For those that like us, have a studio at home. I wonder how many, like us, initially paid little attention to the quality of our headphones. We hold our hand up and plead guilty.
They are necessary at every stage, not least of course towards the latter stages when the editing, mixing, and mastering commences, when a good proportion of what you are doing is checking things on the ‘phones.
We never really thought about it until one day someone said try these. He was polite enough not to be rude just let us hear for ourselves. Point made, the case proved, now we’d better get some better ones.
The question, of course, is what to buy and how much to spend?
So, let’s have a look at the best headphones for home recording and find the best pair for you…
Top 10 Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording 2021 Reviews
1 Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Over-Ear Studio Headphones
Beyer is proud of their DT 990 headphones with their three-dimensional-sound facility. Briefly put that means that it reproduces all the frequencies of the instruments in unity. For this, it needs a wide response range, and it certainly has that. In fact, it is quite a unique listening experience, powerful sounding, but very clear.
They reproduce a very powerful bottom and top end, which makes them ideal for studio work. They do have a ‘V’ curve on the sound balance with the bottom and top being prominent with the mids being slightly more subdued.
The design is what is known as open over-ear, which makes them ideal for studio work, shutting out some background noises and letting you concentrate on what you are hearing. They are long-lasting and very durable with soft pads made from velour make them comfortable to wear.
The velour pads are replaceable if they need it. And, they come with a single cable with a 3.5mm stereo jack plug. The lead is extendable if necessary.
They are made from plastic which makes them very light except for the headband which is metal based but covered in an imitation leather-type material, and the arms holding the earpieces which are metal-based material and again covered.
Don’t be put off by the plastic tag. It is a high-quality polymer plastic and therefore quite strong and long-lasting. These feel quite light and not being heavy to wear is something of a comfort issue, and most people do not like headphones that are heavy, substantial as they may feel.
They are a good headphone that produces a great sound. The top end can be a bit overpowering at higher volumes, which could cause ear fatigue if they were used that way for a long time.
German made, and a quality buy.
2 Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Professional Open-Back Reference Headphones
Audio-Technica is a Japanese company set up in the 60s who have now broadened their manufacturing base into musical areas with headphones being something they are particularly known for.
In a relatively short time, they have become a respected force in the production of headphones for recording studios, and they have produced the basic but very acceptable M20x right through to the M50x recognized as being one of the great headphones in studios.
Previous to the ATH-R70 range, they had always developed closed-back headphones, and this is their first piece of equipment that is open back. The design is interesting and is totally different from anything they have produced before.
The earpieces are not connected by a headband but by a semi-circular metal frame which doesn’t actually touch your head. There is a headband, though, which sits on your head giving the unit stability.
They have a soft, breathable material for the ear pads which adds comfort and they are made of long-lasting material. They are made from a carbon composite resin, and the earpieces have an aluminum mesh to give the open back sound.
Some sound changes have been added to the ‘R’ range, which were not previously included in the lower priced of the ‘M’ versions.
They are known for high treble boost, but this headphone has a more mellow top end and is far more pronounced with lower frequencies. This redefined balance allows the mids to project more, even though they still might not be prominent enough for some, and so a better all round sound is created.
One notable plus point with these headphones is the weight. They are so light you might call them featherweights, weighing in at just 210 grams. They are a good choice, if not particularly cheap, and certainly in the frame for being the best headphones for home recording studios.
3 Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional Headphone
One thing we all learn when we start to record and mix at home is that a good proportion of the work is done through headphones. You also have to consider the budget. There are not many of us that can buy exactly what we want.
A difficult choice.
If you go down the headphones route, then these Sennheiser HD 650 are an outstanding piece of kit. In fact, after buying these, you may not need to upgrade them, they are that good. They are not new, of course, and have been around a while, and many will be familiar with them already.
A grey metal finish and plastic are the main ingredients. The inner headband is made of sprung steel, and there is a metal mesh that forms a grille on the earpieces. We think Sennheiser when designing these were more interested in how they were going to sound rather than what they looked like.
And it is the sound quality where these headphones score the points. At the top end, there is very little in the way of an extra boost. There is a presence to the sound but not much more than that. The bass is well-defined. Not as brash as some are but a clean sound where you can hear everything that’s being played.
The mids are excellent and where they really shine. They are not lost as they are with some headphones and quite prominent. These phones are well built and have superb quality. Made in Germany.
They are an excellent choice but are not cheap.
4 Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System
Sennheiser’s product line is full of very good headphones. At whatever price you want to pay, you know you are buying quality. The Sennheiser 800 range though take that quite a few stages further.
Some would say they are.
These phones could be the benchmark by which all others are judged. And Sennheiser not necessarily known for being flamboyant with their designs preferring their equipment to be understated, have gone all out to make them not only sound the best but also look very special.
The design is as you might expect, but they have a certain style, well, panache.
There is a lot of silver and black in the makeup that gives the feeling of superiority to similar products. A certain technological oneupmanship. They are constructed from mostly plastic, albeit a high-quality polymer plastic, but it is quality construction.
Enough of how do they look, and what are they made of. They do look good, but how do they sound.
