Best Selling Studio Headphones Buying Guide for Audio Production

Hello there, long time no see! It’s been a while since I released an article in here.

It’s been quite hectic for me as I have been busy with my day job, career and all sort of responsibilities in my life.

First of all, I would like to thank you all for your continuous support in what I do. With your support, I have been able to keep doing in here and I feel very motivated to provide you with the most real, honest and informative reviews for all your needs in your musical journey! 🙂

This time I’m back again with another really helpful review, comparison and informative buying guide for those who are looking for high-quality studio headphones either for mixing, recording or listening to music!

In this article, I will briefly go through the most important factors and comparison parameters for you to choose the best professional headphones. I will also let you know which one I have chosen and hopefully will hopefully publish a separate review of my choice soon! 🙂

Before we start, I would kindly like you to join my mailing list via using the form below and also allow me to send push notifications. This way you will get notified whenever I publish something new. Thanks in advance!

This article will only contain headphones that are classified as “studio headphones” not ear-in monitors or consumer-grade, cheaper segmented earphones!

What is a studio headphone?

A pair of headphones which has the ability to provide the least coloured, modified and pure audio signal for either monitoring, recording, mixing and mastering purposes is often referred to as “professional studio headphones“.

This is actually quite the opposite with consumer-grade headphones because these products are usually targeted for general consumer taste.

If you ever read any users reviews for consumer-grade headphones, you will often see comments such as “I love the huge bass sounds of these headphones!“, “It’s sounding so bright, these are the best headphones!“…etc.

To be honest, these kinds of comments have no place in a professional studio environment.

Let’s make up an example and you will understand more clearly;

Imagine you are a digital photographer and you have invested a huge amount of money in a great camera for your nature photo shoots and also high-quality monitor. You have just spotted a perfect view of your favourite mountain’s view with the sun, clouds and all those mesmerizing colours combined together at this very special moment. You captured the moment and went back home.

Would you like to see completely different colours when you have a look at the photo via your monitor? Or would you prefer to see the colours as close to as you have seen it with your own eyes?

This must be the same principle to follow when it comes to your professional audio needs. We want to hear what is being captured via microphones while monitoring the signal via our headphones.

This is often a slightly misunderstood concept by general consumers. I have witnessed many situations where these people immediately skip “professional studio headphones” because they think it’s just for audio engineers and therefore they are bad for listening to music.

I completely disagree with that! Before starting playing the guitar, recording audio or getting involved in the musical instruments industry, I had been already a huge music fan and I still spend a significant amount of my time for listening to music.

Why would I want to listen to my favourite albums via general consumer headphones, cheap pair of speakers or an onboard audio interface?

I prefer having the highest quality possible, untouched, uncoloured and natural audio signal when listening to music!
So please don’t be turned off by how these products are categorized.

Buying professional studio headphones paired with a solid audio interface makes sure you are hearing your favourite tunes as they are supposed to sound like!

How to choose your professional studio phones?

Apart from your budget and user ratings, there are several parameters you should be considering when you choose your headphones.

The main parameters are headphone design and system, impedance, frequency range and Sensitivity /SPL (Sound Pressure Level).

I will be covering these parameters briefly and present the best options for your studio headphones choice within specific price ranges.

Before I start, I would also like to mention something really important;

When it comes to reviewing and comparing studio headphones, reference monitors and audio interfaces, you should never forget someone else’s opinion might completely mislead you in your choices.

You may say it’s true for every product out there but just think about the fact that here we are talking about audio signals produced via different audio systems and setups perceived by someone else’s ears.

We would never know a person providing their opinions on a headphone has any level of hearing loss due to their age, physical state or genetics. Therefore it’s best to find a suitable price range for your budget, pay attention to selling rates, then those technical details that will help you refine your choice.

What do these technical specs mean for professional studio headphones?

In this section, I will go through the most important headphone technical specs and parameters, then will provide you with separate comparison charts for the best options within specific price ranges.

Headphone Design and System

Headphone design and system are how the products are designed in the first physical in terms of their physical structure.

If you are looking at professional studio headphones, you will immediately notice that every single option out there has an over-ear design.

