Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering [2023 Reviewed]

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ThumbnailHeadphones for Mixing and MasteringProRec ScorePrice
Audeze LCD-X

Audeze LCD-X

9.1
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beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

8.8
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Sennheiser HD 600

Sennheiser HD 600

7.9
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Introduction

If you’re in a more confined space or are moving in and out of studios without acoustic treatment, then you definitely need a solid pair of headphones to maintain some form of sanity with your mixes. Even if you have all that going for you, a good pair of headphones will always complement your mixes (in addition to studio monitors).

When choosing headphones for mixing and mastering, you want something with a good soundstage, something with an element that sounds alive in the room. While nothing beats a pair of monitors, there are some awesome cans that will make you second guess whether you’re listening to your mixes on headphones or if you’re hearing playback out of a good pair of monitors.

Ultimately, you want something with a flat response, decent imaging and as previously mentioned soundstage. All of these elements together are going to get you far with mixing and mastering!

Regardless of the genre (Metal/Rock/EDM/Hip Hop), there are two choices when it comes to headphone types (Open and Closed backs), for the more advanced audio engineer, both of these are required. However, if you’re just starting out then go ahead and get the Open backs. There will be less bass build up and ear fatigue, but you will lose out some on the low frequencies. If you’re looking for a perfect solution, then you’ll have to get one of each. Remember that mixing headphones will not double for tracking (you will always need a pair of closed backs for that).

If you get low quality cans, you will have to spend a significant amount of time learning how your headphones translate. This is why getting a high quality pair is essential. You want something that will give you accurate playback. Accuracy will help you make better mixing decisions which will impact what your tracks sound like on different mediums.

At the end of the day, there is no single pair that is perfect for everyone. People have different preferences, but there are some industry standards that are good for most situations. Mixing and mastering are really important parts in a production, you want to get everything as close to perfect. So invest in a good pair that will make your tracks sound the way they are supposed to. Always invest in good wired phones, most bluetooth/wireless cans will not deliver the same experience.

Best Headphones for Mixing Reviews

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

Audeze LCD-X
9.1/10Our Score
9.1Average Score
Audeze LCD-X
Price to Performance
8.5
Sound Quality
10
Frequency Response
9
Comfort
8
Build Quality
10

The Audeze LCD-X is a high end pair that delivers solid performance. The unit is mostly built of metal, that gives it a durable feel and clean aesthetics. The pair features soft and breathable lambskin earpads as well as a headband which make it a very a comfortable wear.

The pair uses large 106mm planar magnetic drivers that add to it’s weight, a lot more than you’d expect at 1.35 pounds. This however does not cause an annoyance as the headband does a good job of distributing the weight evenly across the head. As for its design, the LCD-X is an over ear open back pair which helps achieve better sound quality, however, at the cost of poor isolation. In terms of frequency response, the unit has a wide range from 10 to 50000 hz. Impedance is also low at 20 ohms which makes the pair very easy to drive with any device.

The LCD-X has accessible screws which make most parts easy to replace. It also uses a detachable cable which gives the pair great longevity. The cable used is premium and fairly long at 6.8 feet, it connects to each of the earcups through a mini XLR connection and terminates into a ¼ inch jack.

Sonically, the LCD-X has an exceptionally balanced signature, perfect for music production. We found the unit to have incredible accuracy and resolution which made all sounds clear and distinguishable. Soundstage was very impressive and felt wide, this unit is as close as you can get to a speaker setup with headphones. Thoughout different tracks, we felt the sound was coming from around us instead of from the cans.

The bass sounds punchy, full and alive, it is accurate and detailed throughout the entire range. Tuning is well executed on the low end and neutral through and through. Mids were just as good, and we were able to hear different instruments and vocals with great detail. The unit even allowed us to hear details we would have missed on regular headphones. Treble was also crisp and had decent brightness. The range sounded effortless and had no blemishes which made it possible to enjoy it for hours without experiencing any listening fatigue. Overall, the pair has a great sound that is suitable for any genre.

