10 Best Headphones for Music Production & Mixing in 2022

I know what you’re thinking: If you have a pair of near-field monitors in your studio, why invest in a pair of headphones?

The truth is that the best headphones for producing and mixing help you hear those finer details that you could miss on monitors and are essential for your home recording studio set up.

Most seasoned music pros use both headphones and monitors to make sure that every last detail is mixed to perfection! Not only that, but headphones offer a great alternative to mixing or producing on the go.

Of course, standard headphones aren’t going to cut it. If you want your music to sound as good as possible, you’re going to need studio headphones that are made for critical listening.

With this guide, we’re going to help you find the best studio headphones for music production the market has to offer.

Why You Should Get Headphones for Producing Music

To put it simply: the best studio headphones are pieces of professional-quality gear that are designed to make your music sound as accurate as possible. Also lovingly referred to as “cans,” they are headphones for producing, mixing, music production, and even recording.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an average pair of headphones will work in a studio setting. Choose the best headphones for producing music as the whole purpose of mixing and recording in a studio is to get flat sound.

Let me explain…

Have you ever listened to the same piece of music through different headphones or speakers? Chances are, you noticed a lot of different nuances between each listening device. You might have heard more bass in one pair of headphones and a completely different voice timbre on another.

That’s because consumer-grade headphones are designed for music enjoyment, not critical listening. Manufacturers will go to great lengths to make music sound beautiful on their headphones.

They may pump up the bass to appeal to hip-hop lovers or ease back on the mid-range to cater to pop audiences. Whatever the case may be, those headphones all have a distinct coloration.

There’s no standard across the industry, so every pair of headphones you try on could end up sounding completely different.

Now, how does that translate to music production? When you’re creating music, you need to mix for each and every listener. This means starting with a flat sound that can easily adapt to any device.

If you were to start with a pair of consumer headphones, you may end up compensating for the coloration you hear. Your mix could sound wonderful on those standard headphones. But the moment you bring your mix to another listening environment, everything will sound off.

To overcome that issue, it’s always best to start out with flat studio monitors where you can hear an accurate recreation of your music as it was meant to be heard.

Best Studio Headphones for Music Production: Top Picks

1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

  • Over-ear
  • Closed-back
  • Impedance: 38 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

Our first choice when it comes to the best headphones for producing music in 2022. Audio Technica is one of the leading professional sound brands. The ATH-M50x headphones are a staple in the brand’s lineup and are used in home and professional studios around the world.

These are closed-back headphones that do a fantastic job of keeping external sounds out. The thick foam padding surrounds your entire ear so that you can get lost in the music.

Thanks to the dynamic driver, your tunes will sound very crisp and true to life. The frequency response has a noticeable curve in the mid-range, which can help to reduce muddiness as you mix.

Pros

  • Good sound isolation
  • Foldable design
  • Good flat response
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Can be heavy for some
  • Prone to sound bleed at higher volumes

2. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

  • Over-ear
  • Open-back
  • Impedance: 250 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

These headphones are perfect for those who want a dynamic listening experience. At face value, it’s not hard to see why these make good studio headphones. They have an open back, large over-the-ear cuffs, and some solid construction.

One cool aspect of the headphones is the interchangeable ear cuffs. The standard cuff is great for listening to music and basic mixing. It’s balanced and offers a nice flat frequency response.

However, the second ear cuffs are covered in plush velour. They’re best for analytical listening. You can hear finer details to take full control over your mix.

Pros

  • Comes with 2 earcuffs
  • Produces natural sound
  • Solid construction
  • Well-balanced sound

Cons

  • Certain frequencies can stick out

3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

  • Over-ear
  • Closed-back
  • Impedance: Up to 250 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

Here’s another option from Beyerdynamic worth checking out. This particular model features velour-covered ear cuffs.

Like the previous pair of headphones, the velour material is used to provide a unique listening experience. It changes the frequency response a bit to help with critical listening.

Overall, the sound of these studio headphones is superb. The high-end sounds are bright and airy while the bass offers just the right amount of punch. There is a peak on the frequency response curve around 9 kHz. However, this isn’t too much of an issue to workaround.