This is due to providing you with a hearing experience as close to the real one. Think about how our ears perceive audio signals in a usual day; you wouldn’t normally get the audio output injected right next to your eardrums instead you would hear it in an open space with reflections of audio coming into your eardrums as well as vibrating your skull.

(Did you know this is why you would never be able to hear how your voice actually sounds like if we never had the chance to listen to it from another source? 🙂 )

With the over-ear design, you will still have some air fully or partially sealed around your ears resulting in a way more natural sound perception.

On the other hand, you will also see some terminology as headphones being open back, semi-open back and closed-back.

You have “back volume” as being the “air” behind the speaker and “front volume” as being the “air” between your eardrums and the speaker.

Closed-Back Studio Headphones

As the name suggests, closed-back headphones almost completely isolate external vibrations and do not leak audio signals outside. This feature has both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on what you are going to use them for.

Headphones that have back and front volumes closed are often referred to as closed-back studio headphones.

This design approach aims to create a seal around your ears and the outer side of the speaker cup doesn’t have any open parts (except a venting hole to improve bass response) thus not letting air in and out.

This will ensure that your closed-back headphones will not leak any audio signal (or will leak the least amount of vibrations) outside, thus allowing you to use them in a recording situation.

Imagine you are to record vocals and monitor your own voice via your headphones. Even if there’s a slight audio leakage, this signal would be captured by the microphone.

On the other hand, since it seals around your ear and not allowing air to transfer in and out, you will have a slight bass boost which may alter the overall perceived audio when you are mixing your tracks.

Even though there may be venting holes to balance the air pressure inside the cup and improve the bass response, they are still referred as to closed-back headphones.

Open-Back Studio Headphones

If a pair of headphones has back and front volume open, it would be classified as an open-back headphone.

Open-back headphones allow air to move way more freely in and out and do not attempt to seal airtight. This feature enables a better, more natural listening experience (just like listening to music in a room) and helps you have a more natural audio image of signals in a mixing scenario.

As you can easily guess, this will allow more audio signals to leak outside, therefore, makes a bit more difficult to work within a recording situation, especially if you are to record a dynamic audio track which has a greater headroom for the signal.

Semi-Open Back Studio Headphones

Last but not least, we have semi-open back headphones. These basically feature the back volume open and front volume closed or vice versa.

You will have all the models with different systems below in comparison charts. But just as an example, the very best seller of all time beyerDynamic DT 770 PRO is classified as a closed-back headphone. There’s only a small venting hole located next to the hinges for an improved bass response while featuring airtight pads and the ability to cover the whole ear.

You have also beyerDynamic DT 990 PRO which features an open back volume and is classified as an open-back headphone. Even though it looks very similar to DT 770 PRO, the plates in earcups have pretty large holes that connect back and front volume.

But do not worry too much about this as we have access to great closed-back, open-back or semi-closed back studio headphones which have excellent balance for either mixing or recording purposes.

Impedance

In the most simple form, impedance is a measure of electrical resistance. Any headphone has a specific impedance needs to be fulfilled by the amplified it’s connected to in order to deliver required output levels. Just as a quick note, it often means the output impedance when impedance mentioned within an electronic circuit

However, in the context of headphones, it’s the load impedance. Headphones usually come with impedance levels between 8 to 600 ohms, and you will notice 32 ohms these days very often as they are becoming a standard, all-around impedance levels.

These impedance levels do not mean anything on its own as these should match with where you connect your headphones for the best results. By the way that does not mean, there must be an exact match but there should be complementing matching levels for the optimum results.

Generally speaking, low impedance headphones which have impedance levels lower than 50 ohms are usually a good choice for listening to music on portable devices as they do not require a high voltage device.

Headphones with more than 50 ohms impedance may usually need a good amplification, however, that does not mean they will never work or perform as close to as they are supposed to work.

I have recently bought myself a pair of beyerdynamic DT770 PRO (80 Ohm) and been able to use it both with my RME Babyface PRO interface as well as with my smartphone and do not experience a low output problem.

