The 10 Best Isolation Headphones

Updated April 03, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Isolation Headphones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
For studio musicians and engineers, DJs, or anyone who really wants to immerse themselves in their music with no distractions, isolation headphones deliver superior sound quality with excellent external noise reduction. Thanks to their closed-back design, you can listen to virtually any device's output with the most faithful reproduction possible. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best isolation headphone on Amazon.

10. Koss Pro-4AA

The studio-grade Koss Pro-4AA deliver a frequency response range of 10 to 25,000 Hz, as well as closed-ear cushions that provide superior bass quality. Their coiled, single-entry ten-foot cord is designed for good mobility.
  • microphone mount hardware included
  • clean extended sound stage
  • very bulky headband
Brand Koss
Model PRO/4AA
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Beyerdynamic DT-770-M-80

The Beyerdynamic DT-770-M-80 are equipped with a single-sided, 10-foot cable with an in-line volume control, which makes them a convenient option for stage use. The soft-skin earpads make them comfortable for extended periods.
  • rugged construction
  • gold-plated stereo jack
  • have a tendency to produce static
Brand beyerdynamic
Model 472786
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Philips A5-Pro

Ideal for supremely loud environments and professional DJ monitoring, the Philips A5-Pro offer a closed-back architecture surrounding large 50 mm drivers. Their aluminum-hinged, steel alloy headband is extraordinarily durable.
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups
  • fold down for easy storage
  • flat sound stage
Brand Philips
Model A5Pro/27
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

7. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

With their ability to handle very high power levels, the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x are a good choice for studio tracking, mixing, and field recording. Their contoured earcups provide a tight seal for reliable sound isolation.
  • copper-clad aluminum wire voice coil
  • tuned for enhanced audio detail
  • not comfortable for extended use
Brand Audio-Technica
Model ATH-M30x
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Blue Sadie Premium

With 50mm drivers and a built-in amplifier, the Blue Sadie Premium translate the technical knowledge the company has garnered over years of top-tier microphone production into superior cans. Their unique, racecar-inspired headband provides an unexpected level of comfort.
  • automatic power function
  • up to 12 hours of battery life
  • cups are inexpensive pleather
Brand Blue
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Sennheiser HD 8

Built for demanding professional environments, the Sennheiser HD 8 feature metal pivot rings that allow both earcups to swivel up to 210 degrees. This definitely comes in handy during intense studio sessions or live DJ performances with a lot of movement.
  • protective case included
  • 2-year warranty
  • 95 ohm impedance
Brand Sennheiser
Model HD 8 DJ
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Oppo PM-3 Planar Magnetic

The extremely soft cushions on the Oppo PM-3 Planar Magnetic do a very good job of isolating you from external sounds without having to employ any kind of active cancellation. They also weigh in at just over 10 ounces, making them comfortable to wear for extended periods.
  • planar magnetic drivers
  • android or iphone specific controls
  • available in three colors
Brand OPPO Digital
Model PM-3
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd Generation

The Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd Generation have an incredible electrical resistance of 32 ohms, as well as a pair of drivers powered by Tesla technology. Despite their closed backs, they have the ability to produce a wide open sound stage.
  • textile braided cable
  • protein-coated leather ear cushions
  • 5-year warranty
Brand beyerdynamic
Model 719005
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. V-Moda Crossfade M-100

The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 offer patented, 50mm dual diaphragm drivers designed to separate and distinguish rich bass sounds from the mids and highs, which allows for efficient and simultaneous mixing of multiple audio sources.
  • carrying case with v-straps
  • detachable cables
  • fold and store compactly
Brand V-MODA
Model M-100-U-SHADOW
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Developed by a company whose claim to fame is a fantastic digital-to-analog signal converter, the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon are geared specifically toward users with the highest expectations from their listening experience.
  • 50mm dynamic drivers
  • high-gloss finish
  • inline mic and phone controls
Brand AudioQuest
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Why Isolation Headphones Are a Sound Investment

First, let us clear up a common misconception: noise isolation headphones are not the same thing as noise cancelling headphones. The latter uses an active approach to creating an artificially quiet micro-environment for their wearer, employing microphones that detect ambient noise and then playing frequencies that will offset these sounds (AKA cancel them out) to create the semblance of quiet save for the media one broadcasts through the speakers.

