Best Studio Headphones For Mixing And Production

January 10, 2024
Stephanie Valente
Written by
Stephanie Valente
Stephanie Valente
Lead Editor
Reviewed by
Lead Editor
Lead Editor

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Picture this: You’re in the studio — or working on some beats at home — and you’re getting ready to work on the next track. But you may be wondering, is there a piece of gear that could make your next studio session even better?

Yes there is and that’s why you may want to look into studio headphones.

Okay, but how are studio headphones different from a traditional pair for audiophiles? 

Simply put, studio headphones are specifically manufactured for sound isolation and a clear audio representation (aka, how the music or beat actually sounds). 

To go even further, this device is made for one main principle: accurate sound reproduction. That means less heavy-handed bass, voice distortions, and even… auto tune. 

According to audio engineer and Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) candidate, CUNY Graduate Center, Madeleine Campbell, studio headphones “typically have a flatter frequency response, though every manufacturer and model is a bit different,” she says. “This is important for anyone recording, mixing or producing music because it gives a more neutral reference point and can more accurately reveal any undesired qualities they may want to adjust.”

And what about traditional consumer headphones? “Consumer headphones are often designed to enhance a tonal aspect of music like a low-end boost to provide more bass or a high-end bump for added brightness,” Madeleine says.

Why should you consider studio headphones compared to traditional ones?

There are a lot of advantages to using a set of studio headphones. According to Madeleine, there are some pretty big perks. 

“To me, the biggest pro of studio headphones is that they translate my work more honestly so I have a better idea of what changes I want to make,” she says. “Manufacturers sometimes refer to this as minimal ‘coloration’ added to the audio signal.”

But take note: You aren’t going to use studio headphones for casual music listening, lounging, or commuting. First of all, Madeleine says that these headphones don’t have many of the bells and whistles found in regular headphones, like Bluetooth connectivity, noise canceling features, and so on. The reasoning behind this? “In a recording or production environment, these features can add unwanted latency and the hassle of dead batteries,” she says.

Now, let’s chat about hearing health and studio headphones.

If you wear headphones for several hours at a time when making, mixing, or producing music, it is important to be mindful of your hearing health when wearing headphones for any prolonged period of time.

Before we get into health tips from Madeleine, Soundly’s lead audiologist Dr. Amy Sarow has a friendly word of overarching advice when it comes to studio headphones and volume. “Ideally listening volume should be below 80 decibels,” Dr. Amy says. “Keeping the volume at 60-70% of maximum volume is best.”

Healthy listening volume aside, when you’re sitting in the studio for hours on end, Madeleine has some tips. “After long stretches, especially at high loudness levels, your ears will become less sensitive,” she says. “This is listening fatigue.”

If you want to combat (or proactively target) listening fatigue, Madeleine says to give your ears a break. “Take a five-minute pause every hour to reset,” she says.

Next, Madeleine monitors loudness levels. “We know that sustained listening above 85 decibels substantially increases the risk of permanent hearing loss,” she says. “I once read that your volume level should generally be low enough for you to converse without raising your voice.” 

I wear hearing aids. Can I even use studio headphones?

The short answer is yes, you can! Here, Madeleine gives some insights on how hearing aid users can also wear studio headphones.

“I’ve met several professional musicians and audio engineers who wear hearing aids and use studio headphones with great success,” she says. “Fit and positioning are critically important.”

Madeleine goes on to say that supra-aural headphones are specifically designed to sit on top of the ear while circumaural headphones fully encompass the ear. And, studio quality headphones are typically circumaural.

If you’re a BTE and RIC hearing aid user, Madeleine notes studio headphones are less likely to cause feedback. However, if you do experience feedback, try adjusting the headphone, which may be pressing down too much on your device’s microphones.

🌟Another handy tip for hearing aid wearers considering studio headphones: “If mixing and production are important to you, it may be worthwhile to have a designated hearing aid program with this in mind,” she says. “Remember that music is a far more complex signal than speech. We can’t treat them the same way!”

What should I look for in a pair of studio headphones?

First things first, Madeleine advises that there’s no universal answer for which headphones are best.

Odds are, Madeleine says, if you ask five professional musicians or audio engineers which pair they like the most, you’ll probably get five different answers. But that’s why we’re here to cut through the noise.

To begin, she recommends listening to music you’re really familiar with. Then, do an A/B comparison of your favorite song or podcast through studio headphones and the listening devices you’re currently using.

As you’re listening ask yourself these two questions:What differences jump out at you?Is there anything the studio headphones reveal that you aren’t hearing through consumer headphones?

As you notice differences and other observations, Madeleine outlines simple points for finding the right pair of studio headphones: “Purchasing criteria for a good pair of studio headphones will ultimately depend on your needs, but price, comfort and fit, frequency response, and the amount of isolation provided are all big contenders,” she says.

Finalize your needs and must-haves (like, price point, amount of isolation, etc.) and you’ll be good to go.

Now, let’s get to the best studio headphones for mixing and production.

