Studio HeadphonesAnyone who has ever dabbled in music production knows the value of a good set of cans.

There is something inside all of us that says:

“I want to hear the best sound possible”

This is even more important when it comes to recording or mixing tracks in the studio.

Hence, after many hours of research, testing and discussions with my fellow sound experts, I’ve shortlisted the best studio headphones for 2020 that you can buy right now.

In A Hurry? This Is The Best:

Best Overall
OneOdio Wired Over Ear Headphones - Studio Monitor & Mixing DJ Stereo Headsets with 50mm Neodymium Drivers and 1/4 to 3.5mm Audio Jack for AMP Computer Recording Phone Piano Guitar Laptop - Black
  • BASS SOUND: Enjoy clear sound and comfort with the OneOdio Studio monitor headphones. Large, 50 millimeter speaker unit drivers combined with neodymium magnets; powerful bass, clear vocal, and crisp high tones form stereo sound
  • BUILT TO STAY COMFORTABLE: The soft padded ear cushions are designed for monitor headphones comfort and noise isolation. The headband is adjustable and stretchable for you to find the desired angle you like to fit in
  • NO MORE ADAPTER: DJ style coiled cord (9.8Ft Stretched) easily reaches from the TV or stereo to your chair. A standard-sized 6.35mm plug and a 3.5mm plug are included. They both are completely detachable, you can plug in the mixer you want to use
  • SINGLE-SIDE MONITORING: 90° swiveling ear cups for single-ear monitoring anytime; self-adjustable and flexible headband delivers a fatigue-free listening experience that can last for hours, ideal for mastering and mixing
  • Works with: iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android and many other Audio devices. Bass sound, durability, and comfort. These are the headphones you've been looking for

What you want is the best headphones possible that will get the job done.

Before we dive into it, let’s take a step back and understand that there are two type of headphones for two different purposes:

  • Closed-Back Headphones – Perfect for recording. What you want is sound isolation…you don’t want sound bleeding into the mic do you? A closed-back design prevents the sound from escaping into the outside world.
  • Open-Back Headphones – Perfect for mixing. Why? Because open-back headphones provide greater sound quality which is what you need when you’re balancing tracks, fine tuning the sound and adding effects to boost the original recording. Sound is able to go in two directions – towards your ear and outwards – creating a more realistic experience.

So now we know there are two types of studio headphones and why each one is important depending on what you want to achieve.

If you’re itching for a new pair of headphones, I’ll show you the absolute best you can buy in two sections:

I’ve summarized the findings in this table for those of you who don’t want to get dirty with all the details:

Model Noise Cancellation Weight Frequency Impedance
Best Closed-Back
1. Sennheiser HD-280 Pro Passive 285 g 8Hz – 25kHZ 64 ohms
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Passive 285 g 15Hz – 28kHZ 38 ohms
3. Sony MDR-7506 Passive 229 g 10Hz – 20kHZ 63 ohms
4. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Passive 270 g 5Hz – 35kHZ 32, 80 or 250 ohms
5. Bose QuietComfort 35 (Wireless Mode) Active 234 g N/A N/A
6. Focal Spirit Professional Passive 280 g 5Hz – 22kHZ 32 ohms
7. Shure SRH1540 Passive 286 g 5Hz – 25kHZ 46 ohms
8. V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Passive 280 g 5Hz – 30kHZ 32 ohms
9. Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 (Wireless Mode) Active 289 g 20Hz – 20kHZ N/A
10. Beats Studio Wireless (Wireless Mode) Active 260 g 20Hz – 20kHz N/A
Best Open-Back
1. Sennheiser HD 600 N/A 263 g 12Hz – 39kHz 300 ohms
2. AKG K240 N/A 236 g 15Hz – 25kHz 55 ohms
3. Sennheiser HD 598 N/A 270 g 12Hz – 38.5kHz 50 ohms
4. AKG K702 N/A 236 g 10Hz – 39.8kHz 62 ohms
5. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium N/A 249 g 5Hz – 35kHz 32, or 250 ohms
6. Grado SR8oe N/A N/A 20Hz – 20KHz 32 ohms
7. Sennheiser HD 800 S N/A 333 g 4Hz – 51KHz 300 ohms
8. Samson SR850 N/A 273 g 10Hz – 30kHz 32 ohms
9. Audio Technica ATH-AD900X N/A 265 g 5Hz – 35KHz N/A
10. Shure SRH1840 N/A 258 g 10Hz – 30kHz 65 ohms

Entries that are N/A mean that we could not confirm the information by finding it online…sorry! It will be updated once we hear back from the manufacturers.

If you’re not sure what all the terms mean like impedance or frequency, you can check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article.

Best Closed-Back Headphones 2020

As the name implies ‘closed-back’ are headphones whose cups have a hard enclosure. This means that the sound is primarily directed towards your ears instead of towards the outside world.

Music is more inside your head and less like it’s coming from a room.

The main advantage is that they isolate noise a lot better than open-back headphones, which makes them great for recording. It also means other people will have a hard time hearing what you’re listening to.

After all, who wants to hear distractions from the outside when recording a track? You also don’t want to get the sounds you’re listening to muddled up in your own recording!

Closed-back are extremely popular because their applications also stem outside the studio. You will find many people (ourselves included) use closed-back headphones for gaming and multimedia usage as they keep outside disturbances to a minimum whilst offering a good level of immersion.

From the cream of the crop, these are the top ten that I recommend.

Best budget headphone (closed-back)

Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model)
  • Dynamic, closed ear headphones.Weight w/o cable: 285 gram Ear coupling...
  • Lightweight and comfortable, ergonomic design, Cord Length 3.3 9.8...
  • Extended frequency response and warm, natural sound reproduction....
  • Around the ear design with padded ear cups Dynamic, closed ear...
  • Ear pads, headband padding, and audio cord are easily replaceable,...

The popular German audio company Sennheiser has been around since 1945 and they know what it takes to make top of the line headphones.

The HD 280 Pro leans on the affordable side of the spectrum and provides a balanced and flat sound representation. So, why have we placed them first on our list? It really comes down to two things – sound and sound isolation.

