Studio headphones are an essential piece of kit in any DJs arsenal.
They need to deliver accurate sound to your ears so you can create insane beats and mixes. For me, headphones are like sneakers, I’m excited to get a new pair, but I want them to live up to the hype, give me plenty of use, and be good value for money.
When looking for the best studio headphones, I pay close attention to the sound quality, comfort, technical specs, and affordability. Taking all that into account, these are my top choices for studio headphones that perform well and look great.
To kick things off, here is a comparison chart between our 5 top picks for this year!
Our Top 5 Studio Headphone Picks
Here’s a brief comparison of the top five models of studio headphones I’ve reviewed.
Studio Headphones Buyer’s Guide
Studio headphones are becoming more and more popular over studio monitors mainly due to the fact that they present a more accurate sound closer to your ears without any distortion from your environment.
Even better, they allow you to record, mix or play your favorite instrument in privacy without disturbing the other inhabitants of your home. All in all, if you are serious about making a cozy home-studio there absolutely has to be a headphone pair in it. Here is a list of all the benefits you will be enjoying when getting your headphones:
- You will be far more mobile due to the portability of your headphones (compared to monitors). If you record with a laptop all you will ever need in the future will be your laptop, the headphones, and the external sound card.
- Headphones are more cost efficient compared to studio monitors and in most cases offer similar or better sound at half the price. As we already stated, they are also very consistent in the sound they emit due to the lack of distortion from your surroundings.
- Some headphones have features that make things even better such as Bluetooth or wireless technology to avoid cable tangling.
Still, there are some downsides such as not being able to directly share what you’re working on with your co-worker or partner. Another downside of some headphones is that they weight too much or are not a perfect fit to your head and therefore can be fatiguing for longer uses.
It is important to know that there isn’t just one type of headphones made by different brands with slightly different properties. Let’s dig into that.
The Main Types Of Studio Headphones
When it comes to studio and DJ work, there are only three classes of headphones that concern us:
- Closed-back ones
- Open-back ones
- Semi-open ones
These are the most common headphones and there is a reason for that. They are considered the best type for recording, mixing, and monitoring purposes. What’s special here is that the back of the ear cups is a solid material without any holes in it.
This prevents the air pressure created from the drivers to vent out and creates a sealed shut environment isolating you from any surrounding noises. It also concentrates the sound to your ears and head without too much sound leakage.
That way you get to hear more details and enjoy the full frequency range of your recordings without lows, mids, or highs fading away due to air distortion.
Speaking of recording, head over here to learn about the recording essentials.
These are the perfect pairs for people who want to isolate themselves and focus on work only. You won’t be disturbed by any outside noises rendering it ideal for situations when you listen to music or work near kids, noisy apartment, offices, near construction sites, in an airport, etc.
They are ideal for playing your guitar through them, or any type of instrument for that matter. Drummers love them simply because they cancel all the outside noise created by their instrument.
If you thought this sounds way to good and it makes no sense that people would buy something else, you are right – it isn’t all that good. Closed-back headphones aren’t regarded as the best sound-wise mainly due to the fact that sound is too constricted by the design and whatever you record will sound way too artificial.
Furthermore, they possess a higher risk of hearing issues if used for longer durations. To solve all these issues, engineers have created the second type of headphones on our list…
When it comes to sound quality, open-back models are truly unmatched. The ear cups here are opened meaning that there are holes in the hull. Since all surrounding noises mix with the music you are hearing it ultimately leads to a more natural sounding experience which is projected right into your ear.
And since not all the air pressure from the sound waves is concentrated directly onto your eardrum, they are far more pleasant to the ear over longer recording periods. That is why a good sounding, comfortable open-back headphone is superior to almost all other methods of listening to music.
These models are preferred for mixing and mastering purposes.
Unlike closed-back models, though, these headphones aren’t ideal for recording or playing instruments in your studio as they do not give you an accurate representation of what exactly you are recording or playing. Closed-backs do the job better here.
Still, if you are going to be concentrated mainly on mixing and mastering, go for this kind.
Now, let’s check out the last kind, which is also the newest in terms of technology and innovation.
If you are stuck in between both open-back and closed-back models, the hybrid version called semi-open is just for you. They offer you the benefits of both kinds and usually cost the same.
If you are going to record and mix on a daily basis, opt for a semi-open headphone which will give you great recording properties combined with a sound which will feel more natural than it would with a closed-back pair.
These headphones allow for only a portion of the sound to leak out and that creates a somewhat private environment for you all while having a mixing sound that doesn’t sound artificial. Still, you need to consider that since you will be getting the best of both worlds you will also be sacrificing a little from both as well.
