Best Headphones for Sound Engineers and Audio Experts: Surprising Selection

Best Headphones for Sound Engineers and Audio Experts: Surprising Selection

Finding the best pair of studio headphones is absolutely essential for most sound production activities. With the right pair of headphones, you’ll be able to hear every dimension of your music, and you might even be able to find something that you couldn’t hear with regular headphones.

After years of listening and mixing audio, I’ve come to expect certain qualities from the studio headphones that I select. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the best headphones for audio and sound engineers. Any of these headphones would have a welcome place in my own studio.

Don’t get stuck with one-dimensional audio that is going to sound terrible the second someone else listens to it. Let’s take a look at some of the best headphones for audio and sound engineers on the market today.

1. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones is our first choice for the best headphones for music production. These closed-back headphones aren’t too expensive, but they offer great sound isolation and quality.

In a hurry? Here’s a quick summary of the specs.

  • Closed Back
  • 64 Ohm Impedance
  • 113 dB Sensitivity
  • 40mm Drivers
  • 3ft Cord
  • 8 – 25,000 Hz Frequency Response

These headphones top our list because they perfectly blend quality and price. They aren’t as expensive as some of the larger brands’ studio headphones, but they can give you an edge when you are producing music. They also have great impedance and sensitivity values. Another perk? You won’t need an amplifier to use them to their full potential.

The synthetic leatherette ear cups collapse and fold, making them extremely portable. You don’t have to leave them at your studio! Included is a single-sided coiled cord that is 3.3ft long. Since these are closed-back headphones, you can expect a certain degree of noise isolation. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones boast 32 dB noise attenuation. They block out a lot of outside sounds!

Between the comfort, sound quality, and flexibility, these headphones are a great option for taking back and forth to your sound studio!

What We Liked

  • Great price for the quality
  • Completely collapsible
  • Great sound quality

What We Disliked

  • The headband padding is a little hard
  • Can become uncomfortable after longer periods of use

2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

Next up we have the closed-back Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Monitor Headphones. These sensitive headphones come with a ton of extra features that will make your recording sessions accurate and enjoyable.

Before we get started, here’s a quick rundown of the specifications.

  • Closed Back
  • 47 Ohm Impedance
  • 99 dB
  • 45mm Drivers
  • 9 – 9.8ft Cord
  • 15 – 28,000 Hz Frequency Response

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50X headphones are some of the best headphones for recording on our list. They come in at a modest price point, and you get a lot of great options for the price. It comes with three detachable cables, so you can choose between a coiled cable, a straight cable, and a shorter, portable cord. Speaking of portable, each comfortable ear cup swivels a full 90 degrees, allowing you to monitor through one ear when you need to.

The combination of 45mm drivers, copper voice coils, and neodymium magnets give you beautiful, true sound no matter what you’re mixing (or where). This headset has it all, with enough choices to make it adaptable to whatever type of audio production you partake in. It also comes with a carrying pouch so you can take them with you without worrying about damaging them!

What We Liked

  • 3 detachable cable options
  • Great price point
  • Solid build quality
  • Great audio quality

What We Disliked

  • No active noise cancellation
  • Might take some adjusting

3. Etymotic Research 4XR

The 4XR earbuds are the only in-ear headphones on our list, and that’s for good reason. They are the best in-ear studio headphones that you can find for audio production. Plus, they come from the company that originally engineered in-ear headphones!

Here’s a quick rundown of the specifications.

  • In-Ear
  • 45 Ohm Impedance
  • 98 dB Sensitivity
  • 5ft Cord
  • 20 – 16,000 Hz Frequency Response

If you thought that in-ear headphones wouldn’t work for most studio work, think again. Etymotic Research is the company that first engineered the in-ear headphone, and now they’ve created the perfect version for audio and sound production as well.

