Best Headphones for Metal & Rock [2022 Reviewed]

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All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

ThumbnailHeadphones for Metal & RockProRec ScorePrice
Sennheiser HD 650Sennheiser HD 650
9.2
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beyerdynamic Dt 990 (80 ohm)beyerdynamic Dt 990 (80 ohm)
9
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Audio-Technica ATH-M50XAudio-Technica ATH-M50X
8
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Introduction

If you live in an apartment with thin walls, or if you’re recording in your home studio with people in close proximity, then going through a loud metal/rock recording session isn’t really ideal with a pair of monitors. This is when you need a solid pair of headphones that will help you get through it all without disturbing others.

Even if you have a proper studio setup where it’s okay to be loud, having a good pair of headphones for referencing is an absolute requirement. You really want to hear what your tracks sound like on different mediums, and headphones are at the top of that list.

With headphones, you can really envelope yourself in the sound of your mix, especially when you’re playing guitars since you can listen to how you’re fretting the notes and picking the strings. If you look at the greatest metal and rock bands of our time, most of them recorded their classics in the 70s and 80s. Things have changed a lot since then. The same bands now make use of quality headphones for alternate playback to further cement their mixes.

The type of headphones you pick really depends on what it is you are trying to do. If you’re just tracking then you don’t have to get something high quality. You also want closed backs for tracking since you want to prevent leakage. However, if you’re looking to mix then that is where you need a good pair! Something transparent that will convey the sound of your tracks in their true form (without adding color). You also want something with a good bass response and above average build quality.

It’s also important to decide on a budget, that way you can narrow down your options. The thing is that if you’re looking for something quality, you’re going to have to spend some money. You shouldn’t compare studio quality headphones with your average listening cans. They’re both completely different. You want something that is granular and will let you hear all the details of your track. The better your playback is, the better your mix will turn out.

Best Headphones for Metal & Rock Reviews

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Sennheiser HD 650
9.2/10ProRec Score
9.2Average Score
ProRec Score – Sennheiser HD 650
Price to Performance
8.5
Sound Quality
9.5
Frequency Response
9
Comfort
9.5
Build Quality
9.5

The Sennheiser HD 650 is a midrange pair of headphones that ticks most of the boxes. The unit features a solid build that mostly consists of high quality plastics and metal where it matters; this includes the frame of the adjustable headband and the mesh that covers the drivers. The design choice has led to the pair being relatively lightweight at 0.6 pounds.

The pair also has a soft velour padding on both the headband and the replaceable ear pads which makes it very comfortable. The clamping force felt adequate and secure without ever getting painful or irritating. The HD 650 has an open back design and encloses large 42 mm drivers behind its metallic mesh. These have a relatively high impedance of 300 ohms which means that you’ll definitely need a DAC to drive them.

As for the frequency response, it was nothing short of amazing with its wide range from 10 – 41000 Hz. You won’t miss any details while monitoring or listening in on this pair. Regarding connectivity, the unit uses a 9.8 foot long cable which plugs into the stereo port on each of the earcups and terminates into a ¼ inch jack.

In terms of sound quality, the HD 650 displayed a flat, accurate and natural sound signature. The soundstage felt decently wide and we were able to tell where each sound came from. As for the bass, we found that the low end to be a bit lacking, and the top end was ever so slightly over emphasized. However, these quirks were very minor and unnoticeable in practice. Mid bass was tuned perfectly and sounded neutral. Overall, the low end was great with only a few inconsistencies that won’t be audible to most users.

The mid range is also well executed; sounds were clear and balanced which made vocal and instrument reproduction amazing. The range was enjoyable and we heard some details that other pairs might straight up omit. As for the treble, it was just as good with a flat and consistent low and mid end. Top end falls off a bit which reduces some of the brightness of the range. Nonetheless, the drop was negligible and could be easily overlooked.

Despite their very similar appearance, the Sennheiser HD 650 improved in various areas compared to its predecessor, the HD 600. Frequency response range was slightly increased from 12 to 40500 Hz to 10 to 41000 Hz. While this may seem like a minuscule change, it means that the pair should be a bit more accurate in its sound reproduction.

