Best headphones 2023: 10 of the best all-purpose wired headphones under $500

Looking to mix at home, record in a professional studio or make music on the go? You’ll be hard-pressed to do so without a decent pair of headphones


Whether you’re mixing in your home studio, recording in a professional space or making beats on the go, having a reliable pair of headphones to work on is vital. But – ‘closed-back?’ ‘Impedance?’ What do these terms mean, and how should they factor into your decision when searching for the perfect pair?

Open-back vs. closed-back

When picking a set of headphones, you’ll want to decide whether to opt for closed or open-back.

Largely considered to be ideal for mixing, open-back headphones allow air to pass through the ear cups to the driver. Because pressure doesn’t build up, this tends to create a more natural and spacious sound.

Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, offer better isolation. This makes them ideal if you’re recording or if you’re an engineer working in a live environment. They also have their place in mixing – particularly if you find yourself working in a noisy environment.


In a nutshell, the higher the impedance on a set of headphones, the more power you need to make the drivers move and project audio. Consumer-grade audio gear, like your phone, offers weak amplification and so tends to work better with low-impedance headphones.

So, if they’re harder to drive, why on earth would you want a high-impedance set of headphones? Well, for one thing, they won’t blow out when you plug into something with more power – which includes a fair amount of pro-audio equipment.

The best all-purpose headphones at a glance:

  • RØDE NTH-100
  • Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
  • Austrian Audio Hi-X65
  • Sony MDR-MV1
  • Shure SRH840A
  • ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M60x
  • Sennheiser HD600
  • AKG K702


Rode NTH 100

RØDE is best known for its line of respected, affordable microphones, but scored a flawless 10/10 in our review with its first pair of studio headphones, the closed-back NTH-100. Our reviewer, John Pickford, found no negatives, instead commenting on the full range and a transparent sound that doesn’t shy away from crucial mid-range detail like many headphones do. CoolTech-laden memory foam ensures max comfort, while the competitive price tag is another definite plus.

In our review, we said: “RØDE means business here. The beautifully contoured looks and fantastic functionality are only half the story… The NTH-100’s sonic abilities are nothing short of breathtaking.”

Read our full review via

  • Price: $149
  • Type: closed-back
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 5Hz – 35kHz

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Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

The closed-back DT770 Pros from Beyerdynamic has been a reliable studio staple for many years, and for good reason, too. They offer decent isolation when tracking, their frequency response is not scooped or boomy like many closed-back competitors, and they’re comfortable and extremely reasonably priced.

What’s more, a range of different impedances are available, so you can choose the ones that work best on your gear – we choose the 80 Ohm pair for alternating between audio interfaces and playback straight from the Macbook’s headphone socket when on the move (we love the velvety, grey ear cups on this variant too).

Pair these with Sonarworks’ SoundID Reference for Headphones and you have a killer, articulate and calibrated monitoring set-up that sounds many times more expensive than the total spend!

  • Price: $159
  • Type: closed-back
  • Impedance: 32, 80 or 250 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 5Hz – 35kHz

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Austrian Audio Hi-X65


These open-back headphones from the ex-AKG team at Austrian Audio impress with their pin-point clarity, accurate stereo field and articulate low-end. They immerse you within the music, revealing every important detail in a mix, master or influential commercial reference track. Their brightness takes some getting used to, but we find our personal headphones sound dull when swapping back to them.

These are among the most comfortable headphones we’ve ever tested, so much so that you tend to forget they’re even on your head. What’s more, all the memory foam ear cup and headband parts are user-replaceable, so you can tend anything worn or grubby after intensive use.

Read our full review via

  • Price: $429
  • Type: open-back
  • Impedance: 24 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 5Hz – 28kHz

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Sony MDR-MV1


Sony’s MDR-MV1 are studio headphones that have a special emphasis on serving-up immersive, 3D audio. They have an open-back design for a more natural frequency response and a high level of comfort is handy for those long sessions. This is handy since many rely heavily on headphones for mixing in surround to avoid the prohibitive costs and physical bulk of a spatial audio speaker array.

These Sony headphones scored a stunning 10/10 in our review. Our reviewer, Hollin Jones, came back with pleasing results, with all sounds being accurately placed in the 360-degree sound field when mixing in Logic Pro.