Well for the price you are paying you expect them to be good, but not as good as this. They just leap out at you. It’s quite a surprise. It’s difficult to find a word to describe the sound, but staggering comes close. It feels like you are sitting in the midst of it all as it is being played.
It’s all there, the crisp and clear top end and the resonant bass, the flowing mids holding it all together. Nothing overstated or overdone, just perfect.
By the standards of some of today’s headphones, they might be considered heavy at 330 gram, but they aren’t heavy, just substantial.
Everything from the ergonomically designed ear cups to the luxury ear cushions to the headband, which is covered in several layers of polymer to reduce vibration has been included to make these exceptional.
Made in Germany.
5 Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones
Not everyone can afford to pay what amounts to a small fortune for anything, let alone a set of headphones. So, we are thankful for companies like Samson who produce quality budget level equipment.
Somewhat of a newcomer to the business, Samson produces some cost-effective equipment that despite its attractive price tag is well made and designed.
One such item is the SR850 Studio Reference Headphones. They feature an over-ear design that allows for a wider soundstage with an adjustable headband to ensure comfort. The earpieces are nicely padded, and they have a mesh grille.
Whilst they are not uncomfortable, we feel it is here that Samson has cut a few corners to keep the price as low as possible.
It is a very traditional design, but one that works, and they are well put together. The sound is surprisingly good, and we are not afraid to say will compete with other brands with a much higher price point.
At both ends of the frequency scale, they work quite well. The top end is possibly not as bright as some are, but the mids are acceptable and the bass really quite nice and warm sounding. They may possibly have cut some corners in the materials and the build, but they have done well in the sound department.
Some would argue those priorities are correct.
For this price, these headphones are exceptional value providing you are not expecting the very top end, and they do produce good results. Of course, there are one or two issues which we have mentioned, but as we said, for the outlay, they are great value.
6 AKG K701 Open Back Reference Class Stereo Headphones
The AKG 701 is a set of headphones that have been produced for over ten years. I suppose that in itself says something about how good they are and how popular they have become.
At first sight, they look large but are surprisingly lightweight when you pick them up. In fact, visually you have to say they are not particularly attractive at all with a leather headband, adjusters that arch over the top like a monument and rather oversized earpieces. They resemble a set of phones you may have seen way back when.
They have a metallic look about them but are in fact made of plastic. Plastic is lightweight, and you don’t want heavy headphones for a long session. Most of the comments so far feel negative. They are not, just observations.
AKG know what they are doing and these being popular phones is a testament to how good they are. One area that makes these so popular is that they are so comfortable to wear. The earpieces are made of a soft foam covered in velour and are not tight on the head at all. Built for a long hard day.
They are open back headphones, which means they are not suitable for every environment but certainly are for the studio.
They have a wide frequency range with a very good midsection. Below that, bass frequencies that are warm and clear with no muddiness and a top end that is stunning. The clarity is quite something, and if you are looking for a set of phones that will pick up every little nuance and mistake in the recording, these are the ones.
The price is towards the top end, but you might expect that.
If you are looking for the best headphones for home recording, this should be on your list.
7 Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
Sony is not necessarily the first name we think in relation to recording and studios, though they obviously have quite a track record in just about every other aspects of sound reproduction. However, that is an unfair statement because, in many studios, home and professional, you may well find a set of MDR 7506’s.
Because they are good in so many ways.
The closed-back design provides isolation of the sound and a stable listening environment. They lock in the sound and exclude the outside. The padded ear cups are well fitted and ultra comfortable. They provide studio quality sound in that enclosed environment with no potential sound leakage to microphones if recording.
They have a frequency range of 10Hz to 20kHz, which will cover just about anything you can throw at them. And they are not expensive at all. In the manufacturing, oxygen-free copper cord and gold plated fittings ensure that the transmission of the sound is not compromised and the best, it can be.
They fold up for travel and come with a soft case and also a 1⁄4 inch jack plug adapter.
In terms of practical usage that covers the basics, there is one other matter to look at…
Sony knows how to make robust yet attractive equipment, they have been doing it for years, and they apply that knowledge to the manufacture of these headphones.
They are just very well put together and obviously a contender for best home recording studio headphones.
8 Shure SRH1540 Premium Closed-Back Headphones
We suppose if anyone ought to be able to design excellent headphones, given the quality of their microphones it would be Shure. The 1540 is a closed back headphone that is designed to give an accurate frequency response that is wide and produces a quite amazing sound.
It has a wide stereo image and depth of field and the closed back design ensures that the sound does not bleed away, and you get extended crystal clear highs and warm bass. It is a very open and dynamic sound and will show up exactly what every instrument is doing.
Continuing the Shure reputation of quality of manufacture these are well built with quality materials. Made in China, the build is exceptional.
An aluminum aircraft grade yoke, a carbon fiber cap and a premium padded adjustable headband with cushioned earpieces that cover your ears, make these a very durable and lightweight piece of kit.
What Shure has managed to achieve with these headphones is to design and build them to a very high standard. The sounds are exceptional and make using them to mix similar to listening to studio monitors.
