Best over the Ear Studio Headphones for 2018 [Guide]

Open or Closed Back Monitoring

Best Studio Headphones For RecordingYou’ve probably got that engineer or enthusiast friend bragging about…

how awesome his set of “Beats by Dre” sounds.

But when you truly have “Dre ears”, you might find it sounding a bit unnatural.

Yes they are entertaining!!!

But… …”crappy” for using it in the studio.

For some reason…

…listening to a pair of AKG open back cans is a better and more affordable alternative for studio work.



The AKG K712 Pro

 

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AKG’s is a prominent name in the audio business.

They’ve got synthesizers, mixing boards, DJ racks, monitors and of course, headphones.

AKG has a reputation for bringing affordability and maximizing the capabilities of your mixes through the AKG K712 Pro.

The official promotion says the open back headphones were hand-made in Vienna, Austria and built to the top frays of attention to detail.

It has an over-ear design that sports a ‘sophisticated’ open technology for spacious and airy sound without much trouble.

Pulse and treble response:

That’s a bit ambiguous. Maybe we’ll know more after listening to it.

The build of the K712 is feather-light because they make it of durable plastic.

Honestly, wearing these headphones for the first time had me saying the headbands could lose their firmness and the elastic bands could snap apart over a long time.

But then, you’re paying for quality, I can feel it in the lovely memory foam.

Clamping is just right, even without modification.

The K712 Pro has an impedance of over 62 ohms, perfect for use only in the studio.

It’s just got ample juice to be driven sufficiently for better sound.

You’re going to need an amp that’s for sure.

But that’s when the trouble kicks in.

Believe that!

Hearing these K712 through my own amp, it’s difficult to find the right voltage.

But I figured I might have set it too low.

With power amping, I get a mid-powerful sound that has clarity but does not over-emphasize.

Without power amping, I get just enough mids.

The headphones sound neutral in both cases, but I can feel the velvet power with a power amplifier.

The bass is powerful. It has that right amount of impact at 120-150hz, but it does not overpower the entire frequency spectrum.

The weight and dimension

The midrange is slightly neutral to just neutral.

But with the right voltage from an amp, the midrange sings and extends details.

It even expanded the already-wide soundstage.

They don’t sound hollow or boxy either.

Treble reveals everything especially with the right amping.

Despite amping, it has a powerful sound that could be smoothened even with a power amp.

Amping reveals the soundstage to much powerful imagery.

You get a complete stage setup sound where the singer is just next to you, and the band or instruments are walking around about 3 meters away.

That’s how nice the K712 sounds.

Well, it’s a bit pricey, but I’d say it’s bang-for-your-buck awesome.

Just make sure to get a power amplifier for that high-fidelity midrange.

That’s the only thing that makes this a bit of trouble, but completely worth it.

Read more about: AKG K712 PRO Studio Headphone Review

But maybe you want something from Germany…

The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

 

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Beyerdynamic came from Germany to give you some top-line audio equipment.

I included the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro in my list because I found it to have that kind of neutrality other open back headphones are trying to have.

According to its packaging, the Custom One Pro comes with the custom sound slider allowing it to change its sound anytime.

If this feature works well, that’s excellent value for money because you get a closed, semi-open, and open design headphone in one.

Let’s hope Beyerdynamic’s engineers did well for this one.

Going back, you could change the colors of your headbands, ear pads, and other parts.

This means it has lots of replacement parts, hooray!

Beyerdynamic especially designed this for consumers due to its low impedance.

At 16 ohms, any audio player could use it.

With a little volt swing, you get a top-notch sound.

Also, the audio cable is removable. So longer life for your headphones!

Now that we’ve got the fancy, unique stuff gone, I’d like to say…

The Custom Sound Slider works well, but not as one would expect.

It functions more like an air filter of sorts. I must say that it does emulate the sounds almost perfect.

However, with ideas like these in cramped spaces, designers will have to deal with some compromise.

But the adjectives ‘linear’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘heavy’ do their job well.

This feature is so nice it’s made it on my list just for that reason.

But if you set it to Linear, you get an accurate sound that’s clean and detailed.

The bass can be controlled and you could hear true-to-source instruments and a large, wide soundscape.

Listening to an orchestra track with these headphones set to open-back and I was floored with the organic sound.

The open back setting did not work as expected, but it did deliver what I needed efficiently.

Mids did not distort highs were not harsh but rather smooth and soothing.

