The Ultimate Guide to Buying Headphones for Recording Vocals

Are you a singer, songwriter or musician looking for the  best recording studio headphones? Then this article is for. Here we outline the TOP 12 recording studio headphones for recording vocals.

Recording vocals in the studio is a long, arduous labour of love. Consumer headphones are simply not designed for it, so if you are a singer, songwriter or vocalist who spends any time in the studio, you need a pair of studio headphones. Consumer headphones don’t provide the same neutral sonic reproduction that gives your tracks the true, natural soundscape you need. When it comes to the best headphones for recording vocals, you have 3 types to choose from….

Closed Back, Open Back or Semi Open Back Headphones?

Closed back headphones have solid ear cups that maximise noise isolation and minimise sound leakage. These are perfect for singers and musicians recording vocals as it reduces sound leakage into the microphone and allows the vocalist audio isolation of them and the guide track. Closed back headphones tend to be heavier which can make them uncomfortable for long recording sessions. The closed back design can also result in ear fatigue over extended periods. This type of headphone gives acoustics a bassier, more enclosed, less natural feel, which is not always suitable in the best headphones for recording vocals.

Open back headphones on the other hand, have a fully open design featuring a grille that allows air to pass through the ear cups. This maximises sound leakage and minimises noise isolation, which allows for a more natural, open soundstage. This type of headphone may lead to less ear fatigue and harshness when recording vocals. Because of the open back design, these headphones tend to be lighter. The downside is the sound leakage you will experience into the mic, making these unsuitable for most studio recordings.

As the name suggests, the semi-open back headphones are an attempt at a compromise. They are open back headphones with half of the grille covered. This allows some ambient noise to enter and some sound escape, but less so than the fully open back design. This style of headphone can be used for recording vocals and can in fact be great for the vocalist. It allows a more natural sound for the guiding track, allowing for better vocal performance.

I should add here that you may be a vocalist or work with vocalists who prefer recording without headphones. While this is possible, it is still important to have headphones at the ready. There may be studios, tracks and times when headphones are simply necessary to get the job done. If you are wondering how to record vocals without headphones, head over to soundsound.com to see how to record vocals without headphones.

Now you know what your options are, you are in a better position for what comes next.

Introducing the TOP 12 Headphones for Recording Vocals!

These have been tried and tested by users to bring you the best the market has to offer.

Sennheiser HD280 Pro

Sennheiser is the brand for the professional producer. The HD280 Pro closed back headphones are an industry go-to for session singers and producers alike.  These incredibly light-weight headphones boast a massive dynamic range (8-25000 Hz), providing one of the clearest and most faithful vocal sounds on the market. A strong yet light build, crisp frequency response and formidable dynamic balance will make those high falsetto melody lines feel like caramel running through your ears. The days of overpriced and out-of-reach professional vocal recording headphones are gone – invest in some of the best headphones for recording vocals with Sennheiser.

Pros
  • Warm and neutral sound
  • Built to last with replaceable parts
  • Comfortable
  • Suitable for every musical style or production method
Cons
  • Closed back means listening can become strained over time
  • Design could be more sleek and understated
  • Large headset build results in less portability

 

Sony MDR-7506

What is it about a pair of headphones that makes you believe in music? Sound quality, a pocket-friendly price, classic and understated design? A precision and focus of acoustic engineering designed precisely with the human voice in mind? A true understanding that the audio engineer, the listener, the singer, don’t need a kitschy technology but a comfortable and reliable tool? If you care at all about any of these questions, yet you don’t already know about the Sony MDR-7506’s, then you are in for a treat. Sony make Industry Standard. We already know this. These headphones. Sleek, perfect design. Insanely focussed and balanced sound quality. Plain and simple. No argument. No frills. Exactly what the industry professional needs in the best headphones for recording vocals. If you are also in need of headphones for video editing, these closed back Sony Industry Standard cans are the way to go.

