Oftentimes, headphones for listening are showcased more often than headphones for mixing and mastering. 2020 brings a lot of great headphones, both open-back and closed-back. This list will help you find the absolute best headphones for mixing and mastering for use in your home or professional studio.
Here are the best mixing/mastering headphones 2020:
- Grado Labs PS2000e
- ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
- Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
- Shure SRH1840
- Audio-Technica ATH-M70x
- AKG K701
- Focal Listen Professional
- Sennheiser HD 200 PRO
1. Grado Labs PS2000e
Pro headphones for mixing any genre
Grado Labs is not a very well-known audio company, but they have more than six decades of audio experience under their belt. It took almost 2 years of development for them to come out with the PS2000e professional reference headphones.
The PS2000e headphones are an open-back metal and wood clad pair of headphones. They have a wide leather headband with extra padding and a hand-carved inner chamber finished with smoked chrome and made with maple wood. They deliver a unique, desired response with an excellent sonic character.
The wood and metal combination prevents any harsh frequencies as well as any ringing and harmonic distortion. The PS2000e minimizes coloration of the signal to accurately display the details in your audio. The PS2000e was made with all of the finest materials, from the speaker chassis to the voice coil and magnets.
A new front panel and a grill for the driver results in minimal diffractions of the audio signal coming from the diaphragm. The housing of the driver eliminates distortion and resonance. The PS2000e has a very wide sound stage and it is accurately represented. The headphones capture great detail and spatial elements.
The frequency response range of these headphones is quite wide, at 5 Hz to 50 kHz. They are definitely audiophile-quality, but without the coloration that audiophile-quality headphones may give off.
|Image credit: Grado Check Price on Grado Labs||
Although the Grado PS2000e headphones are the most expensive on this list, they are absolutely one of the best mixing headphones. They are extremely accurate sounding, and the maple wood adds a nice sonic quality to the headphones.
I would definitely recommend them for advanced to professional users, or even beginners if you have the money for headphones this accurate.
2. ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
A powerful mixing solution
ADAM Audio is a company that is known for some top-quality studio monitors, and they have some amazing headphones as well if you need a reference companion to your monitors. The Studio Pro SP-5 headphones are a top pair of headphones for mixing. They are a best-rated closed-back, over the ear headphone.
The SP-5s come with Ultrasone’s S-LOGIC Plus technology, which places sonic objects in the expected spatial field, giving your audio very natural, accurate spatial imaging and making it easier to mix. The S-LOGIC Plus technology also reduces ear fatigue quite significantly by reducing the sound pressure levels on your eardrums by 40%, reducing the potential for hearing loss.
The decentralized driver positioning sends audio to your outer ear before sending it to your eardrum which ensures a 3 dimensional audio experience, allowing distance and dimension to be perceived.
They have a very revealing frequency response range of 8 Hz to 38 kHz, which is not that far away from the extremely wide range of the Grado Labs PS2000e.
The closed-back design provides great acoustic isolation, making the Studio Pro SP-5s good headphones for audio mixing, especially on the go. The headband is padded generously and the ear cups are sturdy with nice cushioning. Overall the headphones seem to be very durable.
Another handy feature of the Studio Pro SP-5 headphones is due to Ultrasone again. Their innovating ULE (Ultra Low Emission) technology substantially reduces magnetic radiation, which is caused by many headphone drivers in the low frequency end. With MU Metal shielding, it reduces up to 98% of magnetic radiation compared to other more conventional studio headphones.
Upon unboxing the Studio Pro SP-5 headphones, you will find that 2 cables are included as well as a semi-rigid transport case for travel.
|Image credit: ADAM Audio Check Price on Amazon||
The Studio Pro SP-5 headphones from ADAM Audio are a great choice for high-quality closed-back headphones for mixing. They are quite a bit more affordable than headphones for studio mixing in the thousand dollar price range, but have the same great quality as those that are largely more expensive. Intermediate to professional producers will love these comfortable headphones.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Some of the world’s finest headphones
Quite similar to the ADAM Audio SP-5 headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO headphones are one of the best pairs of open-back headphones for mixing. The DT 990 PRO is a newer model from Beyerdynamic that was made for stress free listening, both for pleasure or in the studio when you need to make critical decisions when mixing or mastering.
The DT 990 PROs have a very pleasant sound with a brilliant, rich bass, clear mids, and soaring highs. Like the SP-5s, the DT 990s also give off a three-dimensional sound, accurately reproducing all the details of each instrument in a wide spatial image. They also have a very wide frequency response range of 5 Hz to 35 kHz.
