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The Best Headphones for Music Production (2023)

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When people set out to create a studio, whether it’s at home or a dedicated space, a lot of emphasis is often placed on sound-treatment and monitors. Both are very important, but it’s also equally as important to have a good set of studio headphones! Any producer or mix engineer worth their salt will know it’s crucial to A/B a mix on different listening devices, so having a good set of headphones to work hand-in-hand with your monitors is critical.

The best studio headphones should provide a clear and honest reproduction of your projects. This will give you the most accurate sonic picture for every aspect of the frequency range. Another factor to consider is comfort and durability. This will also be important if you might be considering using your studio headphones as your day-to-day headphones too.

Choosing the right studio headphones is a personal choice at the end of the day. Whatever your personal needs might be, we’re here to help you choose the best headphones for music production!

Our Top 3 Music Production Headphones

Focal Clear MG Reference Studio Headphones

Our "money is no object pick" is the Focal Clear! If you want a listening experience that feels like you aren’t wearing headphones, the open-back Focal Clear headphones are the top choice. Absent any distortion and providing full bodied tone across all frequencies, instruments and vocals come through in a natural manner. With top of the line comfort and finish, the Focal Clear headphones are top tier.

Meze 99 Classics Over-Ear Headphones

Don’t let the looks fool you, the Meze Audio 99 Classics are not all show and no go. The 99 Classics offer a clear and focused listening experience ensuring you’ll get an accurate presentation of sound. With solid bass, warm midrange, and crisp highs, 99 Classics are a great all around headphone. Comfortable and carefully crafted all at an approachable price point, the Meze Audio 99 Classic is a great closed-back headphone option for the studio.

beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Studio Headphones

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones are our budget friendly pick, offering a neutral listening environment with good isolation. With a slight lack of bass and slight over-emphasis on highs, the DT 770 Pros make up for this with good construction and comfort. Overall though, they are a solid work-horse pair of headphones that can be used in multiple applications around the studio at a budget price.

Let’s take a look at what makes these our top 3 headphones, and then we’ll dive into some other options you can consider!

Focal Clear: Our Top Headphones for Music Production

The Focal Clear headphones are a serious open-back, high-fidelity choice. Focal themselves say their concept with the Clear is to provide such an opening listening experience that you forget you’re wearing headphones. You can be assured there will be no distortion or over-pronounced bass response. Tonally, they’re full-bodied resulting in instruments and voices coming through in a more natural and engaging manner. Top it off with a comfortable fit and these headphones are a real winner.

These headphones are certainly not for the average user or daily commuter though especially taking into consideration the open-back design. However, with an excellent build quality and finish, the Focal Clear headphones are right up there with the best of the best.

Focal isn’t messing around with these headphones. They offer a fantastic soundstage, amazing reproduction of your mix, and are comfortable for all day sessions. Yes, they’re expensive, but if you’re a professional producer or engineer making a living from recording or mixing, they’re worth the price! These may be overkill for anyone just starting out or making music as a hobby, but for the pro, they’re our top choice!

  • Open back reference headphones for accurate listening
  • All-metal construction makes these durable for heavy use
  • Memory foam ear pads ensure a comfortable fit


Meze 99 Classics: Our Favorite Closed Back Headphones for Music Producers

Meze Audio created something amazing with the 99 Classics. These headphones are closed back, in contrast to the Focals, making them suitable for wearing by performers during tracking (open back headphones don’t keep in the sound, so your headphone sound will bleed into the microphone if you wear them while recording). If you’re looking for an amazing daily driver headphone for recording and mixing, the 99 Classics are our choice! They sound more expensive than they are, and removable cable along with the wood and metal construction means these will last for many years to come.

Meze Audio set out to make a pair of headphones that sound good AND look good – a task they have certainly accomplished with the 99 Classics. The Meze Audio 99 Classics give a clear and focused listening experience. While maybe not the most spacious presentation of sound, the 99 Classics provide smooth and fluid audio. From the deep, well-defined bass to the warm midrange to the crispy highs, they provide an even, balanced sound. Meze Audio also went the extra mile to ensure comfort while wearing the 99 Classics for extended periods of time along with a plethora of accessories. 

If you’re concerned about the wood used by Meze Audio, they state the wood is harvested from sources with a certificate of origin i.e. mature trees that have reached the end of their life cycle. Rest assured they’re keeping the environment in mind while creating a beautiful and functional product.

  • Durable wood, metal, and leather construction
  • Amazing isolation for recording
  • Leather headband and soft ear cups for comfortable sessions


beyerdynamic DT 770: Our Budget Pick for Music Production Headphones

An absolute classic in the studio world, the beyerdynamic DT 770 affordable and sound great. These headphones have super plush ear pads, offering a premium feel that always impresses my recording clients. They’re also cheap enough to buy a few pairs for everyone to be able to listen! They are slightly hyped up in the upper mids and high frequencies, but otherwise offer a faithful representation of your mix.

