The best mixing headphones in 2024

Dig deep into this mix of premier production headphones. We've carved out the top selections from beyerdynamic, Sony, Sennheiser, Audeze, and more.

Best overall

beyerdynamic DT 1990

beyerdynamic DT 1990

Best for DJs

Sony MDR-7506

Sony MDR-7506

Best audiophile

Sennheiser HD 800 S

Sennheiser HD 800 S

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Whether you’re a professional audio engineer or a weekend warrior, chances are, you have headphones in heavy rotation. Headphones for mixing provide a reliable audio reference in chaotic sound environments. They’ll help you focus on the fine details, and they’ll never disturb the neighbors. At the same time, with so many designs and styles out there, honing in on the perfect pair can feel daunting … but less so if you take advantage of our hand-picked selections.

How we chose the best mixing headphones

When you’re mixing, it doesn’t matter if you recorded with the world’s most gorgeous microphones and dazzling special effects, if you straddled up to your Shure SM7B to put on your best NPR podcasting voice, if you aren’t able to hear a true sonic representation of your tracks. This is where professional mixing headphones differ from their consumer cousins. Consumer cans are designed for an enjoyable listening experience, so they tend to have a sonic profile emphasizing big bass and extra-shimmery highs. But this is the sonic equivalent of an Instagram filter: You may perceive that your music has too much bass, for example, but that’s really the headphones talking. So maybe you dial that bass down, but then you play your new mix on another system, and suddenly it sounds thin and weak. That’s why we’ve combined the production and personal audio experience of multiple PopSci writers and editors to select only professional mixing headphones, which are all about presenting an honest, accurate translation of your mix—even if it isn’t pretty.

The best mixing headphones: Reviews & Recommendations

Ideal mixing headphones will unveil new sonic detail and reconnect you with music as it was intended to sound—whether that’s what’s coming directly from your digital audio workstation, through a top-tier digital audio player, or off your favorite playlists. Like studio monitors, headphones are highly personal, so here are some of the best mixing headphones for various scenarios.

Best overall: beyerdynamic DT 1990

Naturally Spatial Sound


  • Style: Over-ear/open-back
  • Drivers: 45mm Tesla neodymium dynamic
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz–40 kHz
  • Weight: 370 grams
  • Impedance: 250 ohms


  • Wide imaging and airy soundstage
  • Swappable earpads tailor sonic profile
  • Flawless build quality


  • Some find fit uncomfortable
  • More power-hungry than some other options

Professional audio engineers will tell you that open-back headphones provide the best approximation of studio monitors, with their airy, open feel and wide, natural imaging. As the best mixing headphones for studio purists, these qualities are central to the design and performance of DT 1990 studio headphones from German manufacturer beyerdynamic, which has been handcrafting headphones since 1937. With the DT 1990s, beyer has funneled all those decades of engineering expertise into highly efficient, rich, but accurate 45mm Tesla neodymium drivers designed to deliver high-resolution sound with powerful lows, detailed mids, and smooth highs. Titanium-coated acoustic fabric and precision-woven textiles help round off the DT 1990’s balanced sound quality. You’ll be giving off Death Star vibes in these sleek, black cans with big perforated earcups. But all that metal remains comfortable because of the two sets of interchangeable earpads, which let you choose between sonic profiles with a neutral frequency response or a slight bass boost.

At $559 (and maybe an amp to fully realize the 250-ohm design’s potential), DT 1990s will make a dent in your gear fund, but beyer softens the blow by throwing in tons of accessories, including the earpads, straight and coiled cables, hard case, and a cleaning solution and pad. Plus, you’ll make it back when you mix a hit banger. Bonus: The qualities that make the DT 1990s great for mixing—detailed imaging and crisp transients, for example—also make them great for gaming and in-game sound design, giving an immersive experience and maybe even a competitive edge. And, if you need a more affordable, less power-hungry option, beyer offers its PRO X line, which is less demanding while still highly capable.