In our testing we could not find any sound coloration. It’s a perfectly neutral sounding headphone that treats the lows, mids and highs all equally. Fantastically analytical, this headphone is a great budget entry for a studio environment. They also have an attenuation of up to 32dB which means they are great at keeping noise out as well as keeping it in.

The sound is fantastic, but at this price range not everything can be perfect. We found that the headbands had a strong initial clamping force causing some discomfort – even with the ample padding on the cups and headband. It’ll take a week or so for these to loosen up.

On top of that, they aren’t the most attractive headphones we’ve seen. It’s a plain black color and primarily made from plastic. However; it’s a thick plastic that feels and looks tough resulting in a lightweight and durable piece of kit.

These headphones have been super popular since their inception way back in 2003, and it’s easy to see why. Quality sound production and isolation meets durable design. Considering the two digit price tag, you really couldn’t ask for anything more.

It’s a perfect tool for recording or for anyone looking for a great pair of headphones, and it’s also extremely well priced. It deserves a number 1 spot here.

  • Excellent noise isolation
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Light Weight
  • Durable thick plastic design
  • Great value for the price
  • Folds for portability
  • Not the best looking headphones
  • Initial clamping may bother some wearers but will loosen up
  • Fixed cable

Best closed-back headphone under $200

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor...
  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers...
  • Proprietary 45 millimeter large aperture drivers with rare earth...
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep,...
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound...
  • 90 degree swiveling earcups for easy, one ear monitoring, and...

If you could measure the value of sound against the value of money, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x provides the best bang for your buck. Head and shoulders above the competition, it produces the best sound for a sub $200 product.

And it’s not just us who are saying this. Reading reviews across the web from sites like head-fi, cnet and rtings confirms a unanimous love for the ATH-M50x. Let’s delve into it.

Soundwise, it’s hard to fault. The sound is accurate amongst the lows, mids and highs with a tight bass to boot. Truthfully, there is a little bit of variation in the highs and a little downplay in the bass, but on the whole they clinically provide an accurate representation of pretty much any soundscape.

Whereas the Sennheiser HD280’s provide a more flat response, the M50x injects more character into the sound making it funner to listen to but still within the bounds of critical listening.

Why recommend these over the slightly cheaper M50? Well the M50x comes with detachable cords including a 1.2 m coiled cord which stretches and contracts to give you freedom of movement. It also means that a broken cable is easy to replace. On top of this, the headband and ear cups feature a softer and plusher pleather, making them more comfortable.

Mostly everything else remains the same, with the construction being primarily plastic in both models. Overall, these additions make the headphone more comfortable and more usable – so we think they are definitely worthy of the small price hike.

If we were to choose one thing to nit pick, it would be the sound isolation which is OK. It get’s the job done but we found deep sounds like you may hear on a highway or on public transport may penetrate the ear cups a little bit more than in other models. But you’ll have no issues in a studio, office or home environment. It is also slightly annoying that the cords don’t come with integrated microphone or volume controls. However, this is a headphone not a headset, so we can easily forgive them for this.

Great sound and comfortable and sturdy construction make the M50x one of our most highly recommended headphones. For the price, they are an absolute bargain considering the plethora of headphones that produce worse sound for an equal or greater cost.

  • Class-leading sound production
  • Detachable cords including a coiled cord
  • Soft and comfortable headband and ear pads
  • Collapsible design for added portability
  • No inline microphone or controls
  • Mediocre noise isolation

Sony MDR-7506

Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
  • Neodymium magnets and 40 millimeter drivers for powerful, detailed...
  • Closed ear design provides comfort and outstanding reduction of...
  • 9.8 foot cord ends in gold plated plug and it is not detachable; 1/4...
  • Folds up for storage or travel in provided soft case
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hertz to 20 kilohertz

And now we have an entry from Sony. Perhaps the only real competitor to the Sennheiser HD 280 in regards to value, the Sony MDR-7506 has stood the test of time since being introduced in 1991.

Like the Sennheiser, this pair of headphones has entered legendary status by being affordable and producing great sound.

It’s best to describe the sound as flat as it doesn’t over or under-represent any aspects of the musical range. No portion is too loud or soft. Audiophiles will especially love this as it makes the job of equalising and mixing a lot easier.

The construction is pretty solid as well. The adjustment arms and headband under the padding are metal and the ear cups are solid aluminium. We found it has a lot less plastic than more expensive models and as such, it’s also more durable. We can probably attribute this to the 26-year-old rugged design principles that Sony has stuck by.

Construction is impressive and equally so is the comfortability. The race track style ear pads are a great feature and provide the perfect mix between on-ear sound isolation and over-ear comfort. Couple this design with a relatively gentle clamping force, and we got one pair of headphones that can be worn for hours on end with no issue.

So what’s wrong with these headphones? Nothing much really. If you want to be picky, the worst thing is the plain design and the un-attachable cable. Oh, and you might find the ear pads to be lacking in durability, but they can be easily replaced here.

You get more then you pay for with the Sony MDR-7506. It’s a great budget-friendly headphone that many amateurs and professionals alike continue to use today.

  • Solid noise isolation
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Good use of metal components
  • Comfortable and durable design
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Race track style ear pads
  • Plain looking
  • Ear pads lack durability
  • Fixed cable
For the majority of people, the three headphones that have already been listed are more than enough to satisfy your studio recording or home multimedia thirst. For the other insatiable audiophiles, continue reading below.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones in...
  • Closed over-ear headphones, ideal for professional recording and...
  • Perfect for studio and stage recordings thanks to their pure,...
  • The soft, circumaural and replaceable velour ear pads ensure high...
  • Hard-wearing, durable and robust workmanship Made in Germany....
  • Practical single-sided cable (3.0m cable) . Comfortable fit due to...

Beyerdynamic is another German company that has been in the audio industry since 1924. In fact, along with Shure, it’s one of the oldest audio companies around. For Beyerdynamic, experience does equate to quality and you’ll find a great pair of closed-back headphones in the DT 770 Pro.

These are certainly not budget headphones but are still comfortably within reach of someone wanting to spend a little bit extra for better sound quality and construction.

