Finding the best studio headphones is now more of a challenge due to the sheer number of products available. Some companies are also starting to label their own products as “studio” headphones, even though they are not up to spec. Mainstream brands are freely using the word for marketing purposes. This has resulted in a cluttering of products in the once niche market. Those who know what they are looking for may not have any problems picking the right products for their specific purpose. However, others who are just starting out in the music business may not be so fortunate. There are of course a lot of factors to consider when looking for the best headphones for both recording and mixing. This includes the budget, the intended usage, and the product’s features.
There are currently a lot of decent headphones priced at $100 or less. However, some of the powerful and feature-rich models may cost a lot more. Those who intend to use their headphones for serious recording sessions may want to save up some cash to go for the more high-end models. The next important thing to consider is the device’s intended usage. Going for closed-back headphones is perfect for listening and studio purposes, while an open-back model is good for mixing. Open-back headphones allow some noise to leak out by design. This is typically for mixing purposes as it negates the build-up of low frequencies inside the headphones. Open-back headphones also typically produce a more flat and accurate sound. These types of headphones are perfect for home studios, mixing, and professional audio mastering.
Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, keep all of the noise inside. These types of headphones are perfect for recording sessions. The headphones don’t allow sounds to leak into the microphone, which might audible on the recorded track. Closed-back headphones are also much more common as they are typically for general music listening and recording. Some studios do use a combination of both a closed-back and an open-back for different situations. The last thing to consider before buying any headphones is its added features. Some products do offer added features such as active noise cancellation and high impedance ratings. These factors are mainly for those who are looking for a specific product for a specific purpose. True studio headphones shouldn’t really have any other embellishments. They should simply provide pure audio accuracy. Then again, some people will still consider some of the “special features” when buying headphones that best suit their needs.
In the list below, we have listed the absolute best professional headphones you can buy in 2018. The list includes only the best products from the very best companies who know what they are talking about.
The premium choice for critical listening
Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Open-back design, Circum-aural
- 3mm / XLR4 Jack Plug
- Patented 56mm Ring Radiator Transducers
- 40mm Aluminum Voice Coil, 42mm Magnet
- 300 Ohm Impedance
- 4 – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB) Frequency Response
- Ergonomic Cups and Damped Headband
Why We Like It
The Sennheiser HD 800S is a purpose-built product made for extreme critical listening. This product works best when plugged into an amp. The output produces an exceptional critical listening experience with clear and detailed audio.
Users who are looking for the very best open-back design headphones may want to check out the new Sennheiser HD 800S. This particular product is the top-of-the-line when it comes to open-back headphones. The 800S is purpose-built as a device for critical listening purposes. It comes with a number of innovative technologies that help in producing very accurate and detailed audio. The Sennheiser HD 800S comes with an audio absorber feature. This greatly reduces unwanted frequency response peaks. This allows for musical nuances to become more audible.
The critical-listening-focused headphones feature massive open-back ear cups. These cups come reinforced with both metal and high-grade plastic. The materials used are all high-end, contributing to the headphones premium feel. With ample padding and suede materials, the Sennheiser HD 800S is comfortable to wear. It has spacious ear cups and a fully adjustable headband. Given its open-back design, the headphones allow airflow to keep users ears cool during long sessions. This particular pair of headphones is quite heavy when compared to its competitors. It is also big and bulky, which means that it might not be perfect for those who like to place their headphones inside their backpacks.
The Sennheiser HD 800S is one of the best sounding open-back over-ear headphones in the market. It produces very punchy and consistent bass. It has a great and even treble and mid-range as well. The open-back design also produces a very large and spacious soundstage. This is very useful when listening to more complex pieces such as classical music, jazz, and vocal-centric tunes. Out of the box, the headphones produce a slightly bright treble and a muddy lower mid-range sound. Being a device used for critical listening, the Sennheiser HD 800S is not intended for outdoor use. The headphones allow too much ambient noise, which means that it is best used inside an isolated room.
For critical listening purposes, the Sennheiser HD 800S is the perfect tool for the job. It has one of the best audio reproduction performances in the market. It is able to produce ample and well-balanced audio throughout the range. It also provides a spacious and accurate stereo image, making it one of the best for critical listening.
Best DJ Monitoring and Critical Mixing Headphones
Audio Technica ATH-M50X
- Closed-back Design
- Detachable 1.2m -3.0m Coiled Cable
- 15-28,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 38W Impedance
- 90-degree Swiveling Earcups
- 45mm Large-aperture Drivers
- Deep and Accurate Bass Response
Why We Like It
The Audio Technica ATH-M50X is a great sounding pair of headphones that are comfortable to wear on long sessions. It is also relatively affordable when compared to other critical-listening models. This makes it great for budding musicians and artists.
