Best Headphones for Mixing – Refine Your Records

Best studio headphones for mixing

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MAKE LIFE CLICK
Best Studio Headphones for Mixing
2024

Being a bedroom producer isn’t an enviable job. As someone who has tried to get into music production myself, I can say it’s definitely not easy.

For any given project, you’ll have to take on the role of songwriter, composer, vocalist, musician, recording engineer, audio engineer, and mastering engineer—all at the same time.  And if you want to assume these roles and responsibilities well, you’re gonna need an excellent pair of headphones for mixing to help carry you through the whole thing. 

Now, there are a lot of things to unpack when we touch on the topic of mixing on headphones, and we’ll get to that as we go through our picks.

But the fact of the matter is this: if you’re here reading this guide, you’re here looking for mixing headphones, and our guide has five examples of the best headphones for mixing that you can use to master your own mixes.

Editor’s Pick
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

“You shouldn’t mix on headphones!”

One of the first things you’ll find when you search for “headphones for mixing” online is a bunch of Reddit posts and forum threads asking for advice on it… and an overwhelming response that says you shouldn’t.

The debate around mixing on headphones has been going on for about as long as mixing on headphones has been possible. And while we aren’t going to add any new fuel to this fire, we will draw our line in the sand: you probably shouldn’t mix on headphones, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it.

The main argument behind recommending proper speakers for mixing comes down to soundstage and bass response. Since you’re hearing the audio in a physical space, you can better dial in sound placements and catch anything that stands out as a mistake. And since speakers have much larger and more powerful drivers than headphones, they can pump out bass more accurately, which you can adjust to your preference.

But if it wasn’t already obvious, proper studio monitors cost a lot of money and a lot of space.

Not only do you need a big enough room to get the right speaker placement, but you also have to set up acoustic treatment on the entire room to remove any unwanted resonances and room reverb that can mess with how you hear the mix. 

If you’re in a position where you can afford something like that, then by all means, a full studio room will give you the most accurate sound to get a proper mix. But you probably already knew that. 

For the rest of us who haven’t quite reached that level of success, it’s best to make do with what we can afford—and in most cases, headphones are the ones that are most often within reach.

There are some other quirks and concerns about mixing with headphones that you should be aware of and we’ll cover this later. In the meantime, let’s get into our selections for the best headphones for mixing.

Headphone ModelDriverFrequency RangePrice
Audio-Technica ATH-R70xSingle 45mm Dynamic5 – 40,000 Hz$$$
Sennheiser HD600Single 42mm Dynamic12 – 40,500 Hz$$$
Sennheiser HD800SSingle 56mm Dynamic4 – 51,000 Hz$$$$
AKG K612 ProSingle 45mm Dynamic12 – 39,500 Hz$$
AKG K701Single 45mm Dynamic10 – 39,000 Hz$$$

Best Headphones For Mixing Reviewed 

editorspick

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

Audio-Technica at their absolute best—and for a surprisingly reasonable price

4.5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Audio-Technica
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

The Download

Audio-Technica is one of the most reliable brands in the Japanese audio space, being held in high regard by audiophiles and professional musicians alike. While their ATH-M series of monitoring headphones have been quite popular, they haven’t quite caught on in the reference audio space. That is, until now. 

The ATH-R70x is Audio-Technica’s first serious attempt at reference headphones, and for a first try, rising to the ranks of the best headphones for mixing is an impressive feat. 

With excellent balance across the frequency range with very little roll-off on both ends, there’s very little that the R70x gets wrong in terms of sound. Great imaging and a pretty wide soundstage top the package to create one of the most technically impressive headphones at its price range and even beyond. 

Arguably its only nitpicks lie in how it fits and feels. Although key components are crafted from metal, the R70x is light in a way that feels a bit flimsy when you’re holding it. The 3D Wing headband — an Audio-Technica design staple among their open-back models — relieves pressure on the top of the head but has mixed results on some head shapes. I personally didn’t have any issues with these but the earpads do fit shallow so my ears end up touching the inside of the earcups.

To me, these issues are fairly minor but it may not be the case for those who place a lot of emphasis on comfort. For those chasing excellent sound quality, there aren’t a lot of options that can beat it at its price. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Driver Type:  Single 45mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response:  5 – 40,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  102 dB/V
  • Impedance:  470 Ohms
  • Weight:  ~210 grams

What’s in the Box?

  • Audio-Technica ATH-R70x headphones
  • 3.5mm TRS to 6.3mm TRS adapter
  • 3-meter cable (dual 2.5mm TRS to single 3.5mm TRS)
  • Carrying pouch

Stuff I like

  • Beautifully clear and balanced sound
  • Accurate imaging ability
  • Treble is crisp but inoffensive

Stuff I like less

  • Lacks sub-bass extension
  • Will need a strong amp to sound its best
  • Feels a bit flimsy in the hands
  • Clamping force can be a bit too light for some
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
contender

Sennheiser HD600

Legendary for a reason, the HD600 is still one of the best reference headphones—nay, headphones—to get

4.5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Sennheiser
Sennheiser HD 600

The Download

It’s one thing to be a go-to recommendation and it’s another thing to be a benchmark by which all other headphones are compared. But to hold that reputation for nearly three decades running — that’s not something that happens every day. 

