When it comes down to the best headphones for mixing hip hop, some things need to be taken into consideration. Before we get started in deciphering, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Introduction & My Story
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Introduction & My Story
It’s hard to believe how far my studio has come over the last few years. When I first started sampling back in 2009, I only had a laptop and a KORG padKONTROL. In 2007 I had just started making beats. I had some old Logitech R20’s, and a dream. Lol. That speaker set worked wonders for a number of years, but the bass was much too “boomy,” and for the most part my mixes were pretty shoddy. For the longest time, I had a pair of the classic Sony MDRV150’s, and though they snapped under pressure worse than Henry Hill (hehe), they did the job for a number of years, even before I made beats at all! I appreciated the sound and comfort enough to purchase multiple pairs of them before graduating on to bigger and better things. It wasn’t until I purchased a pair of Sony MDR 7506’s that I really took a step in the right direction.
My beats started to sound light-years better, even though I still wasn’t using a traditional studio monitor set up. With a laptop, the padKONTROL, and the 7506’s, I made beats for about a year or 2 before settling on what I have currently.
I realized that my sound was never going to magically become better using my laptop’s internal sound card, so I purchased an external one. The technical name for it is an audio interface, and it dramatically improves your entire rig. Your Audio Interface! The first interface I bought was the M-Audio Fast Track Pro. I had all sorts of issues with it. Even with the phantom power switch on, it recorded so quietly that I literally had to scream into the mic to hear myself, and even then the recording was awful as far as volume. The quality was decent, but overall it was a pain to use due to driver issues and whatnot. Needless to say, I sold it and purchased the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 some years later. I haven’t looked back!
Along with that purchase, I invested in a pair of JBL LSR 305’s, because it’s good to have both headphones and monitors when mixing (for reference purposes). Check out my JBL LSR 305 Review!
However, for the longest time, I got by on headphones just fine. The 7506’s are an excellent pair of monitor headphones because they are brutally honest and revealing (due to the treble range and overall flat response). That can be a gift and a curse. Why? Because the treble can sometimes be very harsh and sibilant. What does sibilant mean? I would have to take frequent breaks because of this issue. I still recommend them and the MDR V6’s as affordable solutions, however, as their positives far outweigh the negatives.
In January 2013 I bought a pair of Audio Technica ATH M50’s, and they’re still going strong to this day. I can say without a doubt these may be the most durable headphones on the planet. I literally throw them in my bag every day and generally abuse them without a care in the world. They’re still just as good as ever.
For mixing? I wouldn’t use them solely for mixing, but they will work. I have used mine to fine effect over the last 3+ years. They are more for the casual consumer, however. I also ended up trying out the Sennheiser HD 280’s. These may be the flattest of the bunch but are extremely boring in my opinion.
All in all, my studio consists of the following as of 4/4/16:
For your hip hop setup, you don’t really need much more than a variation on this, unless you want an actual MIDI keyboard. Without the monitors and camera included it’s around $1300, which isn’t bad at all. I will probably continue to upgrade in the future as needed, but for now, this is one cozy little setup! Check out the updated pictures in my How to build a home studio guide! I even found an old picture of my studio in its infancy 🙂
The dilemma today, however?
What are the best headphones for mixing hip hop?
It’s a bit tricky because you want to hear the bass, but you don’t want it to overpower the mix. I’ve learned the hard way that if your headphones are bass-heavy from the start, it will translate into a muddy, boomy mix if you aren’t extremely careful. If you mix on bass-neutral headphones, it gives you more room to amp up that low end, but still be able to mix it and discern it properly. This will in turn translate wonderfully to other sources. That said:
I’m going to run through a few more affordable recommendations and then go into some higher-end models.
Check out my post on the best closed back studio headphones. It will outline all of the options that you should consider. Just know that the top spot for closed-back is a bit more expensive (around $200).
Sennheiser HD 600. This is my top recommendation overall, and it’s absolutely priceless. The Gold standard. Check out the Sennheiser HD 600 Review!
Beyerdynamic DT 880. A close second, this one doesn’t get the top spot because of that harsh treble range. I went back and forth for a long time before making the decision to include this as runner-up and not champion.
AKG K701/Q701. The K701 is a great mixing headphone that does suffer from an abnormally large sound-stage. Very bass light and lean, this one is also among the best for classical and jazz as well. The best headphones for jazz. If you’re itching for more bass, the Q701 improves upon all the shortcomings of the K701, including the awkwardly wide sound-stage present in the 701. AKG Q701 vs. K701.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.