If you need a pair of headphones for use in a studio, finding the right option 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, many sound engineers may prefer more spacious and immersive open-back headphones for mixing as they can be more comfortable after a long day in the studio. Many of the best studio headphones also often have a coiled cable to give you enough range to move around your studio.
We've tested over 730 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.
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 happening 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. Despite their relatively low price point, they provide amazing value and feel surprisingly well-built and durable. 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.
You can also find the popular Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO at this price point; they're 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.
For something a little more wallet-friendly, try the Sony MDR-7506. These retro over-ears have been a studio mainstay 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 background chatter.
Their coiled audio cable helps prevent tangles if you like to move around the studio. However, manufacturers have started making cuts to build quality at this price point. Unlike the more expensive Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the Sony headphones' 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're okay with their build, they offer a well-balanced sound suitable for recording.
If you're on a tight budget or need several pairs of headphones and want an affordable option, it's worth considering the Audio-Technica ATH-M20X. These headphones aren't as well-built as the Sony MDR-7506, but they offer good sound at a lower price. They look similar to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x but have a more plasticky design with a thinner metal frame and exposed cables.
Their sound lacks a bit of low-bass for closed-back headphones, but they offer a flat, neutral mid-range response that reproduces voices and instruments clearly and accurately. However, their significant treble roll-off makes sibilants like cymbals and S and T sound dull and lispy. Still, they have consistent audio delivery, so you're more likely to hear the same sound across reseats, and they have a decently comfortable fit for long hours in the studio.
If you prefer open-backs, then the Sennheiser HD 800 S 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 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. The equally high-end HiFiMan Arya don't suffer from this problem and have a deeper bass extension, but their planar magnetic drivers make them bulkier and heavier. That said, they're still worth considering for mixing.
Are you looking for something more affordable? Take a look at the HiFiMan Edition XS. These use planar magnetic drivers to help them create an immersive, open, and natural-seeming soundstage well-suited for mixing and mastering. Their build quality is less premium than the Sennheiser HD 800 S, as some elements, like the hinges, are made of cheaper-feeling plastic. Still, their performance is similar to HiFiMan's pricier models if you want more affordable planar magnetics.
They have a neutral sound profile that makes them well-suited for various genres. They lack some low-bass, like all open-back headphones, but the rest of the range is well-balanced, so your audio has punch. Voices and instruments sound clear, detailed, and bright. The headphones have a bulky design and feel heavy on your head, but they deliver audio consistently across reseats.
The best lower mid-range open-back studio headphones we've tested are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. These headphones use dynamic drivers, which is more common for cheaper headphones. They don't create as spacious or natural a passive soundstage as the HiFiMan Edition XS, but on the plus side, they deliver more bass overall, so your music has more punch and warmth. Their sound profile is excited instead of neutral, which is versatile but might not suit people looking for the most accurate response. Instruments and vocals sound bright but can also be slightly piercing.
They're heavier than the HiFiMan but have a comfortable fit for most people. They have great overall build quality, but the audio cable isn't detachable, so you must replace or repair the headphones if they get damaged. If you're also considering closed-back headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X are similarly well-built, comfortable, and have a detachable audio cable. Their sound is less boomy, but they have an underemphasized treble response, so instruments and vocals sound somewhat veiled.
The Superlux HD 681 are the best budget studio headphones we've tested. At this price point, there are few choices for open-back headphones. Many of them, including the Superlux, have a flimsy, plasticky build quality and don't feel very durable. However, these over-ears are worth considering if you're okay with compromising. They have a semi-open-back design, which leaks 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 less spacious than 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 somewhat sharp sound, some may prefer this for studio work because it helps to highlight details and emphasize the tracks' imperfections. Users with thick hair or glasses may experience a drop in bass, which can break the ear cups' seal on your head.
Jun 02, 2023: Moved the HiFiMan Arya to an in-text mention in the Sennheiser HD 800 S pick to better balance our open-back and closed-back picks.
Apr 03, 2023: Updated the text for relevance and clarity and made sure the products are in stock.
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.
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.
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.
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.