We might refer to headphones as unsung heroes of the recording studio. They have more than one use, and they are expected to perform in all of them. Singers need them, and musicians need them if they are recording together.
If you are trying to mix or master, you can’t do without them. And what about plain and simple playback not using monitors? Finding the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording is vital.
Professional studios usually use a variety of two different types of headphones. Closed-back ones are often used for putting down tracks. Open-back ones are often used for mixing.
- 1 Top 8 Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording to Purchase in 2021 Reviews
- 1.1 1 Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO – Best Over Ear Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.2 2 Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – Best Lightweight Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.3 3 Sennheiser HD 650 – Best Premium Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.4 4 Sennheiser HD 800 S – Best Professional Grade Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.5 5 Samson SR850 – Best Budget Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.6 6 AKG K701 – Best Wide Frequency Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.7 7 Sony MDR7506 – Best Value for the Money Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 1.8 8 Shure SRH1540 – Most Durable Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- 2 Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording Buying Guide
- 3 Looking for more great Home Recording Headphones?
- 4 What are the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording?
Are they different from regular headphones?
By a long way. Consumer headphones usually add a bit of bass and sweeten the top end to make them sound nice. The best studio, or monitor, headphones do the opposite.
They are designed to produce a flat sound with no boosts or sweeteners. Furthermore, they are designed so you can hear the track in a pure state with nothing added. They should have a wide and flat frequency response that will deliver an unaltered sound. And this should be consistent across the high, mid, and low frequencies.
Recording at home…
So many people can now record at home. Sometimes for fun, but these days it can be a little more serious. And as we set up our studio at home, we think about what software, what computer, do we need plugins?
And what about the microphones we might need, even probably keyboards and other instruments. But how much time do we spend considering the unsung hero? The headphones.
If you are like most people, it wasn’t long at all. How can you function without a good set of headphones? The simple answer to that is you can. But the results will be poor. Most people don’t even realize until someone says listen to these. There is usually no comparison between them and what you are probably currently using.
What to buy? How much to Spend?
The second question is answered by how much you have available to spend. These days you haven’t got to sell the house to buy what you see in the professional studio. But, they are out of reach and probably wouldn’t be suitable for working at home anyway.
That said, you can get some great headphones from some excellent manufacturers. But remember, we are talking about home recording. We are not talking about the absolute pinnacle of the headphone world.
So, let’s find a quality pair of headphones for your home recording set up, starting with the…
Top 8 Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording to Purchase in 2021 Reviews
1 Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO – Best Over Ear Studio Headphones for Home Recording
Beyerdynamic is a manufacturer of upmarket microphones, audio equipment, and of course, headphones. Founded in Germany in 1924, they are still a family-owned business. And they are still recognized as one of the top manufacturers in the world.
A classic design…
The DT series of headphones have been around for a while. They first arrived in the 1980s, and in that time, they have built up a formidable reputation. The three-dimensional sound, wide stereo image, and tonal depth have made them a popular option. Beyerdynamic is very proud of the DT990, and with good reason.
They have an over-ear design, shutting out most of the background noises, making them ideal for studio work. Additionally, they are soft as well as comfortable to wear for long periods.
They are mostly plastic in construction which makes them lightweight. It is a good quality polymer plastic, so there is no need for concern about durability. The headband has a metal spring steel base that has a faux leather covering. This is designed to be flexible so you can get a firm but not too tight grip. The arms that hold the earpieces are also metal.
The cable is attached to only one earcup, which allows you to take them off regularly without getting tangled up.
The earpads have soft padding covered in velour that makes them extremely comfortable to wear. The velour pads can be replaced if necessary.
They feel very light to the touch. Having phones that are too heavy does cause a comfort issue with lengthy use. Fortunately, these are some of the most comfortable studio headphones for home recording you can buy.
They do provide a little bit of a ‘V’ curve on the sound graph, which is quite surprising. The top and bottom then are quite pronounced, with the mids not quite so. Not something that is going to disturb the sound balance. But it is noticeable how the bass can be at the front of the sound.
