As a music producer, you know that achieving the best-quality sound is essential to your success.
However, using the wrong headphones can have a significant impact on your final audio and even ruin your entire music production project. Audio distortion, lack of audio clarity, poor frequency response, and uneven stereo imaging are some side effects of using wrong mixing and mastering headphones.
With the right mixing and mastering headphones, you can hear every detail of your music and produce clear, balanced and accurate sound.
Roundup of the Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
How to Find the Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering?
Here’s a list of things to consider while finding the right headphones for mixing and mastering:
- Frequency Response
- Design: Open Back vs Closed Back
Here’s a list of factors you should consider while looking for the right headphones for mixing and mastering:
The frequency response of headphones refers to the range of bass, mids and trebles the headphones can produce. In simpler words, the frequency response of headphones refers to the range of sounds the headphones can accurately produce.
Headphones with a flat frequency response are suitable for mixing and mastering as they provide a more accurate representation of the sound.
When mixing and mastering music, mixing and mastering engineers should be able to hear all elements (highs, lows and mids) of a track carefully. This can be achieved with flat frequency headphones.
Headphones with higher or lower frequency response can make different elements of a mix sound too quiet or loud.
Design: Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones
Secondly, you must do a thorough open-back vs. closed-back headphones evaluation when buying mixing and mastering headphones.
Both open-back and closed-back headphones are suitable for mixing and mastering as they come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
While closed-back headphones provide excellent noise isolation while mixing and mastering, open-back headphones deliver a more spacious and natural sound allowing music producers to better assess and evaluate stereo imaging and soundstage of their mixes .
Most music producers prefer open-back headphones for mixing and closed-back headphones for mastering to get an honest idea of their mixes.
Next, ensure the mixing and mastering headphones you’re planning to get are comfortable for continuous use.
Mixing and mastering sessions are typically long and may require you to wear your headphones for hours together. Therefore, check the following to determine the comfort offered by a pair of headphones:
- Ear cup material and padding
- Headband material
- Headband adjustment features
The impedance of headphones refers to the electric resistance an audio source has to overcome to drive the headphones. The higher the impedance, the better will be the overall sound produced by the headphones.
High impedance headphones (with impedance above 25 ohms) are ideal for mixing and mastering as they provide music producers with more detailed and precise sound.
Headphones with low impedance are highly sensitive to external interference and noise, which can lead to sound distortion while mixing and mastering.
Since mixing and mastering headphones are subjected to frequent use, they are prone to wear and tear.
Therefore, ensure the mixing or mastering headphones you’re planning to buy are made of durable and sturdy material, and built to last.
Top 10 Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
Here are the top 10 headphones for mixing and mastering that we have tested on various parameters:
1. Sennheiser HD 650 – Audiophile Hi-Res Open-Back Dynamic Headphones
Overall Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- Substantially flat frequency response
- Exact sound reproduction over the whole frequency spectrum
- Natural and warm midrange
- Clear lows and treble
- Relaxed fit for lengthy listening sessions
- Design that is durable and well-constructed
- Suitable for hi-resolution recordings
- Looks eye-catching and stylish
- Close and intimate soundstage
- Somewhat expensive
- May require a headphone amplifier for best performance
- Open-back design may lead to sound leakage
Sennheiser is an industry icon setting the bar for audio equipment for almost 60 years, and the Sennheiser HD650 is the third member of the HD series, which began in the early 1990s with the HD580. We have chosen it as the overall best headphones for mixing and mastering.
We would say that the design of HD650 is more practical than luxurious. While most of the headphones are made of shiny plastic parts, the craftsmanship is excellent.
The company has used metal where it counts, including in the adjustable headband frame and the exterior mesh shielding the driver. Therefore, there should be no worries about the product’s longevity.
The cutout in the center of the headphones relieves pressure during long listening sessions. As the music begins playing through the headphones, it’s simple to forget everything else, relax, and take it all in.
Their neutral to warm tonal balance makes a broad range of music enjoyable without sacrificing detail, making them ideal for mixing and mastering.
These headphones provide a deep, well-controlled bass that makes it simple to follow the lower notes of an instrument like a bass guitar or synthesizer.
