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The 11 Best Studio Headphones for Mixing

15/02/2024

Looking to mix your tracks? Then the right pair of studio headphones is indispensable. They let you hear every detail, ensuring your mixes translate well through headphones, monitors, and different types of speakers.

In this article, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about the best studio headphones for mixing, with our 11 top picks helping you choose the right ones for you.

In a hurry?

Out of the list, here are our favourite three headphones for mixing and why we like them:

Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back HeadphonesOpen back circumaural design with hand-matched neodymium drivers.Check current price
Sennheiser HD 650 Audiophile Open Dynamic HeadphonesStunning audio quality through high-performance dynamic transducers.Check current price
SubZero SZ-MH200 Monitoring HeadphonesExcellent-quality closed-back headphones at an affordable price.Check current price

The best studio headphones for mixing

1. Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones

Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic, Neodymium Magnet
  • Impedance: 60 Ohm
  • Frequency Range: 10Hz – 30kHz

Pros

  • Oxygen-free copper cable with Kevlar-reinforced jacket
  • Stunning sound with individually matched drivers for left/right balance
  • Comfortable adjustable padded headband is ideal for long sessions

Cons

  • Premium quality comes at a price

The Shure SRH1840 headphones are ideal for mixing thanks to their open-back design teamed with excellent sound quality. They allow you to hear the intricate details within your mix, and their flat frequency response ensures that all elements of your music are presented accurately, without any embellishment or distortion.

These headphones are also comfortable and durable, featuring a lightweight frame and velour ear pads that allow for prolonged use without fatigue. Additionally, their robust construction promises longevity, a testament to Shure’s commitment to quality.

For producers and musicians aiming for impeccable audio fidelity in their mixes, the Shure SRH1840 headphones are a sound investment, blending unparalleled sound quality with enduring build and comfort.


2. Shure SRH840A Professional Headphones

Shure SRH840A Professional HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Driver Type: Dynamic, Neodymium Magnets
  • Sensitivity (@1kHz): 97 dB/mW
  • Frequency Range: 5Hz – 25kHz

Pros

  • Warm tonal profile with revealing low-end into sub-bass territory
  • Suitable impedance to match with laptops, smartphones, and studio equipment
  • Low contact pressure with comfortable leather earcups provide isolation from external noises

Cons

  • Not the most flat-sounding headphones due to their pronounced low midrange

The Shure SRH840A Professional Headphones are a fantastic choice for mixing, designed with the precision and detail that musicians and producers need.

They’ve been engineered for professional audio engineers and musicians, boasting a refined frequency response that extends to a lower range than others for a more weighty and accurate sound. This precision makes them ideal for critical listening and studio work, where every detail in the mix matters.

Their sound profile is also balanced; they don’t overly colour the audio, ensuring that mixes translate well across different listening environments.

The SRH840A models come with a comfortable design, featuring an adjustable headband and a collapsible structure for easy storage. Their closed-back, circumaural design provides excellent sound isolation, perfect for noisy environments or when recording. Plus, the signature durability Shure is known for on their microphones is replicated with these headphones, making them a reliable investment.


3. Sennheiser HD 650 Audiophile Open Dynamic Headphones

Sennheiser HD 650 Audiophile Open Dynamic HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic, Open
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 41kHz
  • THD: Less than 0.05% (@1kHz, 100dB)

Pros

  • Considered by many to be one of the most accurate reference headphones ever made
  • Subtle but comfortable over-ear cups clamp to your head, eliminating movement for consistent sound
  • Compatible with a variety of consumer and studio-grade equipment with high sensitivity

Cons

  • Notable ultra-low sub-bass roll-off is a known quirk

The Sennheiser HD 650 headphones are revered in the audio world for their outstanding sound quality and have become a staple for mixing among audio professionals for 20 years.

Their open-back design contributes to a natural, expansive soundstage, allowing for precise placement of instruments and vocals within a mix. This feature, coupled with their exceptional transparency and flat frequency response, ensures that the HD 650 delivers accurate sound reproduction, making them ideal for critical listening.