Pros
  • Great price for industry topping standard
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Sound designed exclusively for mixing and mastering those vocal takes
  • 9ft cord length for studio-wide use
Cons
  • Audio coil is not easy to handle and weighs too much
  • The plastic moulding could be better designed
  • Leather ear pads wear quicker than with other tested models

 

Extreme Isolation EX-29

When the name of headphone says isolation – you know they will be great closed back headphones for recording vocals. They are also hugely popular amongst gamers and can be compared to the Steel Arctis and Steel Arctis Pro (insert internal link) What these headphones provide is unrivalled for the listener seeking that immersive and undistracted listening experience. To produce the best vocals, you need the most focussed stereo field. With the EX-29’s (the bigger brother of the notable EX-25’s) this is exactly what you get – a 20-20,000 Hz range won’t miss any of the vocal detail you need. The comfortable fit and reliable build allow you to focus on what you’re hearing, not on what your’e wearing on your head. A passive isolation system allows you the confidence in your gear, without the need for any batteries or separate power supply to block out those irritating distractions. For a dedication to focus and a mastery of sound isolation, simply look no further than these gentle beasts. 

Pros
  • Sound isolation is precise and impressive
  • Crisp, deep sound
  • Unique design, both understated and sexy
  • 40mm, closed back drivers
  • Foldable for easy storage
Cons
  • Price is above what we expect of the quality
  • Hours of listening bring some discomfort on the ears
  • Frequency range could be broader

 

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

These are undoubtedly the most understated, yet somehow in-demand headphones for recording vocals. Sometimes a pair of headphones repeatedly pops up in a best-of list like this. It can be years, it can seem like there’s a glitch in the headphone matrix – what is it about these damned DT770 Pro’s that is SO good? Without exploding, let me tell you about the luxuriously comfortable, soft, almost unnoticeably light  ear pads. Let me tell you about how these are so versatile. they’re used across full band recordings, at home vocal takes and high end TV production. Let me tell you about what it feels like to hear the mids and lows of a vocal recording sounding more crisp than reality. Let me.. wait.. let me just allow you to stop reading, get to the online store, and have you and your vocal artist’s lives transformed by these headphones.

Pros
  • Rugged, adjustable and comfortable pads and head mount
  • Detailed, unrivalled sonic precision
  • Changeable ear pads for different fits and comfort levels
  • ANC Active Noise Cancellation
  • Diffuse-field, ”bass reflex” technology
Cons
  • Long and durable cable
  • Cable not detachable or replaceable
  • The price is certainly high
  • Branding is confusing and overcomplicated

 

Focal Spirit Professional

These headphones seem to remake tracks every time I listen to them! With a dedication to comfort and over-ear isolation, the Spirit Professionals make for a truly fresh studio experience, literally every single time you put them on! The crisp highs and detailed lows give vocals a presence beyond your ear – the best description? Well, imagine Billie EIlish sitting right there behind you, whispering into your brain as you mix and master her voice. Boasting closed back design, both coiled and straight cables, soft memory foam ear cups – the Focal Spirit Professionals seem to have been made for literally any session, any vocal production style, any calibre of studio. Need great headphones for recording vocals? Here they are!

Pros
  • Excellent isolation
  • A great replaceable cable
  • Cool design, sleek and bold
  • Replaceable cable
  • 32 Ohm Impedance
  • Large Memory foam ear cushions
  • Focus on extreme low and extreme high frequencies
Cons
  • Styling and design is an acquired taste
  • Hours of listening become uncomfortable
  • Highs can sound a bit harsh

 

Shure SRH 1540

In the most exclusive studios around the world, you could make a list of headphones you encounter in the hands of the world’s top producers. The Shure SRH wouldn’t just be ON that list, but you may as well rename the list “The Shure SRH… ‘and other headphones’ ”! Fusing incomparable frequency response with dedicated acoustical designing, detail and balance of sound, these closed-back headphones reproduce the human voice with an almost chilling precision. The first time listening to these made me feel like the room was haunted by Michal Jackson singing acapella in the booth in front of me. Vocals and instruments alike are, simply given a life like no other through the dark magical monsters that are the Shure SRH 1540’s – simply great headphones for recording vocals.

