What Are Monitor Headphones, and What Do They Do?
Headphones have a wide range of uses and are used in a lot of places where they are considered a critical tool. For example an audio production house or studio where accurate listening is essential for sound mixing and editing.
Many people wonder if regular consumer headphones can be used for sound mixing. Well, you can only use it if you are just beginning the production work and want to get your hands on it first before going in-depth; or if you are working on audio/video editing just for fun. However, if you are taking up music production seriously and need to work on sound mixing for a production house, or a serious podcast. Then you will be at a disadvantage if you do not use professional-grade ‘monitor headphones’ for the production. Here are a few reasons why-
To begin with, monitor headphones, also known as studio headphones, are professional audio gears that have specific uses in a studio. Mostly used for sound mixing and editing and monitoring when a recording is going on.
Why Are They Used for the Mixing and Mastering of Audio?
Monitor headphones basically designed differently than regular ones. While a regular headphone is made for enjoyable casual listening with an enhanced bass tone that excites the music lovers with their oomph factor, a professional monitor headphone is not like that. These headphones specifically designed for reproducing sound without changing the originality of any given recording. That’s why the engineered headphones deliver precise sound with every minute detail being heard clearly whether it is the beats, the vocal notes, the instruments, or any other sound effects.
Sound ‘accuracy’ is a vital element in sound mixing and monitoring work rather than sound quality which is why these headphones have a few key qualities that make them ideal for studio use:
- Monitoring headphones have the ability to detect a wide frequency range and often an extended one that goes beyond the human hearing ability. This allows you to hear each and every little sound accurately in a full spectrum.
- These headphones also have a ‘neutral’ or a flat frequency range, meaning, unlike the consumer headsets, you will not get an enhanced bass effect in these headphones. In fact, there is no amplification or lesser emphasis at any level across the entire frequency spectrum. Rather, the sound reproduced at every frequency level- low, mid and high are of the same volume.
Quality of the Best Mixing Headphones
At this, you might be thinking, “what about the sound quality, then?” Well, the sound quality of these headphones is no less than the regular headphones. The best, In fact, the headphones with pushed-up bass may have the bass notes so powerful that, that is the only thing that you can hear in a track. This may seem satisfying when you are casually listening but not when you need to work on editing or monitoring a soundtrack.
- The best headphones for mixing have a superior build for ultimate comfort allowing you to wear them the whole day without causing discomfort to the ears. Music production work can be a lengthy process and you may need to put on the headphones for several hours. These headphones usually have a thicker headband and ear padding so it absorbs the pressure from the ears making it more comfortable and convenient.
The ear cups are usually rotating or swiveling, so you can use different sound monitoring techniques for more effectiveness.
- These types of headphones have a bigger build for added durability. Using mixing headsets for professional purposes typically for many long hours will result in more wear and tear than regular headphones. Therefore, these headphones usually incorporated with sturdier and bigger internal components including the external build. And, this is not just in the case of the cheaper models. Even the best mixing headsets from the premium shelf have a larger build when compared with the consumer ones which often have a stylish, sleek look like the Bose 700, or even the Beat range.
What Are the Functions of Mixing Headphones?
So basically, with all these specialties, what do these monitoring or studio headphones help with? These specialized headphones ensure that the sound engineers or the studio professionals get a precise and high-quality sound which allows them to record or mix the sound with superior accuracy. This helps in bringing out an excellent final presentation for the audience.
You will get loads of different options in the market but getting to the right one may require you to have a bit of technical knowledge in differentiating these headphones from the regular ones that we just covered here. We have seen the best headphones for mixing 2020, and while most of the products are still the top-rated ones from last year, there are a few new additions to the list as well. Therefore, after thorough research on the ones that have solid positive reviews and ratings from the user and professionals, we have put together in this article some of the best headphones for mixing that are available in the market today.
Without delaying further, let’s move on to the next section…
Best mixing headphones: list of some of the top headphones for mixing that you can consider, their features, and price:
Sound mixing headphones available in abundance or rather we should say that numerous headphones categorized under the studio-grade in the market. Honestly, even though some manufacturers claim their audio gears to be suitable for studio functions, they are often not exactly for this purpose or give the desired results. And, by the time you realize this, you would have already invested a big amount of money in it. This could be agonizing, right?