But the Sennheiser HD600, originally released in 1997, is still one of the world’s most popular audiophile headphones, and for totally justifiable reasons. Although its mostly plastic build and shell are quite dated in the looks department, its neutral sound continues to hold up to this day. 

Of course, the Sennheiser HD600 isn’t perfect — let’s be real, nothing is. The soundstage, while very clear in its positioning, is notoriously intimate. Some say that the treble isn’t quite bright enough. As an open-back with a mostly neutral sound, its bass response isn’t phenomenal either.

But these headphones do a lot of things right — enough to make them one of the most enduring designs ever. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Driver Type:  Single 42mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response:  12 – 40,500 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  102 dB/V
  • Impedance:  300 Ohms
  • Weight:  ~260 grams (without cable)

What’s in the Box?

  • Sennheiser HD600 headphones
  • 3-meter cable (dual proprietary 2-pin to 6.3mm TRS)
  • Screw-on adapter (3.5mm TRS to 6.3mm TRS)

Stuff I like

  • Ample head and ear padding
  • Smooth neutral reference sound
  • Lots of aftermarket and replacement parts

Stuff I like less

  • Rarely goes on a discount
  • Soundstage feels small for an open back
  • Expected roll-off in the sub-bass
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
premiumoption

Sennheiser HD800S

A reference flagship like few else before it—another addition to Sennheiser’s greatest hits

5/5
Price Range: $$$$
Brand: Sennheiser
Sennheiser HD 800 S

The Download

The Sennheiser HD800 has long been the gold standard for reference headphones. No matter the price, the thousand-dollar HD800 was the headphone to beat thanks to an almost ruler-neutral sound signature and a level of clarity in its soundstage that reveals details in a way that not a lot of headphones can. 

It was hard to imagine Sennheiser topping what was already the best headphones they’d ever made, so they didn’t. The brand itself has stated that the HD800S isn’t an upgraded version of the HD800 but is instead a different take with some noticeable changes. 

For the most part, the headphones offer a fairly similar experience. The shell is mostly the same, and that’s everything from the spacious oversized ear cups to the surprisingly lightweight build. The cable is still long and unwieldy, although it does feel a bit better than its predecessor. 

The differences, as audiophile headphones tend to have, lie in their overall sound. The HD800S tames a few of the rather notorious treble peaks of the original HD800, giving it an ever so slightly warmer tilt. The lift in the bass response is even more subtle — so much that I’d just chalk it up to it being a consequence of the smoother treble.

Choosing the best cost-no-object headphones for mixing shouldn’t be as hard as it is — but Sennheiser went and did it anyway. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Driver Type:  Single 56mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response:  4 – 51,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  102 dB/V
  • Impedance:  300 Ohms
  • Weight:  ~330 grams (without cable)

What’s in the Box?

  • Sennheiser HD800S headphones
  • 3-meter unbalanced cable (dual proprietary to 6.3mm TRS)
  • 3-meter balanced cable (dual proprietary to XLR4)

Stuff I like

  • Bright and highly revealing sound
  • Immense soundstage
  • Barely any clamping pressure

Stuff I like less

  • All leakage, no isolation
  • Earcups are unwieldy for small heads
  • Can sound a bit too bright
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
bestvalue

AKG K612 Pro

One of AKG’s best open-back models in recent memory—and one that’s relatively affordable

4.5/5
Price Range: $$
Brand: AKG
AKG Pro Audio K612 PRO

The Download

The AKG 700 series — among them the K701, K702, Q701, and K712 Pro — is arguably their best series of headphones for mixing and mastering applications. Recently, though, I’ve been made aware of the K612 Pro and its surprisingly comparable sound quality at a much more palatable price. 

Although its number implies it’s a takedown model of the much more expensive K712 Pro, the K612 Pro is a lot closer to the 700 series than it lets on — and I dare say it’s even better than the 712 that costs twice as much.

Design-wise, the K612 Pro is definitely in line with the 700 series, from the mainly plastic build and suspended headband design to the rather shallow but spacious earcups. Even as someone who likes AKG headphones, the choice of less-than-premium materials is still a bummer for me but the $200 price tag of the K612 Pro makes it a bit easier to justify.

While the K712 is arguably more pleasing to listen to thanks to its warmer and smoother sound, the K612 Pro sticks to a much more neutral sound signature that’s a lot more useful as a reference for mixing. The bass is a bit lean but doesn’t compromise the upper frequencies by any means, and it retains the excellent imaging ability and soundstage that AKG’s pro-grade open-backs are known for. 

It’s AKG’s best work condensed into a fairly affordable headphone. Definitely worth your consideration if you’re looking for a pair of headphones for mixing.

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Driver Type:  Single 45mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response:  12 – 39,500 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  101 dB/V
  • Impedance:  120 Ohms
  • Weight:  ~240 grams

What’s in the Box?

