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The 8 Best Studio Headphones For Mixing And Recording - Winter 2023 Reviews

Best Headphones For Studio

If you need a pair of headphones for use in a studio, finding the right option 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. The best studio headphones often have a coiled cable to give you enough range to move around your studio.

We've tested over 700 pairs of headphones, and below you'll find our recommendations for studio use. Also, check out our recommendations for the best DJ headphones, the best headphones for music, the best wired headphones, and the best audiophile headphones.

  1. Best Closed-Back Studio Headphones

    The best studio headphones with a closed-back design are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Closed-back headphones are well-suited for tasks like recording audio as their design helps block out some background noise, so you can still monitor your audio without completely tuning out what's going on around you. They also leak less audio than open-backs, which is great for live sessions. However, they still bleed some audio at high volumes, so they may not be the best for extremely noise-sensitive recording situations. While this will likely be fine if you're monitoring a recording session from a separate room, it may be an issue if you're recording yourself.

    These popular wired over-ears are well-known within the recording community. They provide amazing value and feel surprisingly well-built and durable despite their relatively low price point. They also come with three different cable options, including a coiled one that can stretch up to 10 feet so that you can move freely around your studio. They're comfortable too, and their ear cups can swivel.

    At this price point, you can also find the popular Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, which are a viable alternative with minor differences. They're similarly comfortable but have a wider, more spacious passive soundstage. They also have an analytical sound profile, which can help highlight imperfections in your audio. However, this sound can also be fatiguing over time.

    See our review

  2. Best Mid-Range Closed-Back Studio Headphones

    For something a little more wallet-friendly, try the Sony MDR-7506. These retro over-ears have been a mainstay in studios thanks to their well-balanced sound and closed-back design, which helps lower the risk of your audio bleeding into a recording. Although they have a touch of extra thump, rumble, and boom to their sound, it doesn't overwhelm vocals and lead instruments, as the mid-range is very flat. They also deliver audio consistently across reseats and have a decent leakage performance, which is good if you're monitoring audio at a reasonable volume. Unfortunately, they struggle to block out ambient noise like ambient chatter.

    Their coiled audio cable helps prevent tangles if you like to move around the studio. However, manufacturers start making cuts to build quality at this price point. Unlike the more expensive Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the Sony's audio cable isn't detachable, so if it gets damaged, you'll need to replace the entire unit. Their build also feels plasticky and cheap, so they can make a creaking sound when you put them on your head. However, if you don't mind their build, they offer a well-balanced sound suitable for recording.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Closed-Back Studio Headphones

    If you're on a tight budget, you'll want to check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. At this price point, you'll need to make some sacrifices to find something that still sounds good. While these over-ears look very similar to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, they have a more plasticky design with a thinner metal frame and exposed audio cables. However, thanks to their wallet-friendly price, you can purchase several pairs for your recording studio without breaking the bank.

    Although they're a bit light on thump and rumble for closed-backs, their mid range is very flat and neutral. They can reproduce vocals and instruments clearly and accurately, but their significant treble roll-off makes sibilants like cymbals sound dull and lispy. On the upside, they deliver audio consistently across different reseats and are decently comfortable for long listening sessions.

    See our review

  4. Best Open-Back Studio Headphones

    If you prefer open-backs, then the Sennheiser HD 800 are worth considering. Compared to closed-backs, open-backs are a solid choice for mixing rather than recording. Thanks to their design, audio leaves the ear cups and interacts with the environment around you, helping create a more immersive and natural soundstage than their closed-back counterparts. While the Sennheiser are the best of the best open-backs, they come with a hefty price tag, meaning they won't be for everyone. You'll also need a powerful amp to drive them, so if you don't already have one, this can be an additional cost.

    These premium open-back headphones have a very neutral sound profile, with an accurate mid-range response that ensures vocals and lead instruments sound clear and accurate. Their treble response is also very well-balanced, without being piercing or harsh. Like most open-back headphones, they struggle to reproduce the thump and rumble of low bass. Their audio cable is detachable, and they come with one extra in the box, along with a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter. They also have a sturdy, high-end build and a very comfortable fit. Unfortunately, the pin that keeps the hinges together is prone to coming loose over time, which is annoying, and some may prefer a bit less plastic in the build at their price.

    See our review

  5. Best Upper Mid-Range Open-Back Studio Headphones

    The HiFiMan Arya are the best upper mid-range open-back studio headphones we've tested. You may prefer planar magnetic headphones if you're looking for an immersive passive soundstage for mixing. They have large drivers that are better able to represent the stereo image, and as a result, their soundstage seems natural, wide, and spacious. However, they're heavier and a lot bulkier than the Sennheiser HD 800 S. For their price point, they also don't seem as premium. However, if that's not an issue, they're worth considering for mixing.

    These over-ears have a very neutral sound profile with a touch of extra brightness, which can help bring out imperfections in your mixes. Mids are well-balanced too, so vocals and instruments reproduce clearly. Thanks to their ski-band headband design, they can distribute their weight on your head so that you can stay comfortable during long listening sessions.

    This manufacturer has rereleased the Arya with slight changes. This model, colloquially known as the Arya V3, has Stealth Magnets, which the manufacturer advertises to improve sound quality by reducing distortion and increasing transparency. We tested the V2 model, which doesn't have this design but is still available via the manufacturer's website. We haven't tested the V3 model yet, and there may be differences in performance between models.

