In the last post, we talked about best in-ear monitors, but if I’m being completely honest, I can’t live without good old fashioned headphones. Sure, they may be bulky and cause ear fatigue, but they really are the best for audiophiles such as myself. The only problem is that they tend to break the bank. Thankfully with my years of experience, I’ve had to buy tons of musical gear, and I’ve become a pro at buying the best stuff
To make things easier for my fellow sound engineers and music producers, I’ve compiled this handy guide that will walk you through some of the best budget headphones for audiophiles.
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
I’m a huge fan of Audio Technica. The brand is known for making some of the best music gear in the market and provided decent customer service too. But what’s most commendable is that they can cater to all kinds of customers. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is an excellent product. For the price range, I’d say it’s of the best since it’s heavily used by sound engineers and music producers.
The ATH-M50x features 45 mm aperture drivers that result in quality sound. Music professionals benefit from extended frequency range including the accurate bass response. The overall design is also pretty neat. It features special contours that fit perfectly in your ears. It also includes professional grade and ear pads which result in better comfort and durability. These headphones offer superior sound isolation which means you can work in loud environments without any distractions.
I have used these headphones long mixing sessions so I can honestly say that they are comfortable to use and offer durability. You also get a straight cable with your purchase which is also detachable, this ensures that you can replace the broken cable with an even better one without discarding the headphones. I’m also a fan of how this product is compatible with most Android phones and MP3 devices. My pair lasted for a couple of years, you can also opt for an upgraded model but that may be a little bit more expensive. Overall, I would highly recommend these headphones to audiophiles. For the price, the construction is pretty solid.
The only downside is that it starts to feel pretty heavy on your hear after a couple of hours. It’s fine if you take breaks in between, but if not, you may experience frequent headaches from time to time. You can buy different ear pads, but that will negatively impact sound quality. While this model might not work as well as Dr. Dre’s Beats, you shouldn’t expect them to because of the considerably low price tag.
2. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
I had to put this on the list because it was named as one of the best audiophile headphones by Forbes (the ATH-M50x also shared a spot on this list). For the price, you don’t have much to complain about the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. These are perfect for beginners and offer a reasonably high-end look that you wouldn’t expect owing to its price point. The overall build is durable, and the headphones perform an excellent job in delivering high-quality sound.
I’d highly recommend this to sound engineers who have a bit of a tight budget at the moment. Thanks to its airy and spacious design, you experience an added depth, and the low-frequency notes also turn out to be clear and precise. Overall, I’m definitely a fan of the sound quality, and it’s a great pair to start off with. As for the design, you’ll be happy to know that the headband is quite sturdy (it’s made of steel) and you get a nice fit. On its own, the DT 990 PRO is surprisingly lightweight. But you will start to experience ear and head fatigue in a couple of hours. I would suggest you take a few breaks in between. That might even be better for your creative process.
The bass is quite prominent, and I didn’t find the sound too overpowering which is definitely a good thing. As for the mids and highs, they seem to be pretty great too. I’ve owned this pair for a couple of years so I know they should be able to stand of time. If you’re looking for budget-friendly gear, this may be a prime choice.
On the downside, the cable isn’t detachable and is wired directly to the body. So when the original cable dies, you’ll ultimately have to pair a new set of headphones. This was a major downside for me because I like upgrading cables or replacing them after a couple of months to get a better feel. But except for this, I wouldn’t say that the DT 990 PRO has any other major cons.
3. COWIN E7
If you’re an audiophile who’s most concerned about noise cancellation, then the COWIN E7 is a great buy. Because of its enhanced properties, this particular model offers superior noise reduction whether you’re working at your home studio or outdoors. It features 40mm large-aperture drivers that do a pretty decent with accurate bass response. I remember I was quite impressed by the build of this thing. It feels sturdy but is lightweight at the same time. This means that you can enjoy high-quality sound without worrying about ear fatigue or nasty headaches.
However, the earcups are what really makes the COWIN E7 stand out. It features skin texture and offers the perfect fit. To get even results, I’d recommend you give yourself a break and take off the headphones every 2-3 hour or so. This results in increased comfort and will also allow you to perform your best when mixing. The product offers 30 hours playtime which is a steal plus you can charge the device using Bluetooth.
I know this list has been curated for music professionals, but if you’re looking for an all-rounder, the COWIN E7 provides NFC pairing. This allows hands-free calls so that you can make quick calls on the go which is also a very convenient feature.
