Closed-back headphones are an extremely popular choice for music listening solutions and in 2021 it’s not that easy to determine what the best closed-back headphones are. There are options for recreational listeners, music producers, singers, musicians, and more.
This list will help break down the best closed-back headphones available for purchase in 2021, so that you can purchase them yourself or find similar alternatives suitable for your needs.
Here are the best closed-back headphones 2021:
- Focal Stellia
- Sony MDR-Z1R
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
- Audeze EL-8 Closed Back
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
- Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2
- ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
- Ultrasone Signature Studio
- Mackie MC-250
1. Focal Stellia
Great for home or on the go
Focal’s Stellia headphones are easily one of the absolute best closed-back headphones. They are an audiophile-quality headphone that will be sure to offer you hours of high-end listening.
Getting right into the design, the Stellia headphones have very comfortable memory foam ear pads and large ear cups that will provide you with lots of comfort. The headband is leather, and the design used for it was originally used for Focal’s Utopia headphones. The Stellia is ultra-comfortable and you will have no problem listening with it.
They come in two different colors: cognac and mocha, so you will be able to wear them and not worry about looking gaudy or weird since they’re so stylish. As for the speakers, they are made with a frameless 100% copper voice coil, and an M shaped beryllium dome.
These closed-back, over-ear headphones are designed with exclusive electrodynamic speaker drivers that have the capability to provide you with a generous frequency response range of 5 Hz to 40 kHz, so you will be able to hear every nuance in your music, while also operating at a low work load.
You don’t necessarily need an amp for the Stellias, but it is recommended if you want to have the ultimate listening experience. Focal has the Arche amplifier and DAC that will pair perfectly with the Stellia.
Regardless of whether or not you use the Arche amp, the Stellia headphones sound awesome, with rich and punchy bass, clean mids, and smooth highs. The frequency response of them doesn’t seem to have any unpleasant curves, so you won’t have to worry about harsh tones.
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The Focal Stellia closed-back headphones are the best choice on the market right now for audiophiles who want a high-quality experience when they listen to music. They would also be great for everyday use since you can plug them directly into your smartphone, TV, or other devices without an amp, but you can also use an amp if you want.
If you can shell out $3,000 for them, I strongly recommend that you do so. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
2. Sony MDR-Z1R
Superior sound and quality
The Sony MDR-Z1R headphones are another closed-back, over-ear pair of audiophile-grade headphones. The technology used to design them is quite advanced. Sony uses a magnesium dome with a liquid crystal polymer edge to allow very high-quality audio playback up to 120 kHz.
That being said, the frequency response range of these headphones is 4 Hz to 120 kHz. I personally find it a bit unnecessary for them to extend all the way up to that 120 kHz since those frequencies are indistinguishable to the human ear, but it does allow for an extended sense of clarity and airiness in the music.
A special acoustic filter is used to control air resistance of the speakers and it also eliminates reverberations around your ears while wearing the headphones to prevent false bass frequencies from being created. This results in the MDR-Z1Rs being clear, clean, and smooth-sounding with full bass and sparkling highs. They sound very accurate and detailed.
As for the design, they are made with a beta titanium headband that makes these headphones extremely durable, but also quite flexible. You can supposedly bend the headband and it will bend right back, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking if they get pulled on, but at the same time I would still be careful with them since they’re so expensive.
The ear cups are pretty big due to them being heavily padded with thick and comfortable memory foam. The ear pads almost create a seal around your ears to ensure that external noise is kept out and your audio stays in, making them ideal for travel or on the go. You’ll probably need a headphone amp for the MDR-Z1R, so keep that in mind too.
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The Sony MDR-Z1R headphones are a good choice for those who like to travel. I think they would be good to take on a plane or bus due to their noise cancelling abilities. If you are looking to have a fresh listening experience, these headphones are a good and solid choice. They’re some of Sony’s best-rated headphones and it’s clear why. I recommend that you find this out for yourself!
3. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
The best closed-back headphones under $100
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones have consistently remained as one of the top-rated, best-sounding closed-back headphones ever since their release in 2003. Designed for producers, musicians, and DJs, they’re a fantastic listening solution for both recreational purposes and mixing or recording in the studio.
Taking a look at the design, the HD 280 Pro headphones are both collapsible and the ear cups swivel for one ear listening/monitoring. They use a self-adjusting headband that is generously padded for ultimate comfort and also have very padded synthetic leatherette ear pads that help to keep background noise out.