So that you do not get into that position again, we have compiled for you some of the best mixing headsets that have been tried, tested, and liked by different people, professionals, and headphone experts alike.
You will get the best mixing headsets in two different types- open back and closed back styles. Both these types of headsets are beneficial in their own way and depending on the kind of work you can choose which type works best for you. This list includes a mix of both types of professional headphones under different pricing points, so you have a wide array of options to choose from.
Here are the different headphones worth considering:
Focal Listen Professional Headphones: (Overall best headphones for mixing and mastering)
When it comes to production work, you obviously need headphone that is built to give you the most accurate sound reproduction, and this model from Focal Listen can be a great choice.
The headphone features closed-back over-ear style ear cups that have a compact yet comfortable fit that offers superior noise isolation ensuring that the original quality of the sound remains intact. While many professionals and sound engineers prefer open back style for a sound that is less pressurized and is spatial, these best closed back headphones model performs wonderfully in its own way.
As for the sound, it’s extremely detailed with a flat frequency response and this set provides complete control over the entire frequency spectrum. This ensures that you can hear every minute sound right from the lowest to the uppermost frequency clearly, so you can easily edit, monitor, or mix the sound.
The only little issue with the headset is that its headband has a silicon finishing which may cause you to sweat if worn for a long time but if your workplace is properly air-conditioned, then this issue may not be resolved.
Considering its acoustical transparency, this clearly stands as one of the best mixing headsets that are available in the market today. This headphone has a price tag of $299.00 which is pretty competitive when compared with some of the top-end models with similar functions.
Sennheiser HD 820 Audiophile Reference Headphones: (Best mixing headphones for high-end production work)
Sennheiser, known in the industry for a range of different studio-grade headphones appreciated by many professionals all over the world. The HD 820 is a premium offering from the company perfect for those who are into serious music production projects.
The headphone’s high-end price tag comes with some of the industry-leading top-notch features that make this one of the finest and the best headphones for mixing, monitoring, or mastering. These open-back headphones also categorized as reference-class as they help you to check flaws in other audio equipment.
The 56mm large ring radiator drivers along with the presence of the glass reflectors deliver a realistic soundscape with a wide soundstage. The hi-fidelity frequency absorber filters out all the unwanted noise thus delivering a pure sound that every audiophile prefers to hear.
The ear cups slightly angled for a better fit that comfortably forms a seal for efficient noise-cancellation giving you an uninterrupted listening experience. With a price of $1799.95, these headphones may not be for everyone but if you are working on a project that targets a huge audience, then you will be able to deliver impressive work.
All the elements like the durability, comfort, hugely extended frequency response, exceptional sound quality combined make it worth its price tag.
Sennheiser 650 Dynamic headphones: (Another best mixing headphones by Sennheiser at a lower price)
For those who like Sennheiser products but do not have a big budget for the HD 820 model, here’s a dynamic pair of professional headphones that has less than half the price of the previous one listed. Although this product comes at a comparatively lower price of $499.00, its qualities make it one of the best headphones for mixing available in the market today.
Topping the list of the best headphones for mixing 2020 or even the previous years, this one is still preferred by several production houses and sound engineers in the present day. These headphones engineered with acoustic silk transducers that have a frequency response of 10 Hz to 39 kHz delivering accurate sound across the entire spectrum.
The aluminum voice coils integrated into this audio gear maintain a balance between all the frequencies. Other than this, while you will get an undistorted sound output, if there is any modular distortion, the headphone has the ability to reduce it. The open-back design gives a spatial and natural presentation of sound.
There is no compromise on the comfort aspect either. The elliptical-shaped headphones sit comfortably around the ears and are great at eliminating the surrounding sound. The detachable cable oxygen-free copper finished cable ensures minimum handling noise and is easy to store. Since you can detach the cable from the headphones it also increases the life of both the cable and the headset.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro: (Best mixing headphones in an open-back style that work as great reference headphones too!)
