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Best studio headphones

The best headphones for studio use.
By
June 21, 2022
Best all-around
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
By Beyerdynamic
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
8.3
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Clear reproduction of left/right panning
Plush and comfortable ear pads
Replaceable parts
Low impedance, no amp required
Negatives
A bit heavy
Not very portable
The Bottom Line.
Whether you're hotel hopping or staying at the studio, the DT 900 PRO X is a stellar open-back headset that is a real workhorse.Read full review...
Best bang-for-your-buck
Sony MDR-7506
By Sony
The Sony MDR 7506 resting on a microphone stand in a recording studio.
8.4
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Price
Durability
Isolation
Negatives
Heavy coiled wire
The Bottom Line.
If you don't want to spend too much, the Sony MDR-7506 has been an industry mainstay for almost 40 years.Read full review...
Best for comfort
Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
By Beyerdynamic
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones against a white backdrop.
8.2
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Comfort
Adapter
Cost
Negatives
Needs amplifier on mobile devices
Treble emphasis
The Bottom Line.
For less than $300, this is one of the best pairs of open-back studio cans you can get; plus, the ear pads are supremely comfortable.Read full review...
Best Style
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
By Audio-Technica
Audio Technica ATH-M50X image against white background.
7.6
Check price
Positives
Flexible
Sound quality
Can work in or out of studio
Negatives
Proprietary cord
The Bottom Line.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X is a reliable set of headphones that's seen on the streets and in studios.Read full review...
Best portable
AKG K371
By AKG
A product image of the AKG K371 headphones in black on a white background.
8.1
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Comfort with or without glasses
Replaceable ear pads
Aritculating ear cups
Negatives
Isolation just ok
Sound leaks
The Bottom Line.
No matter what genre of music you prefer, the K371 is going to make it sound good. Who says you have to sacrifice style for sound quality?Read full review...

People love music, not headphones. Headphones are just tools that let us listen to music. Whether you’re a professional sound engineer or a musician, you’re going to want to hear your music the way it was intended to be heard. Studio headphones can help you with that.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.


Editor’s note: this list of the best studio headphones was updated on June 22, 2022, to add the AKG K702 to the Notable mentions section.

Why is the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X the best set of studio headphones?

The Beyerdynamic PRO X series caters to the modern creator with a low 48Ω impedance and comfortable build. The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X has an open-back design and all of the parts are easy to replace without the need for tools. This is a great pick for engineers who want to focus on production and can’t afford to get bogged down with difficult repairs.

Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
8.3
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X on headBeyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X cableBeyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X headbandThe Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X sits on a wood grain table.An isolation chart for the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X open-back headset shows that virtually all noise makes it through the headset.Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X frequency chart
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
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If you’ve used a set of over-ear Beyerdynamic headphones before, you’ll feel right at home with the DT 900 PRO X and its plush ear pads. A mini-XLR input sits on the left ear cup and the included cable locks into place.

Since this is an open-back headset, its utility is a bit limited. You’ll hear everything gone around you should you choose to take it on a stroll. But hey, that’s unlikely anyway since this is built for studio use. When you do get the headset into a quiet environment, you’ll enjoy excellent audio reproduction with consistent volume output from the bass and mids. There’s a 5dB boost relative to our house curve, from 4-7kHz but that can make it easier to hear string attacks during a particularly busy part of a song. This isn’t always ideal when mixing audio, so you can always EQ it down on via a desktop application.

A chart compares the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X to the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X frequency responses against our Studio Curve V2, and displays minor midrange and treble response differences between the headsets.
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X (cyan) has a more accurate midrange response and more boosted treble response than the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X (yellow dash).

The DT 700 PRO X is essentially the same headset but with a closed-back design instead. If you want the option to listen to your music on the go, this is a better option than the DT 900 PRO X. Both headsets cost the same, but the open-back version has a better midrange response for mixing, though the treble peaks are greater than the DT 700 PRO X. You can see a frequency response chart comparing the two headsets here.


Save money and go with the Sony MDR-7506 for professional mixing

Ever since the mid-1980s, producers and artists alike have relied on the Sony MDR-V6 and its progeny. Boasting an accurate frequency response and very convenient design, the Sony MDR-7506 is all over the audio industry. If you want the gear the pros use, this is the starting point.