Let’s begin with what it’s made out of – it’s pretty much a combination of sturdy plastic and metal. The spring steel headband is wrapped with pleather while the ear pads are made from velour (a material similar to velvet). It results in a super comfortable fit which is complemented by a soft clamping force. Indeed, these are one of the more comfortable headphones we’ve had the pleasure of wearing.

For this price, we expect great sound and that’s what we got. In our testing the bass, mid and treble were all rendered to a high standard. The only thing we could complain is the slightly recessed mids. Overall, it’s a more neutral and open sound amongst the more bass-heavy headphones that are prevalent in closed-back designs.

In terms of noise isolation, we found some sounds like phone rings to penetrate whilst listening at a mid-level volume. It’s not a big deal but it’s something worth mentioning in an otherwise fantastic set of headphones.

They’re great for comfort, sound quality and style and solid in terms of sound isolation. Our verdict…highly recommended!

There is a 32, 80 and 250 ohm impedance version of this model available. You can read more about what this means in our buyers guide at the end of our lists.
  • Super comfortable ear pads with light but firm clamping force
  • Solid, well rounded sound
  • Sturdy build and durable
  • Non-detachable cord
  • Mids are slightly recessed
  • Moderate level of sound isolation
  • Does not fold

The best noise-canceling and wireless headphone

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones,...
  • Three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening...
  • Alexa-enabled for voice access to music, information, and more
  • Noise-rejecting dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice...
  • Balanced Audio performance at any volume
  • Hassle-free Bluetooth pairing, personalized settings, access to future...

Aptly named the QuietComfort 35, these headphones excel in two things. Yep you guessed it – noise isolation and comfort. Bose is known for producing industry leading noise-cancelling
headphones and it’s no surprise this pair has exceeded our expectations.

Let’s start with the comfort and construction. The frame and headband are a thick and durable plastic while the outer ear-cups are metal and complete the closed-back design. Alcantara covers the headband and provides a great deal of comfort along with the synthetic leather ear-cups.

Another plus is that these have a wireless mode which is the differentiating factor between this model and its predecessor, the wired QuietComfort 25. Of course, sound is better in the wired mode but the wireless setting is a cool feature nonetheless. You’ll also get a generous 20 hours of battery charge which is a lot more than other similar priced models.

We found sound reproduction to be spot on except for a bit of emphasis on the bass. Music from Drake or Frank Ocean sound fantastically vivid, with vocals being distinguished from each other. Acoustics sound lively as well and showcase a level of clarity that we would expect at this price range.

The best thing about these is of course the noise cancellation – and that’s where the magic happens. Just wearing these provides a natural passive noise cancellation, but this is taken to a whole new level when you power on the active noise cancellation feature. Once activated, it’s like hitting mute on the outside world, and all that’s left is you and your music. Sure, sounds do still get through but these are kept to a minimum – a drastic improvement over similar priced and marketed headphones like the Turtle Beach Elite 800.

And it’s not just us who think this is truly the best when it comes to noise cancellation. Lists from cnet, pcmag and lifewire, all rank the headphone at number 1 when it comes to this feature.

One thing does stand out like a sore thumb though. It’s impossible to turn off the active noise cancellation when using the headphones in wireless mode (AKA Bluetooth). It’s not a deal breaker but it does mean needless batter power is lost to something that you might not want to even use.

If you care about getting headphones that have the best noise cancellation, you can’t look past the Bose QC 35, and hey, they also have pretty good sound production as well and a wireless mode that’s handy if you’re moving about. Basically, if your primary objective is to buy a pair of headphones to use in public spaces, than this offering from Bose should be at the top of your list.

  • Industry leading noise cancellation
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Long battery life in wireless mode
  • Solid sound production, especially in wired mode
  • In-line microphone
  • Active noise cancellation automatically turns on with bluetooth

Focal Spirit Professional – One of the best headphones for critical listening

Focal Closed Back Circum-Aural Hdphns
  • Acoustic transparency and ease of use
  • Precise and detailed sound reproduction, without distortion
  • Excellent isolation and acoustic coupling to the ear
  • Connectivity technology: wired

A French company enters the mix whose headphones represent a class above the rest in providing a truly neutral sound experience. It may sound like a bold statement, but these headphones are one of the best when it comes to critical listening.

On top of a detailed sound, the ear cups are adjustable at different angles meaning that you’ll be able to get the perfect fit. The memory foam helps greatly for noise isolation as the cups will mold to your ears and seal in the musical goodness, thus providing a better than average noise isolation experience.

In terms of comfort, the Focal Spirit could be a tad bit gentler. The headband is wrapped in leatherette with a foam pad on the area that touches your head. We found the clamping to be a little bit tight but overtime it does relax – it just takes awhile to break in.

The closest sounding headphones to this pair is Audio Technica’s ATH-50x which are more comfortable but don’t provide the astoundingly precise sound that we’ve seen (or heard) here. However; it should be noted that the ATH-50x is significantly cheaper and does provide better value for the price.

Focal have shown an unwavering commitment to a clean and objective audio experience, and they have achieved that with the Focal Spirit Professional. If you are an audio professional looking for a top notch studio monitor, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better pair of headphones at a sub $400 price range.

  • Outstanding sound production
  • Solid sound isolation
  • Cable with remote and microphone
  • Adjustable ear cups
  • Headband is a bit tight at first

Shure SRH1540 – Open-back sound quality in a closed-back skin

Shure SRH1540 Premium Closed-Back Headphones
  • 40 mm neodymium drivers deliver superior acoustic performance for an...
  • Closed-back, circumaural design rests comfortably over the ears and...
  • Lightweight construction featuring aircraft-grade aluminum alloy yoke...
  • Steel driver frame with vented center pole piece improves linearity...
  • Refer user manual for troubleshooting steps

The Shure SRH1540 is where excellent sound quality meets a premium construction.

If you care about how good your headphones look as much as how they sound than perhaps this is the right choice for you.

