Learn about the top headphones for producing music, including the Sony MDR-7506s, Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros, Audio-Technica ATH-M50xs, AKG K240 Studios, Sennheiser HD 660 Ss, and Sennheiser HD 820.
Music production is an art that requires precision, accuracy, and great attention to detail. When it comes to achieving the best sound quality, one of the most important pieces of gear is a good pair of headphones. As a music producer, your headphones can make or break your mixes, so it’s important to invest in a pair that will deliver accurate and reliable sound reproduction.
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To help you choose the best music production headphones for your needs, I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best options on the market today. These headphones have been carefully selected based on their sound quality, design scheme, comfort, durability, and overall value.
6. Sony MDR-7506 Headphones ($99)
The Sony MDR-7506 headphones provide great value and are extremely affordable. You can purchase 3-4 pairs of these headphones (enough to record a band) for less money than some of the other headphones on this list. They use a closed-back design which prevents sound leakage when tracking audio, making them a perfect pair of reference headphones when tracking performers.
In addition to their closed-back design, the Sony MDR-7506 headphones also feature large, 40 mm drivers that deliver accurate and detailed sound across a wide frequency range. These drivers are capable of producing a frequency response of 10 Hz – 20 kHz, which adequately covers the range of human hearing. The MDR-7506s also have a high sensitivity rating of 106 dB/W/m, which means that they can produce high volumes without distortion.
These headphones are also designed with comfort in mind. The ear cups are padded with soft, synthetic leather, and the headband is adjustable to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. They’re lightweight and easy to wear for extended periods of time, making them ideal for use in recording studios, radio and television broadcasting, and live sound scenarios. Additionally, the headphones weigh 0.5 lbs and come with a soft carrying case for easy transport and storage.
5. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones ($159)
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones use an open-back design, which provides a natural and immersive sound, allowing you to hear every detail of your music. This particular design allows sound in and out of the headphones, minimizing unwanted frequency buildup in the ear cups, at the expense of outside sound being allowed to pass in; make sure to use these headphones in a quiet and controlled environment.
These headphones are specifically designed to deliver a wide frequency range of 5 Hz to 35 kHz, dipping 5 Hz lower than the Sony MDR-7506 headphones and extending 15 kHz further up the frequency spectrum. Theoretically, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are a good choice for mixing low-end.
These headphones have 45 mm drivers that allow for adequate bass response, and deliver a nominal sound pressure level of 96 dB. They’re unique in its high-quality materials and precision engineering, which ensure long-lasting durability. The detachable cable allows for easy replacement if needed, and a folding design lets you easily store and transport the DT 990 Pros.
The DT 990 Pro headphones weigh in at 0.55 lbs, making them another lightweight headphone option, ideal for extended listening sessions. The padded ear cups feature a soft velour material, which I find breathe better than synthetic leather ear cups and don’t make my ears as sweaty.
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones ($169)
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are a popular choice for music producers and audio professionals worldwide. These headphones have gained a reputation for their exceptional sound quality, durability, comfort, and value. The ATH-M50xs use a closed-back headphone design that delivers outstanding sound isolation and excellent bass response. Since they use a closed-back design, they’re a good choice for producers and DJs that find themselves in noisy environments.
The headphone’s 45 mm drivers are specifically designed to deliver accurate and detailed sound across the entire frequency spectrum, providing you with a clear and balanced mix. With a frequency response of 15 Hz – 28 kHz, the low-end bottoms out a little higher than the other headphones on this list. However, these headphones have a sensitivity rating of 99 dB. The ATH-M50xs are built with a sturdy metal frame and ear cups that swivel 90 degrees.
These headphones come with three different detachable cable options, including a 1.2-3 m coiled cable, 3.0 m straight cable, and 1.2 m straight cable. This versatility allows you to use the headphones in a variety of settings, whether you are in the studio or on the go. I’ve owned these headphones for almost a decade and they act as my general-purpose production headphones that I take everywhere with me.
As a bonus, these headphones are available in a Bluetooth version called the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. I wouldn’t recommend Bluetooth headphones for studio use because of the latency that Bluetooth technology introduces to the incoming audio signal, but you may want to consider Bluetooth headphones for the gym or other casual listening scenarios. Additionally, the ATH-M50xBT2 headphones offer a low-latency mode to minimize the negative affects of latency.