    See our review

  6. Best Mid-Range Open-Back Studio Headphones

    Looking for something more affordable? Take a look at the HiFiMan Edition XS. They're the second planar magnetic headphones on this list, so you can expect an immersive, open, and natural soundstage that's well-suited for mixing and mastering. That said, they differ from the HiFiMan Arya in design. They have a typical headband design, which isn't as comfortable for long listening sessions. Their build quality isn't as good either, as their hinges are made of cheap-feeling plastic. However, if you don't want to pay top dollar for planar magnetics, they offer comparable performance at a lower price point.

    Their neutral sound profile makes them a versatile choice for a variety of genres. They reproduce clear and present vocals and instruments, while sibilants like cymbals are bright without being piercing. Even though the ear cups are large, they deliver audio consistently across reseats. That said, they're bulky and heavy in design.

    See our review

  7. Best Lower Mid-Range Open-Back Studio Headphones

    The best lower mid-range open-back studio headphones we've tested are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. At this price point, you can expect to see more dynamic drivers than planar magnetic headphones. While their soundstage isn't as wide, spacious, or out-of-head as the HiFiMan Edition XS, they can deliver more overall bass. Their sound is more excited than neutral, which can color your mixes and be a deal-breaker if you're looking for accuracy.

    These over-ears have a comfortable fit and are well-built. However, their audio cable is integrated into their design, so if it gets damaged, you'll have to replace the entire unit. If you're looking for closed-backs with detachable audio cables, it's worth considering the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X instead. Although they're a bit more expensive, they're similarly comfortable and well-built and come with two pairs of audio cables. Their sound is also less boomy, though their treble is more recessed, resulting in weak vocals and instruments as well as slightly dull sibilants.

    See our review

  8. Best Budget Open-Back Studio Headphones

    The Superlux HD 681 are the best budget studio headphones we've tested. At this price point, there aren't very many choices out there for open-back headphones. Many of them, including the Superlux, have a flimsy, plasticky build quality and don't feel very durable. However, if you don't mind compromising a bit, these over-ears are worth considering. They have a semi-open-back design, meaning they leak less audio than most open-back headphones. It also helps them create a more immersive and spacious-seeming passive soundstage than most closed-back headphones. However, it's not as spacious as true open-backs like the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO.

    They're comfortable and have a fairly neutral sound profile, so they're suitable for most genres and types of content. They have a very flat mid-range response, ensuring that vocals and lead instruments are accurate and clear. While the slightly over-emphasized treble gives them a slightly sharp sound, some may prefer this for studio work because it helps to bring out details and emphasize imperfections in tracks. Users with thick hair or who wear glasses may experience a drop in bass, as this can break the ear cups' seal on your head. 

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Wireless: The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Wireless are a wireless version of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. They have a very neutral sound profile, but like many Bluetooth headphones, their high latency with PCs makes them less suitable for studio work. See our review
  • AKG K371: The AKG K371 are closed-backs with a pretty neutral sound profile and a great leakage performance, making them a viable alternative to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. However, they aren't as well-built, and they're prone to a lot more inconsistencies in audio delivery. See our review
  • HiFiMan Ananda: The HiFiMan Ananda are open-back, planar magnetic headphones that deliver an exceptional soundstage. However, their sound profile isn't as balanced as the HiFiMan Edition XS, and they're more prone to inconsistencies in their audio delivery, although this is still fairly minor. See our review
  • HiFiMan Sundara 2020: The HiFiMan Sundara 2020 are open-back, planar magnetic headphones. They're more comfortable than the HiFiMan Edition XS, but their passive soundstage isn't as immersive, and they're more prone to inconsistencies in audio delivery. See our review
  • Philips Fidelio X2HR: The Philips Fidelio X2HR are well-built open-back headphones with a more immersive soundstage than the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO and a flatter, less bright treble range. However, they lack more low-bass, and they're pretty bulky, which some users may not like. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 560S: The Sennheiser HD 560S are open-backs with a neutral sound and a decent passive soundstage performance. They offer a performance that's similar to the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, but their build is more flimsy. See our review
  • Philips SHP9500: The Philips SHP9500 are very comfortable open-back headphones that are a step up in performance from the Superlux HD 681 if you have a little more to spend. However, they lack significant low-bass. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 26, 2023: We've added the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 to Notable Mentions. We've also updated the text to improve clarity and accuracy but there hasn't been a change in our top picks.

  2. Oct 20, 2022: We've restructured this article to better reflect user expectations. We've added the following headphones: the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, HiFiMan Arya, and Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. We've also cleared the Notable Mentions of any picks that are out-of-date or unavailable.

  3. May 17, 2022: We removed the TIN Audio T3 from our picks. Also removed the HiFiMan ANANDA-BT Wireless, Shure SRH 440, Philips SHP9600, SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, and Philips Fidelio X3 from Notable Mentions. We replaced the HiFiMan Arya with the HiFiMan Edition XS.

  4. Mar 30, 2022: Added the HiFiMan Edition XS to Notable Mentions.

  5. Jan 28, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations in their categories and that the products are in stock.

All Reviews

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 our reviews for headphones that are good for neutral sound. 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.

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