Six of the best headphones

Quite often, you might need to mix on headphones for practical reasons – maybe cost, space or neighbours. Here are six of the best that we’re looked at recently in MusicTech, for all budgets…

AKG K-812

Yamaha MT8

Best budget: Yamaha MT8

Price £157 street
Contact Yamaha

Yamaha’s HPH-MT range is, as the company states, ‘focused on delivering sonic accuracy’, but at the more affordable end of the range. The 5s are the bottom of the range and are a pretty good buy. However, thanks to an extended bass (these go down to 15Hz), we reckon the MT8s are easily the better buy and only a few quid more. They also deliver a slightly better sensitivity and a lower impedance.

We said “The 8s offer enough detail for you to hear separation between bass and mid elements, while with cheaper ’phones, this area can often get muddied. They have the specs for mixing and were even up there with our £600 reference ’phones in terms of the detail. So, for the price, these stand up to models that cost a lot more in terms of accuracy. A great buy.”

Read our full review here.

Best high-end: AKG K812

AKG K812

Price £599 street
Contact AKG/Sound Technology

Given that you can pick these up for less than half the price that they cost when we reviewed them, you can see they’re very much aimed at the high-end mastering market – £600 is still a lot to pay for ‘phones. However, what you get is a completely flat response tied with a great soundstage and listening experience. The K872s are their sister ’phones and even more honest – brutally so, in fact – so you might want to consider them, too, if even truer accuracy is your thing (and you have no fear).

We said “For mixing, they are extraordinary. I’ve been mixing a lot on headphones of late and finding the results a little ‘scrunched’, with lots of fighting for a place in the mix. These seem to allow you to place things better, spread them out and allow mixes to breathe more. Levels came down, I was less stressed and everyone in our house was happier! Perfect for mixing and listening, too, with a great vibe and accuracy. So you could say that these are the ultimate phones, at the ultimate price*.”

* Although you can definitely say that now, as you can get them for half of it!

Read our full review here.

Best bargain: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO

Price £399 street
Contact Beyerdynamic/Polar Audio

The DT1990 PRO are the open-back versiosn of the DT1770, which were approaching our favourite set of headphones for mixing, so we tested them alongside their closed-back brother. The DT1990 PROs are the oldest headphones in this round up, but among the best in terms of a balanced sound, comfort and accuracy. Not only that, but you can now pick them up for a couple-of-hundred-quid less than when we reviewed them, so grab them while you ‘can’ – see what we did there?

We said “Compared to the Beyerdynamic 1770s, there are surprises. First up, the 1990s don’t need to be driven any more, which we expected they might need. Secondly, their isolation is pretty good. Thirdly, we even noticed the extra 18g on the slightly heavier 1770s. Sonically, there’s something we can’t describe with the 1990s. It might be a wider sound, or less-pronounced bass because of the open construction. Either way, we’re going to use these for mixing on from now on. Superb.”

Read our full review here.

Best looks and feel: Blue Designs Ella

Blue Designs Ella

Price £553
Contact Blue Designs

The Ella ’phones will certainly grab your attention in terms of how they look and work. Blue are renowned for their head-hugging design that makes them sit comfortably around your noggin. They are lighter than you think, too, which helps make for a great, long-term mixing experience. But, as much as they look cool and feel great, they also sound pretty good, too…

We said “The sound is something to behold: a true and detailed response with just enough vibe and comfort to make you want to mix with them for longer sessions.”

Best live room: Audio-Technica ATH-M60x

Audio-Technica ATH-M60x

Price £179
Contact Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica has a huge range of headphones and we’ve chosen many as our reference ’phones over the years. The M60xs are the latest model and sit in the middle of the range, price-wise. And we seem to have stumbled upon the ideal set of ’phones for the studio live room…

We said “The ATH-M60x headphones are rugged and feel well-built, yet are lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods – much more so than claustrophobic (and often sweaty) over-ear designs. The M60xs also suffer from less spill than many other on-ear headphones, and so are a viable alternative to over-ears, even when recording quieter instruments such as acoustic guitars and vocals. They deliver a crisp and detailed sound, although lack a bit of depth at the very low end. However, those tonal characteristics work in their favour in a live-room environment, where their vocal presence peak, crisp sound and clarity at higher volumes makes them an excellent choice.”

Read our full review here.

Best newbies: Adam Audio Studio Pro SP-5

ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5

Price £499
Contact Adam Audio

You probably already know that Adam Audio makes great studio monitors. For the Studio Pros, the company has partnered with Ultrasone to transfer some of that know-how to a pair of cans specifically tailored for mixing. In doing so, the company has produced our current headphone favourites and reference ’phones…

We said “The wide space is impressive, and on mixes I am currently working on, I was able to pinpoint very specific movement across the stereo image while also enjoying a delightful and full response across the frequency spectrum. Here the ’phones really did come into their own, being equally as good as my £2,000-plus monitors for mix placement and width. They aren’t the prettiest headphones out there, nor are they the cheapest, but what they do deliver is a rich mix experience and, in a sea of gimmicky releases this year, stand out as offering a straight-up and sensible experience – your mix laid bare for you to fix – all you need in great headphones.”

Read our full review here.


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