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10 best studio headphones for mixing and mastering

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Written by Becky T

Published Oct 19, 2023

When it comes to choosing the best studio headphones for mixing and mastering audio, there's a lot of factors and preferences that come into play. This isn't a piece of equipment that you just pick up on a whim; it requires meticulous research and scouring through endless internet articles like this one (yes, we know we're in good company...).

And still, at the end of the day, what you'll find to be the best studio headphones remains a distinctly personal choice. However, there are some features that musicians and mixing engineers value across the board, and some studio headphones that come out on top time and time again. So to help you get to the bottom of this very important endeavour, we've compiled a list of the 10 best studio headphones on the market right now.

Of course, we should include the expected disclaimer here that using headphones for mixing and mastering remains controversial due to the argument that the audio heard and curated through headphones doesn't translate well to other systems. Whilst the stigma remains, there are plenty of world-renowned mixing engineers who dispute this, and as far as we're concerned, studio headphones give you the opportunity to control and replicate your audio environment no matter where you are. More power to you!

Contents:

  1. Audiotechnica ATH-R70x
  2. Sennheiser HD650
  3. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
  4. AKG K702
  5. AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wireless+
  6. Yamaha HPH-MT8
  7. Sony MDR-7506
  8. RØDE NTH-100
  9. HIFIMAN Arya
  10. Audeze LCD-X

Finally, before we get into the list, one way to ensure that you're getting the best sound profile possible from your headphones is to have them individually calibrated. Sonarworks runs an individual calibration service, where you can send your headphones to their headquarters in Riga and have them "generate a custom calibration curve just for your headphones" for €149 (£128). All of the studio headphones featured in this list are SoundID compatible.

The prices listed are subject to change.

1. Audiotechnica ATH-R70x

Image of Audiotechnica ATH-R70x studio headphones
Image by Audiotechnica

Designed specifically for professional studio use, the ATH-R70x are Audiotechnia's first pair of open-back reference headphones. Open-back headphones allow for unobstructed movement of the driver, which avoids unwanted vibration and pressure build-up, and provides the most accurate sound presentation. The only con here is that, without an external shell to isolate the sound, audio will leak both in and out of the headphones, meaning they're only really ideal in a quiet environment.

The ATH-R70x have a lightweight design (210g) and cushioned wing support, which makes them comfortable for long-listening sessions. The sound profile is heralded as one of the cleanest on the market, with balanced mids and crisp highs. There's a reason why these headphones continuously find themselves at the top of lists like this one.

Price: £295.00

Frequency Response: 5 - 40,000 Hz

Impedance: 470 Ω

Driver Diameter: 45 mm

Key Features:

  • Breathable fabric earpads
  • High-efficiency magnets and pure alloy magnetic circuit design 
  • Carbon composite resin
  • Acoustically transparent, aluminum honeycomb-mesh housings
  • dual-sided detachable locking cable (L/R signal independent)

2. Sennheiser HD650

Image of Sennheiser HD650 studio headphones
Image by Sennheiser

Sennheiser's HD650s have been on the market for 20 years and still remain one of their most popular studio headphones for critical listening. The design has been tweaked over the years, and the large ear cups (with velour padding) are ideal for those who typically find over-ear headphones restrictive and uncomfortable.

The audio quality is top-tier, with a warm and natural sound signature. Like the ATH-R70xs, their open-back design makes for poor noise isolation but a more natural presentation of audio.

Price: £429.99

Frequency Response: 12 – 41,000 Hz

Impedance: 300 Ω

Driver Diameter: 42 mm

Key Features:

  • 42mm transducer and and 38 mm diaphragm
  • Detachable cable made from highly conductive OFC copper
  • Stereo connector with audiophile-standard plug and premium adapter.
  • Velour ear pads

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3. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Image of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro studio headphones
Image by Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic's DT 990 Pros are another that have stood the test of time (the DT 990s were first released in 1985). The main difference between the original model and the Pros is that the latter has been perfected for professional use, with increased clamping pressure on your head so that they stay fitted in a studio environment. They also feature a semi-closed design (compared to the DT 990s fully open-back) which blocks out more sound from your environment, whilst still limiting unwanted vibration.

Many within the audiophile community have criticised the DT 990s for their treble peak (which some describe as physically painful) so they may not be the right choice if you're particularly treble-sensitive. Having said this, others in the community have only good things to say about the sound profile, with particular praise for the sound separation, tonal depth and punchy bass.

Price: £139.00

Frequency Response: 5 - 35,000 Hz

Impedance: 250 Ω

Driver Diameter: 45 mm

Key Features:

  • Adjustable spring steel headband
  • Replaceable velour ear pads
  • Transparent, spacious, bass and powerful sound

4. AKG K702

Image of AKG K702 studio headphones
Image by AKG

AKG's K702 headphones are known for their spacious soundstage and clear, detailed audio performance, which makes them great for critical listening and mixing. As far as studio headphones go, these are some of the best you can get for such a low price point, with a truly neutral sound profile and excellent separation and presentation of detail.

Price: £119.00

Frequency Response: 10 - 39,800 Hz

Impedance: 62 Ω

Driver Diameter: 45 mm

Key Features:

  • Patented "Variation" two-layer diaphragm
  • Flat-wire voice coils
  • Leather headband

5. AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wireless+

Image of AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wireless+ studio headphones
Image by AIAIAI

Made from sustainable materials including recycled plastic and vegan leather, AIAIAI's TMA-2 Studio Wireless+ headphones position themselves as a new-age headphone for professional mixing and mastering. Wireless designs are certainly enticing, but bluetooth causes poor sound accuracy due to data compression and latency, amongst other issues. AIAIAI's solution is by using "W+ Link technology" to secure a stable "ultra-low latency and uncompressed wireless connection", by utilising a dedicated radio-frequency band along to send lossless audio between the transmitter and headphones.

