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The Press Desk 25th July 2016 05:23 PM

Best Headphones (under $200)
 
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Best headphones under $200

In an ideal world we’d all be working with a nice set of high-end studio monitors all day long, but the reality of modern life is that on many occasions we find ourselves working on a pair of headphones. In our perfect utopia we’d also have unlimited funds of course, but that pesky reality strikes with all its annoying budgetary restraints. With that we mind we have selected ten sets of headphones below $200 that the GS community likes, and here’s the (alphabetically ordered) list!


 K240 MKII

AKG K240 MKII

Our first entry comes from a legendary family of headphones and audio products. Dating back to the late 1970s, the K240 design legacy lives on through the K240 MKII, a very slick looking headphone featuring a semi-open design that combines the bass power of closed-back designs with the natural sound of open-back headphones. The K240 MKII features 30mm transducers, single-sided and detachable cable, the trademark AKG flexible headband/lightweight frame for great comfort, and a low impedance of 55 ohms which makes them easily amplified by any device. A worthy entry in AKG’s heritage-rich line of headphones.


 MP1 Mixphones

Avantone Pro MP1 Mixphones

An interesting piece from the expert speaker makers at Avantone, the open-back MP1 is a true mixing-oriented headphone that comes with a innovative “Vari-Voice” feature which sets the MP1 to work on regular stereo, mono or “Mixcube” modes, all accessible from a switch on the bottom of the right side of the cans. As some may suspect, the “Mixcube” mode emulates the sound character of the famous Mixcube single-driver speaker that’s proven to be so helpful to many engineers as a 'grotbox' since its introduction over 40 years ago. The MP1 also features a very low impedance of only 16 ohms, meaning you can amplify them with pretty much any device that has a headphone output regardless of power.


 ATH-M50X

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

An update to the highly successful ATH-M50, the new ATH-M50X introduces detachable cable and the same closed-back design with the big and powerful 45mm drivers that made their previous iteration so popular and widely recommended both for mixing due to its sound quality, and also for tracking due to their excellent isolation. They are also a convenient pick to take everywhere since the swivel ear cups can be folded in, they are built sturdy enough to 'endure the backpack' and they feature conveniently low 38 ohm impedance.


 DT 770 Pro - 250 Ohm

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro - 250 Ohm

A very well regarded headphone that is widely used and recommended across our forums - although it was initially geared towards tracking, performance and stage use with its closed-back design and single-sided cable, the DT770 ended up on many a studio head for monitoring and mixing duty as well. It’s important to note that Beyerdynamic offers three different impedance models for the DT770 with options for 32, 80 and 250 ohms and also a stronger-built “M” version for further isolation, so watch out for those details and pick the one that serves you best. Please read this article if you need further guidance.


 Custom One Pro Plus

Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus

Beyerdynamic’s proposal for an all-round type of headphone, the Custom One Pro Plus features closed back design, low impedance, swivel ear cups, a soft headband and a single-sided detachable cable with microphone option and volume control options. One interesting feature here is the “Custom Sound Slider”, which controls bass-reflex vents with four options to tame the bass levels. An interesting option if you’re looking for a "one stop" system-wide solution.


 SR125e

Grado Labs SR125e

Not usually associated with professional audio but a very respected name in the larger universe of sound, the family-run Grado Labs have been making fine audiophile headphones for over two decades. Professionals eventually took notice, and brought them over to their studio environments. The SR-125e is an open-back, low-impedance (32 ohm) headphone with a very lightweight design and Grado’s trademark headband with height adjuster that is present on all their headphones. The SR-125e sits at the middle of the brand’s Prestige Series, making them somewhat affordable - if your budget is tighter the SR60/80e models are interesting options and if price is not a issue then check out all Grado's options as there are some other very high end solutions.


