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There are many kinds of headphones being marketed today and it is a common misconception that they are all similar. However, there is a big difference between the standard headphones that people usually buy that are used to play music recreationally and the kind of headphones that are used in the studio to create music.
In creating high-quality sounds or music, using a pair of good quality studio headphones is an absolute must. Seasoned music producers would attest that using the best quality headphones allows you to hear the sounds in its most detailed and natural state. Simply put, studio headphones do not alter the sounds coming from its source, unlike the standard recreational headphones that may play some frequencies at higher volumes than intended by the artist.
Choosing the Best Studio Headphones
Studio headphones are mainly used for two purposes in making music: recording and mixing. During recording, a pair of good quality studio headphones can block the sound coming from the guide track and prevent it from leaking into the microphone and spoiling the music being recorded.
Although it is ideal to use a sound monitor in mixing your tracks, using a pair of good quality headphones may also be necessary, especially if you are mixing music outside the studio and if you cannot use a monitor. Mixing tracks through a pair of headphones can also be advantageous when you are dealing with low-average acoustics or you are mixing music late at night away from the normal studio location. It may be difficult to find the best studio headphones on a budget, so we went ahead and did the work for you.
You will thank us later.
Our Top 3
Qualities of the Best Studio Headphones
A pair of good quality studio headphones make a notable difference in creating music. Below are the qualities of the great studio headphones that set them apart from the standard headphones that you can buy on the shelves.
Flat Frequency Response
One of the main features of studio headphones is their ability to allow the listener to listen to the sound in its natural state. This is because studio headphones, similar to studio monitors, have a flat frequency response that does not alter the sound coming from its source. If the sound is heard in its original state, there is no chance that your track will not be sounding right as you intended it to be. Most other headphones intentionally, or unintentionally slightly alter the music. This explains why a song being played on one pair of headphones will not sound identical if played on another headset – even if both are of high quality. That’s where some good studio headphones come in to play. We must point out, some swear by studio headphones without a flat frequency response, it all comes down to personal preference.
Noise Cancellation/Noise Isolation
Although the similarity of these two features of studio headphones is that they block off outside sounds, there is still a difference between them. Noise isolation simply means that the sound is passively blocked with help from the materials used to design the headphones, by literally sealing it out. However, noise cancellation takes a step further by utilizing digital signal-processing technology to actively reduce the amount of outside noise that may leak to your headphones and into your ears.
A pair of good quality headphones can deliver sounds that are outstanding to the ears. They are only confined to the important sounds that are released to the headphones’ speakers. They are a good means of controlling your listening environment. Sound lies at the very center of communication – whether that be through speech, music, or any other form of art.
A pair of good quality headphones allows mobility to the user. It is ideal to be carried anywhere — such as travel — and allows the studio crew to listen to the best quality sounds while being on the go. Many of the high-quality headphones we review will have some sort of foldable design that allows for easy storage when not in use.
Of course, a pair of good quality headphones must be durable and made of excellent materials. This is because you are likely to use them every day and durability is key to make them last for as long as you plan to use them.
Types of Studio Headphones
There are different types of headphones and getting the right type that will suit your needs is critical. DJs, musicians, and music producers alike are concerned over the type of headphones that they will employ for specific tasks. The most crucial part they are looking for in choosing the kinds of headphones are the cups and the backs.
The circumaural cup is bigger in size than the supra-aural one. This type of headphone surrounds the entire ear, thus making the device comfortable to wear. It also provides better sound isolation and reduction of sound leakage.
These have smaller cups and press the ear rather than covering it. They are lighter than the circumaural, so they are the best headphones to get if you want a pair of lightweight headphones.
Open-back headphones sound better but are not very helpful if you are recording in a noisy environment, as they tend to let the noise leak in and out of the headphones. For sound mixing and referencing, open-back headphones provide wider sound space and tighter and deeper bass.
Closed-back headphones provide better sound control because they are designed to enclose the sound. However, the drawback is that they do not sound as good as open-back headphones.
Investing in a pair of excellent quality studio headphones is critical when you are making music. It is also important that you get the right type for your specific purpose, whether you will be recording tracks or simply mixing music.
1. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Review
The Sennheiser HD 280 puts the “pro” in “professional.” Designed with studio recorders and DJ mixers in mind, these headphones deliver high-quality sound reproduction that meets the requirements of various audio applications. They feature an extended frequency response, with sound pressure exceeding 100 decibels. The sound they reproduce is true to the actual recording, hence giving you a real and better sonic experience.
