Guide for Buying Studio Quality Noise Cancelling Headphones

Headphone buying tips from a veteran audio producer

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I have been making electronic music as a hobbyist for around 20 years, so I know a thing or two about high end audio equipment. Which brings me to the subject of headphones. People just don’t know what shit they are buying, and I just can’t stay quiet about it.

Beats by Dre? They are just overpriced piece of junk. If you believe Beats are good headphones, go read what components Beats are made of. Spoiler alert, they cost below $17 in parts, and one third of their weight comes from metal weights - a dirty trick to make them feel more expensive.

Sound can make a significant impact on your quality of life. Our ears can pick up vast array of frequencies, at high definition, yet we still tend to use shitty headphones.

Another big dillema is the noise. If you ever worked in open space office, you know what I’m saying. Hearing guys talk around you while you try to focus is a nightmare for knowledge workers.

That’s why I am bringing you this list, which contains the best of both worlds - highest quality sound and outside noise cancelling, all in one.

Here are some tips for you. Don’t search for “headphones”, search for “closed studio monitoring headphones”. “Closed” means you won’t hear your surroundings, and others won’t hear what you’re listening to. In pro audio terms “Monitoring” means “listening to unbiased, flat version of the sound” - no built-in equalizers that “boost your bass”, that stuff ruins your sound quality completely. In fact, it’s much more difficult to make speakers that produce flat, unbiased sound, than ones that “boost bass” and have their audio curve go haywire. Don’t fall for marketing tricks of “boosted bass”, it just means that speakers are shit.

Welcome to the world of high end closed studio monitoring headphones. The list contains only the brands I’ve been using for years in actual studios.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, 250 ohms

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, 250 ohms

4.5 out of 5 stars, 948 customer reviews

Price: $168.69

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Features

Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Style: Headphones, Size: 80 OHM, Color: Gray, Verified Purchase
January 20, 2018

Comfortable, and great sound.

Great great sound, good build quality, and comfortable.
I spent a few hours at a music store comparing them to the Sennheiser hd-280, and the Audio‑Technica ATH‑M50.
The M50 and HD-280 are better for transportation, since they can fold and swivel, and you can even remove the cable from the M50.

I chose the DT770 because I use them at work every day for 6+ hours and I enjoyed their sound the most. Though, it was very very close to the M50.

The 80 ohm means you don't need a pre-amp, especially if you're streaming music from your computer.

I know several music producers that use the same headphones, which made me feel pretty cool.

Audio-Technica ATH-M70x Professional Monitor Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M70x Professional Monitor Headphones

3.8 out of 5 stars, 104 customer reviews

Price: $299.00

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Features

Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
February 17, 2015

Great high quality monitoring headphones



This is my video review from the MKBHD YouTube Channel.

I've used these headphones for about of week for a lot of music listening, and some video production to get an idea of what they're for and how they perform.

They're well-built, lightweight, comfortable headphones with a flat sound signature for a studio environment. I'm a fan.

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
February 9, 2016

A great headphone and a great value.

I have some nice headphones, including the BeoPlay H8 and the Senn Momentum 2 wireless. These headphones produce a clean, balanced sound that I just love. The bass is present, but not overblown - not for bass heads. The mids are wonderful, not understated, and the highs extension is very good without being shrill. Very comfortable, they also offer decent isolation from outside noises. The ear cups fold 90% for portability. Love them.

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
March 26, 2015

these are true studio quality phones.

I just got a pair of these headphones and they have Great flat frequency response. So far ive used these phones for recording, production, dj, and mixing. I hear no coloration. These are way better than my senhieser. Its worth the $300.

Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones (Black)

Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones (Black)

4.1 out of 5 stars, 462 customer reviews

Price: $99.00

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Features

Customer Reviews

4 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
December 15, 2017

Flat, modest, warm. Comfort okay.