DT 1990 Pro from Beyerdynamic, a premium pair of headphones packed with incredible features for high-quality performance. This model generally a reference studio headphone incorporated with 45 mm large neodymium speaker drivers that has one of the widest frequency responses of 5 Hz to 40 kHz that any headphones have in the industry.
This means that the headphone has a high-resolution and well-balanced neutral sound profile ideal for the studio functionalities. It has a prominent but well-defined bass, crisp mid-range, and clean upper range.
It also stands out in the market for its premium quality build and superior workmanship that guarantees its longevity. Additionally, it also comes with replaceable ear pads and 2 different cables (coiled and straight) so you can choose what is convenient for you. The headphones priced at $599.00 which is quite in line with the features and qualities the headphone brings to the table.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro: (Best headphones for mixing by Beyerdynamic under $200)
Here’s an alternative pair of headphones from Beyerdynamic for those who are on a tight budget. The headphone is widely popular for its high-quality sound and overall dynamic performance.
The open-back style offers less pressure on the ear and a stress-free listening experience along with transparent three-dimensional acoustics. This way you get better clarity and control over the sound for critical mixing and best results. But since the headphones have a high impedance of 250 ohms, you will need an amplifier for the most desirable results.
When it comes to the design the headset has a thickly padded headband and soft ear cup paddings for comfortable wear. The best thing about this audio gear is that it comes with replaceable parts which is an added advantage as you do not have to change the entire headset if a part of it gets damaged. This product retails at $149.99, and it’s a complete package at the most affordable cost.
The only downside about the headset is that some users point out the headband to be slightly rigid.
Sony MDR 7506 Professional Studio Headphones: (Best mixing headphones for budget buyers)
Who said you can’t get professional headphones at a cheaper price? If you are looking for one of the best headphones for mixing without having you break a bank to own it, then MDR 7506 from Sony is a great buy. Coming from one of the most credible brands, this studio-grade headphone will not disappoint you. Also, thanks to its budget-friendly price tags, you will definitely find a few of these audio gears in almost all the studios or production houses.
These closed-back headphones are extremely efficient. They have a neutral stereo soundscape unlike most of Sony’s consumer headphones which have the Sony signature bass-rich sound. The output is powerful and well-refined with clarity in every single note. Despite having a closed back, the sound doesn’t feel stressed and you can have a pleasant listening experience for as long as you want.
You can fold the headphones for easy portability and storage. The headband and the earcups have decent though padding offering comfortable all-day wear. The headphone is integrated with a 9.8 long coiled cable. While this is great in giving you little flexibility to sit relaxed instead of sticking close to the system, this also makes the overall headphone a little heavy. However, for a price of $92.00 (a studio headphone under 100 bucks), you can surely ignore this part. This can also be a great option for students who are working on college audio production projects and internees.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X: (Best mixing headphones for an incredible sonic performance)
Another very reliable brand in the audio industry, Audio-Technica offers a series of headphones for studio applications. ATH-M50X has been critically acclaimed by several professionals, musicians, and sound engineers for its exceptional acoustics.
The extended frequency response of the headphones as a result of large-aperture drivers and copper-coated aluminum voice coils provides you with a high-resolution sound offering every detail to help you with effective sound mixing and mastering.
The over-the-ear design boasts about efficiently isolating the surrounding noise allowing you to focus on your work and also maintaining the original quality of the sound. These headphones loved for their superior comfort for all-day wear and their retractable construction helps you with better storage thus ensuring durability.
The only thing about these headphones is that they have a slightly deeper bass response rather than a completely neutral profile. While this may be a bit bothersome to the critical listeners, for most, it is not that big of a deal. Plus, you are getting it at a price of $149.00 which is pocket-friendly making it one of the best headphones for mixing.
AKG K701 Reference Headphones: (Best headphones for mixing for those who have a love for the classics)
Here’s a quintessential pair from the brand that has been around for quite some time now and has a huge fan base. AKG offers amazingly high-performing headphones at very competitive pricing and K701 is one among those that particularly geared towards studio applications.
