- What are the best headphones in the world for audiophiles and music lovers?
- Learn the difference between open, closed-back, and in-ear designs
- Find out which headphone models fit your specific needs
Whether you’re working out or just working, everyone from producers to musicians needs a good pair of headphones. If you’re in audio production, you’ll mostly need them to track and mix music.
Not everyone has access to studio monitor speakers all the time or even at all! So a good pair of music production headphones is the next-best thing.
No matter what you need them for, here we’ll explore some of the best headphone brands in the world.
(If you do happen to be in the market for studio monitors, look no further than our roundup of the best studio monitors under $1000!)
What Are The Best Headphone Brands in the World?
In this article we’ll look at products from Beyerdynamic, AKG, Sony, and other trusted companies in the audio world.
Some headphone companies create products strictly targeted at the professional audio crowd, some cross over between professional and consumer-grade, and some only deal in the consumer market.
So for this article we’ll be looking at headphones for music production as well as headphones for general music listening.
Best Professional Audio Headphone Brands
Headphones designed for professional audio have some key differences from other markets, sometimes drastically. Their focus is on sound quality, not necessarily on looks. The designs in this category are some of the best headphones in the world, simply because professional audio work demands high quality equipment that you can rely on.
As one of the premier pro audio headphone companies, Beyerdynamic makes some of the best headphones in the world. You’ll find at least one pair in pretty much every pro studio.
They sound fantastic, are well-built, and they offer models that come in all varieties (open, semi-open, and closed) so whatever application you need them for they have something for you.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones are an outstanding choice for extended listening sessions, monitoring while recording drums or amplified instruments, or for general-purpose stereo listening.
- Combines the best of open/closed headphones
- Extremely clean and detailed sound
- Super comfortable
One of the most common pro headphone models, this semi-open design gives you the best of both worlds. They breathe enough to be great for tracking but give you enough isolation so they won’t bleed into any open microphones.
In addition to making fantastic microphones, AKG makes some of the best headphones in the world.
Like Beyerdynamic, they’re a brand you’ll find in plenty of studios. Given that their focus is solely on professional audio, they offer multiple styles for every stage of production.
The AKG K240's unique semi-open design and highly efficient transducers provide you with extremely wide dynamic range, breathtaking detail, and phenomenal sensitivity.
- Surprisingly affordable
- Sound great
Anyone in audio will instantly recognize the K240s. In addition to sounding great, they are surprisingly affordable at just $70.
AKG’s Advanced Varimotion tranducer gives a great deal of clarity, detail, and range to the sound. They’re semi-open, making them excellent for tracking as well as editing and mixing.
Even if you’re relatively new to audio production, there’s no doubt you’ve seen these stylish headphones before.
Audio-Technica’s M50x headphones are practically the industry standard when it comes to closed-back production headphones. They have a very balanced and neutral sound similar to studio monitors, though you will get a slightly exaggerated bass response with them. This is easy to work around, and if anything it stops you from overloading the low end in your tracks just so you can hear it.
Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response.
- Great sound
- Strong build quality
- Super flat frequency response
The ATH M50x headphones also have an insane frequency range of 15Hz-28kHz! Audio-Technica’s own proprietary drivers provide the most accurate sound reproduction.
They’re great at all phases of the game – tracking, editing, and mixing. These headphones are also collapsable so they can easily fit into your gig bag for convenience. Plus the cable is detachable, so if it gets damaged it can be easily replaced.
Padded earcups make them comfortable for long hours, but be warned that the headphones will outlast the earcups which eventually get flaky and gross from the countless hours spent sweating it out in the studio. This is a small price to pay for perhaps the most reliable and stylish pair of headphones you can buy for music production!
Shure might be most famous for creating some of the best microphones in the business, but they also make some damn good headphones.
After all, a speaker is essentially just a microphone in reverse, right? They have a good price range too, so anyone can find a pair that suits their needs and budget.
Supremely comfortable and accurate, these SRH940 headphones from Shure are the perfect choice for the discerning audio pro who appreciates quality.
- Perfect for long listening sessions
- Extremely comfortable
Perfect for long listening sessions, these collapsible cans give an accurate representation of whatever you’re playing back, so you can make informed decisions over what to do with your productions.
They’re closed-back, so they might be slightly better at tracking than mixing. They’re not cheap, but won’t completely break the bank either. Whatever your needs are, these headphones are a solid choice.
Noticing a theme of popular microphone manufacturers also making pro audio headphones?
Sennheiser also offers a range of quality and prices that extends from the top of the audio field to music lovers who prefer the style and quality of studio headphones for everyday music listening.
Sennheiser HD300 Pro
Designed for neutral, high-resolution, distortion-free sound quality, the Sennheiser HD 300 Pro headphones deliver a superior monitoring experience.
- Great for long studio sessions
- Affordable (and worth every penny!)
These closed-back cans fit comfortably over the ear (circumaural), so they are meant for long sessions.
They’re not very bulky either, so they’re very comfortable on the head. And at just $200 they’re perfect for a limited budget.
When it comes to headphone companies, Sony is an interesting brand. They have some really affordable models that are just as good for the casual music listener as they are for audio professionals.
The Sony MDR-7506s are exceptionally affordable headphones that give you studio-quality sound and impressive sound isolation.
- Good sound isolation and quality
- Sturdy and reliable build quality
- Padded earpieces make them very comfortable
It’s amazing how affordable these popular headphones are. In fact, the 7506 makes almost every “best of” list when it comes to the topic of best headphones in the world.