Older and more dynamic material can sound great on these things. The flat and well-defined midrange is by far the best part. The bass works best with more pronounced or acoustic sounds. The treble may roll off a bit early for some tastes, but I found it balanced enough to do the job. Listening is accurate and modest. Bass will never thump, and "S" sounds won't scream at you.

Comfort concerns might be overstated in other reviews. I wouldn't wear them for hours at a time, but they're still a solid enough fit for my average-sized head, and fairly comfy. The detachable cord is a big win in my book, and has saved me from tangled nightmares and any fear of breaking the connector.

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
October 28, 2015

These sound fantastic. Much better sound than many Bose or Beats ...

These sound fantastic. Much better sound than many Bose or Beats headphones that cost hundreds more. These are very highly rated elsewhere on the internet and didn't disappoint. I still use them today. Shure makes very high quality headphones and microphones.

Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model)

Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model)

4.3 out of 5 stars, 2,728 customer reviews

Price: $99.95

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Features

Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
January 17, 2018

great cheap noise-isolating headphones

I got these because I wanted a sound-isolating headphone to use at work, and after listening for an hour or two I'm already quite impressed for the price. Don't kid yourself into thinking they'll sound as good as higher-end headphones (after comparing them to my not-even-that-fancy HD 600s, I can definitively say that they don't, the clarity just isn't there) but if the price is right for you and you need sound isolation (they block out even more sound than I was expecting) then these should be at the top of your list. They're also quite comfortable and the build quality is not flashy but I get the feeling they'll last a while.

I'm listening with a relatively inexpensive solid-state amp that's given me good results from 32 ohm 'phones all the way up to 300. These have an impedance of 64 ohms, which means you'll probably be fine plugging them straight into a cheap built-in DAC in a laptop or cell phone, but an amp will (almost?) always give you a better sound.

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
December 14, 2014

Great Isolation

I was looking for a great set of headphones that would block out noise from my coworkers. I was using some open ear headphones but they just weren't cutting it.

I didn't want to get ones with active noise cancellation so I looked to get isolating ones instead. I read that the HD-280's had some of the best isolation of all the Sennheiser cans. So I went with them and couldn't be happier. Once I put them on and start to play music, I can barely hear anything. I just enter my own little world.

The only issue is that they aren't comfortable with glasses. This is more of a general issue with closed-ear cans rather than this specific model, but since it is my first pair, I happened to notice it.

Either way, I'd totally recommend these headphones if you want ones that can isolate sound.

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
January 8, 2015

You'd have to really have the largest possible head--or a whole lot of hair for these to get super tight. As far as audio qualit

I bought these to listen to music while I work and not hear the noise and conversations around me. While I can hear sounds, I can no longer follow a conversation, as I could with my on-ear headphones. The conversations around me are way, way in the background with these, so I often don't notice. I have a large head. They fit snug but not tight. You'd have to really have the largest possible head--or a whole lot of hair for these to get super tight. As far as audio quality, I'm listening to streaming music. The bass is vastly improved over my old headphones. Obviously, the isolation is too. As other reviewers have commented, when you get quality headphones, you can hear what's missing when you don't have a great sound source (Pandora free, Youtube). The padding on top is nice.

Roland RH-300 Stereo Headphones

Roland RH-300 Stereo Headphones

4.6 out of 5 stars, 2 customer reviews

Price: $158.06

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Features

Customer Reviews

4 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
December 28, 2013

Really nice headphones...

Unlike other headphone I have tested, these are very comfortable and work great with my V-Drums. They are very light, easy to adjust, and have excellent, clear sound. Color me happy with this purchase...

5 out of 5 stars
Verified Purchase
May 18, 2015

finally, headphones with some sound pressure and powerful sound.

finally, headphones with adequate sound pressure and powerful yet detailed sound. Careful, you CAN overdrive them and get distortion. You will actually hear the difference between EQ settings. I use them for my Roland TD-8 drum kit. I use them with Guitar Rig5 to feel the amplifiers better. They make my Remastered Pink Floyd iTunes files sound amazing.