In this post, we’ll take a look at how to choose the right headphones for you and compare quality vs price without completely overwhelming you. We’ve chosen a few key things you need to know about headphone quality and chosen the top four headphones in the business, in one easy-to-digest list. After you read this post, you’ll be ready to make your headphone purchase. Make sure you invest in a comfortable, high-quality pair of headphones engineered for production. This is especially important if you don’t have good studio monitors or make music on the go.
What to Look For in Production Headphones
There are a ton of top-quality headphones out there, so choosing the best fit for you really depends on more than a simple ratings read-through. Before you buy headphone for producing, let’s look at what will make some better than others for your specific needs.
What You Work On
If you are both making music and DJing, you’ll want two separate headphones. Sure, some headphones are appropriate for both production and DJing (although they’re few and far between), but production headphones are truly engineered for just that: production. Studio quality production headphones are flat. That means they are specifically built for making and mastering music. They don’t artificially boost some frequencies over others. Many DJing headphones may boost certain frequencies, like bass, to help DJs mix in the booth. Most consumer headphones, like those lovely noise canceling ones you take with you on the plane, are also not suitable for production for this reason.
Where You Work
Do you work in a home studio? In your living room when your roommates are home? In a busy cafe? Where you work is a determining factor of what kind of headphone you need to get. If you need more sound isolation (and you need to respect other people’s space), you definitely need a closed-back headphone.
Open-Back versus Closed-Back
Ok, so what does this open-back, closed-back stuff mean? Open-back headphones allow sound in and out around your ear. That means you’re letting sound in and out too; people will hear what you’re listening to and you’ll hear everything around you. Obviously this isn’t the best choice if you need to make music in a shared space. The advantage to open-back headphones is that the flexible movement of sound makes for a more accurate portrayal of your music in the outside world. This makes them great for mixing and mastering.
Closed-back headphones isolate the sound so little will be heard coming in and out. If you want to use these headphones for listening in shared spaces, you’ll have to go with closed-back headphones. Don’t worry though. There are plenty of amazing closed-back headphones perfect for music production. For a more detailed explanation of open vs closed, watch this great video by Minimalistik below.
On-Ear versus Over-Ear
These are pretty self explanatory. On-ear headphones sit on top of your ear, rather than all the way around (over-ear). Most production headphones are over-ear since they make for better sound isolation and they are much more comfortable. Many DJ headphone are on-ear because they’re more compact, flexible, and don’t need to be worn nonstop for long periods of time. For producing and mastering, you’ll definitely want over-ear headphones.
Most Recommended for Under $500
These Sennheisers generally retail for $300 to $400 dollars. These open-back, over-ear headphones are truly top-quality and comfortable to wear. Just read the reviews on Amazon to hear for yourself. If you have the appropriate space and the cash, this could be a good choice for you.
Most Recommended for Under $200
This is probably one of the most top-rated set of headphones in the business within the $150 price range. They’re used by veterans and new producers alike and seems to be a staple that every producer has used at some point or another. They’re over-ear and closed-back.
The BeyerDynamic DT 770 headphone is comfortable and durable. You definitely won’t need to replace these year after year. These over-ear headphones retail for around $180 and are nearly unbeatable for the price. Note that you’ll need an amp for the 80 OHM version and these are truly better for high-quality at home listening rather than mixing and producing. To get more out of the 250 OHM you can also get a headphone amp, which improves clarity, but it’s not required. These headphones are relatively flat and are revered by veterans.
Most Recommended for $100 or less
These headphones are definitely a staple for new and emerging music producers. They’re professional-grade, foldable and portable, comfortable to wear, and offer great, clear sound. At this price point, you can’t go wrong with these. Just check out their Amazon reviews.
Hopefully this quick overview helped you sort through all the noise (no pun intended) out there about the best headphones for producing. Your budget shouldn’t be a hinderance when it comes to music production and, especially, good headphones. As you can see, there are options for everyone and you’ll go on to make great music whatever your choice.