Likewise, when you push up the volume, the higher frequencies can become slightly sharp in the ear. Having commented on a couple of what are minor infractions, they are good headphones. After all, they’ve been around a long time, and they are still here.
A great all-rounder…
You will need a little bit of power, though, as these are 250 ohms. Without sufficient power, they will be very quiet. Made in Germany, they are a good buy at a very attractive price.
Need more info? Then take a look at our in-depth Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Review.
- Well-made, lightweight, with plenty of comforts.
- A wide stereo image and great tonal depth at a nice price point.
- 250 ohms can make them quiet to use.
2 Audio-Technica ATH-R70x – Best Lightweight Studio Headphones for Home Recording
We have become familiar with products from Audio-Technica. They produce some good quality equipment, especially headphones, at cost-effective prices.
A Japanese company established in 1962, they had a modest start producing phono cartridges from an apartment. But they have grown in a relatively short time to become a company respected for the quality of what they produce, especially their headphones. The M50X is recognized for its excellence and has raised a few eyebrows amongst those in the know.
Before the ATH-R70 range was released, Audio-Technica produced closed-back headphones. This is one of the earliest examples of their open-back designs. They have stepped outside of what we might call “the norm” with the way they look.
One thing in the design that is important, though, is the weight of the headphones. They weigh in at just 210 grams, making them almost featherweights.
The headband frame is an interesting design. The earpieces are connected by a semi-circular metal frame rather than by the usual headband. This frame doesn’t make contact with your head. Though underneath it is the padded headband which does and gives the headphones their stability.
These are padded with soft, breathable materials giving plenty of comfort. They are also very durable and are going to last a long time. The earpieces themselves are made from a carbon composite resin, giving them plenty of structural security.
On the outside is a honeycomb-style mesh that is made from aluminum. These are acoustically transparent and provide natural, uncluttered open-back sound.
They have ensured you get an accurate and extended response for the high frequencies. This by using high-efficiency magnets and a circuit design made from a pure alloy. This also helps to reduce distortion.
The sound at the top is quite mellow. They have redefined the balance of the frequencies with this range of headphones. The low frequencies are quite prominent, though. But they don’t envelope the mids, which are easy to hear.
Not a cheap option by some standards, but a good choice for those who want a pair of the best open-back studio headphones around.
- Very solid and lightweight construction.
- Very comfortable to wear with an open-back design.
- Mids are a bit quieter than some will want.
3 Sennheiser HD 650 – Best Premium Studio Headphones for Home Recording
Let’s move on to one of the masters of headphone manufacture. Founded in 1945 in Germany, they have become one of the most important manufacturers of audio equipment.
Their headphones and microphones are used in top studios all around the world. This is their Sennheiser HD 650 open-back headphone. It’s not a new set, it’s been around a while, but it is still highly thought of.
Sennheiser doesn’t build their headphones to look good. They are more interested in the sound. Having said that, these have a style that says “professional,” and they have a solid look about them.
They are made from a combination of grey metal and plastic. All the joints are secure and can withstand heavy usage. One huge plus point for this set of headphones is that all the parts are replaceable. As a result, these are some of the best long lasting studio headphones for home recording on the market.
The fully adjustable headband is made from sprung steel, which allows it to flex to fit. The inside of the headband is well padded for comfort. The earpiece has a metal grille.
The Connecting Cable
Sennheiser, in the search for excellence, has even spent time on this cable. It is detachable and is made from Kevlar-reinforced OFC copper. This is very conductive, and the design creates very low-handling noise as well as stability.
Sennheiser headphones are usually comfortable and very functional. But it is the sound where their points are earned. So it is with this set.
There is no boost at the top end. Some presence, but that is about all. The bass, not loud and brash, but well-defined and quite laid back. Certainly doesn’t dominate the sound at all.
