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Best Studio Headphones

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  1. Sinocelt
    All-purpose studio headphones are closed (for monitoring) and must translate well to near-field monitors (for mixing/mastering). Ideally, they should also be comfortable and durable. I thought it could be interesting to make a list of the top contenders, regardless of price. I try to list only one item per brand. Moreover, for the sake of consistency and comparability, I only list measurements from the same source: InnerFidelity. Tyll Hertsens, who made the measurements, posted in this thread.

    Possible top contenders, though not marketed as studio monitors:

    Mixing/mastering only (open headphones):

    Formerly on this page:
    • Audio Technica ATH-M50x (measurements) (MSRP US$239.00) [Removed in favor of the ATH-A2000Z.]
    • Audio Technica ATH-M70x (MSRP US$419.00) [Removed in favor of the ATH-A2000Z.]
    • AKG K240 DF [Discontinued.]
    • AKG K612 Pro (measurements) (MSRP US$199.00) [Open. Removed in favor of the K812.]
    • Beyerdynamic DT 150 (MSRP US$299.00) [Still worth considering in noisy environments.]
    • Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (179.99) [Removed in favor of the DT 1770 Pro.]
    • Beyerdynamic DT 1350 (MSRP US$449.99) [Removed in favor of the DT 1770 Pro.]
    • Shure SRH1540 (measurements) (MSRP US$624.00) [Bass north of neutral.]
    • Stax 4070 [Discontinued.]
    • Yamaha HPH-MT220 (measurements) (MSRP US$399.00) [Discontinued.]
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
    tomscy2000, Claritas and menuki like this.
  2. dc5itr329
    Subscribed!  Interested in hearing other opinions!
  3. wolfetan44
    LFF's Paradox.
  4. Sinocelt
    Didn't you describe them as mid-forward (rather than linear) in your review? 
  5. John Willett
    Closed headphones are not really very good for mixing and mastering - open headphones are better for this.
    Good tracking headphones are the Sennheiser HD 215 (and HD 215 II) which are affordable, can be worn one-eared and are great for musicians in the studio (and cheap enough as to be not too much of a problem if they get trashed by a frustrated muso.).
    For monitoring on location the Sennheiser HD 25-1 are the top of my list (and what I have used for almost 25 years), though the new HD 26 Pro should be equally as good.  These are aso great for listening to detail in a mix.
    For editing and mastering I use the HD 800 which is considerably better than anything else I have heard (at any price).  At a lower price, the HD 700, HD 650 and HD 600 are also good for this as is also the AKG K701 and 702 (and I have heard the 712 is also good).
    My own set-up is a Grace m903 monitor controller with HD 800, HD 250 and HD 25-1, though I have a bagful of various headphones that can be used for musos.
    Sinocelt likes this.
  6. Sinocelt
    Certainly. But I had to set parameters to the selection (or start two threads). This is an "if you could have only one pair of headphones" kind of thread, but you could also call it a "best monitoring headphones, regardless of price" thread and it would make little difference. Monitoring headphones should be closed, yet as neutral as possible, so the best monitoring headphones would also be the best closed mixing/mastering headphones (even taking into account the fact that spatial clues are much less important when monitoring than when mixing/mastering).
    They're discontinued, however. The HD 6 Mix seems to be its replacement for monitoring purposes. The HD 6 Mix is also higher on Sennheiser's totem pole than the HD 215 II. (Granted, a higher price tag isn't always a guaranty of sonic superiority, even within a same brand.)
    FeedYourHead likes this.
  7. John Willett
    Not according to the Sennheiser website - in fact there is also a new version of the HD 25-1 called the HD 25-1 BASIC.
    The HD 25-1 II (which was released quite a few years ago) is identical to the original HD 25-1 - the only difference was a longer cable (1.5m instead of 1.2m) and that the new cable had a screw-on ¼" adaptor instead of a push-on one.
    The HD 26 Pro will eventually replace the HD 25, I think, not the HD Mix series.
    The HD 215 II are the ideal studio muso headphones because of the price and leaves them in the "trashable" bracket - there there are better ones in the range.
    My personal wish is that Sennheiser would use the ring driver technology of the HD 800 to make a really great set of closed cans that would be equally as good in the studio as they are for the connoisseur at home wanting to listen to music while his/her partner wants to watch the TV.
  8. Sinocelt
    OK, then it doesn't belong in my "price no object" list (but thank you for mentioning it).
    The HD 7 are inspired by the legendary HD 25.
    As for the HD 8, acoustically, they are inspired by the legendary HD 25.
    You gotta wonder how their new line fits with the old.
    I only auditionned the HD 800 once and the amp wasn't very powerful, but my impressions was that the highs were a little hyped.
  9. John Willett
    The HD 800 are the most neutral and revealing headphones I have ever heard.
    They are *very* revealing of the source - so they will show up the fact that a bright microphone was used in the recording and everything that was used in the chain from the mic. to your ears - so they will reveal all the deficiencies of the amp. you used (which is why I use the Grace m903).
    I use mine with my own recordings made with top-end microphones, recorded at 24/96 and with no artificial effects added.  Listening like this to a solo piano recording I made the recording through the HD 800 sounds exactly like the real piano sounded in the room when I put out the microphones to make the original recording.  So my opinion of the HD 800 is comparing the sound to the original live instrument.
  10. Sinocelt
    Which ones? (I actually know microphones better than headphones. The best ones I currently own are a Gefell M930 Art, a Sennheiser MKH416, and a Sennheiser MD441).
    Thanks for sharing. [​IMG]
    But you're right then, we need a closed version. Too bad the laws of physics are against us on that one.
  11. John Willett
    The mics I use for piano are Sennheiser MKH 20, Sennheiser MKH 8020, Neumann KM 183-D, Neumann KM 131-D or Gefell M 221.
    That particular recording was completely digital and made with the Neumann KM 183-D (mounted vertically as they were in the nearfield) - the recording session was originally written up on the Sound On Sound forum HERE.
  12. Sinocelt
    Wow. First time I hear of someone actually using Neumann's digital line. But ... you say that what you hear in the recording is what you heard during the recording. However, the KM 183 has a high-end boost culminating at 10 kHz with 8 dB. Isn't that ... audible??
    Read it. Very interesting, thanks. So, have you tried the KK 131-D capsule, since then?
  13. John Willett
    No, the boost is not audible - you must have misread what I wrote.
    I used the microphones *vertical* so they were facing upwards.
    They were at 90° to the piano and at that angle they have a flat response (you can see this by looking at the polar-pattern) - the high-end boost is only picking up reverberation from the room which is then diffuse and does not sound overly bright.
    I explained this in the SOS write-up.
    I only used the KM 183-D because the KK 131-D capsules were not available at the time of the recording.  Now I would use the 131 in preference to the 183, which I have done with later recordings.
    My next piano recording will be done with the Gefell M 221 and the MKH 8020 are for live stuff where I have to be as unobtrusive as possible.
    Sinocelt likes this.
  14. Sinocelt
    So you did. My speed-reading skills are no longer what they were during my years as a student. [​IMG]
    Wait, I'm currently drugged to the teeth (with sleep-inducing cold medicine). Would that work as an excuse?
  15. John Willett
    Yes - this time, anyway [​IMG]
    Sinocelt likes this.
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