Mixing and mastering with studio monitors is always preferable, but it’s also not the most convenient option for professionals on the go. Reference headphones can also be an effective tool for uncovering additional issues in the mix.
A broad selection of options is available, including closed-back and open-back choices. Our Editor’s Choice is the impressive AKG K371, which features a neutral sound profile with excellent definition in the critical mid-range frequencies.
Our website is a focused hub on everything related to DJs, studio professionals, and live performers. With the ubiquity of headphones across all these areas, we have devoted years of research and testing to be able to offer practical advice.
All our guides start with the sole mission to answer a question we receive from our readers. We leverage our network of contacts in the music industry and our experience to develop a list of suitable candidates before we put them to the test in a range of essential areas. This testing gives us a detailed insight into the category, allowing us to rapidly identify a suitable option for our readers and clients.
Neutral headphones with a distinct and clear mid-range. Relaxed and comfortable fit combined with an affordable price.
An accurate and clear sound profile with a sleek and professional design. Super comfortable and well-constructed.
The best reference headphones need to get a lot right. High comfort levels, accurate sound, and durability to survive years of use. Below, we take a closer look at the best headphones for mixing and mastering.
AKG K371 Review
- Well Defined Mid Range – Excellent definition in the mid-range. Ideal for making accurate assessments of the most noticeable frequency band.
- Accurate Audio – Natural listening experience that retains accurate sound quality. Impressive considering the low price point.
- Relaxed Fit – The low clamping force and good ear padding result in a comfortable fit that is great for long sessions.
- Enticing Price – High-quality audio at a price this low is hard to achieve. An appealing choice for budget-conscious buyers.
- A Little Bright – Excellent balance across frequencies but the top end does lean a little bright. Not overly harsh but noticeable.
The AKG K371 is one of the most recommended pairs of studio headphones for mixing. And it is clear to see why. It strikes an excellent balance between performance and price.
The build quality is also very good for headphones in this price range. The comfortable headband and nice padding also add to the appeal.
The balanced sound is also a stand-out feature and a must-have for mixing and mastering. But these are equally great for casual listening. Plus with a high volume threshold, these offer plenty of headroom.
An affordable and capable pair of closed-back headphones. One of the best headphones for mixing and mastering if you don’t want to spend a lot.
Read our full AKG K371 review for more detailed information.
Rode NTH-100 Review
- Supreme Comfort – The NTH-100 manages to achieve something few studio headphones achieve. Comfortable and cool fit for long sessions. The built-in cooling gel is fantastic as is the padding throughout.
- Neutral Profile – The sound delivery is clear and accurate. For studio mixing these tick a lot of the right boxes. But the low-end does lack a little punch.
- Sleek Design – Attractive modern design that oozes style. These over-ear headphones offer a unique ear cup shape which gives them even more character.
- Flexible Connection – The option to plug the cable into either ear is great. In a studio environment flexibility is always important to achieve a comfortable workflow.
- Small Ear Cup Space – The triangular-shaped ear cups don’t offer a lot of room. If you have larger ears you may find these not ideal.
Legendary microphone manufacturer Rode has come out guns blazing into the headphone scene.
The NTH-100 is a modern and sophisticated pair of studio headphones with innovative features. Mixing and mastering over long sessions is a breeze thanks to the high level of comfort.
Accuracy is also high with a sound profile that is capable of critical listening. With high component quality and a very approachable price, it is hard to look past these.
One of the best headphones for mixing and mastering that won’t make your wallet cry.
Read our full Rode NTH-100 review for more detailed information.
Steven Slate Audio VSX Review
- Modeling Software – Software that replicates various room environments. Perfect for finding issues in your mix. Especially if the dynamics in your studio are poor.
- Accurate Performance – Neutrality is also high with these headphones. A solid frequency range that is clear and precise.
- User Friendly – The software is deep and detailed. But it is still very easy to use. Initial setup is a breeze and the workflow and presentation are on point.
- Clean Design – A slick pair of headphones for mixing. Other headphones opt for big bold colors. The VSX keeps things simple and clean.
- Price Point – High-end performance and advanced software do result in a higher price.
If you are a working professional you’ll already be aware of the impact that poor room dynamics can make. With the Steven Slate Audio VSX, you can alleviate this issue.