Pros

  • Velour earcuffs
  • High-resolution sound for analytical listening
  • Crisp bass
  • Comfortable for long-term wear

Cons

  • Noticeable high-frequency peak

4. Sennheiser HD 599 SE

  • Over-ear
  • Open-back
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Driver type: Proprietary Angel drivers

Sennheiser is no stranger to the professional audio market. The company makes some of the best recording and listening gear on the market. It’s a favorite among professionals the world over. It’s not hard to see why when you take a look at the HD 559 headphones.

These are open-backed headphones that are designed to make your music sound open and real. Inside the cans, Sennheiser uses its own proprietary Angel drivers.

These specially designed transducers use aluminum voice coils rather than copper ones. As a result, you’re able to experience good tonal balance without having to worry about distortion.

Pros

  • Good tonal balance
  • Realistic sound
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Significant sound bleed at higher volumes

5. Behringer HPS3000

  • Over-ear
  • Closed-back
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Driver type: 40mm cobalt driver

Behringer is another popular brand within the pro-audio community. The HPS3000 headphones are an affordable alternative to some of those pricier options that you get on the market. But can these headphones stack up in terms of performance?

I’m happy to say that the studio headphones do a decent job across the board. The frequency response is relatively flat and balanced. These headphones do have a closed back.

However, the high-end manages to be crisp and transparent. Don’t expect to get the same level of performance as a model that costs hundreds of dollars. That said, these do make a good entry-level option for budding producers.

Pros

  • Punchy bass
  • Comfortable design
  • Balanced frequency response
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Earcuffs are a bit thinner than other options

6. Sennheiser HD 650

  • Over-ear
  • Open-back
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

The HD 650 headphones are a premium option for those looking for the very best sound possible. Sennheiser has put a lot of thought into every detail and it shows. A standard dynamic driver is used.

Powerful neodymium magnets provide quick response and accurate sound replication. Pair that with the large size of the diaphragm and you have a nice warm sound that’s perfect for enjoying music.

Of course, these headphones do a wonderful job in the studio as well. Acoustic silk is utilized over the drivers. This helps to attenuate the sound evenly, creating a balanced frequency response.

Pros

  • Audiophile-level audio
  • Balanced attenuation across the frequency spectrum
  • Compatible with high-powered gear

Cons

  • Metal body can be uncomfortable for some

7. AKG Pro Audio K240

  • Over-ear
  • Semi-open-back
  • Impedance: 55 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

Although we chose them as the best affordable headphones for music production, don’t let the low price tag fool you. These AKG headphones are a great option in the studio. They’re semi-open-back headphones.

Thus, you’re getting the best of both worlds. The sound isolation is decent. However, the partially open nature of the cans helps to improve overall sound quality. This is most evident in the high-end.

Overall, the sound quality is quite respectable. AKG uses a modified version of a dynamic driver. It’s a patented in-house design that focuses on providing accurate signal transfer and a good dynamic response. The driver certainly does not disappoint in those areas.

Pros

  • Lightweight build
  • Responds well to EQ
  • Balanced bass response

Cons

  • Earcuffs aren’t the most comfortable

8. KRK KNS 8400

  • Over-ear
  • Closed-back
  • Impedance: 36 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

The KNS 8400 headphones from KRK offer respectable performance at an affordable price tag. These aren’t going to provide you with out-of-this-world sound.

However, they do a fairly decent job of replicating your audio as it was meant to be heard. The frequency response is flat. So your basses sound just as a present while the highs sound light and airy.

Because these are closed-back headphones, they are a great option for critical listening in louder environments. The foam cuffs do a fine job of blocking out the noise.

You can also use them in the recording booth to ensure that the bleeding sound doesn’t affect your takes.

Pros

  • Foldable design
  • Low distortion
  • Good bass punch without overbearing boom
  • Transparent highs

Cons

  • Cheaper materials can degrade quickly

9. Sony MDR7506

  • Over-ear
  • Closed-back
  • Impedance: 63 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

Next up, we have these studio headphones from Sony. These are professional-quality headphones that are designed to be as flat as possible. Sony has engineered the cans with critical listening in mind. So, there’s very little coloration to affect your mixing choices.

Inside the cans, there are dynamic drivers that utilize powerful neodymium magnets. These magnets are powerful enough to provide an accurate frequency response.