The Mids Shine…
This allows the mids to shine, which is what they do. Some headphones lose this area of their frequencies. But it is a vital area. The vocals, the snare, guitar, they all live here. How can you work with them if you can’t hear them properly or cleanly?
These are a great set of headphones and must be considered as one of the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording. They do have a high impedance rating. So you need plenty of power to be able to drive them, or they will be very quiet.
Quality comes at a cost…
Well-built, great quality. This is a set of headphones that you may never have to replace. Not a cheap option, of course, but they are a very good choice.
- High-quality build using good materials.
- Typical excellent Sennheiser sound.
- Some may be put off by the price.
4 Sennheiser HD 800 S – Best Professional Grade Studio Headphones for Home Recording
If you want to push the boat out, you can take a look at these. Staying with Sennheiser, these are a set of phones that in some circles are the benchmark. They have been around now for over ten years. They are the standard by which other sets of headphones are judged.
Sennheiser makes a range of very good headphones. Some of them fall into the price bracket that most can afford. But then you get these. The 800 series take the standards to a higher level. Some might even say they are one of the best headphones you can buy.
Sennheiser is not famous for flamboyance or rushes of blood to the head in their designs. The look of these headphones isn’t either of those things. They exude some style; you might almost say design chic. The black and silver give them a very professional look that says, “let’s go to work.”
They are made from high-quality polymer plastic, making them strong but also lightweight. The headband is flexible and gives a comfortable feel. It is made from several layers of polymer plastic. That helps to remove any vibrations.
The earcups are nicely designed and well-padded with ear cushions that are quite luxurious to the touch. They are given an interesting ‘D’ shape design on the inside. This allows them to accommodate all sizes of ears, which makes them some of the best fitting studio headphones for home recording on the market.
But what about the sound?
We heard them described as staggering. Couldn’t argue with that. You get the feeling you are sitting in the midst of what is going on around you. The soundstage feels wide and spacious. The imaging is precise.
The highs are crisp, the lows resonant, and the mids holding everything together. If you are expecting big sounds and boosts, you won’t find them here. Just natural quality. Nothing is overdone in the sound department at all. Frankly, they are the best studio mixing headphones for home recording currently available.
The comfort level is just as good as all the other areas we have considered. Lightweight at 330 grams, they do not clamp too tight on your ears. All-day listening with these is not a problem.
Are they good? Of course, they are. For the price you have to pay, you would expect them to be. But this good? This is something else.
- Superlative in design and quality of the build.
- A sound that is going to be hard to beat.
- The price will scare a few away.
5 Samson SR850 – Best Budget Studio Headphones for Home Recording
Samson is somewhat a newcomer to the industry. Established in 1980, they have grown considerably. They now include Hartke amplifiers as part of their conglomerate.
The Samson SR850 is what you might call a budget range set of headphones. We all can’t afford top-of-the-range headphones. Samson and others like them fill the gap and give us well-made, cost-effective products.
They are an over-ear semi-open-back design with an adjustable headband. Some prefer over-ear, semi-open phones because they can give a wider soundstage. The earcups are quite nicely padded with velour, and there is a mesh grille.
They have some large 50mm neodymium drivers with rare earth magnets. These will give you a good dynamic range and a 10Hz–30kHz frequency response.
When you are producing headphones on a budget, there have to be a few corners cut. It can either be in sound quality or comfort and fit.
It is probably the latter with these headphones. We wouldn’t say they are uncomfortable. What we would say is that after a few hours, you will know you are wearing them.
This is where they haven’t cut away too much. They are quite impressive for budget-range headphones. Certainly able to compete with some that are more expensive. If you are after some of the most affordable studio headphones for home recording, these will fit the bill.
The bass is warm and not overpowering, and the mids very present. The top-end may not be as sharp and clean as some, but that is us finding fault a little bit.