It’s got that ‘soft’ spot that gives you every audio detail available.

It might sound a bit ‘less aggressive’ for some consumers, but that flat sound is what I’m looking for.

But maybe you don’t like Beyerdynamic for some reason.

So I’ve got this one.

The Sennheiser HD 380 Pro

 

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Sennheiser’s 380 has a closed design that locks in your ears completely.

That’s called a circumaural design. It wants you to hear the completeness of the track you’re listening to, including all nuances of ambient noise.

Most studios want the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro due to its cheap price and usefulness for studio monitoring and tracking for musicians.

While it’s marketed towards consumers, that 54 ohms impedance will put many consumers off.

Until they buy and learn how to use a headphone power amplifier.

Maybe I’ll write a tutorial about that someday.

Anyway, official specs include a cable length of 1M that could extend up to 3M when needed.

It has a powerful response of 8hz-27khz, perfect for monitoring and possibly mixing.

Its frame is made of high quality plastic. It has just enough clamping pressure…

for the average head that is. I have a big head. But there’s nothing a little stretch somewhere else couldn’t fix.

It adjusted to my head perfectly after a few attempts.

Midrange is outstanding. You could hear the vocals running in and out of your head.

It exposes details that make some of your favorite songs expose some distortion or clipping.

In fact, the midrange is just right that you feel the complete separation of sounds in a mix.

That brings me to say that a wide soundstage exists in these pair of cans.

Bass is powerful, clean and accurate. It does not attempt to overpower anything and it does not sound muddy.

For the lack of a better term, I’d say it’s sharper than most headphones I’ve tried in this price range.

Sharper meaning it’s tight, controlled and natural.

Well, for a response extending up to 8hz, you definitely feel everything.

It also does not try to beautify some troubled mixes. You hear each detail, every mistake, every distortion.

It exposes everything and takes no prisoners.

That’s thanks to the just-enough treble. But all of these are true only if you could amp it properly.

I’ve once used it with my smartphone.

I can get some decent sound, but it lacks volume and personality.

Running it through a FiiO, I ended up with a sound that’s revealed the soundstage to be as gigantic as it should be.

After extended listening, some might comment that the headphones sound a bit harsh or artificial on the trebles.

Not so. It’s just ear fatigue. I dropped the headphones and took a bit of rest without listening to anything after the artificial sound happened.

Returning, it was fairly neutral, as how it was.

But maybe you don’t prefer Sennheiser or cheap headphones with a $180 that’s worth every penny.

So let’s get you back to something expensive.

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

 

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Yes, it’s that German brand again and yes, it’s something top-performing, bang-for-your-buck gear you won’t find from any other manufacturer.

A circumaural piece of work, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is as elegant and business-like as it looks to be.

The DT 770 Pro costs around $200, nearly half the price of more professional audio equipment. But it does not mean it’s anything less.

Upon first sight, it meant business. Wearing it over my head and over my ear the fit feels great and there’s just enough clamping force to make it stay on your head.

To be honest, I expected less from this closed headphone but it was great when I had to monitor some instrumentalists. Due to the circumaural fitting, they could hear their accompaniment properly. It made sure vocalists didn’t leak any audio especially during those passionate passages during recording.

One of the things about Beyerdynamic is they make sure each part of the headphone, including the earcups and speakers, you can replace when it breaks down. They’re a fine investment. I broke my headband last week and I’m supposed to get it this week. Yay!

It doesn’t mean that Beyerdynamic provides services that the headphones suck.

Nope sir, they win in life.

They’re durable and can take a beating. Some artists of mine dropped them about five times during a recording session and they still sound great.

So, we get an 80 ohms and 250 ohms version of the DT 770 Pro. The 80 ohms require little amping from an external power source but has more bass compared to the 250 ohms.

The 250 ohms requires lots of amping obviously, but has very clear sound that is both natural and powerful. It’s a great reference and monitoring tool with the right amp.

Meanwhile, my only trouble is a long 3m coiled cable that tangles easily. Tangling is a studio manager and audio engineer’s worst enemy.

If you’re using the 80 ohms, you could expect to have a bass that sounds fun.

While it still sounds natural, sharp ears can hear that some frequencies, namely the mids and low mids are a bit recessed.

They’re even a bit on the sinking end. It’s got good entertainment potential but not for my studio use.

The 250 ohms has a tone-down bass, a more pronounced midrange and a powerful, clean high.