As for the design, the headband is more rigid, but applies less pressure on your head. It is also soft and padded to make it more comfortable. The ear pads are also quite soft and can easily be replaced. The DT 990 PROs come with a coiled cable.
|Image credit: Beyerdynamic Check Price on Amazon||
The DT 990 PRO headphones from Beyerdynamic are a quite affordable model of good mixing headphones. They provide you with accuracy, comfort, and ease of use.
I would strongly suggest these as a top-rated pair of headphones for mixing and mastering for beginners to advanced producers. They are affordable enough that they will not hurt your budget too much and they are definitely quite durable.
4. Shure SRH1840
The most durable mixing headphone
Shure is mainly known for their high-quality microphones, but they have some of the best studio headphones for mixing. However, the Shure SRH1840 is one of the best headphones for mastering. The SRH1840 headphones are an open-back, over the ear pair of headphones.
Open-back headphones do not have the low-end pressure issues like closed-back headphones do, making them ideal for mastering and getting a good idea of the stereo field because they provide a more natural listening experience. Using open-back headphones helps you to dodge a drawback of mixing with headphones: the mix doesn’t translate well on certain speaker systems.
The SRH1840s have detailed highs, rich bass, clear midrange, and are overall very accurate, and could easily replace studio monitors thanks to the neodymium drivers. They are ideal for monitoring and critical listening as well. The SRH1840s have a wide frequency response, starting at 10 Hz and ending at 30 kHz, which is ample room for mastering.
The SRH1840s have cushiony ear pads, a premium padded headband, and stainless steel grills. This makes them incredibly lightweight while also being comfortable enough to wear for several hours at a time with little to no skin irritation or pressure on the top of your head or around your ears.
Designed for both studio use and live performances, the SRH1840s were made to be extremely durable. The SRH1840’s oxygen free copper cable is detachable and housed in a jacket reinforced with Kevlar.
|Image credit: Shure Check Price on Amazon||
The SRH1840 headphones from Shure are some of the best mastering headphones you will find in 2020. They provide a natural listening experience that will help you to master efficiently, so that your mixes translate accurately no matter what you are listening on. They are a great choice for intermediate to professional users who need a good high-end headphone option for mastering.
5. Audio-Technica ATH-M70x
An affordable choice for mixing and mastering
The Audio-Technica ATH-M70x headphones are a new closed-back flagship model that is designed to bring out the detail in your mixes. It features extremely large neodymium drivers that accurately reproduce extreme low and high frequencies without throwing anything off balance.
They are best suited for mixing, recording, mastering, DJ use, live mixing, personal listening, and post production, and are designed to be rugged and durable while also being comfortable.
They have a very impressive frequency response range of 5 Hz to 40 kHz, which is wide enough to provide you with the ability to detect even the lowest frequencies and crisp airiness in audio. A copper-clad aluminum wire voice coil is partially because of this.
The durable plastic frame of the ATH-M70X is quite sturdy, and being paired with the very heavily cushioned adjustable headband and swiveling padded ear cups makes them ridiculously comfortable.
I am a big fan of Audio Technica’s M series headphone line and every pair I’ve worn from the line has amazing sound quality and is crazy comfortable. This one is no exception. The ATH-M70x comes with 3 cables (one coiled and two straight) and all are detachable and interchangeable.
|Image credit: Audio-Technica Check Price on Amazon||
The ATH-M70x headphones from Audio-Technica are some of my personal favorite headphones, and they are sure to become a favorite of yours as well. They are one of the best headphones for mixing and are definitely the headphones with the best value for as low as they cost. They are personally the ones I would go with, and I recommend them to everyone from beginners to professional producers.
6. AKG K701
Cutting edge audiophile headphones
The AKG K701 headphones are an open-back model that go over the ear. They are super accurate in terms of acoustic reproduction and are the first headphone to use flat-wire voice coil technology paired with AKG’s Varimotion technology. This results in accurate reproduction with both frequencies and spatial imaging.
The imaging is excellent, and when paired with the amazingly accurate sound of the crisp highs and smooth yet punchy bass frequencies, you get an utmost enjoyable listening experience.
The flat-wire voice coil technology is a very new technology. Getting into a bit more detail on it, the flat-wire coil moves within a system of neodymium magnets. The coil is smaller and helps to make the motor in the headphones way more efficient and enables the K701s to be used with a headphone amplifier.
The combination of the light yet powerful coil and the strong magnetic field enable the diaphragm of the K701s to track audio signals with utmost accuracy. You will mainly be able to hear the sonic accuracy in the low frequencies.
The K701s also feature Varimotion technology, which is essentially a newer type of diaphragm that is ultra precise. The Varimotion diaphragm has two different layers made from two different materials. The first optimizes diaphragm motion and the second helps to dampen unwanted breakup modes.
