Home Headphone Guides The 12 Best Studio Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production

The 12 Best Studio Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production

by Stuart Charles Black

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Greetings mate, and Welcome Aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

Today we’re going to list out the absolute best headphones I’ve had experience with dating back to 2010.

You can rest assured these finalists have been hand-picked with the utmost attention and care based on what actually works for mixing, not what is marketed as such.

The article will be divided into closed backs and open backs, and we’ll cover an array of price ranges.

Also,

I will mostly only be going over their mixing capabilities while touching on build and comfort last in a sort of ranking/list format.

To wrap up, I’ll give a top recommendation in 3 categories: Closed Back, Mid-Fi, & Hi-Fi.

This page will also be updated as I gain new experiences mixing down tracks with different types of headphones so bookmark it and share if you find it helpful!

By the end, you should be able to quickly decide which one is best for you.

Let’s dive in!

The Best Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production

The best studio headphones for mixing

Closed Back

#4

Status Audio CB-1

Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

Folded like the Braves in the ’96 World Series.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-back, dynamic.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Driver size: 50mm.
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 30 kHz.
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 97dB/mW. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
  • Cable Length: 3m. Comes with a Coiled and Straight version.
  • 1/4 adapter: Yes.
  • Cable Detachable: Yes.
  • Fold-able. Yes.
  • Case included: No.
  • Needs Amplification: No.

I know we’re kicking off with closed backs, but the CB-1 is one of the few headphones out of the 100+ I’ve demoed that actually sounds almost completely like an open-back.

Out of all the open-backs I’ve heard, the CB-1 definitely gives a lot of them a run for their money considering just how good the Soundstage is. What is Soundstage? [Detailed Explanation]

You’ll likely be amazed open and spacious presentation,

but what exactly makes it great for mixing and production?

When I think about being able to find flaws in a mix quickly, many headphones come to mind. But the one I always think of first is the CB-1.

Why do you ask?

BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Haha, just kidding (running joke on the blog and channel).

It’s because I’ve heard things with the CB-1 that even the producers and engineers may not have even wanted me to hear.

You can imagine then how well this translates to a mix when you’re really trying to clean it up.

The CB-1 picks up sounds that I never thought I’d hear in a million years.

It’s just that revealing.

This kind of kicks to the curb the notion that bright treble = more detail and an easier time finding said flaws.

That’s not to say that those types of headphones aren’t good for mixing.

They are.

It’s just that the CB-1 may actually be better because you’re given the absolute naked truth.

If I could recommend some headphones to take with me on a deserted island to mix a bunch of tracks, the CB-1 would certainly be right up there.

It’s balanced for the most part, easy to wear for long listening sessions due to its great comfort and lack of treble bite, and it’s also incredibly revealing as mentioned.

A perfect solution!

What you won’t like

  • Its sound can sometimes come across as rather light and feathery/papery sounding.
  • The cable can be a bit of a pain to pull out.

#3

Shure SRH440

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

Shoutout to Crinacle for the graph!

  • Type: Closed Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 44 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 105dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 22kHz.
  • Material: Plastic, Pleather.
  • Headband: Minimal padding.
  • Color: Black, Red, Blue.
  • Official Review: Shure SRH440 Headphone Review
  • Needs Amplification: No.

The 440 is another great headphone for mixing in the entry-level price bracket.

It’s more neutral than a 7506 and sounds less bitey in the treble, with an almost completely flat mid-range.

You may not find the elevated bass shelf quite as ideal for mixing, but it’s not a huge detriment.

Metal571 was nice enough to lend me these for demo a few years ago and I really enjoyed them for the most part.

They are incredibly flat and a perfect solution for mixing.

What you won’t like

  • The SRH440 has been known to break down over time and sits a little awkwardly on your head. In other words, it’s bulky and plasticky.
  • The sound can be a bit dry.

#2

AKG K553

Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

Like the CB-1, the K553 variants sound incredibly open and spacious. I’ll never forget the first time I demoed one at Guitar Center.

I looked at the sales rep and said “I can’t believe how open these headphones are. It sounds like an open back.”

The sound signature here is incredibly neutral for the most part, with a flat bass response and sparkling treble.

I didn’t get the impression that it was overdone or essy, and this likely could have been due to the fact that the bass doesn’t roll off, but instead digs deep, and sounds really good.

From graphs, you may notice a rise around 10kHz.

While it looks kind of threatening on paper, the headphone itself doesn’t really sound artificial or metallic like an M40x.

The treble sounds right to me, but the mid-range is the 550/553’s is what makes it great for mixing.

It’s incredibly revealing and the tonality of instruments and vocals sounds more true to life than other headphones.

This is in large part why the experience of listening to it still sticks out in my mind since I first heard it back in 2016.

What you won’t like

  • It’s notoriously hard for getting a good seal and sits loose. This will affect the bass until you get a good fit.

Note: Some of you may be wondering about the newer K371. I wouldn’t personally mix on that because o the bass shelf, but it’s a great headphone otherwise.

I still think the 550 variants perform better production-wise.

Here is the official review if you’re interested.

