One accessory that might be debated for many years and never seem resolved is the good and bad of using headphones in the art of mixing and mastering a composition. The haters (not really) say you need to feel the room, catch the vibe as listeners will really hear it. The lovers find it a necessary tool to hear well. One doesn’t altogether negate the other, which means it’s one debate we can actually hear one another out with no major fear of being tone-deaf. So for all of you (and, we might say the majority) who are looking for some headphone options, what follows is a pros and cons list of a few of our favorites.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Pros: The Sennheiser HD 280 has clean and accurate audio performance across the full frequency range. They are also comfortable and will help you settle in for long sessions in the studio. For the price, they are durable and significantly reduce ambient noise. You’ll also amply hear the entire frequency range.
Cons: On the con side, we heard from some that they are not very attractive (if that matters to you) and also that the cord doesn’t detach from the earphones… so watch out for pinching.
AKG K240 Studio
Pros: Do you want headphones with roots and with a sense of nostalgia? The AKG K240 Studio might be your choice. They have a retro design and draw from their 1970 ancestry when the originals debuted. The look is not the only thing that might woo you. The price is low for the sound quality, which is semi-open with clean mids and highs.
Cons: You won’t get a thick, powerful bass here; it’s more of a fun bass. These are also not for your family car ride, unless you want to spill out what you’re listening to for everyone to hear. The design doesn’t keep the music just to yourself, so these will mainly work in the studio or in your solitary, creative space.
Audio Technica ATH M50
Pros: The sound is stellar and well-isolated. Designed to be durable and foldable also helps with Audio Technica ATH M50 receiving high marks with composers. You’ll be grooving with deep, controlled bass and a moderate lower treble boost. The midrange is clear and the treble smooth, so don’t worry about any jarring sound at high volumes.
Cons: You might find that lower treble boost mentioned above to not perform as well with massed strings, not such a good thing for many film compositions.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Pros: The quality of the sound is heads above what you’d expect. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are a good in-between headphone and will cost you a little less than their studio version while giving you just as much quality.
Cons: Even with its closed-back design, you still might take note (or your neighbor on the subway will) of the sound spilling out a bit too much. So, these would be a great addition to your fixed studio and not the one on the road. You won’t get huge bass performance here, and the cable is not removable. We think it should be.
Samson SR 850
Pros: You’ll find the Samson SR 850 to have solid bass response and ultra-clear highs. They come with a self-adjusting headband for a natural fit and good comfort for long stays in the studio. One composer said, “They have a fairly flat response so they’re good for mixing or dialing in guitar modelers, but still have a tiny tiny bit of scoop so everyday music listening is enjoyable.” And another happy composer said, “The fundamentals of an audiophile can are all here at a price anyone can buy into.”
Cons: You might find then to be a little thin at times. Yes, they carry great sound up and down, but you might conclude there could be a bit more depth. This might mean that you mix too much of something.
Sony MDR 7506
Pros: When we take the Sony MDR 7506 closed-ear design and combine it with the low impedance, these headphones come out at the top for great volume and control of background noise. When it comes to audio production these headphones are an industry standard. You’ll see them all over the place which is a good testimony to their reliability.
Cons: They don’t really have any plush memory foam padding and you might find them clamping down a bit too hard. You might also come to the conclusion that they look just a little dated and boring in their design since there’s some age since they were first released.
Sennheiser HD 600
Pros: These have high-quality open metal mesh earpiece covers for an extremely transparent sound (which could be a negative as well). You get natural, spatial, and accurate sound that offers a ton of detail. The Sennheiser HD 600 headphones have a Neodymium magnet system that ensures an excellent dynamic response. Why? Because Neodymium magnets produce a higher sensitivity and substantial sound output using less power to do so. You’ll find these extremely durable as well.
Cons: You might notice two things: (1) the bass extension might be too light for your taste, and (2) sometimes more width is appreciated. Other than that, the cables could be improved given the cost of this pair.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Pros: If you’re wanting to listen without stress, you’ve come to the right place. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro features outstanding bass and unites all the pieces of an orchestra with brilliance. Parts are easily replaced, which is good because you’ll likely wear out something due to frequent use. Highs, mids, and lows – you get it all with these headphones.
Cons: You will need a studio grade headphone amp to really hear the 990 pro part of this improvement over the 770. The cable might be shorter than you need and several have commented that they want even more bass than provided here.