Monitor headphones tend to somewhat bridge in between the sound signature of the studio- and audiophile-grade headphones.
Monitor headphones are generally more neutral-sounding than a closed-back pair of headphones. However, they’re still capable of delivering supreme clarity and detail, which is great for mixing/mastering applications. It doesn’t matter whether you use an analogue or digital mixer/recorder or a digital audio workstation – as long as you have the right pair of monitors to facilitate the process.
Monitor headphones are excellent for critical listening purposes. In fact, these types of headphones have become increasingly popular among audiophiles and music lovers alike in recent years. This is mainly because more people are starting to realize the incredible potential of studio-grade headphones. The existence of monitor headphones has helped quite a bit with regards to that.
One thing most people tend to forget about monitor headphones is that they’re incredibly versatile. You can use these headphones for not only mixing/mastering audio but also for casual listening purposes as well. This means you get to enjoy incredible detail and clarity in your music without needing to compromise that experience for mixing/mastering purposes.
The Difference Between Monitor Headphones & Regular Headphones
Monitor headphones are fairly different from regular headphones as they employ a closed-back design. This makes them great for studio use, which is why these types of headphones tend to be more popular among professional musicians.
These days, you can find countless of these monitors in the market. That being said, not all of them are worth your while. Therefore, it’s best to do your due diligence and research before you make a purchase.
Some people tend to make the mistake of thinking that all monitor headphones are similar. The truth is, there are countless differences between the monitor and audiophile-grade headphones.
Here are the main differences between them:
- Monitor headphones tend to be fairly neutral-sounding, making them ideal for mixing/mastering applications (hence the name).
- On the other hand, Audiophile-grade headphones are designed with a more natural response to deliver a better audio performance. Whether it’s soundstage or clarity, audiophile-grade headphones can deliver a more natural and balanced performance. As such, they tend to be more consumer-oriented than monitor headphones.
- Monitor headphones are designed to replicate speakers’ sound placed in front of you within an inch away. This makes them ideal for mixing/mastering applications. However, audiophile-grade headphones can deliver superior details and clarity, which is something you won’t find in most monitor headphones. Even so, many audiophile-grade headphones are incredibly similar to regular headphones when it comes to sound performance.
- Audiophile-grade headphones tend to be more consumer-oriented. Therefore, you get a better bang for your buck by purchasing these types of headphones.
- On the other hand, monitor headphones are generally aimed at professionals who want to ensure they get the best sound quality possible. As such, these types of monitors tend to be quite expensive in comparison to audiophile-grade headphones.
- Monitor headphones tend to excel in soundstage and clarity, which is great for mixing/mastering applications.
- Audiophile-grade headphones are generally more balanced, especially when it comes to the bass response here. However, high-quality monitor headphones have just as much bass as they do treble. This is mainly because they’re very neutral-sounding, which makes them great for mixing/mastering purposes.
- Audiophile-grade headphones have a more natural sound profile than a flat response curve like most monitor headphones do. As such, this gives audiophile-grade headphones an edge in terms of clarity and detail performance (which is how most consumers prefer their music).
Examples of Popular Monitor Headphones
In this guide on what monitor headphones are, we at The Redwood Plan are going to explore some of the most popular monitor headphones out there. After looking at Monitor Headphones, we will look at a couple of Audiophile-Grade headphones, allowing you to see the main differences for yourself.
Focal Stellia Closed-Back Circum-Aural Over-Ear Headphones
If you’re looking for a pair of monitor headphones that will make your mixes shine through, check out Focal Stellia Closed-Back Circum-Aural Over-Ear Headphones.
These are over-ear headphones with a closed-back design. They feature an incredibly plush cushioning system that provides optimal comfort for extended listening sessions. The closed-back design of these headphones provides comfort and a great amount of noise isolation for the listener and more accurate sound reproduction.
The circumaural earpads provide optimum comfort for long studio sessions. In fact, you can easily use them for several hours at a time without feeling uncomfortable at all.