Starting with the cups, they are made from an aluminum and carbon-fiber construction. They are covered with Alcantara – a microfiber similar to suede that you’ll commonly find in car seats. It has tiny holes in it to allow breathing and thereby prevents overheating and sweat that is a common problem in leather pads. The lightweight materials keep these headphones from exceeding 300 g in weight – an impressive feat considering the relatively large size. You’ll find yourself being able to wear them for an entire day without discomfort which is a plus because that’s exactly what you would want to do.

The fanciness doesn’t stop there, the top band is covered in protein leather or ‘pleather’. It’s got a longer lifespan than real leather and provides greater comfort. All of these elements combine together to create a super comfortable and posh looking set of headphones. It’s something we would expect for the asking price.

Now onto the most important part – the sound. We would say it largely sticks to a neutral presentation and exposes every element of the production your listening to. While some reviews point out a mild inclination towards bass and treble, making the mid-range seem slightly recessed, we couldn’t identify this as an issue in our testing. Sound quality can be highly subjective, but we can safely say there is a unanimity conclusion that these headphones product a clean, crisp sound production that is very true to source. On top of this, the soundstage is surprisingly large considering the closed-back design and gives the sound a sense of depth.
The fault in these headphones lies in the noise isolation. While sufficient for everyday use they don’t block out sound as good as other less expensive models like Sennheisers’ HD 280 Pro. Clearly, this is a trade-off for superior comfort as the soft plush ear pads and soft clamping force don’t lend themselves well to blocking out ambient sound. This is not a big deal though since these cans are also great for mixing, with audio production rivaling that of many high-end open back models.

Essentially, these cans hit a sweet spot before we enter the diminishing returns infidelity that occurs once you reach a certain price point. It’s a top headphone pick for any multimedia environment but it’s limited portability tells us that it is foremost a studio monitor that should never leave its natural habitat.

  • Super comfortable fit and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Classy materials
  • Solid sound production with large soundstage
  • Detachable cords
  • Solid noise isolation
  • Does not fold
  • Oval ear cups might be big for some
  • Mediocre noise isolation

V-Moda Crossfade M-100 – Feature rich and extremely durable

V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal...
  • Connectivity Technology: Wired
  • Award-winning M-Class sound tuned by over 200 audiophile aficionados
  • Patented 50mm Dual Diaphragm Drivers to separate bass from mids and...
  • Clean deep Bass, Vivid Mids and Ultra-Extended Highs tuned by industry...
  • Unique CLIQFOLD design for compact storage ; Type: Over-Ear...

For the versatile audiophiles out there, the Crossfade M-100 is a headphone packed full of features that is complemented by an extremely durable design.

Let’s mention the good.

In typical V-Moda fashion, the headphones are built to last with a robust metal frame and a steel-reinforced headband. Dropping these bad boys won’t cause any damage. In fact, if you tried flattening the headband 10 times, they’ll still return to their original shape.

The ear cushions are covered with memory foam and are made from faux leather which is much needed to counteract the somewhat strong clamping force. Overtime this clamping force will soften to a more comfortable level and we found reverse bending the headband will ease the pressure.

There are many cool features as well. The ear cups each have a cable socket so you can adjust the side of the connection to what works best for you. The cable also comes with an additional connection that V-Moda call SharePlay, so someone can listen in on what you’re grooving to.

The closed-back design is very robust and appealing with the back of the ear cups looking almost ornamental with 6 screws holding a shield plate. The color of these plates can be customized as well as the shield design. It might be a bit verbose to say, but these headphones are a personification of durability and quality craftsmanship.

This is an objective review, so we need to look at the bad things as well.

Perhaps the biggest gripe is that the sound is not completely analytical. But what else could we expect? This is a headphone by V-Moda and they are known to emphasise bass more than other sound elements. Overall if you like a warm sound with a bit more emphasis on bass than these cans will sound great. If you’re looking for color-free reproduction, then you’ll find what you’re looking for further up this list.

These headphones provide a fun listening experience and are very well constructed even when compared to headphones in a similar price bracket. Every element performs solidly, making the Crossfade M-100 a strong choice for the versatile audiophile or bass head.

  • Extremely durable and high quality design
  • Folds in for portability
  • Interchangeable connection on left or right ear cup
  • Cool SharePlay feature
  • 50 mm driver for bigger bass
  • Cable has inline remote and microphone
  • Good noise isolation
  • Detachable cable
  • Generous feature set considering the price
  • Clamping force is a bit strong initially
  • Sound is fun, but more analytical production is available in this price range

Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 – Best Battery Life

Plantronics 207120-21 Backbeat Pro 2 Special Edition -...
  • Audio Quality: Immersive, high res sound, and powerful speaker drivers...
  • Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (ANC):Switch on active noise...
  • 24 Hour Streaming: Enjoy up to 24 hours of wireless music, movies and...
  • Wireless Freedom: Stream rich, lifelike audio up to 100 meters/330...
  • Rigid Travel Case: Ear cups swivel flat to slip into the protective...

When it comes to closed-back headphones, sound isolation is just as important if not more so, than sound quality. It is with this mindset that we can forgive ourselves for including another pair of wireless headphones.

The Backbeat Pro 2 is a solid offering from the American housed company and competes with its best in class rival, the Bose QC35.

These instruments come in two varieties – a black tan, and plain grey which we have pictured and linked to. The tan style definitely brings on a ‘like it’ or ‘hate it’ sentiment. We can appreciate the ample leather that lines the headband and ear cups – but the brown color of the headband underside will leave some scratching their head at the poor design choice. This is further implicated by the silver accents of the ear cups which contrast heavily against the brown palate of the headband.

What left us wanting more was the lack of portability. We expected a wireless headphone to be complemented by the ability to fold up, which these cans cannot do. The ear cups do swivel but that is as far as it goes. Along with the design of the black tan model mentioned earlier, this is another aspect which seems to be overlooked by Plantronics. It would just seem logical that a headphone marketed towards portability would also be able to fold up into a more travel-friendly package, but clearly Plantronics had a different idea.

There’s a lot of technology packed into each ear cup in the form of active noise cancellation. It can be toggled on or off via the button on the left ear cup. Of course, turning it on will drastically reduce the battery life. Both passive and active noise cancellation are not as good as Bose’s QC35, but they still beat out many similar priced headphones.

