Whether you’re mixing or recording new beats, you’re going to need headphones. But times can be tough when you’re a beginner. I know I made some crazy decisions when I was young but most of my problems revolved around monetary reasons. The right gear can be expensive and when you’re parents are already helping you get through college, you don’t want them to foot the bill for your antics either (no matter how talented you are). Anyway, I was a smart kid, so I always hunted up stores to get the best buys. It ought to be easier now for you young folks since we have Craigslist and Amazon.
Either way, you can’t start recording or even mixing without headphones. Yea yea, you can mix with a studio monitor too but I always prefer the former. I’ve whipped up a whole guide comparing the two. Anyway, getting to the important stuff, here’s a list of some of my favorite cheap studio headphones.
1. Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphones
Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones have a comfortable and soft synthetic leatherette headband with high-quality ear cup padding which is nice and durable. I love the amazing full swivel design to listen with just a single ear cup. Also, the design ensures these headphones easily fit a variety of different ear and head sizes.
In my opinion, the HD 280 Pro is a durable and professional studio headphone pair—essentially, an excellent measurement tool for mixing, recording, and mastering performers as well as engineers.
I think that the precision and quality of a pair such as the HD 280 Pro is more surgical rather than magical; that being said, here is where the product manages to separate itself from the average, light-on-bass and flat studio reference pair.
It is worth mentioning that HD 280 Pro actually packs plenty of low-end. It has an impedance of about 64 Ohms, which means that depending mainly on the source of the sound, it might not be brain-meltingly loud (however, this is really a good thing). Moreover, this quality, coupled with the excellent quality of its drivers, means that distortion would be a rarity.
In terms of durability, the coiled cable is quite heavy duty and provides great strain relief. However, the one problem I noticed with its design is that there’s extra pressure on devices when I used the 3.5mm jack. Note that Sennheiser’s product description mentions that the cable can be easily replaced.
With respect to sound, these are perfect-sounding studio headphones. If you have not heard an analytical and flat-tuned studio headphone before, then they may take a little time for you to properly adjust to, but once you do you will never feel like going back. I really thought that my M40X’s were flat and the best-tuned I had heard, until I closely listened to these.
One of the things that many professional users and travelers appreciate is the extremely compact and folding design of these babies. I love the fact that you can both pivot the earcups to fold flat, or you can fold them into your headband for a nice and sturdy package that you can pack in your backpack or compact gear case.
With plenty of professional features, quality sound, and dependable performance, it is easy to rank the amazing Sennheiser HD280 PRO headphones as a top pick for over-ear studio headphones.
Some key features that I’d like to highlight:
- Accurate and clean audio performance across the whole frequency range
- Secure and comfortable fit for extended listening sessions
- Excellent noise isolation
- Excellent for monitoring at low volume
- Heavy-duty design
- Can passively reduce ambient noise considerably
2. LyxPro HAS-30
The headphones have spacious ear cups. So, whether you’ve small or big ears, these headphones will surely have them properly covered with its comfy and large ear cups. Also, you can be pretty confident that both your ears would be well-secured while you listen to some of your favorite tunes.
The foldable designed of these headphones makes them comfortable to be easily carried around by DJs or studio managers. In addition, a nice case comes with them and allows you to store them with ease. With LyxPro HAS-30 you will not have to fret about them falling off, which makes them great for workouts as well as other routine activities as well.
I think you will love the fact that the ear cups on these headphones are rotatable 180 degrees, in case you want to rest them on a table when they are not in use. Piano sounds and acoustic guitar sound crisp and accurate while the bass is clean and punchy. In addition, professionally recorded vocals tend to sound layered and spacious. Read up here to learn tips on how to reduce echo in a room.
The soundstage of the headphone is surprisingly wide for a closed-back headphone, and I can easily see myself using these great headphones for both movies and gaming as well. You will get good value for money for these top-quality headphones as you will also receive lots of incredible accessories. The headphones come with the standard plugs and cords, and also a convenient adaptor for professional use.
LyxPro HAS-30 has several cool features such as:
- 180° Rotating ear cups
- Fully foldable
- Replaceable ear cups
- Replaceable and detachable cables
- Adapter (3.5mm to about 1/4″) for use with professional equipment
- 2 cables, a coiled and straight cable; the straight cable is about 9.5 feet long while the coiled cable goes from about 4 feet to up to 10 feet.
3. OneOdio Headphones
You can immerse yourself in very accurate high and mid tones which are true and clear to your original recording and never lose composure-even at a higher volume.
It is worth mentioning that even if you crank up the volume to the maximum level, surprisingly the tones would remain the same as the original recording quality.
