Best Studio Headphones 2018 – Buyer’s Guide

Are you searching for Best Studio Headphones for 2018? Check out our top pick.

A great pair of best headphones can make all the difference in producing quality recordings and overall listening satisfaction. Especially this goes for home recording environments where acoustically treated rooms are less common, often limiting the accuracy of soundings speaker systems. For most people, and the highest quality listening experience available at home is a pair of best studio headphones.

best studio headphones 2018It is not conformity that most of the musicians also love listening to music, and these headphones are great for that too. So we have also added information relevant for your listening pleasure. There are also usable Cheap Studio Headphones available on the internet, but when you consider all the use you will get out of them and your likely investment in other music gear, then it makes sense to get really good headphones. We have set our price range for headphones in this guide at $100 to $500 to focus on higher quality while remaining affordable for most music lovers.

Here what you want is the best headphones possible that will get the job done.

Before we dive into it, let us take a step back and understand that there are two types of headphones for two different purposes:

Closed-Back Headphones – Perfect for recording purpose. What you want is sound isolation…you do not want sound bleeding into the mic, do you? A design of closed-back prevents the sound from escaping into the outside world.

Open-Back Headphones – Perfect for mixing purpose. Why? Because open-back headphones provide higher sound quality which is what you need when you are balancing the tracks, fine-tuning the sound and adding effects to boost the original recording. The sound is able to go in two directions – towards your ear and outwards – creating a more realistic experience.

Here I will show you the absolute best headphones you can buy in two sections:

I have summarized the whole article in this table for those of you who do not want to read all the details:

Best Studio Headphones To Buy In 2018

ModelWeightFrequencyImpedancePrice
Top 10 Best Closed-Back Headphones
1. Sennheiser HD-280 Pro 285 g 8Hz – 25kHZ 64 ohms
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x 285 g 15Hz – 28kHZ 38 ohms
3. Sony MDR-7506 229 g 10Hz – 20kHZ 63 ohms
4. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 270 g 5Hz – 35kHZ 32, 80 or 250 ohms
5. Bose QuietComfort 35 (Wireless Mode) 234 g N/A N/A
6. Focal Spirit Professional 280 g 5Hz – 22kHZ 32 ohms
7. Shure SRH1540 286 g 5Hz – 25kHZ 46 ohms
8. V-Moda Crossfade M-100 280 g 5Hz – 30kHZ 32 ohms
9. Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 (Wireless Mode) 289 g 20Hz – 20kHZ N/A
10. Beats Studio Wireless (Wireless Mode) 260 g 20Hz - 20kHz N/A
Top 10 Best Open-Back Headphones
1. Sennheiser HD 600 263 g 12Hz - 39kHz 300 ohms
2. AKG K240 236 g 15Hz - 25kHz 55 ohms
3. Sennheiser HD 598 270 g 12Hz - 38.5kHz 50 ohms
4. AKG K702 236 g 10Hz - 39.8kHz 62 ohms
5. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium 249 g 5Hz - 35kHz 32, or 250 ohms
6. Grado SR8oe N/A 20Hz - 20KHz 32 ohms
7. Sennheiser HD 800 S 333 g 4Hz - 51KHz 300 ohms
8. Samson SR850 273 g 10Hz - 30kHz 32 ohms
9. Audio Technica ATH-AD900X 265 g 5Hz – 35KHz N/A
10. Shure SRH1840 258 g 10Hz - 30kHz 65 ohms

Best Closed-Back Headphones 2018

Closed-Back Headphones

As its name implies ‘closed-back’ are those headphones whose cups have a hard enclosure. It means that the sound is primarily directed towards your ears instead of towards outside world.

Music is more inside your head, and less like it is coming from a room.

The main advantage is to isolate noise a lot better than open-back headphones, which also makes them great for recording. It means other people will have a hard time hearing what you are listening to.

After all, no one wants to hear distractions from the outside when recording a track. You also do not want to get the sounds you are listening to jumbled up in your recordings!

Closed-backs are extremely popular because their tremendous applications also stem outside the studio. Including ourselves, you will find many people use closed-back headphones for multimedia usage and gaming as they keep outside disturbances to a minimum while offering a good level of the hang-up.

These are the top ten Closed-Back Headphones that we recommend.

1. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro – Best budget headphone (closed-back)

Sennheiser HD 280 ProThe famous German audio company named Sennheiser has been around since 1945, and they know what it takes to make the top of the line headphones.

The HD 280 Premium leans on the affordable side of the spectrum & provides a balanced and flat sound depiction. So, why have we placed them first in the list? It comes down to two things – sound isolation and sound.

We could not find any sound coloration in our testing. It’s a perfectly neutral sounding headphone that treats the highs, mids, and lows all equally. Fantastically analytical, for a studio environment this headphone is a great budget entry.

Due to attenuation of up to 32dB, they are great at keeping noise out as well as keeping it in.

And it’s sound is fantastic, but at this price range, not everything can be perfect. Here we found that the headbands had a strong initial force of clamping causing some discomfort even with the ample padding on the headband and the cups. It will take a week or so for these to loosen up.

They are not the most attractive headphones we have seen, on top of that. It is a plain black color, and primarily plastic’s made. However; it is a thick plastic that feels and looks tough resulting in a durable piece of kit and lightweight.