Compared to its predecessor, the 2019 LCD 3, the LCD X improved in many focal areas. In terms of its sound signature, the X is far superior with a more detailed and faster tune. The pair sounds more neutral and balanced, we were even able to hear details that were hidden on the previous version. In comparison to the newer generation, the 3s felt warm and dark which is not desirable for professional use.

The differences stretch out further than just sound, the newer pair is much more comfortable and can be used for hours on end without any disturbance. The LCD 3 was very heavy and had poor weight distribution which caused fatigue after some time of use. The newer pair has a suspension style headband which does a perfect job of making it feel like any other lightweight pair. We should also mention that all these improvements came with a price reduction and the LCD-X is now way cheaper than its older counterpart.

No pair of headphones is perfect and the Audeze LCD-X is no different. Despite its very low impedance of 20 ohms, to get the most of the unit, you’ll need a DAC. This is due to the pair needing a lot of current to deliver its best performance. However, the unit is still usable without an amplifier and since it’s intended for music production we expect most interested buyers to have a decent DAC/Audio Interface at hand.

Another drawback of the pair the heavier weight at around 1.35 pounds. Nonetheless, the pair does a great job of distributing its weight with the headband and ear cups design, which make the unit quite comfortable throughout.

All in all, the Audeze LCD-X is a well rounded premium pair of headphones. The unit has an almost perfect sound signature and is built like a tank while still being fairly comfortable. We can safely recommend the pair for mixing and mastering.

Audeze LCD-X Benefits

Great sound signature that is well balanced and neutral

Excellent build quality which will surely last a long time

Replaceable internal parts and cables which promote longevity

Very wide frequency response range

Audeze LCD-X Drawbacks

The pair is relatively heavy at 1.35 pounds

A DAC is needed to get the most out of the pair

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 1990 Pro
8.8/10Our Score
8.8Average Score
beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Price to Performance
9
Sound Quality
8.5
Frequency Response
9.5
Comfort
9
Build Quality
8

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a mid range pair that features a very attractive matte black metal frame with some plastic bits. The sturdy design is great for drawn-out studio sessions due to its thick velour earpads and soft leather headband.

The DT 1990 Pro encloses relatively big 45 mm dynamic Tesla neodymium drivers. These have a rated impedance of 250 ohms which means you’ll need a DAC to get the most out of the pair. As for its frequency response, the range is quite wide and rated between 5 and 40000 Hz. We should also note that the pair uses an open back over the ear design which helps achieve a more natural and accurate sound.

In terms of connectivity, the unit uses a detachable cable that plugs into the 3 pin XLR port on the left earcup. This cable is fairly long and terminates into a ¼ inch stereo jack plug. The pair also has replaceable ear pads which not only help increase its longevity, but also alter its sound, with one set for balanced listening and the other for analytical.

Throughout our tests, the DT 1990 Pro demonstrated excellent sound quality. The pair had a balanced and neutral sound with an excellent frequency response. We opted for the analytical ear pads in all our tests as we felt they made the pair sound more natural which is preferable for studio use. We found the bass especially amazing as it never strayed beyond 1.5 dB off our target. The tuning was almost perfect and no blemishes could be heard even by a trained ear. The entire range felt punchy and warm without feeling synthetic.

We felt that the mids were well balanced with the vocals and lead instruments reproduction was clear and accurate. The response was flat all the way through. As for treble, it was a mixed bag, however still great. The range followed our target response’s shape with a little boost throughout. This made some sounds slightly piercing which could throw some listeners off. However, we felt that it was mostly ironed out with an EQ on our part which returned the range to our target response.

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro succeeds the DT 990 Pro and improves on it in many aspects. First off, in terms of frequency response range, the newer generation increases the upper limit from 35000 to 40000 Hz. This allows for more accurate sound reproduction which we could definitely hear. The 1990 also improved on the older generations tuning especially on the low end. The range is now much more accurate and natural sounding which was a major complaint on the older pair.

