6 Best Headphones for Home Recording

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Videos by American Songwriter

I’m sure I’m not alone in that I’ve had a personal war with headphones over my recording career. I think I’ve tried every new thing that came on the market in the last 30 years and it’s only in the last 5 years that I really feel comfortable that I’m getting somewhere with headphones while working at home. Of course, during that time, headphones (and earbuds) have become far more important to us everywhere in society. Let me share with you what I’ve discovered along the way and hopefully help you wade through the crowd and make a better, informed decision.

1. Ultrasone Pro 750i

Both I and Eric Ambel (Joan Jett, The Del-Lords, Steve Earle) picked these up around the same time for homework and they are super fantastic, especially for the price (we got them direct for around $175). They are clear, detailed, balanced, not boomy on the low end, and pretty dang accurate. I don’t get any ear fatigue from wearing them over long periods of time and I feel when I mix with them and check the mix the next day on monitors it translates very well. Furthermore, when I use them for singing I feel like I’m getting “the whole picture” with my voice and I can hear every detail. These are as good or better than headphones costing 2 to 3 times as much. Ultrasone has many great headphone options so look for the best deal from their website based on your budget and check out the specials which may run twice a year.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

2. Austrian Audio Hi-X65

Austrian Audio may not seem like a familiar name to some of you but you do sort of know them: these are former AKG employees who formed their own company when AKG closed, so they know their stuff. A little pricier than some on this list at around $429, they are well worth the expense if you do more mixing and mastering rather than recording as they are open-back style headphones. Sometimes singers have pitch problems with open-back headphones, either because they have never used them before or they can’t isolate themselves in the feed from the DAW during overdubs. However, for really high-end, accurate, and detailed production work over long hours, you can’t do much better than these without entering the four-digit price level.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

3. Sony MDR-7506

I think perhaps the only constant in my thirty years of recording is the Sony MDR-7506 headphones.  They’ve been pretty much standard in every studio I’ve ever worked in and for a good reason: they are reliable, solid, comfortable for most players, stay on your head, and have a slight midrange bump which makes some players feel more comfortable hearing everything while they’re tracking. They are not hyped at all on top and definitely not boomy on the low end, so they don’t get in the way. I can’t say anything bad about these headphones and indeed I own about ten pairs for my studio which have lasted over 20 years. At around $95 retail they are also the least expensive option on this list.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

There is a very clear and distinct reason I can comfortably and confidently include the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X on this list: I only own one pair but it’s the one set of headphones people seem to fight over to use when they get to my studio. I understand the reason though; they are extremely comfortable, squishy even, and have a very full bass response and presence. I wouldn’t say “boomy” necessarily but they are certainly full-sounding and flattering to the source. This is terrific for overdubs or singers who need more bottom in their cans when recording. At $147 retail they won’t break the bank either.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

5. Shure SRH1540

The priciest set of headphones on our list but not at number five due to performance. The Shure SRH1540 combines the best of a closed-back design with open-back detail and makes no compromises in sound. It’s one of the best headphones you can buy regardless of price and you can overdub and mix on them as well. They are extraordinarily comfortable to wear for long periods of time and are super sharp looking to book. They will set you back around $500 but definitely worth it.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

6. Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

I own the DT 880 Pros so I can wholeheartedly vouch for this open-back design when it comes to mixing and mastering. Extremely high performance when it comes to this price point but Beyerdynamic has years and years of experience in this category and it shines through. I felt very confident using these for production work and referencing back to monitors later where my mixes were surprisingly accurate and spot on. Quite a deal at $259 retail.

Best Headphones for Home Recording

Honorable mention: If you’re super picky and money is no object  I can heartily recommend the Audeze LCD-X at $1199 or the open-back Audeze MM-500 at $1699. Yup, they’re expensive but you really get what you pay for.

Thirty years ago we didn’t have as many options when it came time to choose headphones and home-based production has come a long way in that time. Hopefully, this gives you a good place to start at a few price points in your search for good quality, reliable headphones to help bring your music alive and not have you questioning whether what you’re hearing is true or not. Technology moves fast and models change yearly so please check back for updates in the future.

**All products are independently chosen by American Songwriter editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

**All products are independently chosen by American Songwriter editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

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