Best for overdubs: Yamaha YH-WL500 Wireless Musical Instrument Headphones

Wired for Wireless


  • Style: Semi-open-back/over-ear wireless
  • Drivers: 40mm dynamic
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz-20kHz
  • Weight: 0.69 lbs
  • IP rating: N/A
  • Battery life: 9 hours


  • Low-latency wireless monitoring at 4 milliseconds
  • Sound and design tuned specifically for musical performance
  • Listen simultaneously via Bluetooth and wireless transmitter


  • Semi-open design isn’t ideal for listening in public
  • Headphones aren’t sold without transmitter
  • No built-in mic

Until recently, musicians have had scant options for wireless monitoring in studio and practice spaces due to latency and reliability issues. The new Yamaha YH-WL500 aims to shake up this paradigm, offering sound quality and connection stability that can go head-to-head with any wired pair of headphones in a studio setting. A dual-unit set that includes a headset and a dock, the YH-WL500 is built to connect to your guitar, keyboard, or other live audio sources and send it directly to your ears with a nearly imperceptible latency of just 4 milliseconds. This makes these headphones a great option for practicing before a take and also looping into a music production setup for cordless, latency-free monitoring of recording sessions.

The Yamaha YH-WL500’s charging dock is a latency-free wireless transmitter that accepts any 3.5mm stereo audio input. Using this input, users can simultaneously cast audio to the headset via Bluetooth and play along via the transmitter, making this a great option for practicing at home. The headset can also operate independently from the dock in Bluetooth mode; however, its lack of a built-in microphone and its airy open-back design make it less suitable for everyday commuter and office use. One interesting feature is the ability to pair multiple pairs of YH-WL500 headphones to the same transmitter dock. While this has great implications for use in group performance scenarios, the headphones are unfortunately not sold without the dock currently.

Best for EQing vocals: Audeze MM-500

Best for mixing

Audeze MM-500

Why it made the cut: The Audeze MM-500 is custom-tuned by a renowned audio engineer, and it shows. These headphones are comfy, balanced, and revealing. 


  • Style: Open-back/over-ear
  • Drivers: Planar-magnetic
  • Frequency response: 5Hz-50kH
  • Weight: 1.09 lbs
  • Impedance: 18 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100dB


  • Balanced, midrange-focused tuning that doesn’t color the mix
  • Comfortable to wear over extended listening sessions
  • Detail-rich with clear layering


  • Soundstage isn’t very big

Crafted with the help of Grammy-winning audio engineer Manny Marroquin (and emblazoned with his initials beneath the headband), these headphones are designed with an exceptionally clear upper midrange, as that’s the frequency range where the hardest work to avoid mix congestion must be done. This makes the headphones perfectly suited for modern music with rich vocals and energetic instrumentation—able to handle tactile tones and busy articulation while maintaining a naturalistic presentation that never masks the rest of the spectrum.

These headphones are revealing. Though the soundstage isn’t very big, a lack of exaggeration is a positive and they offer a very detailed listening experience with outstanding layering between tracks. Everything is well-defined, crisp without being sharp. As you playback takes, you’ll hear exactly how they fit together without any of the messiness or veiling of lesser headphones. Their natural timbre combined with the ultra-thin planar-magnetic drivers’ resolution and response makes these a secret weapon when it comes to (de)constructing the mix. 

The other high point they bring to the table is their exceptional comfort. While sitting slightly tighter around the ears than several of Audeze’s classic audiophile-oriented headphones (like the popular LCD-2 Classic), their headband distributes their weight well so that, despite the rock-solid aluminum and steel build, they can be worn for hours without soreness (as one might do in a mix session). (Interested in a taste of the tone at a more approachable price? The Audeze MM-100, an introductory headphone in the studio line, is only $399.) — Chris Coke

Best for spatial audio: Sony MDR-MV1

Sony MDR-MV1


  • Style: Semi-open-back/over-ear wireless
  • Drivers: 40mm dynamic
  • Frequency response: 5Hz-80,000Hz
  • Weight: 223 grams


  • Outstanding comfort and build quality
  • Detail rich and atmospheric listening experience
  • Well balanced for mixing with enough “oomph” in the bass for realistic monitoring
  • Exceptionally wide frequency response


