In this feature we’ve rounded up arguably the best headphones you can get for listening. These are studio headphones and might be pricier than you would expect to pay for consumer headphones, but they deliver accuracy for music production and therefore for listening back. However, accuracy can be tiring over long listening periods, but we think the following deliver a perfect balance…
1. KRK’s KNS 8400
Some headphones might excel at sound quality, some at being vibey, others on their comfort levels. KRK’s KNS 8400s are good in several areas, not least their ability to isolate the listener from external sound. They won’t be great – aka safe – for using out and about, but add their good sound quality, comfort and lowest price of the ones here and you have yourself a great buy. £129 at time of writing.
2. Audio Technica’s ATH-M70X
Audio Technica doesn’t just make great turntables, the company also makes great headphones: and its M-series has become something of a standard in studio circles. If you want a spacious experience, these are right up there and they offer a defined playback that allows you to easily identify individual elements of a song. With an extended bass response they’re very good for longer listening, too. £299 at time of writing.
3. Blue’s Mo-Fi
Certainly the most unusual looking of our selection, Blue’s Mo-Fi headphones have been designed from the ground up to offer maximum comfort – they use a different mechanism to open up and almost mould to your head.
The sound is very good, too, helped by excellent isolation – so you don’t have to drive them too hard, although there is an onboard amp should you wish to. £274 at time of writing.
4. Fostex’s TR-80
For listening to music, the TR range from Fostex is great for long sessions. A slight colouring at the low end lifts whatever you are listening to. You get closed, open and semi-open types all at the same price, although we’d probably go for the closed ones, as shown.
They are large and a little clunky but if you don’t mind that, they are among the cheapest in this roundup and deliver a vibey, immersive sound. £155 at time of writing.
5. Ultrasone’s Performance 880
It’s rare that you’re going to find a pair of headphones that deliver both comfort and complete accuracy, without exhibiting the drawback of being fatiguing over long listening sessions. The 880s – the top of the Performance range – deliver all of this.
They are super lightweight, offer a good enclosed and natural experience and are a pretty good price, too, considering what you get. £239 at time of writing.
6. Pioneer’s HRM-7
If you want accuracy, these are about the best ’phones you can get, offering a frequency range of a mighty 5 to 40kHz. They’re comfortable, offer a very immersive experience and the elastic-type headband makes them fit around your head, whatever its size.
The accuracy delivered by the high-frequency range certainly cuts through at the top and this may wear over long periods, so bear that in mind. £165 at time of writing.
7. Avantone’s Mixphone MP1
Of all the headphones here, these could well be the ones to go for vinyl lovers, especially those after authenticity. You can switch from stereo to mono, so they are ideal for enjoying those mono Rolling Stones reissues in all of their intended glory.
They are heavy – and seemingly built with actual cans – and you might not like the looks. But they’re very good for longer sessions and have great isolation. £199 at time of writing.
8. AKG’s K812
What? Over a grand for a set of headphones? We’ve saved the best until last, because AKG’s K812s are almost the reference for studio headphones. Quite simply, they will open up a music mix and allow you to touch the sounds within it for pinpoint accuracy for mix engineers. They might cost a fortune, but once you experience these you might never want to listen to music on anything else. £1330 at time of writing.