In conclusion, the Sennheiser HD 650 – Audiophile Hi-Res Open-Back Dynamic Headphones are highly suitable for mixing and mastering due to their open-back design, balanced audio, flat frequency response and accurate sound production. They’re suitable for both beginners and professional music producers.
2. beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X Open-Back Studio Headphones
Most Comfortable Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- Incredible audio performance
- Excellent comfort; heavily-padded earcups
- Outstanding instrument separation for detailed listening
- Elegant and robust structure
- Spatial and transparent sound
- Balanced tuning
- Soundstage is neither too wide nor too closed
- High-quality and flexible cables
- No removable or in-line microphone
- Slightly elevated highs
The beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X Open-Back Studio Headphones are a top-tier set of headphones for studio use. They can be a great buy for sound mixers, DJs, or mixing and mastering engineers.
These headphones are incredibly well-built headphones with a degree of comfort that is hard to exceed. That’s mostly because of the soft velour earpads. These cushions will make your ears feel more at peace than any lambskin leather ever could.
Large, circular pads provide full ear coverage, ensuring a pleasant listening experience. The spring steel headband has memory foam padding.
The DT 900 PRO X Headphones do what they’re mean to. They let you dissect a track down to its individual components and identify issues during mixing, if any.
They play recordings in their unaltered, uncolored, and unenhanced form to ensure you hear them as accurately as possible. Therefore, they’re highly suitable for both mixing and mastering.
In conclusion, the beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X Open-Back Studio Headphones are excellent for recordings and music production. Their build quality is impeccable and the detachable cable design is a plus. They’re one of the most accurate-sounding headphones on our list.
View on Amazon: beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X Open-Back Studio Headphones
3. Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
Best Headphones for Mastering
- Extremely tight bass and clear highs
- Excellent noise isolation
- Incredibly crisp and clear separation of all instruments
- Amazing resonance for closed-back headphones
- Constructed with premium materials, neither too light nor too hefty
- Can bend in a wide variety of positions to increase their range of motion
- We did not experience any issues with these headphones
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones have great construction. These closed-back studio headphones are excellent for mastering as they deliver excellent noise isolation and allow you to focus on your mastering assignments.
They seem durable, with a single strong wire that ends in a reinforced connector that appears to last a long time. The headphones’ thick, cushioned earcups can rotate on two axes, and the headphones fold flat for easy transport and storage.
The 90-degree swivel of each earcup makes single-ear monitoring easy for mastering, and the circumaural fit is secure and pleasant even during long listening sessions.
These headphones are great for mastering since they don’t create bass where it doesn’t exist but can provide precise, robust depth if there are deep lows in the source material. Overall, they produce precise and detailed audio.
In conclusion, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones are great mastering since they balance the lows, mids, and highs equally. Moreover, they are the best-sounding pair at an affordable price point. However, if you’re looking for professional-quality mastering headphones that deliver exceptional sound accuracy, you can also try the Audio-Technica ATH-M70X Closed-Back Dynamic Professional Studio Monitor Headphones.
View on Amazon: Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
4. beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones
Most Versatile Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- High-quality, neutral sound reproduction
- Comfortable fit with soft cushioning on the ear cups
- Suitable for continuous use
- Durable construction
- Suitable for beginners and experts
- Accurate, transparent and spacious sound
- Great instrumental positioning and separation
- May need an external amplifier for best performance
- Non-folding design
The beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones sound a lot like the Beyerdynamic DT 900 X PRO; however, they’re more versatile. You can also use them for non-competitive gaming, solo listening and bass-heavy tracks.
They’re simple in form and function, taking up little space. However, the materials utilized in their construction provide them a touch of style and sophistication.
The ear pads are of faux suede. The headband is crafted entirely of metal and has a chic, removable cushion making them suitable for long mixing and mastering sessions.
The 990 PROs are open-back because they are referencing, mixing, and mastering headphones. While their tendency to leak sound makes them unsuitable for use with microphones, their capacity to let air travel through the back of the shell provides a more open, natural soundstage and broader stereo picture during mixing and mastering.
Since these headphones have a high impedance, they perform best when linked to a strong signal coming from a studio headphone amp or audio interface’s headphone output.