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3. AKG K240 Studio Headphones ($79)
The AKG K240 Studio headphones are a classic choice for music production and studio monitoring. These headphones have been a favorite among audio professionals for decades and are still in high demand today. The K240 Studio features a semi-open design that that falls between an open-back and closed-back design.
In semi-open headphones, the ear cups are partially open, allowing some airflow in and out of the cups. This design provides a more natural and spacious sound compared to closed-back headphones, but still offers some degree of noise isolation. Semi-open headphones typically have larger and more powerful drivers than closed-back headphones, which can result in a wider frequency response and more accurate sound reproduction. However, they also tend to leak more sound than closed-back headphones.
The headphones are equipped with 30 mm drivers that deliver a decent frequency response of 15 Hz to 25 kHz, providing a fairly clear and detailed sound across the frequency spectrum. These headphones require a relatively small amount of electrical current to operate, toting an impedance value of just 55 ohms. High impedance headphones (over 100 ohms) can produce a clearer and more accurate sound, but sometimes require a dedicated headphone amp for optimal performance.
The AKG K240 Studio headphones feature a self-adjusting headband. The ear pads are made of a soft synthetic leather that ensures comfort, even during extended periods of use. The K240 Studio headphones provide decent build quality, especially given their low price. If you’re looking for a pair of hybrid headphones that deliver some of the benefits of both an open-back and closed-back pair of headphones, the AKG K240s are a great choice.
2. Sennheiser HD 660 S Headphones ($333)
The Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones contain a transducer with a speedy response, aluminum voice coil, and 38 mm diaphragm with ultra-quick impulse fidelity. Collectively, these features contribute to reproducing precise tonal and spatial characteristics that lesser headphones are incapable of.
Specially designed drivers provide a frequency response of 10 Hz to 41 kHz, ensuring that you can hear every nuance of your mix with exceptional clarity and accuracy. The steel mesh on the drive unit provides a ventilated design that offers consistent control of air displacement; this reduces air turbulence (distortion) and allows you to clearly hear your music.
As you may have noticed, the Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones are similar in design to the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones. So how do they differ? More expensive headphones like the Sennheiser HD 660 Ss typically contain more advanced driver technology, improved materials, and better noise isolation/reduction. Collectively, these attributes can deliver better sound quality and a more comfortable listening experience, which is difficult to quantify in writing but often noticeable when experienced.
1. Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones ($1,999)
No gear roundup is complete without a ridiculously expensive option that most of us can only dream of… for now. The Sennheiser HD 820 headphones feature a closed-back design with glass transducers that provide a visually unique design, in addition to unmatched sound quality. These headphones boast a listening experience “as immersive as their open-air counterparts”, while providing unbelievable noise rejection. They’re capable of providing the wide, natural sound field of open back headphones but using a closed-back design, for the staggering price tag of $1,999.
One of the unique characteristics of these headphones is the 56 mm ring radiator; it’s large size allows for plenty of air displacement resulting in exceptional bass response, but not at the expense of rest and response time. Each transducer is measured to a tight tolerance, resulting in reliable out-of-the box performance. Every pair of HD 820 headphones also includes a frequency response plot (unique to the serial number), which can help when it comes to making informed mixing and mastering decisions.
These headphones have Concave Gorilla Glass reflectors and an acoustic absorber system that prevents frequency masking, providing unparalleled detail. The ultra-ergonomic adjustable metal headband and microfiber ear and headband padding ensure maximum comfort. They also have an impedance of 300 ohms, a frequency response of 6-48,000 Hz (-10 dB), and a total harmonic distortion of 0.02% (1 kHz 1 Vrms).
Throughout this gear roundup, we’ve explored various closed-back, open-back, and hybrid headphones at multiple price points. Selections have included the Sony MDR-7506s, Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros, Audio-Technica ATH-M50xs, AKG K240 Studios, Sennheiser HD 660 Ss, and Sennheiser HD 820. Whether you’re a hobbyist music maker, bedroom producer, or professional audio engineer, there’s a pair of headphones on this list for you.