In addition, OneOdio Pro has reversible housing along with a rugged and adjustable headband; this will help you with freestyle as well as single-side monitoring. Another great thing about these headphones is that the ear cups conveniently swivel to lay flat; they can also flip upward and can neatly fit in your laptop case or bag. And that is not all as with its noise isolation feature, users could hear the music very clearly even when there’re sounds and noise in your surrounding area.
The unique thing about these headphones is that they’re adapter-free, meaning there’s a convenient 6.3mm plug that is located on one side which could come in handy, and especially when you are performing the DJ sessions while your plug located on the other side will function for music-listening.
You can detach these plugs, too, and this can give you the freedom of not having to stay plugged into the mixer the whole time. This is great for folks who really like to get moving when they are recording.
Some key features of the OneOdio Pro include:
- Ultra-comfy ear cups
- Detachable and sturdy cable for more ease and greater convenience
- You can fold the swivel ear cups for easy and quick storage
- HD audio quality
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20X is a great closed-back and wired pair of durable headphones. The product comes with a ten-foot hard-wired cable as well as a snap-on 6.3 mm adapter. These headphones are an excellent and reliable source to monitor both professional and in-home studio environments.
This model is an awesome introduction to the company’s critically acclaimed and popular M-Series line. High-quality materials and modern design combine for delivering a comfortable and great listening experience; it also has enhanced audio along with effective isolation. This is why I think it is an excellent choice when it comes to tracking and mixing.
That being said, the M20x aren’t portable headphones. As a result, they don’t fold neatly into a compact format or have convenient swiveling ear-cups that can lay flat. Also, they are a little cumbersome and hard to carry around; they will also occupy a bit of space in your backpack and might not fit easily in a handbag. Hence, I wouldn’t recommend this for folks who like moving around or are genuinely in need of portable gear.
In my opinion their build quality is above average. They can handle a few drops without getting damaged. However, their build quality tends to feel less durable and cheaper compared to the ATH-M40x. Also, the metal frame that is used in these headphones is thinner and can expose the audio cable that connects the ear cups. This is why unlike other higher-end models of similar design this exposed and thin cable makes the M20x prone to damage by wear and tear.
Some of the great features of these headphones are:
- 40 mm top quality drivers with copper-clad aluminum voice coils and rare earth magnets
- Precision tuned for better low-frequency performance
- Convenient one-side cable exit
- Circumaural design can easily contour around your ears for superior sound isolation
- Ideal for studio tracking as well as mixing
PS. While you’re checking out headphones, don’t forget to get yourself a MIDI keyboard. We’ve prepared a whole guide that’s designed just for beginners.
5. Shure SRH440 Professional
I think the Shure SRH440 Professional Headphones provide great sound reproduction and optimal comfort. These headphones are optimized for both studio and home recording. The dense foam padding which completely surrounds the ears makes SRH440 headphones very comfortable, and this is a must-have trait in a headphone for those extended recording sessions.
Their dense padding coupled with their fully closed backs is what gives SRH440s an incredible degree of isolation; as a result, sound inside the headphones will not bleed into open microphones. Note that at the same time, these headphones offer sufficient external sound to easily enter to make sure that you and your peers can still communicate with ease between songs without actually taking them off.
Overall design of the product is very “studio headphone.” Also, the unique look on the head seems utilitarian, but is not very stylish. The wires that go between your ear cups are a little exposed, and are secured in place with little clips.
They also have a detachable cable and field-replaceable ear cup padding; so, in case something breaks, you can actually have the product fixed. Another great thing is that both ear cup rotation adjustments are sturdy and metal-reinforced. In addition, the headband features a bright Shure logo in white on the top of it. As a result, you and others know who made these headphones whenever you take them out. These headphones fold down “football style,” however you will need to extend their adjustment arms to fully do this. Hence, when they are folded down they are still kind of meaty, thick, and huge. You can record some awesome music with this microphone.
Some of the notable features of these headphones are:
- Enhanced frequency response can easily deliver accurate and precise audio across an extended range
- Replaceable ear cup pads help ensure extended product life
- Collapsible construction and adjustable headband provide more comfort as well as portability
- Power handling and impedance optimized for better performance with pro audio devices
- Detachable and coiled cable
Btw here is an even more in-depth review of Shure SRH440.
6. Status Audio CB-1
At such a low price, the closed-back Status Audio CB-1 headphones are not one of the flashiest or most future-proof models available on the market; that being said, sonically they outperform the majority of competitor products in this price range. I agree that their lack of noise isolation and dull aesthetics need improvement, but their stellar audio coupled with multipurpose cables and long-lasting comfort make for an excellent listening experience.
