Balancing your budget is one of the biggest hurdles when setting up a studio. Studio headphones, in particular, can be expensive. But we’ve got you covered with this guide to the best budget studio headphones so you can experience quality sound without emptying your wallet.
We set out on a mission to explore all available studio headphone options. We took a detailed look into the budget end of the scale to weed out the garbage and present the best. Our Editor’s Choice is the legendary Sennheiser HD 280 Pro due to its excellent sound, high comfort, and dependable monitoring capabilities.
Our website is a hub of information on all types of studio equipment. With over 15 years of experience in using and reviewing headphones, we have very high standards, even when it comes to budget-focused options.
Confidence and trust are at the heart of our recommendations. We undertook product research and assessed over 100 pairs of headphones. To further whittle down our selections, we applied our rigorous testing mentality. What remained was a highly curated list of the leading options in this highly competitive headphone segment.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Comfortable studio headphones with a pleasant sound profile. Ultra-low sound leakage that is perfect for recording.
Fantastic clarity and a meaty low end for satisfying listening. A comfortable option for daily monitoring.
Below we take a deeper dive into the best home studio headphones if you are on a budget. All these are excellent choices for people that don’t want to spend too much on studio headphones.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Review
- Relatively Neutral – The HD 280 Pro delivers decent neutrality making it a good choice for studio use. A few dips and bumps in the lows and highs but overall enough balance to make educated decisions.
- Excellent Padding – Soft comfortable ear padding along with firm head padding. The fit is a little tight but there is still some movement to prevent excessive strain. A reasonable choice for longer sessions in the studio.
- Respectable Build Quality – Despite a full plastic build the quality is impressive. Especially at this price point. The hardwired cable is the only concern when it comes to durability.
- Low Leakage – Ultra-low sound leakage makes these a good choice for recording sessions. Any leakage is barely audible even at close distances.
- Low Breathability – The tight ear seal does trap a lot of heat. If you work in a hot environment these can become uncomfortable quite quickly.
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is among the most popular budget studio headphones available today. With an approachable price point, these deliver in several areas.
Comfort is above average with a solid padded headband and comfortable ear cups. Sound quality is also respectable with relatively flat frequency response. Mid-range accuracy is high making these a valid choice for critical listening.
The low level of sound leakage will also appeal to vocalists and musicians. You won’t have to worry about any bleeding of sound into your recordings.
With a range of good features, it is not hard to see why this pair of closed-back headphones is a favorite. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are cheap studio headphones that get the job done well.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 280 Pro review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Mackie MC-150 Review
- Fantastic Clarity – Impressive clarity across the full frequency response. No excessive dips or bumps. Decently neutral while retaining plenty of life in the sound profile.
- Meaty Low End – The large 50mm drivers deliver a satisfying and thumpy low-end. Great for casual listening and for breaking down bass tonality when monitoring.
- Portable Choice – The collapsible design is a great feature for on-the-go listening. Also quick and simple to fold up when not in use. The added pouch is also a nice inclusion.
- Thick Padding – The ear padding is thick but still comfortable. This also provides a good level of isolation. But you’ll still enjoy good comfort over long listening sessions.
- Skews Towards Hi-Fi – As a pair of monitor headphones, these are great. But for detailed mixing work, these do lack the transparency you’ll require.
The MC range of headphones from Mackie is exceptionally impressive. This entry-level option ticks a lot of the right boxes. A crisp and clear sound that doesn’t cause ear fatigue. The low-end is generous and warm without boominess or muddy tonality.
Extras like a collapsible design and detachable cable are also elements you don’t often see at this price point. With the included bag these provide amazing value for money.
Great sound isolation, good sound stage, and impressive sound reproduction. One of the best budget studio headphones available today.
Shure SRH240A Review
- Decent Neutrality – Budget headphones often suffer from poor neutrality. While these are by no means perfect they are neutral enough for light and casual studio work.
- Replaceable Earpads – Earpads are one of the first things that tend to wear out on budget studio headphones. The SRH240A features the option to replace the pads when they inevitably become worn.
- Low Heat Build Up – For a closed-back set of studio headphones, these do a good job of keeping the heat at bay. Great for long studio sessions where comfort is critical.