All in all, this a reasonably good pair plus the customer service is also excellent. You get an 18-month warranty which further secures your purchase. The customer service reps are pretty friendly and are always ready to help out in case you have a problem.
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x is packed with a number of features that you would expect from something more expensive.
It features a modern design and is constructed using high-quality materials. Unlike most headphones in the market, this one is considerately lightweight and gets the job done. It is perfect for beginners who are learning how to mix. If you are a professional, you would probably be better off with another pair but if not these still get the job done. The overall sound quality is rich, and you can hear the warm tones quite clearly.
This model offers a good seal around the ear which is easy to adjust. It also comes with the plug adaptor that increases its versatility. However, on the downside, the ATH-M20x can get somewhat uncomfortable to wear after a couple of hours. The overall fit is satisfactory but nothing to rave about. I should also warn you that this pair does not offer noise cancellation which means it provides little sound isolation. This can be quite distracting while you are working, but you shouldn’t have a problem if you use it in a quiet space.
Overall, the construction is relatively alright, but the gold plating will wear off after a few months. Also, since the exterior is made out of plastic, it may not last a very long time. The padding isn’t so bad though. I would recommend this for studio tracking and mixing because it enhances low-frequency sound. It does not perform well when it comes to sound isolation though
PS Check out my detailed review on the Audio Technica AT2020 if you’re also in need of a microphone.
5. LyxPro OEH-10
The LyxPro OEH-10 is a nice pair of budget open back headphones that you should get your hands on. It offers outstanding sound quality, however, since this pair is not perfectly sealed, you should be able to hear ambient noise from your surroundings. If you do require superior isolation, I wouldn’t recommend you to buy open back models anyway. You’ll be better off with closed back models since that overs better ear coverage.
I especially liked how the model is nice and airy. It doesn’t feel bulky, and that doesn’t compromise on sound quality. The ear pads are all interchangeable which results in improved durability and maximum comfort. It features a solid 3.5mm plug which is compatible with most devices along with a stainless steel headband.
As for the sound, I think it performs pretty well for the price. I’ve worked with many expensive models, but I’d still say that the LynxPro OEH 10 offers a great deal. The mids sound great, and the voice is great, offering superior clarity.
I would suggest you immediately swap the existing vinyl pads for foam once your parcel arrives. It feels good and offers better results. Despite the low price, you don’t have to worry about this model feeling or looking cheap. Amazon will ship the product out to you real fast so that’s also a plus point.
6. OneOdio Pro-30
A lot of folks presume that if a product looks good, it can get away with minor nicks and setbacks. And while I’m all for good looks, I’m also careful about where I spend my money.
These over the ear headphones provide maximum comfort thanks to its memory protein earmuffs. They have been designed and manufactured in Germany which means you can expect top-notch quality. The material prevents heat build-up while leather headband drastically enhances music listening experience.
With the OneOdio headphones, you get a 9.8 cord that should easily attach to any faraway stereo device. It also features two plugs (3.5mm and 6.3mm) which are also detachable. It is also worth mentioning that these headphones are compatible with most devices including iPads, Android phones, and other audio devices. I’m also a fan of the foldable design since it means that you can adjust the headbands to suit practically any head size. This will come in handy when you’re working with your buddies and constantly exchanging gear (I possibly can’t count the number of times my friends have borrowed stuff from me.
Further on the positives, this pair is fairly durable and comes with a typical rubbery feel. And in case I haven’t already said it before, the headphones look pretty stylish. It has a glossy finish to it that practically gleams from afar. If you can handle the bulkiness, this model is great for music professionals and DJs.
The most obvious downside is that your ears can get all sweaty and uncomfortable after hours of work, but that’s pretty normal with over-ear headphones. If you’d rather work with something lightweight, there are plenty of other cool audiophile headphones on this list.
7. Long Run Technologies Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you’re in search of a pair of decent pair of Bluetooth that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, this model is certainly worth your while. Explicitly designed to offer amazing noise cancellation, you can work practically anywhere you want without about external noises and distractions. Despite the low price tag, these headphones features 40 mm drivers that offer the best bass response. It also goes the extra mile by providing insanely crisp sound – which means you don’t have to spend $500. This is designed for serious audiophiles so you get serious value for money.
And did I mention that the design is completely foldable and portable? It also comes with a pretty neat case which is great for travel. The protective casing also plays a critical role in increasing the longevity of the product. I also like how these babies come with a mic. Regardless of them being meant for audiophiles, having a mic ensures you can answer phone calls. This obviously isn’t a major requirement when you’re a sound engineer but it’s definitely a feature worth having.
