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Headphones for accurate production <$300 Studio Headphones
Old 8th September 2011
  #1
Here for the gear
Headphones for accurate production <$300

I'm a little confused, which is why I'm creating a new thread. All the other threads I looked at via searches on this subject referred to tracking, mastering, monitoring, etc. Maybe I'm confused on my terms, but I just want the best pair of headphones for music production--not necessarily mastering in in-studio monitoring, etc., but not just casual listening either. I want as fine and balanced detail as possible.

I'm a beginner with a budget setup (Maschine + Axiom 49 + Macbook) and just make beats/music for personal enjoyment. I have plans to get more serious with it in the near future though (soon getting a degree in professional music production), so I need something that will continue to suit my headphone needs going into that as well. I'll worry about true monitors for mastering at a later point. Anyway, so exactly what I'm looking for:

Budget: Less than $300 (preferably less than $200).
Uses: Accurate production/creation, casual listening (both).
Input equipment: Maschine + old gen Macbook for production (will be upgrading to a new MB Pro later on). I also exclusively use my laptop for my at-home casual listening, via iTunes.
Priorities/Needs: Comfort (I have a slightly larger head), accuracy, durability, style. In that order.
Music preference: I predominantly produce and listen to hip-hop based music, but not exclusively and do still like balance. I LOVE fine/subtle nuances in my music, especially when creating, so I need to be able to hear them.
Possibilities: Shure SRH840s? Beyerdynamic 880s? Sony 7509 or 900s? Something else ... ?

I had been using Sony 7506 for the last year+ and was very happy with the comfort and accuracy of them, but the ear pad/foam came apart. This makes me wary of buying another pair of Sony's, for durability concerns. I've read that the Beyerdynamic's are comfortable and I really like the benefits of a semi-open design, but the sound may be to colored? I haven't heard much talk on here of the Sony 900s, but they have good reviews on Amazon. I've been reading the Shure 840's may be the most accurate/flat/neutral, but some say the bass is almost too unresponsive in them.

I've noticed the AT M50's get a lot of attention here, but the complaints of tightness/discomfort in a lot of reviews makes me worry about them. I've also read they may have too much added bass emphasis. A lot of people on here seem to recommend AKG's and Sennheisers. Honestly, I think the AKG's just look ugly in all the pictures I've seen, so unless there's just a clear above-the-rest performer in them, I'd rather avoid. Sennheisers either look too cheap or too expensive to me, nothing really stands out to me relative to my budget/needs. I could be wrong.

Any ideas? Any suggestions I've missed? Any advice? Am I right to be looking for something more flat/neutral just for production/music creation, or should I be looking for something with some coloring? I'm not exactly mastering with these now, but I may at some point (before I can afford a true speaker/monitoring setup). Any help is appreciated.
Old 8th September 2011
  #2
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DT-770's, 880's or 990's
Old 8th September 2011
  #3
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steverino's Avatar
 

I have AKG702's... they sound and feel wonderful... Nice neutral sound, which is what I wanted for tracking & mixing

I pair them up with the Saffire DSP 24... the VRM software on the Saffire box makes it somewhat easier to get neutral sounding mixes... but you still need to comparison test physically.. through real speakers... (in car, boom box, stereo, etc...)... but it is a much better starting point..

overall a nice home/bedroom studio combination for tracking and mixing ITB...
Old 8th September 2011
  #4
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chickenuggets's Avatar
 

I'll share with u a secret: krk 8400s, try them
Old 8th September 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chickenuggets View Post
I'll share with u a secret: krk 8400s, try them
Astute call, I hadn't seen these mentioned anywhere yet but they do sound great from what I'm reading. Will look into it more when I have more time though.