While some part of the design of the AKG K701 is taken from the vintage AKG K1000 model, these headphones have undergone a massive state-of-the-art makeover in terms of both technology and design. The headphones feature an open-back style shaped over the ears that offer effective noise isolation. The company’s patented Varimotion technology along with a flat wire voice coil incorporated into these audio gears produces hi-fidelity sound with outstanding precision.
The design paired with the overall sound profile makes it well-defined and balanced giving a pleasant, depressurized listening experience allowing you to get the best mixing and mastering results.
These ergonomically designed headphones with a flexible leather headband and 3D earpads ensure that you can confidently wear the headphones for hours without a complaint. With all these features and reliable performance, the headphones will cost you $219.97 which is well worth considering.
Shure SRH1840 professional headphones: (Another premium mixing headphone with closed back)
Shure might not be a common household name when it comes to consumer headphones but in the world of producing, it sure has a great reputation. SRH1840, a well-rounded pair of headphones engineered to offer stellar sound with a perfectly balanced sound signature that includes an accurate bass line and clean extended upper frequency. None of the levels overpower each other which makes it an ideal tool for sound mixing and monitoring.
These headphones built with high-quality materials with metallic sliders that guarantee durability and high withstanding ability against the daily stress that the headphones undergo during the producing stage. They are extremely lightweight, so you will not feel the pressure on the head or over the ears. They also have an impressively wide sound stage with great performance.
The headphone has a price tag of $499.00 which is on the higher end but if you are on look out for a good pair of headphones for extensive studio work, a headphone with this kind of capability and price is definitely worth giving a shot.
Samson SR-850 studio headphones: (Best mixing headphones at a bargain price)
While it is challenging to find a good pair of studio-grade headphones within $50 owing to the different kinds of sound engineering and internal components that they usually have, SR-850 has done a great job here. The headphones perform unbelievably well at a shockingly less price!
With 50 mm large driver apertures, the headphone delivers studio-level sound that is fuller with a wide range of frequency response. The sound is pretty detailed and dynamic. The semi-open back maintains a decent pressure level offering a balanced sound that is neither too pressurized nor excessively airy. This gives you the perfect listening experience allowing you to do your sound mixing and mastering work accurately.
While this may not be the choice of experienced studio professionals, this is a great choice for those who are under a budget constraint or for beginners who are trying their hands on the production work for the first time. The headphone will cost you just about $49.99.
Some of the other headphones that are also worth considering for studio applications, especially for mixing are:
We all know that the studio headphones provide various conveniences to the professionals during production but you should know that there are a few downsides to these headphones as well.
Here’s a quick rundown on the various pros and cons of the monitor headphones:
These headphones are super portable and easy to use when compared with the studio monitors that are big and cannot be taken along everywhere. You can literally pick them up and take them anywhere and use them for mixing on the go. Whether you visit different studios or need to analyze mixes outside the studio, or at a film shooting site, the studio headphones make things much easier.
Studio headphones are a great option if you are looking for a cost-effective way to deal with the production work. While these days you get studio monitors at a cheaper price as well, if the room you are using for sound mixing is not acoustically compatible, you will have to make changes to the room to make it suitable. For example getting a monitor stand, or a speaker calibration device at times. All these together may cost you a lot to get the desired environment.
Studio headphones, on the other hand, may cost a lot less and don’t involve any of these additional setup work. While a lot of premium studio headphones may cost you around $500 to $1000 or even more, you get some pretty good headphones at a reasonably lower cost, say at about $250 to $300 or less as well. They can work well for years.
- The studio headphones are a neighbor-friendly option too. You may need to increase the volume of the recording or the music during the production process. While using a studio monitor may bother other people in the neighborhood and you may get complaints from the people around for loud noise, headphones are personal audio equipment that will let you work freely without disturbing others.
- Using headphones can also give you a more detailed and accurate listening because the sound is closer to the ears. This will make your production work more precise and improve the quality as well.