Moving on to design, the DT 1990 Pro has a much more premium look and feel to it, the pair features more metal compared to the 990 pro which was mostly plastic. The newer design also features detachable cables which allow for easy replacment in case you want a different plug on the other end or simply if the original cable frays away.

In terms of drawbacks, we only had a few we’d like to address. The pair is fairly bulky and large which makes packing and traveling a bit of a hassle. Nonetheless, we have to keep in mind that this unit is foremost intended for studio use so it isn’t meant to be regularly transported anyways.

Another drawback is the high impedance, you will need a DAC to get the most out of it. Plugging the pair directly into a device intensely reduced its volume. However, pretty much any studio setup already has a decent DAC so that shouldn’t be a problem. We also felt that treble could have been executed better, the range had a slight boost throughout. Nonetheless, this was almost completely tuned out after we EQ’d the pair and we never felt any ear fatigue due to it.

All things considered, the beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a good choice no matter what genre you plan to use it for. The unit has world-renowned German engineering behind its design and delivers in comfort, performance and aesthetics. We recommend the DT 1990 Pro for anyone interested in headphones for mixing and mastering.

beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Benefits

Great sound quality and balanced signature

Replaceable cables and earpads which add longevity to the pair

The pair was very comfortable even during long sessions

Solid build quality which should withstand years of use

beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Drawbacks

The unit requires a DAC to get the most out of it

Portability was an afterthought on the pair and as such its difficult to pack

The treble requires some EQing to achieve the best sound

Sennheiser HD 600

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 600
7.9/10Our Score
7.9Average Score
Sennheiser HD 600
Price to Performance
8
Sound Quality
8
Frequency Response
8.5
Comfort
8
Build Quality
7

The Sennheiser HD 600 is a budget open-back studio pair that is a punch above its class. The pair features a premium design mostly built of high quality plastic. This however doesn’t make the pair fragile since it has all metal parts where it matters.

The HD 600 screams longevity with its multiple replaceable parts including the grilles, earpads and cables. The cable used on this unit is quite long at 9.8 feet, connects using 2 2-pin connectors, and terminates into a 3.5mm jack. As for comfort, you get some thick padding and velour, enclosing both ear pads and the headband. The cans are relatively light at 0.57 pounds, which further helps with comfort.

In terms of drivers, the pair uses 42 mm neodymium with a rated impedance of 300 ohms. You’re gonna have to pair it with an Audio Interface / DAC or it’ll sound quiet and muffled. The frequency response range of the HD 600 is another highlight with a range between 12 and 40500 Hz.

In terms of sound quality, the HD 600 was effortless at keeping a balanced and neutral tone all the way through. The bass was decent with a slight underemphasis of about 6 dB on the mid to low end. However, this is not really a deal breaker since the effect was not as noticeable in practice. The upper end of the bass was also a little overemphasized by about 2 dB, so it wasn’t as noticeable and didn’t add any muddiness to the tracks.

The mids on the other hand had perfect execution, the response was almost entirely flat all the way through. This resulted in a clear, well-balanced reproduction of lead instruments and vocals. The treble had great accuracy, just around our target response for studio headphones. The range was neutral and enjoyable to listen to. The soundstage was good and felt wide; instruments had decent separation and we could locate each individual sound.

The Sennheiser HD 600 succeeds the classic HD 580 and improves on it in multiple areas. The HD 580 had poor build quality and used a lot of cheap plastic. This has been greatly improved as the new model feels sturdy due to its finish and overall usage of premium materials. The 580 also had a narrow soundstage despite its open back design which made it sound somewhat cramped. This was fixed on the 600 which now has an impressively wide soundstage.

We were also able to feel some differences in the tuning of the 2 pairs with the newer model displaying way more balanced tuning. The older generation had an especially poor performance at the mids which had multiple peaks that shouldn’t have been there. Bass and treble also lacked extension which made the pair sound dull. However, this too has been addressed on the 600.

