Open back studio headphone recommendations please
December 15, 2010 1:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new pair of headphones, specifically for studio and hifi use, open back preferable. My budget is up to £200, and I have no idea where to start.

So I've got a trusty pair of closed back Sennheiser HD25-SP, that I use for DJing and in the studio. But I find them pretty tiring for extended studio sessions and perhaps a touch bass heavy.

So to complement them I'm looking for something open backed, which I understand will be less tiring to use for longer periods, right? Sound isolation isn't an issue, as they're for home use only, so I don't need to block out noise or worry about annoying anyone with spill. They've got to have a clear, pro-audio sound quality, and I'd prefer on-ear rather than over-ear as I find that more comfortable. Budget is up to £200 but if you think there's something worth spending more on, let me know. Thanks in advance :)
posted by iivix to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've got a pair of Alessandro MS-1s that I've been using for almost 2 years now, and I've been very happy with them. They fit your requirements of 1) open-back 2) on ear. They have great sound quality and are very easy to drive. I've got no idea where in the UK you can find them, but their website is here.

Otherwise, I have friends who have Beyerdynamics headphones, but have not tried them on personally. Are you able to go to a shop to audition them?
posted by titantoppler at 3:04 AM on December 15, 2010

sennheiser hd650..neutral for the studio, and great sounding
posted by Not Supplied at 3:09 AM on December 15, 2010

Even if you're not a big fan of circumaural headphones, try a pair of (open-back) AKG K-701's if you get the chance. They are excellent and super comfortable. I own a pair of semi-open AKG-240 Mk II's which are also very good, at about half the price of the 701's.
posted by The Mouthchew at 4:28 AM on December 15, 2010

I used to have a pair of HD580s until they were stolen, superb sounding and lovely velvet earpieces suitable for extended listening. I would go for the HD 600 or if you can stretch to them the HD650. Of course, you'll then need a H'amp (Little Dot, Creek, Headcase) :)
posted by gallagho at 6:02 AM on December 15, 2010

I have the Grado SR-80i which I think sound great and are well within your budget.
posted by doctord at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2010

Seconding Grado.
posted by omnidrew at 7:23 AM on December 15, 2010

As mentioned up thread, K701s and HD650s are the usual recommendations if you can find a good price. Grado is an often budget "bang for buck" recommendation. Always best to audition the phones yourself if possible. Lots of interesting discussion over at if you require more data points than this thread.
posted by sockpup at 7:30 AM on December 15, 2010

Everything I've ever read about the AKGs, including user reviews and professional reviews say they are pinnacle in your price range. I don't have them myself yet, but they are going to be my next purchase.
posted by spicynuts at 8:46 AM on December 15, 2010

You're best to go to some sort of headphone wall, where you can listen to different headphones and get an idea of what kind of sound and feel you like. If you find your current Senns to be a touch bass heavy, you're likely to find other Sennheiser products to be similarly thumpy. I like Grado cans for their open, soundstage-y quality. Grado also has models that differ significantly in their padding, and you can switch out the pads. My brother loves his AKG 701s, though you might find the bass a bit tight if you're switching from Sennheiser. I find that Beyerdynamic models are super comfortable, though not having a pair of my own, I can't speak for their long-term audio quality. Also think about whether it's important to you to be able to mod them - my brother now has balanced terminations on his AKG 701s, and he loves the effect. Check out headroom for some ideas.
posted by analog at 9:28 AM on December 15, 2010

nthing Grado. I own the SR-80 and love them. They're also "on-ear." I can leave mine on for 5-6 hours at a time while sitting at my computer during a typical workday. They don't pinch too bad, and the open back really helps with the fatigue. Bonus is that these headphones sound great even without a dedicated headphone amp, which isn't always the case with hi-end phones.

Do you have an independently owned hi-fi store in your area? I have one here locally that left me in a room with a closing door, a comfy chair, a stack of CD's and a pile of headphones to audition. I just told the guy I had $200 to spend, and wanted open-backed headphones, and he brought me everything that fell within those parameters.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 9:30 AM on December 15, 2010

I also like grado's but have never heard their mid-to-high priced lines, which is where your £200 gets you. my real advice is to ask the same question in the Head-Fi's full size can forum. Lots of experience there.
posted by rtimmel at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2010

+1 on headroom AKA – their recommendations have matched my experiences.
posted by krilli at 10:27 AM on December 15, 2010

Thanks everyone, some really useful advice, that's definitely given me a solid shortlist to work from. It looks like Grado might be the make based on what you're all saying, but I'll get my arse to a shop to audition properly. I won't mark best answers, as I'd just end up marking them all :)
posted by iivix at 12:53 AM on December 16, 2010

Well, if you can't choose, have them both... In the end I bought a pair of Grado SR80i and a pair of AKG K141 MK2 (which are sort of half on-ear), and scraped in just under £200 for both. Very pleased with both pairs so far, although it's obvious that each pair (along with my Sennheisers) have their own strengths and weaknesses. Both are very comfortable, both seem well constructed, but if I had to to pick one pair only, I think I'd have plumped for the AKGs, as they're stronger in terms of having a more upfront and bass friendly sound that works well with electronic dance music (which I listen to a lot of). But having listened to the Grados I'd be very sad to let go of them as they really seem to have a level of detail in the mid to top end that missings from both the AKGs and the Sennheisers.

Thanks for the advice everyone, I guess I'll be offering my own advice in the next headphone thread :)
posted by iivix at 6:51 AM on December 29, 2010

« Older Why does my wi-fi die-fi?   |   What are some of the best sites on the web you can... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.