The headphones deliver a detailed midrange and a smooth treble, ensuring that mixes sound balanced and true to life, though they do lack a thumping bass in the sub-region below 100Hz. Comfort is another hallmark of the HD 650, with their plush earpads and lightweight construction allowing for extended mixing sessions without fatigue.

Additionally, their robust build quality and the option to replace cables and earpads make them a durable choice for the long haul.


4. beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones, 250 Ohm

beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones, 250 OhmSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Range: 5Hz – 35kHz
  • SPL: 96 dB

Pros

  • Outperforms any competitor on comfort with signature Beyerdynamic soft velour earcups
  • Huge soundstage provides excellent instrument isolation across the stereo field
  • Robust build quality, built to last as long as you need them to

Cons

  • 250-ohm design means, for best results, you will need a high-quality headphone amp

The beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones are a popular choice among audio professionals for mixing thanks to their impressive sound quality and comfort. These open-back headphones offer a spacious soundstage that’s crucial for mixing, whilst their detailed and transparent sound profile with a slight emphasis on the highs brings out the clarity in tracks without compromising balance.

Comfort hasn’t been overlooked either; the DT 990 Pro features soft velour ear pads and a padded headband that allows for extended mixing sessions without discomfort. If you’re looking for comfort above all else with a fantastic response and accuracy, the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is a worthy contender.


5. AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones

AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 39kHz
  • Impedance: 62 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105dB

Pros

  • Excellent treble response with revolutionary flat-wire voice coils
  • An open and wide soundstage is excellent for pinpointing instruments in the stereo field
  • Comes with a complete accessory pack including detachable straight cable and premium carry bag

Cons

  • Large headphone earcups can be uncomfortable for some users

Another industry classic that’s been around a while, the K712 Pro are among the upper-end of what AKG offer for studio-grade headphones. Designed to work with most audio interface headphone outputs or even low-powered DACs, the K712’s 60 Ohm impedance can be driven up to 105dB SPL without introducing any distortion.

At all levels, the K712 Pros are consistent in sound with only a few areas that introduce any hype. Top-end frequencies are slightly exaggerated and the ultra-low frequencies roll off as you’d expect with most open-back headphones, though that’s not taking away from its focused midrange.

AKG have done a great job at creating a wide stereo image that’s easy to get lost in for hours, pinpointing the exact aspects of a mix. For this, it’s a good job that the K712 Pros are extremely comfortable as you can listen for hours with no fatigue. An overall excellent choice that’s good for mixing a variety of genres, but I’d stay away from bass-heavy beats or EDM-style music with these.


6. Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Open Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Open Back HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic, Open
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 36kHz
  • Distortion (THD): Less than 0.2% (1 kHz, 100 dB SPL)

Pros

  • Includes licence for Dear Reality dearVR MIX-SE software
  • The input cable can be connected to either the left or right headphone
  • Comes with an additional connection cable and moulded carrying case

Cons

  • The felt-like pair of ear pads drastically changes the sound

Sennheiser have gone all-in with the HD 490 Pros. On opening the package, you’re treated to a full range of accessories that go beyond parts in a box. A luxury case, additional detachable lead, multiple earpads (though we’d recommend not using the fabric ones for critical mixing), and importantly, a copy of the Dear Reality dearVR MIX Senneheiser-version software.

Though excellent headphones with wide imaging, their midrange is not as linear as previously mentioned HD650s; the inclusion of the dearVR MIX software is what sets these apart. This software lets you virtually transform the sound of your headphones to that of an acoustically treated studio with word-class studio monitors.

In essence, this gives you the closest representation of the studio monitor sound possible with headphones, changing how you hear and interact with the music.

These headphones are perfect if you’re looking for a pair that can offer multiple sounds to reference your mix on. All things considered, you can be sure that the 490 Pros are deserving of the HD moniker.


7. beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Headphones, 80 Ohm

beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Headphones, 80 OhmSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 35kHZ
  • Distortion (THD): Less than 0.2%

Pros

  • Impedance is designed specifically for high-end studio equipment to get the best sound
  • Closed-back design provides immersive listening to pinpoint areas of a mix
  • Robust build-quality with signature comfortable soft velour earcups

Cons

  • Non-detachable or replaceable cable

Combining all the aspects of beyerdynamic design that professionals love, the DT 770 Pro boasts an immersive sound stage, huge low-end extension and comfort beyond anything else you’ve felt.