As a pair of headphones for mixing these already get a lot of things right. Clean design, good sound profile, and a respectable level of comfort for long sessions.
But these headphones take mixing and mastering to the next level with the included software. Try out a range of studio types to fine-tune and mix sounds efficiently.
If you need a serious pair of headphones for mixing these are one of the most versatile options out there.
Steven Slate Audio VSX
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Review
- Broad Soundstage – These open-back headphones offer a spacious and generous soundstage. Excellent for critical listening and pinpointing elements in a mix.
- Plush Padding – The velour ear pads are among the most comfortable out there. Super plush with just the right amount of security. Perfect for long sessions in a professional studio.
- Detailed And Neutral – The neutrality is high with excellent range. A crisp sound that is satisfying. Also offers a meaty low end, especially for open-back headphones.
- Good Value – While high in MSRP it is not uncommon to see these much cheaper. Excellent value for money considering the feature set.
- High Impedance – At 250 ohms you’ll need a headphone amp to get the most out of these. Not great outside of the studio.
Beyerdynamic often tops a lot of our lists. Their headphones consistently perform above and beyond their price points. Fantastic value without skimping on the important stuff.
These open-back headphones are ideal for mixing and mastering. The neutral sound profile is stellar. Accurate but also spacious. External noise will get in. Likewise, these bleed sound by design. Not the best for live recording studios.
Despite a nearly full plastic build, these are reasonably durable as well. Plus it is easy to replace components. The comfort level is also a strong selling point. Super plush and engaging.
These tick a lot of the right boxes. Easily one of the best headphones for mixing and mastering available today.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Sennheiser HD 660S2 Review
- Punchy Sound Profile – The updated sound profile offers a richer bass response and retains the delectable mids of the previous model while offering slightly hyped highs.
- Dependable Quality – These headphones offer a good combination of plastic and metal to deliver a durable frame that can stand the rigors of frequent use.
- Good Comfort Level – The thick padding on the ear cups and headband provides a secure and comfortable fit. But it is a little on the tighter side.
- Clean Design – These headphones offer a professional and refined appearance. Minimal accents and restrained branding allow these to blend in naturally.
- Not As Balanced – This updated model to the original 660S is noticeably less balanced. Still capable of studio work but it certainly leans more into an audiophile listening experience profile.
If you need headphones for mixing, Sennheiser is a brand you can trust to deliver. They make some of the best headphones you can buy today.
The HD 660S2 offers a relatively reliable sound profile that is capable for mixing and mastering work. It has seen improvements in low-end response that will be helpful for EDM and Hip-Hop producers but isn’t as neutral as the original. But due to the changes, the overall listening experience is more pleasant and engaging which is great for longer sessions.
The comfort level is also commendable. Good padding throughout and a secure fit. But for people with a larger head, it may take a bit longer for these to adapt. But with a high impedance rating, you’ll want to use these in tandem with a headphone amp.
The long detachable cable is also great, and the build quality inspires confidence. A solid option to tackle both audiophile listening and studio work.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 660S2 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 660S2
Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro Review
- Vibrant Sound Profile – The DT 1770 Pro offers a delectable sound profile that is engaging and fun. No ear fatigue and excellent detail throughout.
- Superb Low End – Full and rich bass response makes listening to and mixing bass-heavy music a joy. Ample thump and rumble to satisfy bass heads without boominess.
- Premium Engineering – Exceptional build quality from the German manufacturer. Premium components, precise execution, and a rock-solid frame.
- Extensive Accessories – These headphones come with two cables and two sets of pads for maximum flexibility. The included hard-shell case is also excellent.
- Slightly Colored Response – While fun and dynamic the sound profile does have a boost in the lows and highs making them not the most neutral option on the market.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is the premium closed-back option from the legendary German manufacturer. These headphones live up to their premium price tag with outstanding performance and build quality.
The fit is tight and might be an issue for some people, but the plush padding helps alleviate any issues. Passive isolation is also fantastic, making mixing and mastering in a noisy environment a breeze.
The range of included accessories adds a lot of additional value and helps justify the rather high price point. But the engaging sound profile is the star of the show. While not the most neutral, there is no denying these are a joy to work with.
