The Best Studio Headphones

by Amar Dev Sharma – 20/02/19

You have probably already heard or read about the two main types of headphones for use in the recording studio; closed and open back. Closed headphones are literally that; closed! When recording in the studio, often we need to boost the volume a fair amount to hear ourselves (or for our clients to hear themselves) performing. The more we boost the volume in the headphones, the more chances of the mic capturing metronome noise or the backing track. Closed back headphones minimize this and are therefore ideal for recording situations.

Open back headphones are the opposite. The housing for the speaker drivers are usually perforated in some way to allow the sound to escape easily to simulate the psychoacoustic effects of mixing with monitor speakers to some degree. When properly placed in an equilateral triangle with the listener, speakers naturally cause cross talk; some sound from the left speaker enters your right ear and some sound from the right speaker will enter your left ear. This happens at a slight delay in comparison to the direct sound (left speaker to left ear, right speaker to right ear), and this is known as cross talk. Open back headphones allow sound to escape as much as possible, to cause a relatively small amount of this effect, thus lending to a more natural and transparent sound stage.


The openness also supposedly reduces bass build up, allowing for better decision making regarding the low end. They are really only ideal for use in quiet environments, as sound enters into the headphones as easily as sound escapes.

Neither open or closed back cans are better, they simply are suited to different uses.

Beware! Some of the higher end headphones may require a decent amp to drive them properly, this is so they receive the power they need to perform optimally. Lower impedance(ohms) means they are easier to drive, higher ohms require more power. Some models offer different choices of impedance so be sure to check that out.

If you already have a great set of headphones, or know which ones you are going for, check out our all important Guide to Mixing with Headphones and thank us later! If you need to break them in or get used to them, or simply want to treat yourself to hours of listening pleasure, follow our regularly updated Ultimate Studio Reference Playlist on Spotify >>>

Although there are headphones available for all budgets, we are looking at gear designed for studio use, so our entry level recommendations start at around 50 euros. Also, we recommend checking and comparing frequency curves at

Closed Back – Entry Level

Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Xathm20x

  • Great entry level headphones.
  • Not the flattest response or best isolation, but due to their pleasant sound they have plenty of satisfied users.
  • The cheapest out of the ATH M20x, M30x, M40x, M50x and M70x (the M50x´s are the most popular) – all models are equally spoken highly of, and roughly get flatter and better at keeping the noise in (and out!) the more you spend.
  • Swivelling ear cups
  • 15hz – 20khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!


Vic Firth SIH2vicfirthsih2

  • Superb isolation with a reduction of 25db
  • Rather excellent for drummers, but equally usable for other studio applications
  • Again probably not the flattest headphones, but as mentioned closed back are more suitable for recording rather than mixing, so they are not really required to be flat sounding – they just need to keep the sound in  while sounding half decent, and these do a great job of that!
  • 20hz- 20khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Closed Back – Mid Range

Sony MDR-7506mdr7506

  • Well known and respected in the industry
  • Plenty of glowing reviews
  • Foldable for easy storage and transport
  • Large 40mm drivers and Neodymium magnets
  • 10hz – 20khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Beyerdynamic DT-770 Prodt770

  • The DT range is known for being incredibly comfortable
  • Bass reflex system
  • Replaceable ear pads
  • Hand crafted in Germany as are all other Beyerdynamic headphones
  • Another industry standard with thousands of reviews
  • 5hz – 35khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Closed Back – High End

Shure SRH1540srh1540

  • Very comfortable
  • Aluminium alloy and carbon fibre construction makes them sturdy but light
  • Good isolation
  • 40mm neodymium drivers
  • Detachable cable
  • Comes with a carry case and accessories
  • 5hz – 25khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Open Back – Entry Level

AKG K-240 Studioakgk240

  • Signature AKG sound in an updated classic
  • New XXL transducers and varimotion diaphragm
  • Semi open, acoustically tuned enclosures
  • Auto adjusting headband
  • Detachable cable
  • 15hz – 25khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Open Back – Mid Range

Beyerdynamic DT-990 Prodt990

  • Another well known headphone model from the classic DT series
  • Very comfortable, great for longer sessions
  • Due to a little extra low and high end, they a bit more natural and detailed, or even “exciting” compared to other reference headphones, which can sound dull from being too neutral
  • Some find the boosted high frequencies can become fatiguing
  • Durable construction
  • 5hz – 35khz
  • Reviews, price, and more info here!


AKG K-701akgk701

  • Flat wire technology delivers a great transient response and nice tonal balance
  • Dual layer Varimotion diaphragm
  • Comfy headphones and a punchy sound
  • Excellent imaging and detail
  • Some complain about weak bass, but they just need a good headphone amp
  • 10hz – 40khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!


Beyerdynamic DT-880 Prodt880

  • Neutral and linear with excellent spatial reproduction
  • Supposedly some of the flattest sounding reference phones available
  • Super comfy like most Beyerdynamic headphones
  • 5hz – 35khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

Open Back – High End

Sennheiser HD-650hd650

  • Known to be some of the best sounding headphones on the market
  • Better than the predecessor, the HD 600, which is also amazing
  • Non fatiguing
  • Very comfortable
  • Comes with protective case
  • 10hz – 41khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!


Shure SRH1840srh1840

  • Audiophile quality headphones with dual detachable cable
  • Individually matched drivers
  • Very flat frequency response
  • Superb comfort and carry case/accessories included
  • 10hz – 30khz
  • Reviews, price and more info here!

You almost can’t go wrong with some of these brands. They really are the best at what they do, but as with studio monitors, personal preference plays a huge role in headphone choice. Try before you buy, or you may be disappointed. You can also consider getting even more out of your headphones by using frequency correcting software such as Sonarworks. Find more info, tips, and tricks in our “Guide to Mixing with Headphones“!


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