Best Headphones for Mixing
Not that you need us to tell you, but mixing music is an art form. To capture the most complete form of your sound, a pair of proper headphones is essential. This has become increasingly hard as celebrity brands have flooded the market claiming to be “studio” or “professional” headphones, when what they really are are expensive pieces of plastic wrapped in good marketing. That’s why we’re here: to take you beyond good marketing and help you truly find out what the best headphones for mixing are.
Choosing the Best Headphones for Mixing
The key term when dealing specifically with mixing and mastering is, “complete sound accuracy.” That is what you need in a pair of ‘phones, and that is what you should always keep as your bottom line. There are a few key factors that go into achieving complete sound accuracy:
- First and foremost, you need open-back cans. Open backs allow the sound to escape the headphones and fill the space around you. What this does when mixing is prevent the build-up of sound, which generally tends to in lower the frequencies of bass. Having the least amount of build-up as possible is essential to ensure you have a clear, concise, and accurate mix.
- Find a pair of cans with as flat of a frequency response as possible. This will ensure your mixes translate across multiple different playback systems. For example, many headphones are designed for specific reasons, specific people, and specific genres of music. Some are for personal or hi-fi listening, and therefore provide a significant bump in the bass while cutting the treble. While this makes the music more fun and engaging, it can lead to problems when mixing as the frequency response of the headphones can skew your perception of the frequency response of your mix. In other words, find a pair of cans that don’t do anything on their own other than play back exactly what you’re producing.
- Lastly, protect your ears. This may sound parent-y, but it’s true. If you blow out your ears, than the greatest set of mixing headphones won’t make the slightest bit of difference. The CDC provides the following chart for permissible sound-exposure times at different sound pressure levels (SPL).
The 3 Best Headphones for Mixing Reviews
The Sennheiser HD 600s are our choice for the best of the bunch. You’ll find them mentioned in forums all across the interwebs as Sennheiser has basically become synonymous with the word headphones. The acoustic silk drivers deliver a very rich, full sound with these cans and make for perfect mixing.
Like all the headphones on this list, the HD 600s are open-back. They also deliver exceptionally even frequency distribution. Look under the hood, and the lightweight aluminum voice coils are responsible for the excellent transient response. Additionally, the neodymium ferrous magnets help these headphones to maintain optimum sensitivity and excellent dynamics.
These audiophile-grade cans deliver unbeatable sound quality, perfect for the serious mixer. Stylistically, they are a joy as well. If you buy one pair of mixing headphones this year, make it the Sennheiser HD 600.
The main knock on the the Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro are the 250 Ohms of power. Professional mixers will most likely need to pair a headphone amp with these in order to experience them in their fullest capacity.
Still, despite that small con, these cans are ready to go right out of the box. The earpads and headband are insanely comfortable, perfect for long mixing sessions. The bass is full, but not bloated — exactly what you want.
In our opinion, the best thing about the DT-990-Pros is the value you get for them, however. As a mid-range model, they have almost everything you could ask for (and even more in some cases), for a very reasonable price. You can pick these up at a lower price than the other top mixing headphones, yet still enjoy amazing sound. The exceptionally wide frequency range (5Hz-35kHz) allows mixers of all genres to compile the perfect track.
If you’re a little tight on cash, go for the Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro.
Our third best pick: the AKG K 701. The K 701s come from a long lineage of arguably the best headphones in the world. For a long time, the old AKG K 1000’s were commonly known in audiophile circles as the best headphones in the world. Today, the AKG torch has been passed to the 701s, even if they aren’t the best in the world anymore.
The flat-wire coil technology in these cans provides exceptional low-end sound. As a byproduct, it also lessens the need for an extremely powerful amp. If you’re someone who takes a celebrity’s word at face value, you might also consider that famous producer Quincy Jones said the K 701s have the best sound of any pair of headphones he’s ever heard. He even created his own special version: the AKG Q701.