Headphones with impedance higher than 100 Ohms are usually old designs since before the 1990s most pro-audio gear used higher resistance in their circuit to attenuate driver output in order to provide simpler, budget-friendly electronic designs.

As a general rule of thumb, at a fixed power applied to the headphones with different ohms, the lowest impedance ones would yield a higher amount of dBs.

If you are not to make a purchase for a real specific audio scenario, it’s always good to stick to all-around ones.

That is why I have chosen an 80 Ohms version of DT-770 PRO, so I can use it in many different situations.

Headphone Frequency Range

The frequency range of a headphone is one of the most misleading factors for consumers. Because most people tend to think the more the better. But in reality, human ears can only hear between 20Hz to 20,oooHz. You will notice there are frequency ranges in the charts below that are beyond this range.

But don’t be tempted to go for the biggest range as it’s not directly related to the quality of the product. The more important factor you should consider is the frequency response curve which means how drivers of headphones will respond at a particular frequency.

In order to inspect frequency response curves, you need to go through the individual manuals and have a look at the graphs.

Sensitivity – SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

Sensitivity is how a particular pair of headphones can convert an electrical signal to an acoustic one. So basically it’s an indicator of how loud your headphones can get for a given level from the source.

Most of the times, you will come across sensitivity levels between 50 to 120 dB SPL/mW in the comparison charts below. As an example; let’s say a headphone has a sensitivity level of 113 dB, this means you need 1mW of power to generate this level.

Also as a side note, it doesn’t increase or decrease in a linear way. If you apply 2mW of power, it will increase the SPL by 3 dB or vice versa.

Sensitivity or SPL is not a measure of sonic quality but only related to the level and intensity of the volume. On top of this, it is only meaningful when matched with the output abilities of an audio setup.

Sensitivity and impedance can be easily related to each other but both should be taken into consideration when looking for an optimum match between the headphones and audio system.

As to make things simple, you may think higher sensitivity will yield higher volume levels when other parameters are equal.

In the next section, you will have 3 different comparison charts for professional studio headphones within different price ranges.

Professional Studio Headphones priced between €50 – €130

As I have mentioned above, I have recently got myself a beyerdynamic DT-770 PRO 80 Ohms version. You will immediately notice that it’s the number 1 best selling studio headphones for a long long time!

The reason why I have chosen DT-770 PRO is that I had used it for long hours in a fairly longterm before even I considered it as an option in recent years. During my service in the musical instruments industry, I spent months of time with this headphone and used it for audio/video editing all day long.

I had also the chance to pair it with my RME Babyface PRO and tested it as if I owned it already. So my purchasing decision was a really safe and confident one as I had tested it in many situations.

I will also publish a detailed review of it soon, so please join my mailing list and turn on notifications so you will be notified immediately once I have published it. 🙂

As I already talked about how subjective it would be to listen to someone else’s opinion when it comes to choosing a very personal product as a pair of headphones, here again, I have to repeat myself.

My reasons were pretty solid when choosing my DT-770 PRO. But there are also great alternative options in the charts below.

In the first chart, you will see your headphone options priced between €50 to €130, so I think it’s a very affordable range for anyone.

Also please notice that the top 5 products are dominated by beyerdynamic headphones which makes me happy with my choice based on a long term experience. 🙂

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you can scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandAKG HarmanMackieSonybeyerdynamicbeyerdynamicbeyerdynamicAudio Technicabeyerdynamic
ModelK-240MC-250MDR-7506DT-770 Pro 250 OhmsDT-770 Pro 80 OhmsDT-990 ProATH-M50 XDT-150
DesignOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-Ear
SystemSemi-OpenClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackOpen BackClosed BackClosed Back
Impedance55 Ohms32 Ohms63 Ohms250 Ohms80 Ohms250 Ohms38 Ohms250 Ohms
Frequency Range Min – Max15 Hz – 25000 Hz10 Hz – 20000 Hz10 Hz – 20000 Hz5 Hz – 35000 Hz5 Hz – 35000 Hz5 Hz – 30000 Hz15 Hz – 28000 Hz5 Hz – 30000Hz
Sensitivity / SPL91 dB100 dB106 dB96 dB96 dB96 dB97 dB97 dB
Weight284 g265 g215 g278 g284 g271 g287 g318 g
Sales Rank68413214534
Price58€99€99€118€118€118€125€129€

If you are on a fairly tight budget, it’s recommended to stick with the first comparison chart.

