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If you want to rock out to big beats and fat guitar licks, there are a ton of great headphones for you to choose from. But to really hear a track the way it was recorded, you’ll want to invest in a pair of studio headphones.
Studio headphones (or monitor headphones) are used by professional audio engineers when they are mixing and mastering their tracks. The reason: unlike regular headphones, which bump up the bass and extend or “sweeten” the sound, the best studio headphones actually deliver flatter sound, so you can hear a track at its purest form. With a wide and flat frequency response, studio headphones deliver smooth, unaltered sound that’s consistent across all levels (highs, lows, mids) from start to finish. They also deliver a wider spectrum of sound, so you can pick out all the little parts and details in a song that you might not have otherwise heard.
The best studio headphones will also feature a high level of noise isolation that works in a couple of ways. The earpads should be large enough to fit over your ears, to act as a “suction” of sorts to block out external noise, but to also prevent the music you’re hearing from drifting out.
Since they’re often used for long recording sessions, the best studio headphones are also quite durable. All of the picks on our list are designed with adjustable headbands, ergonomic earpads and solid, well-built materials that last. Note: these headphones are designed to be plugged into a device or audio system, so if you’re looking for wireless headphones, you’ll want to consider something else.
Still, if you want a better listening experience that’s free from distortion or added enhancements, you’ll want to upgrade to a pair of studio headphones. By reproducing sound in its more natural form, without any bells and whistles, you’ll be hearing things a lot differently — and, dare we say, a lot clearer too.
1. Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise Canceling Over-Ear Headphones
This isn’t a traditional pair of studio cups, per se, but the sleek over ears feature real-time audio calibration that actively works to improve clarity, detail and range. Adaptive noise canceling (ANC) works to keep your music as the main focus — not any outside noise.
Using Apple’s W1 chip, the headphones improve on the Bluetooth connectivity and battery life of previous models. The Beats Studio3 gets up to 22 hours of playback time, which goes up to 40 hours if ANC is turned off. Running short on time? A ten minute charge gets you up to three hours of play.
We like the soft over-ear cushions, which are designed for long-term wear feature ergonomic padding and built-in venting that prevents sweaty temples. The cushions and headband are both adjustable so you can find a comfortable fit.
This set includes the Beats Studio3 wireless headphones, a carrying case, 3.5mm RemoteTalk cable, universal USB charging cable and manual.
PROS: Reliable connectivity and crisp, accurate sound make these a no-brainer to pick up.
CONS: Noise cancellation could be improved as they say outside noise is dampened but still present.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Monitor Headphones
You’ll like the sound isolation of these studio headphones, whose circumaural design may feel a little heavier and cumbersome, but do an excellent job of drowning out external noise. The earcups mold easily and comfortably over your ears so you get deep, immersive sound.
For audio engineers, these headphones work across an extended frequency range with clear, distinct highs, mids and lows. The bass is true to life, so you’re getting more accurate bass, rather than the exaggerated wallop and artificial bass boost some other models deliver.
What we like: the headphones collapse into a compact package to tuck easily into your bag when traveling or commuting.
This set includes the headphones, carrying case, a detachable coiled cable and detachable straight cable.
PROS: Part of Audio-Technica’s popular M-Series line, used by a number of professional sound engineers.
CONS: These are not wireless headphones. Some users say the earpads felt uncomfortable and started to fray after prolonged use, so they switched them out.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Studio Headphones
These studio headphones from Beyerdynamic are as rugged as they are sleek, holding up to repeated use and travel without skipping a beat.
Audiophiles love the sound reproduction, which feels wide and spacious across all frequencies (I.e. no muddying here). Bass notes are clearly defined and high frequencies are bright and distinct. Mids are flat, but not muted, making these headphones extremely reliable for mixing and monitoring.
The spring steel headband stays comfortable and secure, while the soft, adjustable earcups stay cool and don’t lose their “puff” even over time.
What we like: Beyerdynamic’s smartly-designed single-sided cable lets you take the headphones off without getting your face tangled up in the cord.
PROS: Incredibly detailed and accurate reproduction of sound that lets you hear audio in a purer form.
CONS: Some found you need to break in or “burn in” the headphones before the sound quality comes through.