- Crispy Top End – The top end is a little bright. Not harsh or tinny but noticeably pronounced.
- Dual Exit Cable – The dual exit cable can get in the way. Most headphones offer a one-ear exit making it easy to keep the cord out of your way.
I’m a big fan of the Shure range of closed-back headphones. High-quality studio gear that does what it advertises. While this low cost entry doesn’t reach the lofty ideals of more expensive models it is still impressive.
Tonality and balance are better than most headphones at this price range. Pleasant sound profile that won’t cause ear fatigue over long sessions. Likewise, the comfort level is great for longer sessions. A secure fit without digging into your scalp.
Despite a few nitpicks the Shure SRH240A is among the best budget studio headphones available today.
Read our full Shure SRH240A review for more detailed information.
AKG K92 Review
- Impressive Midrange – The K92 shines in the midrange. Plenty of detail and clarity especially when playing genres that have a heavy focus in this range like rock and metal.
- Striking Design – The familiar AKG design is on full display. Large earcups along with an iconic headband. The gold accents add a touch of class and set it apart from other all-black plastic options.
- Excellent Comfort – The adjustable headband does an excellent job of finding the sweet spot. The ear padding is also comfortable. Combine that with the low-weight frame and you have a pair of studio headphones that you can use for hours.
- Respectable Isolation – Passive isolation is quite decent for headphones this cheap. Especially when you factor in how light these are. A good choice for recording sessions.
- A Bit Bass Heavy – The low-end is quite pronounced. Great for listening to EDM genres but not ideal for serious analytical work.
AKG produces a range of fantastic closed-back headphones. Their more expensive options are among the very best in the industry. But this cheaper set of cans is also a decent outing.
The sound quality is very pleasant. Strong and defined mids, highs that are not overly harsh, and a satisfying thump in the low end. But the balance between all three is not ideal. Not the best choice for mixing and mastering.
But the self-adjusting headband along with good isolation makes these a good option for certain uses. These excel for recording sessions, general listening, and basic monitoring.
Super affordable price and slick styling. It’s hard not to recommend these as one of the best budget studio headphones for recording sessions available today.
Read our full AKG K92 review for more detailed information.
Miktek DH90 Review
- Clear Audio Quality – The clarity behind these headphones is impressive. Especially at this price point. No muddy low-end tonality and no harshness in the top end. Excellent listening experience over extended periods.
- Self Adjusting Headband – Extremely comfortable thanks to the unique self-adjusting headband. The small gap in the center eliminates any potential firmness issues at the top of your head.
- Wide Frequency Range – Able to deliver warm and rich lows while also reaching high enough for tight detail in the top end.
- Extra Cable – The included shorter cable makes these a great choice for on-the-go listening. Low impedance also allows these to perform well with smartphones. Great combination.
- Odd Connection Point – The large jack is awkwardly positioned. I’d prefer a more traditional connection point into the earcup itself.
Miktek is best known for its range of high-quality microphones. But their dip into the headphone space is equally impressive.
The unique design instantly catches the eye. But they are not as overly gaudy and bright as some other headphones. More importantly, these back up the sleek design with great performance. The response is quite flat and the audio quality is crisp and detailed. A solid choice for mixing.
Lightweight and comfortable these are a good option for people with larger heads. The adjusting headband does an excellent job of molding to your head. The ear cups also offer a generous amount of space and good padding.
While Miktek is a newcomer to the headphone space it is clear they know what they are doing. These are among the best budget studio headphones you can buy today.
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Review
- Well-Rounded Sound Profile – For headphones this cheap they do a great job of delivering a pleasant and balanced sound profile. The mid-range is especially prominent and well-defined.
- Approachable Price – Aggressive price point that is very approachable for people on a budget. Despite the low price it punches well above what you would expect. Great value for money. Something that is applicable for all headphones in the Audio Technica ATH range.
- Decent Isolation – Passive isolation is respectable and better than some other closed-back options out there. The seal is relatively tight and secure and does a decent job of blocking external noise. Though the smaller earcups could cause issues for those with larger ears.
