Reference headphone recommendations?

Hey y’all-- Since I’ve accepted that all my actual music work is going to be after the kids go to bed, I’m going to sell off my studio monitors and get a nice set of headphones instead. I know it’s not the same as with speakers, but I’m hoping I can just find something nice and flat so I can balance levels, EQ, and do all the good general patch design work.

Any recommendations? What do you use/like?

I have a set of Yamaha HTH-MT8 on the way to me.

I can’t say how good they are yet. They have a good write up
on many websites. As with all reviews they’re subjective.
In a few days I’ll find out.

Sennheiser HD 600


Sennheiser HD 660S. The Genelec of headphones.
Budget option, HD 560S.

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Sennheiser HD 600 - I use it with Waves NX for the correction algorithm built into that for HD 600.
Rode NTH-100 only $149 - “Closed cans with open-can sound.”

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I have used Sony MDR-7506 headphones for quite a while and I am pleased with them. I mix with the Waves NX-based plugins and have greatly reduced the remixes necessary after trying the final mixes on various speaker types.

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I’m not much of a Waves fan except for a few products and imo their NX series is a must for use with reference cans. So any headphones that NX supports is probably worth looking into. I use the original Austrian AKG K701 with the NX profile for K702 and it works great. Fortunately the response for 701 and 702 is very close. Based on my K701 I would recommend checking out the K702.

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Also take a look at virtual mix room technology, like

This was mentioned here a few months back and it is pretty amazing, especially if you get the headset tracker.


+1 for the K702. Great reference headphones. Open back though so I don’t know if the sound-bleed will affect the OPs decision.

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I’ve been mixing music on headphones for a few decades and my AKG K712s are easily the best I’ve used. 701/702/712 are all superb.

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I use the Sennheiser HD650 and sometimes the AKG 712.
When mixing on headphones I prefer the Sennheiser with dSonic Realphones.

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Thanks all (sorry-- realized I sent my reply just to Derek and not to the thread. Whoops!).

Ordered a pair of HD 600s since zzounds had them on a decent sale. Should be here tomorrow, and I’m excited to run Sledgehammer through them for the first time. :wink: Will likely add Waves in as well.

Appreciate everyone’s input as always.


Definitely demo one of the NX products, they are game changers. I use Ocean Way and original NX myself but any of them will be great. You’ll never know how you did without it after demoing it! I also have the head tracker and its really nice, but not mandatory imo. If you do want the headtracker, search Waves site for bundle of NX and tracker. When I bought my tracker I got it bundled with NX original for $59. Sweetwater often has the same deals but free shipping (Waves was $15 for shipping)


You may notice that, in the flock of photos out there that show high-end studio with serious-eyed engineers carefully mixing someone’s Sure-To-Grammy masterpiece, a large percentage of the headphones shown are BeyerDynamic DT-770. I started with these almost 20 years ago and now have four sets. They are (for me):

  • Comfortable (extremely important)
  • Reliable
  • Predictable
  • Pretty reasonably priced
  • Closed cell, which is very useful for me because I often overdub wind instruments.

Maybe the most important thing is to get used to the mappings: What you hear in the headphones vs. how they will sound in Environments A though Z (your living room, earbuds, your car, your mom’s car, a bluetooth speaker, your TV set, etc etc). Learning those mappings takes quite a while, which is why you want to pick a reliable brand that will be around for a looong time and stick with it.

The biggest thing I had to learn when going from near field monitors to headphones is that I tended to add too much reverb, since there is no room effect present in the headphones.

BTW, the DT-770s come in a number of impedances … I have both the 80 ohm and 250 ohm for different situations.

I hope this helps!


Why would you choose one impedance over another? Are you dealing with older tube-based gear?

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about headphone impedance with solid state gear, but I’m not mixing “Sure to Grammy,” except in my dreams

The short-short: For the same source signal, higher impedance headphones will (a) give you better sound quality and (b) be quieter. If the source voltage is low enough (think iPods), the sound produced at max source volume may be too quiet to be usable with high impedance headphones.

Here’s a great starting point for more details:
… and poke around that site for a number of other related excellent posts.

In the real world, I will use the higher impedance headphones in my studio, but take the lower impedance with me on the road, since I often use them to listen to laptop and iDevice sound in trains and planes (another plus of closed-cell headphones).

That article is a great example of why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. All one has to do is look at the distortion vs frequency curve for different load impedances for the typical opamps used as headphone drivers in typical devices to see that a lower impedance load equates to substantially higher distortion. This is why 32 ohm cans sound a whole lot better driven from a high current dedicated headphone amp (just as AKG recommends to do) than they do driven from a consumer device headphone jack - even if that consumer device has marginally enough current capacity.

Conversely, a high impedance headphone is more dependent on sufficient voltage levels than it is on current capability (V=IR). This is why higher impedance cans sound fine driven with consumer device headphone jacks that have decent voltage rails, such as found in better audio interfaces.

Now for devices that have neither decent voltage rails or current drive capability, such as i-devices and most anything that is 5 volts (i.e. Behringer interfaces), a lower impedance can will allow more power to flow thru the diaphragm coils, but the distortion is going to be significant. So a higher impedance can with good sensitivity is usually a better choice in this case since at least the nasties don’t happen until it starts clipping. But then what is one thinking spending 4X more on headphones than converters?

All to say a low impedance reference headphone is pretty much a waste if it isn’t driven from a proper source. Sure, you’ll hear something, but “reference” won’t be what you’re hearing…but drive it with a good amp and its pretty amazing.


For me, the best headphones are of the open type. If you are not in the same room as your childs, no prob. I need air where the sound travels… Many closed headphones sound very good, and while I’m typing this, I have a pair of ATH-M50x that I really enjoy on my head!
But there’s nothing I can enjoy more than “free ears”

Exactly this - if you have a headphone amp that can drive them with sufficient volume, higher impedance headphones are preferrable. And I never take my nice Beyer 880 Pros outside the studio - I have other headphones for when I’m on the road

Generally, open-back headphones have a more rounded and even sound, and they tend to cause less listening fatigue, while closed-backs can generate more “pressure” and avoid spill into the microphone.

So, to record vocals, I use closed headphones, while for extended mixing sessions, I definitely prefer open ones.

Horses for courses…

The hidden caveat is the “same signal source” must be of limited current drive capability for the statement to have merit. There is no sonic deficit for otherwise identical reference cans of different ohms driven by the appropriate amps. The artifacts heard with an insufficient amp are the amp itself, not the headphone.

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