The sound signature was another upgrade as it is now flatter and more natural sounding. We especially noticed this in the bass and treble ranges which now sound way more accurate than on the older HD 600. The new generation is also way more comfortable even during long sessions. This was one of the glaring issues of the old generation which got irritating after a while mainly due to its headband’s high clamping force.

As for the drawbacks, we faced a few minor inconveniences that we would like to address. The pair requires a DAC to drive it which translates to extra costs and slightly less versatility as you need to be next to your setup to use the pair. However, the target audience for this unit will most likely already own an audio interface and since it is designed for studio use, we didn’t expect it to be portable.

We also felt that the sound stage wasn’t as wide as it should’ve been. Nonetheless, we were still able to tell where each sound came from and the isolation was great so we can’t stress it too much. Another complaint we have is the bass which has slight dips and peaks throughout its lower and upper ends. However, these were fairly low in amplitude and very difficult to notice while actually using the headphones.

All in all, the HD 650 is an amazing pair of headphones for its price. The unit features great build and audio quality and doesn’t have any noteworthy shortcomings. We can safely recommend this pair for anyone interested in headphones for metal and rock.

Sennheiser HD 650 Benefits

Natural and flat sound signature which is perfect for studio use

Very comfortable even during long sessions

Solid build quality that will surely last long

Replaceable parts which can increase the pair’s life

Sennheiser HD 650 Drawbacks

The unit requires a DAC to drive it

Slight dips and peaks in the low end of the frequency range

Soundstage is not as wide as we would’ve liked

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

beyerdynamic Dt 990 (80 ohm)
9/10ProRec Score
9Average Score
ProRec Score – DT 990 Pro (80 ohm)
Price to Performance
10
Sound Quality
8
Frequency Response
10
Comfort
8.5
Build Quality
8.5

The beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 80 ohm is a budget pair of studio headphones that offers a high end experience. The unit has a solid metallic frame with some plastic accent pieces. This gives the pair a durable feel while keeping a relatively low weight of only 0.55 pounds.

The headband of the unit is covered in faux leather with some padding and the earcups are wrapped in velour. This makes the pair very comfortable even during long sessions and we never felt that it was ever too hot or too tight. For connectivity, a 9.8 feet long cable is built right into the left earcup and terminates into a 3.5 mm mini jack. This means that you should have no problem moving around while using the pair!

The DT 990 pro encloses large 45 mm drivers within its open back design. This gives the unit a wide frequency response ranging from 5 to 35000 Hz. As for its impedance, it’s rated at 80 ohms meaning that you could just directly plug them into any device and get reasonable volume. We should note however that using a DAC will help increase the audio levels of this pair and give a richer sound, but it is not a requirement.

After spending quite a bit of time with these cans, we found the DT 990 Pro to have excellent sound quality. The pair was tuned well and sounded natural in every genre we tested it in. Bass was fairly punchy and decently flat with a slight underemphasis in the lower range. However, it never exceeded 1.15 dB which is unnoticeable even to the trained ear. High bass was also a bit overemphasized but we felt that this helped add some punchiness to the range to make up for its open back nature.

Mid range had an even better execution as its tuning was almost perfectly flat. This made all the vocals and instruments sound clear and well detailed. As for treble, we felt that it was a mixed bag. While it sounded good and didn’t cause ear fatigue, it had some intense spikes starting from the upper end of the low treble. Nonetheless, the spikes never exceeded 3 dB which meant that they were barely noticeable and the range was still plenty bright and enjoyable. Soundstage was also very wide and gave us an accurate sense of sound location.

The beyerdynamic DT 990 pro 80 ohm was released alongside a 250 ohm variant. The two pairs look the same with the main difference being the impedance. The 80 ohm variant has the benefit of being easier to drive, you can probably plug this pair into any device and have it work decently. On the other hand, the 250 ohm unit will definitely require a good DAC. This is an extra expense that you may not be comfortable with. The sound quality of the two pairs was almost identical with the 250 ohm taking the edge as it sounded a bit more natural. However, we don’t believe that the difference is substantial enough to justify spending extra for a DAC.

The DT 990 pro is a well rounded pair however it did have some shortcomings we’d like to mention. The unit doesn’t have replaceable cables which means that cable repairs will be much more involved and probably require a professional. Nonetheless, the included cable is thick and coiled so we believe that under normal use you’ll probably never need to replace it.

