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, but they have a more casual design that makes them more versatile if you also want to use them on-the-go and support aptX-LL for lower Bluetooth latency. You’ll likely need to purchase a dedicated Bluetooth adapter since most computers don’t have aptX-LL built-in, and they’ll still have too much latency for recording, but they should be fine for mixing or mastering. They sound very well-balanced overall, but their low-bass is strongly overemphasized, so you’ll want to take that into account in your mixes.
You'll want to go for the SteelSeries if you prefer the ease-of-use of added functionality of their dedicated wireless transmitter, but if you want a more casual wireless design and are okay with having to adjust your mixing style a bit and getting a separate Bluetooth adapter, then get the Plantronics.
If you're on a tighter budget and are looking for the best budget studio headphones, then the Superlux HD 681 is our best-tested pair of headphones that fit these criteria so far. They might not feel as premium as other recommendations on this list, but their audio reproduction is great, especially for something as affordable. Their design also feels very light and is quite comfortable to wear during long recording or mixing sessions.
They have a very well-balanced sound with virtually flawless bass and a very flat and even mid-range. Their mid-range is slightly underemphasized, nudging vocals and lead instruments to the back of the mix, but this effect is very subtle and most people won't hear it. Their treble performance is reasonable, but some may find these headphones sound a bit sibilant. That said, they have a surprisingly decent soundstage thanks to their semi-open design, which can be helpful while mixing.
Unfortunately, they feel very cheaply made. They feel a bit more durable than the even cheaper Koss UR20, but their build quality still doesn’t inspire much confidence. Their ear cup padding is also a bit stiff, which can take some time getting used to. You can also check out the Philips SHP9500 if you can spend a bit more. They are better-built and quite more comfortable, and the fully open-back design will give you an even more open sound. Their bass performance is less accurate, though, so for studio use, the Superlux are still a decent choice overall.
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.
01/07/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
11/29/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.