A good quality set of studio headphones is essential when recording vocals. The last thing you want to do is spoil your recordings with troublesome headphone bleed or pitch issues due to inadequate monitoring.
We've compiled our choice of the best headphones for recording vocals to suit all budgets.
What Makes Good Set of Headphones for Recording Vocals?
The most important factors when choosing a set of headphones for vocal tracking are as follows:
Comfort: Are you or the performer able to wear them for the duration of a recording session without discomfort?
Sound Isolation: Do they prevent unwanted spill from the monitor signal bleeding into your mic?
Sound Quality: Is the sound output appropriate for monitoring?
In a nutshell, you need a set of headphones that are comfortable over long recording sessions, prevent bleed into the mic, and produce a clean, relatively flat frequency response for accurate monitoring.
Closed-back studio headphones are best when recording vocals. Our three core specifications rule out open-back designs, consumer earbuds, and bass-heavy consumer designs. It's also best to avoid bluetooth headphones, as the potential for signal delay to affect the performance isn't worth the risk.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO
If you're looking for a solid set of studio headphones that won't break the bank, Sennheiser's HD 280 PROs are a solid workhorse.
Speaking from personal experience, the sound isolation properties of these highly affordable cans far outperform many headphones costing many times the price.
They're also very comfortable and durable. The HD280 PROs aren't the flattest sounding headphones, so buyers seeking a single pair of headphones for tracking and mixing may want to consider other options.
Price: $99.95 | £87
AKG K271 MKII
AKG are absolute masters at designing industry workhorse gear. The K271 MKII headphones are perfect for tracking vocals as they produce a loud monitor signal with plenty of articulation without bleeding back into your vocal microphone.
They're a solid tool you'll find in professional studios all over the world. A unique feature that proves very useful is the auto-mute function, which automatically mutes the headphones when taken off.
Price: $129 | £91
Recently receiving a design overhaul, Shure's SRH840A headphones are some of the best at this price point. These cans isolate extremely well and are superbly balanced across the frequency range.
There's a nice low-frequency extension and the highs are crisp and clear. The balanced, clear mid-range makes them ideal for extended tracking and mixing tasks without giving you ear fatigue.
Compared with the older SRH840 model, the headband is significantly improved from a comfort and aesthetic viewpoint. Gone are the exposed cables and clunky plastic parts in favour of a new design that continues Shure's reputation for durability in a fresh modern design.
Price: $149 | £127
Audio Technica - ATH-M50
These affordable studio headphones have rightly gained a reputation as one of the best headphones for recording vocals. They're comfortable, flat in frequency response, and perfect for critical listening.
The ATH-M50 gets our vote as one of the best affordable all-rounders for a wide range of recording and mixing tasks.
At this price point, you can't argue with the sound quality and comfort. You can comfortably wear the ATH-M50s for extended periods and the addition of multiple cable lengths is helpful depending on your recording environment. Choose between 1.2m and 3m straight cables or the 1.2-3m coiled version.
Price: $169 | £129
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO (80 ohms)
The DT 770 headphones are a mainstay of many pro recording studios for tracking and surgical mixing and mastering.
The detailed frequency response will help vocalists perform at their best, while the soft velvet ear cups provide exceptional isolation and comfort.
Though the cable is highly durable, the design could be improved further if it were removable. Removable cables are much easier to replace if they are damaged, and it gives you the option to swap between shorter or longer cables, depending on your requirements.
Price: $149 | £125
For those with deeper pockets, Shure's premium SRH1540 headphones are some of the best closed-back headphones for recording vocals if comfort is a priority.
The uber-soft earpads (made from a trademarked material called Alcantara) are some of the most comfortable we've tried. Comfort and sound isolation don't always come together in the same package, but they certainly do in this instance.
Price: $499 | £385
OLLO Audio S4R
The best studio headphones for recording vocals combine great sound with comfort and a splash of luxury. OLLO Audio's S4R deliver in all areas with an exceptionally true flat frequency response, next-level sound isolation, and quality materials.
Their trademark Sound Seal Acoustics design delivers 100% separation between the front and back earcup cavity. This provides some of the best clarity and sound stage we've heard in a closed-back headphone, coupled with the best isolation for avoiding click track or backing track bleed.
The real wood design adds a touch of class rarely seen in studio headphone designs, and the velour-pleather hybrid earcups solve the common problem of sweaty ears during long recording sessions by helping to disperse heat.
Price: $499 | £345
Headphones for Recording Vocals - The Bottom Line
A good set of closed-back studio headphones is one of the best investments you can make for your home studio. Sound isolation and monitoring clarity should be at the top of your priority list when choosing the best headphones for recording vocals.
Open-back headphones are a great investment for detailed mixing tasks, as they typically sound more natural. As they allow sound to pass in and out, the effect is closer to monitoring on a good set of studio reference monitors. What we gain in accuracy, though, we lose in isolation, meaning they're not a good choice for tracking vocals using a guide or click track.
Eventually, it's worth investing in closed and open-back headphones for the best of both worlds. If budget limits you to one set of headphones, pick the most natural, flat, open-sounding closed-back cans your budget will accommodate.