Top 5 Headphones for the Studio on a Budget
Studio headphones are in a lane of their own. Commercial brands such as Beats by Dre have frequency boosts and cuts in ranges that make it impossible for us to hear how our music actually sounds.
But there are just as many studio headphone brands as there are commercial ones. It can be overwhelming just learning to make music, so it’s okay to need some help in finding the best headphones for your needs and budget.
When you have your own headphones, it’s important that you understand how they sound. Some have peaks and cuts in different frequency bands – and when you understand where your headphones compensate or don’t compensate will you be able to master how your music will sound on other headphones. You can do this by referencing other music and using your headphones to casually listen to music daily!
Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro – $149
On the pricier end of our spectrum come the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro headphones. But for good reason.
The open back DT-Pro range offers a comfortable wear and a good awareness of the environment around you. If you’re in your studio it’ll be pretty quiet anyway, right?
It’s important to note that these phones have a high impedance of 250 Ohms. This means they’ll need to be driven by a high output source such as your audio interface or mixing desk to get the best sound.
On the sound itself, Beyerdynamic is renowned for the natural soundscape that their headphones produce – and the DT990 Pro’s are no different. The well-balanced frequency response of 5Hz to 35kHz offers one of the most enjoyable listening and monitoring experiences, as well as a comfortable one! The cups swallow your ears so well that you don’t even notice that you’re wearing headphones.
Open-back headphones do bleed audio, however. Not problematic in itself if you’re in an isolated environment, but the DT990-Pro headphones are no different to their open-back cousins. This makes them a more suitable choice for mixing rather than recording.
Sennheiser HD 206 – $35.96
At a very affordable price point of $40, the Sennheiser HD 206 are closed-back headphones pack with amazing value.
One slight disadvantage is the frequency response of 21Hz – 18kHz – the high end isn’t fully reproduced. However, if your music operates more in the mids and bass regions then this won’t be a problem. The bass response is as crisp as though it had just been taken out of the oven – much crisper than many headphones you’ll find for the same price.
A fully balanced sound reproduction is the norm with Sennheiser. This pair of extremely durable headphones won’t let you down anytime soon. You can say goodbye to unwanted noise with the power of the noise-cancelling ear cups that the 206 bring to the table.
On the flip side, if you’re not a fan of long cables… we’ve got some bad news. A 3-meter straight long cable is prone to tangling itself, as many of us have experienced. If this isn’t a worry for you, hooray! That’s great. If it’s made you feel a little sad, we get it.
You can’t have it all… or can you?
Sony MDR-7506 – $113.25
Sony, the brand we all know and love. Or maybe just the brand we all know? Whatever you feel towards them, they undeniably make sweet audio technology.
For $99, the MDR-7506 brings a coiled wire that is much less prone to being tangled (but is still a bit heavy) as well as an epic frequency response of 10Hz – 20kHz!
These phones were built to last. You could spend many years in the studio and these headphones won’t buckle under the pressure of your weighty music.
Sony’s MDR series has been around for a long time now. It’s a staple in professional music studios and is used daily. This is because the headphones bring comfort, value and practicality.
At the same quality of headphones that cost twice as much, the 7506’s are designed to highlight what’s wrong with a mix rather than what’s right with it. This is made so much easier for us by the extreme comfort they offer!
KRK KNS 8400 – $122.56
The legendary KRK Rokit monitors have left a mark on the music community, particularly in the electronic scene.
But not a lot of people are aware of their headphones!
The KNS 8400 headphones bring the power of the Rokits directly to your ears. MusicRadar went so far as to say they could be a pair of Rokits strapped to your ears!
With ear cups made of memory foam, those of su with glasses (such as myself) can breath a sigh of relief when they don’t need to shift these headphones around to get the best fit. Not only are they comfortable, but they offer 30dB of noise cancellation.
What’s an unusual feature for studio-grade headphones is a volume control unit on the cable. This is usually found on commercial headphones only. Well, KRK wanted to change the norm and featured an inline volume control!
Audio Technica ATH-M50x – $153.75
At $149 comes the ATH-M50x headphones by Audio Technica. That’s right, a brand so nice we featured them twice.
These closed-back headphones have been an industry favourite for countless artists since their release. Combining comfort & fantastic sound, the ATH-M50x don’t compromise on accuracy.
A detachable cable makes transportation that little bit easier too! Not only this, but you have a choice of 3 included cables so you have control over your listening experience.
For low budgets, the ATH-M50x headphones are an all-around bargain. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time and pack a frequency response of 15Hz to 28kHz. More than enough!
One drawback of these phones is their slightly compressed high-end response as the high-end lacks a little bit of detail. This may not be a problem for you if you’re just starting out. In fact, we don’t think it will. But if you’re looking to upgrade from your first pair of headphones, maybe choose one of our other options…
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