It is worth mentioning that decent stereo imaging and a wide soundstage gives the CB-1 headphones some of the airiness and scale of an open-back headphone.
These headphones have a more neutral tone compared to your average $50 full-size headphones; that being said, unless the degree of your monitoring requires start and end at a relatively low-cost home-based recording setup, I would not suggest putting the product at the top of your must-have list.
I will have to admit that one of the great things about these headphones is their weight, or lack thereof. Keep in mind that at eight ounces, the CB-1 by Status Audio weighs less than the 11.2-ounce Dekoni Blue. As a result, I found these headphones gentle on my ears as well as super comfy on my head, never feeling tired or fatigued, even after several hours of listening. I’d say that the model is great for recording all kinds of vocals. Plus, if you’re into rapping, you’ll benefit from these amazing rapping microphones.
I am sorry to report that Status Audio CB-1 cans do not ship with extra ear cups or a carrying case. That being said, the company does gift buyers with 2 cables as well as a 1/4-in jack adapter that can be used on professional equipment.
Some key features of the Status Audio CB-1 include:
- Comfortable pads
- Large over-ear design
- 50mm drivers can deliver analytical and neutral sound signature
- Logo-free but features flashy metal rings
- Foldable – headphones can easily collapse into a compact form factor
7. Sony MDR-7506 Closed-back Headphones
Sony MDR-7506 professional headphones are well-known throughout the music industry and DJs as one of the amazing-sounding yet moderately priced headphones on the market. I must say it is due to their large and well-tuned drivers (40mm) and their gold connectors with oxygen-free copper.
They have a lean bass with an accentuated treble range. All of these properties offer a crisper and clearer sound, which is great for studio recorders as they help render livelier tones.
Comfort is taken very seriously in both the designing and making of the Sony MDR7506. They have cushioned ear pads, which make it easy for users to listen to several audio tracks without any feeling of being inconveniently squished between a pair of full-sized headphones. Besides effectively blocking all ambient noises, the ear pads do a great job of preventing the sound from escaping your headphones.
These headphones have a sturdy fixed cable, which is partly coiled and partly straight and can extend to ten feet. It is a great thing that Sony includes a great 1/8″-1/4″ adapter with these headphones as you are going to like to use the product with the iPod, too. Another great thing is that they fold neatly; hence, you may take the MDR-7506s with you anywhere you go.
I like these features of Sony MDR-7506 professional headphones:
- Perfect headphones for both pro studio monitoring and detailed listening
- Adjustable headband helps provide maximum comfort
- Durable folding design offers quality which lasts for several years
- Frequency response ranges from 10Hz to 20kHz
Be sure to check out my Sony MDR-7506 review.
Factors to consider when Buying the Best Studio Headphones
Here are a couple of factors that you ought to consider before making a purchase:
Flat Frequency Response
The key feature of studio headphones is their ability to enable listeners to listen to sounds in their natural state. It’s because high-quality headphones, like studio monitors, tend to have flatter frequency responses that do not change the sound that comes from the source.
An incredible pair of headphones can produce sounds which are outstanding to your ears. They’re only limited with the vital sounds which are released to the speakers of the headphones. As a result, they are an excellent means of controlling the listening environment. You can learn more on the sound quality here.
A headphone’s comfort level is very important, regardless of the way you feel about any other criteria. In case you get a pair that is so uncomfortable that you cannot put it on for over thirty minutes or one hour without your neck, head, or ears hurting, you will not be able to focus, and really enjoy music production.
Invest in a design that won’t cause ear fatigue (yes, that’s a real thing).
Obviously, a pair of great quality headphones permits mobility to users. You can carry them anywhere —allowing studio personnels to listen to the best quality sounds even when they are on the go. Most of the top-quality studio headphones have some type of foldable design, allowing for easy and quick storage when they are not in use.
I’m a fan of these headphones since you can practically carry them around everywhere you go. Some designs can also fit inside your pocket which means you can carry a pair whenever you go recording.
Open vs Closed Headphones
Now, on to the more important stuff. Before you make your purchase or even start browsing, you’ll have to decide between open vs. closed headphones. As the name indicates, closed-back headphones feature earcups that are sealed. This ensures that background noise doesn’t leak in to your tracks while you are recording vocals in your microphone.
Also, closed-back models are great for folks who only want to concentrate on their own performance without picking up sound from other instruments while you’re recording.
I have reviewed some of the budget studio headphones you can get. The best studio headphones for you would depend on your preferences, personal budget, and priorities; so, it’s crucial to know all your unique needs before going shopping.
Is there something you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments section below.
Further reading: best laptops for music production.