#1

Sony MDR-7506

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

Sony MDR-7506 ReviewShoutout to RTINGS for the graph! This is RTINGS’ graph. There are many like it, but this one is theirs.

I first received a 7506 for Christmas around 2010, and I’ll never forget the experience.

Hearing one was actually my very first foray into the hobby.

It was the first time I had ever heard anything better than your typical drugstore dog food headphones, and to say I was hooked on the audiophile world would be an understatement.

I talk about the Audiophile Rabbit Hole quite a bit with subscribers, followers, and friends alike, and 2010 was my rabbit hole year.

It was a moment that changed my entire perception of music forever.

I had always naively thought that those drugstore headphones were as good as it got.

When I first listened to a 7506,

all of that was completely shattered and I found out that I was in fact missing a good chunk of, well, everything.

These types of headphones almost literally fill in the gaps of information previously unheard of or thought about.

In reality, you really actually didn’t have any idea what you were missing.

It’s like when people talk about some food that you’ve been predisposed to hate without ever actually tasting it.

“Mm.. you don’t know what you’re missing!”

And then you’re like “Yeah, ew. Gross.” but have never actually tried it.

That’s what the audiophile hobby is like only no one ever walks around with good headphones saying that to people who have never heard them.

LOL.

Just imagine some snob like Resolve Reviews or Metal571 prancing around with a Utopia on his head like “HAHA! You don’t even know what you’re missing!”

Anyways, I got off… track.

The 7506 is great for reference because it’s mostly neutral and incredibly revealing.

This is a studio standard and has been for over 3 decades now dating back to 1991.

There’s a reason it’s still recommended to this day and a reason I bought another one in 2023 after so many years.

It’s just good.

It’s right.

You can hear everything.

They’re the type of headphones you’ll likely reach for by default when you want to analyze a mix and see how it really sounds.

What you won’t like

  • Treble can become hot and essy at times.
  • Pads flake and peel over time.
  • The cup itself can become dislodged from the headphone. This happened to me with hard daily use. Your mileage will vary depending on how often you use them.
  • The coiled cable is absolutely a pain in the ass and will start to tangle itself. Be advised.

While there aren’t many closed-backs I would seriously consider for mixing duties, open-backs are a different story.

Let’s dive in!


Open Back

#8

Koss KPH30i

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Drop! | Official Review: Here!

FiiO BTR3K Review

The gang’s all here.

Specs/Graph

Shoutout to Samma3a for the graph!

  • Type: Semi-Open back, Dynamic.
  • Fit: Supra-Aural (On-Ear).
  • Frequency response: 15Hz – 25kHz.
  • Impedance: 60 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 101dB/mW.
  • Material: Plastic, Foam.
  • Color: Beige, White/Blue, Grey/Black.
  • Cable: Non-Detachable 3.5mm.
  • Weight: 12.5 Oz. (75g).
  • Needs Amplification: No.

The KPH30i for me was one of the most highly anticipated headphones ever, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The hype surrounding these things cannot be overstated, but it’s absolutely warranted.

I was skeptical if they were going to sound as good as people claim, but I can tell you right now that the sound of the 30i is something 99% of people in the hobby will agree on.

It’s simply a perfect headphone,

and for $30 it’s embarrassing how well it performs vs. other higher-priced gear.

If you’re just getting started in production, a 30i may be all you’d ever need.

The bass is perfectly done, the mid-range is perfectly done, and there’s loads of clarity and detail here.

For a headphone this cheap, the tonality is pretty incredible.

The treble may not be as bright as some people prefer, but I personally believe it’s just fine.

The other aspect of the 30i that makes it stand out is its sense of openness and detail – a common theme in good mixing headphones.

The Soundstage isn’t quite as good as a CB-1, but it’s getting there and you will be able to hear quite a lot going on.

What you won’t like

  • Comfort on this bad boy is hit and miss, and you will be making some adjustments.
  • The treble may come across as a tad relaxed for some.

While the 30i is certainly not my first choice, it can definitely work in a pinch. And, it’s cheap! I believe everyone should have one of these by default.

#7

AKG K240

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

AKG K240 Review

Shoutout to Crinacle for the graph!

  • Type: Semi-open.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Over-ear).
  • Impedance: 55 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 91dB.
  • Frequency response: 15hz to 25khz.
  • Material: Plastic, Faux leather.
  • Headband: Self-adjusting.
  • Cable Length: 9.8 ft.
  • Color: Black, some Gold.
  • Needs Amplification: Yes.
  • Suggested Pairings: Anything with a sh** ton of power. LOL.

The K240 Studio has been around in some form or fashion for many years dating back to the ’70s.

For more on that do check out the official review.

What makes the K240 stand out for mixing is its insane levels of detail –

almost as if the instruments are under a microscope.

Because the bass is mostly out of the way, you’re really able to hear instruments and voices in an incredibly lifelike way.

The realistic nature of how the K240 presents music is almost alarming at times.

I remember listening to Motown thinking and feeling like I was hearing it for the first time.

These were songs I grew up with that sounded completely fresh and new, with layers of detail that I was previously unaware of.

