Dubspot Top Picks: Studio Headphones 2016

In this Dubspot Top Picks guide, we look at a selection of our favorite studio headphones ranging from affordable headphones on a budget to high-quality professional headphones.


Studio headphones are an essential tool whether you are producing music, recording, or mixing and mastering. Choosing professional-quality headphones for the studio can often be an overwhelming task. There are several different types and many considerations to be aware of before choosing the right headphones for the job. To help narrow your search we have put together a selection of our recommended headphones for the studio.

Design Types

There are essentially two main design types: closed‑back and open‑back headphones. Each has a completely different listening experience as well as advantages and disadvantages.

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are often used for production and recording. One of the primary advantages of closed-back headphones is noise isolation. Closed-back headphones are sealed and insulated to prevent sounds from leaking and isolate sounds from the surrounding environment to bleed through. The trade-off is that the design causes pressure to accumulate inside the cup of the headphone, causing false low frequencies. Closed-back headphones are considered as less accurate for critical listening because the sound is more colored and isolated. However, the isolation allows you to focus on sounds more clearly and are essential in the studio or on the stage

Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones and semi-open-back headphones are ideal for mixing and monitoring. Instead of a sealed earcup, these headphones allow typically have a grille or perforations that allow air and sound to flow in and out of the headphones. The design of these headphones offers a more natural and accurate sound to the listener because the sound is not isolated. Rather then sealing you off from the outside world, they tend to give you a feeling of being in an environment, much like listening to a pair of monitors. However, there are drawbacks to using open cans because there is less isolation and sounds can leak out making them impractical for recording using microphones.

Top Headphone Recommendations

Below is a selection of our favorite studio headphones in no particular order ranging from affordable headphones on a budget to high-quality professional headphones.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Monitor Headphones | Closed-Back


As the most critically acclaimed model in the M-Series line, the ATH-M50 is praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers year after year. Now, the ATH-M50x professional monitor headphones feature the same coveted sonic signature, with the added feature of detachable cables. From the large aperture drivers, sound isolating earcups and robust construction, the M50x provides an unmatched experience for the most critical audio professionals. Read more at Audio-Technica


AKG K712 Pro Reference Studio Headphones | Open-Back


The K712 PROs are a reference, open, over-ear headphones for precise listening, mixing and mastering. The over-ear design guarantees maximum wearing comfort for fatigue-free mixing and mastering, while providing spacious and airy sound without any compromise. Their precise, powerful sound results from an improved low-end performance by 3dB.

These headphones have a genuine soft leather headband for a lightweight and comfortable fit. Their carefully selected transducers provide consistency and accurate localization. The K712 PROs come with a professional mini XLR connector for quick replacement of the cable. Also included is an additional coiled cable and a premium carrying bag. Read more at AKG

Focal Spirit Professional | Closed-Back


Spirit Professional headphones have been specifically designed to meet the expectations and requirements of Recording Studios, Home Studios, and Broadcasting Studios. These studio reference headphones offer highly accurate reproduction of bass frequencies and will reveal the smallest defects in the mix while avoiding acoustic constraints of the workspace. Spirit Professional are equipped with excellent acoustic insulation to address the constraints of the often noisy environments specific to Broadcasting and Home Studios. Read more at Focal


Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro Reference Headphone | Semi-Open


The DT 880 PRO is a reference-class, semi-open studio headphone which combines all strengths of open, transparent headphones with those of more powerful, closed headphones. Specially designed housings and an improved system equalisation turn this “remake” of the studio classic DT 880 into an ideal studio monitoring headphone, with analytical qualities. Soft earpads and adjustable, sliding, earpieces together with a single sided connecting cable ensure listening comfort during extended periods of use. Read more at Beyerdynamic


Grado Prestige Series SR325e Headphones | Closed-Back


The Top of the Range Prestige Series Headphone. The new SR325e has a new driver and cable design. The added mass from the metal housing minimizes transient distortions. With the new eight-conductor cable design, you will notice superb control and stability of the upper and lower range of the frequency spectrum, with both supporting Grado’s world renowned midrange. The SR325e will produce a sound that is pure Grado, with warm harmonic colors, rich, full-bodied vocals, excellent dynamics, and an ultra-smooth top end. Read more at Grado Labs