Throughout our testing, we didn’t have any major complaints, however, there are still a couple of things we’d like to address. The cables that the pair uses are relatively frail and we had some concerns on how long they would last under heavy use. Nonetheless, replacements are pretty cheap and easy to obtain at any major store.

We also would have liked to see a more balanced bass as it had a slight underemphasis. However, this was only about 6 dB so it doesn’t really affect the listening experience and is generally unnoticeable. Additionally, the pair requires a DAC to drive it as it sounds muffled without one. However, most professionals already have a that within their setup so it shouldn’t be an issue.

With everything considered, the Sennheiser HD 600 is an incredible pair of headphones that doesn’t break the bank. The unit can go head to head with much more expensive cans as it offers incredible value for the money. We recommend the HD 600 for anyone looking for mixing and mastering headphones.

Sennheiser HD 600 Benefits

Great well-balanced and neutral sound signature

Comfortable even during drawn out sessions due to its lightweight and materials used

Solid and durable build quality

Replaceable parts like the earpads, cables and grilles which help with longevity

Sennheiser HD 600 Drawbacks

The cable used is frail and feels flimsy

The bass range isn’t as flat as we had expected

The pair requires a DAC to drive it properly

Verdict

mixing and mastering headphones quantitative analysis scoring model

According to our scoring model, you’ll find the highest variance in the Build Quality and Sound Quality categories where the Audeze is the top contender. Price to Performance, Frequency Response and Comfort were more competitive with a variance of only 1 point each. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 took the lead in these categories, however, the HD 600 came very close. Even though the pair finished last in all 5 categories, it is important to note that its lowest score was still a 7. The HD 600 remained consistent throughout and gave the DT 1990 a run for its money.

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 scored well in all 5 categories and aced 3 of them. With a 9 in Price to Performance, the pair provides excellent value for money with premium offerings at a very competitive price. It also excels in comfort, which makes it excellent for longer sessions. Overall, the DT 1990 only has a 0.3 point variance with the top contender, making it a very viable choice!

The Audeze LCD-X took the lead in Build Quality and Sound Quality, so you can expect a solid build that will withstand years of use while providing accurate audio that is second to none in terms of clarity. The unit also had a great score in Frequency Response and performed well in the remaining two categories, never scoring below an 8.

After a thorough analysis, the Audeze LCD-X comes out on top as the best Mixing and Mastering pair with the highest average score of 9.1. The unit has amazing audio quality, a flat and balanced sound signature with a wide soundstage. It is built like a tank with an excellent Frequency response, leaving no details out of its range. Additionally, the pair offers good value for money as it came very close to being first place in the Price to Performance category. We highly recommend the Audeze LCD-X for anyone looking for a premium pair of headphones for mixing and mastering!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important aspect of choosing Headphones for Mixing and Mastering?

When choosing headphones for mixing and mastering, you want to look for a pair with the widest frequency range and the flattest response. Having a natural sounding unit will be of utmost importance as it will directly correlate with how good your tracks end up sounding. You also want to focus on build quality since good cans can last you a while. Comfort is another important aspect, an irritable unit will affect your workflow and get in the way of things.

What type of Headphones work well for Mixing and Mastering?

While both open and closed back headphones are good choices, we recommend going for open backs since the open design helps avoid the bass build up, giving you a more neutral sound, especially at the low end. Other than that open backs usually have a wider soundstage which is always a good quality.

How mch should I spend on a good pair of Mixing and Mastering Headphones?

Headphones are available at a variety of price points. Typically, more expensive ones will have more features and better overall quality. If you’re on a budget, you can still find a good pair, however, you should keep in mind that spending more will always get you a better, longer lasting pair.

Do I need anything else in addition to Headphones for a good Mix and Master?

Pairing your headphones with good quality studio monitors is always a good idea. With monitors you get to hear the entire frequency spectrum accurately and clearly while mixing. Monitors provide a really solid reference as they are usually very accurate and neutral sounding. So if your budget allows, we recommend also investing in proper studio monitors.