Sony MDR-7506
Sony MDR-7506
8.4
A frequency response of the Sony MDR-7506 headphones depicts an accurate response with an audible de-emphasis at the 200Hz mark.
Sony MDR-7506

Of course, older headphones like this have some drawbacks. Namely, those ear pads don’t tend to last a long time even if you clean them often, so you may find yourself looking for replacements. Not to worry though, Amazon has a ton of those, and they’re fairly cheap to buy. Other headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and its series also use the exact same size of headphone pads.

Mix it up with the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO

Beyerdynamic is one of those companies that people trust just because of its reputation. It’s known for great quality headphones, and the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO, like its junior, is no exception. The DT 880 PRO’s uniquely comfortable velour ear pads keep your ears comfortable, and the accurate frequency response is great for a variety of applications.

Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
8.2
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO headphones.The Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO connectors and adapters.The Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO open-back headphone grille with the velour ear pads in frame.A chart detailing the frequency response of the Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO when compared to the SoundGuys house curve.A chart detailing the error curve of the Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO when compared to the SoundGuys house curve.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
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See review

If you’re going to mix tracks and don’t want the headphones to affect the raw track, this is a good set of mid-tier headphones to look into. Of course, if you decide to use these with mobile devices you’re going to need an amp to power the 250Ω behemoths, but it might not work out for you as these are also semi-open back so sound leakage is going to be an issue. Anyone who plans on keeping their headphones deskside will be perfectly happy with the DT 880 PRO.

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50X is a classic pair of studio headphones

The ATH-M50x has a reputation for being the go-to pair of budget studio headphones, but it’s not as accurate as many people think. Sure, Audio-Technica tuned these to have a more neutral frequency response than most consumer headsets, but the bass amplification is clearly audible. This isn’t inherently a bad thing as it makes the ATH-M50x a great pair of versatile headphones for daily listening, but be aware that the ATH-M40x has a more accurate sound profile.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
7.6
A man facing right plays guitar while wearing the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.A hand holds the folded up Audio-Technica ATH-M50x partially inside its vinyl carry bag.A close up of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x shows the connection point of the cable.The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x from the side with the headband expanded to show the metal notches.The isolation chart is for the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.A chart depicts the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x frequency response against the SoundGuys Studio Curve V1.11, showing the ATH-M50x has a fairly good response with acceptable deviation in the sub-bass and midrange from our studio curve.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
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See review
See review

Because of the bass bump, this might be better for the musician who needs to feel that extra bit of emotion from the instrumentation while in the recording booth, and then still wants to listen to some music on the way home. The ATH-M50x will satisfy both roles well. The ear cups sit flat on your ears and provide a decent amount of isolation, not to mention that they also swivel up to 90 degrees.

Close up of the buttons and connections on Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 ear cup.
From left to right: microphone, USB-C connection, headphone jack input, volume down, power/play/pause, volume down, and Bluetooth pairing.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is everything we love about the ATH-M50x but with wireless connectivity. You get your choice of the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs when out and about, or you can just revert to the 3.5mm headphone jack for studio use. The microphone is pretty good, and it’s a great option for those who want one pair of headphones to do everything with.


Take your mixing anywhere with the AKG K371

The AKG K371 is a great pick for anyone whose job requires frequent travel. Despite the over-ear design, this package is slim and portable: the ear cups flip up and into the headband similar to Audio-Technica’s design. What’s more, the K371 is good for DJs as you can rotate either ear cup backward and up to keep one ear on the crowd.

AKG K371
AKG K371
8.1
The AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones on an iron bedrame lit by blue and orange lights.The AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones' ear cup rotated back 45 degrees while being worn by a woman in profile.A picture of the AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones on the included drawstring carrying pouch with the included cables.A picture of the AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones on a nightstand in front of boxing gloves.The AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones in profile on a lampshade.An isolation chart for the AKG K371, which shows a decent degree of attenuation.A frequency response chart for the AKG K371 closed-back headphones, which shows output very close to our house curve (albeit a bit quieter).
AKG K371

The neutral-leaning frequency response is a necessity for creating an accurate product. The midrange frequency response nearly meets the platonic ideal, making this a pristine pair of headphones for vocal-heavy recordings. What’s more, AKG supplies you with three cables, two straight and one coiled, so no matter your environment, you’ll have something that works with you.