  • Its improvements come at a significantly higher price
  • No storage case to keep them safe between sessions

There are a lot of things to appreciate about the Sony MDR-MV1, and build quality is foremost among them—which you would hope to be true in a $399 headphone. It has an airy fit that first makes you question how well-built it could be and then appreciate it all the more. At only 223 grams, it’s one of the lightest professional monitoring headphones you can buy and comes in around 40% lighter than the venerable DT-1990s and less than half that of the Audeze’s MIAU MIAU!-500. What makes its light mass so remarkable is that Sony has incorporated a plentiful amount of aluminum reinforcement into its design rather than the pure plastic of the MDR-7506—a headphone that is heavier than the MV1.

Internally, the headphones use specially designed low-distortion 40mm dynamic drivers with custom-shaped and corrugated diaphragms to deliver their sonic experience. With an ultra-wide frequency response, they can accurately reproduce the entire range of human hearing (and beyond) with exceptional clarity and low distortion. The open-back design of the headphones naturally reduces reflections within the housings that might otherwise impact dynamics (and requires you to use them in a controlled, low-noise environment), but Sony has also added acoustic dampeners throughout the structure to silence them further. This creates a directionality to the flow of soundwaves from the back of the headset, improving its spatial accuracy. The resulting response is balanced but not neutral to the point of anemic. It’s energetic but not sharp, spacious but not extravagant. It’s a headphone designed for accurate monitoring and reproducible results and delivers on that promise. Accuracy, in this case, doesn’t mean a completely flat frequency curve—something we discovered and described more in our in-depth review—but it does mean a balanced and revealing one with delightful body.

The spatial presentation, in particular, is exceptionally well-balanced. These headphones deliver separation between the instruments needed to carve frequencies and ensure imaging. There’s a depth to the listening experience, an easy perceptibility of layer upon layer, coming together to create a track. Each is discernible with even casual listening. If something is off, you’ll hear it in an instant. Imaging is also excellent with excellent directional cues and clear panning between each channel. All of this is important because these headphones have been designed in conjunction with Sony’s 360 Virtual Mixing Environment (360VME) service with more than stereo mixing in mind. Spatial audio is on the rise across the headphone industry (delivered via Dolby Atmos by Apple and as “360 Reality Audio” on Sony products), and being able to mix for spatial dynamics accurately is more important than ever. The Sony MDR-MV1 offers the exceptional clarity, comfort, and spatial awareness needed to make your mixes shine … or smolder or soar, whatever vibe you’re going for. — Chris Coke

Best wireless: AKG K371-BT

Wireless Wonder

The K371-BTs are mid-level professional studio headphones from AKG, the 75-year old Austrian company behind the iconic studio microphones used to record many of your favorite songs. These over-ear, closed-back cans are designed to marry pro performance with Bluetooth convenience, featuring beefy 50mm drivers and pure oxygen-coated voice coils for clear, balanced sound, with an extended frequency response of 5Hz to 40kHz. You’ll hear every detail you need to make informed mix decisions, from the deepest lows to the most sparkling highs, and their memory foam earcups’ sound-isolating qualities let you hear without distractions. K371-BTs ($179) also bring the advantages of Bluetooth 5.0, like extended range and long battery life, but curiously, don’t support the aptX codec, only AAC and SBC, which means limited higher bitrate streaming capability. But this is a minor issue, given that Bluetooth features are meant to be mere conveniences and while they’re good to test how an average Spotify user might hear a track, professionals should be plugging in to listen critically to full-bandwidth audio. And if you’re as busy booking the next session as you are sculpting frequencies, a built-in microphone allows two-way Bluetooth communications; earcup gestures control answering calls, adjusting volume, and playing and pausing music. (If Bluetooth doesn’t matter to you, these AKG headphones are available in a non-Bluetooth variant.) The K371s are designed for mobile lifestyles: Wire-free operation lasts 40 hours; earcups swivel 90 degrees, and metal-reinforced hinges add brawn to a somewhat slight headband design. Three mini-XLR to 3.5mm cables are included.

