6 Best Reference Headphones 2017

Are you an audiophile? Do you even know what an audiophile is? If, like me, you look for the best sound reproduction and tonal quality from your music then you fit the description perfectly. Ordinary headphones are fine for short spells but, over a period of time, the little imperfections and feedback become extremely irritating and ruin the musical enjoyment. In order to enjoy music at its best it is necessary to spend a few dollars and invest in the best reference headphones you can afford.

For the best quality sound reproduction you need the best headphones which go under different names depending on who makes and sells them. Commonly referred to as Reference Headphones, these can also be listed as Studio or Studio Reference Headphones as well as Audiophile Quality Headphones. Regardless of which name they go under, here are six of the best currently available on the market.

Technical Stuff

Without going into too much detail or getting too technical, there are a few terms you should understand before searching for reference headphones:

  • Closed-Back. A special seal behind the sound driver blocks out external noise. Because of this, Closed-Back headphones are good for use in public places and also deliver good quality lower- to mid-frequency sound reproduction.
  • Open-Back. An opening or grille behind the sound driver allows some sounds to escape and, indeed, to enter around the ears. Good for use in private but could be irritating to fellow commuters Open-Back headphones also give a crisp, sharp and clear sound at higher frequencies.
  • Semi-Open-Back. A hybrid of Open- and Closed-Back headphones, Semi-Open-Back headphones provide listeners with the best of both worlds.
  • Drivers. The drivers are simply magnets situated in the earpieces that produce the sound. Measured in millimetres, larger drivers provide better sound quality and especially so at lower sound frequencies. Generally, the bigger the driver, the better the sound reproduction.
  • Frequency Range. Measured in Hertz, the frequency range is the range of sounds that a set of headphones can produce. Human hearing range is from 20Hz to 20kHz and any decent set of headphones will fall within that range and possibly slightly outside.

Top 6 Reference Headphones Chart

PictureNameTypePriceRating (1-5)
PictureNameTypePriceRating (1-5)
1. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm HeadphoneClosed-Back/40mm$$4.6
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor HeadphonesClosed-Back/45mm$$$4.6
3. Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones with CCAW Voice CoilClosed-Back/40mm$$4.6
4. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, 250 ohmsClosed-Back/45mm$$$4.5
5. V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal HeadphoneClosed-Back/50mm$$$$4.5
6. AKG K 240 Semi-Open Studio HeadphonesSemi-Open-Back/30mm$4.4

Top 3 Best Reference Headphones Reviews

1. Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphone

If you love top notch sound quality or are interested in making your own recordings, the Sony MDR7506 Professional are probably the best reference headphones around at entry-level. The headphones are Closed-Back and eliminate almost all external noise sources and the large 40mm drivers deliver perfect sound quality from the lowest bass tones to the higher tonal frequencies.

Unusually for studio quality headsets, the MDR7506 can be folded which is practical and handy for storage purposes. The headphones are not wireless but the almost ten foot long cord allows plenty of latitude to wander in the studio or living room while the headphones themselves are very well padded and comfortable to wear even for extended periods.

There are certainly far more expensive, and arguably better, headphones but for price and value the Sony MDR7506 gets my number one vote.

2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones

Another reasonably-priced set of reference headphones, the ATH-M50x is the latest in audiophile-quality headphones from Audio-Technica. Well received by both audio reviewers and audio engineers, the ATH-M50x features large 45mm sound drivers which produce excellent sound quality across the entire sound spectrum.

These are closed-back and over-ear headphones which mean external noise sources are reduced to practically zero while sounds cannot leak out. Designed for professional use, the earpieces can swivel away from the head for one-ear monitoring purposes, which is a great bonus in a recording environment. Although slightly heavier than you would expect due to their robust design, the headphones are well-padded, adjustable and comfortable to wear but also very durable. A great feature of the M50x is that they come with three detachable cables: one long, one short and one medium-length coiled cable which can be interchanged as the situation requires.

Great sound reproduction, a frequency range of 15 to 28kHz, choice of cables and rotating earpieces make the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x a serious set of studio-quality headphones at a reasonable price and well worth a second look when looking for the high quality headphones.

3. Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones

Another top quality set of reference headphones from the Sony stable is the MDR-V6 Studio. These are classic headphones and recording studios have been using variations of the Sony MDR’s for years. The reasons are obvious when you listen to the crystal-clear sound quality from the powerful 40mm sound drivers. The bass is as it should be without being overpowering and the middle to high frequencies sharp and bright and never tinny.

Although the MDRV6 headphones are not over-ear but on-ear, they are closed-back and reduce external noise to an absolute minimum. The headphones come with a ten foot cord which allows plenty of freedom when working on the control panels or simply listening at home. The frequency range is from 5Hz to 30kHz which is well beyond that of even more expensive headphones.

The Sony MDRV6 Studio headphones are an excellent choice if you want to enhance your listening pleasure as the sound reproduction is top class. Designed with studio recordings in mind, the MDRV6 is also an excellent acquisition for those interested in recording or mixing their own music. Without spending a small fortune, the MDRV6 headphones are the way to go for audiophiles and budding recording artists everywhere.

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