How to Choose the Best Studio Headphones for Music
Anyone that’s looked for a pair of professional studio headphone for music recently knows that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different models available. How do you choose the right ones for you? Basically it comes down to features so let’s explore how to choose the best studio headphones for your needs.
Types of Headphones
For the sake of this thing, I’m going to assume that you are looking for headphones and not in-ear monitors designed for live use. We’ll save those for another time. But when choosing headphones, the first thing you need to consider is the environment in which you’ll be using your headphones. Professional studio headphones usually come in two varieties: open-back and closed-back.
Open-back headphones are generally lightweight and very comfortable. They are designed to sit gently on or over the ear. The important thing to understand about open-back headphones is that they offer very little noise isolation.
So not only can outside noise interfere with your listening, but you may also encounter situations where what you are listening to leaks out of the headphones and is heard by others.
Closed-back headphones are designed so that the ear-cups cover the ears completely to provide a seal that helps to block outside noise. Obviously, these would be better for any listening situation where there was a lot of noise going on around you that you want to block out.
While we’re on the subject of noise, I want to touch on noise-canceling headphones. These are a special type of headphones that use electronic methods to literally cancel outside noise so it doesn’t interfere with your listening experience.
It sounds like a great idea, and it is. However, the electronic method that most of these headphones use to cancel outside noise affects their sound quality. For casual listening, they are just fine but I would never use them for professional, critical listening situations.
Other Features to Consider
Professional audio headphones can be a serious financial investment. When you make that sort of investment you want to be able to fix them if something should break. The two main things that break or deteriorate over time on headphones are the cable and the ear pads. I wouldn’t invest in any pro headphones that didn’t offer detachable/replaceable cables and ear pads.
The specification that most directly affects headphone sound quality is the size of the drivers. Each earpiece has at least one, if not two, drivers. In general, the larger the driver, the better the overall sound quality professional audio headphones usually have the driver in the range of 45mm.
This is more of a convenience thing but I also look for headphones that are easy to carry. Collapsible headphones are a little more portable than non-collapsible. They can more easily fit into gig bags and backpacks and just tend to last longer.