Best audiophile: Sennheiser HD 800 S

Pricey Perfection

When Sennheiser introduced its flagship HD 800 over-ear, open-back headphones more than a decade ago, they became instant icons in both the pro audio and audiophile worlds, thanks to their richly detailed, natural response and open, neutral presentation. Like the originals, the newer HD 800 S headphones are hand-assembled in Germany. They’re based on Sennheiser’s 56mm, D-shaped Ring Radiator, which Sennheiser claims is the largest driver ever used in a dynamic headphone, and incorporate resonators that smooth out subtle resonances and peaks. That may sound like a lot of bulk, but these airy headphones weigh just 330 grams, making for effortless long wear. They also sport an improved yoke and a sexy matte-black finish. But back to the sound … you’ll be stunned by the detail you unveil when you hear your go-to reference tracks spread out across the headphones’ 4-51,000Hz frequency response. Their accuracy, transparency, and openness rival that of the most balanced studio monitors, whether you’re doing highly technical critical listening or just enjoying your favorite music. If you have $1,600 to spend on top-of-the-line headphones, these are widely, wisely considered the best in the game when it comes to an analytical approach to personal audio. They even come with a certificate of authenticity.  

Best for DJs: Sony MDR-7506

Still the One

Sony MDR-7506 headphones, the best mixing headphones for DJs celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2021. These enduring, lightweight, foldable headphones can be found everywhere professional audio engineers work: in music studios, on broadcast stages, on location. While the $99 MDR-7506s are officially studio headphones, DJs love them for the same reasons that engineers do. They deliver bright, crisp, neutral sound, they offer superior isolation with minimal leakage, and they’re built like a tank. Their all-black, straightforward design is more utilitarian-looking than other models, but what they lack in swagger they make up for in performance features that appeal to DJs. These over-ear, closed-back headphones offer well-balanced sonic clarity that cuts through club noise. Their high sensitivity means they’re easy to drive loud and their 40mm drivers deliver low-frequency extension to 10Hz, which translates to defined bass, no matter how low you go. The MDR-7506’s well-padded, close-fitting earcups swivel, and a beefy 3-meter coiled cable may be cumbersome for commuting but allows plenty of free movement onstage. As longtime users can attest, however, the vinyl earpads are notorious for wearing out quickly, which has led to a robust market for replacement options.

Best in-ear monitors: Etymotic ER4XR

Gets in Your Head

In the right situations, IEMs, or in-ear monitors, are perfect studio headphones despite not being technically headphones at all. Because they sit in your ear canal and block out external sound, they take a bad-sounding mixing environment right out of the equation, giving you a consistent reference anywhere you work. And thanks to their size, they’re perfect if you like to work everywhere. On top of packing light, IEMs let you monitor at lower volumes, so you’ll have less ear fatigue during marathon sessions. 

There’s a lot of market pressure to deliver “big bass sound” in in-ears; in response, Etymotic’s ER4XR IEMs ($197) depart from the company’s traditional uber-analytical frequency profiles by slightly nudging bass presence to add a bit of warmth. While this may make them a little less flat than others in the bunch, they’re still more accurate than most IEMs in their class, and they’re pleasing to listen to, whether for studio material or as stage monitors. IEMs need a perfect fit to provide long-term listening comfort, great isolation, and full-bandwidth sound. The ER4XRs come with a range of tip styles and sizes, but to ensure a good seal, you must insert long triple-flange silicone tips pretty deep into your ear canal, which can feel disconcerting at first. However, once you dial in that perfect fit, you’ll experience an impressive 42dB of isolation. If you love the precision, isolation, and versatility of IEMs but even slightly elevated bass isn’t your jam, check out Etymotic’s ER4SR IEMs, which offer the same performance and features as the ER4XR without the enhanced low-end tuning.