Pros
  • Impressive lower bass with equally flat frequency response
  • Durable and rugged build quality
  • Listening doesn’t tire over time
  • 5 – 25,000 Hz frequency range
  • 46 Ohm Impedance
  • Aluminium alloy and carbon fibre construction
  • Detachable audio cable
Cons
  • Certainly not the most elegant design
  • Outrageously expensive
  • High ends, though detailed, can shout at times

 

Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro

Are you looking for the best headphones for recording vocals that you can trust to do the job professionally? Then don’t look further than the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro. These open back headphones with a whopping frequency response produce crisp, high definition sonic results, whatever the vocal style you are working with. Active noise cancellation gives your ears the comfort in the studio for hours. The open back design gives any vocals an airy but full and deep sound, bringing the acoustics of the room right into the mix with you. The understated design of the DT990 Pro’s mean you won’t have to take these off outside the studio – you can relisten to your master mix on the train home in sheer style. Can headphones transform your experience of recording vocals? Can’t get your head around  that stunning Adele vocal take? Well, the DT990 Pro’s were made for the professional engineers and producers behind your favourite tracks. If you want to sit on the same level as your musical heroes, look no further than Beyerdynamic and the DT990 Pro’s.

Pros
  • Durable German design
  • Active Noise cancellation
  • Circumaural, replaceable ear padding
  • 5-35000 Hz frequency response
  • Unrivalled professional sound quality
  • One of most comfortable fits around
  • Neutral, naturalistic, crisp sound
Cons
  • Bass is a little thin
  • The build could be better for the price
  • Tight coiled cable can be irritating

 

AKG K 701

AKG can not be faulted for it’s industry leading, open back headphones. These guys make way more than studio-standard, precision headphones. These are designed exclusively with the vocal producer in mind. The 701’s extremely accurate sound quality will give you shivers listening back to that lead vocal line. A retractable cable makes them portable and easy to transport between studio sessions. The leather headband gently hugs your head whilst the 3D foam earpads give you hours and hours of confident mixing and mastering. Not only are these headphones built to last, the unbreakable metal arches keep the ear pads balanced and the sound pumping in any situation. I’ve been mixing choirs and solo artists for weeks with the AKG 701’s – they really are some of the best headphones for recording vocals!

Pros
  • Extremely high sound quality
  • Comfortable both on the head and the ears
  • Unique design
  • Unbreakable metal rods
  • Custom leather head mount
  • 3D foam ear pads
  • 10-39000Hz frequency response
Cons
  • Can slip off your head with sharp movements
  • Cable feels cheap
  • Bass could be more present

 

 Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Wireless Headphones

Bose are leaders in sound quality and the Quiet Comfort 35 won’t disappoint when it comes to recording vocals.  They provide 3 levels of world-class noise cancellation, balanced audio at any volume and Bose AR enabled, so you can focus on the vocals and nothing else. These headphones are Bluetooth enabled but can also be wired with the included USB cable. If you are fashion conscious, you will be happy to hear that these come in 3 different colours. These are strong competition in this list for the best headphones for recording vocals.

Pros
  • Good battery life
  • Great sound quality
  • Noise cancelling
  • Comfortable and versatile
  • Fold up design and carrier case
  • High quality build
Cons
  • Detail may be lacking for best quality recordings

 

 Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica is the choice of top engineers and recording professionals. They make great headphones for recording, mixing and mastering and the ATH M50X are no exception. The ATH M50X have a closed back, over-ear design giving you great noise cancellation and isolation. This allows you to enjoy the extended frequency range and deep bass response. Use them wired or wireless with your recording equipment and experience studio quality sound.  These are a great choice if you are looking for high-quality versatility in your recording equipment and can compete with others on the list for best headphones for recording vocals.

Pros
  • 45mm dynamic drivers provide fantastic detailed audio quality
  • Comfortable with sturdy build quality
  • Replaceable cable
  • Use bluetooth or wired
  • Collapsible design
Cons
  • Bulky
  • Bass response may be a little much
  • Frequency response may not cut it for recording vocals

 

Shure SRH1840

Are you a recording artist looking for headphones with unparalleled acoustic performance and durability? Then look  no further than the Shure SRH1840, made with aircraft grade materials and 40mm drivers. These  professional open-back headphones provide smooth, accurate sound with an extended frequency range and optimized for use with external amps- perfect headphones for recording artists.  Shure has used the highest quality materials with precision engineering and intelligent design to bring you a lightweight, durable and high performing set of headphones. The steel driver frame has a vented center pole for consistent performance at all volumes. The high performing drivers and sound profile make these ideal for critical listening applications. These headphones come with replacement velour ear pads and cable so you don’t need to worry about their longevity. The design is not only lightweight, but due to the design these headphones will also keep your ears cool during long recording sessions. 

