10 Best Headphones for Music Production 2020

Find ten of the best headphones for music production in this Icon Picks roundup. This buyer’s guide also explains the different headphone types to help you choose the right pair of cans for the job.

Neumann NDH 20 - Best Headphones for Music Production
Photo by Neumann

What are Studio Headphones?

Studio headphones are an essential monitoring tool for music production, recording, mixing, and mastering. However, there’s a difference between standard and studio headphones.

Studio headphones are designed for accuracy, comfort, and durability. In contrast, consumer headphones accentuate frequencies, like bass and treble. They don’t give you an accurate representation of the audio signal.

Studio headphones are more accurate because they have a flat frequency response and a transparent sound. They also have high impedance, which requires a headphone amplifier to get the best sound quality. This will improve the clarity and allow you to hear details in your music. Critical listing is vital to get your mixes to translate on various speaker systems.

Depending on the design, studio headphones also provide isolation from the surrounding environment. Distracting noises can make it difficult to hear details. The isolation also prevents sound from escaping and leaking into your microphone.

Lastly, studio headphones are built for comfort during long sessions. They have large, cozy earpads and adjustable headbands. The construction is also durable to withstand daily use and studio abuse.

The Three Types of Headphones

There are three main headphone design types: open‑back, closed‑back, and semi-open.

Each type has a different listening experience plus advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a pair of studio headphones, consider which type fits your monitoring needs.

1. Open-Back Headphones

AKG K701 Open-Back Studio Headphones - - Best Headphones for Music Production

Open-back headphones have large, vented, or mesh-covered earcups which allow air and sound to flow freely. This design prevents pressure from building up and affecting the sound quality. The soundstage is also more open, airy, and natural compared to closed-back.

Advantages

  • Ideal for mixing and mastering
  • The soundstage is open, airy, natural, and accurate
  • More accuracy and clarity of the sound
  • Minimal coloration, frequency buildup, and sound reflections
  • The openness allows the drivers to respond more quickly and efficiently
  • Monitoring is similar to a pair of studio monitors
  • Your ears won’t get hot and sweaty

Disadvantages

  • Less isolation from noisy listening environments
  • Audio can leak out and get picked up by your microphone
  • Not ideal for monitoring at low volume levels

2. Closed-Back Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M70X Closed-Back Monitor Headphones

Closed-back headphones feature large, over the ear earpads, which provide complete isolation. They prevent audio from leaking out into a microphone while recording. They also block unwanted external noise from the surrounding environment. An isolated listening experience makes it easier to hear details within the music, especially at lower volume levels.

Advantages

  • Ideal for music production, recording, and sound design
  • Best isolation for noisy environments
  • Isolation allows you to focus on details
  • The sound won’t disturb others nearby
  • You can monitor at lower volume levels
  • Enhancement of lower frequencies

Disadvantages

  • Frequency buildup diminishes clarity and accuracy
  • Sound pressure and reflections accumulate inside the earcups
  • The soundstage is less open and airy
  • The audio has coloration and sounds less natural
  • Your ears can become hot and sweaty

3. Semi-Open Headphones

Beyerdynamic Dt 880 Pro Semi-Open Studio Headphones

Semi-open headphones strike a balance between open and closed cans. They allow enough airflow to prevent frequency buildup while still providing isolation for critical listening. They also have the natural and transparent sound stage of open-backs, but with the focus of closed-backs.

Advantages

  • Ideal for music production, mixing, and mastering
  • Less sound leakage than typical open-back headphones
  • Less frequency buildup and sound reflections
  • The soundstage is wider and more natural than closed-back
  • Less ear fatigue than closed-back headphones

Disadvantages

  • Less isolation from noisy listening environments
  • Audio can leak out and get picked up by your microphone
  • The soundstage is less open and airy than open-back
  • Sound reflections can still accumulate inside the earcups

10 Best Headphones for Music Production

Finding the best headphones for music production can be an overwhelming task. To help narrow your search, we listed ten high-quality headphones for the studio. They range from affordable budget headphones to high-end studio headphones.

1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

ATH-M50x

The ATH-M50x professional monitor headphones receive a lot of praise by top audio engineers and everyday users. These closed-back cans sport large drivers, superior sound isolation, and robust construction. They also deliver exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range. You’ll hear more details in your music and be able to make critical decisions.

Key Features

  • Critically acclaimed for performance and build quality
  • 15Hz – 28kHz frequency response
  • 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils
  • Excellent clarity throughout an extended frequency range and accurate bass response
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for complete sound isolation in loud environments
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring
  • Professional-grade earpad and headband material provides durability and comfort
  • Collapsible design for space-saving and portability
  • Three detachable cables (3.9′-9.8′ coiled cable, 3.9′ straight cable, and 9.8′ straight cable)
  • Includes a carrying pouch for storage
  • Top choice for tracking, mixing, DJ monitoring, and personal listening

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2. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 ohm | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO - best headphones for music production

Beyerdynamic’s classic range offers three models: DT 770/880/990 PRO. Any of these three models will be an excellent choice for the studio.