I'm noticing more and more comfort complaints with the Shure 840s too, so they may be out.
Old 8th September 2011
  #6
Gear Nut
 

Those Sennheiser HD280s are great for tracking because of the closure but not so much detail for mixing. I'm glad you made this thread as I'd like a detail pair as well.
Old 8th September 2011
  #7
Here for the gear
Just an aside Q, can you replace cords on headphones? Like the KRK 8400s have a really long/ugly straight cord with a cheap-looking volume adjuster, but it's all detachable. I prefer coiled cords, so could I just buy a better coiled cord and swap it out? Or are they not universal like that? Stupid Q probably.
Old 8th September 2011
  #8
Gear Maniac
Another popular one- Audio Technica ATH-m50. Way below your budget limit. I just got a pair- not familiar enough to evaluate them.
JP
Old 8th September 2011
  #9
Gear Addict
 
Slik dA Relic's Avatar
 

just spend some time here:

HeadRoom: Stereo Headphones, Amps & DACs, Wireless, Noise Canceling, Ear Canal, Earbud, Audio Cables & Accessories

u should come up with a few favorites after awhile.

da relic
Old 8th September 2011
  #10
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chickenuggets's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by j.wal View Post
Just an aside Q, can you replace cords on headphones? Like the KRK 8400s have a really long/ugly straight cord with a cheap-looking volume adjuster, but it's all detachable. I prefer coiled cords, so could I just buy a better coiled cord and swap it out? Or are they not universal like that? Stupid Q probably.
Yep u can take out volume adjuster. The cable is detatchable from the headphones, but I'm rly not sure if thhey sell a better one online. The end that goes into headphone has a special thing that locks in. It's not a normal end. Look oonline though, u mite find sumthin.
Anywys cable hasn't bothered me.
Old 8th September 2011
  #11
First, can you not replace the earpad in your Sonys? If you've been getting good results with them no reason to buy a whole other pair of headphones (although there are some pretty awesome headphones!). I replaced the earpad on my pair of Sony MDR-V6 that I use for probably 50-60 hours a week (between DJing and the studio). The original pads wore out in less than a year, but I got the Beyer velour replacements that fit pretty well and love them now. Mmmmmmm, velour....


You could probably do a search and find out that Sennheiser 600/650, AKG k701/702, Dennon AH-D and Audio-Technica ATH are considered some of the better open and closed headphones on a budget.

I'd recommend open headphones if it's just for mixing, beat making etc... Just don't use them to monitor while your rapping/singing. I have some AKG 701s and they blow my mind. They are an old model so look around and you can find them pretty cheap for what they are, especially in white. (yeah white looks kind of lame, but it sounds the same as black)
Old 8th September 2011
  #12
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Check out the new Shure SRH940's. They have a more balanced sound than the SRH840's, with deep but not overwhelming bass, and they're lighter and more comfortable. Street price is $299.

They were just reviewed by CNET's Steve Guttenberg, the Audiophiliac.

P.S. The SRH940 comes with a straight cord and a coiled cord that you can quickly swap.

Last edited by chris_at_shure; 8th September 2011 at 03:57 PM.. Reason: added P.S.
Old 8th September 2011
  #13
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mikeyrad's Avatar
 

I'm also looking for a pair of accurate headphones to mix with under $300. I do alot of mixing and mic/pre/comp testing to listen for differences and I'm currently using atm30 I think cause they are the best I got right now.

Most of my mixing is done at night while my son is sleeping and my phones just don't give me the clarity or detail to hear these differences when mixing or doin tests. I can really only hear it in my monitors, so I need to get a pair of good cans so I can mix all night!

So accuracy and detail is what I need!
Old 8th September 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
I own 2 pairs of Shures. They sound great and are accurate but not well built at all. Just over a years use and the frame cracked on 1 pair and there is a stress fracture in the frame of the other. As a comparison I just replace the earpads on 6 year old sennhieser hd280 and they still sound great! Can't speak for the more expensive shure's but the 99.00 ones are built like crap!




Jazztone
Old 8th September 2011
  #15
Anything made by Grado will do the job nicely.
Old 8th September 2011
  #16
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris_at_shure View Post
Check out the new Shure SRH940's. They have a more balanced sound than the SRH840's, with deep but not overwhelming bass, and they're lighter and more comfortable. Street price is $299.

They were just reviewed by CNET's Steve Guttenberg, the Audiophiliac.

P.S. The SRH940 comes with a straight cord and a coiled cord that you can quickly swap.
Thanks for the heads up on that, def another one to consider.
Old 8th September 2011
  #17
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximo View Post
First, can you not replace the earpad in your Sonys? If you've been getting good results with them no reason to buy a whole other pair of headphones (although there are some pretty awesome headphones!). I replaced the earpad on my pair of Sony MDR-V6 that I use for probably 50-60 hours a week (between DJing and the studio). The original pads wore out in less than a year, but I got the Beyer velour replacements that fit pretty well and love them now. Mmmmmmm, velour....