In terms of sound, it’s pretty solid across the board, with emphasis on the bass. Fans of the previous model – the Backbeat Pro – will have expected this, but strict audiophiles may be disappointed in it’s less than analytical approach.

These headphones aren’t as good at noise cancellation or sound quality as the Bose QC35, but they are also significantly cheaper and they provide 4 hours more battery life (24 vs 20). For that reason, we’ve included them on this list and they are worth consideration if mobility, solid sound isolation and a lower budget are your priority.
  • Comfortable
  • Good noise isolation
  • Fun sound production with emphasis on bass
  • Affordable option if the Bose QC35 is too expensive
  • Love or hate design (for the black tan version)
  • Does not fold

Beats Studio Wireless

Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone - Gloss White
  • Updated acoustics enhance clarity. Connectivity Technology: Wireless
  • Streamlined lightweight design for improved comfort
  • Durable and compact folding design for easy portability
  • Take calls and control music on your iOS devices with RemoteTalk cable

The last couple of entries on this list have us leaning towards more fun and accessible headphones rather then strictly analytical ones. Fittingly, we’ve rounded off this list with a similar type in the form of the Beats Studio Wireless.

Beats is the type of brand that people who know nothing about headphones have heard of. Does their mainstream vibe condemn their products to a casual listening crowd whilst being forever scorned by snotty audiophiles? Not entirely so. The Beats studio wireless is one such model that has met, and in some cases exceeded our expectations.

Firstly, the design is extremely sleek and hi-end. The headband is pretty thin and a bit rigid, but luckily the ear cups are well-padded resulting in an overall comfortable experience. The headband is actually a textured rubber that lends itself well to sticking to your head. Combine this with a light weight of 260 g, and you can actually run with these on – a feat easier said then done when it comes to over-ear headphones.

Considering this is a wireless model, the sound is actually pretty decent. It’s renowned that Beats emphasis the bass, and the studio wireless is no exception. It’s a rich sound with the mids and highs being quite well-balanced.

Active noise cancellation works well and does a good job of blocking out most ambient noises. However; in wireless mode it’s impossible to turn off, resulting in a battery life of only 12 hours. It’s a disappointing quality, especially since these headphones excel in being portable in every other aspect.

Overall, this is a pretty good offering from Beats who have succeeded in creating an attractive set of headphones that can easily move with you. Being wireless, we don’t expect them to sound as analytical as say the Focal Studio headphones or Audio-Technica’s ATH-50x, but they are definitely well suited to more casual listeners who are looking for a piece of kit that is mobile and attractive. However; if you’re looking for a better pair of wireless headphones, you’re better off with the Bose QuietComfort 35.
  • Sleek and attractive design
  • Comfortable fit
  • ANC works solidly
  • Solid sound production with emphasis on bass
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Folds for extra portability
  • Slightly expensive
  • Can’t disable noise cancellation even in wireless mode
  • Only 12 hours battery life

Best Open-Back Headphones 2020

Ok, now that we’ve gone through the best picks for close back headphones it’s now time to show a bit of love to the open-back variety.

Open back are headphones with the back of the head phone cup open so the sound travels towards your ears as well as to the outside world.

Compared to closed-back, they provide superior sound quality and a better sound stage – music sounds more natural like it’s part of the environment rather than only in your head. The bad news is that everyone in the room will be able to hear what you’re listening to.

Open-back are better for two things:

  • If you are recording an instrument which doesn’t require a microphone. Sound leakage is therefore not an issue.
  • If you are mixing – you want to hear the best possible sound and open back headphones provide superior quality.

Now you know why you need open back headphones, so without further ado let’s begin the count. Here are the very best open-back headphones of 2020

Sennheiser HD 600 – Best sound

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Professional Headphone
  • Lightweight aluminum voice coils ensure excellent transient response
  • Neodymium ferrous magnets maintain optimum sensitivity and excellent...
  • Sophisticated design, elegantly finished in black and gray
  • High quality open metal mesh earpiece covers
  • Detachable, Kevlar reinforced oxygen free copper cable with very low...

Sitting between the Sennheiser HD 580 and 650 models, we have the HD 600. Simply put, every sound geek should consider these headphones and we’ll tell you why.

Let’s start with the comfort factor. One word: velour. Yep, we found these cans to be super comfortable because of the plush velour material that covers the earpads. We could wear this piece for hours without any sweat developing which is more likely to happen with leather-padded ear cups.

Most of the components in the construction are also removable, including the ear pads, cable and grill. This adds a lot of life to an already durable pair of headphones and you can rest assured that you will be using this pair for a long time to come. A lot of the construction is plastic which is slightly disappointing, but on the flip-side keeps these relatively large headphones lightweight.

Unfortunately, most of the construction is plastic which is a bit disappointing but nowhere near a deal-breaker.

When it comes to sound production, the 600s are a class above the rest. They are without a doubt, the most flattest and neutral sounding headphones under $400. Tyll Hertsens from innerfidelity describes them as ‘one of the best buys in the world of audiophile headphones’. For further evidence, David Mahler, in his massive ‘Battle of the Flagships’ thread, has awarded them an A+ (one of only 5 models out of 58 to do so) and says ‘Dollar for dollar, the HD600 is among the best sounding headphones I have ever heard.’

The verdict is simple: For any audiophile who takes mixing (or music) seriously, the Sennheiser HD 600 should be at the top of his or her list.

What about the Sennheiser HD 650? Released 6 years after the HD 600, the HD 650 is another fantastic pair of headphones. Even though both sound extremely similar, the 650’s have slightly more coloration in their sound representation. It’s still a great pair of headphones for mixing, but the 600s are a little bit better in this regard.
  • Best sound in class
  • Very comfortable
  • Detachable cable
  • Easily replaceable components
  • Lots of plastic in the construction
  • Takes a while to break in and become comfortable
  • Does not fold in

AKG K240 – The best semi-open headphones under $100

AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Over-Ear, Semi-Open, Professional...
  • Professional studio headphones
  • Semi-open
  • 3 m replaceable cable
  • Audio Interface type: Stereo plug – 3.5mm (1/8-inch) with 6.3 mm...

