The 8 Best Pairs of Studio Headphones

To truly get the best sound quality possible—we're talking true ten-octave, 20- to 20,000-hz, crystal-clear tones—the pair of earbuds that came with your phone won't do the trick. For such a high level of sonic superiority, you'll need to invest in a killer pair of studio headphones. Here are the best options on the market.

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Sennheiser SD 650

If you want to big—like, really big—then you'll want to check out the voluminously praised SD 650s. These legendary cans will bring your favorite recordings to life with great low-end sound and smooth, fluid mids, meaning you can easily pick up on subtleties you may have missed listening with inferior audio. Plus, the elliptical design makes them super comfy to wear. ($500; sennheiser.com)

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Grado Labs Prestige Series SR80e

For under $100, you can pick up an update to one of the most loved, affordable headphones out there: the Grado SR80i. Made in Brooklyn, by Grado—which was founded there in 1953 and is well-known by audiophiles for their excellent customer service and stellar cans—this new version has boosted bass response from a new driver and upgraded plastic in the housing to reduce vibrations. The SR80e open-back headphones offer a warm midrange, superb dynamics, and buttery smooth top end, all at a bargain price. ($99; gradolabs.com)

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Sony MDR7506

These are the headphones that graced the shaved head of every NYC DJ during the '80s, and cupped the ears of countless subway commuters before the iPod heralded the white earbud revolution. But you can still pick up a new pair of these solid and soulful vintage headphones for under $100, and relive a few EDM moments in the comfort of your own listening room. They offer chunky 40mm drivers, gold connectors, an oxygen-free copper cord, and an easy-to-stow foldable design. ($100; amazon.com)

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Black over-the-ear headphones photo

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Shure SRH1440

Listening to music with true studio headphones, like this pair, from Shure, means you'll hear every little nuance in your music, right down to the pops and crackles you'd generally only spot on a vintage vinyl deep cut. The open-back design means no distortion in your music, and the large neodymium drivers push a full-range of audio, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Plus, with a padded headband and velour earpads, you can clock some lengthy listening sessions without any discomfort. ($299; shure.com)

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Focal Spirit Professional

Focal, the iconic French audio brand, is well-known for selling a pair of insanely luxe $3,500 (!) headphones. But for a tenth of the price, you can get a pair that produces the same crystal-clear sound. (Reasonably, only the best-trained music pros could spot the difference between models.) Built with mylar and titanium-alloy drivers, the Spirit Professional is great for delivering punchy bass and drowning out any ambient noise. The only real drawback? They're not quite as snazzy-looking as the top-tier model. ($350; amazon.com)

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

For a pair of studio headphones that are still adaptable enough to work on the go, take a look at the ATH-M50x model, from Audio-Technica. With detachable cables and a collapsible design, they're effortlessly portable. But fat 45mm drivers—made from rare-earth magnets, at that—and copper-covered aluminum wire ensures outstanding clarity across the full spectrum of frequencies. Plus, earcups that swivel 90 degrees with a contoured design mean comfort for days. ($149; audio-technica.com)

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Gray corded headphones photo

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Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

Durable yet deliciously dynamic, from a sonic perspective, these German-made headphones are universally loved by studio engineers for their wide stereo image and bold bass. They're also ideal for breaking down the nuances of music in a noisy environment, as the closed-back design and adjustable earcups seal out unneeded distractions. A single-sided cable and padded steel headband add to the comfort and style of these best-in-class cans. ($175; amazon.com)

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Black headphones with rose-gold detailing photo

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Status Audio CB-1

Status Audio is singularly shaking up the audio world by providing stellar sound quality at rock-bottom prices, all enabled by a direct-to-consumer model. On pure technical merits—robust 50mm drivers crank out tunes at 97db without sacrificing sound quality—the company's studio headphones, the CB-1, rival high-end offerings of competitors. Plush earcups and a minimalist aesthetic ensure they're truly best-in-class. Small wonder The Verge said they "might be the best headphones under $100." ($79; thestatusaudio.com)

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