The ATH-M50X is a mid-end pair of headphones that are perfect for budding artists. It falls somewhere between a professional studio and cheap smartphone headphones. It is the follow-up to the highly successful ATH-M50, which were for professional use. Its relatively cheap price makes it attainable for normal users. It is also perfect for those who want to have a professional-grade product for everyday use.
Despite its low price point, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X packs quite a lot of features that make it a cut above the rest. The headphones feature 45mm Neodymium drivers with copper-clad aluminum voice coils. These produce very lively and accurate sound with an emphasis on its bottom-end response. The circumaural around-the-ear design allows for good sound isolation, even in loud environments. Its punchy and accurate bass response makes it a great tool for DJs who are into mixing electronic music.
In terms of its design, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X is relatively simple with most of it made out of plastic. Despite the lack of expensive materials, this pair of headphones is still quite durable and can take quite a lot of beating. The headphones also feature large ear pads, which has plenty of room for most earlobes. The headband is also comfortable to use and spreads pressure over the head very nicely.
Due to the added bass punch and weight, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X may not be an ideal product for critical listening or home studios. However, its multitude of features does make it a great pair for budding DJs. The earcups on the M50X can swivel around up to 90 degrees. They can even fold up right into the headband. Turning one cup around allows for easy one-ear monitoring, a feature that is specifically useful for live DJ performances.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50X is a great product that produces awesome audio and punchy bass. It is a great bang for your buck product that is very versatile. It is suitable for both professional gigs and for everyday scenarios.
Affordable Professional Open-back Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
- Open-back, Circumaural Design
- 5-35,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 250 Ohm Impedance
- Stereo 3.5mm and 6.35mm Jack
- Adjustable Spring Steel Headband Design
- Dynamic Audio Transducer
- 0m Single-sided Coiled Cable
Why We Like It
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is a sturdy and well-built product that produces excellent audio with a spacious soundstage. It costs significantly less than its competitors, but still offers quite a lot in terms of audio performance.
Good quality open-back headphones usually cost quite a lot of money. Products from well-known brands can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, this is where the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is different. For just a fraction of the cost, the DT 990 Pro offers quite a lot in terms of its audio performance. In terms of its design, this particular pair of headphones looks pretty plain. It isn’t made of expensive materials, but it will definitely get the job done in terms of offering great audio reproduction.
Most of the headphone is plastic, except for a metal band holding the ear cups. Despite the cheap materials, the product is still quite comfortable to wear. This is partly thanks to memory foam padding placed in the right places. Due to its plastic build, this pair of headphones isn’t as durable as its competitors. However, once you get past its looks, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is actually a great product for audiophiles. The sound quality of the DT 990 Pro is where it actually shines and will blow away most users. Given its price tag, the audio reproduction of the DT 990 Pro is quite surprising.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro produces tight and excellent low-end audio, with flawless mid-range and treble. It is perfect for critical listening purposes thanks to its detailed and high-resolution output. The crisp sound quality is also accompanied by a wide soundstage, which is typical of open-back headphones. Bass, vocals, and instruments are well-balanced and produced in high-fidelity. The DT 990 Pro isn’t really for everyday outdoor use as it does allow a lot of outside noise to leak in. However, within a well-isolated room and a good amplifier, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro truly offers more than what most users would expect.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is an excellent pair of headphones for critical listening. It is perfect for users who want a higher amount of detail in their music. It is comfortable to use and has enough room for an amplifier. Its low price point is also an added bonus given its impressive audio performance.
Great Quality Reference Headphones
- Closed-back Studio Headphones
- 40mm Aluminum Driver
- 5-40,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 45 Ohms Impedance
- Dual Chamber Bass Reflex Enclosure
- Detachable 1.2m Coiled and 3m Straight Cables
- Gold-plated 6.3 mm Stereo Adaptor
Why We Like It
The Pioneer DJ HRM-7 is a studio-ready pair of headphones that are perfect for DJs and EDM music producers. It is comfortable to use for long periods and produces accurate audio across a wide dynamic and spectral range.
Pioneer is a brand well known for its products catering to DJs and live performance gear. Its latest Pioneer HRM-7 is the company’s step into the professional studio market. The new product brings with it the company’s strong reputation in providing quality products that deliver its promise. The HRM-7 offers quite a lot for both casual users and professionals alike.
In terms of its design, the HRM-7 is a large pair of headphones designed for use over long periods. It is lighter than it looks and its circumaural design provides a comfortable fit on most heads. Its velour-covered memory foam earpads also help in assuring comfort with extended usage. As for its audio performance, the HRM-7 delivers a pleasurable experience. It has excellent stereo separation and a wide dynamic range. Audio remains undistorted even at high levels. There is also no audible shelving on extended frequency ranges. Bass response is superb, thanks to the unit’s built-in bass reflex enclosure.