There are a lot of headphones under $100, so it took us a great deal of time to whittle the group down to the one that stood out. The AKG K240 is without a doubt, the best pair of headphones you can get your hands on for under $100.

Technically, these headphones are actually semi-open, so they offer an increased level of sound isolation without compromising much on sound quality. In other words, they strike a balance between closed and open-back designs in an effort to get the best of both worlds.

So what did we think of them? Well, the sound quality is excellent for the price. Sound is well defined, flat and accurate with a deep bass and equalised lows, mids and highs. There is still some leakage but not as much as a completely open-backed headphones.

In typical AKG fashion, the headphones use a shape-forming gimbal suspension design. The result is ear cups that sit snugly on the ears rather than clamping down on them like other headphones. Besides just being comfortable, they are also very sturdy, with the headband being made from steel. You could probably throw these around without any issue.

Truth be told, you won’t be getting sound that’s as good as the Sennheiser HD 800 or 600. However; at those expensive prices, sound quality does suffer from diminishing returns and AKG have struck a perfect balance of sound quality and price. You can grab a pair for close to $50 on which is an absolute steal if you ask us.

  • Excellent sound production for under $100
  • Gimbal suspension design for a non-clamping and super comfortable fit
  • Detachable cable which is great for portability
  • Durable construction, hand-made in Brooklyn, New York
  • Low noise cancellation for a semi open-backed design

Sennheiser HD 598

Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Over-Ear Headphones -...
  • Premium, audiophile-grade over-ear, open back headphones
  • Padded leatherette headband and luxurious velour covered ear pads...
  • Compatible with virtually every audio device including phones,...
  • Two cable options (3 meters and 1.2 meters) included along with 3.5mm...
  • 2-year limited warranty only when purchased from an authorized dealer.

Sennheiser are renowned in the musical world for producing industry leading sound – this is exemplified by the fact that we’ve already included them 3 times in this article. Essentially, these headphones are all about function, but refreshingly, we found form to take an equal front seat.

This model comes in both an ivory and black styling. Both feature gloss burl wood accents and the ivory model is especially striking with its tan and beige color scheme that contrasts heavily against the more traditional colors of Sennheiser models. Although primarily made from plastic, the model still looks high-end thanks to the strong color scheme and luxuriously velvet padded ear cups and amply padded headband. Comfortability deserves top marks here, making these cans perfect for long music sessions.

These headphones produce excellent sound as well, with the soundstage being the strongest element. Indeed, if hearing the depth and spaciousness of a recording is your priority, then you are in safe hands. We can thank Sennheiser’s Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement technology (E.A.R) for this, and it’s the same tech used in the much higher end HD 800 S.

Overall, we would say the sound is pretty relaxing and won’t cause any fatigue even after long sessions. The lows, mids and highs are very well represented but the bass lacks a bit of oomph.

In the Sennheiser HD 598, we get a refinement of sound that has been iconic of the 500 series. Combine this with a solid and quirky design, these headphones are a solid mid-budget choice for anyone serious about music.

  • Accurate sound production with amazing soundstage
  • Quirky and attractive design
  • Durable and comfortable build with premium materials
  • Detachable cable
  • Bass lacks physical impact – not the best for bass heads
  • Does not fold

AKG K702

AKG Pro Audio K702 Over-Ear, Open-Back, Flat-Wire, Reference...
  • Over-ear design for maximum wearing comfort for long work sessions
  • Sophisticated open technology for spacious and airy sound without...
  • Patented Varimotion two-layer diaphragm for improved high-frequency...
  • Unique flat-wire voice coil for higher sensitivity, better impluse and...
  • Specially shaped 3D-foam ear pads for optimum fit and ease of use

If your looking for a sound that takes ‘out of your head’ to the extreme, then the AKG 702 might be what you are looking for.

The Austrian company has patented Laminate Varimotion Diaphragms in its ear cups which produce out-of-head imaging. Practically, this means that the sound appears to be coming even further away which is saying a lot considering the open-back design. The result is an open and spacious soundstage with a low level of distortion.

The velour cushions combined with the leather and metal headband make for a comfortable wearing experience and we found no issues wearing these headphone for hours on end.

We chose this model over the 701 because it comes with a detachable cable (easier to replace if it brakes!) and a more durable matte black finish. It’s also only slightly more expensive so we think it’s definitely worth the investment.

The lack of a storage case and the fact that these headphones don’t fold up is a bit disappointing. They are relatively large so we can see why AKG didn’t design these to be portable. However; the detachable cable leaves us with our head scratching as this is a perfect complement to a would-be portable design.

Despite the drawbacks, what you are really paying for is exceptional audio quality that will reveal all the hidden gems and mistakes in your recordings. They are not the ‘funnest’ cans to listen to, but they achieve their intended purpose with flying colors.

  • Spacious and neutral sound
  • Durable design and finish – hand made and tested in Austria
  • Very comfortable with velour cushions
  • Detachable cable
  • No storage case
  • Does not fold

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Professional

beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium Edition 250 Ohm Over-Ear-Stereo...
  • The famous DT 990 Premium, 250 ohm version; Stereo Headphone excellent...
  • Made in Germany, innovative "Bass reflex" system for excellent audio...
  • Open design, includes carry case, 11 oz light weight
  • Gold vaporized stereo 3.5 mm mini-jack & 6.35 mm adapter included
  • 2 year manufacturer warranty only when purchased from an authorized...

Beyerdynamic have already made it onto the best closed-back headphones list with the DT 770 Por. It turns out they also make excellent open-back headphones as well.

The DT 990 premium is a great sounding studio monitor that is a pleasure to wear. A good way of describing them is that they sound similar to the Sennheiser HD 600 but are more bassy and even more comfortable. It’s more or less a flat response that provides a deep and rich bass without exaggerating it.

At first glance, they are large and in most cases, the ear cups will completely envelop your ears without them even touching. This results in an extremely comfortable wearing experience, perhaps one of the best we’ve seen in the sub $200 price bracket. The velour ear cups and leather like headband provide more than enough cushion for long listening sessions.

