Perhaps the most important understanding to have is that the best studio headphones are headphones that are designed from the ground-up for one purpose only—studio usage.
Therefore, that quality 3-figure earbud headphone that you can’t seem to stop yapping about wouldn’t cut it in the studio space. It is like a square peg in a round hole.
Once you’ve got that etched in the hallway of your mind, finding the best studio headphones for your home recording studio setup becomes a relatively easy adventure.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Studio Headphone
When you fail to make considerations before buying a studio headphone, you would most likely make a choice based on guesses. Which in all honesty is a calamity for your home recording studio.
In this section, I have streamlined several individual factors into three categories to simplify and ease the vital process of checking out how well suited a studio headphone is for your home studio.
Your studio headphone will be one of your closest companions in your home studio: Therefore, it has to be completely convenient for you to use. You need not compromise on this count, as your ears and head (when the headaches set in) would pay the price.
The three cardinal features I check out for as regards comfort are, in no specific order, cushion pads, adjustable straps, and a lengthy cable. Why these features are important is not far-fetched.
In the opening section, I painstakingly drove home the point that there is a reason why certain headphones adopt the tag studio headphones.
In this section, I expatiate on what these headphones are exactly and why they constitute a selection of the best headphones for your home recording studio.
While the common tag is studio headphones, there actually are two forms of headphones lumped together to answer that tag. These are the circumaural and supra-aural headphones.
The layman meaning of the term circumaural is complete covering (circular) of the ear (aural). Consequently, other terms used to describe these headphones are Over Ear Headphones and Full Size Headphones.
The basic configuration of circumaural headphones is that they have pads that cover the outer ear (your pinna) completely. As a result, it isolates noise from the surroundings while you listen to your recording, and the pads offer a stable bedrock to incorporate additional features, like a talk-through mode, easily.
While the pads of circumaural headphones cover the ear completely, the pads of supra-aural headphones simply sit on your outer ear (the pinna).
The advantages of supra-aural headphones are that they are smaller and therefore lighter than circumaural headphones. In addition, they occupy a lower price point than over ear headphones.
However, the disadvantages are worth paying mind to. Because the pads rest on the ear, supra-aural headphones often create pressure on the ears that lead to discomfort after using the headphones for an extended period.
Furthermore, because the pads do not cover the pinna completely, supra-aural headphones are not as efficient as circumaural headphones in noise cancellation.
Types of Studio Headphones
Two principal types of studio headphones (consisting of both circumaural and supra-aural headphones) exist—the Open-back Headphones and the Closed-back Headphones.
Open-Back Headphones versus Closed-Back Headphones
Yea, I know tech terms can be confusing at times, but with these, it’s actually the opposite.
The primary difference between an open back and a closed back is the construction of the outer shell of the ear covering/pad that covers your ears.
An open back has a perforated outer shell, such that you can comfortably see the circuitry through the grills. In contrast, a closed back has a completely sealed outer shell, meaning that there are no perforations of any sort.
Now, you might be wondering why perforation matters so much. In the headphone industry, the apt description of all sounds in the background is noise. It doesn’t matter if it is a bird chirping or the washer blasting away without abandon.
The two groups of audio enthusiasts that favor either type of headphones disagree on if noise should filter in while using the headphone of it should stay out completely.
Those in favor of open-back headphones believe “in the world around me” listening experience. To put it simply, they’d rather not feel like they’re confined in a closed space with the music, but rather in a free-flowing space where it’s like the music is around them.
For those in favor of closed-back headphones, it’s the exact opposite. Emphasis is on the “in your head” experience, such that the music envelopes your mind completely.
It’s often a showdown when both parties draw their swords, but when you need an headphone primarily for your home recording studio, nothing beats a closed-back studio headphone. With it, everything stays out and you can concentrate on the technical aspects of your music to great effect.
Furthermore, they offer better bass production as they do well to shut sound leakage.
Basic physics talk about three properties of a sound wave: wavelength, speed, and frequency. Scratch the first two, and we have the third important factor to consider when purchasing a studio headphone.
Don’t go to town on the values. Rather, pay mind to the range of the frequency response of the cans. The frequency range refers to the lowest and highest frequencies a specific headphone can support. Studio headphones should support a wide frequency range, as very low frequencies translate to more bass, while very high frequencies translate to more treble.
In conclusion, the best studio headphones are closed-back circumaural/over-the-ear headphones with the widest frequency range. That is the specs to look for when comparing models.
However, I have made things far easier for you as I’ve aggregated a list of the best 7 studio headphones that fit these specs to the letter. In addition, I considered weight and affordability while putting up this list.
My Top 7 Studio Headphones 2018
No doubt, the LyxPro HAS-10 is a pro-grade headphone. Making up its build are premium materials like Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Leather. These offer exhilarating durability and preserve the high-end performance of the headphone.
You can use the HAS-10 with great comfort for a very long time. Thanks to it weighing only 10.4 ounces. For maximum ear comfort, premium-grade leather laces its headband and ear pads.
