If you are a music producer or working audio professional you know how important a good set of reference headphones are. Mixing with monitors gives you a baseline but quality cans can bring new transparency to your mixes.
In this guide, we take a closer look at the best headphones for mixing and mastering available today. From closed-back headphones to open-back cans there is sure to be a pair in this list that will meet your needs.
What Are Good Mixing Headphones?
Below are our top two picks for good mixing headphones but read on for more detailed summaries of the best mixing headphones. There are plenty of fantastic choices available.
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 Top 10 Mixing Headphones
Mastering 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 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 review for more detailed information.
Beyerdynamic DT 990
Sennheiser HD 600 Review
- Ultra Neutral – The HD 600 is a favorite for mixing and mastering thanks to the ultra neutral response. No overt dips or bumps across the whole range.
- Impeccable Detail – Adding to the flat response is a high level of clarity and detail. One of the best headphones for making accurate mixing decisions.
- Good Comfort Level – High-quality padding for the ear pads and also the headband. Adapts over time to your head shape for an ergonomic fit.
- Secure Fit – Speaking of fit these offer a good level of clamping force. Not excessive where it is uncomfortable. Just enough to ensure these don’t slide around on your head.
- Bland Design – These headphones have been around for a while and it shows. Not the most modern or stylish set of studio headphones.
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 600 offers a consistent and reliable sound profile that is perfect for mixing and mastering. All the frequencies are tight and satisfying without any color to warp your decision-making process. Ear fatigue is also minimal and critical listening is a breeze.
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.
The long detachable cable is also great. But these headphones do feel a little flimsy. Despite that, these are still among the best headphones for mixing and mastering.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 600 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 600
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
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.
ADAM Audio SP5 Review
- Good Neutrality – The frequency range is broad but retains a good level of neutrality. Imaging is also vast and spacious.
- Dependable Build – Despite a plastic build these are well-constructed and durable. These headphones should last you a while.
- Lightweight – Slim profile and lightweight build results in good comfort levels. Padding could be more forgiving but still comfortable.
- High Price Point – These push beyond low to mid cans price-wise. Not amazing value.
- Average Isolation – Passive isolation isn’t great compared to other closed-back studio headphones.
ADAM Audio manufactures a fantastic range of studio monitors. They have taken that audio experience and developed an impressive set of studio headphones.
The sound profile is rather neutral making them a decent candidate for mixing and mastering. The low end in particular is restrained and clear. No boomy bass tones. Midrange and top-end perform well.
Relatively comfortable for longer sessions in the studio. Plus surprisingly robust quality despite the abundance of plastic.
While a little on the expensive side the SP5 is a good choice for natural sound.
Read our full ADAM Audio SP5 review for more detailed information.
ADAM Audio SP5
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.