They deliver consistent performance across all frequencies with an extended bass response and stable midrange with no dips or peaks, though the treble is slightly emphasised so exercise caution with sibilant vocals or synths. These are common quirks found on most closed-backs so nothing out of the ordinary to report.

But what’s kept these headphones a staple in studios worldwide isn’t the sound but the build and comfort. Built like a tank, slightly heavier than most but extremely comfortable, the soft velour earcups feel amazing and will keep you going for hours with no issues.

What would truly round off these headphones would be a detachable cable, but if you prioritise comfort and can sacrifice a small amount of frequency bias, these headphones are for you.


8. Neumann NDH 30 Open Back Studio Headphones

Neumann NDH 30 Open Back Studio HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: 38mm Dynamic Drivers, Neodymium Magnets
  • Frequency Response: 12Hz – 34kHz
  • Distortion (THD): 03% (1kHz, 100dB SPL)

Pros

  • Excellent sound reproduction, with similar voicing to revered Neumann studio monitors
  • 120-ohm design can be powered up to 104dB SPL with most headphone amps
  • Unlike a lot of open-backs, the low-end extends down far and is nice and punchy

Cons

  • Quite a bit heavier than other headphones you may be used to, with more clamping force

The Neumann NDH 30 Open Back Studio Headphones are engineered to replicate the sound of Neumann’s KH studio monitors, calibrated with the MA 1 microphone/software system, offering a portable solution that delivers studio-quality sound.

Neumann have meticulously avoided the upper midrange and low to high-frequency hype typical in consumer audio gear, achieving a balanced and flat sound profile without the scoops or bumps that colour your mix.

Designed with a 120-ohm impedance, these headphones can be easily driven by most headphone amplifiers to high sound pressure levels, typically your audio interface will suffice here. Constructed with durability in mind, the NDH 30 features aluminium frames and a substantial metal headband, contributing to their rigidity but also adding to their weight.

While not the lightest, they offer considerable comfort and significant isolation for open-back headphones, making them suitable for extended studio sessions, albeit with a caveat regarding their weight for all-day wear.


9. SubZero SZ-MH200 Monitoring Headphones

SubZero SZ-MH200 Monitoring HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Driver Size: 53mm
  • Impedance: 60 Ohm
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz

Pros

  • Very comfortable headband design that will contour to any head shape or size
  • A long 3m cable is ideal for connecting to devices in large studios
  • Excellent isolation for a direct sound to pinpoint parts of your mix

Cons

  • Not the flattest frequency response for mixing

The most inexpensive entry in the lineup, the SubZero SZ-MH200 Monitoring Headphones pack quite a punch. Their closed-back design effectively minimises all outside leakage and interference, so even in untreated studios or home studio setups, these headphones will perform at their best.

The low 60-ohm impedance is perfect for being driven by any quality headphone amp from your interface and can drive up to 94 dB with no distortion across the full 20Hz – 20kHz range. They don’t extend beyond the human hearing range but are comfortable in the range they occupy.

Surprisingly not muddy or boomy and with a crisp high-end, they’re a good option for mixing at an entry-level price point. What stands out to me is their build quality. Despite being on the budget-friendly side, they don’t feel cheap.

The inclusion of a 3.5mm jack and a 6.3mm adapter is a thoughtful touch, catering to various audio equipment needs. However, they might not satisfy the most discerning audiophiles seeking absolute accuracy in sound reproduction.


10. AIAIAI TMA-2 Pro Range – Studio Preset

AIAIAI TMA-2 Pro Range - Studio PresetSpecifications

  • Diaphragm Material: Bio-cellulose
  • Magnet Type: High-grade Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40kHz

Pros

  • Innovative modular design lets you upgrade and customise over time
  • Lightweight but sturdy build quality
  • Balanced frequency response without fatiguing sound

Cons

  • Imbalance between left and right channels in the low frequencies

The AIAIAI TMA-2 studio headphones boast a unique reusable design ethos that allows for easy replacement and repair of parts, setting them apart in the market. Though extremely lightweight, they feel robust and durable whilst still maintaining comfort during long mixing sessions thanks to the Alcantara over-ear cushions.