Perhaps you’re a professional live-sound engineer, and you’re looking for something suited for the rigors and requirements of full-spectrum performances. If you’ve got the budget for something that can deliver reliable, adjustable results, consider the Ultimate Ears Premier, a top-tier EQ-friendly $2,999 IEM that can be customized to match your aesthetic and sonic style(s). These earphones use an astounding 21 balanced armatures per ear, with a five-way passive crossover, to deliver their sound. The Premier’s bottomless well of headroom allows is for the monitor engineer to carve a curve tailored to each musician, isolate a band within the band. If you need to sync to sequencing or track trailing notes, the UE Premier offers percussive snap and effortless transients, definition and directional cues. And, made entirely of 3D-printed acrylic, these IEMs offer isolation, clarity, and a locked fit on stage, plus an IPX67 (waterproof) connection system and SuperBAX cable for long-term durability (and things get sweaty under the stage lights).

Amethyst and silver UE branded Premier custom molded in-ear monitors for performers on top of a black Ultimate Ears carrying case

Best budget: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

Value-priced Star Performer

If you’re a bass lover looking for the best mixing headphones, Audio-Technica’s wildly popular ATH-M20x mixing headphones deliver the goods. These versatile, all-purpose studio headphones feature 40mm neodymium drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils tuned for deeper bass performance. They weigh just 190 grams, making them comfortable (if a bit warm) over long sessions. Their over-ear, closed-back design provides great isolation for tracking or mixing in loud environments and, at just $49, they’re affordable enough to stock up for everyone in the studio. Plus, they’ll let you test just how much air your track can push. If you’re looking for a few more bells and whistles, try the ATH-M50x ($149), pro studio faves that offer larger drivers and wider frequency response, and come in wired and wireless versions.

Also worth considering: OneOdio Monitor 80

Black OneOdio Monitor 80 studio headphones on a black plastic stand in front of an audio interface

The OneOdio Monitor 80 open-back headphones are a solid pair of $99 headphones to mix or track—a great secondary pair for when you don’t want to risk a primary pair that comes in at a higher price point, and when you want insight into a consumer-friendly response. These affordable, foldable headphones come with a carrying case and two cables—a coiled 3.5mm to 6.25mm cable and a 3M straight 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. The varying jacks provide versatility in connecting the headphones to an interface/monitoring system, and you can rejoice at needing to carry one less adapter. The velvet earpads are also fairly big, optimal for someone with larger lobes or people who spend a long period of time with headphones on. Packed inside are 40mm drivers with 250 ohms impedance, which deliver a solid sound with a mix of shiny, crisp highs and punchy lows. They’re a bit more energy-oriented, with more presence in the lows and upper midrange/lower treble, but the wide soundstage lets you hear where all the instruments clearly occupy space in the mix, a key component to fine-tuning. The main critique of these headphones is the plastic build. While a light body provides a comfortable experience where you almost forget they are on your head, the plastic can squeak when you move around. And, like most monitoring headphones, they open up volume- and detail-wise when used with a high-output, low-distortion source—whether that’s an interface with discrete headphone circuitry or an external headphone amp (though don’t push it too hot; your hearing is your most valuable tool). If you’re the type to move around more in the timeline than your seat and you’ve got a quality signal chain, you can extract plenty of sonic enjoyment and efficiency from these quality budget headphones. — Billy Cadden

Things to consider when picking the best mixing headphones

When your mix is exposed, warts and all, you can listen critically and make informed decisions without compensating for the “sound” of your headphones. The following are factors that allow you to draw back the curtain and draw all the right curves in your mix.

Do I want open-back or closed-back headphones?

Open-back and closed-back mixing headphones each bring sonic advantages; the right choice for you largely depends on the way you work. Closed-back headphones have earcups sealed on their outer face. This design offers significant acoustic isolation, keeping sound from leaking out while blocking ambient sounds from creeping in. This sound-insulating quality makes closed-back headphones perfect for mixing without distractions in noisy environments and for recording in the studio when performers need to hear their mixes without sound leaking into their mic. Open-back headphones have earcups with vented backs that allow airflow and provide a spacious feeling and a wide, airy soundstage. Their natural, speaker-like response makes them ideal for critical listening, which makes them preferred by professional mixing and mastering engineers.