This is something common in audiophile-type headphones, but the 240 is certainly one of the most unique sound signatures I’ve ever come across.

Its Soundstage is nice and wide, but you’ll be able to pinpoint loads of small nuances similar to the way you will with a CB-1.

For this reason,

it’s a huge asset in the studio, but far from perfect.

Be prepared to compensate a bit on the bass as it does roll off considerably below 100Hz.

Still,

this is a fantastic solution for mixing and should definitely be considered at or near the top of an open backlist of considerations.

What you won’t like

  • Comfort on the K240 has always been sub-par to downright bad. Because the cups are incredibly shallow, your ears will touch the drivers over top of the cloth material and it starts to hurt after about 30-45 minutes.

#6

Philips SHP9500

Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

The Best Studio Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, and Music Production

Graph courtesy of Home Studio Basics

Crinacle’s graph

  • Type: Open back.
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium.
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Maximum power input: 200mW.
  • Sensitivity: 101dB.
  • Speaker Diameter: 50mm.
  • Frequency Response: 12 – 35,000 Hz.
  • Needs Amplification: No.

The SHP9500 follows in the footsteps of the clear, robust, sometimes essy, but always revealing type of sound that most people love.

Like the K240, the 9500 opts to roll off the bass in favor of greater precision and nuance, sometimes so much so that you’ll sit back and wonder if it’s really worth it to try and achieve better sound.

A moment I’ll never forget is falling asleep to the 9500 while listening to Spotify.

No Amp, no DAC, nothing. Just the sweet sound of headphones and my phone.

The sense of detail and instrument Timbre was so profound that my heart dropped into my stomach.

“Surely it doesn’t get much better than this.”

That sparked a 9500 part II video in which I also discuss my experience with Oppo’s now-discontinued HA-2; one of my all-time favorite Amp/DAC combos for a wide variety of headphones.

The 9500 turns the audiophile concept on its head by presenting you with a headphone that competes with a lot of big-time gear while at the same time being a fraction of the cost.

There’s a reason it’s been so hyped up over the last few years; it just sounds right. Resolution, separation, and timbre are spot on and for such a cheap product, you’ll likely be blown away.

What you won’t like

  • The lack of bass will inevitably bother some people, but being a former bass head I’ve come to appreciate its subtle texture and nuance.
  • The treble can get a bit hot and hissy at times, but it’s in no way “grainy” as some people have claimed.

#5

OneOdio Monitor 80

Price: Check Amazon! | Check OneOdio! | Official Review: Here!

OneOdio Monitor 80 Review

Putting a Monitor 80 on your head when you’re in dire need of something incredible for mixing is like the feeling right after you lay down for the best nap ever.

These headphones truly make you realize just how unbalanced others are, but it’s not until you actually use them to mix a track that it becomes readily apparent.

I would liken the 80’s sound to something like an HD600, only it’s cheaper in terms of price.

To my ears, it’s flat and very neutral, almost to a fault. That said, this is what you want and the Monitor 80 really delivers in spades. 

OneOdio models these after the M50x, and you’ll likely appreciate the design choice.

In addition to that, they’re super comfortable and don’t weigh a whole lot which is awesome if you mix into the wee hours of the morning and forget to pee or sleep.

The pads are made of velour and feel fantastic on your head, and the headphone itself comes with a couple of different detachable cable options.

All in all, this is an excellent choice for mixing and is currently what I’m using.

What you won’t like

  • Not much, but I will say these can sound a tad dry at times.

#4

Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check Drop! | Check eBay!

Crinacle’s graph

  • Type: Semi-Open.
  • Fit: Circumaural (over-ear).
  • Impedance: 250 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 35000 Hz.
  • Material: Velour earpads, Plastic.
  • Headband: Soft padded headband construction.
  • Color: Black, Grey, Silver.
  • Official Review: Coming Soon!
  • Needs Amplification: Yes.
  • Suggested Pairings: FiiO K5 Pro.

The DT880 is just about the most neutral out of the entire bunch; even more so than an HD600.

Unlike the HD600, the 880 opts to raise the treble up a bit around 6kHz, but everything else is almost ruler flat.

David Mahler out of Brooklyn, NY gave only 4 headphones an A+ value rating back in 2012, and both the DT880 and HD600 comprised 2 out of the 4.

The other 2 are the AD900 and HE-500.

I can understand why.

The 880’s bass has plenty of extension and digs down fairly deep; something you’re not going to get with a lot of headphones in this price range or otherwise that tend to boost the mid-bass at the expense of the sub-bass.

The mid-range is neither too forward nor recessed which makes it almost perfect for dissecting music in a completely honest way without any added color. This is something I can’t say for the HD600 or K702; both of which opt for a rise around 3kHz and 2kHz respectively.

What you won’t like

  • The treble may be a bit hot for some, but by and large, this is a mostly perfect signature.

#4

Sennheiser HD600/HD6XX

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

Sennheiser HD600 vs. HD6XX

HD600.

Crinacle’s graph

The Sennheiser HD600 has long since been a staple in the audiophile diet, but it’s also great for mixing. For those who want to save a bit of money, the HD6XX is also great for mixing and dons a similar sound signature.