Fulfilling all the factors that make up a good studio headphone, 250 ohms is the perfect choice. That midrange brings out detail and helps out any vocalist or musician needing to find themselves in the mix.

If you’re an EDM artist even, these headphones cut through the house mix effectively!

Let’s say you want a trusted brand that’s different from AKG, Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser. Maybe you need this…

The Shure/Rode SRH 940

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Official marketing says the Shure/Rode SRH940 Professional Reference Headphones have an accurate frequency response with a smooth high-end extension and a quick and responsive bass.

As a proper transient translator, it has minimal tendencies to distort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t or it won’t sound entertaining for most people. But it would sound like a gem or a gold bar for me.

The SRH 940 has a closed-back, circumaural design that covers over the entire ear.

Shutting off everything ambient from the outside, it’s a great monitoring unit. The collapsible 90-degree swivel makes the headphones fold-able and portable. It’s also a left-ear only cord and you get some replaceable velor ear pads.

However, the official marketing does not mention the item being a bit on the heavy side.

If you want to ask something about durability, here’s your answer; it’s really heavy.

Another problem is the tight clamp of the headphone band. With prolonged sessions, it could cause some headaches.

With that weight pushing down and the sides pushing in, it’s a recipe for disaster. I advise for you to carefully open that arc a bit to loosen the headphones up.

But during prolonged periods, assuming you’ve fixed that little headache problem, the velour pads protect your ears from sweat during prolonged recording or monitoring sessions.

What it makes up for in weight and a little trouble with ergonomics, the SRH 940 makes up for in sound.

Highs are pretty airy. They have enough presence to dictate space and indicate detail without going overboard. They’re not too loose though, they’re powerful and roomy enough to widen the soundstage.

Meanwhile, the mids may need a little more force. If you drive the headphones, you could get some decent midrange but risk having a distorted high frequency chamber. This is due to its low impedance. The mids have slightly a colored sound but it’s not as natural as that of the highs and bass.

Talking about the bass, you might appreciate it if you’re into classic rock or Rn’b. It’s hard to appreciate aggressive genres of music including metal or EDM because of the midrange and bass neutrality.

Overall, it has no fun value unlike other professional recording headphones. But if you do master it, you could use it to appreciate and discern the details of aggressive music despite the muddied bass that sometimes bloats the low-mid area.

I love this headphone because they produced my signature sound. Believe it or not, this little post item might seem like I’m trying to shoo you away from buying the Shure/Rodes SRH 940, but it’s one of the rare things I like that everyone might not really like.

Yes, I do mean what I said about the earphones being a bit of a downer in some areas. But I’ve mastered it and it’s my steed.

Speaking of steeds…

The Beyerdynamic DT250

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And, we’re back to Germany with the Beyerdynamic DT250.

Unlike the DT 770, the DT 250 is cheaper and only needs 80 ohms to operate. While on maximum volume your smart phone could power it, a power amp could do better.

Official description says it’s a closed-dynamic headphone with good ambient noise attenuation.

Almost every closed-back headphone has great ambient noise attenuation perfect for recording instruments or vocalists during a session.

It also looks less fancy than the DT 770 being a bit thinner and a bit off the circumaural design, but hey, if you’re paying just half of the DT 770’s price, it’s awesome already.

One thing I love about it is that the earphone wire is detachable and all parts are serviceable and replaceable. Every Beyerdynamic included in my list of best headphones can have all their parts replaced. Thanks Germany for bringing Beyerdynamic here.

Unlike the DT 770, it suffers a bit from falling. The DT 250 fell once from my hand. You could say it’s an isolated case, but it failed to function properly. Luckily, Beyerdynamic’s team was helpful and replaced the destroyed parts with brand new ones without even reaching a fourth of the original payment costs.

The headphones are basically plug and play. Use your smartphone, plug it in and listen to your favorite mixes to your heart’s content. If you intend to drive it, you might hear some fragments that aren’t so beautiful to be honest. Best to leave it as it is.

The DT 250s have very detailed bass frequencies. But in my first hearing, I thought it was a bit colored. Resting my ears for an hour, I still heard the slight coloration of the mid bass. While not essentially a bad thing, it can and will affect mixes.

However, I like it because it hasn’t affected mine. In fact it helped me scope out some of those frequencies.

I think why the bass sounds a bit artificial is because the lower treble also sounds a bit on the top side of the charts. It sounds something exaggerated, for the lack of a better term.

