And especially if you don't have a perfectly acoustically optimised room, good headphones are your only option to mix your track properly.
There are many different headphones on the market, so it can be difficult to know which are the best for music production. That's why we've put together a list of the eight best headphones for music production, based on our own experience and research.
But the first thing you have to ask yourself is what kind of headphones you really need. There are basically 2 types: open and closed. There is also the semi-open variant, which is exactly in between, but we will neglect that for the time being for the sake of simplicity.
- Open headphones: With this type of headphones, the housing is perforated and thus permeable to air. This naturally allows more sound to escape and you perceive more of the external environment yourself when you have the headphones on. This makes the sound very transparent and relatively similar to loudspeakers. Therefore, such headphones are very suitable for mixing and mastering, but not very good for recording, because the sound of the headphones would be heard too strongly through the microphone (bleeding).
- Closed headphones: Here, the housing is not perforated and is correspondingly heavier than with open headphones. The wearing comfort is therefore lower. However, the sound penetrates much less to the outside and you hear very little of the external environment yourself. But since the sound cannot penetrate to the outside, the same thing happens with such headphones as with the untreated corners in a room: the low frequencies are emphasised much more. This makes such headphones less transparent than open headphones and not particularly suitable for mixing and mastering. For recording, however, they are very suitable because the sound does not reach the microphone.
Beyerynamic DT-1990 Pro: Best over-ear headphones for mixing and mastering under €500
I have been using these open-back headphones for a short time and I can tell you one thing: they are worth every Euro! They are incredibly transparent and yet very rich in bass and treble. I have heard high frequencies thanks to these headphones that I never heard with other headphones or speakers.
And they are also very comfortable: sometimes I work with them at home for 4-5 hours at a stretch, without big breaks, and my ears don't get tired.
However, if you are looking for closed-back headphones, I highly recommend the DT-1770 from Beyerdynamic. They are almost as transparent as the DT-1990, but closed, therefore better suited for recordings.
Sennheiser HD 800s: Best Over-Ear Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
The Sennheiser HD 800s is one of the best headphones on the market and is perfect for music production. They have a wide frequency response and deliver a detailed, precise sound. They are also very comfortable to wear over a long period of time and look good too.
The only downside to the HD 800s is their price. They're the most expensive headphones on our list, but they're worth every penny. If you can afford it, we highly recommend the HD 800s.
A cheaper alternative from Sennheiser are the HD-650, which also sound very good and are incredibly comfortable to wear, but only cost 375€.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro: Best open-back over-ear headphones under 150€
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are a great budget option for music production. While they don't have the same sound quality as the HD 800s or DT-1990, they are still very good headphones. They are comfortable to wear and have a relatively wide frequency response.
The DT 990 are one of the best-selling open headphones on the market, and for good reason. That would be my clear recommendation for someone who doesn't want to spend more than €150 on headphones. If you're looking for a closed headphone and not an open headphone, I'd recommend the DT-770 from Beyerdynamic.
AKG K702: Second best open over-ear headphones under €150
The AKG K-702 are another good choice for music production. They have similar sound quality to the HD 650, but are a little cheaper. They are also very comfortable to wear and look great.
The only downside of the K702 is that they don't have as wide a frequency response as the HD 650, but overall they are still an excellent choice for music production.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x: Best closed over-ear headphones under €150
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are a popular choice for music production. They are closed-back yet comfortable to wear, have a wide frequency response and deliver accurate sound. They're also very robust, so they can withstand the rigours of studio use .
The only drawback of the ATH-M50x is that it is not as detailed and accurate as the HD 800 or the K702. But overall, it's still a good choice for music production.
Superlux HD 681: Best budget headphones
The Superlux HD 681 are one of the cheapest headphones on the market. And for the 20€ they cost, they sound pretty good! If you need a second pair of headphones, or want to buy multiple headphones for big studio sessions, these are a good option.
I have 3 of them in my studio, for sessions where friends/family of the musicians are also present and want to listen in, because for them the quality of the sound is not so important.
AKG K-240: Best Hi-Fi Headphones under €60
The AKG K-240 are a good choice if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive all-rounder that still sounds pretty good. They are semi-open, so they are halfway between open and closed in terms of sound and isolation.
They are more for listening to music (or mixing/mastering), but could theoretically also be used for recording, which I would rather not recommend (because of bleeding). But the sound quality is excellent for just under 60€.
AKG K-712: Best open over-ear headphones under €200
The AKG K-712 are very good open hi-fi headphones. They are very transparent and therefore very suitable for mixing and mastering.
The detail is incredibly good and you get a very good sense of space from the mix, so the music really feels 3-dimensional. The sound is almost as good as the DT-1990 in my opinion, but costs less than half!
Headphones for music production: A detailed guide to 10 things to look out for
When it comes to music production, headphones are one of the most important tools you have, especially for amateurs without acoustically optimised rooms. Not only do they help you hear the details in your mix, but they also allow you to focus on your work and block out distractions.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right headphones for music production. In this guide, we'll look at 9 things to consider when making your decision.
- Frequency response
- Sound quality
- Cable length
The frequency response of headphones is the range of frequencies they can reproduce. In music production, you need headphones with a wide frequency response so you can hear all the details in your mix.
Sound quality is important with any type of headphones, but it's especially important with music production headphones. You should make sure that the headphones you choose have a clear and precise sound so that you can make the best decisions for your mix.
For recording, however, it is not so important to have such a transparent sound; sound isolation is more important.
When you work in the studio, you wear your headphones for long periods of time. Therefore, it is important that you choose headphones that are comfortable to wear. Look for headphones with soft ear cushions and an adjustable headband so you can wear them for hours without them being uncomfortable.
The design of a headphone can affect its sound quality. For example, open headphones have a more natural sound, while closed headphones offer better noise isolation. When choosing headphones for music production, it is important to think about the sound you want and choose the design accordingly.
Music production headphones need to be robust enough to withstand regular use in the studio. Look for headphones that are made of high-quality materials and have a solid construction. This way you can be sure that your headphones will last for years.
If you want to take your headphones with you on trips or to different studios, it's important to choose headphones that are easy to carry. Look for headphones that come with a carrying case or that fold up for easy storage in your bag.
The length of the headphone cable can be important depending on how you plan to use them. If you're using the headphones in the studio, a longer cable will give you more flexibility when you move around. If you're using them while travelling, a shorter cable is easier to pack.
Music production headphones have a wide price range, from budget options to high-end models. It's important to find a pair that fits your needs and budget. If you're just starting out, go for a cheaper model so you can upgrade later as your needs change.
When investing in headphones for music production, it's important to choose a pair that come with a warranty. That way, you're covered if something happens to the headphones. Look for headphones that have at least a one-year warranty so you can rely on them.
There are many great headphones on the market, but the eight headphones on our list are the best of the best (in my opinion). If you're looking for headphones for music production, we highly recommend any of the headphones on our list.
What is also highly recommended is a visit to a music shop to try out and compare all the headphones. This is the only way to find the best headphones for you. At Music Store in Cologne for example, you can try out almost all the models in a large room. That really helped me a lot with my choice.
Whichever pair you choose, you're sure to be happy with your purchase.