There are multiple impedance options offered for the DT 770, but we suggest you stick with the lower 80 ohm option unless you plan on only using these with a headphone amp! The higher impedance 250 ohm version is extremely quiet when plugged into your phone or your laptop’s headphone port, so you should probably go with the 80 ohm option!

A quick note: when you first get these, they may feel a bit tight, but over time they will open up and become more comfortable.

  • Velour ear pads for extreme comfort
  • A studio classic for tracking or referencing your mix
  • Great detail for the price


More Music Production Headphones to Consider

Now that we’ve taken an in depth look at our top three, here are some more headphones for music production to consider! We’ll start with closed back headphones, then move to open back. If you don’t know the difference, check out this article, or read our headphones buyer’s guide at the end of this page!

Closed-Back Headphones for Music Production

Closed-Back headphones are best for recording applications since they fully enclose the ear helping isolate your listening experience while also keeping sound spill to a minimum. This is helpful if you plan to be using headphones while performing with a microphone, especially if you or the performer like some volume in their headphones. In contrast though, they can sometimes create over-pronounced bass response due to air pressure building up within the isolated casing.

Closed-Back headphones are typically more common and overall a great choice if you intend to use them for multiple applications. 

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
SENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back Headphones

SENNHEISER HD 569 Closed Back Headphones

Sennheiser's HD line of headphones is the go-to pick for many producers around the world, and the HD 569 is an affordable, closed back option in this series! I'm always a fan of headphones with a removable cable, since the cable is usually the first component to bread on cheaper headphones. These offer a balanced sound and the typical Sennheiser build quality at a reasonable price!

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Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

The Sony MDR7506 headphones have an extremely long cable for tracking in the studio! These are a great option for tracking headphones, and are affordable enough to buy enough for the whole band. While I wouldn't use these for mixing, they're great to have around for monitoring and referencing.

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones

The ATH-M50X contour around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments. That makes them a fantastic option for monitoring while recording! They're also useable for mixing, and coming in at a mid-range price point, are a great option for producers just getting into the world of headphones. The ATH-M50X can be found at studios around the world, and it makes sense due to the great value.

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Open-Back Headphones for Music Production

Open-Back headphones are not as common, but they tend to be lighter and therefore more comfortable when wearing for longer periods of time. Because of their breathable design allowing for air movement, they tend to produce a more natural, open sound, with better stereo reproduction.

There are some drawbacks though. The risk of audio spill is far greater because of the open-back design and you’ll also be able to hear external noises. That means they’re really only suitable for mixing in the studio. You wouldn’t want to use these in public, since you’d disturb others nearby, and you’ll be able to hear any background noise. Overall, these headphones will produce the most “natural” reproduction of your projects, so if you are looking for a headphone for mixing in the studio, consider going for a pair of open backs!

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Sennheiser HD 600 Hi-Res Open Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 600 Hi-Res Open Back Headphones

Another offering from Sennheiser's HD series, these are a great option for your first "nice" pair of open back headphones. I find them to be a tad bright, but overall balanced, with a great sound stage. The HD 600 have become a staple of the audiophile community, and their reputation is earned with great sound quality!

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HIFIMAN SUNDARA Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones

HIFIMAN SUNDARA Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones

HiFiMAN is known for their planar magnetic headphones, which deliver amazing bass response. These headphones strike the perfect balance between affordability and performance, with a great sound and build quality for a reasonable price. I owned the previous version of these, the HE400, for years, and the SUNDARA is a great update to this model!

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PHILIPS Fidelio X2HR Over-Ear Headphone

PHILIPS Fidelio X2HR Over-Ear Headphone

While PHILIPS isn't typically the first brand you think of for studio gear, these headphones are an affordable option for producers looking to dip their toes into the world of open back headphones! 50mm drivers offer great sound for under $200, and they feel durable and well built for the price! Don't sleep on these budget friendly headphones!

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Final Thoughts on Headphones for Music Production

If you’re looking for a multipurpose, all-around headphone, a closed back headphone is the way to go. If you’re primarily mixing, you can go with open or closed back depending on your preferences! While any of the headphones on this list are suitable for music production, you can’t go wrong with anything in our top 3!

Focal Clear MG Reference Studio Headphones

Our "money is no object pick" is the Focal Clear! If you want a listening experience that feels like you aren’t wearing headphones, the open-back Focal Clear headphones are the top choice. Absent any distortion and providing full bodied tone across all frequencies, instruments and vocals come through in a natural manner. With top of the line comfort and finish, the Focal Clear headphones are top tier.