Another downside was the treble which starting from the upper end of the low treble had multiple spikes. However, the spikes were barely noticeable and never caused ear fatigue even after long sessions due to their mildness. Thus, we believe this also won’t be an issue for most users. Portability was another drawback as the pair doesn’t fold and is pretty bulky, this made transporting the pair a hassle. However, you should keep in mind that it is a studio pair first and is not made with portability in mind.

With everything considered, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is a great pair of studio headphones. The unit delivered premium audio quality and a solid durable build for a budget oriented asking price. We can recommend this pair for anyone looking for headphones for metal and rock within a tight budget.

beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro (80 ohm) Benefits

Solid build quality that should withstand years of use

Natural, accurate and balanced sound signature

Doesn’t need a DAC as most devices can drive the pair without a problem

Comfortable even during long sessions

beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro (80 ohm) Drawbacks

Built in cable makes repairs a hassle

Treble range has some spikes throughout it

Non portable bulky build and non folding design

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X
8/10ProRec Score
8Average Score
ProRec Score – ATH-M50X
Price to Performance
8.5
Sound Quality
7.5
Frequency Response
8
Comfort
7.5
Build Quality
8.5

Despite its affordable price, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X is a great performing classic pair of studio headphones. The unit uses an all plastic build which feels sturdy especially due to the metal headband that inspires confidence in its longevity.

The pair also features folding and swiveling hinges which make it easy to pack and transport; and use over only one ear when mixing. The ATH-M50x encloses 45mm drivers with an impedance of only 38 ohms behind its closed back design. This makes the pair perfectly usable with any device without losing quality or loudness. Frequency response is also respectable with it ranging between 15 and 28000 Hz.

Moving on to comfort, the pair is relatively lightweight at 0.62 pounds. The soft vinyl wrapped ear cups and headband also make it pleasant to wear. Connectivity on this pair is through detachable cables that plug into the proprietary port built into the left earcup. The cables terminate to a 3.5mm jack and come in a variety of lengths and types (coiled, straight).

Sonically, the pair is impressive, especially for the price. It demonstrated a pretty flat and natural sound signature. Bass had excellent accuracy, its response was neutral and flat throughout the entire range and had enough punch and rumble. This made the pair enjoyable to listen to without being unnatural and forced which would ruin their usability as studio headphones.

We also found that the mid range on this pair sounded accurate and balanced. As a result, lead instruments and vocals sounded very clear and bright. Treble was a surprise as the response was rather uneven, however it still sounded excellent due to how balanced and well tuned it was. The range felt bright and well detailed without causing any ear fatigue which is all you could ask for.

In terms of soundstage, the M50x was decent and in line with other closed back headphones. This meant that while we could locate most sounds, they still felt close to each other with some extra separation to be desired. Isolation was also respectable, the pair greatly reduced most of the sounds above 700 Hz but let in most bassy noises. This is among what you should expect from passively isolating headphones.

Compared to its predecessor, the ATH M40x, the M50x improved in multiple areas making the unit a more compelling offer. While the two pairs have a similar design aesthetic, the newer model uses more premium materials. This made the pair feel more comfortable and durable making us believe it would last a longer time than the old generation.

Another upgrade is the driver size, the M50x increased the diameter from 40mm to 45mm. This helps the pair get louder and have a wider frequency response. We can see this at the upper end of the range which has been increased from 24000 Hz to 28000 Hz. The increase in frequency response makes the new version sound more accurate especially as the tuning has become flatter.

In terms of drawbacks, we only have a few that we would like to address. The removable cables use a proprietary connection to plug into the headphones. This means that in case you need a replacement you’ll have to look for the official cable. However, the supplied cables are pretty thick and will surely last for years before a replacement is needed.

The earpads had a lot of heat build up during use which made the pair not so comfortable at times. Nonetheless, it was never unbearable and we were able to use the pair for multiple hours at a time without any serious irritation. Treble could have also been tuned better, the pair has a lot of peaks and dips which should’ve been ironed out. However, the blemishes were barely noticeable and almost completely eliminated after we tuned the pair.