Pair that with the large diaphragm of the driver and you have respectable sound. The headphones sound good and can be used in a wide variety of situations.

Pros

  • Decent sound isolation
  • Neutral coloration
  • Cord is almost 10 feet long

Cons

  • Can be tight for some users

10. Samson SR850

  • Over-ear
  • Semi-open-back
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Driver type: Dynamic

Last, but not least, we have the SR850 headphones from Samson. Samson is a brand that’s known for producing some respectable gear at consumer-level prices.

These headphones are a perfect example of that. Despite the low price tag, the headphones are well-suited for studio use.

The dynamic drivers utilize rare-earth magnets. They help to reproduce sound accurately while minimizing distortion. The final product is a flat frequency response with very little coloration.

The bass sounds tight and punchy without being overbearing. Meanwhile, the highs are airy and transparent without that annoying tinny coloration.

Pros

  • Cozy velour ear cuffs
  • Good size adjustability
  • Tight bass response
  • Good overall tonal balance

Cons

  • Build quality isn’t the best

Best Studio Headphones: What to Consider

Now that you understand why you need studio headphones, let’s go over some of the things you need to look for while you’re shopping. Like consumer-level headphones, you’ll find a ton of options ranging in price and design. Here are some of the most important things to consider.

1. Closed-Back vs Open-Back vs Semi-Open-Back

The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want open-back or closed-back cans. Both options come with their advantages and disadvantages.

closed-back, semi-open back, open-back types of headphones

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back models are exactly what they sound like. The back of each can is closed off, which ultimately prevents any of the sounds from escaping. These types of headphones are particularly useful if your environment isn’t the most conducive for critical listening.

Maybe you’re looking to perfect your mix on the train or at a busy coffee shop. They’re also great if you don’t have a dedicated studio space.

Because the backs are closed off, these headphones isolate the sound much better. Those sound waves have nowhere to go but into your ear, which helps to drown out the world and help you focus on the music at hand.

If you need some monitoring headphones for the recording booth, closed-back headphones are a must-have. The last thing you want to deal with is a feedback loop from the sound bleeding out of the headphones!

Open-Back Headphones

As you might have guessed, open-back headphones allow the audio to move out of the gear. People around you will be able to hear some of the music you’re listening to, so be wary of where you are using them.

Why would anyone want to listen through open-back headphones? Well, it all comes down to sound quality. Because the audio isn’t fully isolated, the music tends to sound more natural. It sounds airy, making you feel like the musicians are in the room with you.

While it might sound counterintuitive, many seasoned mixers like to work with open-back headphones. That natural sound these headphones can achieve work wonders when it comes to critical listening.

Semi-Open-Back Headphones

If you’re still on the fence about which type of headphones you should choose, consider using a semi-open-back model. These headphones offer the best of both worlds. They’re not completely sealed, so others around you will still be able to hear the music.

However, they offer a bit more isolation than a full open-back option. They’re great if you’re just trying to get a feel for the music or if you’re working from home.

2. On-Ear vs. Over-Ear Headphones

Next up, do you want to wear over-the-ear or on-the-ear headphones? Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference.

Over-ear headphones, also known as circumaural headphones, are the most common you’ll see in the studio. That’s because they’re a bit more comfortable and offer better sound isolation than the alternative. A thick ring of foam covers the entire ear, which does a fantastic job of keeping the tunes in.

The downside of over-ear headphones? They’re bulky and can be a hassle to carry around. On-ear headphones, on the other hand, are often the go-to if portability is the prime concern.

Also called supra-aural headphones, these models sit on top of the ear. They can be a bit uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, so keep that in mind when choosing. That said, most can be folded up nicely for working on the go.

3. About Impedance Ratings

When you’re looking through your headphone options, you’re going to come across impedance ratings. Without getting too much into the technical weeds, impedance is a device’s resistance to an electrical current.

Measured in Ohms, this figure is very important when you’re looking at studio gear. It doesn’t apply to just headphones but pretty much every piece of gear you have.

We won’t get into the finer details of impedance here. It can get very complicated very quickly! However, there are some basic things you need to understand.

Generally, high-impedance headphones are recommended for studio setups. This is because you’re working with higher signal levels. Whether you’re connected to a powerful audio interface or you’re using a headphone amplifier, high-impedance headphones will have you covered.