The HD 280 Pro is a lightweight model that is easy to wear for long periods of time without getting uncomfortable or tiring of it being on your head. They don’t feel constricting in any way.
As for the sound, they provide a very balanced and flat response. With a 8 Hz to 25 kHz frequency response range, you’ll be able to hear all the details of your music and not lose character. Since they have a flat response, they’re accurate enough for mixing in a studio, which is part of the reason why they’ve remained so popular over the years.
The headphones sound very clear with plenty of bass, rich mids, and shimmery highs that don’t accentuate harsh or unwanted frequencies. A good word to use to describe the overall sound would be ‘natural’, since it’s like listening to music as if it was playing out right in front of you.
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The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones are an affordable option for those who want an accurate and flat listening experience without losing vibrancy and energy in music. They are ideal for recording and mixing in home or professional music studios as well as recreational listening use for reasonable amounts of time.
Additionally, since they fold up and swivel, you could use them while traveling due to them being pretty portable. From personal experience, they do a great job at keeping your ears protected while playing drums, although the ear pads get a bit warm if you sweat a lot.
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
The best closed-back headphones under $200
Audio-Technica is a top brand with many popular headphone models designed for pro audio and mixing and mastering solutions. Their M series headphones are high enough quality to be revered by experienced listeners while remaining flat enough to mix on for producers. The ATH-M50x model is one of the higher end ones of the M series of closed-back headphones they offer.
The ATH-M50x headphones feature neodymium magnet drivers and copper clad aluminum wire voice coils, which aid in delivering very accurate audio with a flat and transparent frequency response, all while remaining detailed. The frequency response range is 15 Hz to 28 kHz which allows for capturing detail and nuances in vocals, instruments, and more. You will be able to hear airiness as well as sub frequencies with these headphones.
The bass frequencies of the ATH-M50x are very punchy without sounding boomy or muddy, the mid tones are rich and warm, and the highs are clear and smooth without being too bright. Overall, the sound of these headphones is natural. They were tuned to sound flat, which Audio-Technica easily and successfully accomplished.
The M50x’s are great at isolating audio going into your ears and cancelling out noise from your surroundings due to their closed-back ear cup design. The ATH-M50x’s are also very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They are well-cushioned on the headband area as well as the ear cups, so your skin will not be irritated after long mixing or recording sessions. I find them to be some of the most comfortable closed-back headphones.
You’ll be pleased to know that these headphones are also quite portable because they collapse, and they also have swiveling ear cups.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x closed-back headphones are a great choice for those who like to make music as well as listen to music recreationally. They would also be good to use in a podcasting setup or a streaming setup for gaming. They’re some of my personal favorite headphones and I strongly suggest you check them out since they’re definitely the best value for the money if you want something under $200 or $300.
5. Audeze EL-8 Closed Back
The best closed-back headphones under $500
The Audeze EL-8 headphones are quite popular this year. They come in open-back or closed-back style, and the closed back model is officially sold out on the Audeze website, but you can find them at many retailers online.
The Audeze EL-8 Closed Back headphones are an over ear pair with a specially designed speaker system to give you a pleasurable listening experience with pro audiophile-grade sound.
The EL-8 Closed Backs use planar magnet technology that delivers ultra-clear and accurate sound that will keep you craving more. Even though they have very large ear cups and a thick headband, these headphones are very lightweight for their size due to their speaker construction.
The diaphragms of the speakers are literally thinner than a human hair but are three times larger than the average diaphragm. This produces very fast response times, incredibly reduced distortion, higher resolution, and improved imaging.
Uniforce voice coil technology aids in decreasing distortion while the Fluxor Magnetic Arrays double the driver power by focusing the magnetic flux to reduce distortion even more. Fazor Elements provide accuracy and prevent resonance in the headphones by guiding the sound waves.
The EL-8 Closed Back is very sturdy thanks to an aluminum frame that is designed to last a lifetime, and the floating headband and ear cups are padded with faux leather for comfort. The sound of the headphones is very nice, very balanced with frequency accentuations in all the right places.
The frequency response range is quite generous, from 10 Hz to 50 KHz. Take note that to give these headphones the power they need, you will need an amp. Audeze provides these for you to purchase too.
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The Audeze EL-8 Closed Back headphones are a great option for audiophiles who enjoy listening from home. They are a great budget option for the audiophiles who don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out on a pair of headphones. These are a pair that I would consider buying for myself. With their durability, style, and sound, they seem like a perfect option for those who like to appreciate the sonic qualities and characteristics of music. The price especially makes them a no brainer to buy.
6. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
The best closed-back headphones under $300
Beyerdynamic has a lot of cheap headphones that are great quality. The DT 770 Pro headphones are a closed-back pair designed for critical listening and sound monitoring. I’ve used these before to do just that and they are an unbeatable pair in terms of both sound and price.
The DT 770 Pro’s feature a low mass diaphragm and voice coil to bring you fairly accurate and transparent audio. They also have a bass reflex system that allows the frequency response range to extend down from 5 Hz up to 35 kHz. The headphones are designed to be great at cancelling background noise and keeping music isolated to the headphones.
Getting into the construction of them a bit more, they’re very durable thanks to the very thick plastic and metal construction used. The headband and ear cups are both padded fairly generously (ear cups more so) with memory foam and then covered in a velour fabric. The velour fabric is a lot better than leather at keeping your head from getting sweaty if you are using the headphones for a long period of time without taking them off.
The ear cups are very big and cause the headphones to sit a bit loosely on the head, especially if you wear glasses, but not so much, so that it makes them hard to wear or diminishes the listening experience. It does make it hard to wear them in the studio if you keep taking them off.
As for sound, the DT 770 Pro’s are more tailored towards sounding sweeter in the low-end frequency range. Mids follow that, and the highs are quite a bit more accentuated than the mids, so you might find that mixing with these headphones is making your music sound shrill. Stick to just recording with these things.
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The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro closed-back headphones are a great companion for those who are musicians or producers who need to listen carefully while in the studio. These headphones are also ideal for those who like to sit at a computer or in an armchair and listen to music, as well as those that wear glasses.
7. Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2
A high value planar headphone
The AEON Flow 2 Closed headphone by Dan Clark Audio (MrSpeakers) is a portable audiophile headphone that features planar drivers. There is also an open-back model for the same price if that’s the style you prefer.
The AEON Flow 2 Closed uses a new and improved driver based on the Dan Clark Audio ETHER 2 driver design. This technology results in a very transparent but pleasurable frequency curve that helps keep character in your audio with bass you can feel, transparent mids, and plenty of clarity and detail in the high frequency range. The sound stage is very immersive and is quite wide, allowing you to have a good stereo image.
As for the design, the ear cups are more elegantly shaped than the AEON Flow 1 as a way to cut down on the size and bulkiness of the headphones, allowing them to fold better and enabling the ear cups to swivel. The folding mechanism created for the AEON Flow 2 actually provides your head with more comfort and improves the structural integrity, fit, and feel of it, so you can wear the Flow 2 for many hours at a time without feeling fatigued.
The AEON Flow 2’s extreme folding ability does not sacrifice any sound quality at all and doesn’t make the ear cups hurt your ears or anything like that. The design helps them to be very travel-friendly while still remaining reliable.
Although the headband is just a leather strap connected to the flexible overhead wire frame, they are still comfortable to wear. The headphones are great for smaller ears and heads but can be fairly comfortably worn by those with big ears.
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The Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2 Closed headphones are the perfect solution for those who travel frequently to shows to perform or who like to wear headphones on their commute to work or school. They would also be a suitable option for those of you who like to wear headphones rather than earbuds when exercising or playing sports, and they do have a little sports gimbal included with them for that purpose.
8. ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
ADAM Audio is a company that is known for its audio solutions, from studio monitors and subwoofers to reference headphones and high-quality microphones. The Studio Pro SP-5 headphones are a highest-rated closed-back, over the ear pair that is loaded with innovative technology and great for mixing audio in a studio.
The SP-5s feature Ultrasone’s S-LOGIC Plus technology that creates a more natural spatial sound field by placing sonic objects in the field where they would be expected. S-LOGIC Plus also reduces ear fatigue by reducing sound pressure levels on your eardrums by up to 40%, which also decreases your chance of getting hearing loss from the headphones, especially if you mix at loud levels and often use headphones for that process.
The Ultrasone technology also has an Ultra Low Emission feature that protects you from magnetic radiation with metal shielding.
The drivers in the SP-5s are off center which forces audio to be sent to your outer ear before it hits the eardrum, creating a 3D effect by adding distance and dimension. The frequency response range is 8 Hz to 38 kHz which is plenty wide for mixing. They sound transparent, flat, and very natural with a lot of balance. These Studio SP-5 headphones are good at isolating audio and keeping it from leaking out, so you can also use these while recording audio without having to worry about bleeding into the mic.
