A good pair of studio headphones should perform well for three different things:
- Monitoring for those who are recording
- Isolation for those who are recording
- Mixing with an honest and undisturbed sound
Many consumer headphones just won’t do when it comes to mixing, as they can’t give you the amount of detail, comfort, and range, that studio ones do.
The issue is, studio headphones can get very expensive, very quickly. For the entry-level producer, many high-end brands are out of reach.
This is why we’ll be exploring a range of studio cans, that you can find on the market, for anyone on a tight budget.
Best Under $100
In the last decade, the Sony MDR 7506s have risen to the top of the market regarding budget studio headphones. This is because they have many pro features for a small price.
They’re both flexible and foldable, allowing you to store them away easily in a small studio drawer or take them with you on the go. They also have a lightweight, adjustable headband, as well as a wide ear cup design, so you can wear them for hours and hours without feeling fatigued.
That wide ear cup has a lot to do with their isolation characteristics as well, making them great for tracking!
As for the frequency response, you get ultra clear mids and highs, with a present, but not overpowering, bass. Thanks to the reinforced rubber around the cable, these puppies are incredibly durable.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for the best cheap studio headphones, look no further than the Sony MDR 7506. With the flat frequency response, lightweight design, and crystal clear sound, you can use these for almost any studio application.
If you’re looking for a solid pair of headphones for mixing, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones have a solid, extended range and flat frequency response.
They’re designed with top-of-the-line Audio Technica materials and come with large, swivel ear cups that give you the ability to wear them for long periods of time without feeling fatigued.
The large design gives them tons of sound isolation, making them ideal for tracking and mixing, while the swivel design makes them perfect for DJs!
When you’re on the go, you can just fold them up and pack them in the included carrying pouch.
The 40mm drivers come with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils, meaning you can really drive these puppies without worrying about distortion.
All of that and you get two detachable cables (one standard and one coiled), as well as a screw on ¼” adapter.
Bottom Line: For studio monitoring, tracking, or DJing, the Audio-Technica ATH M40x headphones are another all-around solid pair for under $100. The frequency response is flat, and the construction is robust.
Sony’s professional-style MDR-V6 headphones are some of the best budget monitoring headphones around. The large, circum-aural design and oval earpads help to reduce noise from the outside world, allowing you to track without worrying about bleed. The 40 mm diameter drivers cover a wide surface area in the phones and provide a wide dynamic range with bass all the way down to 5 Hz!
They come with an oxygen-free copper Litz cord that is great for conductivity, meaning you won’t have any trouble getting enough volume and works well for reducing noise.
Concerning comfort, we love the wide, padded headband on these headphones. They distribute weight nicely, keeping pressure off your head so that you can listen for hours on end without feeling discomfort.
Just like many Sony headphones, these come in a foldable design, allowing you to easily stow them away or take them with you on the go!
Bottom Line: The Sony MDR-V6 headphones are classic monitoring headphones that you can find in almost every major studio around the world. They give you a flat, uncolored sound and tons of isolation for safe, silent tracking.
If you’re familiar with AKG headphones, you’ll probably recognize the classic design on these babies. Unlike the older AKG headphones, these come with a lower impedance (55 ohm), giving you an incredible boost in volume when you use them with studio gear, or instruments like keyboards and drum machines.
The integrated semi-open air design gives you a naturally open sound quality with very accurate dynamics. This is thanks to the XXL transducers, which offer a much more responsive sound compared to many headphones in the price range.
The frequency range is very clean, flat, and accurate, with a tighter response in the low end. This means you can use them for monitoring or mixing!
In terms of comfort, the large, circumaural pads are soft, yet durable, allowing you to wear them for long sessions or bring them on the go.
Bottom Line: For mixing, mastering, or monitoring, the AKG K240 Semi-Open Headphones are excellent. Thanks to the semi-open design, you get insane clarity in the mids and highs that seem to soar compared to headphones that are closed off.
The M30x Headphones are the most affordable “pro” pair in Audio-Technica’s M-Series.
Their highly-detailed audio and boosted mid-range definition gives a strong sound for monitoring. This is thanks to the 40mm neodymium drivers, giving you a frequency range between 15 Hz and 20 kHz.
When it comes to their build, the circumaural design provides solid sound isolation, even when placed in environments that are loud. You can take them just about anywhere for a good listen as well, as they’re designed to collapse and fold for space saving.
For the price, you get a rich sound and a comfortable, lightweight construction. Even with the strong headband, you can wear these for hours at a time without feeling pressure in one specific place.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a budget pair of headphones that are solely meant for monitoring or tracking, Audio-Technica’s M30x Headphones are a great choice. You’ll be surprised by how much clarity you get with a pair of headphones at this price!