At this price point, the sound is very good indeed. Some would argue if you are going to cut corners, then Samson has done it the right way. We would agree. With a good quality build and a decent sound, Samson has done well. If you are on a tight budget, it is easy to recommend these.
- Good sound with an impressive frequency response and wide soundstage.
- Good value for money.
- The Comfort level is not so good for long sessions.
6 AKG K701 – Best Wide Frequency Studio Headphones for Home Recording
Let’s move onto another legend of the recording studio age. AKG was once one of the big noises in microphones. Those original models still are, as are one or two of the later models. With headphones, they are prominent but possibly not as revered as those early mics.
A legendary history…
Founded in Vienna, Austria, in 1947, they grew quickly with outstanding products. Developed the first Cardioid mic and were listed on the Vienna stock exchange. Bought out by Harman, who themselves are owned by Samsung, Vienna was closed down.
Everything moved to California. These days most of the products are assembled in China. A few ex-AKG employees have set up their own rival company in Austria. It could be interesting to see what Austrian Audio produces.
The AKG 701…
These are a set of phones that AKG has made for over ten years. They look quite bulky but are still quite lightweight. But we could hardly call them visually attractive. They have been around a long time and are still popular. So, they must do something well. Let’s find out what.
Nothing special here. They have that “arch over the headband” design. The headband itself is leather and adjustable to fit, while the earpieces themselves are rather large. They are made with soft foam padding with a velour cover and are quite comfortable to wear.
They resemble something from the past being made from plastic, despite looking like they might be metal. That makes them lightweight, if nothing else. Featuring an open-back design, this means they aren’t suitable for every environment, but they are for working in the studio.
But finally, we come to the part where they do excel. The bass frequencies are rich and clear, and the midsection is very balanced. Likewise, the highs are very good. Altogether a balanced sound with a wide frequency range.
Now we come to the reason these phones are so popular. The sound and clarity these deliver are special. They pick up every little nuance, every little trick. This makes them some of the most responsive studio headphones for home recording that you can buy.
Quality sound, but not sure on the looks?
If you are on the lookout for the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording, these are worth a look. Not cheap, and if you can get past the look of them, they are a good buy.
- Very good sounds and balance across all the frequencies.
- Comfortable to wear.
- Not the nicest looking headphones you will see.
7 Sony MDR7506 – Best Value for the Money Studio Headphones for Home Recording
I read somewhere that someone said, “Sony is not the first name you think of when talking about recording studios.” It made me wonder if he’d ever been in one. In most studios around the world, you will likely find a set of MDR 7506’s. Sony’s track record in sound reproduction is very hard to equal.
Why are the MDR 7506’s so good?
To start with, they have a closed-back design. That tends to keep the sound in and isolates it. This provides a very stable environment to hear what is going on. It also keeps external sound out.
It also means there is no leakage from microphones during recording. Therefore, these are some of the best noise isolating studio headphones for home recording out there. But it is much more than this. The MDR 7506 is a package of great ideas and designs.
They have a very rugged closed-ear design with extra-special padding around the ears. This makes them very comfortable to wear and reduces the risk of ear fatigue. The fit is secure without being too tight because of the flexibility of the headband. This also has a good amount of padding.
The earcups have a swivel design which allows you to have one ear free if you need to. They have a ten-foot cord that has a gold-plated plug. This is to ensure it doesn’t corrode and always makes good contact. The cable is not detachable. It comes with a ¼-inch adapter.
Something we don’t like?
This is one area that I don’t like. It has a coiled cable. Never been a fan of those. On the plus side, the cord is made of oxygen-free copper. Transmission of the sound then is always good.
Sony knows how to make quality equipment; they have been doing it for years. This is just another example. The quality in the manufacture is exceptional.
There is a reason they are so popular. The sound is exceptional. They have a frequency range of 10Hz to 20kHz. This makes them suitable for just about everything. The 40mm drivers and the neodymium magnets give you a detailed and powerful sound.