This means that your listening experience won’t be completely detached from the outside world and the mixing sound you will be hearing won’t be as authentic as it would be with a real open-back headphone pair.
These headphones are for people looking for the golden middle ground and are happy to give a little in order to get both worlds in one pair.
Also there are cordless headphones but their sound quality isn’t on par with the mono or stereo cable ones. In-ear headphones are also another variety of headphones which is entering the professional world more and more but to get a decent quality of an in-ear model you will usually need to sell a kidney.
DJs are kind of torn on the matter of headphone types. Some prefer closed-back design so that they can isolate what’s playing from what the surrounding environment sounds like, while other DJs want to hear a mix of all sounds in the club they are playing at. At the end of the day, we suggest to try both and see which works best for you and your ears.
Want to get a few tips on how to set up your home studio? Check out our dedicated article on the topic.
Choosing The Ideal Pair For Studio Work
The process of choosing your new headphone pair is quite delicate because human ears are extremely different from one another and so are head shapes. This means that no two people will like the same pair equally (at least in most cases). Still, we want to give you some of the basics which will help you find the ideal model for you.
The main things you should keep your eyes open for are:
- Whether the headphone has active or passive noise cancellation
- What is its frequency range
- Size and type of the drivers
- Overall build quality and materials used
- Are the ear cups over-ear or on-ear
- Is the pair foldable
- Elemental resistance
- Battery life (if wireless)
- Other accessories included
This feature isn’t as important for studio musicians as it would be for people recording vocals. It helps them isolate their own voices in the mix (which sounds through the headphones) and ultimately lets them adjust easier.
It also is a great feature to have if you are traveling a lot. It will effectively isolate external noises from what you’re hearing. Most new open-back headphones have it and it sort of mimics the closed-back feeling without making the music sound too enclosed.
Studio headphones usually lack it since studios aren’t the loudest places to start with.
This is a very important feature to keep your eyes open for. A very large frequency range means that your pair will be able to reproduce very detailed songs (with lots of lows and highs). A good range is anywhere between 10 and 30 000 Hz. It also is important on how good the headphone will re-create the lows, mids, and highs but that is a matter of EQ set up.
Size And Type Of The Drivers
Generally speaking, the bigger the driver the better as it will be more powerful and will deliver greater sound easier. The material from which the driver is made is also important. Titanium drivers seem to be the market leader currently but there is copper, aluminum, steel, and others which are good enough for most tasks.
In terms of sizes, 40mm is the bare minimum a good set of DJ headphones needs to do its work without any hiccups. Smaller drivers will distort the sound as they will need more power to deliver some low and high frequency sounds.
Build Quality And Materials
Most modern headphones are made from plastic. The ones which are sturdy usually have a steel or aluminum core which adds to their rigidity. High-grade plastic is an awesome material as it is light and flexible enough to withstand most hits and falls a normal headphone endures throughout its life.
For a headphone to be comfortable enough to not tire you in a longer recording session it mustn’t weight more than 300-350 grams (or around 10 oz). As we said, plastic greatly contributes to the weight reduction most modern headphones have.
When looking for a regular set of headphones this feature might not be on the first few places on your list but when browsing for a new DJ headphone you must shop to impress. Seek out headphones which will look professional and not outdated but at the same time do not forget the sound quality, as ultimately it is the main reason you will be getting the pair.
DJ headphones which are priced above 200-300 dollars often do not deliver the quality you’d expect at that price. In our opinion, the current best models are priced in the 100-250 dollars range.
Over-Ear Vs. On-Ear
Whether a headphone pair is on-ear or over-ear is a factor that is felt the strongest in gigs which last many hours or after countless hours of studio work. On-ear headphones will compress your ear which will feel really bad after a few hours and aren’t ideal for hotter climates.
Always check how easy it is to store the headphones and whether they have a foldable structure. Folding ear cups not only helps you during transportation but is a design feature that also absorbs some of the force of the impact when your headphones fall to the ground.
Water And Dust Resistance
This isn’t as important but some new headphones have an official IP rating which renders them immune to heavy sweating, water splashes, and dust particles. This is great if you are planning on using them at a poolside party.
If the pair is wireless it will have a battery to sustain it. Look for headphones that last more than 20 hours on a single charge. That is usually more than enough for a single gig or recording session and you can safely carry them for years knowing that even if the battery life deteriorates it will be good enough to last at least 5-10 hours.