The sound signature is almost completely neutral save for some mid-range emphasis around 3kHz, and it’s easy to listen to for hours while you’re working on a track because of the fantastic comfort level.

I recently just got back into beat-making and the HD600 is definitely one of my top options, the others being the K702 and Monitor 80 which we just discussed.

The great thing about the HD600 is that it gives you a blank stare.

It’s a very raw and honest representation of exactly what you’re hearing.

I would almost describe it as an empty paint palette if I could use an analogy.

You’re the one who colors the sound to your liking, but it translates well because there aren’t any overhyped frequencies.

The mid-range can sound a tad forward so do prepare accordingly, but other than that this is an almost perfect headphone for music production.

The bass has just the right amount of roll-off in that you can mix it quickly and easily without having to do a lot of guesswork.

I will never forget the first time I read this review on amazon.

The reviewer claimed that buying the HD 600 would revolutionize not only the music you may listen to in the future but also what you already own!

It’s a very powerful concept that stuck with me.

Being able to re-discover old sounds is truly priceless and timeless.

Everyone loves music.

Imagine if the feeling you got from an old album was like hearing it for the first time again, only better and completely amazing.

Now translate that to your mixes.

You’ll really get a sense of how a mix actually sounds vs. the way you think it sounds in your head.

If you can get it to sound good on an HD600, it will likely sound good on many sources.

What you won’t like

  • The Soundstage is pretty narrow and boxed in. Instrument separation is there, but the image can feel claustrophobic at times and a tad slow. It ain’t the swiftest headphone around.
  • Some call the treble veiled, which has been a point of contention for what seems like an eternity. I did a thought-provoking video on that here. The great part about the treble is that while it can sometimes sound a bit relaxed, it’s absolutely never going to sound grainy, harsh, or sibilant. What does Sibilant mean?

#3

AKG K702

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!

AKG K702 vs. Sennheiser HD600

Crinacle’s graph

  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Over-Ear).
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 39,800 kHz.
  • Impedance: 62 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 91dB/mW.
  • Material: Leather headband, plastic, velour padding.
  • Color: Midnight Blue/Silver/Grey.
  • Cable: Detachable Mini-XLR (9.8 ft.).
  • Needs Amplification: Yes.
  • Suggested Pairings: The Best Headphone Amp for the AKG K701 & K702

Ah, the AKG K702, one of the most talked-about and misunderstood headphones of all time.

I bought one of these in 2019 and haven’t since looked back.

It’s become my daily driver now, almost replacing the HD600 for everyday duties entirely.

The reason being

is that its Soundstage, Timbre, and decay are all a bit better to my ears than the HD600.

Soundstage is most certainly an obviously better trait, but Timbre and decay are a bit more complicated to discuss.

The K702 to me almost sounds as good as a planar magnetic headphone which is one of the main reasons I listen to and love it so much.

I did a DEVA vs. 702 vs. 9500 shootout and found that the 702’s sonic qualities came eerily close to being as good as the DEVA.

The DEVA’s Timbre, attack, sustain, and decay all will sound better than a 702, but not by much.

Listening with a 702 is almost like being in a studio space with the right recordings: Acoustic, Jazz, Classical, and lighter genres all sound so delicately beautiful that it becomes hard to describe.

I almost feel as though I could reach out and touch the instruments in listening to certain recordings; an example being Sufjan Stevens.

His voice feels so immediate and present with you that the sounds take on a new dimension.

For Mixing

It’s great for mixing because of all of these same qualities.

Like the CB-1, the K702 will help to reveal even more going on beneath the surface because of its propensity to space things out better while also adding an element of depth that may be missing in other headphones.

Some say this can make it sound a bit unnatural, and I can understand the sentiment, but it’s almost an afterthought to me and something I care little about when I’m mixing down a track, watching a film, gaming, or listening to music.

In other words, it sounds “right” to me which is why, 9 times out of 10, it’s what I’m reaching for first.

It’s a jack-of-all-trades type of headphone and thus why I enjoy using it so often.

The sound signature is almost completely flat outside of 2kHz, which gives instruments and vocals some extra flair. And NO I’M NOT TALKIN’ ABOUT RIC!!

WOOOO!!!

What you won’t like

  • Not much, although I’ve talked with some people who said they have a somewhat thin, overly lean character. Certainly, something to keep in mind.

#2

HIFIMAN Ananda

Price: Check Apos Audio! | Check Amazon!  | Official Review: Here!

Crinacle’s graph

  1. Type: Planar Magnetic, Open Back.
  2. Fit: Circumaural.
  3. Frequency Response: 8Hz – 55kHz.
  4. Impedance: 25 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  5. Sensitivity: 103dB/mW. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
  6. Weight: 14.07 Oz. (399g).
  7. Cable Detachable: Yes.
  8. Cable Length: 1.5m.
  9. Needs Amplification: No, but can benefit.
  10. Suggested Pairings: iFi Zen, FiiO K5 Pro.

Now you may be wondering, “What’s up with the price jump?”