Having said this, some have noted that this wireless design leaves them prone to static and this high noise floor can be a real turn-off. However, especially considering their closed-back design, they do offer a remarkably crisp and clear soundstage, with particularly good bass representation.

Price: £300.00

Frequency Response: 10 - 40,000 Hz

Impedance: 32 Ω

Driver Diameter: 40 mm

Key Features:

  • Lossless, latency-free wireless connection
  • Carbon neutral and environmentally-friendly
  • Lifetime trade in service
  • Signature AIAIAI bio-diaphragm speaker

6. Yamaha HPH-MT8

Image of Yamaha HPH-MT8 studio headphones
Image by Yamaha

Yamaha's HPH-MT8s are another popular choice for professionals, offering a clear stereo image and accurate sound reproduction. They're edging on the heavier side at 350g, which some users find uncomfortable for long listening sessions, but the thick padding and adjustable headband somewhat makes up for this. The closed-back, circumaural design makes for great sound isolation whilst still allowing enough detail for you to hear the separation between mid elements and bass, but does cause a narrower soundstage (expectedly).

Price: £219.00

Frequency Response: 15 - 28,000 Hz

Impedance: 37 Ω

Driver Diameter: 45 mm

Key Features:

  • Moveable earcups allow single-ear monitoring
  • Protein-skin leather and large low-resistance cushions 
  • Durable ABS housing and rigid die-cast aluminum support-arms 

7. Sony MDR-7506

Image of Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones
Image by Sony

Coming in at under £100, Sony's MDR-7506s are a great option if you're looking for professional studio headphones but you don't want to break the bank. There are some drawbacks that you would expect at this price point, including a thin bass response and somewhat harsh audio, but for a reasonably priced, closed-back headphone, they translate well. It's hard to deny that they don't match up to some of the others on this list, but if you're just getting into mixing and mastering, or just want something for monitoring purposes, the MDR-7506s have great overall clarity and loyal sound reproduction.

Price: £91.00

Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz

Impedance: 63 Ω

Driver Diameter: 40 mm

Key Features:

  • Gold-plated UnimatchTM 3.5mm/6.3mm adaptor
  • Lightweight, ergonomic design 
  • Affordable price point

8. RØDE NTH-100

Image of RØDE NTH-100 studio headphones
Image by RØDE

Some argue that the noise isolation and leak is pretty poor for a closed-back headphone, but the presentation of detail and overall clarity is excellent for the price point of RØDE's NTH-100s. You can also attach a boom mic to transform them into a headset, which makes them a popular choice for gamers and streamers (particularly with their recommended NTH mic). If you're looking for a spacious, out-of-head soundstage, you're probably best opting for something open-back, but the NTH-100s offer a comfortable fit and faithful sonic representation that's superior to other models in the price range.

Price: £119.00

Frequency Response: 5 – 35,000 Hz

Impedance: 32 Ω

Driver Diameter: 40 mm

Key Features:

  • Ear pads with cooling CoolTech gel
  • FitLock headband
  • Memory foam ear and headband cushions

9. HIFIMAN Arya

Image of HIFIMAN Arya studio headphones
Image by HIFIMAN

Standing out from the crowd with their massive drivers are HIFIMAN's Aryas. Their excellent sound separation, spacious soundstage and clarity of perceived detail make for an awesome critical listening experience, from deep, well-controlled bass to clear and extended highs. Their premium build and sound quality is reflected in a pretty steep price tag however, but they're well worth the investment if you're a professional looking for unfailing audio reproduction.

Price: £959.00

Frequency Response: 8 - 65,000 Hz 

Impedance: 35 Ω 

Driver Diameter: 130 mm x 100 mm 

Key Features:

  • Asymmetrical ear cups that fit the natural shape of the human ear
  • Sturdy 3.5mm user-replaceable connector design for easy cable swapping
  • Metal and high-grade plastic construction

10. Audeze LCD-X

Image of Audeze LCD-X studio headphones
Image by Audeze

Another one for those with more forgiving budgets, the LCD-Xs are Audeze's best-selling headphones, and for good reason. They're the most expensive on the list but reviews and testimonials across the internet concur that they're worth every penny. Weighing in at 612g, the LCD-Xs are considerably heavier than the other headphones on this list, making them a little less immersive (you won't forget they're there) but this is more than made up for in the sound quality, which excels in reproducing both subtle nuances and powerful dynamics across the frequency spectrum.

Price: £1049.00

Frequency Response: 10 - 50,000 Hz

Impedance: 20 Ω

Driver Diameter: 106 mm

Key Features:

  • Suspension headband for even weight distribution
  • Extra-large 106mm planar drivers tuned for accuracy
  • Braided OCC copper cable 

Wrapping up

That concludes our list of the 10 best studio headphones for mixing and mastering. Of course, we're blessed to be in an era of technological innovation and this is by no means an exhaustive list - just some of many popular products on the market right now! We know it can be a daunting endeavour trying to find the best studio headphones, especially when everyone's preferences can be so different, but hopefully this guide has laid out some inspiration to help you on your journey.

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