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones are another favorite amongst pro music producers and sound engineers. The high impedance of the 250-ohm model provides a detailed, transparent sound for critical listening. Plus, the cozy soft skin ear pads make these studio headphones extra-comfortable for long sessions.

The DT 770 PRO headphones also reproduce the entire frequency range with incredible precision. You’ll hear punchy low frequencies and vibrant high-frequency detail.

If you prefer a more spacious sound, consider the DT 880 PRO headphones. The semi-open design gives you the strengths of both open and closed headphones. You’ll have enough “air” while still having the isolation for recording. They’re perfect all-around studio headphones.

Key Features

  • 5Hz – 35kHz frequency response
  • Reproduces a natural sound that’s transparent and detailed
  • Circumaural headphones for pro sound in the studio and on mobile devices
  • A closed-ear design with excellent isolation
  • Innovative bass reflex system
  • Large comfortable ear pads you can replace
  • A robust and adjustable spring steel headband ensures a secure fit
  • All the components are replaceable
  • A single-sided cable
  • Includes drawstring bag and 1/4″ adapter

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3. Sennheiser HD 650 | Open-Back Reference Headphones

Sennheiser HD 650 - best headphones for music production

Developed from the award-winning HD 600, the HD 650s feature improved materials and engineering. These high-end headphones reproduce a balanced and transparent sound with superb detail. They also set standards in comfort and convenience!

With the Sennheiser HD 650s, music producers and recording artists will experience a spacious, natural sound. They have high impedance, so ensure you have a headphone amplifier. The high-quality sound will help you make informed decisions. As a result, your mixes will translate better on various speaker systems.

However, high-end quality comes with a higher price tag. If you’re just starting, check out the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro. You get the quality and accuracy Sennheiser headphones are known for but at an affordable price.

Key Features

  • Top-of-the-range open, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones
  • 10Hz – 39.5kHz frequency response
  • A natural, spatial, and accurate sound
  • Designed with acoustic silk to ensure precision damping over the entire frequency range
  • Neodymium ferrous magnets maintain optimum sensitivity and dynamics
  • Lightweight aluminum voice coils provide an excellent transient response
  • A comfortable elliptical design adapts to the shape of your ears
  • High-quality carbon fiber, titanium, and silver finish
  • Detachable Kevlar-reinforced, oxygen-free copper cable
  • Gold plated 1/8″ stereo jack with 1/4″ adaptor

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4. Shure SRH1540 | Closed-Back Premium Headphones

Shure SRH1540 Studio Headphones

The SRH1540 Premium headphones will immerse you in comfort and pro sound quality. They deliver an expansive soundstage with clear, extended highs and warm bass. You’ll love the natural, accurate sound, wide stereo image, and depth. It’s a convincingly speaker-like monitoring experience.

Moreover, the SRH1540s have a robust construction developed with aluminum alloy and carbon fiber materials. The lightweight and durable design also feature Alcantara ear pads for maximum sound isolation and comfort.

Key Features

  • 5Hz – 25KHz frequency response
  • 40 mm neodymium drivers deliver superior acoustic performance
  • Closed-back, circumaural design rests comfortably over the ears and reduces background noise
  • The lightweight construction features aircraft-grade aluminum alloy yoke and carbon fiber for enhanced durability
  • Steel driver frame with vented center pole piece improves linearity and eliminates internal resonance
  • Ergonomic dual-frame for a comfortable fit
  • The padded headband is lightweight and adjustable for hours of listening comfort
  • Oxygen-free copper cable with a Kevlar-reinforced jacket
  • Detachable, dual-exit cables with gold-plated connectors
  • Replaceable earpads feature Alcantara and low-density, slow-recovery foam
  • Rugged design will withstand the rigors of everyday use
  • Includes zippered hard case, 1/4″ adapter, two detachable cables, and Alcantara earpads

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5. AKG K240 MKII | Semi-Open Studio Headphones

AKG K240 MKII

The K240 MKII professional headphones are a long-time standard in studios. For decades, pro engineers and musicians have made the K240 the most widely used studio headphones.

Their advanced transducers deliver solid low end, accurate mids, and crystal-clear highs. The semi-open design also provides the airiness of open headphones with the punchy bass response of closed models.

The K240 MKII also offers a wide frequency range, giving you accurate monitoring. In addition to excellent sound quality, these headphones are incredibly durable and comfortable.

Also, if you’re leaning towards AKG headphones, check out the K702. The K702 open-back headphones provide pinpoint accuracy, excellent imaging, and wide frequency response.

Key Features

  • 15Hz – 25kHz frequency range
  • Semi-open, circumaural design
  • 30 mm XXL transducers with patented Varimotion diaphragm
  • Self-adjusting headband provides an ideal fit
  • Leatherette and velvet earpads for lasting comfort
  • The wide dynamic range delivers crisp, detailed sound
  • Detachable 10′ straight cable and 16′ coiled cable
  • Includes 1/8″ stereo mini-plug with 1/4″ adapter

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6. Neumann NDH 20 | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Neumann NDH 20 Studio Headphone

The NDH 20 brings a detailed, well-balanced sound image, similar to Neumann’s acclaimed studio monitors. These premium quality closed-back studio headphones are great for monitoring, editing, and mixing.