- Good Build Quality – Component quality is good. The plastic construction does creak a little but at no point do you feel these will fall apart easily. Ear and head padding are also good for this price point.
- Exposed Wires – The exposed connecting wires are an additional hazard that you need to be mindful of. They can easily catch which can lead to early failure.
Audio-Technica produces a range of excellent headphones. The entry-level Audio-Technica ATH-M20x closed-back headphones are the cheapest option in the lineup. But despite the low price, these have a lot to offer.
The audio delivery is quite neutral making these a decent choice for producers. Respectable isolation keeps outside noise out. This also makes these an appealing choice for recording or monitoring without distractions.
While it does have great sound the 40mm driver does struggle a little with bass frequencies. They are not as full as I would like.
Lightweight and comfortable they also sport solid construction. A good all-rounder that gets a lot right. If you want a cheap entry point into the Audio Technica ATH range these are an ideal choice.
Read our full Audio-Technica ATH-M20x review for more detailed information.
Audio Technica ATH-M20x
Vic Firth SIH2 Review
- Supreme Isolation – Sound isolation is critical for many musicians. Especially drummers which this set of studio headphones is aimed at. With 25 dB passive noise reduction these are great headphones for protecting your hearing.
- Strong Midrange – The forward midrange is another nod towards the target market. Excellent clarity so you can monitor your performance with ease.
- Unique Design – The chunky design may not be to everyone’s liking but it is exceptionally functional. The carbon fiber pattern is also unique and catches the eye.
- High Durability – High component quality throughout. Good thick padding, dependable headband, and reliable hinges.
- Tight Fit – Excellent sound isolation but the fit is very tight. If you happen to have a larger than average head you may experience some discomfort over longer studio sessions.
The Vic Firth SIH2 is the latest generation model of headphones aimed at musicians that care about their hearing. The exceptional sound isolation allows you to monitor without placing your hearing at risk.
These headphones are ideal for musicians that play loud instruments like drums. Clean and powerful midrange that offers plenty of clarity. For a recording studio setting these are among the most affordable yet functional headphones you can pick up.
Preserving your hearing is often overlooked but it is super important. Perfect for the conscious musician and among the best budget studio headphones you can pick up today.
Vic Firth SIH2
Samson SR990 Review
- Rich Audio Quality – Out of the box the SR990 performs very well. Good balance across frequencies and a solid sound stage. Stereo imaging is also better than you would expect at this price point.
- Two Sets Of Ear Pads – Velour and Synthetic Leather earpads. Adds flexibility to choose the style you prefer. The comfort level is above average but there is noticeable heat build-up.
- Punchy Bass – The low end is quite impressive. Plenty of depth and punch. Retains lots of warmth without moving into muddy territory. Great headphones for bass lovers.
- Uninspired Design – Bland appearance that mimics the design of other established brands.
- Flimsy Feel – While these are well built they feel flimsy and don’t inspire confidence. Like many headphones, these need to be treated with care.
The Samson SR990 is another pair of budget studio headphones that are worth considering. The sound profile is the most appealing aspect of these headphones. Plenty of life and thump while retaining good neutrality for mixing music.
A choice between ear pads is also a welcome inclusion. Comfort level is also up there with comparable options. Firm yet comfortable clamping along with a headband that adapts well to different head types.
These are a great pair of headphones for studio use. And at this price, they offer plenty of value for money.
Roland RH-5 Review
- Good Comfort Level – The RH-5 from Roland offers a relaxed and comfortable fit. The clamping force is just right and there is a good amount of padding. A good choice for long sessions.
- Great Choice For Instruments – The sound profile is ideal for tracking individual instruments. Keyboards, drum machines, and guitars are well represented. Not as great for more complex compositions.
- Pronounced Bass – The low end offers plenty of punch and warmth albeit a little unrefined. If you listen to bass-heavy music you’ll likely be impressed with the output from these budget studio headphones.
- Average Ear Pads – The ear padding is prone to early flaking. Heat build-up is also an issue over longer sessions. But the earpads are replaceable so you can easily change these to a better set.
- A Little Muddy – Tonality is good but the overall profile does come across as a little muddy. Especially in the lower mids and bass regions.
