Studio headphones are designed and tuned to give as close to an authentic a listening experience as possible. Regular headphones can boost the low-end or other aspects of EQ, which isn’t as authentic.
This post will compare studio headphones to regular headphones. I’ll give you some background on each style and explain their differences. The goal is to help you understand which option best meets your needs.
Let’s get after it.
- Key Takeaways
- Studio Headphones vs Regular Headphones
- What are Reference Headphones?
- How to Choose The Best Headphone for Home Studio
- Studio headphones are designed to have a more neutral or authentic sound signature to reflect what is happening in the music being listened to.
- Regular headphones don’t always have as authentic of a sound signature and can boost the low end or reduce other aspects of the mix.
- Studio headphones are generally more expensive and better suited for professionals in the music industry.
- Most people will be just fine with regular headphones, and untrained ears might not be able to hear the difference between the two.
Studio Headphones vs Regular Headphones
|Designed to have a very authentic sound signature
|Don’t have as authentic of a sound signature and can boost the low end or other aspects of a mix
|Better for producers, audio engineers, and musicians
|Better for the average listener
|Usually not packed with features but deliver excellent and authentic sound
|Have more features that consumers might like
|Plenty of options/models available but not as many as regular headphones
|More options/models available
If you are considering a new set of headphones, your search may have led you to both studio and regular headphones. While there might not seem like much of a difference between these two on the surface, there’s quite a bit to unpack and examine.
It’s important to understand the intended purpose and market for each headphone before we dive into more of the differences. When you know this, it can help you understand which headphones are best for your intended purposes.
Studio headphones are built with recording and audio engineering purposes in mind. These headphones have an authentic sound signature that reflects the actual mix of the music being listened to through them.
Regular headphones are designed for people who listen to music. They might not have as authentic of a sound signature because many regular headphones are built to boost the low-end or other aspects of the mix.
Studio headphones are essential for anyone who makes or records music professionally. Producers, engineers, and musicians will want to get studio headphones because they are a tool that helps you better record music.
The average music listener will only need regular headphones and might not enjoy listening to studio headphones as much. Regular headphones provide the type of sound people are used to hearing.
Studio headphones are typically more expensive than regular headphones. This is because they are built with top-notch materials to deliver excellent and authentic sound quality. Regular headphones can be expensive too, but this category offers more affordable options.
Regular headphones offer more styles, features, and variety than studio headphones. This is because they are built for consumers and their needs. This is an advantage of regular headphones if you want a particular function or feature.
Because of this, you also have more options to choose from with regular headphones. There are still many studio headphone models available, but not as many as with studio headphones.
What are Reference Headphones?
Reference headphones are essentially the same as studio headphones. They are called reference because they are designed to deliver an authentic and unchanged sound quality when listening to them.
When an audio engineer or producer is working on a mix, they need to reference things as they work. This is how reference headphones got their name. Most professionals use the terms reference and studio headphones interchangeably.
How to Choose The Best Headphone for Home Studio
Here are the factors you should consider before buying.
Producers usually have stereo imaging issues when they are mixing with headphones. When this issue comes up, the stereo field sounds markedly wider compared to studio monitors. The reason why this comes up is that the left and right channels of the headphones sit on each side of our heads.
Also, the center-panned mix elements sound like they’re between our ears on headphones. Thus, you have to consider this challenge when you’re establishing the stereo image on headphones.
One thing is sure: every headphone is unique, and they have a particular way of coloring the sound they reproduce. The coloration in question affects the way people perceive frequencies—which ultimately changes the way they mix.
So, you need to consider the frequency response of headphones before you buy one—because it goes a long way to affect the way you mix.
Crossfeed refers to an aural phenomenon. You may notice this issue if you go for bad headphones. As a result, the right and the left ear don’t blend—and your brain will see that something is missing—thus, you may dislike what you hear.
So, it’s best to look out for solid headphones that blend the left and right channels to a large extent.
Most studio headphones measure their specs in ohms—and the values are the impedance of the headphone. Thus, the higher the impedance value, the more power is needed by the headphones to produce volume.
It’s also a major factor behind the output limitations of amplifiers. A lower-impedance headphone gives a larger load compared to high-impedance headphones (which are usually limited by their amplifiers).
So, ensure that you consider impedance values before you buy new studio headphones—because a poor choice can cause harm down the line.
The sensitivity of headphone measures how efficiently earpieces can convert the electrical signal into sound. So, a higher sensitivity allows you to concentrate and edit the smallest details.
But, you have to note that a higher sensitivity could also damage your ears. Bear in mind the safety side of things when you’re considering the sensitivity levels in headphones.
A driver is essential when it comes to converting an electrical signal into sound. A driver unit is made up of a diaphragm, magnet, and voice coils. The size of the driver is in millimeters, and it’s responsible for producing a powerful sound.
Thus, the bigger the driver unit, the bigger the sound it produces. Therefore, you can go for headphones with a more significant driver unit if you want a louder sound.
Ambient Noise Reduction
Sometimes, you could be trying to focus on your work, but outside sounds tend to interfere. In this case, you can opt for closed-back headphones because they help to cut off outside noise.
The headphones isolate the noise with their body—which is known as ambient noise reduction. Thus, keep this in mind when you’re choosing headphones for your home studio.
Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to the differences between studio headphones and regular headphones.
Do studio headphones make a difference?
Studio headphones make a big difference when you are mixing and mastering audio. These headphones deliver an authentic audio signature, which is crucial when you are in the process of production and making adjustments to a mix.
Can I use normal headphones instead of studio headphones?
While it is possible to use normal headphones for mixing, mastering, and other aspects of audio engineering, it’s not ideal. Professionals will only use studio headphones because these are built to provide an authentic sound that regular headphones might not provide.
Do you need studio headphones to make music?
You do not need studio headphones to make music. If you want to mix and master music on a professional level, it’s good to get a nice pair of studio headphones. But if you are an average musician and just recording for yourself, you can use regular headphones.
Are studio headphones good for listening to music?
Studio headphones aren’t always the best choice for listening to music. You can still get great sound quality with them, but the levels might differ from what the average listener is used to because they offer an authentic sound that hasn’t been boosted or changed.
Studio and regular headphones differ, and understanding these differences can help you decide which option is better suited to meet your needs. The information above will get you pointed in the right direction with that in mind.
You probably don’t need studio headphones if you aren’t a professional musician or producer or running your own home studio.
Do you use studio headphones or regular headphones? Which do you like more and why? Let me know in the comments below.