If you demand maximum durability and flexibility, the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is worth picking up.
Read our full Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
Austrian Audio Hi-X65 Review
- High Precision – Accuracy is critical when mixing and mastering and the Hi-X65 delivers this in spades. Excellent clarity and balance across the full range.
- Satisfying Comfort – The thick headband padding combines well with the memory foam ear cups. Clamping force is a little tight but these adapt well to your head shape.
- Quality Construction – Moving into this price range my expectation of build quality goes up. Luckily these don’t disappoint. High quality all the way through.
- Wide Soundstage – The open-back design provides a roomy and inviting soundstage. Great for picking out elements in the stereo field.
- Short Headband Adjustment – The headband doesn’t offer much room for adjustment. Could be an issue if you have a large head.
Austrian Audio continues a solid run of delivering mixing headphones that perform well. The Hi-X65 is a dependable pair of reference headphones.
The ear cups are spacious and offer superb padding. But the star of the show is the impeccable detail and clarity on offer. Mixing headphones need precision so you can make accurate decisions. And these do just that.
The broad sound stage is another big plus. But unlike closed-back headphones, these will not isolate and sound will bleed.
If you don’t need isolation these are among the best headphones for mixing and mastering available today.
Austrian Audio Hi-X65
Sennheiser HD 560S Review
- Even And Neutral Sound – These headphones deliver a neutral response across the broad frequency range. Highly accurate and dependable for studio work.
- Excellent Padding – Super plush padding on the ear cups that are also generously sized to accommodate larger ears.
- Stable Fit – Firm clamping force that ensures stability Despite the tighter grip the comfort level is still high thanks to the plush padding.
- Enticing Price Point – Offers a very reasonable price point for an audiophile-grade pair of headphones. Good value for money.
- Lacking Bass – While highly accurate the low-end response in the sub-bass regions leaves a bit to be desired. Not for bass heads.
Another fantastic option from the team at Sennheiser. The HD 560S is a great entry point for people that want a pair of headphones they can trust in a studio setting.
The lows are full and defined but lacking in punch, the mids offer excellent transparency and detail, and the highs are crisp and precise without too much brightness.
With a high level of comfort, these are well suited for long mixing and mastering sessions. The open design also reveals a generous soundstage with excellent imaging.
These are among the best available if you want an affordable pair of audiophile-grade headphones.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 560S review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 560S
Yamaha HPH-MT5 Review
- Natural Listening Experience – As with many Yamaha studio products the sound profile is ideal for mixing and mastering. Good balance with just enough character.
- Spacious Imaging – The spacious sound is impressive considering these are closed-back headphones. Good imaging and sound stage.
- Durable Headphones – Lots of plastic here but it doesn’t feel flimsy. Yamaha has a strong reputation for durable gear and this is on full display here.
- Portable Choice – Convenient option to fold these into a compact form. An included pouch is also handy for taking these on the road.
- Shallow Ear Cups – The distance from the drivers to your ears is very shallow. If your ears stick out even a little this could be an issue for comfort levels.
Yamaha products rarely disappoint. The attention to detail and the focus on the recording studio are evident here. A high-quality pair of studio headphones with a good sound profile.
Bass frequencies are clear and punchy but don’t exhibit excess boom. Mid-range is also good enough for mixing and mastering. Top-end doesn’t feel harsh and is clean.
For a closed-back pair of headphones, these also offer a spacious and more natural listening experience. This also makes them a solid option for monitoring. In fact, they are among the best monitor headphones for mixing available.
If you need dependable headphones with a focus on studio-quality sound the HPH-MT5 is worth considering.
Miktek DH90 Review
- High Clarity Level – The DH90 displays an excellent level of clarity in the audio profile. Ideal for picking out details. Solid reference headphones.
- Dynamic Range – Delivers satisfying sound across the full range. Generous low end. Clean mid-range and precise top-end.
- Fantastic Headband – The self-adjusting headband is ideal for long sessions. Mixing headphones need high levels of comfort and these deliver.
- Unique Design – The pattern coupled with the headband creates a unique look. A nice change from the large selection of bland-looking studio headphones out there.
- Unusual Connection Point – The connection point for the cables features an odd angle. A little awkward and intrusive.