More than that, they have such an integral design that is built for comfort. They are lightweight and fully adjustable and are not going to cause problems when working a long day using them.
Finally, the quality of the build is very Shure. Just like their SM57 and 58 the rugged mics, these headphones are built to last. Once again, they are not cheap. They sit at the top of the mid-range cost of headphones without moving into the super expensive area.
They are a quality product and for the level of sound they produce, worth consideration.
9 Focal On-Ear Headphone (H5006)
Focal makes headphones at the top end of the scale, and some of their headphone products will set you back many thousands. They also make some serious speaker systems, so they are going to know what they are doing.
The sound quality of the top end headphones they produce is second to none, so what can we expect from the more budget range H5006?
They describe them as having general listening as their primary function and studio monitoring as a secondary function.
This is interesting in itself as maybe they do not consider the sound reproduction to be good enough. Or perhaps they are just comparing the sound through these headphones to their top of the range, sell your house to pay for the products.
We can only say that they sound quite staggering, so we can only imagine what their big brothers and sisters are like.
The sound stage with these is wide and just brilliant, and you find yourself listening to music you know and hearing new little things you had missed before.
Most headphones in this price range struggle to have great sounds at both ends of the frequency spectrum. They will either have a great top end or powerful bass sounds. These have definitely got both ends covered. Great warm and deep bass frequencies that are just delicious, and a top end that is just exciting to hear.
Mids are low, but when brought up fill the sounds and provide that warm mid-strength that is the trademark of good reproduction.
Well, actually there is. The build is a bit suspect in our view. They are just not comfortable and to be totally honest, the plastic used looks a little cheap and not what you might call rugged. Yes, it is the sound that is the important thing, but if you have to wear headphones for long periods, you do want them to be comfortable.
And, if you are paying good money, then you want them to last for a decent amount of time before things start to wear out or fall off.
Great sound, but treat them gently.
10 Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphones (old model)
The old model, replaced on the shelves lately by the newer 280, these are still a quality unit. They are a popular model, and there are many reasons that make them one of the best headphones for a home recording studio, or any studio for that matter.
Like all Sennheiser products they are well made, but they have just more than just build quality and good materials to be proud of. They are comfortable to wear in fact it’s not wrong to say that after a while you might actually forget you are wearing them — an important thing to consider if you are having long days.
Being closed backs, nothing gets in or out, and there is this splendid isolation that allows you to get on with the job without distraction. Of course, they are reliable. German made and engineered what do you expect?
And the sound is exceptional with a rather flat frequency response that allows you to make the EQ changes as and when necessary without being fed a somewhat false sound picture.
And, don’t be worried about a lack of bass or top end if you try them out. They are set up like that. These are monitors that tell you exactly how the music sounds, not headphones that make everything sound great!
They have a full 32Db of acoustic isolation that is so important for musicians, especially drummers allowing you to hear the mix no matter how hard or loud you play.
A great set of phones at a great price.
Time To Buy Some Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording?
We always start off these sections for other products by making the observation that it depends on what you are buying for. In this instance, we know. You want some new headphones for your home recording studio, and you want the best you can get. Well, we’ve reviewed a few that cover quite a wide spectrum. Not only of facilities, but also cost.
There are some decisions to be made as there are with any purchase. The first one possibly being are these going to be your ‘goto’ headphones for mixing and mastering? If so, then they’ve got to be better than what you already have.
And the second decision to be made, how much do you want to spend? Because in the world of headphones, the gap between bottom and top is enormous. There is, of course, a reason for that. Once you have decided your budget things become a little easier.
There is a case for both of these options, of course, but for studio recording work we prefer the isolation that the closed headphone gives. But make sure that they do actually isolate the sound, not just half do it.
However, for mixing and general purpose use, we prefer open-backed designs.
Therefore, if you only need them for tracking, you will have to go with a closed back design. But, if you already own a pair or a few pairs of closed-backs for that purpose, going for an open-backed pair for checking mixes is a great idea.
Appearance is not so important as primarily they all look very similar. It would be hard to be any different given that we’ve all got two ears, but some use interesting materials that do give an interesting style.
Appearance, though, should not really be criteria when deciding. Build quality however is. They will be taking a lot of use. Taking them off and on, maybe swiveling for one ear, etc., you want them to be fairly strong and sturdy, but you also want them to be lightweight. Build quality is important.
To find the best headphones for your home recording studio is going to be unique to you. However, we’ve looked at some old favorites – the classics, and some newer brands. So, the choice should now be a lot easier.
So, What’s The Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording?
As always a difficult choice but to answer our own questions. We will use it for the mix and master in lengthy sessions, so they have got to be comfortable to wear. They must also be sturdy in build, but not too heavy and, of course, they have got to sound great.
We are not too worried about the price, because in terms of producing a great finished product, what we all want after all, then you should spend what you can.
Whatever the cost, they probably won’t be the most expensive item in your studio, but they could just be one of the most important.
We have therefore chosen as the best Studio Headphones for Home Recording the…
Possibly the best headphones for a home recording studio for the price, that you will find.