The All-Around Best Studio Headphones Under $200
Headphones are pretty great. You can record with them, mix with them, and do it all without bothering people around you. So in this post, I want to cover the best studio headphones under $200 for all you home producers on a budget.
First, I’ll go over the different characteristics to consider in studio headphones. And then I’ll introduce you to the all-around best headphones perfect for any DIY producer.
What To Look For In Studio Headphones
Just because these are some of the best studio headphones out there, that doesn’t mean you should randomly pick one of these. It’s important to know the different types of headphones and their characteristics.
That way, you can get the pair that fit your needs.
First, you should consider if the headphones are closed-back or open-back.
Closed-back headphones isolate as much as possible. They have a “closed back.” They help cut down on external noise and prevent bleeding from the ear cups.
Open-back headphones will not block out noise and they will not keep the music contained within the ear cups. They bleed, which is great for mixing music because you get a bit of crossfeed, but it’s bad for recording as the bleed will get picked up in the mic.
Next, you’ll obviously need to think about sound quality and for what you’ll be using the headphones. If they’re for mixing, you want a flat, uncolored response. If they’re for listening or tracking, it’s okay to have ‘phones that color the mix a bit.
Then you’ll need to consider the comfort level. You’ll potentially be wearing these for hours (although you should be taking breaks), so they should be comfortable. They should fit your head, your ears, and they should stay put.
Lastly, think about the headphones’ durability. You’ll probably drop these things, you may be plugging them in and out, and you’ll be putting them on and taking them off. Over the years, that can wear on them.
My pair, the Sennheiser HD280 PROs, currently have tape holding the headband cushion and the ear cups are tearing. But I’ve had them for several years and they’ve held up well. (Fortunately, you can buy replacement parts for cheap).
The Best Headphones Under $200
So how did I compile this list?
Well, like I just said, I own the HD280 PROs, and I’ve used the AKG K240 MK IIs. So I’m partly speaking from first-hand experience. And the others made the list because I did a deep dive on the best headphones under $200, read user reviews, and looked over their features.
Because we’re talking about studio headphones, not specifically mixing headphones, most of these will be closed-back.
Plus, many engineers scoff at the idea of mixing on headphones. Ideally, you’d do most of your mixing on monitors, but it’s still possible to mix with headphones if you know what you’re doing.
I’ve owned this pair of headphones for about 10 years, and they’ve only just recently started showing wear and tear. Durability, check.
These are closed-back headphones, meaning they’re great for tracking and monitoring. I also use them to mix, but I make sure to check my mixes on my monitors and any other sound source I have.
As far as the sound quality, it’s top-notch. When you first get them, the sound is a little harsh, but once you use them for several hours, they get worked in. This is typical with brand new headphones. They slightly color the mix, but not too drastically.
Plus, these are a comfy pair of headphones, so I can easily lose track of the time in the studio.
These are another pair of closed-backers, making them ideal for tracking. In my research, I saw mixing engineers talk about how clear the sound is and how great the higher frequencies sound.
The mids are smooth, the low-mids have a slight boost, and the bass is present but not overpowering. So the sound quality is very good.
As for comfort, they’re comfortable. They can expand to be big, so they can fit pretty much any size head, and the ear cups are nice and soft.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770s are closed-back headphones, but these differ from the others on this list because they’re “diffuse-field equalized headphones,” which means they mimic how studio monitors sound in a room.
And the overall sound quality is pretty darn good, according to reviewers. The bass in these things is especially good, making them ideal for EDM and drum-and-bass producers.
As far as durability, these are one of the toughest pairs of studio headphones you’ll see on the market. They’re also well-padded for comfort.
But because of their design and the fact that they don’t fold up compactly, they’re a pain to pack up and carry around.
Overall though, a great pair of studio headphones.
The AKG K 240 MK IIs are semi-open headphones, so you can use them for both mixing and tracking. You just have to be extra careful so the sound isn’t bleeding during recording. I don’t own these, but I have used them before.
The sound is somewhat flat and has a nice, balanced frequency response. They’re also very clear, making them ideal for catching little problems in a mix. They’re a bit quieter than other headphones in their class, but that can be a good thing. You’re actually supposed to mix at low volumes.
They’re comfortable too, with soft ear cups and a thin, light headband. Unfortunately, they don’t fold at all, so they’re annoying to travel with.
And at about $100, they’re a solid deal for high quality.
Now you just need to figure out what the best studio headphones are for your situation. Most likely, one of these pairs of headphones will work.
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