You could probably do a search and find out that Sennheiser 600/650, AKG k701/702, Dennon AH-D and Audio-Technica ATH are considered some of the better open and closed headphones on a budget.

I'd recommend open headphones if it's just for mixing, beat making etc... Just don't use them to monitor while your rapping/singing. I have some AKG 701s and they blow my mind. They are an old model so look around and you can find them pretty cheap for what they are, especially in white. (yeah white looks kind of lame, but it sounds the same as black)
Well my thought is, with replacing the ear pad on the Sony's, is that I never even used those headphones that heavily. Just light use over ~one year. So if they're that prone to falling apart, I don't want to keep paying parts and shipping to keep patching it up. I figured I may as well just upgrade anyway.

My only concern w/ open headphones is sound leakage in while I'm producing. Living in a studio apartment (not by myself) there's other noises around me at any given time. If I had a dedicated home studio that might be a more real option, but that's quite a ways off for me yet.
Old 9th September 2011
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by j.wal View Post
Well my thought is, with replacing the ear pad on the Sony's, is that I never even used those headphones that heavily. Just light use over ~one year. So if they're that prone to falling apart, I don't want to keep paying parts and shipping to keep patching it up. I figured I may as well just upgrade anyway.
Hey, it's always fun to get some new gear! A good set of headphones will blow your mind too. Definitely a worthwhile investment. Do your research and spend a little more and they'll last for years. (BTW, I've had the replacement beyer pads on my Sonys for about 4 years now, not even a hint of wear despite continuous use, not bad for $30ish...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by j.wal View Post
My only concern w/ open headphones is sound leakage in while I'm producing. Living in a studio apartment (not by myself) there's other noises around me at any given time. If I had a dedicated home studio that might be a more real option, but that's quite a ways off for me yet.
Closed headphone will definitely help you out up to a certain point with this, but if somebody's watching TV in the same room as you your pretty much screwed. You certainly don't want to be cranking the volume on your headphones too high, as it can quickly cause hearing damage.

There's a guy who raves about the Denon closed headphones; swears that they are super neutral and accurate with really kick ass bass response. I haven't used them so I couldn't say, but they are something I'd like to try. Do a search and there's some epic threads about them and other medium-higher priced headphones. They might be a bit out of your price range, but maybe it's worth saving that extra couple hundred to get something that's really good and, like I said, will last a long time.
Old 9th September 2011
  #19
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The Shure 940's sound really good except some reviews say the highs are emphasized more than the bass, which may be a little weak. Considering I'm almost exclusive to hip hop, I do want the bass to be there. I don't want it over-emphasized, I want accurate balance... but if any area has to be lacking at all, that's the one area I don't want it to be. I love low frequencies, maybe too much sometimes, and don't want to miss out at all on them. I have excellent hearing so I don't need emphasized mids/highs so much.
Old 10th September 2011
  #20
Here for the gear
KRK does sell a coiled replacement cord for their headphones, so I might just do that with the 8400s.
Old 10th September 2011
  #21
Gear Head
Ath m50

The new Audio Technica ATH M50 are amazing. and less than $200. Musicians fight over them, they really sound beautiful.....
Old 10th September 2011
  #22
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Unclenny's Avatar
I do almost all of my tracking and mixing on a pair of Ultrasone 650's.

They are more comfortable, more accurate and less fatiguing then the Senn 280's that I used previously.

http://www.headphonista.com/ultrasone-pro-650/
Old 11th September 2011
  #23
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After a lot of indecisiveness I finally decided to go ahead with the KRK 8400s. I had it down to either them or the Shure 840s. Actually, I really was sold on the Fischer Audio 003 but they're not in stock anywhere.

In comparing the KRK 8400 to the Shure 840, it sounded like (from reading as many reviews as I could find) that the KRKs may be just a bit more detailed and balanced across the board. A lot of subjectivity involved of course, though. They both run about the same price ($129 on Amazon), the KRKs have a lot higher marks for comfort in most reviews. I like the look of the KRKs a little better too. Something about them just gives me a better feeling that the Shures after all my research.