Pros
  • 40m drivers providing unparalleled sound quality
  • Lightweight featuring aircraft-grade aluminium alloy yoke and stainless steel grilles for enhanced durability.
  • Ergonomic dual frame, padded, fully adjustable headband for hours of listening comfort.
  • Designed for use in recording studios
  • Replaceable velour earpads and cables
  • High quality build
Cons
  • Earpads can get a little hot during long recording sessions

 

 LyxPro HAS-10

Is music your life? Then you need a pair of headphones that make it possible that don’t cost the earth. If you’re looking for the best headphones for recording artists on a budget, then the LyxPro heaphones are for you. The LyxPro HAS-10 are designed for professionals looking to achieve their musical dreams with comfort and reliability. The aluminium ear shells seal in the sound and minimise sound leakage. The leather earpads and headband provide a luxurious feel and ultimate comfort for long periods of use. The 180-degree rotatable ear cups allow for single-ear listening, perfect for mixing, mastering and recording vocals. The LyxPro have large 45mm drivers that provide detailed, clean and balanced sound. The extended frequency response and 98dB sensitivity rating gives you undistorted sound, even at full volume.

Pros
  • Great sound quality even at top volume
  • Designed for studio recording
  • Minimal sound leakage and maximum sound isolation
  • Sturdy build
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • Tight fit
  • Non-collapsible
  • Bulky

 

FAQs

What are the main types of studio headphones?

Closed back, open back and semi-open back are the main types of headphones for studio recording use.
Closed back headphones have solid ear cups that maximise noise isolation and minimise sound leakage. These are perfect for singers and musicians recording vocals as it reduces sound leakage into the microphone and allows the vocalist audio isolation of them and the guide track. Closed back headphones tend to be heavier which can make them uncomfortable for long recording sessions. The closed back design can also result in ear fatigue over extended periods. This type of headphone gives acoustics a bassier, more enclosed, less natural feel, which is not always suitable in the best headphones for recording vocals.
Open back headphones on the other hand, have a fully open design featuring a grille that allows air to pass through the ear cups. This maximises sound leakage and minimises noise isolation, which allows for a more natural, open soundstage. This type of headphone may lead to less ear fatigue and harshness when recording vocals. Because of the open back design, these headphones tend to be lighter. The downside is the sound leakage you will experience into the mic, making these unsuitable for most studio recording.
As the name suggests, the semi-open back headphones are an attempt at a compromise. They are open back headphones with half of the grille covered. This allows some ambient noise to enter and some sound escape, but less so than the fully open back design. This style of headphone can be used for recording vocals and can in fact be great for the vocalist. It allows a more natural sound for the guiding track, allowing for better vocal performance.

Are studio headphones necessary?

It is possible to record vocals without using headphones. If you are a vocalist, or a producer, with a vocalist who would like to try it, then head over to soundsound.com to see how to record vocals without headphones.
However, if you are contemplating buying consumer headphones for recording you may want to think again.
Studio headphones are designed to provide decent noise isolation, neutral sonic reproduction and are built to last. In addition to this, there is a set industry standard that all studio headphones are expected to meet. That industry standard is to provide accurate sound reproduction. Did you know that most consumer headphones give an inaccurate frequency response? This means that many of us are wandering around listening to our favourite tracks, but they don’t truly sound like that. This is the primary goal of studio headphones to reproduce sound for mixing, mastering and recording accuracy. Not to make things sound good like consumer headphones.
Another important element is the fit and design. For recording purposes you need to have something comfortable and sturdy enough for hours of use, and a few knocks here and there in transit. Many consumer headphones just won’t cut it.
So are studio headphones necessary? If you want your tracks to sound naturally good, and enjoy wearing your headphones during long recording sessions. Yes.

The Final Check…

This list contains the best the market has to offer when it comes to studio headphones for recording vocals. Investing in one of these sets of cans ensures great tracks time after time. 

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