The 10 Best Studio Headphones
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in January of 2018. Whether you're a musician, studio engineer, DJ, or podcaster, you'll enjoy high-fidelity monitoring of your work with a pair of these headphones. Ranging from budget-tier to audiophile-grade, our top picks provide balanced, clean and accurate sound reproduction. Some are good for music production and recording, while others are best for critical listening and mastering. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 07, 2020:
Contrary to what some think, you do not by any means need a jaw-droppingly expensive set of audiophile headphones in order to produce high-quality music. The first key is realizing that different headphones have different uses. Fully open models like the affordable Grado SR80e and slightly more costly AKG K702 are especially good for mastering, and to a large extent mixing, because their wide sound stage simulates somewhat the act of playing music on stereo speakers. The Hifiman HE-400I and Sennheiser HD 600 are both mid-range open-back designs, and the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are among the best you can get for less than a grand.
Electronic and solo producers sometimes prefer closed-back headphones for their more focused sound, but these are also absolute necessities for a lot of studio recording setups, especially those that will have to deal with vocals. Some of these will look familiar, namely the Sennheiser HD280 Pro, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, and Sony MDR7506, and none of them cost a fortune, plus they're all pretty durable. All three of those are seen with similar regularity throughout the industry, and most people tend to really like at least one of them.
If you're okay with a little bit of audio bleed, the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro are some of most well-rounded cans on the market. The AKG K240 are designed with a similar semi-open configuration, and though they're not terribly advanced, their price-to-performance ratio is hard to beat.
June 27, 2019:
Whereas consumer headphones embellish recordings with color by boosting or muting certain points in the audible frequency range to make the listening experience more enjoyable, studio headphones are engineered with totally different criteria. Our picks are designed to reproduce sound as realistically as possible so that sound engineers and musicians can accurately gauge their work. Having a set of cans that boosts the bass end or significantly dampens the treble range to reduce the piercing harmonic sounds of cymbals, violins, and even high-pitched vocals diminishes an engineer's ability to create a finished product that will sound the way he or she wants. It's important to know this when considering your purchase of a pair of studio headphones.
On this update, we've added the Audio Technica ATH-M40X to our list and placed it at #9. It's a fantastic option for amateur musicians or engineers thanks to the quality it provides at its price. Our previous #1 and #2 picks, the Sennheiser HD 800 S and the Shure SRH 1840, respectively, have retained their positions, though we've made a change to the #3 spot by bumping in the Sennheiser HD 650 where the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro (now #5) had previously been. Though both are renowned in the community, the Sennheiser HD 650 have the edge — though they'll cost you a bit more.
Focal Clear Made in France, these low-impedance cans can be found in many of the studios responsible for monitoring and mastering some of the world's most renowned music. Their performance is ultra-detailed without any piercing treble or low-end distortion. With these, there's virtually no worry of encountering buzz, interference, or static hum. Their lightweight, micro-perforated headband and ear cushions are incredibly comfortable, not to mention breathable, so you can wear them for extended studio sessions without overheating or feeling any irritation. As you should expect from such a pricy model, luxury accessories are included with the headphones, like a beautiful (and expensive) hard-shell carrying case and three professional-grade cables ranging from 1.2-3 meters in length. They also can be driven by nearly any device, including smart phones. focal.com
Audeze LCD-4 Bearing an enormous pricetag, the elegant LCD-4 is the Lamborghini of the studio headphone world. Made with world-class components, it's of a quality that surpasses anything the average music listener could imagine. Treble-sensitive listeners will be happy to know that the highs are somewhat subdued, though they still stand out for their precise articulation in what is otherwise a somewhat dark — though warm — midrange-heavy sound profile. To say they shine in the mids is not saying enough, though, because they cast their bright light on the entire frequency range; however, mids are what they do best. Vocals sound absolutely superb. While they're quite heavy, they're comfortable — though this should be a given at this price point. The company offers a 30-day trial when you purchase the pair from them directly, and there's a decent variety of alternative, reference-grade options available, as well. audeze.com
Sennheiser HD 820 If you're sold on the manufacturer's pedigree and reputation - and many people are - you'll understand why these high-end cans are so popular, despite their exorbitant cost. Their audio quality should allow for critical listening at a level of detail that all but the most trained listeners aren't even capable of hearing. sennheiser.com