Utilising bio-cellulose driver technology, they deliver a distortion-free maximum SPL of 113dB and with a low impedance of 32 ohms, can be driven by headphone amps and portable devices for referencing purposes. Even at high volumes, the TMA-2’s closed-back design effectively eliminates leakages well, letting you use them in non-treated studios for improved isolation of your mix.

With a relatively flat full-range frequency response, these headphones are more than suitable for mixing applications, revealing subtle details and offering excellent stereo separation.

Despite their lightweight design, they pack a punch, maintaining clarity even at high volumes. They don’t colour the sound in a very noticeable way, with subtle hints towards low-end bias and a slight pullback of the upper mids, meaning that mixing multiple genres and styles should be achievable with these headphones.


11. Audio Technica ATH-M40x Professional Monitor Headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M40x Professional Monitor HeadphonesSpecifications

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic, Neodymium Magnets
  • Voice Coil: Copper-clad aluminium wire
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 24kHz

Pros

  • Supplied with detachable straight and coiled cables
  • Excellent sound reproduction on a budget
  • The folding design makes them easy to store

Cons

  • Poor isolation for a closed-back design

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones have a clear sound quality at an attractive price. Their 40mm dynamic drivers deliver a subdued bass response, ideal for producers seeking studio-friendly features on a budget. The ear pads, while not premium, provide a comfortable clamping force, allowing prolonged use. However, be prepared for some sound leakage due to poor isolation.

The package includes two three-metre-long 3.5mm audio cables (one straight, one coiled), a 1/4-inch adapter, and a drawstring pouch. A proprietary locking mechanism ensures cable security, though replacements might be pricier.

With a 35-ohm impedance and high sensitivity, the M40x is easily driven by all headphone outputs, including low-powered devices, making it ideal for use with most audio interfaces or mixing desks.

The headphones’ tonal response, or W-curve, subtly alters the sound of mid-band content and reduces the crunch of distorted guitars and synth lines.

The boosted treble adds a perceived detail, emphasising overtones on most instruments. This, along with the 3kHz scoop, may affect snare translation. While lacking in soundstage due to their closed-back design, their balanced sound will satisfy most producers and musicians.

What are monitoring headphones?

Monitoring headphones are essential for musicians and producers and are designed to deliver the most accurate audio possible. Unlike your everyday listening headphones, which often enhance certain frequencies to make music sound more appealing, monitoring headphones strive for purity and precision. This means they don’t favour any part of the frequency range, offering a flat, neutral sound.

The level of detail they offer is crucial for mixing and mastering as it allows you to hear every nuance of your audio, enabling your music to translate to other playback systems, from car stereos to live PA speakers.

Open back vs. closed back

The type of headphones you choose can really impact your listening, mixing, and monitoring experience.

For mixing, open-back and closed-back headphones offer a noticeably different listening experience due to their designs. Where open-back headphones feature air gaps in the back of the earcup, closed-back creates a vacuum between your head and the cup.

Producing a more natural profile, the open-back design closely mirrors the sound and spaciousness of listening through studio monitors. However, they should only be used in treated studio spaces as sound not only leaks out but can also bleed in, interrupting your critical listening when mixing.

The isolation of closed-back headphones effectively eliminates outside noise from your listening, creating a more immersive listening experience. This isolation improves the stereo field and enhances the bass response, making them a preferred choice for tracking and mixing in noisy environments, however can be fatiguing after long listening sessions.

Shure SRH840A on a studio desk

Things to consider when buying headphones for mixing

The type of headphones you need

When selecting headphones for mixing and mastering, you need to decide which type is the most suitable.

As discussed, closed-back headphones offer a sealed environment, preventing sound leakage and ensuring external noise isolation, which is ideal for recording. However, for mixing and mastering, open-back headphones are preferred due to their ability to provide a more natural and spacious soundstage, closely mirroring the acoustics of a room.

This feature makes them invaluable for critical listening tasks, where accuracy in sound reproduction is crucial. It’s essential to choose based on your specific needs, bearing in mind the environment and purpose of use.