Since their inception way back in 2003, these headphones have been super popular, and it is easy to see why. Isolation meets durable design and quality sound production. Considering the two-digit price tag, you really could not ask for anything more about this product.

It is a perfect tool for recording or for those who are looking for a great pair of headphones, and it is also extremely well priced. That’s why we put it on top; it deserves a number 1 spot here.

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Pros

  • Excellent noise isolation
  • Durable thick plastic design
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Great value for the price
  • Light Weight
  • Folds for portability

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Cons

  • Not the best looking headphones
  • Fixed cable
  • Initial clamping may bother some wearers but will loosen up


2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – Best closed-back headphone under $200

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xIf you could measure the value of a sound against the value of money, then Audio Technica ATH-M50x provides the best bang for your buck. It produces the best/ fantastic sound for a sub $200 product.

And it is not just us who are saying this. Reading reviews across the web from sites like Cnet, head-fi, and rtings confirms a unanimous love for this product. Let’s delve into it.

Soundwise, it is hard to fault. The sound is accurate amongst the highs, lows, and mids with a tight bass to boot. Sincerely, there is a little downplay in the bass and a little bit of variation in the highs, but on the whole, they clinically provide a solid representation of pretty much any soundscape.

The Sennheiser HD280’s provide a more higher-end response, the M50x injects more character into the sound making it more fun to listen to but still within the bounds of critical listening.

Recommend these over the slightly cheaper M50, why? Well, the M50x comes with detachable cords including a 1.2 m coiled cord which contracts and stretches to give you a freedom of movement. It also means that it’s broken cable is easy to replace. On top of this, the ear cups and headband feature a comfortable plusher and softer pleather, making them more comfortable.

In most, everything else remains the same, with the construction being primarily plastic in both the models. Overall, these extensions make the headphone more usable and more comfortable – so we think that they are definitely virtuous of the small price range.

So if we were to choose one thing to nitpick, it would be the sound isolation which is OK in it. It get’s the job done, but if we found deep quality sounds like you may hear on public transport or on a highway may penetrate the ear cups more than in other models. But you will have no issues in a studio, home environment or office. It is also slightly annoying that the cords do not come with an integrated volume controls or microphone. However, this is not a headset, this is a headphone, so we can easily forgive them for this.

Great sound and a sturdy and comfortable construction make the M50x one of our highly recommended headphones. For the price, they are an utter bargain considering the plethora of best headphones that produce worse sound for equal or higher cost.

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Pros

  • Class-leading sound production
  • Soft and comfortable headband and ear pads
  • Detachable cords including a coiled cord
  • Collapsible design for added portability

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Cons

  • No inline microphone or controls
  • Mediocre noise isolation


3. Sony MDR-7506

Sony MDR-7506And now we have an entry from the brand Sony. Perhaps the only high competitor to the Sennheiser HD 280 in regards to value, since being introduced in 1991, the Sony MDR-7506 has stood the test of time.

Like Sennheiser, this pair of headphones has entered fabulous status by being producing great sound and affordability.

It is best to describe the sound as flat as it does not over or under-represent any aspects of the musical range. No portion is too soft or loud. Audiophiles will especially love this product as it makes the job of equalizing and mixing a lot easier as compared to others.

The construction is pretty stable as well. The ear cups are solid aluminum, and the adjustment arms and headband under the padding are metal. We found it has very less plastic than more expensive models and as such, it is also more durable. We can probably attribute this to the 26-year-old rugged design principles that Sony has stuck by.

Its construction is impressive and equally so is the comfortability. The race track style ear pads are also a great feature and provide the perfect mix of over-ear comfort and on-ear sound isolation. Couple this design with a relatively gentle clamping force, and we got only one pair of best headphones that can be worn for hours on end without any issue.

What is wrong with these headphones? Nothing much really. So if you want to be picky, the worst thing is the un-attachable cable and the plain design. Oh, and you might find ear pads to be lacking in durability, they can be replaced here easily.

You get more with the Sony MDR-7506 then you pay for. It is great budget-friendly headphones that many amateurs and professionals continue to use today.

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Pros

  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Solid noise isolation
  • Comfortable and durable design
  • Good use of metal components
  • Racetrack style ear pads
  • Excellent value for the price

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Cons

  • Ear pads lack durability
  • Plain looking
  • Fixed cable

For a majority of the people, three headphones that have already been listed are enough to satisfy your home multimedia thirst or studio recording. For other insatiable audiophiles, continue reading for more top rated headphones.


4. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PROBeyerdynamic is a German company that has been in the audio industry since 1924. Along with Shure, it is one of the oldest audio companies around. For Beyerdynamic, experience does equate to quality, and you will find a great pair of closed-back headphones in DT 770 PRO.

These are indeed not budget headphones but are still comfortably within reach of someone wanting to spend a little bit extra for better construction and sound quality.

Let’s begin with what it is made out of – it is pretty much a combination of metal and sturdy plastic. The ear pads are made from velour (material similar to velvet) while the spring steel headband is wrapped with leather. It results in a marvelous comfortable fit which is accomplished by a soft clamping force. Undeniably, these are one of the most comfortable headphones we have had the pleasure of wearing.

For this price, we expect great sound, and that is what we got. In our testing the treble, mid and bass were all rendered to a high-quality standard. The only thing about which we could complain is the marginally recessed mids. Overall, it is a more neutral and open sound amongst the most of bass heavy headphones that are included in closed back designs.