These in-ear headphones come with an assortment of different tips so you can get the perfect fit for your ears. That’s important because you’ll only get the highest noise isolation with the perfect fit. These in-ear headphones are able to boast a 98% noise reduction, which is pretty amazing. Plus, it comes with a detachable 5-foot cord. It’s perfect for doing close studio work, or for use with your mobile devices.

What really stands out about these headphones is the audio accuracy. They don’t have the same types of drivers as the over-ear headphones on our list, but they still give you great sensitivity and sound quality. Etymotic Research has really engineered a marvel with these headphones.

What We Liked

  • Great mid-to-high frequencies
  • Detachable cord
  • Extremely portable

What We Disliked

  • Smaller frequency response range

4. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

If you’re a true professional, you want the highest impedance and the widest frequency response possible, right? Look no further than the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. These headphones are comfortable to wear and can be used in the studio and with your mobile devices.

If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick spec overview.

  • Closed Back
  • 250 Ohm Impedance
  • 4 dB Sensitivity
  • 45mm Drivers
  • 8ft Cord
  • 5 – 35,000 Hz Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic makes a ton of high-quality audio equipment. These headphones are just a single entry into their long line of great accessories and tools. They aren’t the most expensive headphones on our list, which is a good thing – you get a lot for the price that you’re paying, here.

Plus, you know Beyerdynamic is going to engineer only the best. This is a great long-wearing headset that you can use in your audio production and for listening to your favorite music on the go. You’ll need an adaptor to use them in a standard audio jack. If you include an amplifier, you’re going to get the most accurate, deepest sound for your studio.

In addition, the bass reflex system that these headphones use (along with the bigger drivers) give you deep, layered sound that will make you wonder how you ever survived without them.

What We Liked

  • Great sound quality due to higher impedance, sensitivity, and frequency response
  • Comfortable ear cups and headband
  • Bass reflex system

What We Disliked

  • You might need an amplifier to get the most out of these
  • Expensive when including an amplifier
  • The cord is not detachable

5. Shure SRH 840

While Shure is a lesser-known brand compared to some of the others on this list, these headphones really deliver on the quality. They’re really sensitive, which is great for giving you the best highs and lows for your audio production.

Here’s a quick overview of the specs.

  • Closed Back
  • 44 Ohm Impedance
  • 102 dB Sensitivity
  • 40mm Drivers
  • 8ft Cord
  • 5 – 25,000 Hz Frequency Response

Shure’s SRH 840 studio headphones are a bit on the expensive side when it comes to our list. That’s because they use the best materials and are optimized for listening critically. If you’re looking for the best headphones to get beautiful, textured sound, these are great for you.

Their dynamic range isn’t quite as high as some of the other headphones in this price point, but it has been tailored to give you exactly what you need. It comes with replacement ear cups, which is a nice touch, as well as a carrying bag and a coiled cable that you can detach for portability.

You’re getting what you pay for with these professional monitoring headphones. The build quality and audio quality are great, and they can really give your productions the depth that you want them to have. While a lot of headphones in the same price point will have more features, the Shure SRH 840 headphones present its features expertly without spreading its capabilities too thin.

What We Liked

  • Dynamic neodymium magnets
  • High sensitivity
  • Comes with replacement ear cups
  • Detachable coiled cable

What We Disliked

  • Smaller frequency response than other headphones in the price-point
  • Some similarly-priced headphones have more features

6. Sennheiser HD 650

Sennheiser’s HD 650 Headphones are a technical marvel that absolutely cannot be passed up by anyone how is looking to do any mixing in the studio. These are the only open-back headphones on our list simply because they are the best.