- One of the major problems with headphones is that they cause ear fatigue very quickly. The production work may need you to wear them for several hours a day which exerts pressure on the head and the ears and may also produce heat which may lead to several other ear-related problems. Therefore, we recommend you to take breaks in between your work to reduce the stress.
- Using headphones may confine you to one place and restrict your movement which can get uncomfortable after a few hours.
- When you use headphones for several hours every day, they undergo a lot of wear and tear. While some of the best mixing headsets can last for longer hours than the others, they may still break down after a while, and you may need to invest in a new pair again. The best thing that you can do here is to get a headphone with replaceable parts which will cost you a lot less than changing the whole pair.
Various factors you need to consider before you purchase a monitor or mix headphones:
You should keep a few aspects in mind when going for shopping studio headphones:
Type of Headphone:
Studio headphones come in both open back and closed back styles where both have their own advantages. Which one you should buy depends on your preference and according to your work. However, when it comes to the overall studio applications, most professionals prefer the open-back headphones because of their transparent acoustics. The open-back design of the headphones also reduces the pressure build-up caused due to the sound vibrations by letting the air pass through the grilles or the meshes on the ear cups. These headphones sound more natural than their other counterparts.
The closed-back on the other hand offers better noise isolation as there are no openings on the earcups. Their bass output is great due to the closed design and they are particularly ideal for sound mixing and recording.
The impedance is directly related to the volume of the headphones. While headsets with low impedance need a low power source to reach higher levels of volume. The low impedance reading is usually between 16 to 32 ohms. The headphones with impedance 250 Ohms usually need a bigger power source for producing higher audio levels. You usually need a good headphone amp with such headphones for the best results that you need to make a note of.
Keeping an eye on the sound profile is always a crucial aspect in buying headphones and if it is specifically for sound mixing and monitoring, then it is even more important. The reason is you need a neutral sound presentation rather than an emphasized or a deemphasized frequency when you are mixing sound. This helps you with the better hearing of the audio enabling you to accurately work on editing a recording.
Most of the best mixing headphones that we have listed in this article have a flat frequency response and are suitable for studio applications.
Choosing Between Wired or Wireless:
Even though in a present-day scenario, most people prefer to go wireless majorly because they offer more movement flexibility to the user, the wired headphones transmit sound in a better way due to their superior data handling ability. Additionally, these headphones do not run on batteries that constantly need to be charged and there is always a possibility of battery drain out in the middle of your work. That is probably the last thing you would want when working on a project. That is why most professionals prefer to go with wired ones when it comes to studio applications. If you are looking for a pair of earphones for TV, you might want to consider a wireless one.
Both the options have their own drawbacks as well so, weighing the pros and cons of both, you can go for what works for you the best.
This aspect is paramount because audio editing may take hours to complete. Therefore, you need to go for headphones that have plush ear padding and headband padding, so you can comfortably wear them for as long as you want.
The headphones for mixing and mastering need to be selected very cautiously keeping all the vital aspects in mind. The reason is if they do not deliver the desired results, or have the qualities that a good studio headphone should have, your whole work can get ruined. Almost all the products that we have listed under the best mixing headphones list have been around for several years and have been used by several users and professionals. They also have received great reviews them which means that these headphones are definitely not going to disappoint you if you choose to pick up one of them. Most of these headphones also have a solid build quality and they can last for a really long time. You might also check our other article: Best IR Headphones.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs):
Yes, you can. Closed-back headphones are great for sound mixing as they do not leak sound ensuring to maintain the original sound quality. They also give you a quieter environment, so you can focus on every detail in the soundtrack for efficient sound mixing.
Recording needs a silent ambiance and therefore, closed-back, noise isolating headphones are the best for recording. Sound mixing can be done with both open-back and closed-back headphones depending on your preference. While closed-back headphones are great at filtering the ambient noise, the open-back counterparts give a better sound stage and a more natural or spatial sound profile.
Well, which headphone is best for you depends on which headphone works best for you. However, a good quality mixing headphone features a flat frequency response, a comfortable design, and neutral yet high-resolution sound quality.