In conclusion, the beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones are an excellent option for critical listening, mixing, and mastering in the studio. They are high-quality, durable, and have balanced sound. The treble range may sometimes seem overly accentuated, but the bass, instruments, and voices are all well-balanced and faithfully represented.
View on Amazon: beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones
5. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones
Most Portable Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- High quality sound for reference headphones
- Unique folding design; portable and easy to store
- Offer excellent noise isolation
- Produce accurate and balanced sound
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Durable design
- Affordable; great value for their price
- Versatile; highly useful for home studio
- Lightweight with light clamping pressure on the head
- No volume control on the cable
Audio pros favor the Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones for mixing and mastering due to their high-quality sound and sturdy construction. They offer a closed-ear construction for superior sound isolation and a frequency response between 10Hz and 20kHz.
The Sony WH-7506 Headphones are comfortable enough to wear all day long. Moreover, ability to fold and carry them with you makes them excellent portable headphones.
The ear cups are spacious, cushioned, and comfortable for most people’s ears. Long periods of listening won’t cause discomfort due to their loose fit. The headband is also generously proportioned and well-padded and can fit most head sizes.
These headphones are well-renowned for their bright and characteristic sound. The sound profile is excellent in this pricing range. The 40 mm speakers have a respectable impedance of 63 ohms; thus, they provide a very satisfying audio experience.
We were pleasantly surprised by the neutral sound quality of these headphones. They sound excellent for studio mixing and mastering or critical listening.
In conclusion, the Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones are create a balanced sound and are a steal at their price. Their bass is crisp and adheres very closely to the ideal of neutrality. Overall, these headphones are quite revealing. While mastering, these headphones will ensure you hear every detail and flaw of your mix.
View on Amazon: Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones
6. Sennheiser Professional HD 280 PRO Over-Ear Monitoring Headphones
Best Studio Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- Superior noise isolation
- High-quality construction
- Excellent for low-volume monitoring
- Rich and neutral sound
- Unique, collapsible design
- Swiveling ear cups for flexibility
- Super-soft ear cup padding
- Allow you to hear accurate sound details
- Bass-heavy but still sound crisp and clear
- We did not experience any issues with these headphones
The noise solation and sound quality of the Sennheiser Professional HD 280 PRO over-ear monitoring headphones deserve great appreciation. These headphones are built specifically for use in professional settings like recording studios and concert halls, and provide a crisp, authentic sound.
The headband and ear cups of these circumaural headphones have supple synthetic leatherette as padding for maximum comfort and longevity. The ear pads pivot and hinge at their connection to the headband, providing a great deal of adjustability.
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones have a pretty wide frequency response, making them ideal for music creation and post-production applications, including video editing, film scoring, and podcasting. Since they don’t have the feedback issues of open-back designs, they’re perfect for mastering.
In conclusion, the Sennheiser Professional HD 280 PRO Over-Ear Monitoring Headphones provide balanced and uncolored sound performance. They are consistently neutral over their entire frequency range, which ends at 25 kHz.
7. Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones
Best Budget Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- Semi-open design provides a balance between isolation and natural sound
- Comfortable fit for long listening sessions
- Good sound quality for the price
- Adjustable headband for a perfect fit
- Can be used for the studio as well as casual listening
- Minor sound leakage
The Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones are quite affordable for their versatility.
They provide a decent fit and feel and are comfortable for continuous use. The initially uncomfortable clamping sensation of headphones loosens up with repeated usage.
This semi-open-back headphones come with the best of both worlds. They’re open-back for mixing and closed-back for mastering. You may notice minor sound leakage due to the half open-back design; however, that goes unnoticed given these headphones’ great overall sound quality.
The bass response of SR850 is really precise. These headphones diminish the deep bass significantly, but you can expect this from headphones with semi-open backs. The middle is astonishingly realistic, and the singers and lead instruments seem present and clear.
Overall, these headphones have a wide, airy sound quality and an essentially neutral tone.
In conclusion, the Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones are great if you’re starting out in the world of music production or simply seeking better sound on a tighter budget. You can use them for editing, mixing, and mastering audio.