Sennheiser HD 206 Stereo Headphone
Under $50

Sennheiser HD 206 Stereo Headphone

Sennheiser HD 206 Stereo Headphone

$42.95
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WIRED CONNECTION
OVER EAR
CLOSED BACK
LIGHTWEIGHT

Customer Review | “I am a musician and I made a small recording studio under my stairs (it’s like a little sound proofed Harry Potter closet). I needed some can headphones that were middle of the line quality, low cost, and comfy for the long hours of editing. These were fantastic. I have no complaints and I have been putting them through use at least three hours a day. So far so rocking!” - Eliott

Need a budget-friendly set of studio headphones? Sennheiser has your back. Noted for every day studio use, many reviews comment on the pair’s durability and sound quality (plus sound bleeding prevention). But the real review winner? The ear pads for audio support and noise-blocking.

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Sound quality, lightweight

Cons

A few reviews noted that the wired cord was long and could tangle

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Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
Under $100

Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone

Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone

$84.99
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WIRED CONNECTION
OVER EAR
CLOSED EAR DESIGN
FOLDABLE

Customer Review | “First I'd like to point out that these headphones most definitely live up to the "studio-standard" name it's been given. The audio response is very well balanced: no piercing highs, no enveloping mids, no muddy/overpowering bass. Every single nuance is represented with pristine clarity, and when people say that you'll hear everything with these headphones, they mean it.” - Jonathan

If you’re a bit more flexible in price point, look no further than Sony. This pair is well known for its mix of clear audio, stamina, and of course, price point. Many of the reviews point out how comfortable this set of studio headphones are — with many reviewers wearing the headphones for hours at a time. However, a few reviews did mention ear pads did wear out after everyday use.

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Clear sound, good for long-term wear

Cons

Complaints of ear pads wearing out after prolonged use

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RØDE NTH-100 Professional Over-Ear Headphones
Most Comfortable

RØDE NTH-100 Professional Over-Ear Headphones

RØDE NTH-100 Professional Over-Ear Headphones

$148.50
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WIRED CONNECTION
OVER EAR
CUSTOM-MATCHED DRIVERS
COOLTECH GEL COMFORT

Customer Review | “I have had these for three months now. I am a voice over artist and use them every single day. I am never in a hurry to take them off because they are just so comfortable. The sound quality is great for studio monitoring. I wear them for hours at a time and never become fatigued by them. There is none of the dreaded head squeeze that I got from other headphones that gave me headaches. The memory foam cups are a game changer in comfort. They are heavy, in a very good, solid construction sort of way but don't feel heavy on my head. The clips seem strong and I have had no issues with them breaking. These are so good, I just bought a second pair for my son because he loves the way they sound and feel. Highly recommended!” - John Cameron

If comfort is important above all other factors, consider this RØDE pair. Noted for its robust sound quality and extreme comfort (many of the reviewers sang high praises for all-day comfort with this particular headphone set!). Overall, for mixing, production, and even voice over work, many reviewers noted a crisp quality with good bass.

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Very comfortable, sound quality

Cons

Reported issues with cup stability, plastic adjusters are delicate

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Focal Listen Professional
Most Reliable

Focal Listen Professional

Focal Listen Professional

$299.00
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WIRED CONNECTION
ON EAR
CONE TECHNOLOGY
STRONG ISOLATION

Customer Review | “These headphones are GREAT for long use. Similar to other reviews, they're unique in that you can use them for hours (at a reasonable volume) with little to no strain on your ears. The closed back also provides some noise insulation, leading to a more immersive experience.” - A.E.

If you want a top-notch pair that’s much-loved for its design and sound quality, Focal is it. Sleek, stylish, packed with very notable sound reproduction, and at the higher end of pricing, these studio headphones have good bass and clean audio. However, quite a few reviews noted that the padded headband causes discomfort during wear (one review felt discomfort within the first 30 minutes).

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Quality sound reproduction, design

Cons

Mixed reviews on comfort

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Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X Closed-Back Studio Headphones
Over $250

Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X Closed-Back Studio Headphones

$260
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WIRED CONNECTION
OVER EAR
DURABLE
MADE IN GERMANY

Customer Review | “I did quite a bit of research from experts in the audio field and the specs on these are very close to the most expensive headphones you can buy at a very reasonable price. The sound quality is the best I've ever heard in any audio equipment (I'm no expert). I'll be using these for general listening and for audio editing. This is why I chose Closed Back headphones, to help block ambient sounds. I do not have a fancy recording studio.

But these are very impressive most importantly in amazing sound quality, design and build. Highly recommended!” - A. Patrou

In the market for a higher-end product? The DT 700 Pro X is just the ticket. This closed-back pair is noted for its stylish design and fast audio response that’s practically distortion-free. Many reviewers that also do audio editing remarked at its impressive noise-canceling and ambient noise blockage capabilities. This set comes with two cables, so you can modify length as needed. While the quality reviews were largely positive, quite a few reviewers felt the fit was tight and hard to adjust.

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Comfort, sound quality, sound blocking

Cons

Adjustability, tight fit

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