Fostex TT50RPmk3 Studio Headphones | Semi-Open


The new RPmk3 series headphones are successors to the reputed RPmk2 series that have been used as reliable monitor headphones in many professional recording studios for more than 30 years including from the start of the T-series. The driver unit incorporating the key Fostex proprietary Regular Phase (RP) Technology diaphragm has been refined to achieve sharper audio reproduction for more accurate monitoring. The housing, ear pads, and head pad have also been re-designed to derive the maximum performance of the RP driver. Read more at Fostex International


Roland and V-MODA M-100 AIRA Headphones | Closed-Back


Designed and built by V-MODA in collaboration with Roland, the Crossfade M-100 AIRA is an audiophile-quality headphone for users of Roland’s AIRA range of electronic instruments and effects. With its dual diaphragm 50 mm driver, 5–30,000 Hz frequency response and incredible dynamic range, it lets you hear and feel every detail of your performances on stage or in the studio, from the deepest subs of the TR-8 drum machine to the most piercing screams of the TB-3 bass synth. Read more at Roland


Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones | Closed-Back


The HD 280 Pro is Sennheiser’s most significant closed, around-the-ear headphone to be introduced in years. Designed to exceed the demands of the professional environment, the HD 280 Pro boasts extremely robust construction combined with the sound quality, modular design, and aggressive noise isolation the necessary in the field. The unique collapsible design, combined with swiveling ear cups, offers maximum flexibility in any application. Read more at Sennheiser


Samson Z55 Professional Reference Headphones | Closed-Back


Samson’s flagship Z55 Professional Reference Headphones meet the highest standards of critical studio reference head-on. The Z55s offer exceptional detail and clarity with an immersive soundstage and frequency response that’s impeccably balanced. The Z55s deliver all the subtle elements of a mix. No hype, just the ultimate in sound reproduction, comfort and convenience. Read more at Samson


AKG K702 Reference Studio Headphones | Open-Back


The K702′s are a reference, open, over-ear studio headphones for precision listening, mixing and mastering. They combine an extremely accurate response with agility and spaciousness. This is achieved by using revolutionary flat-wire voice coils and a patented Varimotion two-layer diaphragm. A totally open design and a high-performance cable complete these reference headphones.

The K702′s comfortable, specially shaped 3D-foam ear pads and a genuine-leather headband ensure a perfect fit. They provide a professional mini XLR connector for quick replacement of the cable. The K702s are individually tested and serial-numbered. Read more at AKG


Sennheiser HD 800 Dynamic Stereo Headphones | Open-Back


More than 60 years of ingenious headphone engineering has been applied to the new HD 800. Incorporating Sennheiser’s most advanced driver technology, these open, around-the-ear, dynamic stereo headphones redefine what reference-grade audio is all about.

The HD 800 is hand-assembled in Germany with only the finest of materials. The transducer is encased in a precision material made of stainless steel while the headband and headphone mounting utilizes the most advanced development from the aerospace industry. Read more at Sennheiser


Sony MDR-7506 Headphones | Closed-Back


Sony MDR7506 Professional Stereo Headphones are ideal for sound monitoring in recording studios, radio, film production, video, electronic news gathering, and virtually any application where high-quality sound is required. The closed-ear design MDR-7506 is outrageously popular in pro and home recording studios. It features a rugged design, convenient folding construction, 40mm driver units, gold connectors, and a professional-quality OFC (oxygen free copper) cord. Sony 7500 Series headphones offer a practical range of choices for everyone from the casual user to the studio pro. Read more at Sony


Sennheiser HD25-1 II Headphones | Closed-Back


The closed-back HD 25-1 II purpose-designed, professional monitoring headphones offer high attenuation of background noise. Capable of handling very high sound pressure levels and of extremely robust construction, these headphones perform exceptionally well in high-noise environments, such as sound reinforcement, studio monitoring, and audio equipment testing. The capsule is rotatable for one-ear listening. The Sennheiser HD-25 II make ideal monitoring headphones for cameramen and DJs. Read more at Sennheiser


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