“Aren’t there any mid-fi HIFIMAN headphones good for mixing?”

HOLD YOUR HORSES, ALRIGHT?

Absolutely there are.

But I don’t think we need to be concerned with them because the Ananda is a perfect mixing headphone.

It’s the one to get if you can’t afford the next headphone on this list.

It’s crisp, detailed, and bright without being sibilant – a rare feat for any headphone.

The value of the Ananda?

It almost pays for itself when considering the entire sound spectrum as a whole and how effortlessly it’s portrayed.

The other reason I’m suggesting bypassing the Sundara/400i, etc. is that the Ananda has recently come down in price.

It used to sit around $1000 which was still a pretty decent deal, but at its asking price of around $600-700, I think it’s a relatively easy purchase – especially considering it’s highly efficient and can technically run off of a phone at 25 Ohm Impedance and 101dB/mW Sensitivity.

Note: it has come down in price again to around $400 which is perfect in my opinion. Time will tell if anything changes, and I will update this article as needed.

Yes, the Ananda will be an end-game type of headphone for most people and is perhaps the most revealing product on this list alongside the DT880.

If the DEVA and K702 put a microscope over or zoomed in on some of those aforementioned details, the Ananda is like focusing your camera or binoculars after zooming in and understanding what those sounds may look like (at least in your head).

FOCUS!

I’ve likened the Ananda to skiing down a mountain in January while chewing winter fresh gum, and many people have come back and told me the analogy was perfect.

It’s breezy, crisp, clean, refreshing, minty, etc.

Easy breezy beautiful color girl.

It’s like giving yourself the cold water splash in the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

NOW WAKE UP AND SMELL THE ROSES.

With the Ananda, there’s little guesswork.

The bass is almost completely flat and digs down incredibly deep, the mid-range is clear and present, and the treble sparkles without getting out of line.

What you won’t like

  • Nothing. The treble can get ever, ever so slightly hissy at times, but it’s a minor nitpick and certainly improved upon from HIFIMAN’s mid-fi offerings.

The other noticeable improvements in more expensive headphones like the Ananda are tonality, attack, sustain, decay, and Timbre.

While the differences in Amps & DACS are somewhat marginal in the grand scope of things, the differences in headphones do become apparent when jumping up in price range.

I think the jump to the Ananda represents one of the most noticeable changes in that respect.

Instruments and voices are fully fleshed out and trail off more realistically than something in the entry-level or mid-fi category.

I suppose for mixing and production this is kind of a cherry on top, but it’s a fat ass cherry nonetheless.

#1

Focal Utopia

Price: Check Amazon! Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

Focal Utopia Review

Crinacle’s graph

  • Type: Open Back, Dynamic.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Around-Ear).
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 50kHz.
  • Impedance: 80 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 104dB/mW.
  • Driver Size: 40mm.
  • Material: Carbon Fiber, Fabric, Leather, Metal.
  • Color: Black.
  • Cable: OFC Cable with Neutrik 1/4″ Plug (9.8′ / 3m).
  • Connector to Earpiece: 2x LEMO (Unspecified Type).
  • Weight: 1.08 lbs. / 490g.
  • Needs Amplification: Technically no, but I personally wouldn’t purchase a headphone of this caliber and not pair it with something.
  • Suggested Pairing: NAIM DAC V-1, Bryston BHA-1

Rounding out the list is the absolute best dynamic headphone on the planet in my opinion, and is certainly the best headphone I’ve heard thus far.

The Focal Utopia takes everything we’ve talked about and packages it up into an absolutely pitch-perfect product.

Yes, you may be able to hear God with these, which is good if your mix is terrible.

He’d be able to steer you in the right direction. 😛

No really.

If the Ananda is the most revealing headphone on this list, the Utopia is certainly double that.

It’s everything you could want or ask for in a headphone.

The price tag?

Yeah, it’s steep,

but I’ve told many people that this headphone is truly life-changing from a purely musical standpoint.

It almost transcends the music itself and delves into spiritual territory.

At that point,

it’s more about you and your relationship with the world, why you are the way you are, etc. vs. simply hearing sounds through a device and analyzing how music sounds.

The Utopia could quite literally bring you to tears under the right circumstances.

It’s not something you can really describe with words, but just know it’s perfect for mixing and sits on your head better than any headphones I’ve tried.

Before we wrap this up, let’s give the entire list a set of rankings based on criteria.

Comfort

Truth be told, I tried to include mostly comfortable headphones but couldn’t leave out some of the options on this list because of their mixing abilities. The top 7 or so from the Utopia to about the CB-1 are all incredibly comfortable for the most part. The differences between them are subtle but noticeable over longer periods.

12. AKG K240

Likely the least comfortable on this list. Sits well and clamps fine, but the pads are so shallow that the drivers will almost immediately start to dig into your ears. I can tolerate this one in short bursts but be prepared to start getting antsy after about 30 minutes.

11. Sony MDR-7506.

Below average but tolerable. This is a hard one to describe because it feels great at first and then starts to dig into your lobes after about 45 min. to an hour of use.