 KNS 8400

KRK Systems KNS 8400

Famous for their studio monitors, KRK also made its way into the headphone arena with the KNS 8400. This is a closed-back back headphone with 40mm drivers, a low impedance of 36 ohms and a very slick design with foldable swivel cups, a single-sided detachable cable, sturdy build, and NASA-grade memory foam on the headband and ear cups. The KNS 8400 is a good candidate for a studio all-arounder that is comfortable, durable and that delivers enough power and isolation for recording, and great accuracy for mixing.


 HD 280 PRO

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO

Sennheiser’s HD280 PRO is a very popular choice and considered to be one of the best “bang for buck” headphones out there. A closed-back design with good environmental noise isolation, single-sided cable, a strong build that’s comfortable to use with its swiveling ear cups and most importantly, great sound quality for a rather modest investment. Easy to drive with its 64 ohms of impedance, the HD280 Pro is a familiar piece at many studios and has proven to be a reliable choice for studios of all levels.


 SRH840

Shure SRH840

Shure took the pro audio world by surprise a few years ago when they announced a new range of headphones, and their bet has proven to be very successful with the SRH840, a headphone with 40mm drivers, closed-back design, single-sided detachable cable, low impedance of 44 ohms, a very impressive build and excellent quality all around. Shure delivered a fine piece that rightfully earned a lot of praise and that will certainly do a great job on the studio.


 MDR-7506

Sony MDR-7506

Last but not least we have the ubiquitous Sony MDR 7506, that reliable workhorse from Japanese electronics titan Sony. This headphone features a closed-back design for high isolation, swiveling ear cups, single-sided cable, 40mm transducers and a low impedance of 63 ohms which makes it easily amplified by any device. They are light, built strong, affordable and they've been around for a while, so it’s safe to say that the MDR 7560 is a standard that’s easily spotted on many studios around the globe.


Ok, so there's our list - there are certainly other great headphones out there for all tastes, needs and wallet depths, so which headphones are you using in your studio? Are you using an external amp or controller or are you going directly from an audio interface? Please tell us about your setup below.

Also make sure to check out the long, lengthy and ongoing best mixing headphones thread
for even more chatter, argument and learned opinion!

retractablezing 27th July 2016 12:30 PM

Would be interesting to poll these 10 as well in some kind of ranking, other than alphabetical order only...

Reptil 28th July 2016 08:00 PM

surprized to not see the Sennheiser HD-25.
unbeatable on stage.

Synth Guru 28th July 2016 09:56 PM

I've been keeping an eye on the Sennheiser brand for a while now and they just be my next set of headphones. I like the sound quality of my Blue Mo-Fi but after wearing them for a while they feel like a vice is clamping down on my head! :lol:

Greenwood Audio 31st July 2016 02:30 AM

? No alessandros? Sacrilege !

Diogo C 6th August 2016 02:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Greenwood Audio (Post 12046831)
? No alessandros? Sacrilege !

Well, at least there's a Grado in there!

Thanks for the tip - will really consider once I retire my SR-60! kfhkh

Greenwood Audio 7th August 2016 10:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by diogo_c (Post 12059536)
Well, at least there's a Grado in there!

Thanks for the tip - will really consider once I retire my SR-60! kfhkh

kfhkh

The allesandro MS1 is really good with a ms-1000 mod or matmod (full disclosure - I made the latter).

db9091 11th October 2016 04:10 PM

Of the 4 I've had, the AKG is amazing bang for the buck, all arounder. And sturdy. I beat the heck out of it thinking "it's just $80, I can replace it any ol' time"

I have an HD600 for mixing but often find myself using the AKG for most things, especially travel.

Diogo C 11th October 2016 07:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by db9091 (Post 12189155)
Of the 4 I've had, the AKG is amazing bang for the buck, all arounder. And sturdy. I beat the heck out of it thinking "it's just $80, I can replace it any ol' time"

I have an HD600 for mixing but often find myself using the AKG for most things, especially travel.

Which AKG are you referring to? The K240 MKII?

