Top 6 best headphones for music production in 2021. As a music producer being able to critically listen to your music is extremely important. Choosing the right studio headphones can be a tough task with so many different brands and variations available, making the right choice can help out tremendously in the long run. What's most important is knowing what you're gonna be using your headphones for, and finding the right pair within your budget.
That's why we've created this guide, to bring you the best studio headphones you can possibly get in 2021. But first. we'll get into what studio headphones are, what you need to know before buying and what differentiates one pair from another.
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What Are Studio Headphones?
Studio headphones are headphones specifically created for recording, mixing and mastering music. With technology rapidly advancing the modern music producer can just get by with a laptop, some software and a pair of studio headphones. The days of having tons of equipment and studio space are over!
Studio headphones are important when it comes to critical listening, instead of listening for entertainment purposes. This is what sets studio headphones apart from regular headphones. You'll be using them mainly for music production, mixing and mastering instead of gaming, watching netflix, working out etc.
For instance, you're an electronic music producer or recording artist, and you want to produce your first track or demo. You'll need headphones that have a flat frequency response which means the sound is not altered or boosted. The sound your headphones should output is flat, clear and not artificially colored by boosting the bass or treble.
Normal headphones (aka headphones & earbuds meant for casual and entertainment purposes) aren't designed for critical listening. These headphones add a certain flavoring to the sound which makes it sound more enjoyable for the listener. Often times in the form of boosted bass and treble, causing anything to sound better than what it really is.
You, as an artist or music producer don't need headphones that alter the sound of your tracks. Instead you need professional headphones that give you an honest output of sound, with no frequency being under- or overrepresented. If your music sounds like crap on flat and honest studio headphones (or monitors), it will also sound like crap in your car, on your laptop speakers, your gym earbuds or any other audio system. In other words if you make tea, you want to taste it without any sugar added to it. You want a clear representation of what the tea tastes like.
Things To Consider When Choosing Your Studio Headphones
Now before you go out and splash your money on a pair of good looking headphones, there are a few things you need to consider before buying anything. First of all, just because a pair of headphones is labeled as "studio headphones" doesn't mean they actually are.
Headphone companies, just as any other company can be slick. Using smart tricks and marketing schemes to sell more products. It's the same with the soda industry. Just because a product might have "Zero sugar" on the box, doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you. With headphones, just because the word "Studio" is involved, doesn't mean it is actually suited for mixing, mastering or music production.
Closed-Back or Open-Back
Now comfort is another aspect you might wanna look into before you buy. There are primarily two types of headphone cups. These are labeled as "Closed-Back" and "Open-Back". Both types are very different from one another.
What are Closed-Back headphones?
Closed-back headphones completely close off your ears. The cups, usually made out of foam or leather go over your ears and rest on your head. Closed-back headphones are usually more suited for longer sessions as they won't irritate or hurt your ear shells. Most studio headphones are therefore closed-back.
[caption id="attachment_36750" align="alignnone" width="600"] The cups go over your ears[/caption]
What are Open-Back headphones?
Open-back headphones have ear cups that aren't closed off. These cups rest on the ear shells, causing some of the sound to escape to the outside world.
[caption id="attachment_36751" align="alignnone" width="600"] Open back headphones rest on your ears[/caption]
This might affect the way your headphones are going to sound like. Closed-back headphones isolate the sound by closing off your ear. This will also provide comfort for your ears when having the headphones on your head for many hours in the studio. Another benefit of closed-back headphone cups, is that outside noises will be kept out and people won't be able to hear what you're listening to. Bass frequencies might be more present, but the sound will be much more focused and concentrated. This makes closed-back headphones perfect for music production.
Open-back headphones, however, have quite the opposite effect. Your music will leak in and out of the headphone cups. This means, in a noisy environment such as with public transportation, noises will creep into your ears and people will be able to hear what you're listening to. In a studio environment, open-back headphones can be quite good, and sometimes even sound better than closed-back headphones. This is because, with the headphone cups not completely shutting off your ears, the sound will be more natural.
There are also Semi-Open headphones that are a mix between the two, but these are nor recommended because sound will leak.
Which type of headphone cups to choose, is up to you. It all comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer closed-back due to it's comfort, while other may prefer open-back for being lighter and having a more airy sound. Overall closed-back is recommended for recording live instruments such as guitars and vocals. Open-back is recommended for working in quiet spaces when producing music or mixing/mastering and being able to hear the slightest sounds in your mix.
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Spend within your budget
As with any type of studio gear, the major deciding factor when it comes to choosing the right pair of headphones for music production is always going to be your budget. While studio and pro-audio headphones are going to have a bit of a higher price tag compared to normal headphones, if this is your first time purchasing studio headphones, we'd recommend not spending too much right away. Generally speaking, you will notice differences in quality around every $100-$150. If your currently using something within the $150 budget and you want to upgrade, go for something in the $250-$350 price range to make a significant difference in quality.
Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO
The DT 770 are great studio headphones with a neutral sound coming out of the closed-back cups. These headphones deliver a well balanced audio reproduction with a flawless mid-range and an amazing bass that doesn't overwhelm other instruments and/or vocals.
Sennheiser HD280 PRO
The HD280 from Sennheiser, are purely made for neutral listening. You won't be using these headphones for entertainment purposes. The headphones produce a perfectly balanced sound with great bass, mid, and treble ranges. However, instruments and vocals may suffer a little because of shortcomings in detail and overall clarity. This becomes more notable when compared to other music production headphones such as the DT 770 and ATH-M50X. However, the HD280 PRO are available for just $99.99 making them the perfect pick for your first pair of music production headpones.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X are on of the most used headphones among music producers. They're praised for having extraordinary reproduction of the bass, mid and treble range. What also makes this pair of headphones great, are their durability and build quality. They can last for a very long time and can withstand excessive use in any environment. One thing to note is that due to the studio design, the headphones only offer passive isolation from ambient sounds without audio controls. This makes it a little harder to work in loud environments.
Sennheiser HD 25
While the Sennheiser HD 25 might be known to be an industry standard DJ headphone, this pair will also get the job done in the studio. If you're looking for headphones that are durable, versatile and light-weight you have found the perfect match. Because of it's light weight the Sennheiser HD 25 can be worn for longer periods while remaining comfortable. This also allows for using the pair for entertainment purposes.
These legendary studio headphones might feel a little flimsy at first but make no mistake, they sound absolutely fantastic. The bass response is insane which makes working with bass or 808 heavy tracks a real treat. The mids sound clear as day on both vocal and acoustic guitar recording while the highs remain crisp and well behaved.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
In short, the DT 990 PRO are basically an open-back variant of the DT 770 PRO headphones and the two pairs look very similar in terms of design. They might not look very stylish at first glance, but make up for it in comfortability. Similar to its little brother the DT 770, these studio headphones can be worn for long hours without any discomfort. When it comes down to sound quality, the DT990 PRO are very well balanced having a wide soundstage and good stereo separation.