The diaphragm varies in thickness, with an 80 micrometer center zone that provides well-balanced high frequency responses, and the 40 micrometer perimeter handles the power needed to accurately reproduce mid-range and bass frequencies.
The AKG 701s also have an innovative structure design. They feature a self-adjusting padded leather headband and something called 3D Form ear pads. The 3D Form ear pads are designed to fit just right, for an ergonomically perfect fit around your ears, making for a precise listening location and optimized acoustic transmission.
Bi-wired oxygen-free copper cables are also added to these incredible headphones to optimize channel separation. The frequency response of the K701s is a very wide 10 Hz to 39.8 kHz, so you will have access to frequencies even beyond human hearing. Overall, the K701s have a large dynamic range and very low distortion, with detailed highs and punchy bass.
|Image credit: AKG Check Price on Amazon||
The K701 headphones from AKG are an ideal choice for those producers who want audiophile-quality headphones that are also flat and transparent in terms of frequency response. If you do not have studio monitors this is a great headphone to use due to the open-back.
7. Focal Listen Professional
Great for both studio and individual use
Focal is one of the best manufacturers of high-end audio, both monitors and headphones. The Listen Professional closed-back headphones are a long-awaited model in succession to the popular Spirit Professional model.
They feature robust drivers, passive noise isolation, and even smartphone compatibility. This makes them an ultimate multi-use mixing headphone. The Listen Professional headphones are made with low distortion Mylar and titanium drivers, giving you world class audio with ease.
The Mylar suspension with a titanium coated dome helps break up low end and extends the frequency range. You get powerful bass with low distortion, soaring high end, and clean mid-range frequencies. The frequency response range is 5 Hz to 22 kHz which is great for mixing and mastering.
The ear cups are made out of high-density, heat sensitive memory foam ear cups and coated in microfiber, and the headphones sport a silicone lined headband that conforms to your head to provide the ultimate comfortable listening experience when in the studio for long periods of time.
Two oxygen-free copper cables are included. One of them has a remote and microphone for use with your smartphone, allowing you to make calls or control your music in a pinch.
The Listen Professional headphones are great for mixing and mastering, but they also fold up easily and are compact and portable, making them an ideal option for mixing and mastering on the go.
|Image credit: Focal Check Price on Amazon||
The Listen Professional headphones from Focal are a great choice for the producer who wants a multi-purpose headphone. They are a very balanced pair of headphones, with high-quality audio components, but they also fold up for travel and are smartphone compatible.
8. Sennheiser HD 200 PRO
Portable studio-quality sound
If you are on a budget, the best headphones for mixing that you will find at this price point are the HD 200 PRO closed-back, over-ear headphones. They deliver studio-quality audio without breaking the bank.
The HD 200 PROs are loaded with neodymium drivers that ensure detailed sound with low-end punch, but not too much that the sound is exaggerated. The frequency response range of these bad boys is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which is ample room to analyze all the frequencies in your audio. You will be sure to get an accurate mix, in terms of sonic qualities and frequencies, when using these headphones.
They are outstandingly comfortable, with lightweight, soft ear cushions and a cushioned headband that doesn’t apply any pressure. They fit a bit snug to the head but since they are so lightweight it’s not a very big problem. The headphones have amazing noise isolation, keeping noise out and audio in, due to the ear cushions. They are very thick but remain feeling lightweight at the same time.
I have used these headphones to mix, master, and even play drums in a live setting, and they have kept my ears from getting fatigued as well as protected me from hearing loss every time.
As well as being good for mixing and mastering, the HD 200 PROs are great for recording, since they do not let any audio leak out into the microphone. They are a good mixing and mastering headphone as well as one that you can use outside of the studio, whether it be for DJing, live performances, or personal listening.
|Image credit: Sennheiser Check Price on Amazon||
The HD 200 PROs by Sennheiser are a good budget option if you are wanting something that can be easily replaced. While they are durable and comfortable, they can feel a bit snug against the head and apply a little pressure around the ears especially if you wear glasses or have a larger head. Overall, they sound very balanced and pretty accurate and would do as a suitable option for beginners.
Mixing and mastering headphones should be picked with utmost care. As a rule of thumb, open-back headphones are more accurate and better for mixing and mastering. That being said, closed-back headphones will do fine if open-backs are out of your budget.
Now you can take what you’ve learned from this article to find the best headphone option for your mixing/mastering needs – maybe even one of the options included here.
Jordan is a music producer, content creator, writer, and session musician. He has been producing music and engineering live performances for over 7 years. He is an experienced guitarist and enjoys listening to and playing many different genres of music.