Regarding of noise confinement, we found some sounds like phone rings to go through whilst listening at a mid-level volume. It is not a big deal, but it is something worth mentioning in an otherwise fantastic set of headphones.

They are solid in terms of sound isolation and great for comfort, sound quality, and style. Our verdict-highly recommended!

An impedance of 32, 80 and 250-ohm is available for this model. If you don’t know about what impedance means, read Buyer’s guide at the end of this article.

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Pros

  • Super comfortable ear pads with light but firm clamping force
  • Sturdy build and durable
  • Solid, well-rounded sound

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Cons

  • Non-detachable cord
  • Moderate level of sound isolation
  • Mids are slightly recessed
  • Does not fold


5. Bose QuietComfort 35 – The best noise canceling and wireless headphone

Bose QuietComfort 35Aptly named the QuietComfort 35, these headphones excel in two things. Yep, you guessed it – comfort and noise isolation. Bose is known for producing industry-leading noise-canceling headphones and it is no surprise this pair has exceeded our expectations.

Let us start with the construction and comfort. The outer ear-cups are metal and complete the closed-back design while the frame and headband are thick and durable plastic. Alcantara provides a great deal of satisfaction and covers the headband along with the synthetic leather ear-cups.

One more plus is that these have a wireless mode which is the only differentiating factor between this product/model and its predecessor, the wired QuietComfort 25. And of course, a sound is better in the wired mode, but the wireless setting is a cool feature nonetheless. You will also get a generous twenty(20) hours of battery charge which is a lot enough and more than other similar priced models also.

We found sound reproduction to be spot on except for a bit of emphasis/insistence on the bass. Music from Drake or Frank Ocean sounds fantastically vivid, with vocals being distinguished from each other. Echo sound lively as well and showcase a level of clarity that we would expect at this valuable price range.

The best thing about this is, of course, the noise cancellation – and that is where the magic happens. Just wearing these provide a natural passive noise cancellation, but this is also taken to a whole new level when you power on this active noise cancellation feature. Once activated, it is like hitting mute on the outside world, and all that’s left is only you and your lovely music. Sure, sounds do still get through, but these are kept to a min – a drastic improvement over marketed headphones and similarly priced like the Turtle Beach Elite 800.

And it is not just us who think that this is truly the best when it comes to noise cancellation. When it comes to this feature lists from cnet, pcmag and lifewire, all rank the headphone at number 1.

The only thing does stand out like a sore thumb though. It is impossible to switch off the active noise cancellation when using these headphones in wireless mode (AKA Bluetooth). It is not a deal breaker, but it does mean that needless batter power is lost to something you might not want to even use.

If you really care about getting headphones that have the best noise cancellation effect, you can not look past the Bose QC 35, and hey, they also have a pretty good sound production as well and a wireless mode that is handy if you are moving about. Basically, if your first objective is to buy a pair of best headphones to use in public spaces, then this offering from Bose should be at the top of your list.

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Pros

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Long battery life in wireless mode
  • Industry-leading noise cancellation
  • Solid sound production, especially in the wired mode
  • In-line microphone

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Cons

  • Active noise cancellation turns on with Bluetooth automatically


6. Focal Spirit Professional – Best headphone for critical listening

Focal Spirit ProfessionalA French company enters the mix whose headphones represent a superclass above the rest in providing a genuinely neutral sound experience. And it may sound like a bold statement, but this headphone is one of the best when it comes to critical listening.

Here On top of a detailed sound, the ear cups are adjustable at different angles meaning that you will be able to get the perfect fit. The memory foam helps you greatly for noise isolation as the cups will mold to your ears and will seal in the musical goodness; thus it is providing a better than average noise isolation experience.

The Focal Spirit could be a bit gentler, regarding comfort. The headband is wrapped in leatherette with a soft foam pad on the area that touches your head. And we found the clamping to be a little bit tight, but over time it does relax – it just takes a while to break in.

And the closest sounding headphones to this pair is Audio Technica’s ATH-50x which are more comfortable but do not provide the astoundingly precise sound that we have seen (or heard) here. However; it should be noted here, that the ATH-50x is significantly cheaper and does provide a better value for the price range.

Focal has shown an unwavering commitment to an objective and clean audio experience, they have achieved that with the Focal Spirit Professional. As an audio professional if you are looking for a top-notch studio monitor, you will be hard-pressed to find a better pair of headphones at a range of sub $400.

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Pros

  • Outstanding sound production
  • Cable with remote and microphone
  • Solid sound isolation
  • Adjustable ear cups

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Cons

  • A headband is a bit tight at first


7. Shure SRH1540 – Open-back sound quality in a closed-back skin

Shure SRH1540The Shure SRH1540 is where impressive sound quality meets a premium construction.

If you care about how best your headphones look as much as how they sound well than perhaps this is the best choice for you.

Let’s start with the cup; they are made from an aluminum and carbon-fiber construction. They are covered with Alcantara – a microfiber similar to suede that you will commonly find in car seats. It has tiny holes to allow breathing and thereby prevents overheating and sweat that is a common prob in leather pads. The lightweight materials used in it keep these headphones from exceeding 300 g in weight – and an impressive feat considering the relatively large size. You will find yourself being able to wear them for an entire day without feeling discomfort which is a plus because that is exactly what you would want to do.

