How to Choose the Best Headphones for Recording

songcast_music_distribution_artistsEarbuds and cheap, flimsy headphones may work fine for personal use while jogging or grocery shopping, but when going into the studio to record it’s time to act professional and go for a major upgrade. You need big, sturdy, comfortable, high-quality headphones in a studio environment. A good pair of professional grade headphones, or cans, as you may hear them called by audiophiles, will allow you to hear all the things you’re supposed to hear and keep out the sounds you shouldn’t. If you want your tunes to make the best impression on listeners, you need to be able to hear the nuances of each instrument and vocal track and also make sure there isn’t even the tiniest bit of unwanted background noise or interference in the recording. When picking a pair of recording headphones, here are some important things to know, along with a few suggestions on brands.

1. They need to be closed headphones, aka “sealed cans.”
This means they don’t just rest on top of your ears with padding, but fully enclose them with thick padding around the rim of each earpiece that creates a seal around your ears. When you try them on, they should make the room go silent. When recording vocals and live instruments, you don’t want the sound leaking out of the cans to interfere with what’s being recorded by the mics, so these types of over-the-ear headphones are a must.

2. Comfort is key.
Remember, you will be wearing these headphones for extended periods of time while recording and listening to playbacks, so make sure they feel good first. Wear them for as long as possible in the store before buying. Make sure all the adjustments work properly, fit the headset to your head, then lean forward and backward to see if they fall off or come loose. This is almost as important as how good they sound.

3. Try out many different models and brands firsthand instead of ordering online.
In the “no duh” department, you want your headphones to deliver great sound. To help figure out what sounds best to your ears, bring the personal set of headphones you use most often from home to the music store and listen through them before trying out each new pair. This will give you a true sense of the importance a comfortable, high-end pair of headphones in the recording studio.

4. Recommended brands.
Sony and Sennheiser are two of the most popular and highly-rated makers of headphones. AKG, Audio Technica and Shure also make good quality cans. The models are as varied as the price range. Expect to pay anywhere between just under $100 up to a $1,000 for a pair of recording headphones, with the quality ranging from decent to near-perfect.

Comment List

  • Luke Cusato 23 / 09 / 2012 Reply

    All in all, reference headphones are what you want!! They are not tuned especially for frequencies like bass and so on. Reference headphones are untouched and give you exactly the sound that has been produced by the Artist/Producer. The whole hype about Dre Beats Studio’s is just crazy. Considering its Phillips or Sony that created the actual audio electronics within the headphones. Dre Beats focus on bass and are not reference headphones. Why Pay extortionate amount of money when you can buy something much cheaper and twice the true quality?

  • James Burrows 21 / 11 / 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the advice on buying headphones. I’ve been looking for a pair of good quality studio cans and have been considering some of the headphones mentioned in this top 10 review of the best headphones.

    Has anyone had any experience with GermanMaestro? They are a new brand for me.

  • gary 12 / 04 / 2013 Reply

    Great Blog!

    I have just got the Audio-Technica ATH M50.
    For the price they are amazing rec headphones.

    Thanks Gary

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