Despite the plastic build, the headphones are durable and withstood multiple trips at the bottom of a backpack during our full review. Don’t drop an unabridged encyclopedia onto this headset, but the build can withstand some roughhousing. What’s more, these headphones are great for listeners with glasses because the slow-retention memory foam wraps around the glasses’ arms.

Is the Sennheiser HD 820 worth it?

Sennheiser is an audio stalwart and remains one of the most reputable audio companies around. Sure, many debate over which of its headphones sound better, but the HD 820 dominates the hi-fi conversation and it far exceeds our top-end budget of $1,000 USD. The large, closed-back design is a departure from the beloved HD 800, but the Sennheiser HD 820 retains the unique aesthetic Sennheiser fans have grown familiar with.

Although listeners may be concerned by the transition from open-back to closed-back between the high-end models, Sennheiser claims that this design is able to achieve the same open soundstage that we’ve come to expect. What’s more, it’s also able to insulate listeners from external noise better as a result of the closed build.

For better or worse, these 300Ω audiophile headphones require the use of a DAC and amplifier, which will set you back quite a bit more. We understand that many people are simply in search of reliable studio headphones and aren’t looking to consider a payday loan to cover their next set of cans. Regardless, we felt it appropriate to tip our hats to the Sennheiser HD 820 and feature more financially viable options below.

The best studio headphones: Notable mentions

The Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X sits around the neck of a red guitar showing the cable connector.
A sturdy and balanced detachable connection means you can replace cables on the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X, and you can replace and repair some internals, housing, and headband padding.
  • AKG K240 Studio: This pair of open-back headphones serve as a great alternative to the Sony MDR-7506 and feature a more modern, stylish design with larger ear cups.
  • AKG K702: This pair of open-back headphones has its place in a studio but remember that it won’t have much bass. While it’s very comfortable, the size can be a bit unwieldy and you can get a better value headset.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X: While you don’t want to use this in the recording studio because the open-back design causes the sound to bleed through, it’s great to use during the mixing phase of music-making.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: Although the ATH-M50x is often in the limelight, the M40X is no slouch, and provides a less emphasized low-end.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO: This is a good budget option if you want the highest-quality drivers that Beyerdynamic has to offer, but don’t want to spend a lot on creature comforts.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO: If you want absolute luxury and don’t mind paying for it, this set of open-back cans looks, sounds, and feels premium.
  • Philips Fidelio X2: This is a great 0pen-back pair of headphones that packs 50mm drivers and neutral-leaning frequency response. The suspended headband design is comfortable, and the velour earpads are great for bespectacled listeners.
  • Sennheiser HD 800: This headset was the best all-around pick until it was dethroned by its predecessor, the HD 820. This, however, is available for less than half the price of the best pick.
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro: This monitoring pair is widely regarded as some of the best budget-minded studio headphones that take a tank to kill. For under $100, that’s not a bad return.
  • Sennheiser HD 598SE: The large, circumaural design makes these headphones comfortable for extended periods of time, while the open-back design allows for a more realistic reproduction of 3D space.
  • Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee: While these are a Massdrop exclusive, they’re still a great pair of open-back headphones you should check out if you want one great pair of headphones that can do it all (as long as you don’t use them outside with a lot of noise).
  • Sennheiser x Drop HD 6XX: This is the closest you’ll get to a true HD 650, but for half the budget. These are outstanding headphones for the mixing station—not so much for the booth.
  • Shure SRH840: Engineers who want a headset with great build quality and slightly consumer-friendly frequency response will want to snap this up.
  • Shure SRH1540: This is a professional open-back headset with comfortable velour ear pads and 40mm dynamic drivers. The MMCX connectors make it easy to swap out the original cable and the lightweight build makes it comfortable for day-long editing sessions.

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

Don’t need studio headphones? Get the Sony WH-1000XM4

If you want good quality headphones and have money to spend but don’t want studio headphones, try the Sony WH-1000XM4. This set of active noise cancelling (ANC) Bluetooth headphones sounds great and presents a host of advanced software features to up its value and longevity.

