If you are looking to get into recording or producing music or other audio, then you may want to look into getting a pair or two of studio-quality headphones. The technical details can seem a little intimidating at first, but this buying guide can help you with the absolute basics of what the terms mean and how to choose the best headphones for you.
How to choose the best studio headphones.
Closed-back vs Open-back
If you see a pair of headphones that says it has an open or closed-back, this is talking about the outsides of the headphones, opposite to where your ears would be when wearing them. Nearly all of the products in the list below are closed-back headphones.
Open-back headphones allow the sound to escape, giving the user a more natural experience when hearing the sounds. Closed-back headphones keep the sound out of the air, which can be better for recording or listening for specific sounds.
If you have ever taken apart a speaker or a pair of headphones, the driver is the metal ring that is behind the fabric, and it is what creates the sound. Measured in millimeters and the higher the number, the better the sound quality. The average driver for the best budget studio headphones are usually around 45mm.
To put it simply, the more OHMs a pair of headphones or even a speaker has, the higher the sound quality will be. Some of the cheaper-quality headphones and earbuds can have only 8 OHMs or even fewer. On the opposite end, some studio headphones that are used by the professionals can have as many as 600 OHMs or more, but these can usually cost thousands of dollars.
Easy to find headphones that are above the average and are still cost-efficient usually have anywhere from 20 to 100 or more OHMs.
This has less to do with the band and more with the 'ear muffs' part of the headphones, which is usually always made with either a leather or a mesh material. Both can be comfortable to use, but each has a problem if you wear them for too long.
Wearing headphones with leather for a few hours or more at a time can cause your ears to become irritated from the heat, and taking them off can feel like peeling away from a leather chair in the summer.
Mesh material can cause a sharp stinging feeling in the skin the longer you wear them, and if you plan to go out shortly after using them, be prepared to get a few looks because of the pattern marks on your head.
Not all headphones come with the standard-sized audio jack. Some actually have larger cables so that they can be plugged into an amp, speaker, or other devices. So, always check the jack size, and if it is not the standard size, make sure it does or does not come with an adapter.
Some headphones come with a few extra features like changeable or fold-able headbands while others can come with audio cable adapters for certain devices like a guitar amp. These extras usually do not add too much to the cost of the headphones or affect the sound quality.
What are the advantages of studio headphones?
Unlike regular headphones, studio headphones are usually higher quality between the sound and the body of the headphones. This is what makes them more useful because of the clear and accurate sounds that come through.
Things to look for that differentiate them.
Other than the traits listed above, the only major difference between them is the year that they were made in. Newer ones typically have better sound quality, especially when it comes to the bass. However, as long as you are buying an older model that is an unused pair, they can still last for several months or years if they are cared for.
What is the best way to use them?
Make sure the cables do not get tangled or stressed when you are unplugging them or are storing them. This is one of the easiest ways to damage them quickly. Keeping them on a stand or hook where they cannot be dropped or lost can help keep them working longer.
Top 10 Best Budget Studio Headphones
These are possibly the most popular pair of headphones that are out right now, probably because of their most notable feature: the earpieces can swivel and rest at a ninety-degree angle while around your neck.
The specs also have a thing or two since it has the common 45mm studio driver, has up to 38 OHMs, and can produce 98 dB, which is almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner and/or lawn mower. The earpads and inner headband are lightly padded and covered with a leather-like material that is a little on the cheaper side but can be comfortable.
Overall, these headphones can maintain a good sound quality for several years, but the earpads will most likely have to be replaced. Luckily, replacement pads are easy to find and can be very affordable, but actually replacing them might be the tricky part. If you have never done it before, you may want to take them to an electronics store or music shop and ask them to.
It is hard to find anyone who has never heard of Beats and their headphones, especially after they have quickly risen in popularity for their average and professional use several years ago. If you have not heard of them, know that they are one of the most expensive brands, but they do have some of the highest quality products.
Unlike many of the other headphones out there, these are actually battery-powered and charged through a USB cable, and one full charge can last more than twenty hours. Because they are wireless, they connect through Bluetooth, which means that you will need an adapter for your computer if your computer does not have Bluetooth.
In terms of specs, this has pretty decent quality for a pair of headphones that can still play sound up to 30 feet away from the source. Like the last pair, these have up to 32 OHMs and can get pretty loud. Unfortunately, the ear pads can get easily damaged.
What stands out the most about these is that they are available in over a dozen colors, although many are either regularly out of stock or only available for other models.
Those of you who are into the classic and retro look of technology will probably really love these because of their frame and overly large earpad style. Surprisingly, despite looking older than it is, they are actually one of the highest quality headphones both on and off this list.
Between the 80 OHMs and the noise-cancelling ear pads, hearing both low and high frequencies can be a thing of the past. However, unlike the last pair, these are only available and black and silver so they may not be the prettiest if you do not like the older style.
Speaking of style, the overly large ear pads can feel comfy and snug even after being used for several hours in a row. The only downside is the leather-like material can feel a little cheap, and if you cannot stand that, you may want to get covers for them.