Professional Studio Headphones priced between €130 – €250

Here in this second chart, you will have slightly more expensive options. Note that, in this chart, brands are dispersed a bit more balanced.

Even though these are a bit more pricey, AKG Harman K-712 has actually got my attention with the pretty high sales rank in contrast to its price. Definitely recommend you to have a look at it if you are looking for an open-back studio headphone.

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you can scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandAKG HarmanUltrasonebeyerdynamicYamahaMackieSennheiserAIAIAIAKG Harman
ModelK-702PRO-1480iDT-880 Pro Black EditionHPH-MT8MC-350HD-300 PROtectTMA-2 Modular Studio PresetK-712 Pro
DesignOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-Ear
SystemOpen BackOpen BackSemi-OpenClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackOpen Back
Impedance62 Ohms32 Ohms250 Ohms37 Ohms32 Ohms64 Ohms32 Ohms62 Ohms
Frequency Range Min – Max10 Hz – 39800 Hz20 Hz – 20000 Hz5 Hz – 35000 Hz15 Hz – 28000 Hz20 Hz – 20000 Hz6 Hz – 25000 Hz20 Hz – 20000 Hz10 Hz – 39800 Hz
Sensitivity / SPL105 dB94 dB96 dB102 dB97 dB108 dB117 dB105 dB
Weight300 g295 g307 g350 g0 g297 g220 g300 g
Sales Rank91221485106551058
Price133€148€168€191€198€209€219€233€

Professional Studio Headphones priced between €250 – €999

And finally, in the third chart, there are very pricey options that go up to almost a grand! As you can see, except AKG Harman K-812 and beyerdynamic DT-1990 PRO 250 Ohms, all your options have a closed-back design.

Again in contrast with its high price, beyerdynamic DT-1990 PRO 250 Ohms stands out easily with its great user ratings and very high sales rank!

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you can scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandSennheiserAudio TechnicaUltrasoneAustrian AudioV-ModabeyerdynamicbeyerdynamicUltrasoneAKG HarmanAKG Harman
ModelHD-26 ProATH-R70 XPerformance 880Hi-X55M-200DT-1770 Pro 250 OhmsDT-1990 Pro 250 OhmsSignature DXPK-812K-872
DesignOn-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-EarOver-Ear
SystemClosed BackOpen BackClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackClosed BackOpen BackClosed BackOpen BackClosed Back
Impedance100 Ohms470 Ohms32 Ohms25 Ohms30 Ohms250 Ohms250 Ohms32 Ohms36 Ohms36 Ohms
Frequency Range Min – Max20 Hz – 18000 Hz5 Hz – 40000 Hz7 Hz – 35000 Hz5 Hz – 28000 Hz5 Hz – 40000 Hz5 Hz – 40000 Hz5 Hz – 40000 Hz5 Hz – 30000 Hz5 Hz – 54000 Hz5 Hz – 54000 Hz
Sensitivity / SPL105 dB98 dB94 dB96 dB101.5 dB102 dB102 dB115 dB110 dB112 dB
Weight171 g210 g274 g305 g290 g376 g370 g290 g402 g390 g
Sales Rank51335828102187802324
Price268€295€298€299€351€398€438€499€877€998€

Hope this brief article has helped you to choose your professional studio headphones either for your recording, mixing, mastering sessions or even casual music listening purposes.

I highly recommend you to invest in a decent audio interface, reference monitors and MIDI controller keyboards for you to have a complete semi-professional & professional audio needs!

I have separate and very detailed articles on my all-time favourite audio interface RME Babyface PRO.

I would also kindly like you to check out my other articles for the “Best Selling Active Reference Monitors” and “Best Selling MIDI Controllers“.

Looking forward to you choosing the best audio production setup for your musical journey! If you have any questions and suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Osman

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