  • Price: $399
  • Type: open-back
  • Impedance: 24 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 5Hz – 80kHz

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Shure SRH840A

Shure SRH840A

We put the SRH840 to the test in early 2022 and were impressed by the quality of sound and level of comfort available, despite the modest outlay. Shure is known to deliver trustworthy, solid build quality, and the SRH840As are no exception.

Perhaps not the most critically revealing of studio headphones for mixing and monitoring, these do however offer extended – yet smooth – highs, giving a voicing that’s less fatiguing than many rivals, alongside really solid performance in the bass department.

The Shures scored a competitive 9/10 in our review, which you can read via

  • Price: $149
  • Type: closed-back
  • Impedance: 40 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 5Hz – 25kHz

Find out more at thomann.



AIAIAI invites you to build your own pair of headphones with the TMA-2 modular set. You can also replace parts of the headphones, including the speaker unit, headband, earpad and cable. This is fantastic news both your wallet and the planet, because you’re not forking out to replace or upgrade your headphones every few years.

There are three variations of the TMA-2 headphones with interchangeable parts suited for different needs. For example, the TMA-2 Studio models have highly detailed audio and lush comfort while the DJ model focuses on providing punchy bass frequencies. Then, you can switch between a variety of punchy or detailed speaker diaphragms, on-ear or over-ear cushions, lightweight or padded headbands and cables dependent on length and style, coiled or straight.

  • Price:
  • Studio: $230
  • Studio XE: $180
  • DJ: $200
  • Type: Closed-back
  • Impedance: 32 OHMs
  • Frequency range: 10Hz to 40kHz

Find out more at thomann.

ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5

ADAM Audio – best known for its impressive monitor speakers – favours practicality and sound above all else with the Studio Pro SP-5 headphones. These aren’t the cheapest cans you’ll find in the market, nor the most head-turning – but they do deliver if you’re looking for reliable, accurate headphones for mixing.

The Studio Pro SP-5s also feature tech from Ultrasone for extended high-frequency response, plus more unusual features that ADAM claims will produce a more natural sound and reduce fatigue during longer sessions.

Read our review via

  • Price: $499
  • Type: closed-back
  • Impedance: 70 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 8Hz – 38kHz

Audio-Technica ATH-M60x

While the closed-back design of Audio-Technica’s ATH-M60x may suit the live room better than mixing or mastering tasks, they still perform well enough to be considered an all-rounder. If you’re a session player working from a home studio, these headphones offer comfort for long hours of play, and won’t break the bank.

On sound quality, these headphones offer a crisp top end, detailed mids and a tight, balanced low end. There is a pronounced peak around 2kHz which can be revealing when making adjustments in the oh-so-critical mids.

Read our full review via

  • Price: $219
  • Type: closed-back
  • Impedance: 38 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 15Hz – 28kHz

Sennheiser HD600


Deemed indispensable by a plethora of engineers, including Abbey Road’s Paul Pritchard, the Sennheiser HD600s are great all-rounders that offer a natural and spacious sound, thanks to their open-back design. These headphones make use of what Sennheiser terms computer-optimised magnet systems to reduce distortion and deliver a more transparent sound.

Compared to their siblings, the HD650s, which add a small bass and mid-bass boost, these offer a flatter frequency response curve and are ideal for mixing and critical listening.

  • Price: $299
  • Type: open-back
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 12Hz – 40kHz

Find out more at thomann.

AKG K702

AKG K702

They say the truth hurts, but at least it’s the truth. The same logic applies to the flat response that reference headphones can offer. While having the shortcomings of your mix revealed – muddy midrange, shrill treble and practically non-existent bass – is undoubtedly distressing, it’s also the quickest way to figure out where exactly things went wrong.

AKG’s K702s are open-back studio headphones that are lauded for their exceptionally flat sound. Fortunately, they come with some very comfortable ear pads for all the hours you’ll spend fixing your mix.

  • Price: $409
  • Type: open-back
  • Impedance: 62 Ohms
  • Frequency range: 10Hz – 40kHz

Find out more at thomann.


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