They’re protected from potential overloading. Anything over 25 Ohms is considered to be high when it comes to impedance ratings.

Low-impedance headphones are good, too, if you’re working from a single audio source. Say, for example, that you’re mixing on your laptop. You don’t need all of that extra protection of high-impedance gear.

Low impedance ratings mean that the headphones don’t need a ton of power to sound good. However, there is a greater chance of blowing out your cans if you use low-impedance headphones on high-powered gear!

4. Types Of Drivers

Now, let’s talk a bit about drivers. A headphone driver is a small component that’s responsible for transforming those electrical currents into audible sound. It has the same job as a speaker driver. However, the ones used in headphones are much smaller and more compact.

There are a few different factors to pay attention to when it comes to headphone drivers. The first is size. Generally, a larger driver diameter is able to provide better sound. The vibrating membrane can move air more effectively, leading to a greater dynamic range and contrast.

The second thing you’ll need to pay attention to is the type of driver used. There’s a wide range of drivers available. Here are some of the most common.

Dynamic Driver

One of the most popular drivers used is the dynamic driver. It’s basically a shrunken-down version of the transducers you see on speakers. These drivers consist of a magnet, a coil, and a vibrating membrane. As the electric current runs through the coil, it interacts with the magnet.

The resulting electromagnetic field forces the membrane to vibrate and create sound. Dynamic drivers are good for producing strong bass.

Planar Magnetic Driver

Planar magnetic drivers also rely on electromagnetism to produce sound. However, these drivers are made up of two magnets surrounding the diaphragm. The coil runs through the diaphragm in this driver. When the current flows, the two magnets interact and force the membrane to vibrate.

Balanced Driver

Also known as a balanced armature driver, these transducers have a unique design. They consist of a small metal arm that’s connected to the diaphragm. The arm is perfectly balanced between two magnets.

As the electrical current flows, the arm will become magnetized and move towards a magnet. This creates the vibrations needed for the diaphragm. Typically, these drivers produce a strong high-end.

Hybrid Driver

Next up, there’s the hybrid driver. Hybrid drivers are a mix of balanced and dynamic drivers. They take the strong bass of dynamic drivers and the strong high-end from balanced drivers to produce a pretty even sound.

Electrostatic Driver

These drivers are a bit rare because they can be pricey to make. However, they do produce some impressive sounds. These drivers use an electrically charged membrane that’s sandwiched between two conductive plates. When electricity flows through the plates, the membrane will move and vibrate.

Electret Driver

Finally, there are electret drivers. These work on the same principles as electrostatic drivers. However, they use a permanent electric charge rather than a variable one. Thus, the sound quality isn’t really comparable to electrostatic drivers.

FAQs

How does the frequency response affect studio headphones?

Contrary to popular belief, a super-wide frequency range does not affect sound quality. Humans can only hear between 20 and 20 kHz, so anything beyond that is pretty useless! What you should be paying attention to is a headphone’s frequency response curve instead.

Can I use studio headphones for listening to music or gaming?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s a great way to hear what the original creators intended. Just keep impedance levels in mind. You may need an amplifier if you have high-impedance headphones.

Can I mix or record with just studio headphones?

It is possible to mix and record with nothing but headphones. However, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Most professionals will utilize headphones and speakers to ensure that music sounds good in any setting.

Final Thoughts

The best headphones for producing and mixing can do a lot to take your skills to the next level. You can’t expect to reach your full potential if you can’t listen to your music critically. A good pair of headphones will let you do just that.

All of our selections of the best headphones for producing do a great job in the studio. However, the ATH-M50x headphones from Audio Technica are a cut above the rest. These headphones have been around for a very long time. There are several reasons why they’re so beloved in the pro audio community.

The headphones just sound good. When you compare the cans to some of the competitors, such as the models from Beyerdynamic, AKG, or even Sennheiser, the ATH-M50x headphones have a much flatter frequency response. Not only that, but they’re comfortable to wear for prolonged work sessions and they have a portable design that you can take anywhere.

Pair that up with the sound-isolating design and you have the recipe for a great pair of studio headphones. All in all, the Audio Technica headphones have everything you need to listen critically in the studio. Pick up a pair to hear the difference these headphones can make for yourself.