Maybe these could be fixed if it was overall circumaural, allowing listeners to enjoy the full range of frequencies and maybe tone down the exaggerations a little bit.

But still it sounds nice for me and gives me nice value for my money. Despite losing much in soundstage and detail and having an unnatural sound, they allow me to monitor bass frequencies more accurately. Like I say all the time, no single headphone pair will allow you to sort out an entire mix in one sitting.

Possibly. Well, if you don’t believe in Beyerdynamic, maybe this brand will…

The CharterOak SP1 Studio Phone

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This headphone was more well-known as the German Maestro GMP 450 Pro headphones.

An eagle-eyed reviewer somewhere said if you were looking to have a tree etched on the side of your headphones, the CharterOak SP1 Studio Phone was what you’re looking for. That comes with an extra $50.

Yep, we’re back in Germany and this ain’t Beyerdynamic

So why not just go and buy the original GMP 450 Pro and get a piano-black colored box packaging for just $150.

The GMP 450 Pro is the closed-back version of the GMP 400, which has an open back design. The two both have the white cup design except the 450 pro has a closed appearance.

Official documentation says these are running on 300 ohms impedance. Better get your power amplifiers ready.

It also makes use of sandwich diaphragms using copper-plated aluminium coils voice coils and has that new design called ‘cardomatic’ where suspended earcups guarantee perfect individual fit. That’s what Amazon says it is.

Parts appear tightly made and everything is secure. My only trouble is the weak headband and clamp force because of that ‘cardomatic’ design. If you’re going to go “headbanging” with it especially if your recording artists or vocalists are in the zone, let them use another pair or else your risk dropping the headphones.

And when you do drop them, it hurts so bad. But it can take a beating though.

As open back headphones aren’t dependent on bass tones, the GMP 450 pro has more bass response compared to the GMP400. Most people recommend ‘burning it in’ at least for 25 hours to let the drivers move properly.

Honestly, after finding the sweet spot of volt jump in my power amp, the headphones sounded amazing. They delivered the right amount of balance. Bass frequencies had deep definition without exaggeration. No thumps. Instead, you get a sound where you feel like you’re standing in the same room as the drum instrument.

Mids sounded clear with female voices. It did exemplary with male vocals. I am partly torn thinking that the GMP 450 Pro was made for vocal recordings after all. Or maybe I’m just overthinking.

With the entire mix, one can feel the overall neutrality of the song. One hears the details, even at high volumes.

If you’re planning to do some 3D imaging with your audio, this is what you need. It doesn’t cost as much to get one too. This headphone sounds so close to source, sometimes you wouldn’t need monitors to hear the entire mix.

Of course, we still have to listen to monitors and make sure everything sounds just about right. A studio mix won’t be complete without monitors.

But do you really need a headphone pair that could mix so good?

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

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Sennheiser is well-known for its ATH-M50 delivering some top-quality, high-fidelity sound, but many forget Sennheiser has more headphones that aren’t too expensive but have wide applications.

One of them is the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.

According to the packaging, the headphones have a Dynamic, closed on the ear design with a low impedance of 64 ohms, allowing the smartphone market to get a taste of the $100 velvet power.

With a frequency response of 8hz-25khz, it’s a good closed monitoring headphone for vocalists and instrumentalists.

One problem I have with Sennheisers is if it isn’t too tight, it is too tight. The HD 280 Pro is a bit tight . I had to pul it out a little bit to make sure the clamping force is looser than expected. Be sure to do this carefully because that headband is made of plastic and it can crack if you’re not doing it carefully.

Lucky you if it fits perfectly for you!

I walk around the park with these phones on. You don’t hear any ambient sounds, so that’s a plus for noise reduction. The clamping force as mentioned is great. While some instrumentalists mentioned they had some bit of headache after wearing the phones, they didn’t complain about quality.

No need for amping on this one. Around 62 ohms is just enough to push everything beyond.

Detail is awesome. Listening to orchestra tracks, you may sometimes here the conductor’s sudden feet shifts (if it was recorded as a one-shot orchestra song). For songs, you could hear breathing and sometimes hisses of instruments in the background, specifically electric guitar.

Some might complain the headphones focus primarily on the mid frequencies and miss out on the low and high ends of the spectrum. But this pair doesn’t need much treble to introduce clarity.

But one thing you might notice is the dynamic flatness of the bass and high frequencies.