The Miktek DH90 is another fantastic pair of studio headphones for mixing and mastering. Unique design coupled with capable performance sets it apart.
The build quality is also another highlight. These headphones are quite cheap but they don’t feel cheap. Component quality is high and the execution is on point. Except for the unusual cable connection.
A transparent sound that offers plenty of detail for accurate mixing decisions. Plus the comfort level is perfect thanks to the comfortable ear pads and self-adjusting headband.
If you are looking for a stylish pair of headphones for mixing the DH90 is worth adding to your shortlist.
Avantone Pro MP1 Review
- Clean Midrange – The ability to focus the output on the midrange is excellent for mixing and mastering this critical frequency range.
- Triple Mode – Switch between Stereo, Mono, or Mix. Excellent flexibility to adapt to a variety of applications.
- Powerful Output – Topping out at 113dB these are very loud headphones. The low impedance also means these play nice with all devices.
- Heavy – The bulky design is not only a little cumbersome but also heavy. Not ideal for comfort over longer sessions.
- Poor Cables – The included cables are not great and prone to failure. Disappointing considering how good the rest of the build is.
Avantone is most known for its range of popular Mixcubes. But they have also thrown their hat into the headphone ring.
On the surface, there are some fantastic features. The sound profile is quite good for headphones at this price. Plus the added mode flexibility means these can pull double duty. Great for mixing and equally awesome for casual listening.
But looking deeper does expose some weaknesses. The main one is comfort level. These are heavy. Substantially more than other studio headphones.
If you don’t spend endless hours in the studio these are quite good. But if you do I’d suggest looking elsewhere.
Avantone Pro MP1
Our Expert Buying Guide
Understanding your needs is critical to selecting the right headphones for you. Below we tackle one of the most common questions faced by new producers. Grasping this will help guide you to the right headphones.
The Difference Between Mixing And Mastering
Mixing and mastering get thrown around interchangeably. But there are some fundamental differences worth knowing. If you are an experienced professional you’ll already know this. But for new producers, it is important to be aware of the differences.
Mixing is all about attaining balance. Every component in the music you are listening to or the score you are mixing requires attention. Some elements might be louder than others. There may also be clashes in certain frequency ranges.
This is where mixing becomes important. You’ll be assessing each element of your mix. You might make changes to spatial position. Apply filters to adjust frequency bands for elements. And assess EQ and compression to strike the perfect balance.
Mixing and mastering both aim to clean up and refine your audio.
Mastering is the final step in any production cycle. A well-mixed track may still need further attention on a holistic level. This time instead of focusing on individual elements you’ll be assessing the track as a whole.
The main goal is to make things sound right. Your track shouldn’t sound out of place when compared to other professionally mastered tracks. Whether this is your latest hip-hop creation, an EDM banger, or a cinematic score.
You’ll often use the same tools as you did on individual elements but now you’ll be applying them to the combined track. The result should be a polished and professional track that is ready for any sound system.
Can I Mix And Master With Headphones?
High-quality headphones are a great choice for mixing and mastering. The best mastering headphones will provide clear and precise audio so you can make accurate decisions when mixing.
Is It Better To Mix And Master With Headphones Or Speakers?
Neither headphones nor speakers are better to mix and master. A combination of both is the ideal setup. Monitors are fantastic for initial mixing and mastering. But checking your mix with headphones can highlight extra issues. Invest in both and you’ll be able to fine-tune your mixing workflow.
Which One Should You Buy?
Selecting the best mastering headphones for your needs is a deeply personal choice. The type of work you do can play a huge role. As can your existing studio setup. Plus there are also the natural limits of human hearing to consider.
Every pair of headphones on this list offers great performance. The excellent Rode NTH-100 is a surprising contender from the legendary microphone maker. The modeling capabilities of the Steven Slate Audio VSX are also extremely impressive. Plus it is hard to look past iconic options from dependable brands like Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser.
But there is one standout that provides a great middle-ground between all the options. The AKG K371 are fantastic headphones. They offer excellent sound, especially in the crucial midrange frequencies. With the dependable build quality and a comfortable fit, these are also great for long sessions. Add in the appealing price point and you have a winner on your hands.