Best Headphones for Mixing and MasteringOct 29, 2021
Mixing and mastering with a bad pair of headphones is like fishing with a bad rod—it will make the job more difficult. Whether it misleads you into believing your track needs a boost/cut in some areas or doesn’t allow you to hear that high-end “pop” on the left side, a pair of headphones can truly make or break a solid mix.
Like most things in music production, the “right” pair of headphones is really a matter of preference and price point. There are several solid models that will help you achieve the results you want.
Some producers, mixers, and master engineers also like to have multiple pairs of headphones so they can reference their mix or master on a different set. This can be very helpful when you get down to the mastering stage of music production.
As a starting point, the four brands I recommend are:
All of these brands are very well-known in the world of music production. For a lower price point, Audio-Technica tends to be my favourite, and for higher end models, Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic are stand-outs.
The three most popular choices at the $100 level are the Sony MDR-7506, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and Sennheiser HD280. These are all solid choices if you’re just starting out and with a closed-back, they also work great for recording!
The Sony MDR-7506 is lightweight, a bit brighter in the high-end and has less sound isolation than the other two.
The Sennheiser HD280 is on the darker side, with a pronounced low-mid range heavy, and has great noise cancellation.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is warm sounding with a recessed mid-range.
If you want noise-cancellation and are also using the headphones for recording, a closed-back is ideal. However, I prefer open-back headphones because they allow a more natural sound and allow your ears to breathe a little.
My favourite pairs of mid-priced open-back headphones are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 (all their “DT” line is solid) and the Sennheiser HD 600 (all their “HD” line is solid)
The Beyerdynamic DT990 is great for a neutral sound and an accurate bass.
The Sennheiser HD600 is darker and has better treble accuracy. If you want something even more high-end, check out the rest of Beyerdynamic’s DT models and Sennheiser’s HD models.
Final Thoughts On Headphones
What’s perhaps even more important than having the top-of-the-line pair is to know your headphones. It's important to stick with a pair of headphones and really get to know the sound. This is going to help you a ton, for example, when you're mixing vocals in Logic Pro or even if you're trying to find the perfect tone when you're recording guitars. I often put on my headphones and dial in on a warm tone before I record my acoustic guitar. I love using the Neve 1073 pre amp to get the best result.
My advice would be compare as many brands as you can and pick the one that’s right for you. Head to your local music store and try a few different pairs on. Comfort goes a long way too! I'm a big fan of making sure you can at least wear the headphones for more than a couple hours without getting a sore head.
After you've chose your pair of headphones that will help you get a clean mix and master then you'll also want to make sure that you have a good pair of reference monitros for you to hear your song. Here is a great video on what studio monitors you should buy.
If you'd like to learn more about music equipment, music production, songwriting and Logic Pro then I suggest subscribing to my Youtube Channel.