Isolation headphones, on the other hand, are made using materials and designs that are ideal for physically blocking external sounds while amplifying your chosen audio within their ear cups. These are carefully crafted pieces of acoustic hardware that represent an even better way for the audiophile to enjoy media, for, unlike noise cancelling units, they don't create any sounds save for those featured in a chosen musical track, podcast, or other media source.

By the nature of their design, isolation headphones are rather bulky. You can expect oversized ear cups that completely cover your ears and that certainly won't go unnoticed by anyone nearby. These are not the right headphones to wear while jogging, wearing a hat, or while out and about in public. Rather, this type of audio hardware is intended for use when you are truly focused on media. Music lovers will rejoice in the crystal clear, faithful reproduction that isolation headphones provide to a record or a digital track, while gamers will feel totally immersed in their artificial worlds with a pair over their ears. These are also the ideal headphones for the editor who needs to hear every single sound in an audio track or video clip, or for the musician trying to critically review his or her own performance. And of course the DJ who must be in command of his or her music, even while surrounded by sound, must use a fine pair of isolation headphones to have any chance of hearing anything.

While few isolation headphones are ideal for wearing as you walk, commute, or travel, some pairs are at least well-suited to bringing along with you on the go. Consider one of the several options that uses a folding headband and rotating ear cups, that can be packed down into a small case or pouch. If you do want to wear your headphones as you ride on the bus or train, you might look into one of the wireless isolation headphone options, as the absence of a cord allows for more convenient use during travel. Wireless headphones are less viable for the sound engineering or editing professional, however, as most have middling battery lifespans between charges.

How Do Isolation Headphones Work, Anyway?

In the simplest sense, noise isolating headphones work by isolating you from ambient noise. They essentially block the sounds that would otherwise reach your ears by creating a robust physical barrier. This is known as passive noise reduction/isolation. By both rejecting and absorbing external sound waves, a good pair of isolation headphones can provide their wearer with a pleasantly quiet environment, and can allow the user to enjoy his or her music or other audio programming with almost uninterrupted clarity.

The sound rejection provided by these headphones commences at their hard outer wall; the solid, shell-style exterior rejects sound in much the same way as tile wall bounces your voice back to you as you sing in the shower. Next come the soft, usually oversized ear pads, which allow for a comfortable but complete seal around your ears. Within these pads you will usually find a dense foam (viscoelastic memory foam is used commonly) that absorbs much of the sound that would otherwise reach your aural canal.

And finally, just like any other decent headphone, sound isolating headphones use small but potent speakers to fill the area around your ear with sound. When ambient noise is greatly reduced, you can enjoy the detail and nuance of your preferred audio in the fullest.

Other Ways to Enjoy the Silence

They say silence is golden; when you are being assailed by the din of traffic, bad music, noisy kids, or any of life's other many cacophonies, you may well agree. Fortunately, there are many ways a person can create their own personal quiet space. Wearing noise isolation headphones is ideal for when you wish to listen to music or podcasts without the encroachment of other noise, but at times these devices may not be practical or may be insufficient.

To block the most noise possible, you must use an ear plug that effectively seals your ear's canal, preventing sound waves from reaching your eardrum. Wearing noise-blocking earmuffs over these can almost ensure you will enjoy silence.

However, many people find wearing earplugs uncomfortable, and might not even want to be relegated to wearing headphones every time they want some peace and quiet. Using a sound machine that generates so-called white noise (more accurately referred to as pink noise, though) can trick your ears into hearing silence. These devices play sounds that span a wide range of frequencies, thereby overpowering sounds that would otherwise stand out to your ears.

If you are a musician or editor who needs as quiet as possible a space in which to work, you can add acoustic foam to the walls of your workspace to dampen external sources of audio and to reduce the echoing and reverberations caused by your own efforts. Ideally, you can obtain enough acoustic foam to fully line the walls and doors of your room or studio, but any amount of this unique, dense material will help. Place panels of acoustic foam around the room as evenly as possible, and make sure you have a carpet or rug down on the floor. Soft materials, such as shag carpeting and pillows, absorb sound well, and can even be used in place of purpose-built acoustic foams.

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Last updated on April 03, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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