We were surprised to find out these headphones had 50mm drivers on the inside, as you usually don’t get drivers like that for the price.
What’s great about the large drivers is not the volume boost though, but more the fact that it can produce stronger and more present bass than many other headphones on the list.
This makes them perfect for people who are working in genres where bass is more prominent, such as hip-hop or EDM.
The leather headband feels premium, and the comfortably padded ear cups give you the ability to listen for hours without fatigue. They’re also easy to replace over time if they begin to wear.
Included in the package are 2 removable cables, both straight and coiled, and a 3.5mm to ¼” adapter for use with studio gear.
Bottom Line: If you’re working in electronic genres, or just need a good pair of studio headphones that can provide unreal bass response at a low cost, you need to look no further than the LyxPro HAS-30 headphones.
Best Under $50
Even though the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x headphones are the cheapest in the M-series, though they don’t feel cheap in the slightest.
They’re built using many of the same materials as the more expensive versions and come with the same large ear cups for solid isolation that makes them excellent for tracking and monitoring. The circular ear pads are both durable and comfortable, allowing you to listen in for long sessions.
They feature large 40mm neodymium magnet drivers that provide a pretty solid, low-frequency response compared to most monitoring headphones out there. Even then, it’s not overpowering in the slightest, meaning you can absolutely mix with these things if they’re all you have.
They come complete with a 3-meter straight cable and a ¼” adapter for use with studio equipment.
Bottom Line: For live monitoring and tracking, these are the best studio headphones that you are going to find under $50. They come with many of the same pro qualities that other Audio-Technica phones come with, while saving you a little bit of extra dough.
We mentioned above that the LyxPro headphones are great if you need more prominent, low-frequency response. DJs and electronic musicians everywhere will love their ability to output bass thanks to the 45mm neodymium drivers that are onboard.
You can really crank up the volume on these bad boys without hearing any cracking or distortion. The magnet system offers a pretty dynamic response as well, meaning you won’t feel like heavy bass frequencies are constantly pummeling your ears.
The leather headband and aluminum ear shells with leather ear pads, are both comfortable and durable, allowing you to wear them for hours at a time without feeling discomfort. They come complete with a single-sided straight cable and a screw-on jack to add a little durability to the mix.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a pair of budget studio headphones with a low-frequency response that can be used for mixing bass-heavy genres, we recommend picking up a pair of the LyxPro HAS-10 Headphones.
The Yamaha HPH-50 are some of the best out there for monitoring and practicing for anyone on a tight budget.
These closed-back headphones come with 38mm Neodymium drivers that sound solid. While the sound may be a bit thinner than some of the higher end headphones out there, as you don’t get an incredibly high output, they do give you a good amount of treble and bass when driven.
In terms of feel, the soft, velour ear pads work with a neat little swivel mechanism so that you can adjust to prime comfort!
They come with a gold-plated stereo plug and 2-meter cable for secure connection and can be purchased in either black or white to match the style of your instrument or studio decor.
Bottom Line: While you most likely won’t be mixing any professional records with these headphones, they’re excellent if you are on a budget and just need a solid pair of practice headphones. Many people note that they use them for playing keys and tracking at home when they need to be quiet.
The Samson SR850 Headphones are probably some of the most affordable semi-open back headphones out on the market.
Because of the semi-open design, you get a wider soundstage and better stereo image than you would with closed back headphones.
Now obviously you won’t get great isolation, making these pretty much useless for tracking and recording, though you do get a flat frequency response with clear bass and highs for mixing your music.
They come with some unholy 50mm drivers that provide you with tons of depth in the low end without it feeling overpowering, giving you exceptional detail for the price.
They come complete with a ⅛” to ¼” adapter as well, allowing you to use them with both consumer and pro gear.
Bottom Line: For clarity and depth in your soundstage and stereo image, the Samson SR850 headphones can provide a ridiculous sound at less than half the cost of most high-end semi-open headphones.
The best way that you can find your ideal pair of affordable studio headphones is to track them down and listen to each of them if you can. You’ll be able to hear how the audio quality affects your ears, not anyone else’s.
If you want an all-around great pair of closed-back headphones for mixing and monitoring, and only have $100 to spend, go with the classic Sony MDR-7506 Headphones.
If you want solid isolation and detail for tracking and monitoring, and only have a $50 budget for headphones, check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x headphones.
When compared to high-end headphones, you will notice the difference, though why the spend the extra money if you don’t need the best of the best for your specific application.
We hope that our article was helpful in narrowing down your choices. Have fun finding your destiny cans!