Even despite being marketed as a Circumaural headphone, I have always considered the 7506 to be a hybrid On-Ear/Around-Ear.

It doesn’t fit either of those criteria exclusively and really doesn’t fit the mold of a Circumaural headphone unless you have ears the size of a squirrel. LOL.

10. Koss KPH30i.

Average to below average. The on-ear nature of the 30i means it’s going to dig fairly hard into your ear lobes after a while. Still not awful, but getting into the meh territory.

9. Shure SRH440.

About average to slightly above average in comfort. They feel decent enough on your head but it always feels like you’re wearing something due to the bulk of the headphones and how large they are.

8. AKG K553.

Good fit and comfort level, but finding the right placement on your head and getting a good seal is important.

7. Status Audio CB-1.

Comfortable, but starting to delve into average territory.

The CB-1’s strengths are that it doesn’t clamp hard and feels good on your melon for long sessions. The padding is dummy thicc and feels soft and plush on the sides of your head without intruding on your ears much.

Do keep in mind the opening is a bit smaller than average so your ears may touch various parts of the pad. Still an above-average experience comfort-wise.

6. Sennheiser HD600.

What more can be said? The clamping force is going to feel like a vice grip at first, but this one opens up over time and feels snug like a bug in a rug.

I always use the analogy of it feeling like a warm hug from an old friend. I love the way the HD600 feels on my head and it requires minimal adjustments over time.

5. AKG K702

The 702 is incredibly comfortable and sits just right on your head. Not too tight, not too loose.

The only minor nitpick I have is that the cups are a bit stiffer and more rigid than that of the K712’s cups.

Not a huge deal but something to keep in mind.

4. HIFIMAN Ananda.

The only drawback to the otherwise perfect comfort of the Ananda is its large and in charge oval-shaped cups which kind of tend to dig into that ridge behind your ear where the bone lies.

Other than that, the Ananda is super comfortable if a bit awkward.

It almost feels like you’re wearing a football helmet or something.

3. Philips SHP9500.

The 9500 is incredibly comfortable as well but sits a bit differently. It kind of feels like air to be honest.

The clamping force is really light which may pose a bit of an issue if you move around a lot, but it’s a minor nitpick. This headphone can quite literally be worn for hours without a single adjustment.

2. Beyerdynamic DT880.

The 880 is similar to the Utopia.

Almost no adjustments and they’ve got the velour padding that almost literally feels like pillows against your ears.

Clamping force is also near perfect with both the Utopia and 880.

1. Focal Utopia.

This is probably in a tie with the 880. It’s a headphone you will rarely (if ever) make an adjustment with. Perfect all around.

Build

Focal Utopia.

Absolutely the best-built product I’ve ever experienced. Again, a perfect headphone all around.

Beyerdynamic DT880.

Like the Utopia, the 880 has an impeccable build.

Philips SHP9500.

You’d be surprised just how great this headphone is constructed.

I bought the 9500 in 2017 and after hard use, it still functions flawlessly without a single issue; likely due to its metal headband and ruggedly durable plastic.

The 3.5mm cable is also detachable and can be used for gaming with a Boom Pro.

Sennheiser HD600.

The fact that all parts are replaceable on this one surely adds to its value long-term, but the headphone itself is super durable as it is.

I’ve been using one almost daily since 2016 and it can take quite a beating.

I’ve dropped it countless times without so much as a scratch, and I’ve also run over the cable with my computer chair at least a thousand times + at this point.

Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’!

HIFIMAN Ananda.

The Ananda was built very well but had some cabling issues in its infancy.

HIFIMAN has since rectified those AFAIK, and the headphone remains a pretty safe purchase to this day.

AKG K702 vs. Sennheiser HD600

AKG K702.

The K702 gets kind of a bad rep from internet-tough guys but is right there with the HD600 in terms of the overall build.

The hammock style adjustment has been known to sort of get “stuck” after some years of heavy use, meaning it doesn’t move as fluidly as when you first purchased it, but I haven’t had any problems yet after buying one in 2019.

The headphone itself is rather light, but still feels (and in fact can) withstand some relatively heavy abuse.

Status Audio CB-1.

Another deceptively durable headphone, the CB-1 can really stretch with the best of them even despite feeling kind of plasticky in your hands.

I had no issues whatsoever when I owned one.

AKG K240.

The 240 may feel like a toy, but it holds up rather remarkably all things considered.

If you think about the fact that my K240M 600 Ohm originated in the ’70s, it almost feels like a crime to talk bad about it.

I’ve seen “poor build quality” claims more times than I can count over the years on various forums and articles, but after owning 3 separate pairs of these I think that notion was a bit unwarranted.

Koss KPH30i.

A flimsy, lightweight headphone but I haven’t had any issues with it. The cable is not detachable.

Sony MDR-7506.

Even despite my love affair with this headphone over the years, I had to place it pretty close to last due to its cup issues and coiled cable (discussed previously).

The rest of the headphone is built really well and has metal headband adjustments, but the aforementioned issues will manifest sooner or later.

Shure SRH440.

I have never owned one of these (only demoed), but read a lot of people having issues. It’s a headphone notorious for breaking down rather easily, so buyers are warned.