Still, they are one of the most powerful models that are out right now, and if you want an even higher quality, this same model is available with up to 250 OHMs. On the opposite end, if you like the style but are on a tighter budget, they can come in a 32 OHM set.
Having a very similar design to the last model, but they look like they are older because they are. This model was actually designed and released nearly twenty years ago and they are still one of the most popular choices.
Between the 44mm drivers, 63 OHMS, and 106 dB capacity, these are possibly the oldest and most powerful headphones that you can get. They are also one of the few headphones that come with an adapter so that it can be plugged into an amp or other devices with a quarter-inch audio port. Unfortunately, the audio cord is more flimsy than other headphones and they are not replaceable, but it is larger than most; ten feet.
Like some of the previously mentioned models, the ear pads on these headphones are decent, but the leather-like material is easily damaged and can feel awkward on the skin. They can also be a little uncomfortable for people with larger than average ears.
Still, if the cord is cared for, these are durable enough and can last quite a long time.
These headphones are very similar to the first pair because they too can swivel at ninety degrees, but they can also fold the earpieces into the headrest for easy storage.
In terms of sound quality, it has about the same as some of the others on this list, having 35 OHMS, a 40 mm driver, and can reach up to 98 dB. Although, unlike other models, these are not bass boosted, come with two audio cables, and also come with a carrying case.
The leather-like material of the ear padding on these is thicker than most of the previous models which can make it easier for your ears to get warm, especially if you plan on wearing them for several hours at a time. Even so, if not for the material and the amount of padding, it would not cancel out any noise as well as it does.
The biggest flaw would probably be that the headband and earpieces are a little smaller than average and can feel tight on people with large or even average-sized heads and/or ears.
These are possibly one of the most uniquely-designed headphones on this list due to a mix of old and new styles. The earpieces have a new and slightly flashy look with the golden accents against the black design, but the two, large, and metal headband wires at the top of the headband are certainly reminiscent of the 90s and early 2000s, probably because it was from the early 2000s.
The performance also mimics the style between the quality sound from the 55 OHMs, and they are also one of the most comfortable models too. The material can cause little to no irritation and the earpieces can fit well with both small and large ears and heads.
Of course, it is not too good to be true since the cable is possibly the flimsiest out of all of the headphones on this list. Fortunately, it is replaceable which can be a quick and easy fix since it is also a standard-sized audio jack, 3mm.
These are probably the most movable headphones out of all of the others on this list, but they can only swivel fifteen degrees. But unlike the others, the earpieces can be flipped around so that they are facing the outside of the headband, something that is rarely found.
The sound quality is between average to above average with the 40 mm driver, 47 OHMs, and 95.5 dB capacity. The lower than average bass is a little underwhelming, but it is almost unnoticeable except for when the volume is very low.
The earpads can be much more noticeable and can heat up pretty quickly, making your ears sweat and even chafe after a few hours. The lack of thick padding is also probably the reason why it does not reduce noise as well as other models.
Even so, it does come with an extra-long audio cord, a carrying case, and the headband it pretty durable which can all be nice extras or even necessities depending on your needs.
If you are looking to get many different pieces of studio equipment, you may want to take a look at these headphones because they are one of the most affordable and can come with a high-quality microphone too.
They are a little cheaper than the more expensive models in a few areas like the ear padding and audio quality. The ear padding is firmer than average which can be a little more uncomfortable for anyone regardless of head or ear size.
The audio quality is normally decent because of the 40mm drivers, 47 OHMs, and 96 dB. However, the audio can randomly stop and/or become static for anywhere from a few seconds to an hour or so. Because of this, it is pretty easy common to replace them which can be nice and painless.
The design for these headphones looks similar to that of the Beats, but these are actually one of the most affordable and above-average quality models. They also swivel at ninety degrees and can fold into the headband for easy storage.
They have 50 mm drivers, 32 OHMs, and 110 dB capacity, but despite these average or above-average specs, this model is unfortunately popularly defective. Getting a pair that do not work fresh out of the box or break down within a few weeks to months is actually common, but they are actually very easy to replace and can last a lot longer.
The earpads are also slightly smaller than most of the other headphones, but the material and thickness may not cause much if any irritation. Wearing them for an hour or two can start to make the ears hurt or feel pressed which means you may only be able to use them in short intervals.
On the bright side, they do come with two different audio cables: one standard size and one 6.3 mm.
The last on the list, these are another swivelable (ninety degrees), foldable, and flippable pair of headphones that are another one of the more affordable models. They are also available in four different colors: grey and gold, pink, black and red, and silver and brown.
Like the last pair, they come with two different audio cables, 6.3 mm and 3.5 mm, and the sound quality is actually identical to the last headphones; it has 50 mm driver, 32 OHMs, and a 110 dB capacity.
However, they are less durable than the previous model, and the ear padding is thin enough to let outside sounds through which can cause some distraction and difficulty when focusing.
Despite this, they can still be comfortable and worn for several hours without pain, at least until you take them off and let your ears breathe.
When looking at all of the products on the list, their drivers, OHMs, material, cables, and any extras, it is clear that the winner is number six: AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Over-Ear Professional Headphones.