A chart showing the frequency response of the Sony WH-1000XM4 compared to the SoundGuys' house curve.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 default frequency response amplifies bass and treble notes a bit.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is among the best active noise cancelling headphones on the market. What’s more, if you’re not fond of the preset sound signature, you can EQ it in the Sony Headphones Connect app. The WH-1000XM4 supports SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, but can also be switched to wired listening if you prefer. For a more portable version of this headset, check out the Sony WF-1000XM4.

What you should know about studio headphones

Studio headphones aren’t for everyone, as many of us prefer a bit of bass amplification for daily listening. But when you’re getting paid to do a job, accuracy takes priority over a consumer-friendly sound. While we could go on about all of the reasons why you should want some studio headphones, we’ll keep it simple with a few quick points.

How should studio headphones sound?

Chart of the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro frequency response measured against studio house curve.
For the most part the HD 280 PRO (cyan) follows the studio curve (pink) closely except in the lows.

Any set of headphones has a designated frequency response, which indicates how well a particular headset can reproduce all of the tones within a given range (typically 20Hz-20kHz).

If you’re recording or creating music, you’re going to want a pair of headphones that reproduce a relatively neutral frequency response, to allow for accurate, consistent mixing. When looking at our objective readouts in individual reviews, keep an eye out for relatively “flat” response lines. This means that the drivers don’t emphasize or de-emphasize any particular note more or less than the others. Nothing is perfect, but the closer you can get to that ideal studio response, the more accurate your mix will sound across a variety of consumer headsets.

Your ears aren’t perfect. Most of us can hear sounds from 20Hz-20kHz, but that depends greatly on your age and how well you’ve been taking care of your ears throughout your life. You can even up to your ears to the test here.


Do you need an amp or DAC?

While consumer headsets don’t typically require an amp or DAC, studio headphones often do. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy-to-use USB interfaces available to streamline your production process.

Should you get open or closed-back headphones?

The Philips Fidelio X2 open-back headphones lean against the Shure AONIC 50 Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling.
Open-back headphones are great for specific environments but closed-back headphones are more versatile.

Open-back and closed-back headphones refer to whether the back of the headphone driver is covered or revealed to the environment. While closed-back headphones are better for isolating the listener from their surroundings, open-back cans are typically better for studio applications: they recreate a more accurate representation of three-dimensional sound. Studio headphones are typically closed-back so the musicians can use them while recording without risk of sound feeding back into the microphones, but open-back headphones can be used for monitoring and mixing purposes.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

Working at SoundGuys allows each of us to have plenty of hands-on time with the latest and greatest audio products. While we do spend ample time testing out great products, we also receive some ones that need work. Regardless of how one pair of headphones stack up against another, it gives us a different reference point for understanding what’s good and what’s not when it comes to consumer products.

Listening to the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro studio headphones.
Testing headphones means putting them to work in realistic situations.

Ultimately, we want to make the research process easier for you, so you can spend more time enjoying your headphones. And while you can read all about our ethics policy, we’re transparent in that none of our writers may benefit from championing one set of cans over another.

Again, our picks tend toward the midrange and lower as far as pricing goes, but there are many other headphones out there that will cost you a whole lot more than what we’ve got here.

Frequently asked questions

The Sony WH-1000XM4 have a relatively neutral frequency response, and they do let you equalize the sound signature in their app. Their passive isolation is also pretty decent, which means you won’t risk sound leaking out of them when you’re in the studio. A neutral frequency response and good isolation are two of the key reasons why someone might want to buy a pair of studio headphones, so the Sony cans will make a pretty good substitute.


Ideally, you will have both studio headphones and studio monitors at some point. Studio headphones are necessary for recording and tracking, but studio monitors are much better for mixing. They create a more accurate soundstage than headphones can, and don’t fall victim to crossfeed, which is a phenomenon that occurs when sounds from one headphone bleed into the other, creating a narrower perceived stereo image than what is accurate.


More corporations than just Amazon have quick and cheap shipping now, and plenty of small businesses sell your favorite products too. Where you choose to buy your headphones could depend on a lot of things including your shopping ethics, how much customer support you want, and the warranty of the company. Check out our guide to get a run down of some options and their stats.