So with that, what do I recommend?

I think your best bet is either a DT880 Pro or HIFIMAN Ananda, with honorable mentions being the CB-1 and MDR-7506.

If you’re just starting,

you may just skip the CB-1/7506 and go straight for an 880. Then you can decide if you want to make the jump up to an Ananda or Utopia.

I place the 880 above the HD600 because its treble is a bit better represented and the bass digs down deeper with almost no roll-off.

Remember that you can technically mix on any headphone if you understand the frequency spectrum and have enough experience with how different sound signatures portray themselves in practice.

The best headphones for music production

As far as being able to quickly and easily find flaws, I think the CB-1, K702 (with DT880 an honorable runner-up mention), and Ananda are best as far as a 1 2 3 punch in each price bracket.

If you have the money to spend, the Utopia is the best headphone I’ve ever heard hands down. To keep it realistic:

Best Entry Level: Sony MDR-7506

 

Best Mid-Fi: AKG K702

 

Best Hi-Fi: HIFIMAN Ananda

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this monster article on the best studio headphones for mixing, master, and production, and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Have you had any experience mixing with headphones? Are there any headphones you would add or take away? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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18 comments

Rafa KontrolEnthusiast July 21, 2021 - 12:39 am

Yo, got confused as to where we need to leave a comment for the Koss giveaway, it’s made me question my existence and what I do.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 21, 2021 - 2:21 am

Lmao. No worries bro. Just go here: https://homestudiobasics.com/koss-ksc75-vs-kph30i-vs-porta-pro/ Then just enter your email in the giveaway thing where it says “Enter email used in comment” and press complete 🙂

Reply
Mackarell January 11, 2023 - 4:50 am

Hello, im looking for my next headphone and ive been thinking to get K702, is it better compared to SHP9500?

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Stuart Charles Black January 11, 2023 - 5:21 pm

Hey there! I still have my 9500 and love it, but knowing what I know now, I would probably bypass it in favor of a K702, yes.

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Yuri May 27, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Hey friend, awesome content you have here! I was digging about upgrading my pair of headphones (m50x) and after reading a lot of your reviews, I ended up with the beyer and turned out that I found here in my country a good value on a pair of dt880 600oms. I heard it have a bit of coloured treble and also they didnt have a profile made in Sonarworks Reference to correct that (every other model has…). But this is not the main point, the thing is, I want to buy this beauty beyer for mastering, but don’t know if it will be drived by my audio interface. Its a presonus 22vsl that have pretty good ad/da and this are the specs of the Headphone Outputs that in the m50x can be really loud:
Connector Type ¼” TRS, female, stereo
Maximum Power 30 mW/ch @ 60Ω load
Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 kHz, ±0.5 dB, max gain
THD+N 0.08%, 1 kHz, max gain, 20 kHz BW, A-wtd
S/N Ratio 90 dB, 1 kHz, max gain, 20 kHz BW, unwtd

I’m wondering if it can be done and still get a good detailed sound with this audiobox I have, or if its better to have an amp besides the audiobox…
If the amp is still necessary I think I will just save a bit more money and buy the Pro version with 250oms, that is sure that I can drive without trouble
I don’t know, just need a professional opinion to help me with this… In theory 600/8 = 75 > 30mW/ch, 60oms good right?
Thank you for your attention bro and keep going with the awesome content!!! A peaceful hug from a brazilian friend

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 30, 2023 - 1:36 pm

Hey man!

I replied to another of your comments on a separate article, but yeah, 30mW per channel @ 60 Ohm load is not nearly enough for the Beyers. You’d rather that number be for a 300 Ohm load or thereabouts.

Are you dead set on having the interface? I use the Universal Audio Volt 2 but also have other amps around. I guess it would just depend on what’s best for your setup. I find that the Volt 2 is pretty powerful and I don’t have an issue driving any of my headphones with it.

But as mentioned in the other comment, you may look to the ATOM or K5 Pro.

As you mention, you could also drop down to 250 and probably be okay with what you currently have. But yeah, 600 Ohm in my experience generally needs something beefier than what you describe with the Presonus.

Hope that helps! Keep me posted.

-Stu

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WARNER June 25, 2023 - 1:42 am

EXCELLENT! I HAVE MY OWN STUDIO. I PERSONALLY USE THAT. I THINK THESE ARE REALLY THE BEST STUDIO HEADPHONES FOR MIXING. THANK YOU FOR SHARING.

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Stuart Charles Black June 28, 2023 - 2:13 pm

Thank you so much Warner!!

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Sergio September 2, 2023 - 12:36 am

Hello Stuart,
Just to make sure before buying, i understand that since XS edition release we can consider this as a better option than ananda. But is it also true for mixing and mastering usage?

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Stuart Charles Black September 2, 2023 - 10:17 am

Hey Sergio!

XS is a better value, yes.

I wouldn’t necessarily say the XS is better sounding. All 3 (Ananda, XS, Arya) are a step up for mixing vs. something like a Monitor 80, and even K702.

So I don’t have the XS right now, but I still have an Arya around (similar sound sig) and I’ve been using that exclusively for mixing my beats. Why?

