If you are hoping to make music that is at least comparable to commercial releases then you will need to be able to listen to what your working on and be able to hear it accurately. For this you will need either good studio monitors or good headphones, ideally both. In this article I’ll look at some of the best headphones currently available, according to my research.
If you were to ask me whether to get monitors or headphones first, I would say that headphones might be the best investment to start as they are generally more affordable than good monitors and also, being in a home studio, you may find them more accurate to start with if you have no acoustic treatment in place. There’s also the neighbours to consider, or if you can only work late at night and don’t want to disturb your family… I bought decent headphones quite a while before I could get monitors because I didn’t have the room.
Anyway. We’re hear to see what headphones are available. I’ll start with the ones that I currently use and some other competitors in a similar price range.
Sennheiser HD 380 Pro
The Sennheiser HD 380 Pro headphones are just fantastic, in my opinion, for quality and price.
They are very comfortable and ‘closed-back’ and therefore good for recording things such as vocals, where you need to minimise bleed. Usually the open-back variety of headphones are recommended for mixing but in this case the accuracy and clarity of sound is very good so these can be used for mixing too. They also fold up into a neat little carry case which is handy if you work in different locations.
The AKG K702 Open-Back Dynamic Reference headphones cost a little more but come highly recommended. As they are open-back they can give a more accurate sound (open-back allows for more realistic bass but also blocks less external sound).
Mike Senior reviewed these in Sound On Sound and claimed that they “outgun any active monitor of a similar price for mixing purposes”. Which is worth bearing in mind. Although, to be fair, you will probably be looking at spending a fair bit more on your studio monitors than your headphones.
Beyerdynamic DT990 PRO
The Beyerdynamic DT990 PROs are also very highly recommended at this price range, though for the best results you may also need a headphone amplifier, depending on your setup.
These are open-backed and therefore more suited to mixing than recording.
Sony Pro MDR7506
I’ve never used the Sony Pro MDR7506s myself but they keep coming up in my research as a recommended ‘workhorse’ for the studio. They are very affordable and, whilst they’re probably not the best for mixing, they are recommended for recording as they are closed-back, comfortable and sturdy.
So far we’ve seen a good selection of reasonably low priced but good quality headphones. If you have a bit more money to spare and wish to move up to the really high end stuff then the next couple of models might be what you’re after.
Shure SRH 1540
The Shure SRH 1540 closed-back headphones are kinda gorgeous… These ‘premium’ headphones are firmly in the higher cost bracket than those we’ve looked at so far but the quality and clarity should make them worth it.
They are light and comfortable and also come with two cables, spare earpads and a semi-hardshell case.
I’ll leave you with the next set of headphones on my own wishlist…
Sennheiser HD 600
I have my eye firmly on the Sennheiser HD 600 Open Monitoring Headphones for my next big investment (or birthday/xmas present, if anyone was thinking of getting me something nice. 🙂 ).
These beauties are designed with precision and clarity in mind, making them perfect for mixing and mastering. Every review I’ve read of these makes me want them more.
Considering their desirability, they’re not too expensive. Currently at around £200 on Amazon in the UK… Hmmm… No, I really shouldn’t just yet. So tempting though!
*UPDATE* Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Since originally posting this article a number of people have commented that they think the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x professional studio monitor headphones really need to be on the list. Interestingly, these hadn’t come up a lot in my research (maybe because they’re a relatively new product) but on further investigation they do seem to be a very good set of cans.
They’re also currently reduced on Amazon (as of July 2015) so get them quick if they take your fancy!
That’s what I’ve discovered…
…so far, in my headphone research. I hope this helps you find your perfect pair!
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