  • AKG K612 headphones
  • Screw-on adapter (3.5mm TRS to 6.3mm TRS)

Stuff I like

  • Almost perfectly neutral sound
  • Excellent positional accuracy
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Stuff I like less

  • Sounds a bit too bland and uninteresting
  • Cable is non-removable
  • Some build quality issues
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
alsoconsider

AKG K701

An overlooked reference headphone, now back with a vengeance thanks to low street prices

4.5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: AKG
AKG K 701

The Download

I’ll admit a bit of bias including the AKG K701 in this list as it’s the headphone I use as my main pair for almost everything while I’m at my home setup. Relatively easy to drive and offering an absolutely massive soundstage, it’s by far my favorite headphone when it comes to raw immersion. 

That said, the K701 isn’t for everyone, even by reference headphone standards. Its more forward upper mids and rather bright treble shine even more of a light on its lean but tight bass response. By most descriptions, it lands somewhere between “cold” and “grating”.

But its technical ability is still impressive for what it is. As a bonus, its rather low popularity has allowed street prices to come down over the almost 20 years it’s been on the market, giving the K701 a compelling value proposition that’s hard to argue with when it falls at or even below $200 at times.

The AKG K701 is a headphone that’s fully aware of what it is and hones in on its strong suits like few else. It may not be liked by everyone but those who like its uniquely revealing sound will find a lot to love about it. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Open-back over-ear headphones
  • Driver Type:  Single 45mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response:  10 – 39,000 Hz
  • Max. Input Power:  200 mW
  • Sensitivity:  105 db/V
  • Impedance:  62 Ohms
  • Weight:  ~240 grams

What’s in the Box?

  • AKG K701 headphones
  • Headphone stand

Stuff I like

  • Premium presentation
  • Amazing value at street price
  • Massive soundstage

Stuff I like less

  • Cable is non-removable
  • Very light bass response
  • No accessories
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Headphone Models Previously On This List

We’re constantly keeping this list updated based on what’s currently in the market. Some of the headphone models that used to be on this list include the Samson SR850, Sennheiser HD 599, and Audio-Technica ATH M50x.

Even though these models have been removed from the list, they’re still decent picks if you’re looking for headphones for mixing.

Mixing vs. Producing: The Difference And Why It Matters

If you’ve seen our previous guide about headphones for music production, you may be wondering why we have a separate guide for mixing headphones. After all, couldn’t you just use the same pair of headphones for everything? 

Well yes, you could. As we noted at the beginning of the guide, the best equipment is whatever you have access to at the moment. And no matter how many people tell you otherwise, there’s nothing that does or should stop you from making use of what you have.

But mixing and producing music aren’t all the same either. They’re two different steps in the process of making and releasing a piece of completed music. As such, you’ll notice that the headphones we chose for this and the music production guide are a little bit different too.

The criteria that we used to make our selections come down to two things: environment and sound signature. 

We noted in the previous guide that music production is more of a creative step of the music-making process. And as these things tend to go, inspiration can strike from anywhere and at any time. Because of that, we wanted to select headphones that were closed-back and portable so that you always had access to create reliable sound quality whenever it was needed. 

For the most part, the sound signature doesn’t really matter when you’re in that creation phase since thinking of the mix that early can get you bogged down on details very quickly. Mixing, meanwhile, is a very different task. 

Usually done as the last step of the music-making process, mixing involves taking all of the recorded elements of your song and adjusting their volume, tonal balance, and placement within the recording so that they sound good when other people listen to it on their devices and audio setups. 

To get the best results with this, you’d want to make adjustments to your mix based on a clear and reliable reference sound. That, of course, begs the question: What is a reference sound?

adaro 1 01
Razer Adaro headphones | Make Life Click

What is a reference sound?

As the name suggests, a reference sound is the sound signature on which you base all of your mixing adjustments. 

To better understand this, we can consider a computer monitor while you’re editing a photo or video. Different monitors display images in slightly different ways because of how they’re made — some may be a bit more green while others may look more blue. If you want to edit a photo in a way that will look good across all devices, you want your monitor to output all colors at the right balance. 

A reference sound is basically that, but for audio. you want a neutral sound on your headphones when you mix so that the music you export will sound fine on as many devices as possible.

Now there’s a pretty big debate on what a neutral sound is and whether it’s okay to use certain sound signatures — but that’s a topic that’s best discussed some other time.

For this guide, we’ve made sure to select mixing headphones that fall closer to the “flat” kind of “neutral” as opposed to something like the Harman sound target. Again, this isn’t something you should be considering if you’re a professional by any means, but our picks should be fine as far as this guide is concerned.

Conclusion

Just because your music sounds good on your setup doesn’t mean it will sound good everywhere else. Your music played from your production setup will sound different from your phone, from your car, or from the radio. 

Failing access to a full-on studio, a great pair of headphones for mixing is your best friend to get your music to your listeners sounding “as the artist intended”.  

A musician with over 2 decades of experience in studio recording. Audiophile, always in pursuit of the perfect set of headphones. King Crimson fan.

This post was last updated on 2024-05-25 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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