If you’re into bass-heavy music, you’ll find that these headphones don’t disappoint. They render crystal clear bass that has a flat gain. The treble is also perfectly tuned in these headphones. Additionally, they have an airy midrange and an acceptable range of highs. These qualities make the headphones ideal for sound monitoring and concert settings. Even drummers and electronic sound producers can benefit from their use, particularly in the area where efficient isolation is required. Power-wise, the headphones need only a little bit of voltage coming from the audio source in order to reach maximum decibels.
The headphones are so comfortable that it’s like clapping on a pair of earmuffs in the dead of the winter. They efficiently muffle the ambient noise for a full-on listening experience of your audio tracks. Even if the volume is cranked up high, the vibration occurs on the case instead of the ear pads. The earpads themselves are cushioned to enable the user to listen comfortably for hours — either during recording sessions or extended music streaming.
Behind the powerful sound reproduction ability is a sturdy headphone design that is built to last for years. They are surprisingly lightweight for a pair of headphones that are packed with features to enhance the listening experience. This makes them portable and convenient when tucked into the accompanying case. Overall, the headphones live up to their promise of professional-grade sound quality.
2. Sony MDR7506 Review
If you’re gunning for a pair of professional headphones that has stood the test of time, you can never go wrong with the Sony MDR7506. It has been around since 1991 and has remained a favorite among sound technicians and record mixers alike. Though the design has not changed since they first came out, these headphones boast of an outstanding make for their affordability. Unlike most full-sized headphones, the Sony MDR7506 is not made of flimsy plastic. The outer cups of the ear pads are made of metal, which serves to reinforce the blocking of external noise.
It is important to note that these headphones are not just about bells and whistles, but they also deliver optimum sound quality that is comparable with other headphones of the higher end. They tick off all the requirements of various genres with their accurate sound reproduction. They feature a leaner bass and an accentuated treble range. These properties provide a crisper sound, which is a boon for studio recorders because they render livelier tones. As for the mids and highs, these headphones provide them at decent levels, all without sacrificing clarity.
Comfort is taken seriously in the design of the Sony MDR7506. The cushioned ear pads make it possible for the user to listen to audio tracks for hours without the feeling of being squished between the full-sized headphones. Aside from effectively blocking the ambient noise, the ear pads also prevent the sound from escaping the headphones.
The Sony MDR7506 headphones are as suitable in field settings as it is in a recording studio. Weighing approximately 8 ounces, they are among the lightest headphones in the market. Overall, the Sony MDR7506 headphones are an ideal investment for your meager budget that does not scrimp on quality.
3. Shure SRH440 Review
If you are looking for a pair of headphones that effectively reduces external noise, the Sony Shure SRH440 is your best bet. Whether you use it for leisure or work, this baby will never let you down.
When it comes to sound quality, it has a neutral, overall balance. The bass is punchy and tight but equally enjoyable. The midrange is clear and transparent. Vocals and guitars are presented in an exquisite, crisp manner. What makes it even better is that its treble is grain-free. Only clear, transparent treble can make you enjoy your listening experience even more. If you enjoy classical music and want to hear high-frequency instruments clearly or if you like jazz or rock, this headphone will surely give you an eargasm.
Durability-wise, there’s no question about it: Users of the Shure SRH440 can attest to that. Most of them have been enjoying theirs for a couple of years already and they still work great. Even after constant use and abuse, it is able to withstand wear and tear.
Of course, comfort is one of the main factors to look for in a headphone. The Shure SRH440 is not as heavy compared to other headphones with a similar structure but you can tell that the materials are of high quality. It offers a comfortable fit on your head and ears even after using it for an extended period of time.
Although not very flashy, the headphones offer a subtle, neutral design that is both simple and outstanding. It has a foldable design, making it easier for you to bring it anywhere. Studio owners and professional singers will surely love the SHR440 — not only due to how it’s built, but also mostly due to the quality of sound it offers. A rugged built with excellent sound quality — these are what make the Sony SHURE SHR440 stand out from the rest.
4. Koss Pro-4AA Review
To have a great listening experience, you should only use great headphones. Among the many headphone contenders in the market, the Koss Pro-4AA headphones are tried and tested and have proven to be one of the greatest ones out there today. Here are a few reasons why these headphones are some of the best studio headphones on a budget.