Considering the price, we were quite surprised to find the headband completely made from metal. The aforementioned headband padding is also detachable making for an easily replaceable component. The ear cups are mainly plastic which is a good thing as it helps reduce the overall weight of these fairly large headphones. Overall, it’s a solid looking piece of equipment and will be able to handle the scraps and bumps of day to day use.

The DT 990 Premium is great for critical listening and therefore a perfect mixing companion. It’s design is built to last and you can expect your investment to keep paying dividends in the years to come.

Like other Beyerdynamic models, you can purchase these at different impedance levels – 32 ohm and 250 ohm.

  • Extremely comfortable with ample cushion
  • Good sound production with solid bass
  • Durable design with completely metal headband
  • Good value for the price
  • Replaceable headband padding
  • Large build
  • Does not fold
  • Non-detachable cord

Grado SR8oe

GRADO SR80e Prestige Series Wired Open Back Stereo...
  • Grado's award winning headphone - open back design offer a larger...
  • "The Grado SR80e's are special, buy them and love them" - What HiFi
  • Mini plug termination, incudes a 1/4 inch adapter
  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • 4OurEars is the only Grado Authorized Amazon Reseller - 1 Year US...

Another budget headphone enters this list in the form of the Grado SR80e. If you’re not put off by the basic packaging and no frills approach to accessories that the company is renowned for, these set of headphones have a lot to offer in terms of sound quality.

But first, let’s address the most interesting point. These are the only headphones we’ve mentioned that have an open-back, on-ear design. That’s right, the ear cups actually sit on your ear. At first, it was a little bit unusual and itchy, but we eventually got used to it and the natural comfort of the foam took over. We found our ears did not get overheated and as a result sweating wasn’t an issue which is something that is all too common with leather style ear cups.

Construction is mostly plastic, with metal being used where needed. The headband is synthetic leather and we found this, combined with the foam ear cups provided easily enough comfort.

These headphones sound fantastic for the price. It’s best described by two words – clean and crispy. Each element of the sound spectrum, from the low’s to the hi’s is accurately represented and there’s no bleeding of the sound elements into each other. Due to the design, the sound is a bit more in your ears, and we agree with some reviewers who have said that it can be a fatiguing listening experience.

Our own experience combined with the myriad of positive reviews online tells us that these headphones are one of the best sounding you can buy for under $100. Among the other budget headphones we have listed, you can’t really choose wrong with this pair, the Samson SR850 or the AKG240.

  • Good sound production across the frequency range
  • Lightweight and comfortable once you get used to it
  • Solid and durable design
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Lay flat for portability
  • On-ear ear cups takes getting used to
  • Basic packaging with no storage case
  • Sound can get a bit aggressive resulting in listening fatigue
  • Non-detachable cable

Sennheiser HD 800 S – Best headphone for mixing

Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System
  • Open back, around ear, reference class dynamic headphone
  • 56mm ring radiator transducers are the largest drivers ever used in...
  • Innovative absorber technology reduces unwanted frequency response...
  • Unique ear cup design directs sound waves to the ear at a slight angle...
  • Includes two connecting cables: single ended 1/4 inches And balanced...

Where as the Sennheiser HD 600 offers class leading sound, it can be said that the 800 S possesses the best sound, period.

With the HD 800 S, truth is exposed in the music. Every clang and twang, and vocal is heard with precision that is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. There is nothing to hide – every flaw and every strength is exposed. These headphones are absolutely critical in their sound production and don’t discriminate between any element of the music. Every sound is rightly represented as if it was being played just outside of your ears.

Apart from the sound, it’s another plus if you like a retro sci-fi look. Think of Blade Runner. The combination of plastic, metal work and head hugging fabric creates a slightly heavy but extremely comfortable wearing experience. The detachable cloth-covered Y-cable (1 connection for each cup) is military grade as it’s reinforced with Kevlar for extra durability. For something worth upward of $1500, we wouldn’t expect anything but the best.

Compared to the HD 800, the HD 800 S offers an even more smoother and cohesive sound experience that is a no brainer choice for those seeking the perfect reference sounding cans. If you have the cash, these headphones offer the best sound experience money can buy.

So if these headphones produce the best sound, why are they not number 1? Well, even though they are great in many ways, they cost a fortune. Hence, their popularity is limited to individuals with lots of spare cash or professionals demanding the best. Also, sound quality provides diminishing returns as we get to a more expensive price range. For most people, the much more affordable headphones already mentioned are more than adequate.
  • Industry leading sound production
  • Very comfortable
  • Retro-inspired design
  • Excellent build quality and highly durable
  • Detachable cable
  • Slightly heavy at 330 g
  • Does not fold

Samson SR850 – Best budget headphone for beginners (under $50)

Samson Technologies SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference...
  • Professional studio Reference semi-open headphones designed for...
  • Proprietary large 50mm drivers with rare earth magnets deliver an...
  • Circumaural, over-ear, design with velour cushioning provides...
  • Self-adjusting headband for optimal fit
  • 1/4" Stereo Adapter included

Similar to the AKG K240, the Samson is another budget friendly headphone that punches well above its class.

We do apologise that this is another semi-open design, however we couldn’t leave it out of this list because it represents just so much value.

The outside of the ear cups are mainly plastic and colored with shades of black. It’s not flattering and leaves a lot to be desired but at this price it’s something we would expect. The ear cups themselves are pretty thick which provides plenty of comfort for long sessions.

They actually look very similar to AKG models. In fact, many reviewers have even stated they are AKG clones. From the similar headband to the connection of the ear cups it’s clear Samson has taken a lot of inspiration from the more established company.

These sound very solid with decent treble and full sounding base. The main issue is a lack of depth which higher end models have less of an issue with. Hence; if you are an audio perfectionist, more expensive models like those offered from Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic will suit your taste. On the whole, these headphones offer a relatively neutral sound with a bit of characters and hence are well suited to a professional studio environment.