The fanciness does not stop there; the top band is covered in pleather (protein leather). It’s got a longer lifespan than real leather and provides greater relaxation. All of these elements together create a posh looking set and super comfortable headphones. It’s something we would expect for the affordable asking price.

Now onto the most important part – that is sound. We would say it mostly sticks to a neutral presentation and exposes every element of the production which you’re listening to. While some reviews point out a mild inclination towards treble and bass, making the mid-range seem slightly recessed, we could not identify this as an issue in our testing. Its sound quality can be highly subjective, but we can say safely that there is a unanimity conclusion that these headphones produce a clean, crisp sound production that is very true to the source. On top of this, the soundstage is mainly considering the closed-back design and gives the sound a sense of depth.

Honestly, the fault in these headphones lies in the isolation of noise. While sufficient for everyday use they do not block out sound as good as other less expensive models like Sennheisers’ HD Pro 280. Clearly, this is a trade-off for excellent comfort as the soft clamping force, and soft plush ear pads don’t lend themselves well to blocking out circling sound. Though this is not a big deal since these cans are also super great for mixing, with audio production rivaling that of many high-end open-back models.

Necessarily, these cans hit a sweet spot before we enter the diminishing returns infidelity that occurs once you reach a certain price point. It is a top headphone pick for any multimedia environment, but it is limited portability tells us that it’s foremost a studio monitor that should not ever leave its natural habitat.

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Pros

  • Classy materials
  • Super comfortable fit and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Solid noise isolation
  • Solid sound production with a large sound stage
  • Detachable cords

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Cons

  • Does not fold
  • Mediocre noise isolation
  • Oval ear cups might be significant for some


8. V-Moda Crossfade M-100 – Feature rich and extremely durable

V-Moda Crossfade M-100The Crossfade M-100 is a headphone packed full of features, For the versatile audiophiles out there, that is complemented by a remarkably enduring design.

Let’s mention the good.

Typically V-Moda fashion, the headphones are built to last with a steel-reinforced headband and a robust metal frame. Dropping these bad boys would not cause any damage. Even, if you tried flattening the headband ten times, they will still return to their original shape.

The ear cushions are made from faux leather and covered with memory foam which is much needed to negate the somewhat strong clamping force. Over time this clamping force will soften to a more appropriate level, and we found reverse bending the headband will ease the pressure.

This product has many cool features as well. Each ear cups have a cable socket so you can also adjust the side of the connection to what works best for you. This cable also comes with an additional connection that calls SharePlay, so someone can listen in on what you are grooving to.

The closed-back design is very appealing and robust with the back of the ear cups looking almost ornamental with six screws holding a shield plate. And the color of these plates can also be customized as well as the shield design. It might be a bit bombastic to say, but these headphones are a personification of quality craftsmanship and durability.

This is an unbiased review, so we need to look at the cons as well.

Perhaps the biggest gripe about this product is that the sound is not wholly analytical. But what else could we expect? This is a headphone by V-Moda, and they are known to emphasize bass more than other sound elements. Overall these cans will sound great if you like a warm sound with a bit more emphasis on bass. If you are looking for color-free reproduction, then you will find what you are looking for further up this list.

These headphones are very well constructed and provide a fun listening experience even when compared to headphones in a similar price range. Every element performs solidly, making the Crossfade M-100 a strong choice for bass head or the versatile audiophile.

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Pros

  • Folds in for portability
  • Extremely durable and high-quality design
  • Cool SharePlay feature
  • An interchangeable connection on the left or right ear cup
  • Good noise isolation
  • 50 mm driver for most influential bass
  • Cable has inline remote and microphone
  • Generous feature set considering the price
  • Detachable cable

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Cons

  • Clamping force is a bit strong initially
  • The sound is fun, but more analytical production is available in this price range


9. Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 – Best Battery Life

Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 Sound isolation is just as important when it comes to closed-back headphones, if not more so than sound quality. With this mindset, it is, that we can forgive ourselves for including another pair of wireless headphones.

The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 is competing with its best in class rival, the Bose QC35 and a solid offering from the American housed company.

These instruments come in two varieties – a plain grey, and a black tan which we have pictured. The tan style brings on a ‘hate it’ or ‘like it’ sentiment. We can appreciate the ample leather that lines the ear cups and headband – but the brown color of the headband base will leave some scratching their head at the choice of poor design. Further, this is implicated by the silver accents of the ear cups which contrast massively against the brown palate of the headband.

The only thing left us wanting more was the lack of portability. We were expecting a wireless headphone to be complemented by the ability to fold up, but these cans cannot do that. The ear cups do swivel, but that is as far as it goes. Along with the design of the model of black tan mentioned earlier, this is another aspect which seems to be neglected by Plantronics. It would just seem logical that a wireless headphone marketed towards portability would be able to confine into a more travel-friendly package, but surely, Plantronics had a different idea.

There is a lot of technology packed in the form of active noise cancellation in each ear cup. It can be toggled on or off with a button on the left ear cup. Of course, turning it on will reduce the battery life drastically. Both active and passive noise cancellation is not as good as Bose’s QC35, but they still beat out many similar price range headphones.

In terms of sound, it is pretty solid across the board, with emphasis on the bass. The fans of the previous model – the Backbeat Pro – will have expected this, but audiophiles may be disappointed in it’s less than analytical approach.