I’m also a huge fan of the battery. It offers incredibly fast charging technology which you probably wouldn’t expect from budget-friendly gear. This is all thanks to the lithium-ion batteries that get the job done swiftly. You’ll also be pleased to know that the brand offers a 100% refund in case you’re not completely satisfied with the product.
And while it might not seem so, this model is incredibly lightweight and comfortable. The padding does not cause your ears to squish uncomfortably. The amount of noise cancellation it provides is also worth raving about. On the downside, the overall construction can feel kinda flimsy but you can always reach out to customer service if you’re not completely satisfied with the product.
Looking for studio headphones under $100? Check out my full list.
8. Avantree ANC031
The Avantree ANC031 offers a sleek custom-fit design with 22dB active noise canceling capabilities. The earpads offer good fitting and listening comfort and provide about 28 hours of playtime. However, the brand recommends you take off the headphones after a few hours of use, this will prevent the chances of an ear and head fatigue.
If I’m being completely honest, I only bought this pair because of the noise canceling features. They cost less than $70 and get the job date at about half the price which is quite impressive. I’d recommend this model to beginners and regular folks but not to hardcore professionals.
This model is excellent for folks who go out a lot and work outdoors since it offers 28 hours of wireless play time. It also includes a 3.5mm aux port without worrying about your battery draining.
When most people buy headphones, they don’t make it a point to consider Bluetooth as a prime factor. I understand that it’s not a necessity but it definitely is a feature worth having. The added functionality ensures that you don’t have to deal with pesky wires and cables. The wireless charging is another bonus, especially great for folks who travel. Further on the plus side, the case is pretty sturdy and I haven’t had any problems with portability.
I’d say this is a pretty good model for beginners plus the interface is pretty simple to understand. You can make volume adjustments, answer calls on the go and access keys without a worry.
All in all, this is a pretty good budget-friendly microphone if you can ignore the minor setbacks.
Check out my guide on mixing with headphones vs. monitors.
Why Should I Get Audiophile Headphones
Now you’re probably wondering why you can’t get away with cheap knock offs, well the thing is, you have to invest in yourself. Song engineers ought to take special care and have a unique set of requirements when compared to home users. Audiophile headphones are specifically designed to cater to your specific needs.
Open-Back vs. Closed Models
As the name indicates, open-back headphones aren’t completely covered, exposing the earcups. This allows sound and air to pass by resulting in better quality freely. On the other hand, closed-back models offer better sound isolations as the earcups are enclosed. They also minimize sound leakage which can become a problem with open-back models.
Most professional-grade headphones are open-back but you should also find a fair share of closed back models in the market. This decision would solely depend on your personal preference and quality.
Further reading: open vs. closed headphones.
This is sound we’re talking about here! If you’re a musician or a producer, a large portion of your life revolves around how well your tracks sound and the amount of fine details you’re able to pick up. While you’re right to assume that high-end gear tends to cost a fortune, you should be able to get your hands on some pretty decent stuff if you do some digging. Actually, you don’t have to any more thanks to this list!
Opt for headphones that offer exceptional detail and sound clarity. The kind of gear would also depend on your personal preferences. For instance, some headphones produce a much warmer sound when compared to others. Here, you’ll have to go through reviews and opt for a headphone that best manages your expectations.
You’re probably rolling your eyes because Bluetooth connectivity might seem like a luxury feature when you have a limited budget. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Bluetooth makes it possible for professionals to hang out and listen to tracks wherever they go. This eliminates the need for pesky wires that might get in the way or confine you to particular space.
Now you absolutely can’t get a pair of decent headphones without paying attention to the frequency response. This is measured in Hz and should be taken into account while shopping. Since 20 to 20,000 Hz is the usual audible range, it is considered as the standard. But you’ll find headphones that offer various frequency responses.
Again, this will depend on your usability.
I understand that you’re buying something budget friendly but that doesn’t mean you can throw around money for nothing. Invest in quality gear that will at least last a couple of years. I don’t care how old my headphones are, I don’t toss them out until they completely stop working. If you’re planning to make a livelihood out of this, I suggest you take matters more seriously.
Well there you have it, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my detailed guide, I know I’ve bombarded you with tons of suggestions but these will probably give you a better head start. Once you get a pair, make sure you learn how to clean your headphones to keep them for longer.
Is there something you’d like to add?
Let me know in the comments section below.