The 40mm drivers deliver a wide frequency range (4Hz – 38,000Hz). This means you get to enjoy an incredibly detailed and balanced sonic reproduction. It’s worth mentioning that these headphones feature a fairly balanced sound signature with crisp highs, smooth mids, and warm lows – which is great for mixing/mastering purposes. These headphones are also great for critical listening purposes, thanks to their fairly neutral sound reproduction.
One other important thing to note about these headphones is that they’re designed and engineered in France. This means you can expect a premium-quality product with great attention to detail.
AKG Pro Audio K812 PRO Over-Ear, Open-Back, Flat-Wire, Superior Reference Headphones
Another popular pair of monitor headphones worth checking out is AKG Pro Audio K812 PRO Over-Ear, Open-Back, Flat-Wire, Superior Reference Headphones.
These are open-back over-ear headphones that deliver phenomenally accurate sound reproduction. The design of the headphones allows the listener to experience excellent detail and clarity without experiencing any listening fatigue.
These headphones feature a powerful and accurate sound reproduction thanks to their fairly balanced sound signature. They boast an extended frequency range of 5Hz – 45,000Hz, making them great for critical listening/monitoring purposes. The frequency response is flat and consistent across the entire spectrum, making these headphones very good for mixing/mastering.
The earcups are circumaural, which ensures that you get a comfortable listening experience for hours on end. Moreover, the headband is ergonomically designed to not feel heavy even after extended sessions in the studio. The headphones come with 3 cables (2 coiled and 1 straight). This means you can choose the cable that you prefer for your intended application.
Examples of Popular Audiophile-Grade Headphones
There are several audiophile-grade headphones available on the market today. To help you understand what they’re like, we will look at some popular examples here. After that, we will list three excellent alternatives for people who want to mix/master music professionally and seriously take their art to the next level.
SENNHEISER HD 820 Over-the-Ear Audiophile Reference Headphones
Sennheiser HD 820 Over-the-Ear Audiophile Reference Headphones is one such audiophile pair. Designed for uncompromising music pleasure, these headphones feature an innovative driver technology and a refined frequency response that provides you with incredible sonic performance across the entire spectrum.
This is a full-size, open-back design headphone. The earpads are circumaural and designed to cover even the largest ears comfortably. The headband is well-padded, ensuring that it doesn’t put any undue pressure on your head.
The HD 820 comes with 10 drivers – 2 of which are dedicated bass units, 4 mid-range units, and 4 high-frequency units. These drivers are capable of producing a frequency response of 5Hz – 40,000Hz. This means you get to enjoy an incredibly detailed and balanced sonic reproduction across the entire spectrum.
The soundstage on these headphones is simply incredible, thanks to their open-back design. You get a tonal balance that’s fairly neutral with powerful bass and crisp highs. These headphones are designed and engineered in Germany so that you can expect a premium-quality product here.
These headphones come with 2 cables – one coiled cable for DJ monitoring use and another straight cable better suited for studio use. You also get replacement earpads and a carrying case included in the box.
Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2 Closed Back Portable Audiophile Headphones
Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2 Closed Back Portable Audiophile Headphones is another popular option in this category.
These headphones come with a unique open-ear cup design that allows the ears to breathe, which means you get to hear your music clearly even when the headphones are over your ears! The open-back ear cups ensure low heat build-up, which means you can listen to your favourite music for hours on end without feeling uncomfortable.
The AEON Flow 2 comes with a frequency response of 5Hz – 35,000Hz, making it great for hearing all the finer details in vocals and instruments and sound effects. Listening to these headphones is a truly immersive experience. The soundstage is pinpoint accurate, and the tonal balance is warm and clear.
The earpads are made of protein leather, which ensures that you get a comfortable listening experience for hours on end. The headband is also designed to be ergonomically flexible so that it doesn’t put any undue pressure on your ears even after long hours of use. The headband is also generously padded with breathable fabric to feel too tight on your ears. As a bonus, you get a 3.5mm to 6.3mm converter and two cables (one coiled and one straight) included in the box.
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