Updated: May 10, 2015

Guide to the Best Studio Headphones:

Studio Headphones Review - The difference that a good set of studio headphones can make is phenomenal. They are necessary for artists to deliver their best performances; they are equally important for a recording engineer to deliver the best final, edited product. DJs need them to cue the next song without the crowd hearing music over music. Whatever the use, sound must be precise and quality has to be top notch. But how do you make sure that you get that? This guide will help you determine what to look for when buying studio headphones and how much you should pay for them.
studio headphones


How to Get the Professional Studio Headphones You Need - Picking up a pair of studio headphones is more complex than going to the box store to get earbuds for your mp3 player; while you expect quality there, the pros need to make sure their headphones can handle the jobs before them, whether in a club or in a recording studio. They need to be durable, have a good, closed construction to isolate you from ambient sound, and they need to have good sound. And ideally, they have a price tag you can afford. Here are some factors to consider before you make your purchase:

*If you need studio headphones, think about the size of your studio. It could be a large, professional (and pricy) studio or one that you set up in your home. In either case, you need headphones that suit your needs. Smaller, home studios need to have maximum isolation or you should buy noise cancellation headphones.
*Buy the best you can afford, whether your budget is a few hundred, a few thousand, or the sky's the limit. Use well-known brands like the ones we will discuss in a bit.
*Look at the specs. There are a few terms that you should know:
*Frequency response: this is simply the range of frequencies the headphones can accurately reproduce. Common is 8Hz to 25kHz for a good range.
*Diffuse field equalization: this is how the headphones flatten the frequency response, or more accurately, your perception of the frequency response. You can have free-field and diffuse-field equalization. Most indoor users opt for diffuse-field EQ because it accounts for room interference and such.
*Distortion: this is the percentage that shows how accurately your headphones reproduce sound. Look for distortion of 1% or less at maximum power.
*Sensitivity: this is the sound efficiency, which you will see given in dBs. Average is 100 dBs, while high is 130 dBs. Headphones with lower numbers need more power to sound as loud as those with higher numbers.
*Impedance: if you don't have an engineering degree, you're out of luck. This one gets complicated; impedance is the measurement of headphone load on an amp. Headphones with lower impedances can get loud enough even without a dedicated amp system. The Sennheiser HD 280Pro headphones, for instance, have an impedance of 64 ohms. Headphones that run on distribution amps, which can power multiple sets of headphones at once, can be rated up to 200 ohms. As this level increases, so does the power required to run them.

That takes care of the common specs you'll see. Now let's put them in context so you have a better idea of which are the best headphones for your needs. Choosing the Best Headphones - Remember, it is important to choose your studio headphones from reliable, top sources. Big names to keep an eye out for include: Denon, Sennheiser, Sony, Audio Technica, Shure, Koss, Grado, Ultrasone, and AKG. These companies have established reputations and make solid, reliable products. Let's take a look at their best models for each type of budget and needs. You can browse the best selling studio headphones here.

Studio Headphones for Smaller Budgets:

If you can't drop a grand or two on some headphones, don't worry. You can still get great quality. One of the best for DJs is the Sennheiser HD 205 Studio Monitor DJ Headphones. These are closed-back headphones with swiveling ear cups. Specially designed for DJs, they have a frequency response of 14 to 20kHz and a sound pressure level of 112dB at 1KHz, 1Vrms. Distortion is less than 0.5%, and they have an impedance of 32 ohms. These are wired headphones with a 3 meter long cable and 3.5mm stereo jack with 6.3mm adapter. They are perfect for DJs because they isolate sound so well. ElectronicsMe (Made Easy) says that the Sennheiser headphones are an excellent value, and you won't find anything that will touch them at the price. They sell for about $35, not a bad expense for a professional DJ at all. On the studio side, Headphone.com's selection guide recommends the Shure SRH240 for smaller budgets. These headphones are full-sized and close-backed. They have a sensitivity of 107dB/mW and impedance of 38 at 1kHz. The full-sized circumaural earcups fit over the whole ear so you get a much better level of sound blocking than you normally see at this price. Headphone.com called it a "whole lotta headphone for the money," and PC Magazine said they delivered "excellent sound reproduction comfort." All this for about $50. If these are both a little pricy, can you still find studio headphones that are any good? Try the Sony MDR-V150. They have a frequency response of 18 - 22kHz, 24 ohms impedance, sensitivity of 98dB/mW, swiveling ear cups, and an oxygen-free copper cord. They do not deliver the best quality, but they do deliver great quality, and they have a great price. You will find these for $16. These are great entry-level headphones, and they have consistently positive reviews from Amazon users. See the most popular studio headphones online here.


Higher End Studio Headphones:

If you're ready for a step up, try the Sennheiser HD-280 Professional Headphones. These are an Editor's Choice pick from CNET as well as a top recommendation from Headphone.com. These Sennheiser headphones feature 8 - 25kHz frequency response, distortion of 0.1%, 113dB sensitivity, and impedance of 64 ohms. CNET praised the lightweight, comfortable design, sealed ear cups, and the ability to fold. This set will cost you about $85. Another good set is Audio Technica's ATH-M50 studio headphones. These are designed for monitoring or mixing and offer amazing sound. TestFreak gave them a score of 9.2 out of 10 for their outstanding quality and "exceptionally accurate response." You will find 15 - 28kHz frequency response, 99dB sensitivity, impedance of 38 ohms, and cord. These cost $130. YouTube is a good place to look for product demonstrations or reviews before you purchase. If you have the money in your budget, try a pair of Denon headphones. These are among the best high-end phones and will deliver professional quality to your studio. The AH D5000 is a recommended choice from Headphone.com and TechRadar said it had "subtle and natural sound." They will set you back $425. If you can't afford higher range headphones, get the best quality that you can afford. You can look through a wide selection online and find something that fits your needs and your budget. Keep the big brands in mind and you will be able to find affordable quality.