Frequency response

The frequency response of headphones is a critical factor to consider for mixing and mastering. A flat, full-range frequency response ensures that the headphones do not colour the sound, allowing you to hear the mix as it is. This accuracy is crucial for making informed decisions about the balance and EQ of your tracks.

Headphones with exaggerated bass or treble can mislead your mixing choices, leading to mixes that might not translate well on other playback systems. For the most accurate monitoring, look for headphones that offer a neutral frequency response and provide a true representation of your music.


Brand

The brand of headphones can often be a testament to quality and reliability. Renowned brands in the studio world, such as Shure, have a history of crafting premium-quality headphones that stand the test of time.

Different brands have distinct approaches to earband design, material use, and acoustic engineering, influencing how the headphones fit and feel during extended mixing sessions. Comfort and build quality are paramount, as mixing and mastering require long periods of critical listening.

Trying on multiple different brands and models can guide you to headphones that complement your mixing workflow and comfort preferences.


Budget

It’s important to balance cost with quality; investing in a higher-priced pair often results in superior sound quality and comfort, crucial for long mixing sessions. High-quality headphones can be a one-time investment, providing the detailed and accurate sound needed for professional mixing. However, there are brands out there that provide lower-priced headphones that are still of high quality.

As your skills in critical listening and mixing develop, having a pair of reliable, high-fidelity headphones means you won’t need to upgrade in the near future. Therefore, prioritise quality within your budget to ensure that your headphones grow with you as your mixing capabilities evolve.

The best software for mixing with headphones

dearVR MixMixing with headphones brings unique challenges compared to mixing with studio monitors. They can feel isolated, lacking the spatial cues you get from a studio and the acoustics and, therefore, making it hard to judge depth and width in a mix.

Software like Dear Reality dearVR Mix is the best solution for mixing with headphones, addressing these common challenges.

Imagine being able to transform your headphones into a virtual mixing room with the acoustics of a professional studio at your fingertips. Well, with dearVR mix, you can!

Using incredibly advanced spatial audio technology, a 3D environment is created inside your headphones, making it feel like you’re mixing in a high-end studio. So, you get a more accurate sense of how your mix will sound in the real world, without having to leave your desk.

You can choose different virtual mixing environments, tailoring them to match your needs. From tight and dry to something more vibey, there’s plenty of customisation available.

Whatever headphones you buy, dearVR Mix uses Spatial Headphone Compensation and supports 50 different headphone models, fine-tuning the output to compensate for the unique frequency response of individual headphone models. It’s simply a must-have for achieving reliable mixes that translate to any system.

You can be 100% sure that your mix will translate to any system, using the “check” scenarios. Ranging from home theatre to club speaker systems and even car speakers, the last step in finalising your mix can be done without ever needing to leave your creative space.

FAQs

What kind of headphones should I use for mixing?

For mixing, open-back headphones are preferred to closed-back. Open-back headphones offer a more accurate sound and improved soundstage. Popular choices include models like the Shure SRH1840, Sennheiser HD650, and beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, all known for their precision in sound reproduction.


Can you use normal headphones for mixing?

Normal consumer headphones should not be used for mixing. They often enhance certain frequencies including bass and treble, making it difficult to mix accurately with them. Studio headphones should be used instead as they produce a balanced sound across all frequencies for precise monitoring.


Is it better to mix on headphones or speakers?

Mixing on headphones offers more intimacy than speakers, making them good for fine-tuning the details of a mix. The proximity of headphones to your ears over speakers highlights quieter sounds, making it easier to identify issues and correct them in a mix.

Final thoughts

There’s plenty to consider when looking for the best headphones for mixing but hopefully, after this article, you’ll be much more confident making a purchase. It all comes down to finding a pair of headphones that sound neutral to your hearing with good imaging, the rest of the features and included accessories should be what you consider next.

There’s plenty of choice on the market – but that can be overwhelming, so use this list as a guide to find what’s going to work for you and help you make better-sounding music!

 

Content Writer - High Tech

I'm an experienced content editor and copywriter with a passion for music and technology. When I'm not writing engaging blogs or comprehensive product descriptions, I spend my time working with bands and musicians as a producer and mixing/mastering engineer.

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