I’ve been listening to some metal (yes, it plays decently with these pair of cans) and found them to be slightly atrocious when it comes to differentiating the distortion between the bass guitar and low-tuned guitars).

To a normal ear, that wouldn’t really be much of a problem. To trained ears, that would be the cause of so many problems. Everyone wants to listen to dynamics to feel the actual rhythm of the song. To pay for an expensive headphone set to get no proper dynamic registration is a bit of a downer.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t play down the power of the HD 280 pro. It’s a great monitoring unit for its excellent noise-supression capabilities.

It also brings out the accompaniment when one is tracking an instrument or singing vocals.

But if that doesn’t work for you, let’s get back to people who have the classics down pat.

 

The AKG K271 Open and Closed Back

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AKG has its classics and the AKG K721 open and closed back headphones are worth anybody’s while, definitely.

While I have an AKG in this list already, it won’t hurt to add one more. I mean, it’s AKG, they’ve known the needs of audio engineers and enthusiastic listeners throughout the years.

But I’ll divert from my topic for a minute.

You’ve probably listened to a Superlux HD662. Well, you might be missing out because it’s pure sound quality with decent soundstage and excellent detail for the price of something below $50 (Yes. For real).

It’s highly likely Superlux had imitated the design of the K721 MKII because the arched wire headband, the white-outlining cups, even the left and right cup indicators appear so close to the K721, even the pads.

On the package, it says it’s a professional circumaural hi-fi stereo studio headphones with a self-adjusting headband for comfortable fit. It’s designed to work for onstage and studio use and has an automute feature when the headphones are taken off (the speculated Superlux imitation does not have this feature).

Durability is excellent, but that’s just me. Everything is securely attached to each other. The wireframe headband connects directly to the tightly-attached cups. It’s also very light.

The self-adjusting leather headband stretches to your head size. While the wire-frame headband can be a bit tight, you could always pull away at both sides to relieve some clamping force.

The Superlux HD662F has very nice highs. Treble isn’t for everyone because when pushed it could become a bit too brilliant to the point it sounds distorted.

But if you’re listening at nominal levels, everything sounds uncolored and natural. I couldn’t believe it myself I could get out so much detail for just $50. So why am I talking about Superlux all of a sudden?

It’s because the K712 differs in sound. It needs a dedicated power amplifier. It could make do with the usual CD player or smartphone voltage swing, but a dedicated amplifier helps improve the exposure of detail.

The closed back version has ample bass that ranges from 16Hz-28Khz. With 55ohms rated impedance, it differs from the power-amp dependent open back version.

However, the open back version has excellent soundstage and imaging thanks to the airy sound of trebles and presence. Mids are both neutral.

It may sound like the open back version has a bit of a coned mid, but the open back style is probably the cause of it.

Value for money is excellent. Unlike Superlux, AKG throws in an extra pair of replacement pads when you need it. As always, the closed back version is excellent for monitoring and tracking for vocalists and instrumentalists, while the open back version is excellent for mixing purposes.

Here’s the last AKG in this list.

The AKG K44 and K99

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The last best headphones on my list is from AKG (I’m not a fanboy, but I really love their works).

AKG’s Perception Series is priced at less than $50. While they may be a bit dated, their sound is excellent for monitoring as they’re closed-back headphones.

The description from AKG says that the Perception series are made from high-quality plastic.

While many would want something metal or heavy, plastics are lightweight. They’re useful for singing vocalists or instrumentalists recording their stuff in the studio.

The K44 is made entirely of plastic but so is the K99. Both headphones are lightweight and have ample clamping force and we have plastics to thank for that probably. Upon first sight, one could say the K99 is bulkier.

But both headphones are made of the same materials but not of the same design.

Somewhat, the durability is questionable because of the plastic. I tried stretching it once and I heard a little sharp snap. But it doesn’t make them the least important of this top ten list.

As long as I use them in the studio and I could hear what I need, they’re there. And for $50, come on!

The K44 is a closed-back headphone with ample bass. One of my concerns, well actually, the concern of my client is that the plastic makes her sweat throughout her performance. Plastic plus skin does not make for a good recording session even with great air-conditioning and ventilation.

Upon first listen, I noticed the bass response is a bit too much. That’s probably because of the XXL drivers. While they’re present, they’re somewhat muddying the low-mids. I feel the snare is the same frequency as my bass drum’s in microphones.