Meze 99 Classics Over-Ear Headphones

Don’t let the looks fool you, the Meze Audio 99 Classics are not all show and no go. The 99 Classics offer a clear and focused listening experience ensuring you’ll get an accurate presentation of sound. With solid bass, warm midrange, and crisp highs, 99 Classics are a great all around headphone. Comfortable and carefully crafted all at an approachable price point, the Meze Audio 99 Classic is a great closed-back headphone option for the studio.

beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Studio Headphones

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones are our budget friendly pick, offering a neutral listening environment with good isolation. With a slight lack of bass and slight over-emphasis on highs, the DT 770 Pros make up for this with good construction and comfort. Overall though, they are a solid work-horse pair of headphones that can be used in multiple applications around the studio at a budget price.


Music Production Headphones Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to music production, having the right set of headphones is essential. Headphones serve as a crucial tool for music producers, enabling them to make precise judgments about sound quality, balance, and other critical elements in their music. A high-quality pair of headphones can greatly enhance the production process and contribute to the creation of exceptional music. In this buyer’s guide, we will discuss the key factors to consider when selecting headphones for music production.

Authentic Sound Reproduction: One of the most important aspects to look for in headphones for music production is authentic sound reproduction. The headphones should have a flat frequency response, meaning they should accurately reproduce sound across the entire audible spectrum without artificially boosting or suppressing certain frequencies. This ensures that you can make accurate judgments about the balance, EQ, and dynamics of your music. Look for headphones that offer a neutral and transparent sound signature.

Comfort: As a music producer, you may spend hours wearing headphones during long studio sessions. Therefore, comfort is of utmost importance. Look for headphones with well-padded ear cups and an adjustable headband that provides a secure and comfortable fit. It’s also important to consider the weight of the headphones, as heavy headphones can become uncomfortable over extended periods. Opt for headphones that are lightweight and ergonomically designed to minimize fatigue.

Durability and Portability: Durability is another crucial factor to consider, especially if you plan to use your headphones in a studio or on the go. Look for headphones made from high-quality materials that can withstand regular use and potential rough handling. Additionally, consider the portability of the headphones. If you travel frequently or need to take your headphones to different locations, choose a pair that is foldable and comes with a protective case for easy storage and transportation.

Open Back vs Closed Back: Headphones can be categorized into two types: open back and closed back. Open-back headphones allow sound to escape from the ear cups, resulting in a more natural and spacious soundstage. They are generally preferred for critical listening and mixing tasks. On the other hand, closed-back headphones feature sealed ear cups that isolate sound, providing better noise isolation and preventing sound leakage. Closed-back headphones are more suitable for tracking and recording, where isolation is important. Consider your specific needs and workflow to determine whether open back or closed back headphones are more suitable for you.

Impedance and Power Requirements: Impedance is an important consideration when choosing headphones for music production. Headphones with higher impedance require more power to drive them effectively. It’s important to match the impedance of the headphones with the output capabilities of your audio interface or headphone amplifier. If you plan to use your headphones with portable devices, consider lower impedance headphones that can be driven easily by smartphones or portable music players.

Cable Detachability and Replacement: Consider whether the headphones have detachable cables. Detachable cables offer convenience, as they can be replaced if they get damaged or if you prefer using a different cable length or style. Additionally, detachable cables make it easier to store and transport the headphones.

Budget Considerations: While it’s important to prioritize quality and performance, it’s also essential to consider your budget. Determine how much you are willing to invest in a pair of headphones and find the best option within your price range. Remember that high price doesn’t always guarantee the best sound quality, so research and read reviews to find headphones that offer the best value for your money.

Wireless Connectivity: In recent years, wireless headphones have gained popularity due to their convenience and freedom of movement. Consider whether wireless connectivity is important to you as a music producer. Keep in mind that wireless headphones may introduce some latency, which can be problematic for real-time monitoring or precise editing tasks. If wireless functionality is a priority, ensure that the headphones support high-quality audio codecs, such as aptX or LDAC, to maintain optimal sound quality.

Sound Isolation: If you work in a noisy environment or require isolation from external sounds, pay attention to the sound isolation capabilities of the headphones. Closed-back headphones generally provide better passive noise isolation, blocking out external noise and allowing you to focus on your music. This can be crucial during recording sessions or when working in loud environments.

Selecting the right headphones for music production is crucial for achieving accurate sound reproduction, ensuring comfort during extended use, providing durability and portability, and meeting your specific needs as a music producer. Look for headphones that prioritize authentic sound reproduction, comfort, durability, and portability. Consider factors such as open back vs closed back, impedance, cable detachability, budget, wireless connectivity, and sound isolation to find the headphones that will best support your workflow and help you create exceptional music.

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About the Author: Adam Sliger

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I'm the founder of makethatlouder.com, and a producer, musician, and songwriter based out of Orlando, FL. I have 10 years experience producing and owning a commercial recording studio. I write and produce music for artists, TV, and for my solo project, Night Winds. When I'm not writing and recording, I'm into food, coffee, and riding rollercoasters!

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