Cheers

RightOnRome 11th October 2016 07:57 PM

Add the 8323 to the list.. they are no slouch

Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphone - Monoprice.com

Acidizer 12th October 2016 10:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Reptil (Post 12042455)
surprized to not see the Sennheiser HD-25.
unbeatable on stage.

had the same HD25's for around 14-15 years now, no joke. daily heavy use. had to replace the cups a couple of times, and the cable once, but the main components are still going strong. extremely impressive. would never even consider buying a different pair of headphones.

Diogo C 12th October 2016 02:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RightOnRome (Post 12189555)
Add the 8323 to the list.. they are no slouch

Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphone - Monoprice.com

I've been lurking this thing for quite some time but they never go back in stock...

weesaul 12th October 2016 09:22 PM

Got to love the HD25s as well. Just solid flat response that translates well to any monitors.

Although saying that, I've moved to the ATH-M50x as the HD25s get sore to wear after 3 hours or more. Still will always reference with both headphones as I live in a flat and don't get to play on monitors that often!

Acidizer 12th October 2016 10:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by weesaul (Post 12191736)
Got to love the HD25s as well. Just solid flat response that translates well to any monitors.

Although saying that, I've moved to the ATH-M50x as the HD25s get sore to wear after 3 hours or more. Still will always reference with both headphones as I live in a flat and don't get to play on monitors that often!

hope you have the velour cups! much better kfhkh

playon 19th October 2016 09:05 PM

ISK HD999 can be found for under $100 and compares well with some of the cans on this list. Which is probably why it's not on this list...cooge

CCP 9th April 2017 01:47 PM

Good to see Grado's up there.

Ash Telecaster 28th April 2017 07:26 PM

Of these, I have the Sony mdr-7506, Beyer DT770, Senn HD280, and AT M50.

They all have their pros and cons and I would pick each for specific purposes. If I could only have one though it would be the M50's. They isolate well and sound very good. The mdr-7506 have a scooped sound and are light on your head. Vocalists tend to like them. I usually use the hd250's for drummer as they isolate very well. The Beyers are very good but not quite as good as the M50's IMHO. That may be a result of the source. I could be wrong but the Beyers might be more demanding to get the most out of them. Either that or they take a long time to break in.

For critical listening I would rate them like this...

1. M50
2. DT770
3. MDR-7506
4. HD280

For isolation

1. M50
2. HD280
3. DT770
4. MDR-7506

For general listening...

1. MDR-7506
2. M50
3. DT770
4. HD280

The HD280 hits the bottom of the list a lot in regards to sound quality but I should stress that all these cans sound good and sometimes it is a tight race between four good sets of cans and I like my hd250's. I believe they cost the same as the Sony's. The Sony's don't cut it for isolation in my book and they aren't good for mastering but they sound very nice especially for vocal music or acoustic instruments, strings, etc. The HD280's feel sturdier, isolate great and sound decent. If you want cans all around for a home studio they are the way to go. They have a nice balanced sound too. The M50's are killer for bass. They have those 45mm drivers and can really rock. They also have a flat enough response that mixes translate fairly well. You just have to make sure not to under emphasize the bass. The DT770's have a more airy presentation and a better sound stage. They don't isolate as well as the M50's and less bass but would also work well for mixing.

At least that's my perception. Others may hear things differently.

Edit: Just realized this thread is kind of old. I'll leave it here anyway since I took the time to type it!

Dimmy 30th April 2017 08:55 AM

The ATH-M40x are great headphones, too. I never even tried the M50x, because of so many comments on the internet about what a good job the cheaper brother does. It's trust-worthy and reliable, a great helper for decision-making, i.e. microfone placement!

briguy1960 4th May 2017 07:10 PM

For extended wear the 280's are hard to beat

jazzgitter 3rd October 2017 05:27 AM

Massdrop has the AKG K7xx and the Sennheiser HD6xx based on the AKG K702 anniversary editions and the Sennheiser HD-650. Both are $199 when available on Massdrop. Currently the AKG K7XX is available:

https://www.massdrop.com/buy/akg-k7x...ion-headphones

Nystagmus 27th October 2017 08:28 PM

Guitar Center these days finally has a listening station to compare pro headphones. I was able to compare some Audio-Technicas with some AKG's and went with the K240 Studios. I know a lot of it is personal preference, but it means a lot to be able to test.