They can make some pop records and mp3-based formats sound beautiful.

But for an engineer? Probably it’s great to use as a studio monitor, as I would (and still do). For the price though, that’s a great sound!

Meanwhile, the K99 has excellent sound quality and frequency response. These are perfect for mixing because of its semi-open design.

The drivers respond well and I detected no coloration during testing. They have pronounced highs and ample bass. However, I recommend that one use it with a power amp. It’s a wee bit quiet for studio use.

Be careful though, the K99 is a harsh mistress for power amps. I’ve tried hard to amp it properly for a week before I found the right setting.

The drivers can get a bit stingy with harsh settings and a bit too light on weak settings. Take your time, find good source material and amp until you find the sweet spot.

If you do, you’ll understand why these pair are included in my list.

Grado SR80i
The Grado SR80i isn’t exactly one of the best headphones to take outside and jam with on the bus or train. Despite its simplistic design and can-like feel, the SR80i has plenty of detail if listened to a quiet studio room.

Again, hi-fi with the SR80i or any other type of open-back headphone involves a little bit of sound physics and an understanding. When you pop in any kind of open-back headphone, don’t expect it to sound awesome immediately.

While many complain about the SR80i’s audio leakage, maybe you shouldn’t. In a studio, this sounds superb and detailed. It has proper timing to illustrate a huge hint of surround sound. The sound of every frequency is natural and detailed. For that price, this is a steal to be honest.

Grado SR80i

The Grado SR80i isn’t exactly one of the best headphones to take outside and jam with on the bus or train.

Despite its simplistic design and can-like feel, the SR80i has plenty of detail if listened to a quiet studio room.

Again, hi-fi with the SR80i or any other type of open-back headphone involves a little bit of sound physics and an understanding.

When you pop in any kind of open-back headphone, don’t expect it to sound awesome immediately.

While many complain about the SR80i’s audio leakage, maybe you shouldn’t. In a studio, this sounds superb and detailed.

It has proper timing to illustrate a huge hint of surround sound.

The sound of every frequency is natural and detailed.

For that price, this is a steal to be honest.

Grado SR325i

Grado is a brand I trust given these guys pour out their hearts into making the best open-back headphones possible.

Sharpness was one thing I noticed quickly when comparing the SR325i to the SR80i or even the SR325 without the ‘I’.

One thing you could be sure when you wear the SR325i, you get a hi-fi sound even without forcing it (meaning, without using headphone amplifiers.

While not aesthetically the most impressive, the SR325i is one effective dimension-maker.

Still, many have that problem of open-back leakage that is louder than most open-back headphones.

But the key to the Grado SR325i’s magical audio dimension is that loudness you’re hearing.

Dynamics are clear and pronounced, yet they sound effortless and natural. Instruments are full-bodied.

I can easily detect compression and loudness levels because of the fast and clear response of this headphone to be honest.

AKG K702

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Everyone knows AKG and everyone praises the existence of the AKG K702.

While beautifully designed and could-be-taken-out versions of Grado headphones, bias is completely absent from these headphones.

In fact, some engineers I know who own this even complained it to be quite on the flat, flat, flattest side.

Like most open-backed headphones, the AKG K702 has less pronounced, but present bass frequencies.

This is essential especially for analytical purposes.

I must compliment the powerful midrange that brings out the warmth and beauty of a vocal performance I’ve only heard in some pretty powerful monitor speakers and well-tuned rooms.

Soundstage is excellent if you’re looking to expand your sound dimension.

Level of detail guarantees a very accurate mix.

While not for surround sound mixing, that flight on the airbus would be pretty much productive.

Seinheiser HD 600

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Seinheiser is a brand synonymous with quality headphones manufacturing and their HD600 is no exception.

The accuracy of any acoustic performance, even guitar or keyboard amplifier bounces, I heard clearly using this headphones.

The most fun I had with this is the replaceable and detachable cable.

Now, I won’t have much trouble having to upgrade to better cables or even converting the ends of these cables to XLR balanced outs for better reference sound.

However, the HD600 is almost as flat as the AKG K702.

Don’t expect to hear any kind of punch here or any amplification of certain frequencies.

It’s not an enjoyable listen, but it’s more of an analytical listen, which is what we’re usually looking for headphones of this type.

ATH R70x

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When I first tried the ATH-R70x, I had confidence that it would deliver something different than the Grado, AKG and Seinheisers I’ve found to be impressive.