This comfortable closed-back model is easy on the ears and the top of the head. They sound great and work well in all phases of production.
Audeze are an Orange County, CA-based company specializing in headphones for audiophiles and professional audio engineers. They have an interesting story that dates back to 2008 where the founders of Audeze met with an ex-NASA scientist who had developed an innovative circuit material for spacecraft. This flexible material turned out to be one of the biggest breakthroughs for headphone design.
If you’re looking for a high-end headphone for at-home listening that exemplifies the Audeze experience and tradition, look no further than the LCD-2.
Their infamous LCD-2 went on to shake up the audio industry with their world’s first planar magnetic, closed-back, and open-back over-ear headphones/in-ears.
Best Consumer Headphone Brands
Consumer headphones serve a different purpose than professional headphone models. While they can certainly be used in audio and music production, they are more targeted at everyday use.
This could be working out, recreational listening, or even work calls and meetings. But just because they don’t have the “professional” tag doesn’t mean they skip on sound or quality.
The main difference between consumer and pro audio headphones is the frequency response. Studio headphones should have a relatively “flat” response to give you the most balanced perspective on whatever you’re working on.
But consumer headphones designed for casual music listening will generally emphasize the low and high end to sound more “hyped.”
By now, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the Beats brand. They’re some of the most common headphones in the consumer space.
Created by rap icon Dr. Dre and legendary music executive Jimmy Iovine, their sleek aesthetic and cultural popularity is almost impossible to deny. They have good sound quality, but some feel this isn’t justified by their price point.
Beats Studio Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
Beats Studio3 Wireless over-ear headphones deliver premium sound while blocking external noise with Active Noise Cancelling.
- A full day of battery life
- Sleek design
- Good sound quality
When you think of Beats headphones, this is the model that comes to mind. You’ve seen them in countless commercials, others wearing them as they pass by on the street, and athletes using them while they do pre-game warmups.
For Bluetooth headphones, they have a good range and a battery life of almost a full day.
They also integrate with mobile devices, so you can take calls and use them for meetings. They’re sleek and sexy, but do not come cheap.
Read More: Shootout – Beats Solo Pro vs Studio 3
Bose is best known for making great audio products for home theaters, computer speakers, and overall consumer use. They are particularly well known for their noise cancelling technology (which Beats shamelessly ripped off) and they’ve always been at the top of that market.
They also make some popular wireless headphones, great for casual listening that will please even the most selective audiophiles.
Bose QuietComfort 45
Armed with advanced noise-canceling technology, Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless headphones will take you to a world of immersive listening.
- Great for long listening sessions
- Super comfortable
- Quality Bose sound
The QuietComfort line is designed for people who use headphones for long listening sessions.
Perfect for long commutes and even longer workdays, these comfortable wireless headphones have solid battery life and good range.
Of all headphone companies, there might not be one that blurs the line between pro and consumer more than Sony.
While they make pro audio models, they’re probably best known for their consumer line. Either way, both offer great sound and build quality.
Sony’s intelligent industry-leading noise-canceling headphones with premium sound elevate your listening experience with the ability to personalize and control everything you hear.
- Great sound quality
- Amazing battery life
With excellent sound quality and noise cancellation, these wireless headphones from Sony provide a great all-around listening experience.
You can also access features through Sony’s Connect Headphones app. Through it, you can change things like EQ and panning balance. To make things even better, the battery lasts for over a day!
Love them or hate them, there is no denying Apple’s imprint on consumer audio. Their products might be expensive, but they are certainly high quality.
Apple has been testing the waters for a while, becoming highly favored when it comes to earbud and wireless headphones design. For the best example of this, look no further than the iconic AirPods…
Apple AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro are the only in-ear headphones with Active Noise Cancellation that continuously adapts to the geometry of your ear and the fit of the ear tips.
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Customisable fit
- Sound great
There are a lot of Apple wireless Bluetooth headphones to choose from, but it seems like these are the clear favorite. Some pretty next-level engineering went into the design of the AirPods, which is apparent from the moment you first use them.
The coolest feature might be the spatial audio, which gives you truly theatrical soundscapes in two tiny earbuds. They’re water-resistant and easily integrate with your Apple devices. Plus they are a fashion icon – you will look just a bit cooler wearing them compared to any other earbuds.
What are the best headphone brands for music production?
If you are creating music you’ll want to go with the most professional level headphones possible. You can’t go wrong with anything from AKG, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Shure, or Sony.
What are the differences between open, semi-open, closed, and semi-closed back headphones?
The difference really comes down to how they fit around the ear. Closed-back headphones are also referred to as “circumnaural.” These fit tightly around the ear.
This eliminates bleed from the headphones that might get into any hot microphones in proximity. But open-back headphones don’t fit tightly around the ear and some sound is likely to escape.
Check out this article for an in-depth look at the differences.
Who makes the best headphones in the world?
This is an open-ended question. Factors that should affect your buying decisions are your needs, such as professional vs. consumer. Design is also a big deal.
In my personal opinion, it’s AKG. Their models are a little more expensive but the professional sound quality and build is simply outstanding. They run a range of prices too, so you won’t necessarily have to break the bank.
If you’re interested in AKG headphones, it’s also worth checking out the Austrian Audio Hi-X50 headphones. This company was founded by ex-AKG empoloyees, and the Hi-X50 headphones are a high-end alternative to some of the cans we’ve looked at in this article. You can read our full review here.