Best Budget Headphones For Music Production


Budget headphones can be a great investment for beginners who want to start making music without breaking the bank. They’re a discrete, mobile, and relatively inexpensive solution for mixing in situations where using studio monitors is too expensive or inconvenient.

To assist you, we’ve selected some of the best budget headphones for home recording and music production. So we’ll cover the different types available and why to choose one over another.

How to choose budget headphones?

Understanding impedance

Most of the best budget headphones you’ll find have a low impedance rating. This means you can easily use them with any device without requiring a dedicated headphones amplifier.

Anything over 150 Ohms starts entering preamp territory, so be sure to check the specs on your audio interface (link to audio interfaces post) to see if it’s capable of driving the headphones you’re looking at.

Better headphones preamps provide a superior dynamic range, and you’re more likely to get a frequency response curve closer to the one intended by the manufacturer.

Open-back vs. closed-back headphones

When buying budget headphones, another consideration is open-back vs. closed-back design. The choice will largely depend on your preferred music production environment (studio, cafe, library, etc.).

Below, we will cover the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones in more detail. For now, it’s important to know that open-backs provide a more natural stereo image but less isolation, whereas closed-backs isolate external sounds but offer a less realistic stereo image.

Some people will find open-backs more comfortable than closed-back models because there is less pressure on their ears, which means that they can be used for longer periods of time.

Best Budget Headphones in 2022

Now that we covered the basics, it’s time to choose a pair of affordable headphones that fits your budget. If you’re looking for an cheap option with great sound quality, then you should consider the models listed below.

These are the best studio headphones for music production in 2022:

  • Closed-back headphones:
    • Sony MDR-7506
    • Audio Technica ATH-M50x
  • Semi-open and open-back headphones:
    • AKG K240 MKII
    • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
    • Sennheiser HD 400 Pro

Closed-back headphones

If you’re in an airport, on a flight, or at your local library, closed-back headphones are an easy choice. They allow you to cut out the background noise and focus on the task at hand. In addition, the ample isolation also reduces spill, which makes them ideal for monitoring while tracking vocals or instruments at home.

The term closed-back refers to the fact that the earcups are closed on the rear. Although this design can offer an extended low-end response in some cases, it is also more likely to introduce the proximity effect. For this reason, closed-back headphones are not always preferred for long hours spent mixing.

Sony MDR-7506

Sony MDR-7506

Since its introduction in the 90s, the Sony MDR-7506 soon became the industry standard in the US. They may appear flimsy at first, but they are perfectly stable when worn.

All the cables and connectors remain intact, even after years of use, and the coiled cord gives you plenty of length. Over time, however, the coating on the stock earpads gradually flakes away, so it’s worth investing in some additional earpads from Dekoni.

More info: Sony MDR-7506

Audio Technica ATH-M50x

Audio Technica ATH-M50x

The ATH-M50x are extremely popular budget headphones in both studios and home recording setups alike. The build quality is excellent overall, and the slightly larger 45mm drivers provide decent dynamics and low-end response.

You have a choice of either black or white, and they come with a set of three detachable cables to make them suitable for different monitoring situations. This makes the ATH-M50x a great value choice for the price.

More info: Audio Technica ATH-M50x

Semi-open and open-back headphones

Headphones are classified according to the volume both in front of and behind the driver. Open-back headphones are ported, which relies on a different acoustic design that allows sound to exit the rear side of either driver.

The result is generally flatter, more neutral-sounding headphones with less risk of ear fatigue when used. They might not offer the same degree of isolation as closed-back headphones, but you’re aiming to mix rather than monitor with these.

Semi-open headphones might use acoustically transparent earpads with a closed-back design or the opposite with a closed-front and open-back design.



First introduced in 1974, the K240 is a legend in recorded music. With the semi-open design, the overall comfort makes them favorable for those long hours of mixing, regardless of the type of audio you’re working with.

The K240 MKII studio headphones come with two cables, one coiled and one straight. What’s more, you get an additional set of velvet earpads. Overall, it’s a package that’s hard to beat from a company renowned for high-quality audio products.

More info: AKG K240 MKII

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

For those who don’t know, Beyerdynamic actually invented the first dynamic headphones all the way back in 1937. The DT 990 Pro effortlessly carries on this legacy as one of the best budget headphones available today.

The open-back design produces a neutral but wide stereo image, making them applicable in any mixing situation. Just keep in mind that these are 250 Ohms headphones and might not perform at optimal from the audio-jack output of your laptop or mobile device.