The NDH 20 has excellent sound isolation, an extended frequency response, full stereo imaging, and high resolution. They’re perfect for any critical monitoring or mixing task, even in noisy environments.

Key Features

  • 5Hz – 30kHz frequency response
  • 1.5″ drivers with high-gauss neodymium magnets
  • Linear sound balance, like Neumann’s acclaimed studio monitors
  • Excellent isolation allows working in noisy environments
  • Transparent sound with high sound quality
  • Exceptional comfort for extended listening sessions
  • High-quality metal construction
  • Foldable design for easy transportation
  • Includes soft cloth bag, two detachable cables (straight/coiled), and 1/4″ adapter

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7. Focal Listen Professional | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Focal Listen Professional Headphones

The Focal Listen Professional headphones deliver excellent isolation and accurate reference monitoring. The design combines the lively experience of semi-open headphones with the isolation of closed-back models.

Plus, the large drivers feature low impedance, high sensitivity, and extended frequency response for critical listening. Also, the thick memory foam ear cushions and flexible padded headband provide comfort for long studio sessions.

Key Features

  • The successor to the acclaimed Spirit Professionals
  • 5Hz – 22kHz frequency response
  • Sleek, stylish folding design
  • Universal smartphone compatibility with remote and mic
  • 40 mm Mylar and titanium drivers deliver a memorable listening experience
  • Heat-sensitive earcups provide a custom fit
  • Silicone-layered headband distributes weight evenly across the head
  • Closed-back, circumaural design passively isolates noise
  • 22 mm memory foam ear cushions with microfiber lining
  • Includes rigid case, 1/4″ adapter, and two cables (16′ coiled and 4.5′ straight cable with remote and mic)

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8. Avantone Pro MP1 Mixphones | Closed-Back Reference Headphones

Avantone Pro MP1

The Pro MP1 Mixphones is the first-ever multiple use headphone. The innovative design allows you to switch between stereo, mono, and mix mode. Mix mode emphasizes the midrange frequencies to simulate Avantone’s renowned MixCubes.

Moreover, the large drivers deliver clean, powerful reproduction of any signal. Plus, the thick padding and over-sized earcups offer comfort and isolation for extended studio sessions.

Key Features

  • Simulates the sound of MixCube monitors
  • 18Hz – 25kHz frequency response
  • Large-format 50 mm drivers deliver a transparent sound
  • Vari-Voice lets you switch between stereo, mono, and mix mode
  • Mix mode focuses your attention on the critical midrange sweet spot
  • Cushy, pivoting earcups and a padded head strap for comfort during long sessions
  • Includes soft carrying bag, two removable cables (straight/coiled), and 1/4″ adapter

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9. Audio-Technica ATH-M70X | Closed-Back Monitor Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M70X Monitor Headphones

The ATH-M70x professional studio monitor headphones are perfect for critical listening tasks. They feature large-aperture drivers tuned to reproduce extreme low and high frequencies. The extended bass response makes these especially suited for electronic music production.

The ATH-M70x also provides excellent sound isolation and swiveling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring. Plus, they’re crafted for lasting durability. The rugged construction uses metal components to ensure lasting performance.

Key Features

  • M-Series flagship model, tuned for accurate reproduction
  • 5Hz – 40kHz frequency response
  • Metal components for lasting durability
  • Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils
  • Extended response reproduces extreme low and high frequencies while maintaining perfect balance
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for full sound isolation in loud environments
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring
  • Detachable earpads provide comfort and convenience
  • Fold-flat design for space-saving portability
  • Includes three detachable cables (3.9′-9.8′ coiled, 9.8′ and 3.9′ straight)
  • Includes carrying case and 1/4″ adapter
  • Perfect for studio mixing, tracking, mastering, and critical listening

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10. Sony MDR-7506 | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Sony MDR-7506

The Sony MDR-7506 professional headphones are a staple in recording studios worldwide. Many in the music industry praise them for their sound quality and reasonable price point.

The MDR-7506 is also comfortable during extended sessions and build to withstand the abuse of daily wear. Plus, the closed-back design provides excellent isolation, making them perfect for critical listening.

Key Features

  • Perfect headphones for studio monitoring, detailed listening, DJing, or enjoying music
  • 10Hz – 20kHz frequency response
  • 40 mm drivers deliver deep bass, low distortion, and a wide dynamic range
  • The closed-back design provides superb sound isolation and a consistent listening environment
  • The fully adjustable headband offers maximum comfort
  • Durable folding design provides lasting quality
  • Compact, foldable design for easy portability
  • Stereo UniMatch plug allows you to plug into both 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone jacks
  • Gold connectors and oxygen-free copper cord give you high-quality sound transmission
  • Includes a handy soft case

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