Other Included Accessories
Some headphones have more cable sets included in your bundle which is a great addition. Look for hard cases as this makes them super easy to carry around without worrying too much about breaking or scratching them. Extra gold-plated jacks are always welcome as well.
Best Studio Headphones Reviewed
Let’s review these headphones in detail and see what makes them great a great choice of studio headphones.
The Sony MDR7506 are the headphones that DJs, and professional sound engineers have been including in their kits for over three decades when the MDR-V6 was first introduced. These are headphones with staying power that will survive rough treatment in the studio.
The frequency response covers everything you can hear – 10Hz to 20kHz, giving you insanely good deep, clean, extended bass. Plus, you get crystal clear highs and good mid presence. When it comes to monitoring, it gives you everything you need. Most headphones start at 20Hz, which is adequate, but the MDR7506 gives you a bit more depth in bass.
These are perfect headphones that let you do a professional job of mixing sound to high standards. They are light (about 8oz), comfortable to wear all day, and a large chunk of the night. If you make spend most of your time in the studio, these are an ideal trusted pair of headphones that do the job well.
The OneOdio are the best headphones for the money. They offer insanely good sound quality for their price. The comfortable design of closed-ear cups minimizes pinching and sweating so they are clean and hygienic for prolonged use.
The low price does not mean a compromise on quality, as attention is paid to every component from the Japanese voice coils to the German protein leather ear cushions. The frequency response covers the whole human range from 20Hz to 20khz for excellent audio quality with reasonable control of the bass.
The earcups and headbands are flexible for regular wear, and one-ear monitoring, depending on how you like to use your headphones.
The budget-friendly OneOdio headphones are great for studio and other professional applications. Packed with plenty of small design features, they are practical and robust for everyday use. They have the quality needed for studio use, and also versatile enough for listening to thumping beats around your home. Check out our in-depth review here.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are high-end headphones with a price tag to match, designed for critical listening. The driver is huge at 56mm, which means there is some serious engineering to produce these headphones.
The frequency response is immense from 4Hz to 51kHz, way outside the best human hearing, and most animals (dogs hear up to 45Khz) making this a headphone for audiophiles to enjoy the extra shaping of the unheard frequencies.
The driver mounts and enclosures are high-end steel aiming to prevent resonance and sound artifacts produced by the headset – a worthy aim. These headphones let you hear all the instruments and all the detail in the complete soundscape, and they are luxury class.
If you can see past the high price tag, these are the crème de la crème. The quality of the sound makes them an ideal reference headphone with a superb stereo image, giving you the experience of speakers in headphone form. If you can afford luxury headphones, these give you high-quality natural sound for mastering or critical listening.
The beyerdynamic DT 880 pro offer great natural and neutral sound, just what you are looking for in making tiny adjustments in EQ, panning, or dynamics. The build quality is on par with far more expensive models and so is the beautiful sound they produce.
The headset fits securely with a sturdy steel frame and is light and comfortable to wear with fresh permeable earcups. The frequency response from 5Hz to 35kHz results in plenty of detail, assisting in monitoring and mixing in the studio.
These headphones are perfect for mastering, mixing, and production in the studio because they are well built, accurate sounding, and comfortable to wear. At a third of the price of Sennheiser 880 S, they give much the same performance as more expensive reference class headphone sets.
No top 5 headphones list is complete without its Audio Technica entry. We chose to include the classic M50X model which is favorite to both musicians and everyday folk.
The ATH M50x is a neat set of DJ headphones great for general-purpose studio recording and mixing. They are not top of the range, but they do a decent job, and they are robust enough to put up with a lot of on the road abuse.
They’ve got a generous frequency response from 15Hz to 28kHz, which covers the whole human range and allows a bit extra for the rounding value of the unheard frequencies. The materials feel premium all around, and the sound is exactly what you’d expect from an AT pair – almost neutral with a stronger bass and punchier mids.
The ATH 50Mx doesn’t have the ultra-balanced sound of luxury brands, but for the price, it’s quality goes way beyond. For anyone who wants a decent experience and a long-lasting product, this is the way to go.
We hope this guide has helped you get more familiar with choosing the right headphones.
After all, finding the best pair of studio DJ headphones isn’t a walk in the park and many people struggle with it even after buying a few. If you aren’t sure about what model you want to go for, you can always use our selected top five headphone pairs. They are the best in their classes and offer you an experience far exceeding the price you will pay for them.
As we said, everybody’s hearing preferences are different so at the end of the day, it will be entirely up to you to decide whether a headphone will suit your needs or not.