These headphones are not as good at the sound quality or noise cancellation as the Bose QC35, but they are also significantly cheaper than previous, and they provide 4 hours more battery life (24 Vs 20). For that reason, we have included them on this list, and they are worth consideration if solid sound isolation, mobility, and a lower budget are your priority.

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Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Fun sound production with emphasis on bass
  • Good noise isolation
  • An affordable option if the Bose QC35 is too expensive

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Cons

  • Love or hate design (for the black tan version)
  • Does not fold


10. Beats Studio Wireless

Beats Studio WirelessOn this list, the last couple of entries have let us leaning towards more fun and accessible headphones rather than strictly analytical ones. Fittingly, we have rounded off this list with a similar type in the form of the Wireless Beats Studio.

Beats is the type of a brand that people who know nothing about headphones have heard of. Does their prevailing vibe condemn their products to a casual listening crowd whilst being scorned by snotty audiophiles? Not entirely so. The Wireless beats studio is one such model that has met and exceeded our expectations.

Firstly, the design is hi-end and incredibly sleek. The headband is a bit rigid and pretty thin, but luckily the ear cups are well-padded resulting in a comfortable experience. A headband is actually a textured rubber that lends itself well to stick to your head. Combine this with a lightweight of 260 g, and you can run with these on – a feat easier said than done when it comes to over-ear headphones.

This is a wireless model; the sound is pretty decent. It is renowned that Beats insistence the bass, and the studio wireless is no exception. It is a rich sound with the highs and mids being quite well-balanced.

Here active noise cancellation works well and does an excellent job of blocking out most moving noises. However; in wireless mode it is impossible to turn off, resulting in a battery life of only 12 hours. It is a disappointing quality since these headphones excel in being portable in every other aspect.

In spite of all, this is a pretty good offering from Beats studio who have succeeded in creating an attractive set of headphones that can move with you quickly. Being wireless, we do not expect them to sound as analytical as say the Audio-Technica’s ATH-50x or Focal Studio headphones, but they are definitely well suited to listeners who are looking for a piece of kit that is attractive and mobile. However; if you are looking for a better pair of wireless headphones, you are better off with the Bose QuietComfort 35.

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Pros

  • Sleek and attractive design
  • ANC works solidly
  • Comfortable fit
  • Folds for extra portability
  • Solid sound production with emphasis on bass
  • Available in multiple colors

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Cons

  • Slightly expensive
  • Only 12 hours battery life
  • Can’t disable noise cancellation even in wireless mode



Best Open-Back Headphones 2018

Open-Back Headphones

Ok, now we have gone through the best picks for closed back headphones it is now time to show a bit of love and taste to the open-back variety.

Open back are headphones with the back of the headphone cup open so that the sound travels towards your ears as well as towards the outside world.

Now if compared to closed-back, they provide superior sound quality and better soundstage music sounds more natural like it is part of the environment rather than only in your head. And the bad news is that everyone in the room will be able to hear what you are listening to.

Open-back headphones are better for two things:

  • If you are recording instrument which does not require any microphone. Therefore there will be no issue of sound leakage.
  • If you are mixing then you want to hear the best possible sound quality – open back headphones provide superior quality. Now you know better why you need open back headphones, so without more ado let’s begin the count.


1. Sennheiser HD 600 – Best sound in class

Sennheiser HD 600Sitting between the Sennheiser HD 650 and 580 models, we have the HD 600. Simply put, every sound geek should consider these headphones, and we will tell you why.

Let us start with the comfort factor. One word: velour. Yep, we found these cans to be marvelous comfortable because of the plush velour material that covers the earpads. We could wear this piece of product for hours without any sweat developing which is more likely to happen with leather-padded ear cups.

In this piece, most of the components in the construction are also removable, including the ear pads, grill, and cable. This also adds a lot of life to an already sturdy pair of headphones; you can rest assured that you’ll be using this pair of headphones for a long time to come. A lot of its construction is plastic which is a bit disappointing, but on the flip-side keeps these almost large headphones lightweight.

When it comes to sound production, the 600 is a class above the rest. Without any doubt, 600s are the most flattest and neutral sounding headphones under $400. Tyll Hertsens from innerfidelity describes them as ‘one of best buys in the world of audiophile headphones.’ For, David Mahler, in his massive ‘Battle of the Flagships’ thread, has awarded an A+ (one of only five models out of 58 to do so) to them and says ‘Dollar for dollar, the Sennheiser HD600 is among the best sounding headphones I have ever heard.’

The verdict is simple: For any audiophile who takes mixing (or music) seriously, the HD 600 should be at the top of her or his list.

What about the Sennheiser HD 650? It released six years after the HD 600; the HD 650 is another fantastic pair of headphones. Even though both sound remarkably similar, the 650’s have slightly more coloration in their sound representation. It is still a great pair of headphones for mixing, but the 600s are slightly better in this regard.

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Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Best sound in class
  • Easily replaceable components
  • Detachable cable

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Cons

  • Does not fold in
  • It takes a while to break in and become cozy
  • Lots of plastic in the construction


2. AKG K240 – The best semi-open headphones under $100

AKG K240There are a lot of good headphones under $100, so it took us a big deal of time to trim the group down to the one that stood out. Without a doubt, AKG K240 is the best pair of headphones you can put your hands on for under $100.