DeltaCharlieEcho 28th October 2017 03:30 AM

HD280 Pro are pretty much industry standard from my understanding. The only downside is that they are HOT. They sound pretty great though. Not sure if they are the 'best' in the price range but I am extremely satisfied with mine.

Noisewagon 28th October 2017 04:08 AM

Sony MDR-7506.

Don't take my word for it....Go to the music store and let you listen to all of them.

Fast_Fingers 28th October 2017 04:09 AM

Monoprice 8323s are fantastic, probably the first choice I'd hand out to a stranger/musician I don't know for tracking.

Alécio Costa 29th October 2017 10:38 PM

AKG240M, 240S, 141 are my favourite, except for tracking drums with a very loud click track.

Mr Funk 30th October 2017 11:05 PM

Both the Massdrop AKG K7XX and Sennheiser HD6XX at $199 should be in this list. In their original and more expensive guise of K702AE and HD650 they are in the best headphones over $300 list! Well, the K701 is and the 702AE/7XX are even better.

Diogo C 31st October 2017 01:19 AM

FWIW, we like to consider "MSRP" prices when determining these thresholds, but things can get tricky because of price drops, semi-permanent discounts and so forth, so please bare with us. :)

Mr Funk 31st October 2017 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by diogo_c (Post 12932795)
FWIW, we like to consider "MSRP" prices when determining these thresholds, but things can get tricky because of price drops, semi-permanent discounts and so forth, so please bare with us. :)

Hey, not having a go guys, you do a great job!

As for the cans I mentioned, they are always $199 every time they "drop", which is quite often.

Massdrop are dropping the K7xx right now.

summergreen 9th December 2017 03:40 AM

I have the Beyerdynamic DT 770, Audio-Technica ATH-M50X, and Sennheiser HD 280 PRO, among others.

The Beyerdynamics are the best of them for detailed, accurate pro studio work and insulated from bleet. I keep them safe for tracking and mixing. with.

The Audio-Technica are more fun to listen to music. I love them the most for enjoyment. I can see that singers would love them for tracking, as long as you are careful about bleed.

If I had a tight budget, I would mix with the Audio-Technica's and JBL305 monitors, listening on another system for the deep bass, like a good car system, and other systems for translation.

Sennheiser HD 280's lack bass. Use with caution. They are accurate for the price, and I came to the conclusion they are the best cans under $100. Sound isolation is good for the price. I keep them in my backpack where they risk getting beat up when I am casually mobile. I would never do that with the Beyerdynamics kept aside for the singer.

mathieujm 4th January 2018 03:58 PM

I mostly record Classical music ans it's hard to find cans that reproduce the real spectrum of real acoustic instruments.
I tried
- the 7506 : too much high mids. Impossible to hear a violin with these
- The 770 80o : very comfortable but too much bass and treble, no so important medium
- The 770 250o was far more linear, but always these Beyer highs !
- The AT 50 (not 50X) : not comfortable, unnatural punch and basses, no medium
- The KRK 8400 : the most comfortable (it's very light). The sound is ok but nasal sound
- The Focal Professionnal : after a few hours it sounds good, with always some lacks in the medium and a little too much bass. Not very comfortable

The last one, not in the list above (??? it cost me 155€), very old reference and the best for its very natural sound : the Beyer DT-250.
It's the first one giving me just after a recording a similar sound than the direct sound. Not the "Beyer" sound of the 770/880/990.
Very light, comfortable (around the ears for my ears). No problem to drive it at reasonable level.
2 point where it dosn't shine :
- the isolation is average
- Nothing to reduce the (little...)size of the cans in your bag.