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 540 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 that we've tested are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. These very 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'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 pair 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. 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 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.
They have a decently well-balanced sound profile overall, with extremely even bass and mids. However, their treble is a little less neutral, 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 prefer the fit and feel of in-ear monitors or want to lessen the amount of audio leakage in the recording booth, consider the TIN Audio T3. Their sound profile isn't as neutral as that of the AKG K371, with an overemphasized bass range and slightly cluttered mids, but they leak almost no audio and block out more ambient noise. They also feel better built, with metal buds and a braided, detachable audio cable that can be replaced if it gets damaged. Due to their in-ear design, their audio delivery is also substantially more consistent, as the fit, seal, and positioning of over-ear headphones can be affected by factors like the thickness of your hair or whether or not you wear glasses. However, they have a much smaller, even more unnatural soundstage.
Get the AKG if you want a better balanced sound profile and a slightly more open soundstage, but consider the TIN if you prioritize low audio leakage or want superior build quality.
The best headphones for mixing that we've tested are the Sennheiser HD 800 S. These wired over-ears have an open-back design that helps to create an open and spacious soundstage, which is suitable for mixing. They have a premium and durable feel, and their comfortable fit is ideal for long listening sessions.
Overall, they have a very neutral, balanced sound profile. The mid and treble ranges are impressively accurate, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear, detailed, and present. Like many open-backs, they lack a touch of low-bass, so they're a bit light on the thump and rumble in bass-heavy genres like hip-hop.
Unfortunately, due to their open-back design, these headphones don't block out a lot of background noises. They also leak a bit of sound, so they may not be the best choice to use in a crowded environment like an office. However, if you're mixing in the studio, they're a solid choice.
If you're looking to spend less on a pair of headphones for mixing, consider the Sennheiser HD 560S. These open-back headphones aren't nearly as well-built as the Sennheiser HD 800 S and have a less spacious, speaker-like soundstage, but they're substantially cheaper and have a similarly well-balanced sound profile, with a slightly less underemphasized low-bass range. They're also relatively lightweight and feature generous amounts of padding, so you should be able to wear them for extended listening sessions without discomfort. Unfortunately, like the 800 S, they let in a lot of ambient noise.
If cost isn't a concern and you want the most natural, expansive listening experience, get the 800 S, but if you're looking to save some money but still want an impressively well-balanced sound profile, consider the 560S.
The best wireless studio headphones that we've tested are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. Thanks to their dedicated wireless transmitter, they have a low latency that's ideal for studio use. Also, with their tight yet comfortable fit, you can wear them for long listening sessions without fatigue.
Once properly fitted on your head, they have a neutral audio reproduction that makes them ideal for a variety of music genres. If you like to customize the sound, you can use the graphic EQ and presets on the companion app. With over 15-hours of battery life, you shouldn't have to worry about recharging them during long mixing sessions, but their wireless transmitter base comes with an extra charge if you're on the go.
Unfortunately, they leak a bit of noise, so they might disturb the people around you. That said, these over-ears offer a decently versatile performance and a neutral sound profile that makes them ideal for studio use.
The best studio headphones at a budget price point that we've tested are the Superlux HD 681. Despite their budget-friendly price, these over-ears have a very well-balanced sound profile, with full-bodied, present, and clear vocals and lead instrumentals as well as a relatively deep and extended bass range, so they should suit a wide mix of musical genres.
They're also quite comfortable, courtesy of their lightweight design and spacious ear cups that should accommodate a wide variety of head and ear shapes, so you shouldn't experience too much discomfort, even during extended listening sessions. They deliver audio quite consistently and have an expansive, speaker-like soundstage.
Unfortunately, their all-plastic construction feels quite cheap and flimsy, which isn't entirely surprising given their price. They also don't use a detachable audio cable, so if it gets damaged, the entire unit would need to be replaced. Otherwise, if you're looking for cheap headphones with a large soundstage and well-balanced sound profile, these are a great choice.
12/22/2020: Replaced Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO with Sennheiser HD 560S. Added HifiMan ANANDA-BT Wireless, Philips Fidelio X3, and Philips SHP9600 to 'Notable Mentions'.
10/26/2020: Minor updates to the text for accuracy and clarity.
07/28/2020: Added Philips Fidelio X2HR to 'Notable Mentions'.
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 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.