The headband is padded, and the ear cups are cushioned very well; I find these headphones to be comfortable and durable, although they could be a bit more flexible. They are quite sturdy and a bit stiff, but they don’t cause any pressure to be applied to the head in areas where it would irritate the skin; instead they feel secure.
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The ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5 headphones are the perfect choice for producers and musicians for both mixing and recording in the studio and on the go. They are fairly affordable, and the sound quality surpasses the price tag quite a bit. I recommend that you check them out for a safe and natural listening experience.
9. Ultrasone Signature Studio
Everything you expect from pro headphones
The Signature Studio headphones from Ultrasone are a closed-back, over the ear pair of dynamic headphones that are designed to be used in a professional audio setting. They have everything you would expect from professional headphones, from great sound and accurate reproduction to a comfortable design and more.
Like the ADAM Audio SP-5 headphones, the Ultrasone Signature Studio headphones feature S-LOGIC Plus technology to give you the maximum quality in terms of spatial imaging of the sound field to allow for extremely accurate sound reproduction. This technology also aids in keeping your ears from getting fatigued during mixing sessions and preventing you from getting extensive hearing loss.
S-LOGIC Plus also provides extensive MU metal shielding that protects you from radiation caused by the magnets in the headphones. The drivers in the Signature Studio are also made of metal, specifically titanium, which guarantees high-fidelity audio with extremely accurate reproduction.
The frequency response range is 8 Hz to 40 kHz which easily surpasses the range of human hearing to give music life and brightness that you can feel even if you can’t hear it. The headphones sound very balanced and natural.
The Signature Studio is constructed with very thick plastic to ensure a ton of durability and the same measures were taken to choose material and padding for the headband and ear cups, resulting in both a sturdy and comfortable design that you will be able to keep on for many hours.
The thick ear pads aid in noise isolation making the headphones great for recording. While the ear pads are thick, the material is breathable, and the overall headphone design is lightweight enough that it won’t cause sweating.
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The Ultrasone Signature Studio headphones are an amazing pair for studio use as well as recreational listening. They have some very handy and efficient protective features that make them an ideal everyday headphone while keeping intact the precision and high-quality audio reproduction and balanced, natural sound.
I would recommend them to producers, musicians, and people who like to listen to music all the time. Your ears won’t tire after long listening sessions and the materials will hold up against heavy use quite well.
10. Mackie MC-250
For another cheap top-quality budget option, the Mackie MC-250 headphones are the perfect model if you need something under $100. The MC series of Mackie headphones are reference quality that offer high performance monitoring in studio or recreational applications.
These beautifully priced cans have sizable transducers that are sure to deliver high-quality, clear audio that stays accurate over a wide frequency response range. They have an increased bass response which is usually desirable for consumer products for casual listening, but not so much for mixing audio in a studio. All the same, the increased bass response will enable you to both hear and feel the punch of the bass in your music.
The frequency response range of the MC-250s is 10 Hz to 20 kHz, wide enough for mixing within the human range of hearing. The precision tuned enclosure of the headphones puts out deep bass, smooth mids, and detailed, clear highs, which is a great combination of sonic qualities for casual or critical listening.
As for the design, the MC-250s are made similarly to the previous two reviews of the Ultrasone Signature Studio and ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5 headphones as they are made from thick, top-end plastic that is durable enough to withstand hard use, although it slightly reduces the flexibility of the headband.
Speaking of the headband, it is padded quite well, and the ear cups also have generous soft padding. The ear pads help the headphones to conform to your ears in an ergonomic manner to allow for all day wearing without getting uncomfortable. This ergonomic fit also aids in cancelling background and ambient noise and the isolation of audio in the headphones. The MC-250s are also suitable for travel as they fold up nicely for storage or transport.
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The Mackie MC-250 closed-back headphones are a nice budget option mainly for those who want a pair of headphones that are good for all day listening in a casual application as well as for recording in a music studio, gaming, podcasting, or streaming. They offer comfort, durability, a fair amount of accuracy, and are overall just a really solid pair of headphones.
Now that we’ve gone through all the reviews of the best closed-back headphones that you should definitely purchase (or at least check out) in 2021, you can apply this knowledge in stores. All of the brands in this list have many other great closed-back options if the ones included here are not suitable for your needs and other factors that you may find could come into play.
Be sure to remember that to get the best optimized sound out of the headphones you purchase (mainly if they are audiophile headphones), you will likely need a headphone amplifier and DAC, but your listening experience will definitely be well worth spending those extra bucks.