The Koss Pro-4AA headphones have been around since the 1970s. They were introduced then as a pair of dynamic headphones with great noise cancellation and a high fidelity performance. Since then, these headphones have remained the standard for professional studio headphones in the recording industry.
These quality headphones have also been introduced to the market, and are now easily available for audiophiles and sound professionals alike.
As these were built to service the radio and recording industries, you can be assured that the Koss Pro-4AA headphones have superior performance and high-quality sound. Both high and low sounds are clearly heard, thanks to its frequency response range of 10 to 25,000 Hz.
Also, its closed-ear cushions provide excellent bass and little noise. This makes it perfect for soaking in an intense sound each time.
The Koss Pro-4AA headphones may have retained their old-school, high-fidelity era look, but they have since added innovations to these headphones. One particular change many customers have enjoyed are the more comfortable ear cushions it has today.
Also, while the headphones are assuredly comfortable to wear, the Koss Pro-4AA headphones are built for maximum durability. As a matter of fact, Koss provides a lifetime warranty for these headphones, assuring you that you may have them repaired or replaced whenever necessary.
5. Audio-Technica M40x Review
The first thing that comes to mind when you look at the ATH-M40x is “wow, those are some big headphones”. You may then jump to the false conclusion that these aren’t for you out of fear of them being uncomfortable when used for long studio sessions. This just isn’t the case. In fact, Audio-Technica does a great job compensating for the bulk of these headphones with heavily padded ear cups that do a great job at preventing heat build-up.
The ear cups house some powerful 40 mm drivers, and are able to rotate unchallenged allowing for a pleasing fit for all head sizes, without hindrance. The extra bulk of this headphone brings with it a durable feel that should have no problems dealing with everyday wear and tear, and then some, for years to come.
The Audio-Technica M40x is designed with studio monitoring in mind – listening to music is its one and only concern. Therefore, you will not find a microphone or in-line remote on this headphone. Like other studio headphones, two cables are included with purchase but Audio-Technica takes a different approach to the standard mic/remote model – you get one straight cable and the other is coiled.
The 40 mm drivers are responsible for producing some high-quality sounding music. The lows are deep and in many of our tests made it seem as if the pictures should be shaking off the walls. The bass isn’t as boomy as some of the more expensive headphones with larger drivers, though it does come close. Mids are especially important in quality studio monitor headphones, as this is where many relevant and meaningful musical components reside (vocals, guitars, etc.). The ATH M40x meets these criteria – the mids are accurate, detailed, and do an excellent job emphasizing the low-mids. Highs are also crisp and sparkling and don’t add any harshness to the mix.
If you’re looking for comfortable studio headphones on a budget, the Audio-Technica M40x is a great choice. The bass is heavy and deep, the mids are detailed and accurate, and the highs are carried out with precision. The ATH-M40x is designed with studio use in mind and carries out the required essential functions of a studio headphone with great success while leaving out the superfluous features that may be available in other more expensive headphones.
6. AKG K 240 Review
The AKG K 240 is near-perfect for studio use and they’re very affordable. These semi-open headphones allow for a wide-sound stage that cannot be replicated by a closed-back design. By definition, semi-open means less ability to filter out external noise when compared with a closed ear cup design. But for studio use, this should not be an issue and is actually seen as a positive characteristic. The same level of tonal excellence cannot be achieved when a closed headphone, and this is where the AKG K 240 excels ahead of the pack.
The bass is deep, accurate, and doesn’t sound artificially enhanced. There is a definite thump with the volume up and when a heavy bass is intended. The mids sound nice with very little bottleneck effect that can often be found in some lower-quality headphones. The mids are also detailed enough to accurately follow a single instrument in an orchestra track set-up. This is probably a result of the expansive sound stage found in the AKG K 240 largely due to the semi-open design. The highs are equally detailed and clean-sounding, and comparable to many of the other more expensive top-end studio quality headphones.
Comfort is another important factor in a good studio headphone and the AKG K 240 doesn’t let down in this regard. The ear cups are rather large, but very comfortable and comfortably fit around the ear. Just the right amount of pressure is applied to the skull – little if any discomfort can be felt after many hours of continuous use.
Overall, the AKG K 240 is a very comfortable semi-open studio headphone that brings an expansive sound stage and top-notch sound quality to the table. If you don’t mind the lack of noise isolation capabilities, are after a great sounding studio headphone and are on a tight budget, the K 240 may be your best bet.
Last update on 2021-03-06 at 11:05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API