Whether you’ve engineered your hundredth professional audio file, or are working on your first, you’ll need a pair of studio quality headphones. Not headsets that just say they’re professional, but ones that perform to your highest standards. The best studio headphones deliver the clearest, most accurate rendition possible of your audio.
Studio quality headphones are different than regular consumer headphones because they are designed for critical listening rather than entertainment. While it may be personally enjoyable to listen to deep exaggerated bass; it’s certainly not helpful when creating a piece from scratch, or when fine-tuning your finished product.
With our help you’ll understand the important features of professional headphones, and we’ll share our favorite products that are sure to meet your needs. We’ll even thoroughly review our top five. You’ll feel confident selecting the pair that works best no matter what you’re doing in the studio.
- Application. What you do in the studio directly influences which headphones you’ll want to use. Mixing and mastering work better with open-back headphones because low tones don’t accumulate in the earcup causing false low tones. Recording work best with closed-back headphones because they keep sound from leaking back into the microphone and re-recorded on the track. If you find that your preferences differ that’s okay; both types of headphones will work for all applications.
- Frequency Response. Every sound has its own frequency range. Those frequencies are what give each instrument and voice its distinctive tone. Bass is low frequency while treble is high. Vocals are found at different frequencies than drums or guitar. Make sure that the cans you choose will reproduce the frequencies you intend to mix.
- Comfort. It may take several hours in the studio to correctly mix, master, or record an album. You want to make sure that the headphones you choose are comfortable to wear for extended periods.
Top 10 Studio Quality Headphones Overview Chart[ws_table id=”41″]
Top 5 Best Studio Headphones Reviews
1. AKG K702
AKG’s K702 offers superb mix translation and completely balanced sound.
With these, instruments sound exactly as if they are sitting next to you live. Their detail and fullness is especially noticeable in classical music. The dramatic changes from high to low pitches are executed without muddiness or lag.
The K702 delivers perfect sound position. Arranging music is so easy because you easily imagine yourself sitting inside a concert auditorium instead of your studio.
Bass tones are prevalent but not overbearing. These are well suited for mixing any genre, but we were most impressed with the way voice and acoustic instruments were reproduced. If you’re working on something like voiceovers you’ll definitely want to check these out.
The K702 is an all-around awesome pair of reference headphones. The accuracy of its sound reproduction is hard to beat.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
For the ATH-M50x, Audio-Technica expanded the features of one of its most popular units, the M50. What you get is the reliable sound you expect from Audio-Technica, plus a few physical tweaks we think you’ll really appreciate.
Its frequency response is suitable for finding and processing the details within all genres of music. The ATH-M50x’s tight, focused bass accents the music with the perfect weight and punch. The midrange is wide allowing for a breadth of clear sound reproduction. Its treble highlights the rest of your piece without sounding frilled. The overall experience is realistic. And that’s what you need for critical listening.
The ATH-M50x has contoured earcups instead of the normal flat kind. They form a tight comfortable seal for excellent sound isolation. The contour really helps them sit naturally over your ears.
In an effort to appeal to mobile producers, Audio-Technica includes three different sized cables with the M50x. This makes it easy to use them to check your work on multiple devices. And because they’re detachable you never have to worry about twisted, shorting wires.
If you’re looking for a reliable workhorse then the ATH-M50x by Audio-Technica is what you need. They’re comfortable, reliable, and have great sound.
3. Ultrasone DJ 1 S-Logic Plus
Ultrasone’s DJ1 is a solid choice as one of the best studio headphones by matching sturdy build quality with articulate sound.
The DJ1 appears bulky at first glance but is actually remarkably streamlined. The cans are smooth and press neatly atop your ears. There aren’t any large protrusions making you feel like you’re wearing a helmet. The headband is snug but loosens after some wear. Its padding could be a bit softer but that issue isn’t a deal-breaker.
The DJ1 has a larger soundscape than we expected from closed-back headphones. This is due to Ultrasone’s S-Logic Technology. They position the driver so that sound is directed towards your outer ear instead of directly into the ear canal. The result is that sound reflects more naturally. S-Logic technology also serves as first-line of hearing protection because it reduces the sound pressure that hits your eardrums.
Although these offer pristine sound reproduction, we did did notice that the bass frequencies of the DJ1 are more pronounced than most other studio headphones. That’s not to say the sound is unpleasant or even unbalanced; just that genres such as hip-hop, dubstep, and rock really benefit from the tuning of the DJ1.
The DJ1 by Ultrasone is a logical choice for audiophiles who want deep growling bass without sacrificing the rest of the musical spectrum.
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
The ATH-M40x delivers a pleasing neutral soundscape and simple construction without breaking the bank.
Audio-Technica’s minimalist design means business; they focused on function instead of just aesthetics. The ATH-M40x’s extra-soft cushions are well-suited for comfort during extended studio sessions. Its stainless steel headband pivots for increased durability while the detachable cables make for easy storage.
Their clear neutral sound is on par with its much more expensive counterparts. Lows pulsate without sounding muddy or overbearing. Highs and vocals are sharp without feeling too brassy. The overall sound is articulate.
The ATH-M40x from Audio-Technica is a great set of studio quality headphones on a novice’s budget. They’d make a valuable addition to any home or professional studio.
5. Marshall Monitor Headphones
The Monitor may be Marshall’s first set of over-ear headphones but that doesn’t mean Marshall is new to creating exceptional sound products. Marshall speakers and accessories have been routinely used by musicians and sound engineers for decades. The Monitor successfully brings that quality to regular consumers.
The first thing we noticed was its solid sleek construction. The unit is mostly composed of metal, with brass fittings and detailing. Since they fully collapse for easy transport those brass fittings will definitely make this unit durable. Marshall also equipped The Monitor with a plush leather headband that makes the entire thing fit like a glove.
Those already familiar with Marshall products will be pleasantly surprised by the logo and styling of The Monitor’s earcups. The cursive white logo that appears on each ear is reminiscent of the one that appears on their classic amplifiers.
Out of the box The Monitor delivers nothing short of spectacular tunes. The overall feel is powerful; neither flat like reference headphones nor so bass-heavy that they only sound good with a few genres. The bass draws you in while the treble dances atop the beat.
For a brighter, more treble sound, you can remove the filters located behind the cloth covering the interior of the cans. Sub-bass tones are preserved but things like higher pitched vocals and kick drums are more pronounced.
From its craftsmanship to its sound, The Monitor proves to be worthy of the Marshall name.