Beautifully designed with a metal grille over the backsides of each can, beautiful velour pads give my ears some comfortable space.

It’s a circumaural open design, making it almost surround sound with full detail.

The headphones have a distinct V-shaped sound signature.

Not as flat as K702 or HD 600, but powerful enough to deliver enough distance between the soundstage and you, along with picturing the approximate distance of the instruments and vocals.

The headphones will benefit greatly from a small power swing using a headphone amplifier.

Lots of details revealed themselves to me after I plugged it in.

Superlux HD662F

The Superlux HD662F is actually a re-branding of the CAD MH310.

I know everyone doesn’t like how these cans look like.

They look like two pads taped together to a wire frame of a headband.

Also, the sweat-inducing cups are big trouble for us who work for long hours on projects and keep on moving around a lot.

But for the price of half or even at least 70% of most high-quality headphones, you get a very revealing soundstage, flat frequency response and a powerful separation between instruments.

I challenge you to spend money on these headphones and see for yourself what I’m trying to say.

While the aesthetics are a bit weak along with durability, let me just tell you that if you have a studio where you need lots of headphones, the Superlux HD662F is probably what you’ll need to go on a budget.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

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Seinheiser’s HD 280 Pro delivers purely clean performance.

But consumers looking for non-analytical headphones are looking in the wrong place.

You’ll get an accurate, flat sound that cuts through a recording session where everyone is playing in the same room.

Low frequency is detailed and powerful, but not overpowering.

Notable is the plush velour earpads that guarantee comfort.

But for a close-back headphones, leaking is frequent, although not as loud as Grados and other open-back headphones.

But if you’re recording vocals, you’ll be hearing some parts of the backing track.

The price of $100 is justifiable for the headphones (if you discount my Superlux suggestion, that is).

It has a high threshold that guarantees no distortion unless you want to destroy your eardrums.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

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The design is urban enough to wear around the city but underneath that flashy frame and cups is a powerful isolation close back headphones.

And it folds.

Man, you could do so many things with folding headphones.

Despite the flashy color scheme, the M50s have a very powerful performance.

Vocals are extremely accurate and transparent.

You won’t even hear distortion coming from extremely high frequencies.

However, as the problem of many close back headphones, the soundstage is lacking with the ATH-M50X.

Separation is quite far away.

Not really a good choice for mixing.

However, the sound of the headphones itself is amazing.

The bass is a bit loose sometimes, but you’re not going to use these for mixing anyway.

Probably for recording.

I recommend this for guitarists looking for great tones using headphones.

AKG K550

AKG has made it into plenty of my lists and for good reason; they deliver value-for-money for the items they deliver.

The AKG K550 delivers immensely to the discerning ear and the travelling audio engineer.

The problem is you should only use them indoors, like in the studio or in the bus.

The K550s have big earpieces, a large, wide headband and a long and thick cable.

Plastic earpads aren’t helping though.

But you can be sure of their durability.

So why use them indoors?

Well, they are lightweight to be honest and despite their noise-cancelling design, a bit of outside sound creeps in and may block out some of the details you’re listening to.

V-Moda Crossfade M100

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The Crossfade M100 simply looks and feels as if made of high quality materials.

It’s closed design contributes heavily to its boomy, thumpy bass that has enough impact that is tight and controlled.

Treble doesn’t suffer either; it has enough to not even fatigue your ears.

Entertainment-wise, these headphones sound great.

It has a little V-shaped frequency that recesses its midrange a little bit along with some upper midrange.

If you like listening to rock or electronic music, you will appreciate the delivery of the kick drums and its bass with these headphones.

They are tight and controlled.

Again, the treble is enough to indicate it is there and it will not fatigue you.

And no, it does not sound bland but instead, has a great presence that gives songs sparkle without exaggeration.

Essentials for purchasing Headphones

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1. Monitoring | 2. Preference | 3. Durability | 4. Portability | 5. Ease of Use 6. Mixing | 7. Open Back | 8. Closed Back

Headphones? Why When You’ve Got Monitors?

High-quality headphones aren’t just for your listening pleasure.

They’ve been tuned to give you the best and most faithful sound experience possible.

Oftentimes, engineers and manufacturers behind the design are all about teaching your ears about the right way to listen to music and decipher sound waves.

But for mixing, you’ll want a room with great acoustics and a great pair of mixing monitors.

Mixing monitors are pretty expensive.

