Deciding on kit for the studio isn't an easy task. You need to get all the details right and tailored to your exact needs, especially when you're throwing your hard-earned cash into it. With production comes the need for a suitable pair of headphones to listen back to what you're producing in the studio and ensure you've got the details nailed down to a tee. That could be whether your hi-hats are in the right place or whether the bass is rumbling low enough.
Do you want closed-back headphones or open-back? Are you looking to spend less than £200? Will you be using them to record DJ mixes? How comfortable are they? These are the questions we've answered for you, looking to make your decision making that little bit easier. Check out our suggestions for studio headphones, from Pioneer DJ and Sennheiser to Audio Technica and more, below.
Which studio headphones are best for mixing?
Pioneer DJ HRM-7, £169
If you're reading this now, it's likely dance music is your thing. You'll be please to know, then, that Pioneer DJ had dance music producers in mind when creating the HRM-7s. The closed-back headphones deliver crispy sound and are equipped with dual airflow chambers to guarantee a top notch bass response. Your need for smoother lower to mid frequencies is helped by a three-layer damping structure which wipes away the risk of resonance. These are perfect for marathon mixing sessions in the studio thanks to hybrid memory foam pads (which are ergonomic) combined with velour fabric covers. After all, nobody likes aching ears when having to wear headphones for hours on end. That focus on comfort is met with an adjustable, flexible headband which can be shaped to fit your head. Pioneer DJ says "you won't even notice wearing you're wearing them."
Other cans deserving of a shout out in this category are Sennheiser's HD 800 S and HD 560S. The industrial HD 800 S don't come cheap, setting you back £1399. Key features include the innovative absorber technology that ensures high frequency sounds can be heard and a 56mm sound transducer. At a more affordable £169, Sennheiser's open-back HD 560S come with a transducer and strong magnet to ensure striking bass and treble. A triangular listening position (the kind found in speaker systems in premium recording studios) is present due to the E.A.R. (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement) angled driver alignment, too.
What are the best closed-back studio headphones?
Sennheiser HD280 Pro, £87
An absolute steal at £87. For this enticing price, Sennheiser's closed-back HD280 Pro provides the noise isolation necessary to get deep into your production, with no worries of outside noise seeping in. You don't want to be intricately rearranging hi-hats with a burst of sirens or car horns infiltrating your headphones. The soft ear cups can also be folded and rotated, meaning they're easy to pack into your bag or slip into your pocket while in transit. The hardy construction of the HD280 Pros also means they'll be safe from damage while packed away. All of this is ideal for producers who work best when travelling and makes for a sweet combo with the previously mentioned noise cancellation.
What are the best open-back studio headphones?
Audio Technica ATH-R70, £299.99
The ATH-R70 was Audio Technica's first foray into open-back headphones and the brand did not hold back in making sure they're worthy for your all-important studio tasks. Aluminium honeycomb mesh housings make them acoustically transparent, also giving them a sturdy, industrial appearance to match the techno you're making. A 3D wing support system means they sit comfortably on your head, which is absolutely key when you're in the studio for hours on end, and breathable fabric earpads are fitted to ensure your ears won't be in pain after a session. Tuned for mixing and mastering, the ATH-R70 are able to reproduce frequencies ranging from 5 to 40,000 Hz, making sure you can hear exactly what you need. Distortion is also reduced thanks to high-efficiency magnets and pure alloy magnetic circuit design. Another key feature is a detachable, dual-sided cable which automatically maintains proper stereo orientation.
What are the best studio headphones under £200?
Audio Technica ATH-M50x, £129.99
Sometimes you have to prioritise where your money goes. And making music usually means a lot of gear is involved. That means you might have a drum machine to buy, or a sampler, or even a microphone to record your vocals. With all that in mind, you might be looking to cut back on how much you spend on your headphones. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x are great value for £129.99, maintaining the revered reputation of Audio Technica's M series headphones. You needn't worry about outside sound creeping in - or your beats bleeding out - thanks to tight, contoured ear cups. These ear cups also swivel 90 degrees which means listening with one ear is made easier. The cans feature 45mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and sound clarity is on-point. They're also perfect for low-end sounds due to a deep bass response.
If you're looking for something that will cost you less than a night out down the boozer, then the Sennheiser HD-206 will do the job for just £24.99. The closed-back headphones provide quality attenuation of ambient noise and ensure comfort with leatherette ear pads.
Which studio headphones are best for DJing?
Sennheiser HD-25, £129
There's a reason why Sennheiser's HD-25 headphones are considered to be the industry standard. They're extremely lightweight at just 140 grams, exactly what's needed when bopping around a DJ booth, and feature a rotatable capsule for one-ear listening, an essential for DJing. These features obviously come in handy when recording a DJ mix in the studio, too, and they're not too pricey at £129. The fact they can withstand high sound levels makes them ideal headphones for a nightclub or your home soundsystem.
Which studio headphones are best for general production?
When it comes to general production needs, the Focal Listen Professional rates pretty highly. Exquisite tonal balance is a standout on these closed-back headphones, a real plus for the bass and lower mid-range sections. There's a driver membrane with 100 per cent Mylar suspension which ensures accurate sound reproduction and the central dome is made of Mylar-titanium alloy to help deliver extended frequency response. Acoustic tissue situated near the driver gives neat sound absorption. The headband, underpinned with silicone, is geared towards all head shapes and sizes, and designed in such a way to banish the risk of feeling pressure on the head when working for long periods. For those points when you want to give one ear a rest, the ear cups can be rotated both horizontally and vertically.
Which studio headphones are best for comfort?
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, £109
A listening experience can often be ruined by headphones too tight around the head, putting unwanted pressure on you and giving you a painstaking headache. That's the last thing you want when in the studio for a lengthy period. Adding the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO-250 to your kit will ensure you won't have to tuck into painkillers. A cushioned headband (made from spring steel) and silky grey, circumaural ear pads will have you feeling like you're resting your head on a pillow rather than hard at work in the studio. The ear pads can be replaced, too, meaning once they've been worn down, you can switch them over to bring back that extreme comfort.
Dave Turner is MIxmag's Commercial Content Editor, follow him on Twitter