Sony has considered just about everything with these headphones. After use, they will fold away and go in the specially provided soft carrying case. As a result, these are some of the best closed back studio headphones for home recording you can buy.
One of the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording? More than that. One of the Best Studio Headphones for any recording, home, project, or professional studio.
For more information, check out our in-depth Sony MDR-7506 Review.
- Outstanding build quality at a great precise point.
- Great sounds that cross all the frequencies.
8 Shure SRH1540 – Most Durable Studio Headphones for Home Recording
Given the rugged build and the quality of their microphones, you would expect Shure to produce a decent set of headphones. You would be right. Our final look is at the Shure SRH1540 Premium Closed-Back Headphones.
Shure has used an aluminum aircraft-grade aluminum alloy for the yoke and a carbon fiber cap. The headband is nicely padded with extra padding in the center of the arc. The headband is fully adjustable to allow you to get a good fit.
The earpieces are also well-made using well-cushioned cups that cover your ears. Furthermore, the build is strong and durable but lightweight and made with good materials. They are ideal for a long session of use.
It has 40mm, neodymium drivers to produce a great acoustic performance. They create a wide soundstage with a wide stereo image. The closed-back design produces an accurate and wide frequency response. The sound can only be described as impressive.
There is no boost to any of the frequencies. The highs are clear and not too sharp, and the lows warm but not overpowering. The mids sit neatly in the middle. Not as audible as some but certainly not overwhelmed by the lows and highs.
An Open Sound
One very noticeable thing is that the sound is very dynamic and open. You can therefore hear what the instruments are doing very clearly. Shure has achieved a good design with great sound and built these headphones to a typically high Shure standard.
Of course, they come in quite expensive, but they are a quality product. For the quality of the sound, they are certainly worth looking at.
- Well made with good materials and Shure quality.
- Great sounding headphones with a wide soundstage.
- Some will think them expensive.
Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording Buying Guide
There are no hard and fast rules about what makes one set of headphones better for you than another. It will be down to what you personally think is best. A lot of what you will do will be through headphones, so you must get the best you can.
Closed or Open Back?
You can make a case for both designs. They both have their plus points. But for studio work, closed headphones give you isolation. There won’t be any outside sound influences to disturb you.
Closed-back headphones are better in the sense that if you are recording, what you hear will not be picked up by the mic you may be using. An important point when you might be adding vocals or an acoustic instrument. Some engineers use open-backs when they are mixing and mastering, preferring to not be totally isolated.
The appearance is not as important as the level of comfort. Again this will be a subjective issue if only for the fact we are all different in size. Try to find a set of headphones that are easily adjustable and won’t clamp your ears and head too hard.
This also is an important topic. They will be getting a lot of use. Put them on, take them off, possibly using one ear. Stresses and strains will be applied. Therefore they need to be well-built and able to handle being used frequently.
As you will have noticed, the gap between the cheapest and most expensive is vast. That is common with all headphones. If you set your budget first, deciding what you want to spend will let you eliminate those that go over your allowance. That will make choosing a little easier.
Looking for more great Home Recording Headphones?
We have those, as well as other headphones, for a variety of uses. Check out our in-depth AKG K240 Studio Review and our Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Review for awesome studio headphones you can buy in 2021.
If you need headphones for more than just studio work, take a look at our comprehensive Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review, our Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Review, our Monolith M1060 Headphone Review, our Sony WH-CH700N Review, our SteelSeries Arctis 7 Review, and our Sony WF-SP700N Review for more amazing headphones currently on the market.
What are the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording?
For us, the best studio headphones are governed by price. The Sennheiser HD 800 S is world-class, but many can not afford it. However, they are not the only set of great headphones we looked at. We are going for another world-class set of headphones that fit the budget we set.
Therefore, we would choose the…
Real quality, and given what it is capable of, a sensible price point. We will overlook the coiled cable and put up with it.
So, until next time, happy listening.