If you’re mastering for unison, you know you’ll need to get loud.

Working Late At Night It’s not that you’re a bad person when you want to mix your music late at night.

It’s completely understandable.

But if your room is untreated and you’re blasting the mix straight out through your window, the police might come knocking at your door shoving a nuisance complaint in your face.

To avoid this situation, a little bit of compromise is needed.

Headphones, not earphones or earbuds, would do nicely.

Of course, not just any headphones will do.

Later on, we’ll discuss which ones are the best.

What Do You Prefer?

No engineer can blame you.

Every person has his or her own preference when listening to music.

It’s possible your friend prefers the neutral bass but with something that’s accurate and well-balanced, while you prefer something that’s warmer when it comes to the mid frequencies.

Yup, each person has his own preference and…

…that’s why my list of top ten open back & closed back headphones are subjective: you may or may not agree with my list but that’s alright.

But I’ll justify my choices using the following criteria

Durability

Over ear headphones aren’t the cheapest products you buy for your studio.

Rack-mount effects and overall tuning your studio room can be more expensive but headphones aren’t a dime in a dozen.

I’d want them to be durable.

Ergonomically-designed with just enough clamping force and headband strength is what I’m looking for.

If they aren’t any of these, they stay in the studio and if they’ve got replacement parts they rate higher on my list.

Portability

There could be a time you’ll need to bring along your MacBook or computer on a flight, on a private ride or even on a semi-empty train and work on a project while you’re in transit.

It’s possible you have less than 30 minutes to make fixes to the final song or album mix and it’s impossible to rush back to the studio.

That’s when headphones work their magic for you.

You could wear them anywhere and listen or fix your mix without bothering your seatmate.

Now tell me if your headphones are easy to use?

The checklist:

Can you listen to them for a long period of time, before your ears fatigue.
Do they need a external amp to make up for impedance
Are the cables detachable and replaceable
Are they foldable for portability
Do they fit over the ear
Are all parts replaceable

Cons When Mixing

Now, you might say there’s lots of advantages when using headphones for mixing.

It doesn’t always work out as we might intend it.

You see, the way our ears interpret the sound from loudspeakers depend on more than just the speaker.

You have wall reflections, stereo phonics, which involves an advance or delay of sound coming from the left and right ears, creating the actual stereo sound, when using monitoring speakers.

Headphones couldn’t emulate such effects.

As most music might be played on consumer-grade systems, headphone mixing could make things sound flatter on such systems.

Some headphone systems have tried to simulate the listening environment of most monitors, but it can be quite complex as delaying the sound on the left or right ear could mean drastic changes in the accuracy of mixes.

Surround sound projects would suffer immensely from headphone mixing alone.

But still, headphones are convenient for mixing.

Open-Back Headphones

Open-back ‘s weren’t built to be taken outside.

But should you do that, I don’t think you’ll find it pleasant.

With lots of external noise coming in from passing vehicles, people conversing and operating machines, it’s highly likely frequencies from those can mask details you’re trying to hear from your mix.

Instead, if you want to thoroughly enjoy your music and not have to turn on your monitors or even blast them through the roof, open-back headphones have enough bass, detail and have true soundstage when it comes to listening to your favorite tracks or when you’re mixing.

Of course, despite their popularity as a go-to tool for portable audio mixing, they’re not a great guarantee for accurate mixes.

While they display details fairly accurate, surround mixing is still a big problem with open-back headphones.

Closed Back/Noise Cancelling

Closed-back or noise cancelling headphones aren’t cheaper than their open-back counterparts.

Most consumers would go for these headphones because they have better noise cancelling capabilities compared to open back headphones.

However, they are not as revealing as open-backed ones, but they reveal details all the same.

Most closed-back headphones are used inside the studio because of their design.

As they surround the entirety of the ears, no sound could leak out to microphones during recording.

Usually, they have a better bass presence, but they lack soundstage and may recess their midrange a bit.

Great quality closed-back headphones often introduce a thumping sound that you could feel in your chest as illusions from loud music.

While they can be used for mixing sometimes, they will never guarantee accuracy.

But they will guarantee that the one seated next to you can get a great rest while you’re editing audio.

Final Words

Still, the use of headphones depends on you.

As much as possible, always make use of your monitor speakers to mix effectively.

But if you’re on the go and there’s no other choice, pick one of the headphones listed right here!

You could drop me a line and tell me what you think right there in the comments section.

Happy mixing!