These headphones are semi-open technically, so they offer an increased level of sound isolation without compromising on sound quality. In other words, they punch a balance between open and closed-back designs to get the best of both.

So what did we think of them? Well, the sound quality is top notch for the price. The sound is well defined, flat and accurate with equalized lows, mids, and highs and deep bass. Still, there is some leakage but not as much as an utterly open-backed headphone.

In typical AKG fashion, the headphones use a shape-forming gimbal suspension design. The result is ear cups that sit comfortably on the ears rather than clamping down on them like other branded headphones. Besides being comfortable, they are also very durable, with the headband being made from steel. You could throw these around without any issue.

Truth be told, you would not be getting sound that is as good as the Sennheiser HD 800 or 600. However; at those high prices, AKG have struck a perfect balance of sound quality and price, and sound quality does suffer from diminishing returns. You can grab a pair for close to $50 on Amazon which is an absolute steal if you ask us.

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Pros

  • Excellent sound production for under $100
  • A detachable cable which is great for portability
  • Gimbal suspension design for a non-clamping and super comfortable fit
  • Durable construction, hand-made in Brooklyn, New York

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Cons

  • Low noise cancellation for a semi-open-backed design


3. Sennheiser HD 598

Sennheiser HD 598Sennheiser is renowned in the musical world for producing industry-leading sound – this is exemplified by the fact that we have already included them three times in this article. Mainly, these headphones are all about function, but refreshingly, we have found a form to take an equal front seat.

This model comes with both ivory and black styling. Both feature gloss burl wood accents, and ivory model is especially striking with its tan and beige color scheme that contrasts heavily with the more traditional colors of Sennheiser models. Although primarily made from plastic, the model still looks exclusive thanks to the strong color scheme and amply padded headband and luxuriously velvet padded ear cups. Comfortability deserves top marks here, making these cans super perfect for long music sessions.

These headphones produce tremendous sound as well, with the soundstage being the most active element. Indeed, if hearing the spaciousness and depth of a recording is your priority, then you are in safe hands. We can thank Sennheiser’s E.A.R (Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement) technology for this, and it is the same technology used in the much higher end HD 800 S.

Overall, we would say the sound is pretty relaxing and would not cause any fatigue even after long sessions. The highs, mids, and lows are very well represented, but the bass lacks a bit of oomph.

In the Sennheiser 598 HD, we get a refinement of sound that has been exemplary of the 500 series. Combine this with a quirky and solid design; these headphones are a solid mid-budget choice for anyone serious about music.

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Pros

  • Quirky and attractive design
  • Accurate sound production with amazing sound stage
  • Detachable cable
  • Durable and comfortable build with premium materials

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Cons

  • Bass lacks physical impact – not the best for bass heads
  • Does not fold


4. AKG K702

AKG K702If you’re looking for a sound that takes ‘out of your head’ to the extreme, then the AKG K702 might be what you are looking for.

An Austrian company has patented Laminate Varimotion Diaphragms (LVD) in its ear cups which produce out-of-head imaging. This means the sound appears to be coming further away which is saying a lot considering the open-back design. And the result is spacious and an open sound stage with a low level of distortion.

The velour cushions combined with the metal and leather headband make for a comfortable experience of wearing, and we found no issues wearing these headphones for hours on end.

We chose 702 model over the 701 because it comes with a detachable cable (easier to replace if it brakes!) and also a more durable matte black finish. It is only a slightly more expensive, so we think it is definitely worth the investment.

The fact that these headphones do not fold up and the lack of a storage case is a bit disappointing. They are relatively large, so we can see why AKG did not design these to be portable? However; the detachable cable leaves us with our head scratching as this is the best compliment to a would-be portable design.

Despite its drawbacks, what you are really paying for is an exceptional audio quality that will reveal all the hidden mistakes and gems in your recordings. They are not the ‘funnest’ cans to listen to, but they achieve their expected purpose with flying colors.

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Pros

  • Spacious and neutral sound
  • Very comfortable with velour cushions
  • Durable design and finish – handmade and tested in Austria
  • Detachable cable

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Cons

  • No storage case
  • Does not fold


5. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Professional

Beyerdynamic DT 990 ProfessionalBeyerdynamic has already made it onto the best closed-back headphones list with the DT 770 Por. Here it turns out they also make excellent open-back headphones as well.

DT 990 premium is a great sounding studio HiFi headphone that is a pleasure to wear. The best way of describing them is that they sound similar to the Sennheiser HD 600 headphone but are more bassy and even more comfortable. It is more or less a flat response that provides a rich and deep bass without exaggerating it.

At first glance, in most cases, the ear cups will completely envelop your ears without them even touching, and they are large as well. This results in an extremely comfortable wearing experience, perhaps one of the best we have seen in the sub $200 price bracket. The velour ear cups and leather-like headband provide more than enough cushion for long sessions of listening.

We were amazed to find the headband wholly made from metal in such price. The headband padding mentioned above is also detachable which is made for an easily replaceable component. The ear cups are mainly plastic which is the best thing as it helps reduce the overall weight of these reasonably large headphones. Overall, it is a solid looking piece of equipment and will be able to handle the scrapes and bumps of day to day use.

