As a DJ and music producer, I have used more headphones for mixing, monitoring, and listening than I care to recall. I am excited to pour my experience and insights to bring you this roundup of the best headphones for studio applications and music production.
Our Mixing and Mastering Headphones Picks
- Best Overall – Audio-Technica ATH-M70x Headphones
- Best Under $100 – Sony MDR-7506 Professional Headphones
- Best Premium – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones
- Best Budget -Sennheiser HD 280 PRO Closed-Back Headphones
- Best Open-back Mixing Headphones – AKG K712 Foldable Studio
- Best Mid Market Mixing Headphones – Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO
The best part of today’s market is that budget studio headphones are relatively inexpensive but not proportionately inferior. For under $200, you can get a reputable headphone that serves your needs. This wasn’t the case even a decade ago when I was learning the ropes.
You can pick sub-$100 cans that rattle your eyeballs with their “Beats” bass bumps and the $1500+ headphones that promise an inter-dimensional sonic spa experience, albeit you take another mortgage. That said, this post won’t resort to the cheapest headphones.
Studio-quality gear means you need to spend enough to retain a benchmark of quality. At the same time, budget constraints are a real thing. To reconcile that, I covered entry-level, mid-market, and premium options to cover all bases.
Best Mixing and Mastering Headphones (2022)
It would be criminal to not start our roundup with the industry-leading headphones for studio applications. The ATH-M70x sport a black-meets-silver look as they combine metal components with plastic and upholstery. The ear cups are circumaural and swivel 90 degrees for ease of use. The 45mm drivers over a frequency response range of 5 Hz to 40k Hz can take you deep – REAL deep while maintaining accurate reproduction across the spectrum.
- Oval, Closed-back Wired Headphones
- 45mm driver with neodymium magnets
- Detachable cable(s)
- Excellent value for money
Of the many stellar Audio-Technica headphones for mixing, I picked the flagship model of the M-series – the M70x – based on accurate reproduction, durable construction, and middle-of-the-road price. It is stylish, sturdy, and adaptable, making it a solid addition to your mixing rig.
The soundstage is accurate, detailed, and precise. There is no mud, bump, or hype in the low-end. Even the midrange reproduction is bereft of dips, which makes them ideal to monitor the meat of the mix. The highs are uncarved and distinct due to the extended frequency response.
In a nutshell, the headphones are uber-transparent. They don’t massage sound as a consumer product would. What they do massage is the ears, thanks to cushy pads and a flexible headband. Among the mid-market options, ATH-M70x offers the best balance of performance and price.
The ATH-M70x is the best headphone for mixing if you want a time-tested solution for studio applications under $300. Beginners or hobbyists may get more value from the ATX-M50x, but the Audio Technica ATH M70x is a no-brainer for pros. The stellar frequency response, comfort, and flat response curve of the headphones will undoubtedly elevate your mixing sessions.
The best mixing headphones under $100… since three decades and counting.
Fondly called the under $100 industry-standard, the MDR-7506 has 30 years of approval under its belt. These closed-back headphones feature neodymium magnets with powerful 40mm drivers to pump sound. The frequency response is 10 Hz to 20 kHz. The headphones ship with a soft carry case, a 3.5 mm adaptor, and a detachable cable (9.8 feet) with a gold-plated plug.
- Closed-back over-ear design
- Great sound and comfort
- Inexpensive workhorse
- The coiled cable could be better
These closed-ear headphones are made from tough plastic and upholstery to keep the build compact and the weight low. They are mighty comfy for long work sessions but a tad less durable than the competition, especially the earpad cushions. Luckily, they are available online and can be replaced as and when needed. That’s pretty normal, and it’s a good thing.
Anyone who has been in an audio editing field for the past few decades has used or coveted the MDR-7506 at some point. All the headphones in my list can qualify as flat, but the MDR-7506 reproduces neutral mids and highs. It’s a headphone for production crews, live sound, broadcasting, and recording studios.
The low-end is beautifully flat and the bass response is neither dull nor overpowering. There is a touch of emphasis in the high-mids but nothing that would interfere in a mixing scenario. They are as popular for audio production in the field as they are in a studio setting. If you’ve never spent more than $50 on a headphone, this would make for a good first pro-grade investment.
The MDR-7506 is a killer desk buddy with a storied history. It does have some design chinks, but the sound quality is as transparent as it gets. For the money, they make for a great pair of headphones to add to your mixing setup. If you want to explore other options, the AKG K240 would be comparable, especially if you crave a more stylish design.
The best headphones for mixing for professionals willing to pay a premium price.
When a manufacturer has been in the business for six decades, they tend to flex their muscle with a product that is leagues apart from its competitors – in quality and price. That’s the Sennheiser HD 820 for you. So, here we are, with an ultra-premium headphone for mixing that exhibits audio technology bred with royal pedigree.
- Premium-quality closed-back headphones
- Design innovation at its finest
- Reference-grade performance
- German handcrafted ear pads
- Prohibitive price
Sennheiser has created a top-of-the-line headphone with the soundstage of an open-back design and the isolation of the closed build. Ring radiator transducers, handcraft ear pads, an assortment of cables with gold-plated plugs, and glass covers like never seen before – Sennheiser throws everything but the kitchen sink at the HD 820.