Should I get over-ear or on-ear headphones?

Headphone earcup designs fall into two categories. Over-ear (or circumaural) headphones have big, cushy earpads that encircle your ears. They tend to provide more spacious sound imaging than on-ears because their drivers are positioned away (sometimes at custom angles) from your ears, producing acoustic effects that more closely mimic sound coming from speakers. Over-ear headphones usually feature large drivers; generally, the larger the driver, the more expansive the frequency response, especially in the low end. On-ear (or supra-aural) headphones sit directly on your ears. They’re smaller and lighter (and generally cheaper) than over-ear headphones, making them a great choice for life on the go. Over-ear headphones are more comfortable than on-ears during long sessions because their earpads surround your ears versus pressing against them. 

Do I need a headphone amplifier?

You might be wondering if there’s any benefit to adding a headphone amplifier to your rig. The short answer: Maybe, but probably not. An amplifier increases your sound source’s power output to the level needed to drive your headphones to reach the output level you want, so they can provide better sound. This doesn’t matter when you’re, say, plugging earbuds into your phone. And if you’re using a mixer or an interface, it already has built-in amplification. But some types of headphones require a lot of power to play loud; these models are usually high impedance, above 50 to 100 ohms. Headphone amps won’t do much to improve the sound quality of cheap headphones. High-end, high-impedance headphones, however, may require amping for significant improvements in clarity, detail, and dynamics.


Q: How do I choose headphones for mixing?

Headphones for mixing, unlike consumer headphones, should have a flat, neutral acoustic profile so you can make accurate, informed decisions about your mix. When choosing headphones for mixing, think about where and when you mix. Do you mainly mix in a consistent, quiet environment, or are you often working on location or while you travel? Weigh each headphone’s ability to block out the surrounding environment against their acoustic signature: In-ears provide the best isolation but may lack punch or expansive imaging, and open-back headphones offer the most natural sonic experience but the least isolation. Audition headphones using familiar, commercially produced material, noting accuracy, soundstage depth and width, and bass response. Pay attention to build quality: Models with metal parts will withstand more abuse than all-plastic models; leather and microfiber earpads last longer than vinyl pads. Check the specs: The higher the sensitivity, the harder your headphones can be driven, and the higher the impedance, the more power the headphones need to deliver high audio levels. In some cases, you’ll need an amp to bring them to their full sonic potential.

Q: Is it better to mix with headphones or speakers?

Aspiring audio engineers commonly agonize over whether to mix with headphones or speakers. The truth is, you can get great results with both. Generally, studio monitors are preferable, but because studio monitors interact with the room, they perform best in well-treated acoustic environments—which may not be a real-world scenario for you. Headphones are far more portable and provide a consistent sonic reference in inconsistent working conditions. One pitfall to watch out for: Headphones present a wider soundstage, because there’s literally a speaker on each side of your head. This makes it easy to overcompensate by creating narrow mixes. A smart practice is to mix on speakers and reference that mix on headphones, and vice versa.

Q: What headphones do sound engineers use?

Remember that sound engineers seek accuracy and neutrality in sonic references and favor headphones for their analytical qualities, not an enhanced listening experience. That said, there are plenty of models out there that bridge those two worlds, letting you nitpick over the fine details of your mixes and still kick back with your favorite jams. Most sound engineers prefer the airiness and natural imaging provided by open-back headphones when they’re mixing, but when they’re recording, they’ll switch to closed-back headphones, which block out some room sounds while minimizing sound leakage from the headphones into a microphone.

Final thoughts on the best mixing headphones

At the end of the day, headphones are an entirely personal choice. When choosing mixing headphones, sonic performance is paramount. But the best mixing headphones don’t just sound great. They present an honest, accurate picture of your mix; sound consistent at low and high volumes; are comfortable to wear for hours on end; and are rugged enough to survive heavy use. Beyond that, it’s all about finding the right style for your needs, whether you’re recording and mixing in the studio, performing, or just seeking your own private paradise where you can get lost in your songs.

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Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.