The DT 990 Premium is a perfect mixing companion and therefore great for critical listening. Its design is built to last, and you can expect your investment to keep paying dividends in coming years.

Like other models of Beyerdynamic, you can purchase these at different impedance levels – 32 and 250 ohm.

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Pros

  • Extremely comfortable with ample cushion
  • Durable design with a completely metal headband
  • Excellent sound production with solid bass
  • Replaceable headband padding
  • Good value for the price

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Cons

  • Large build
  • Non-detachable cord
  • Does not fold


6. Grado SR8oe

Grado SR8oeAnother budget headphone enters this list in the form of Grado SR80e. If you aren’t put off by the primary packaging and no-frills approach to accessories that the company is renowned for, then these set of headphones have a lot to offer regarding sound quality.

But first, let us address the most exciting point. These are the only headphones we have mentioned that have an open-back, on-ear design. That is right; the ear cups actually sit on your ear. At first, it was a little bit itchy and unusual, but we eventually got used to it, and the natural ease of the foam took over. We found our ears did not get overheated and as a result sweating was not an issue which is all too common with leather style ear cups.

Its construction is mostly plastic, with metal being used a bit where needed. We found this, combined with the foam ear cups provided enough comfort efficiently because the headband is also synthetic leather.

These headphones sound fantastic for the price. It is best described by two words – crispy and clean. Each element of the sound spectrum, from the low’s to the high’s is accurately represented, and there is no bleeding of the sound elements into each other. Due to the design, the sound is a little bit more in your ears, and we agree with some reviewers who have reviewed that it can be a fatiguing listening experience.

Our own experience combined with the myriad of positive reviews online tells us that these headphones are one of the best soundings you can buy for under $100. Among the other affordable headphones we have listed, you can not really choose wrong with this pair, the AKG240 or the Samson SR850.

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Pros

  • Solid and durable design
  • Good sound production across the frequency range
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Lay flat for portability
  • Comfortable and lightweight once you get used to it

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Cons

  • Basic packaging with no storage case
  • On-ear ear cups takes getting used to
  • Non-detachable cable
  • Sound can get a little bit aggressive resulting in listening fatigue


7. Sennheiser HD 800 S – Best headphone for mixing

Sennheiser HD 800 SWhereas the Sennheiser HD 600 offers class-leading sound, it can be said that the 800 S possesses the best sound, period.

With the Sennheiser HD 800 S, the truth is exposed in the music. Every twang and clang, and vocal is heard with a precision that is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. There is nothing to hide – every strength and every flaw is exposed. These headphones are absolutely critical in their sound production and do not discriminate between any element of the music. Every sound is clearly represented as if it was being played just outside of your ears.

Apart from the sound, it is another plus if you like a retro sci-fi look. Think of Blade Runner. The combination of plastic, metalwork, and head-hugging fabric creates it a slightly heavy but provide an extremely comfortable wearing experience. The detachable cloth-covered Y-cable (1 connection for each cup) is military grade as it is reinforced for extra durability with Kevlar. For something worth upward of $1500, we would not expect anything but the best.

Compared to the HD 800, the HD 800 S offers an, even more, cohesive and smoother sound experience that is a no-brainer choice for those seeking the best reference sounding cans. If you have a cash, these headphones offer the perfect sound experience money can buy.

So, why are they not number 1, if producing the best sound? Well, even though they are great in many ways, they cost a fortune. But their popularity is limited to individuals with lots of professionals demanding the best or spare cash. Also, sound quality provides diminishing returns as we get to an expensive price range. For most people, the much more affordable headphones already mentioned are more than enough.

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Pros

  • Retro-inspired design
  • Very comfortable Industry leading sound production
  • Detachable cable
  • Excellent build quality and highly durable

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Cons

  • Slightly heavy at 330 g
  • Does not fold


8. Samson SR850 – Best budget headphone for beginners (under $50)

Samson SR850Similar to the AKG K240, the Samson is another budget-friendly headphone that punches well above its class.

We do apologize that this is another semi-open design; however, we could not leave it out of this list because it represents so much value.

Here the outside of the ear cups are mainly plastic and colored with shades of black. It is not flattering and leaves a lot to be desired, but at this price, it is something we would expect. The ear cups are pretty thick which provides plenty of comfort for a long session.

They actually look very similar to AKG models. In fact, many reviewers have even said that they are AKG clones. From the similar headband to the connection of the ear cups it is clear Samson has taken a lot of inspiration from the most established company.

These sound very solid with decent treble and full sounding bass. The main matter is a lack of depth which higher-end models have less of an issue with. Hence; if you’re an audio perfectionist, more expensive models like those offered by Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser will suit your taste. On the whole, these headphones provide relatively neutral sound with a bit of character and hence are well suited for a professional studio environment.

If you are just looking to crack open a new pair of headphones that are extremely budget friendly or you’re new to music production, the Samson SR850, along with the previously mentioned AKG K240, are the best picks.

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Pros

  • Excellent sound value for the money
  • Self-adjusting headband
  • A comfortable headband and ear cups
  • Large 50 mm drivers for deep bass

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Cons

  • Still leaks a lot of sounds – treat these as if they were open-backed
  • Cheap materials – plastic and vinyl – which is expected at this price
  • Non-detachable cable


9. Audio Technica ATH-AD900X

Audio Technica ATH-AD900XThese headphones are best for audiophiles looking for serious audio quality whilst being on a budget. And you can grab these for less than $150 which is almost comparable to the previously mentioned Sennheiser HD 598.