The Roland RH-5 is one of the cheapest pairs of studio headphones available today. A refined pair of headphones that excel at certain tasks. Perfectly suited to musical instrument tracking. Excellent clarity and precision when dealing with one primary source. But on the flip side, these don’t sound great when listening to music.
Comfort is a highlight of these headphones thanks to the lightweight design. A stable and secure fit without excess pressure. I just wish the ear pads were of higher quality.
While nowhere near perfect, at this price point these headphones offer great value. A perfect choice for solo musicians that need an accurate and reliable pair of studio headphones for tracking.
Read our full Roland RH-5 review for more detailed information.
Our Expert Buying Guide
Selecting the best budget studio headphones for your needs can be challenging. Especially if you are a beginner that is still finding your feet. There are a lot of options out there. But when it comes to studio monitor headphones you need to pay special attention to a few key areas.
For many people, big-name brands can be a turn-off. But when it comes to quality headphones you are better off sticking to established brands.
These brands have a long history in the headphone market. Their experience in developing high-end studio headphones translates well to their budget offerings.
Accurate sound is critical when you are mixing and mastering. Many cheap brands won’t be able to deliver this. They may sound great for general listening but for more serious critical listening they will fall short.
Should You Spend More?
There is no denying that the best headphones cost a lot more than the options on this list. But spending a lot more is not always the best choice.
Setting up a studio is expensive. You’ll be exploring a range of gear from studio monitors to instruments. Reserving more of your budget for those components may be more beneficial depending on your workflow.
Setting up a music studio can be expensive due to the amount of gear you’ll want.
If you spend the majority of your time using studio monitors you can buy budget studio headphones. Likewise, if you already have one good pair of headphones a backup budget pair is a good choice.
Some people argue that headphones are among the most rotated piece of equipment in a studio. General wear and tear impacts headphones more than other gear. This is why some people prefer to stick to budget choices.
If you do have more to spend by all means invest in better headphones. But for those on a budget, there are still many solid options available that won’t break the bank.
Another feature worth considering when buying headphones is their impedance rating. A low impedance rating means that the headphones don’t need a lot of power to drive them.
This allows you to avoid having to buy a headphone amp. This is another way that you can save some money when you are setting up your studio.
Low impedance headphones also allow you to take your headphones on the go. They run well connected to laptops. They also work perfectly with other lower-powered devices like smartphones.
A set of headphones with a low impedance rating can pull double duty. Once again another way to save some money. No need for a separate pair of headphones for day-to-day listening.
One of the biggest issues with budget studio headphones is the component quality. Cheaper headphones equal cheaper components. At lower price levels you’ll have to expect a lot of plastic and some compromises.
Thankfully there are durable and reliable options among the sea of subpar offerings. Keep an eye out for reliable hinges. This is often one of the first failure points. Exposed wires are also a problem. You can easily hook them and cause damage.
Budget headphones are also a good choice for when you have other people come to your studio.
The quality of the padding is also worth factoring in. The option to replace the padding is often a feature of the best headphones available. It is also a way to keep costs down. Instead of having to buy a whole new set of headphones, you can just buy replacement pads.
Inexpensive but great headphones will also sometimes offer metal components. It isn’t that common in the budget price bracket but they are out there.
There are a lot of inexpensive studio headphones out there. But if you are using your headphones for extended periods you’ll want well-built and dependable headphones.
What Is The Best Budget Headset For Music?
There are several great budget headsets for music. Below are our picks for the top 4 budget headsets you can buy today.
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
- AKG K92
- Mackie MC-150
- Shure SRH240A
Which One Should You Buy?
It is not easy selecting a pair of budget studio headphones. The price point inevitably opens up the space to a lot of sub-par offerings. And while there are even cheaper headphones available out there many of them will struggle to be appropriate for studio use.
Any of the budget headphones in this list are worth considering, but the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is a standout.
These closed-back headphones feature great sound quality and neutral delivery. The comfort level is also high which makes them a great choice for long periods in the studio.
Couple that with the high build quality and they are easily one of the very best budget studio headphones you can buy today.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro