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. 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 460 pairs of headphones, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best studio headphones to buy. Also, check out 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 relatively low price point. They're comfortable enough for long recording sessions, with large ear cups and a well-padded headband.
Their sound reproduction is well-balanced and fairly accurate, with a tiny amount of extra bass, but an even and accurate mid-range. They're a good choice for mixing, mastering, or recording as their closed-back design leaks a lot less audio than open-back headphones. 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 that 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 change your music quickly. Also, despite being closed-back headphones, they still leak a bit of audio at higher 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.
The best studio headphones for recording that we've tested to date are the AKG K371. Thanks to their closed-back design, they leak much less audio than other entries on this list, which might be helpful if you intend to wear them in a recording booth. That also means that they do a slightly better job of blocking out ambient sound, so you won't have to worry about cranking the volume knob completely up to drown out some background chatter.
These headphones have a decently well-balanced sound profile overall, with extremely even bass and mids. Their treble is a little less neutral, however, and some more delicate instrumentals and vocals might be dulled and veiled. Unfortunately, they don't provide the most consistent listening experience either, as bass and treble might be heard differently on separate occasions, especially if you wear glasses or have long hair.
They're also comfortable enough to wear throughout long listening sessions, feel reasonably well-built, and come with a selection of detachable audio cables, including a long coiled wire, which helps make them more suitable for a wide range of environments. Since they don't provide as consistent a listening experience as some of the other choices on this list, they may not be the best-suited product for mixing. However, their very good noise isolation performance means that they aren't a bad choice for 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.
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. 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 you don't mind spending your money to get an amazing listening experience, these headphones are a great choice.
If you're looking for a high-end listening experience with a slightly less eye-watering price tag, consider the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. They aren't as comfortable as the Sennheiser HD 800 S and have a less spacious soundstage, but they're substantially cheaper, still look quite premium, and feel extremely well-built. Their sound profile is very well-balanced and accurate overall and their high performance-per-dollar ratio makes them a very solid choice if you intend to outfit a new studio with several new pairs of headphones.
Get the Sennheiser if money is no object and you want the highest-fidelity listening experience on the market, but consider the Beyerdynamic if you're looking for something considerably more affordable but don't want to skimp out on a well-balanced sound profile.
The best studio headphones with a wireless connection that we've tested to date are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. These headphones use a dedicated wireless transmitter that ensures low enough latency for studio use. 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. 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 lag while recording instruments or vocals, making a wired pair of headphones a better choice. That being said, if your studio setup requires you to go wireless, these are a good option.
The best studio headphones in the budget category that we've tested so far are the Superlux HD 681. These wired headphones are a very solid value, which a semi open-back design that ensures a listening experience almost as spacious as far more expensive models on this list. They're also comfortable enough to wear throughout long listening sessions and offer a pretty consistent fit, so they should sound similar every time you put them on.
Considering their low price point, these headphones have a very well-balanced sound profile. Bass and mids are reproduced very accurately, which provides a punchy and warm listening experience as well as clear and present vocals. Their treble, unfortunately, is a tad uneven, so some higher frequencies will be heard as sharp and piercing.
They also don't feel especially sturdy or premium, which, again, is to be expected at this price point. If you don't mind a less well-balanced sound profile, the similarly-priced Superlux HD 681 EVO feel a bit more premium. However, the Philips SHP9500 are an even better-built alternative if you don't mind spending more.
07/28/2020: Added Philips Fidelio X2HR to 'Notable Mentions'; slight changes to text for accuracy and clarity.
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.