I still might get the Fischer Audios at some point if they ever become available again, just because they sound awesome (from reviews). But I think the KRKs will suit my needs perfectly fine. I'll post back to this thread with a semi-review/impressions once I've gotten to try them out. Thanks for ya'll suggestions.
Old 11th September 2011
  #24
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The 7506 is an awful sounding 'more me' headphone perfect for giving to band members during tracking but fatiquing for the engineer to wear for hours at a time. I second the Beyer suggestion, but I haven't tried all of the other suggestions. Grado is also a good choice once you step up past their entry level model. The pads are replaceable on the 7506s, for around $10.
Old 11th September 2011
  #25
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I've been using the Audio Technica ATH-M50 for a few years now.

Amazing headphones for under $200.
Old 11th September 2011
  #26
Gear Nut
 
defenestration's Avatar
 

my pick at the moment are beyerdynamic DT880s - 600 ohm though!!! and make sure you get a good headphone amp to run it but that will take you over $300 for the setup very fast! I heartily recommend a Crack OTL Headphone Amplifier Kit with Speedball Upgrade for high-impedance cans although there are certainly other options.

3rd party freq response graph for DT880 models:
http://graphs.headphone.com/graphCom...phID[]=953
Old 12th September 2011
  #27
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Equation RP21 for me
Old 12th September 2011
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j.wal View Post
I'm noticing more and more comfort complaints with the Shure 840s too, so they may be out.
Are you sure you're not thinking about Shure SRH440s? Definitely uncomfortable. In fact, the solution is to replace their ear cushions with those meant for the SRH840s. Comfort is definitely not a shortcoming of the 840s.
Old 12th September 2011
  #29
Gear Nut
 

ATH-M50's do the trick for me just fine! I use them in the studio and also when I am DJ'ing. They have a relatively flat response curve, maybe a little bass-heavy but they sound wicked when tracking vocals.
Old 19th September 2011
  #30
Here for the gear
Well I gave the KRK 8400's an initial trial, then a 50+ hour burn-in period, and then more trial, and have decided they're worthy (to me, at least). Here's the review I just posted on Amazon, for those who may be interested:

I won't pretend to be an expert on sound, because I'm not. I'm an amateur hip hop producer. I came to the 8400's via a broken pair of Sony 7506's. I liked my Sony's a lot, was always amazed at their detail and accuracy (at the time), but didn't want to go through the cost and trouble of repairing them. Enter KRK. At first my 8400's sounded slightly underwhelming with sub-par bass response. I burned them in for 50+ hours and they sound significantly better. The bass is still not powerful, but it IS there and it is accurate. If you want something a little more colored (and bassy) but still monitoring-capable, Audio Technica or Beyerdynamic may have what you're looking for, from what I've read. My impression of the KRKs is that they are no-frill, professional monitors at an affordable cost (not paying for any gimmicks). Along with the accurate bass, all other levels (mids, highs) are very well and evenly represented too. One thing I've noticed with KRK's is less fatiguing mids/highs at higher volumes, something the 7506's plagued me with at times. The KRK's are more balanced. The KRK's are also slightly more detailed than my 7506's as well, particularly in that I'm noticing more flaws in recordings than I did before.

Finally, comfort. This is the one category I have to give to the 7506's, I could wear those headphones for hours on end and forget I was wearing them. However, the 8400's are very close. My ONLY complaint is the headband, I wish the padding was more evenly distributed (to distribute the weight of the headphones) rather than designed to where it creates two distinct pressure points. It does cause very mild discomfort to where I find myself adjusting the position of the headband occasionally during longer periods of use. With that said, though, I consider comfort to be of profound importance to me and still decided the 8400's are desirable enough to keep and enjoy. The ear pads and clamping force of the headphones are very nice and relaxed, very comfortable. I have normal ears and a slightly larger head and have no complaints in either of those areas, the ear pads encompass my ears completely and isolate relatively well.

I would give a 5/5 on sound relative to price. 4/5 on comfort (but 5/5 if the headband padding was designed differently). Finally, if you don't like straight cords like the cheap-ish quality one that comes with the 8400's, KRK's official website has a link to purchase an optional coiled cord for $15-$20. Worth it in my opinion, but would've much rathered the headphones came with one in the box instead.


I appreciate the help I got on here and especially chickenugget's post. Good call.
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