View on Amazon: Samson SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones
8. AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones
Most Durable Headphones for Mixing and Mastering
- Balanced and precise sound characteristics
- Relaxed fit
- Open-back design offers a natural and roomy soundstage
- Produce accurate and precise sound
- Extremely comfortable for continuous use
- Sturdy and durable; built to last
- Good noise isolation
- Balanced frequency response
- Minor sound leakage
- Somewhat expensive
- May require an amplifier to drive them to their full power
The AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones are popular among audiophiles and music professionals due to their balanced sound character and comfortable fit.
The over-ear style ensures you continue mixing and mastering for hours without your ears becoming tired while still receiving uncompromised sound quality in a roomy, open format.
The supple leather headband of these headphones makes them lightweight and quite pleasant to use for long periods. The K712 PROs include a professional small XLR connection, making it easy to swap out the wire whenever necessary. They come with a second coil cable and a high-quality pouch.
The frequency response of the K712 Pros is reportedly 10 Hz to 39.8 kHz. The overall sound production is accurate and detailed.
Although not overly accentuated and sounding somewhat thin, the bass has enough bottom-end rumbling to please most listeners. Additionally, the top end sounds calm and clear while being exceedingly smooth.
In conclusion, the AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones are a masterpiece when it comes to mixing and mastering music. They are also suitable for casual listening. Even though these headphones look fairly simplistic, they come with a heavy-duty construction that can easily withstand wear and tear in your studio.
View on Amazon: AKG K712 PRO Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones
9. beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio Headphones
Best Mixing and Mastering Headphones for Professionals
- Neutral and accurate sound production for professional mixing and mastering
- Wide soundstage
- Comfortable and lasting design
- Replaceable headband cushioning and earpads
- Excellent frequency range
- Open-back design for exceptionally spatial sound
- Can also be used for gaming
- Detachable cable
- Open-back design can lead to sound leakage
- May need an amplifier to drive them to their full potential
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Headphones have exceptional clarity, a spacious soundstage, and a sturdy design. They provide excellent value thanks to their brilliant highs, tight bass, and detail retrieval for those who are on the market for professional-quality mixing and mastering headphones.
In addition to being durable and comfortable, their design lets you swap out the ear cushions and headband padding as needed. Both the earcup forks and driver grills in the open back of the headphones are made of metal.
The headband and ear cushions are also professionally designed. The soft leather headband helps balance the weight of the headphones over your head. The DT 1990 Pro aren’t the lightest headphones out there, but the design of the headband and earpads ensures that they are pleasant to use for long periods.
The sound staging is just right—it’s neither too large nor too small. The frequency response is also pretty balanced. The lows are deep and resonant, the mids are pleasant, and the highs are present and correct. No one frequency dominates the others.
In conclusion, the beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio Headphones can be a great buy for mixing and mastering professionals. They’re one of the best professional studio headphones on the market. You can make the most of the replaceable ear pads with unique designs to modify the sound performance while mixing and mastering music. These headphones are a good upgrade to DT 990, which is more suitable for home recording studio setup.
View on Amazon: beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio Headphones
10. Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones
Mixing and Mastering Headphones With Best Design
- Clear and accurate sound
- Look eye-catching and stylish
- Superior construction
- Stainless steel grills for added durability
- Ergonomic dual-frame design
- Comfortable for continuous use
- Padded ear pads and headband
- Accurate bass and extended highs
- Excellent instrument separation
- Do not fold or swivel
The Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones, are one of the finest open-back headphones on the market. They have superior sound quality, broad frequency response, and a neutral, balanced sound profile.
These headphones have an appealing and modest profile. The stainless steel grills and aluminum alloy yoke are eye-catching and speak largely of these headphones’ durability. The high gloss silver coating around the drivers gives an otherwise subdued look a little shine.
The headphones include a durable design and a comfortable, adjustable headband. Extra wires and ear cushions are included in a sturdy carrying case, demonstrating that Shure has given these high-end headphones considerable attention in terms of presentation and durability.
The cherry on top of an already amazing cake is that the Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones, relatively big open-backed headphones, leak less sound than any similarly equipped competition here.