Well, it’s because you can hear more going on. It’s not like light years more, but this just goes to show that headphones like the Ananda, XS, and Arya are simply going to reveal more information to you. They have better overall resolution and they also space sounds and instruments out better than most entry to mid-fi stuff. The 702 has an amazing soundstage, but its resolution isn’t quite as good as these.

The Ananda, XS, Arya can help reveal backing soundscapes/ambience but it will also be easier to mix those types of things if you’re the one making the song. So think about those times you’re listening to music and you can hear a synth/instrument in the background, but it’s not very clear. The XS, Ananda, and Arya kind of shed more light on those types of things and it really adds to the overall immersion.

Perhaps there’s a subtle sound that only comes out when you’re listening through these. Such was the case when I was crticially listening to one of my beats trying to see how it sounded after I mixed it the day previously. The Arya actually revealed some cool stuff that added to the immersion. It was more fleshed out and sounded how I intended for it to sound. This will also help in revealing some flaws that you need to fix or mitigate (if they’re there).

In any event, hope that helps!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers,

-Stu

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Sergio September 4, 2023 - 6:15 pm

Hey Stuart!
Many thanks for this!
Yes i agree, definitely the 702 has a nice soundstage and good timbres but i really has to manage the low ends with it because it’s diving too much and and for certain kinds of sounds or tracks it’s really weird to have to have imagine and fix what you just can’t hear..
I had the opportunity to work with an Audeze CRBN for a week and it was so easy and it translated sonperfectly what i did! But.. not the same beast (headphone and amp is kind of serious investment). I’ll try to find the xs to try it out and let you know if i’ll go with it!
Cheers and thanks again for you nice work and the passion you share with us.
Sergio

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 5, 2023 - 6:15 pm

Thanks, Sergio! Much appreciated my friend. Definitely keep me posted on everything.
-Stu

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Florian September 18, 2023 - 5:29 am

Hey Stuart, thank you very much for this article, it’s very informative! 🙂
How about the Audezes? Would you consider an LCD-2 or LCD-3 for serious mixing? I’m currently using a DT990 Pro 250 and I’m looking for a meaningful upgrade…thanks again and cheers!
Florian

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Stuart Charles Black September 19, 2023 - 12:02 pm

Florian,

Thank you so much for the kind words. It’s my pleasure! Gosh, the LCD-2 and 3 are great headphones, but I’m not sure I’d rely on them full time for mixing. The reasons are 2 fold: First, the mid-range and treble is a bit too relaxed for serious studio work. That’s not to say the sound signature is bad, but it’s just not something that’s conducive for mixing in my opinion. In other words, even despite its amazing resolution, you may still end up overcompensating and to me that’s just not ideal. I’d rather have something closer to neutral or even a shade north of it.

I think a meaningful upgrade from the 990 is going to be something like an Ananda/Edition XS. You’re getting that “step-up from mid-fi” better resolution but without the darkness associated with a typical Audeze response.

In fact, I was using the K702/Monitor 80 for mixing until I messed around with the Arya I have here (I don’t currently have an XS or Ananda) and while not being a monumental difference, it was definitely noteworthy in terms of resolution, spaciousness, overall clarity, etc. I could hear more going on in my mixes and though I still use the 702, I think I’ll be using the Arya more when I’m going back and forth between headphones and studio monitors.

That said, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on the Arya as the sound differences between it and the Ananda/XS are fairly subtle. That is to say that I don’t personally feel the Arya is worth $1600, but that’s getting into a separate can of worms.

If you’re wondering, I have it because I’m demoing it and HIFIMAN doesn’t really care if I keep the headphones so kind of a cool perk lol.

In any event, yeah, I’d go for the Ananda or Edition XS. And if it’s mixing, I’m leaning slightly towards Ananda because while being a bit brighter in the top end, I think that helps more when you’re trying to find flaws.

Hope that helps!

Keep me posted for sure.

Cheers,

-Stu

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Florian September 19, 2023 - 5:04 pm

Hey Stu, man,
thanks a lot for your exhaustive reply, it helped for sure! I’ll do some tests and will definitely have a look at the XS/Ananda. It also seems like I could get a hand on a pair of very well priced HD800s (2nd hand) and I’m really looking forward to hear them…although I’m a little bit afraid of going into the dac/amp rabbit hole 🙂
I’ll keep you posted!
Thanks again and cheers,
Florian

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 19, 2023 - 6:48 pm

My pleasure Florian!

Oh, the rabbit hole? I know all about that lol. Don’t do it! xD

Looking forward to chatting again soon.

-Stu

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Victor February 3, 2024 - 1:12 pm

Hi Stuart, what about the Sony cd900st? better than the 7506?

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Stuart Charles Black February 3, 2024 - 7:56 pm

Victor,

Man, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on those fore awhile. I haven’t heard them, but their tuning looks super flat so yeah, probably pretty good for mixing. It looks like the difference is the treble and the 900ST’s bass also rolls off quite considerably. Are there any others outside of those 2 you were thinking about?

-Stu

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