More info: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Sennheiser HD 400 Pro

Sennheiser HD 400 Pro

The HD 400 Pro is a relatively recent pair of budget headphones launched by Sennheiser at the end of 2021. Built for mixing, editing, and mastering applications, it offers comfort, and the angled open-back headphone design simulates the stereo field projected by studio monitors.

Apart from the great level of sonic detail, you get two cables with them which is useful. A little pricier, perhaps, but certainly the best choice if you’re looking for a current-day approach to headphones.

More info: Sennheiser HD 400 Pro

So there you go, the best affordable headphones for music production on a budget. Have you used any of these? What are your cans of choice for mixing?

We’re looking forward to reading your suggestions and tips in the comments section below.

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About Author

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Drawing from his experience in music and entertainment, Stefan creates audio and music culture content for print and online publications worldwide.


  1. Thanks was just thinking I need some new headphones. So would you say the semi-open ones are a good
    Compromise between open and closed? What pair is the best out of this lot?

  2. Nice timing with the article as I was looking to pick up a pair. What are your thoughts on the Shure SRH840a? I’ve heard just about as many good things about it as the other closed-backs on this list.

  3. That short segment on Impedance was not entirely accurate. While low impedance headphones are generally easier to drive to a good volume without a dedicated amp, their default frequency response curves might also be “off” if the audio output is unsuitable.

    Basically, as a rough guide, you’ll want your audio output impedance (from the headphone amplifier, etc) to be 8x lower than your headphone’s impedance rating, or its frequency response curve might shift. Typically results in things such as bloated mid-bass, among other effects. For example, the 38ohm impedance rating of the Audio Technica ATH-M50x (above) would optimally need an output source of at least 5ohms or below to sound its best, but you’ll discover that many audio interfaces or soundcards, while powerful, do not go that low in output impedance.

    TLDR: The impedance of your audio source (amplifier, soundcard, handphone, etc) goes hand-in-hand with your headphone impedance rating. Something you need to consider when purchasing either.

    For a good explanation of all these, i recommend Julian Krause’s Youtube channel (also tremendously helpful budget-recording-audio-interface reviews):
    https ://youtu .be/xLShpyzwvJs
    https ://youtu .be/SpTsWVLI-ig
    (Remove spaces.)

    • Tomislav Zlatic


      Hey Darryl, thank you for the info in the links. Much appreciated. I will investigate this issue a bit more and update the article where needed.

  4. As an aside, for those with discomfort issues having a big weight around your head for long periods of time (or thinning scalp issues like me lol), IEM earphones might work well for you, even if not always as good as traditional headphones.

    For mixing clarity/accuracy, go for a multi-driver design with at least one Balanced Armature focusing on trebles. I myself use the Mackie MP240, which is not perfect (mids are a bit weak, comparing with my JBL LSR305 monitors), but still highly recommended for those stuck on a low budget.

    Mixing on closed-back headphones or iem earphones completely eliminates sound issues from an untreated room (or partially-treated like mine). Reverb trails & other ambiance effects in your tracks SUPER easy to hear & adjust.

  5. I have Philips Fidelio X2HR which i really like, they have good rating on RTINGS for neutral sound. Should be around the 100$ mark when on sale which is very often for those interested.

    They are open back so i advise you use them only in quiet surroundings.

  6. You may want to go on dms and zeos panterra reviews on YouTube to get their headphone ratings guide. Your recommendation ofbthebaudiotechnica 50 headphones is a little off since if you watch their reviews and listen to other audiotechnica headphones the M40 are the preference almost universally on the internet. It shows a real lack of research and comparative listening when I see someone recommend the 50s. They are widely considered treble nightmare.

    • M50s are fine. Really brigth and far from flat, but M40s’ response curve is wack as well. Simply pick a pair and get used to them. When mixing, referencing is more important than flat response.

  7. I know this is cheesy to say, but ive actually produced an released a lot of music on Apple headphones (the cheap wired ones)…Apple Airpods coud also be used if not for the battery life…

    A good point about this, is that half the planet listenes on these LOL

  8. Well, it doesn’t really matter what half the planet listens on:) Most used studio headphones are Sony MDR-7506. They are like NS10’s of headphones. I also have a pair of HD600’s, but they can’t be considered budget headphones. AKG K44 and Sennheiser HD206 are really cheap cans that will do the work.

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