These Shures outperform the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 ohm in realism, with natural-sounding treble and crisp, nimble bass. But what truly sets these Shures apart as a guaranteed bet of the highest quality is their ability to tease out minute nuances in a recording and excellent sound accuracy, making them perfect for mixing and mastering.
In conclusion, the Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones deliver balanced sound. They’re ideal for both mixing and mastering. However, most music producers use them for mastering or critical listening. Even though they’re open-back headphones, they provide decent noise isolation.
View on Amazon: Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones
Frequently Asked Questions About Mixing and Mastering Headphones
Mixing involves adjusting and balancing different elements of a recording (such as drums, other instruments, vocals, and more) to create a cohesive and polished product. To create balanced and accurate sound, mixing engineers use techniques, such as audio adjustments, panning, EQ optimization, compression, and addition of other effects.
Mastering is the final step in a recording process. It involves further processing the mixed track to create a flawless, final version that is ready for distribution. Mastering engineers adjust the overall volume and EQ of the final track to prepare it for distribution in different formats (such as digital, vinyl, and more).
Both headphones and studio monitors are useful for mixing and mastering in their own ways.
While headphones for mixing and mastering provide music producers with an isolated listening experience to carefully review the details of their mixes, studio monitors used in professional music production allow music producers to get an idea of how their mixes will sound when played on music systems.
We recommend using a mix of both to create and master stellar mixes.
Even though you can mix using any pair of good-quality noise-isolating headphones that deliver accurate sound, we highly recommend investing in a pair of studio headphones for mixing and mastering that deliver studio quality sound.
Studio headphones for mixing typically have a flat frequency response, which allows music producers to assess different elements in their mixes more precisely.
No. You don’t really need noise-canceling headphones for mixing and mastering.
Instead of noise canceling, mixing headphones should be noise isolating. Read the full noise isolating vs. noise canceling headphones comparison.
Even though noise-canceling headphones help a great deal in reducing external noise, their sound signature may lead to sound distortion.
Moreover, they should have flat frequency response from accurate sound reproduction.
In-ear monitors can be used for mixing and mastering. However, they come with their own set of pros and cons.
For example, since in-ear monitors are worn inside the ears, they provide excellent noise isolation, which can be beneficial during both mixing and mastering. However, they are not comfortable for continuous use.
Also, it’s somewhat challenging to achieve flat frequency response and accurate stereo imaging with in-ear monitors, which is much required for mixing and mastering.
Yes, you can use the same headphones for mixing and mastering in recording studios or at home. Both types of headphones require flat frequency response and wide soundstage.
The only potential difference is that mixing can benefit for open-back headphones, while mastering can benefit from closed-back headphones that deliver excellent noise isolation. Nevertheless, mixing and mastering can be done using the same headphones; we did not notice any major difference in the sound accuracy.
Also, it’s important to note that since mastering is the final step in music production, you can benefit from testing your audio on different systems.
By testing audio on different playback systems, you can identify issues that may not be noticeable on a single system (such as headphones).
Some issues that you may notice on other systems include audio distortion, frequency imbalances, and so on. You can then make the necessary modifications to the audio to ensure consistent performance across all systems.
If you’re planning to get wireless headphones for mixing or mastering, ensure they have flat frequency response, high impedance, wide soundstage and good noise isolation.
Audio engineers and music producers do not prefer wireless headphones for mixing and mastering as they come with signal latency issues. Therefore, also ensure the wireless headphones you’re planning to buy have stable wireless connection.
It won’t be fair to say wireless headphones are not suitable for mixing and mastering. However, wired headphones are generally prefer for music production as they deliver stable audio.
We hope you found our guide on mixing and mastering headphones useful. Now that you know the things to consider when looking for suitable mixing and mastering headphones, and have answers to some common questions/misconceptions about these headphones, you can make an informed purchase.
However, if you ask us to pick our favorite from the lot, we’ll vote for Sennheiser HD 650 – Audiophile Hi-Res Open-Back Dynamic Headphones, without any bias. These headphones are simply fantastic for mixing and mastering. From sound accuracy to comfort, they excel in every aspect of mixing and mastering.
If you have any questions, please feel to drop in the comments section below.