The HD 820 is a class apart with its design, styling, and premium components. If you’ve ever wondered why premium cans cost a fortune, the devil is in the details. Think microfiber earpads, inner damping on the headband, stainless steel transducer casing, and four-wire headband connections.
Exceptional design elements translate to extraordinary performance. That’s why the HD 820 has room for the slightest of details. The sound excels at every critical listening task and even casual listening, should you be inclined. Those who work on mixing big projects will gladly invest in the exhaustive engineering and the resulting realism that these headphones deliver.
Sennheiser ticks all the boxes with the HD 820. The headphones can be your go-to for all studio applications regardless of genre. If you are committed to your craft, buying an HD 820 is one way to honor it. There is no doubt about the standard Sennheiser has set. The only question is have you saved up enough to order one of them?
My next “budget” pick for the best mixing headphones is the Sennheiser – the HD 280 PRO. The HD PRO is analogous to detailed sound with natural response and accurate sound reproduction. Most of your needs ought to be fulfilled by the 20 Hz to 20 kHz freq. response range. Think studio-quality audio without breaking the bank.
- Closed, over-ear design
- 45mm driver with rare earth magnets
- Excellent sound reproduction
- Lows are a somewhat lightweight
These Sennheiser headphones are a snug fit with soft ear cushions that are easy on the ears. They are light as a feather and they fold and bend in all the desirable ways. Imaginably, such qualities make these headphones perfectly suited for a long mixing session or DJing.
Additionally, noise isolation makes them equally potent for recording. There is a touch of low-end boost and a dip in HF detail but not enough to exaggerate the sound or interfere with an accurate mix. On the flip side, they don’t have a detachable cable and have bland styling.
The frequency response is fairly neutral with good depth, accurate midrange, and price-perfect treble reproduction. All in all, the headphones are versatile, but the low-end response may be lacking for EDM applications or audiophile expectations for personal listening.
The Sennheiser HD 280 has some trade-offs, but it is accessibly priced and makes for a comfortable fit. Are they the best headphones for mixing? Of course not. But they will serve you for every plausible use in and outside the studio. I recommend them to cut your teeth until you can upgrade to a premium option.
Best open-back mixing headphones for lengthy late-night sessions.
The AKG K712 is a middle-tier headphone that punches way above its price. The headphones feature a metal bracket, upholstery, and ear cups with memory foam pads. It boasts of largest-in-class drivers (50mm) with OFC voice coils and premium isolation via the slow-retention oval ear pads. The 62 Ohm impedance works best when driven with a built-in or dedicated amp.
- Open-back headphones with flat wire voice coil
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Wide and natural soundstage
- Not a folding design
- Loads of mileage for the price
AKG K371 is designed to take care of all the needs of musicians who travel frequently. The sleek over-ear design makes them ultra-portable and easy to store. Both cups rotate 180° to hear surrounding noise, put an ear to the crowd, or for storage/ transport.
Comfort-wise, this is a long-wearing headphone in the true sense of it. The performance is impressive with an accurate soundstage with a slight sub-bass emphasis. There is no degradation of detail, and the mids and treble reproduction are on the money. The headphone retains referential performance across genres like rap, heavy metal, country, and EDM.
There are instances when the sound leaks, although that would only be relevant if you wish to use the headphones for tracking. The neutral response, superior comfort, and extended frequency make them a contender for the best headphones for mixing in their price range.
The AKG K371 headphones are supremely comfortable, reproduce accurate audio and sport ear cups that rotate right out of a DJ’s dream. They are one of the best headphones for mixing in the $100 to $150 range. Mixing artists and recording artists will love them for their neutral sound, and EDM producers or DJs will dig the comfort and travel-friendly design.
The extraordinary success of the DT 770 PRO led to the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro – a studio-quality headphone that rectifies the flaws of its predecessor and adds a level of audio sophistication. The 1770 Pro is the best option if you are willing to spend around $500 for a go-to mixing headphone. It ships with a semi-hard case, two sets of ear pads, and five different cables.
- Closed-back, wired headphones
- 45mm neodymium driver
- Well-balanced across the spectrum
- Top-notch clarity and design
- Top choice in the price bracket
The headband is thick and wrapped in leatherette, the ear cups feel premium, and the adjustment mechanism is flawless. The build quality and components of the DT 1770 are (finally) on par with the competition, which is not something I would say for the DT 770 PRO.
Sound quality is the foremost reason to get the DT 1770 PRO. That’s where the headphone plants its flag of excellence. The lows are revealing and the top-end is exceptionally clear. The sound stage is a pleasure to work with due to the detailing. The response curve is well-balanced and revealing.
The mid-range is exceptionally clean, allowing guitars, vocals, and lead instruments to shine as they should. All in all, the headphones deliver a high amount of detail and presence without altering or de-emphasizing any sound region.
If you need a headphone for mixing that won’t leave your desk, I highly recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO. With regards to performance and comfort, it is everything a mixing engineer can ask for. The soundstage is clean, the response is precise, and the price tag seems very reasonable considering how much you can benefit from the quality.
Last update on 2022-10-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API