The Pioneer HRM-7 also sports a large 40mm driver with an aluminum wire voice coil covered in copper. It also comes with large neodymium magnets, resulting in a very wide frequency response up to 40 kHz. The sound production is in extreme detail and in high resolution. The onboard HD driver also produces amazing sound accuracy. Dual chambers isolate outside noise. A 3-layer damping structure gets rid of unwanted vibration and resonance. The intended use for the HRM-7 is originally for dance music production. However, it is actually versatile enough for other uses. The pair of headphones is also perfect for other audio work, such as mixing, recording, and post-production.
The HRM-7 provides a good balance between comfort and sound quality. Its audio output is impressive. It is flat all throughout the range and it remains neutral in tone. The pair of headphones provides a lot of useful features for professionals and is also great for casual music lovers.
Great Value Semi-open Headphones for Critical Listening
AKG K240 MKII
- Semi-open Headphone Design
- 15-25,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 55 Ohms Impedance
- Patented Varimotion 30mm XXL transducer
- Self-adjusting Headband
- 5mm Stereo Plug with 6.34mm Adapter
- 3m Straight and 5m Coiled Cable
Why We Like It
This semi-open critical listening pair of headphones provides great sound quality. It is also an added bonus that it is comfortable to wear. It delivers an immersive audio experience thanks to its large soundstage. Priced relatively low, the AKG K240 MKII is a great product for music lovers and music producers.
The AKG K240 MKII shares a lot of its design cues from the other products in the K series. It has a semi-open design with circular ear cups. Its retro headband design also looks quite stylish. However, compared to its higher-end siblings, the K240 is significantly cheaper. AKG has managed to keep the price down with the use of cheaper materials. Fortunately, sound quality and reproduction remain the same.
The overall product is lightweight for its size and is comfortable enough to wear for most ears. The ear cups are also well padded is suitable for long listening sessions and recordings. Despite using cheaper materials, the K240 is still rigid and durable. It is can probably take a few drops, but proper care might be necessary for it to last as long as other headphones.
Sound quality is above par, with good and thumping bass. Mid-range quality is also good with sharp treble. Thanks to its semi-open design, the AKG K240 MKII has a wide soundstage. Instrument and vocal reproduction are excellent, making the headphones perfect for critical listening. The pair of headphones is unfortunately prone to high leakage. It is also very sensitive to ambient noise, which means that it might not be good to use outdoors or in noisy environments. However, these disadvantages are by design and won’t really matter in an isolated environment.
The AKG K240 MKII is an affordable semi-open pair of headphones for critical listening. It produces good audio throughout the different frequencies. Instruments and vocal audio is also reproduced very well. The unit’s great soundstage is also a big advantage that most critical listeners will appreciate.
A Masterfully Crafter Pair of Headphones for True Audiophiles
- Open-back Headphone Design
- 5-50,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 32 Ohms Impedance
- Handcrafted Mahogany and Chrome Housing
- UHPLC Copper Cables
- 50mm Driver, New Voice Coil, and Diaphragm Design
- 5mm Stereo Adapter with a 15-foot extension cable
Why We Like It
While it might cost more than “normal” professional headphones, the Grado PS1000e is well worth the money. The flagship model from Grado exudes quality and craftsmanship. It also sounds as good as it looks. It produces spectacular audio reproduction even with low-quality source materials.
The Grado PS1000e is a wonderfully crafted piece of audio equipment that reproduces sound, unlike any other headphone. Even though it cost quite a lot of money, the sound it delivers is absolutely priceless. Simple songs and tracks become completely different tunes. All nuances becoming instantly audible. Ringing and transient distortion are completely removed thanks to its toned wood construction. Response throughout the spectrum is also consistent, which is perfect for critical listening.
Grado crafted the PS1000e is a hybrid process using hand-crafted mahogany and machined aluminum. The chrome-plated alloy goes through a special casting method to increase porosity. The cable itself uses UHPLC (Ultra-High Purity, Long Crystal) copper. This greatly improves overall control and stability throughout the spectrum. An accurate and fast response is thanks to the headphones’ new 50mm driver and reconfigured voice coils and diaphragm.
The headphones’ soundstage is also quite impressive. It is able to replicate a giant concert hall or an intimate bar. Depth and placement of each instrument become readily apparent. Each and every nuance is instantly noticeable. Inside a quite room, users can basically close their eyes to make it feel like they are sitting in front of their favorite artist or band.
The combination of steel and wood does add some weight to the headphones. The beautifully designed piece of equipment is heavy, but it is still very comfortable to wear. Grado has placed its own G-cushion system to bear some of the weight. The leather headband and ample cushioning also help in ensuring comfort for prolonged usage.
The Grado PS1000e is a high-quality piece of equipment that will completely change the way you listen to music. It produces a massive amount of detail that unlike any other product in its category. Classical music and jazz tunes will never sound the same when you’ve heard them on the Grado PS1000e.