Technical Specs:

  • Open Back
  • 300 Ohm Impedance
  • 103 dB Sensitivity
  • 40mm Drivers
  • 8ft Cord
  • 10 – 39,500 Hz Frequency Response

Sennheiser’s HD 650 headphones are extremely comfortable to wear and sensitive enough that you can hear every rise and dimension in your music. They are especially attuned to acoustic mixes, though they are great with any genre of music.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than this. Though there is no noise isolation to speak of, these headphones make up for it with true dynamic range, high fidelity, and build quality that is worth every penny of their price tag. The voice coils are lightweight, there’s enough bass to make any audio enthusiast weep, and you’re going to wonder how you ever did any high-quality mixing without them. Though these won’t do you much good for recording, they work an absolute treat when it comes to mixing and other production activities.

These are easily the best studio headphones on our list. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, you’ll be blown away by the audio output on the Sennheiser HD 650.

What We Liked

  • Huge audio output
  • Gives you more detail than nearly any other set of headphones on this list3
  • Very pricey

What We Disliked

  • May require an amplifier to work as intended

7. Sony MDR-7506

Sony’s MDR-7506 Headphones present a low-budget option if you don’t want to spend a lot of studio headphones. You’ll get much of the same quality as you would from a more expensive brand, perhaps without the same depth. Still, they are a completely valid choice!

Here’s a quick overview of the specifications.

  • Closed Back
  • 63 Ohm Impedance
  • 106 dB Sensitivity
  • 40mm Drivers
  • 8ft Cord
  • 10 Hz – 20 kHz Frequency Response

The Sony MDR-7506 Headphone set is really only lacking build quality. True, you aren’t going to get the same depth of sound as you would from a set of headphones with a higher frequency response or larger drivers, but this is a great beginning set of studio headphones for beginning sound engineers.

These headphones use neodymium magnets and a fairly standard voice coil to deliver great audio fidelity, even if you won’t be able to hear some of the nuances. The cord is long enough to reach across your studio and the ear cups are comfortable enough that you can wear them for long periods without experiencing fatigue.

If you find it important to have a solid set of headphones with basic features that can help you with your audio recording, look no further. Sony’s MDR-7506 headphones give you all of that at a startlingly low price.

What We Liked

  • Comes with a plug adaptor
  • Surprising quality for the price

What I Disliked

  • Low-frequency response
  • The cord is not detachable

 

Comparison Chart

Product

Price

Type

Impedance

Sensitivity

Driver Size

Cord length

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO $ Closed Back 64 Ohm 113 dB 40mm 3.3ft
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x $ Closed Back 47 Ohm 99 dB 45 mm 3.9 – 9.8ft
Etymotic Research 4XR $$$ In-Ear 45 Ohm 98 dB n/a 5ft
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro $$ Closed Back 250 Ohm 100.4 dB 45mm 9.8ft
Shure SRH840 $$ Closed Back 44 Ohm 102 dB 40mm 9.8ft
Sennheiser HD 650 $$$ Open Back 300 Ohm 103 dB 40mm 9.8ft
Sony MDR-7506 $ Closed Back 63 Ohm 106 dB 40mm 9.8ft

 

Final Verdict

After careful consideration and years of experience, I can absolutely tell you that the best studio headphones for audio and sound engineers are the Sennheiser HD 650s. Among the headphones featured on this list, there’s nothing that quite measures up. It’s pricey, though – if you aren’t ready to commit, it’s probably best to go with something a little less expensive.

Other Options

Most of the headphones on this list are expensive. If you need a pair of great studio headphones on a budget, consider the Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Headphones. These headphones are on the extreme low end, but they can still deliver better sound quality than most other options in the same price range. With 50mm drivers and a comfortable build, you’ll be able to wear these headphones all day long. The audio is surprisingly true for such an inexpensive set of headphones.

Studio Headphone Buying Guide

The right pair of studio headphones can make all of the difference when it comes to music and audio production. You, of course, want the truest sound, the most comfortable ear cups, and even amplification or dynamic drivers to help boost your audio mixes and recordings to the next level.

Studio headphones are one of the best tools that an audio engineer can have. Let’s take a look at what you should be looking for when it comes to your studio headphones.