With a generally flat response, these are a pretty analytical set of cans. Because of their open-back design, they also offer a huge soundstage which is convenient to classical orchestra music.

Considering its drivers are a large 53 mm, the bass surprisingly lacks prevalence, and it is clearly distinguishable, we found some punch to be missing. This type of audio response is expected to be a more neutral leaning, but for those who enjoy a more bassy soundscape, the AD770X is the best alternative.

In terms of the design, Audio Technica is designed to fit all heads without adjustment, and signature wing suspension system is well implemented. We found it to provide an excellent level of comfort and work extremely well.

Despite the fledgling bass, the sound is an overall step up from the more budget-friendly models and also offers audiophile quality at a cost that would not break the bank. We highly recommend these pairs if you have a mid-range budget.

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Pros

  • Comfortable construction
  • Excellent overall sound quality for the price
  • Large sound stage and flat audio response

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Cons

  • Somewhat un-prevalent base
  • Non-removable cable


10. Shure SRH1840

Shure SRH1840This is actually Shure’s first open-backed headphone, and it is impressive to say that they have hit a home run.

For the price, the sound quality is on point. You will hear sounds in recordings you never thought were there. It is a perfect companion to your mixing endeavors. These headphones have a warmer midrange and a bass that is not exaggerated. The sound is intensely realistic to listen to while you are wearing these.

The velour covered ear pads are comfortable, and the lightly padded headband is easily adjustable and also flexible enough to provide that extra level of comfort. At this price point, we would expect nothing less, and a comfortable pair of headphones means we get to listen to best sounding music for more extended periods of time. A win, win if you ask us.

Ear cups attach to the headband through aircraft-grade aluminum yokes which looks super sleek and provides fantastic durability.

At this price, you pretty much get exactly what you pay for. The SRH1840 are solid entry and a new from Shure and prove that they are just as good at making headphones(open-back) as they are with headphones(closed-back).

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Pros

  • Extra comfortable with the flexible build
  • Lightweight
  • Natural and well-rounded sound
  • Comes with replacement ear pads and detachable cables

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Cons

  • Headband padding a little thin


Best Studio Headphones Buyer’s Guide

Here is a simple informational guide that will give you some much-needed information regarding purchasing a new set of headphones. Now let go over some of the basics:

Tech Specification, what do they mean?
When it comes to headphones, there is usually a recurring set of features that come up describing them. Let us see what they mean:

Frequency response: The range of sound produced by the headphone is known as a Frequency Response. The audible frequency for most of the people is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz), and basically, all headphones cover this frequency range, and then some. The range covers the bass, mids, and highs. For practical purposes, over 20,000 Hz is inaudible and below 20 Hz is usually felt rather than heard (like a deep vibration).

Impedance: Impedance is a technical term but breaks it down simply, it means how much power is required to deliver an audio volume. For example, low impedance of say 35 ohms, means little power is needed (perfect for phones and other portable devices). A vast impedance such as 250 ohms requires more power, and finally, they are protected from overloading.
E.g., if you were to connect a low impedance headphone to a high powered amplifier or a DJ mixer, chances are you will blow them out. Hence, it is essential to know what type of equipment you intend on using your headphones with.

Similarly, if you were to connect a high impedance headphone to a phone and play a music, you would find that the volume would not be a loud as a low impedance headphone.

Drivers: The driver consists of diaphragms, voice coils, and a magnet and works by converting an electric signal into the sound pressure that creates sound by vibrating the diaphragm.
The measurement is given for a driver, usually in millimeter, is actually the diameter of the diaphragm. The rule is (though not always correct) that the larger the diaphragm, the greater the bass and better the sound. Hence, larger over-ear headphones typically house larger drivers which creates a better sound experience.

Sensitivity/Sound Pressure Level (SPL): This measurement is given in sound pressure level per milliwatt, or dB SPL/mW. It basically means how loud the headphones go. A typical range is 80 to 120 dB SPL/mW.

To give you some context 80 dB is about as loud as a dishwasher while 120 dB is like hearing a chainsaw. Anything above 80 dB has the potential to cause the hearing loss after prolonged exposure.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): Higher volumes are equal to faster diaphragm vibration, and so THD occurs when a diaphragm is unable to vibrate fast enough. This measurement is represented with a percent(%) and the lower this number is, the better.

Noise-Cancellation: Two types of noise cancellation – active and passive.
i. Active noise cancellation (ANC): These headphones work by producing inverse sound waves to the ambient sound that effectively cancels the sound. They actively block outside sound which is already combined with their natural PNC capability.
ii. Passive noise cancellation (PNC): This refers to the earphones or headphones with a natural ability to block ambient noise. Hence, all headphones provide some block against outside noise, but certain types like closed-back or in-ear designs excel in this area.

Summing Up
There are hundreds of headphones available on the market, and so it can be very confusing to figure out which headphone is best for you. Hence, after a lot of research, we set out to create this list to inform you of the best studio headphones to buy in 2018. Whether you intend to use them in the studio, in the office, or at home, we feel that there is a headphone here(mention in above list) that will suit your needs.

If you have any question/comments, feel free to leave them below. We will do our best to help answer any of your questions.

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