All things considered, the ATH M50x delivers a complete package without a premium price tag. This pair has great sound quality and doesn’t skimp on its build or features while still going for under half of what its competitors go for. We recommend this pair to anyone looking for headphones for metal and rock.

Audio Technica ATH M50x Benefits

Flat and natural yet fun sound signature

Foldable design makes the pair easy to pack

Removable cables promote longevity beyond the cable’s life

Swiveling earcups allow for one ear monitoring

Audio Technica ATH M50x Drawbacks

Removable cables use a proprietary connection which makes finding a replacement difficult

Ear pads cause some heat build up which could get uncomfortable

Treble isn’t tuned well and has multiple dips and peaks

Verdict

Based on our scoring model, you can find the highest variance in the Sound Quality, Frequency Response and Comfort categories. Surprisingly, each of these categories has an equal difference of 2 points between the highest and the lowest scores. This shows that all three pairs are competitive and viable picks. By further analyzing the results, you can see that the HD 650 takes the lead in 3 of the 5 categories with a maximum variance of 2 points in Sound Quality, while the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro scores the highest in the Frequency Response and Price to Performance categories. Even though Audio Technica ATH-M50x places last in all 5 categories,  its lowest score is still a 7.5, which isn’t bad at all.

With a high average score of 9.5, the Sennheiser HD 650 is an excellent performer that delivers very accurate audio. It is a very comfortable pair that has almost no fatigue even during the longest recording sessions. You also get excellent build quality, so you know that these cans are going to last you a long time, especially if you use them with care. Price to Performance is the only category where the HD 650 has a comparatively lower score (it ties the ATH-M50x for second place). It is not the cheapest option and anything that delivers good value is always going to cost you a bit. However, the pair still scored an 8.5 which means it still delivers good value for the money.

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro also had excellent scores in all 5 categories. The pair had an average score variance of only 0.2 points with the HD 650, so you shouldn’t write it off at all. The unit had its highest score in Price to Performance. It was able to go head to head with the other 2 pairs in most categories while costing significantly lower. The pair also got a perfect score in Frequency Response which is due to the wide frequency range, especially at the lower end. 

After testing all three pairs and thoroughly scoring them in all categories, the Sennheiser HD 650 emerges as the best pair of headphones for Metal and Rock music production. It has the highest average score and is dominant throughout 3 out of the 5 categories. The unit demonstrated excellent Sound Quality, Comfort and Build Quality all equal scores of 9.5 which is almost perfect. The only two categories that the pair couldn’t pull the win in were Price to Performance and Frequency Response. However, the pair still offers great value despite its high price as its performance is very solid and the whole package feels premium. Additionally, with a score of 9, the frequency range of the unit is still more than capable and wide enough for most users. We recommend the Sennheiser HD 650 as the top investment for Metal and Rock headphones!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important aspect of choosing headphones for Metal & Rock?

When choosing headphones for metal and rock, the aspect you should watch out the most for is sound quality. Headphones with bad audio quality will end up as paperweights so you should be careful in your decision. You should aim for a pair that has an accurate frequency response spectrum and wide range. Soundstage is also important as it changes how you interact with the music you’re listening to. Another aspect you should look out for is comfort. Given how long you’ll be wearing the pair at a time, you should make sure that it won’t be irritable.

How much should I spend on Metal & Rock Headphones?

There are good quality headphones for metal and rock at a variety of price points. How much you spend should entirely depend on how much you’re willing to invest. Paying extra will return a better overall product, however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a pair that will satisfy all your needs within whatever budget you’ve got.

Is comfort more important than playback with Headphones?

Comfort is a really important aspect with studio headphones, you’ll probably end up wearing the pair for multiple hours at a time and as such avoiding discomfort is of utmost importance. You don’t want your workflow to get disturbed because your headphones are irritating you. Playback quality is also just as important as it will dictate how good your final mix will come out. However, given that the pair’s audio quality is at least decent we’d pick up the more comfortable pair.

Will I need a headphone amp for Metal & Rock Headphones?

Depending on what headphones you end up picking an amp may or may not be required. An amp mostly deals with the unit’s volume so unless your pair has an impedance exceeding 100 ohms you probably won’t need one. For any pair below that threshold, most devices will be able to drive it just fine without the extra expense.