Different Types of Studio Headphones

When it comes to studio headphones, there are four different main types that you might encounter on your search. Below, I’ll outline the difference between closed-back, open back, semi-open, and in-ear headphones.

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are completely sealed, offering great noise cancellation and isolation of your sound. The drivers are sealed, so you get great sound quality and great immersion. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to hear your music. Closed-back headphones are great for recording.

Open Back Headphones

Open-back headphones will give you a more airy sound with tons of dimension. You’ll hear your music like it was being played on a soundstage. However, since the drivers are in a transparent enclosure, there is little to no noise cancellation. Sound bleed is often a problem, so you’ll need to be somewhere quiet while you’re using them. These types of headphones are great for mixing.

Semi-Open Back Headphones

Semi-Open back headphones give you a nice blend of dimensional sound and noise isolation. However, finding semi-open back headphones is a bit of a challenge. To many, these are the best studio headphones for mixing, recording, and production.

In-Ear Headphones

In-Ear headphones are meant to fit snuggly inside of your ear canal. The result is close, personal audio quality and great sound isolation if you can find the right fit. Some people find that in-ear headphones aren’t as comfortable as the other types, however.

What Should You Look For?

While presenting the best studio headphones, I’ve included some common information to help you make your decision. Here, we’ll look at what those parameters mean and how you can use them to make a decision when it comes to your studio headphones.

Impedance

In simple terms, impedance is electrical resistance. You’ll want to choose higher impedance, as it means that you’ll get better sound quality. The headphones with the highest impedance will be able to replicate sound nearly perfectly. Higher impedance values are better. However, the highest impedance values also require amplifiers. Keep this in mind when considering your purchase.

Sensitivity

The sensitivity of headphones is measured in dB (decibels). In short, the sensitivity will tell you how well the headphones respond to small changes in sound. You want to go with higher sensitivity, especially if you are going to be mixing and producing sound. Anything over 100 dB is perfect for hearing the small nuances in your music.

Driver Size

Some people argue that driver size has no impact on sound production, but that isn’t necessarily true. Larger drivers can impact sensitivity and sound quality. Most headphone drivers are 40mm in size. Anything over 40mm is a nice bonus to overall quality.

Cord Length

The cord length can tell you how far you can roam from the place you have your headphones plugged in. If you have a larger studio, going with a longer cord is, of course, better. Some cords are coiled, which means that they can expand to a larger size, while some are straight. Which kind you use is entirely up to your preference and has no bearing on sound quality.

Frequency Response

Frequency response will tell you how the headphones will change the sound. For true sound, you want to get as close to a flat frequency as possible. This means that the audio is changed the least by the headphones themselves.

Other Considerations

In addition to these basic parameters, there are other considerations to take into account when it comes to choosing the perfect studio headphones. Things like comfort and build quality are hard to measure, but they just as important as the technical specifications.

Comfort

The comfort level of a set of headphones can come down to a number of features. For over-ear headphones, the headband and the ear cups impact your comfort the most. If you do any type of music production, you’re going to want headphones that you can wear for long periods of time without your ears growing tired or uncomfortable.

Look for padded, comfortable ear cups and a headband that is also softly padded. Try to avoid headbands with thicker padding, as they can introduce pressure to the top of your head that may become uncomfortable.

Magnets

There are several different types of magnets used in the production of studio headphones. These magnets interact with the voice coils to produce sound by creating a magnetic field. The best headphones for audio production use rare-earth type magnets, most often made from samarium-cobalt or neodymium. Keep an eye on this when making your decision.

Foldability

Sometimes, studio headphones will flex and fold for portability. A good pair of folding headphones will last just as long a stationary pair, but less expensive folding headphones can sometimes break easier.

Number of Cables

More expensive studio headphones might come with more than one detachable cable. Some of the best-quality headphones come with a selection of them. They can include coiled cords, straight cords, and shorter portable cords so that you can choose whichever you prefer.

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