If you are new to music production or just looking to crack open a new pair of headphones that are extremely budget friendly, the Samson SR850, along with the previously mentioned AKG K240, are your best picks.
  • Excellent sound value for the money
  • Comfortable head band and ear cups
  • Large 50 mm drivers for deep bass
  • Self-adjusting headband
  • Cheap materials – plastic and vinyl – which is expected at this price
  • Still leaks a lot of sound – treat these as if they were open-backed
  • Non-detachable cable

Audio Technica ATH-AD900X

Audio Technica ATH-AD900X Open-Back Audiophile...
  • Open-air Headphones Deliver Clear, Natural Vocal and Instrumental...
  • Large-aperture 53mm Drivers and CCAW Voice Coils For Superior Sound...
  • No Sense Of Pressure On The Ears, Resulting In A Completely Natural...
  • 3d Wing Support Housing Offers A Vibration-proof Mechanism That...
  • Extremely Comfortable Ear-fitting Pads

These headphones are perfect for audiophiles looking for serious audio quality whilst being on a budget. You can grab these for less than $150 which is comparable to the previously mentioned Sennheiser HD 598.

These are a pretty analytical set of cans with a generally flat response. Because of their open design they also offer a huge soundstage which is well suited to classical orchestra music.

Considering the drivers are a large 53 mm, the bass surprisingly lacks prevalence, and although it is clearly distinguishable, we found some punch to be missing. Being a more neutral leaning, this type of audio response is expected, but for those who enjoy a more bassy soundscape, the AD770X is a better alternative.

In terms of the design, Audio Technica’s signature wing suspension system is well implemented and is designed to fit all heads without adjustment. We found it to work extremely well and provide a great level of comfort.

Despite the fledgling bass, the sound is an overall step up from the more budget friendly models and offers audiophile quality at a cost that won’t break the bank. We highly recommend these pairs of headphones if you have a mid-range budget.

  • Comfortable construction
  • Large soundstage and flat audio response
  • Excellent overall sound quality for the price
  • Non-removable cable
  • Somewhat un-prevalent base

Shure SRH1840

Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones
  • Individually matched 40 mm neodymium drivers for unparalleled acoustic...
  • Open-back, circumaural design for exceptionally natural sound, wide...
  • Lightweight construction featuring aircraft-grade aluminum alloy yoke...
  • Steel driver frame with vented center pole piece improves linearity...
  • Ergonomic dual-frame, padded headband is lightweight and fully...

This is actually Shure’s first open-backed headphone and it’s impressive to say that they have hit a home run.

The sound quality is on point for the price. You’ll hear sounds in recordings you never though were there. It’s a perfect companion to your mixing endeavours. These headphones have a warmer midrange and a bass that isn’t exaggerated. Sound is extremely realistic to listen to while you are wearing these.

The velour covered ear pads are especially comfortable and the lightly padded headband is easily adjustable and flexible enough to provide that extra level of comfort. We would expect nothing less at this price point and a comfortable pair of headphones mean we get to listen to great sounding music for longer periods of time. A win, win, if you ask us.

The ear cups attach to the headband through aircraft-grade aluminium yokes which looks super sleek and provides amazing durability.

At the asking price, you pretty much get exactly what you pay for. The SRH1840 are a new and solid entry from Shure and prove that they are just as good at making open-back headphones as they are with closed-back.

  • Lightweight
  • Extra comfortable with flexible build
  • Comes with replacement ear pads and detachable cables
  • Natural and well-rounded sound
  • Headband padding a little thin

Studio Headphones Buyer’s Guide

Here is a simple guide that will give you some much-needed information regarding purchasing a new set of headphones. Let go over some of the basics:

Tech Specs…what do they mean?

When it comes to headphones, there is usually a recurring set of features that comes up describing them. Let’s see what they mean:

Frequency response: This is the range of sound produced by the headphone. The audible frequency for most people is 20 to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz), and basically all headphones cover this range, and then some. The range covers the bass, mids and highs (or treble). For practical purposes, below 20 Hz is usually felt rather than heard (like a deep vibration) and over 20,000 Hz is inaudible.

Impedance: Impedance is a pretty technical term but to break it down simply, it basically means how much power is required to deliver audio volume. For example, a low impedance of say 30 ohms, means little power is required (perfect for phones and other portable devices). A high impedance such as 250 ohms requires more power and as a result they are protected from overloading.

For example, if you were to connect a low impedance headphone to a DJ mixer, or other high powered amplifier, chances are you’ll blow them out. Hence, it’s important to know what type of equipment you intend on using your headphones with.

Likewise, if you were to connect a high impedance headphone to a phone and play music, you would find that the volume wouldn’t be a loud as a low impedance headphone.

Drivers: The driver consists of magnets, voice coils and a diaphragm and works by converting an electric signal into sound pressure that vibrates the diaphragm to create sound.

The measurement given for a driver, usually in mm, is actually the diameter of the diaphragm. The rule is (though not always true) is that the larger the diaphragm, the better the sound and greater the bass. Hence, larger over-ear headphones typically house larger drivers which in turn creates a better sound experience.

Sensitivity/Sound Pressure Level (SPL): This measurement is given in sound pressure level per milliwat, or dB SPL/mW. It basically means how loud the headphones go. A typically range is 80 – 120 dB SPL/mW.

To give you some context 80 dB is about as loud as a dishwasher while 120 dB is like hearing a chain saw. Anything above 80 dB has the potential to cause hearing loss after prolonged exposure.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): Higher volumes = faster diaphragm vibration, and so THD occurs when the diaphragm is unable to vibrate fast enough. This measurement is represented with a % and the lower this number is, the better.

Noise-Cancellation: There are two types of noise cancellation – active and passive.

  • Passive noise-cancellation (PNC): This refers to the headphones or earphones with a natural ability to block ambient noise. Hence, all headphones provide some block against outside noise but certain types like closed-back or in-ear designs excel in this area.
  • Active noise-cancellation (ANC): These headphones work by producing inverse sound waves to the ambient sound that effectively cancels the sound. Thus, they actively block outside sound which is already combined with their natural PNC capability.

Summing Up

There are hundreds of headphones on the market and so it can be very confusing to figure out which headphone is right for you. Hence, we set out to create this list to inform you of the best studio headphones for 2020. Whether you intend to use them at home, in the office or in the studio, we feel that there is a headphone here that will suit your needs.

If you have any comments, feel free to leave them below. We will do our best to help answer any of your questions.