The performance of the LyxPro HAS-10 Closed Back Over-Ear Professional Studio Monitor and Mixing Headphones is terrific with a decent sized frequency range and sensitivity. Furthermore, it offers flexibility of usage through its 180-degree rotatable ear cups, which makes it possible for you to use only one cup for listening.
The LyxPro HAS-10 impresses with its newest, proprietary 45mm Neodymium magnetic drivers. These drivers offer wide dynamic range and perform exceptionally well to produce noise-free sounds. In addition, the HAS-10 features a powerful NdFeB magnet system. The magnetic system is responsible for providing top-grade crisp-sounding vocals and instruments.
LyxPro HAS-10 Closed Back Over-Ear Professional Studio Monitor and Mixing Headphones ranks #1 on my best studio headphones 2016 list
Audio Technica is no stranger to the studio-centric pro audio industry. With the ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Audio Technica placed emphasis on compactness and lightweight.
Thankfully, to achieve this, Audio Technica does not make compromises on performance, as the ATH-M30x features 40 mm drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils for highly detailed sounds and terrific audio clarity.
The emphasis on portability and reduced weight pays off as the ATH-M30x features a collapsible design and is the lightest headphone on this list at an astonishing 7.8 ounces. The icing on the cake is that the package includes a handy tote bag for storage and secure mobility.
Everything about the Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones is performance-centric. From the durable, rugged build with padded headband to its collapsible feature for portability and finally to its internals that offer outstanding clear sounds.
It sports 40mm drivers and neodymium magnets for detailed and clear sound. It also features a dedicated in-built noise isolation technology that caps its terrific performance.
The LyxPro HAS-30 Professional Over-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones offer significant improvements over the LyxPro HAS-10. First off, it features a collapsible design for better portability, and even has a carrying case for easy storage.
Furthermore, the cable it sports is detachable. To complement these improvements, it sports leather ear cups for comfortable use.
In terms of performance, its sensitivity is higher and it offers better noise isolation, so you can concentrate on the one thing that matters most—mixing.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones is certainly the most popular headphone, evident by its #1 Best Seller status on Amazon in the “Recording Headphone Audio Monitors” category.
And why not? In terms of price, it occupies the middle ground between the expensive but phenomenal Pioneer HRM-7 and the affordable & top-performance LyxPro HAS-10.
Furthermore, it sports all the requisite features you NEED in a top-grade studio headphone. Its build is as durable as it is comfortable, which enables you to use it for long recording sessions. Its contoured ear cups certainly help to maximize noise isolation as well as minimize the leakage of sound.
The ATH-M5Ox proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils provide outstanding sound transparency and exceptional clarity throughout its extended frequency range.
The Shure SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphone is an excellent performer. Like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, it is a well-rounded headphone that is practically difficult to find a fault with.
However, it offers deeper bass than the M50x and overall sweetness and fluidity to the sound. Furthermore, it offers clear mid-range and extended highs.
Moving on, it carries other pro-grade features including adjustable, durable, and well-padded headband. The equally well-padded ear cup pads are replaceable, which offers a great deal of flexibility and durability.
The headphone is also collapsible, its 3-meter cable is detachable, and it offers a gold-plated 1/8-inch stereo mini jack plug.
Although at 11.6 ounces it is the least lightweight headphone on this list, the Pioneer HRM-7 Studio Headphones is unarguably the best studio headphone you can get your hands on after considering all factors including cost.
Its sensitivity of 102 dB and extended frequency range of 5 Hz to 40,000 Hz offers rich bass and treble sounds. Sound produced is very accurate and clear, thanks to a newly developed 40mm driver unit with a copper-covered aluminum wire.
Additionally, it offers cleaner low to mid-range frequencies thanks to a three-layer damping assembly that eliminates surplus resonance.
Its build is certainly durable, and like similarly priced Shure SRH840, its ergonomically designed velour ear pads are replaceable if damaged (the package come with a pair of replacement pads).
The Pioneer HRM-7 has two detachable cables (one coiled, the other straight) and a 6.3mm gold-plated stereo jack.
The best studio headphone to purchase is the Pioneer HRM-7 studio headphones. However, if its above your budget and you want a well-rounded headphone, then look no further than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones.
The most affordable studio headphone that would offer you decent performance is the LyxPro HAS-10 Closed Back Over-Ear Professional Studio Monitor and Mixing Headphones. However, if portability, weight, and cost are top considerations for you, then the Audio Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones would be perfect for you.
- 1 My Top 7 Studio Headphones 2018
- 2 LyxPro HAS-10 Closed Back Over-Ear Professional Studio Monitor and Mixing Headphones
- 3 Audio Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- 4 Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones
- 5 LyxPro HAS-30 Professional Over-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones
- 6 Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- 7 The Shure SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphone
- 8 Pioneer HRM-7 Studio Headphones
- 9 Wrapping Up