Best Budget Headphones for Music Production: Easy Guide for the Beginners
Hey there, my dudes! And I don’t forget about dudettes either! How is it going today? Looking for a good bang for a buck headphones? I see I see. Well, let’s get into it already, shall we? Let me introduce you to THE GUIDE: the best budget headphones for music production.
Okay, I’ll do my best to make things as simple as I can, but there are some technical details in the guide. You don’t really have to understand them perfectly, it’s more for the reference.
For example, when I’ll be talking about studio headphones you will see me referring to their driver size (also called diameter). You don’t really need to know what the driver is and what it’s made off, or what exactly it does in terms of sound waves.
You may think that the rule of thumb is the bigger the better, which is not the case, but I want to keep this particular guide as simple as possible!
I know a professional audio engineer can tell you a lot more, but you only NEED to know so much. Do a research in your free time if you want, but this article will be more than enough to start.
How about we start?
There are so many headphones, where should we begin? Hmm, let’s start with the star boys, well-known and respected Audio-Technica headphones. If you don’t know, they have been making high-quality headphones for ages, since 1962. A small Japanese company back in the days, now the giant in the headphones world. Even the big brother, Sony, has troubles competing with them in this market.
There are 3 different models I would like to talk about, as they are cheap for the quality they offer.
NOTE: Even though I say cheap, I don’t mean $20, just making it clear.
1) Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
They are considered the budget version of the budget product line. AT mentions that these headphones offer an advanced built quality. I wouldn’t quite disagree with that.
Even though they are not expensive, they were still designed for producing and mixing, specifically in budget studios like yours. However, think of it as “if they were that good, why wouldn’t every producer be using them”
They come with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils and 40 mm drivers, which are more than enough to start. (Remember how I was talking about the driver size?) The only thing I dislike is the single side cable exit, which can be inconvenient from time to time. Hey, what did you expect?
* More About Audio-Technica ATH-M20x.
2) Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
These ones would be the more advanced version of earlier described ATH-M20x at still a low price. Very similar and appealing stats. Why but them as opposed to the previous ones? Very good question!
It offers a lot better sound isolation and prevents your headphones from bleeding. M20x are supposed to be closed-back as well, but you can tell they bleed more, trust me on this one.
It doesn’t really matter if you don’t record vocals or instruments, so judge by how you are going to roll with your music production.
Also! Remember I said I don’t appreciate the single side cable exit? Well, these bad boys have the removable cable. Oh yeah, you can also rotate the earcups 90°, so monitoring your track gets even easier!
* More About Audio-Technica ATH-M40x.
3) Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Find me a headphone list without these bad boys and I’ll personally message the list creator! No list should go without ATH-M50x.
Yeah, of course, you want to pick these, the official “get the best bang for the buck headphones”. I mean, they are not the cheapest, but they overdeliver for the price you pay. Let me explain. To start, they offer the exceptional clarity all over the frequency spectrum.
Add the deep, precise bass response and you got the top quality budget headphones with all the little things like rotating earcups, high-quality earpad, and headband materials! And, of course, the detachable cable.
I know, it feels like I am overemphasizing that the cable can go in either ear, but if you spend hours making music, you want to make comfort one of your top priorities, right?
I also love how AT developers removed some key frequencies from the very high end, so your ears don’t get tired too fast. Tell me this isn’t smart!
Alrighty, I don’t want you to think I am biased towards Audio-Technica in any way, there are plenty more.
Let’s keep going with other studio headphones!
* More About Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
4) AKG K 553 Pro
So remember how I told you the guide is budget? Well, I couldn’t stay from mentioning these bad boys. A little note, they are even more expensive than most budget headphones, but you know what, they are worth every penny!
Even though they don’t have the perks like the detachable cable or the ability to rotate the earcups 90 degrees, they offer the supreme quality for how much they cost! The drivers are insane – not just very low impedance, but the whole 50 mm (yes, this is big)!
Listen, that’s a steal for how much they go! Not as affordable as the rest on the list, but if you have some cash, it’s an amazing investment, trust me!
Okay, I’ll try to not get all emotional about this…
* More About AKG K553 PRO.
5) Shure SRH440
Have you heard of Shure? If your answer is “No” I got bad news for you… Just kidding, especially if you are just getting into music, it’s totally fine to not know the biggest brands in the industry. It tends to go head to head with AT.
They both make great headphones and mics for the budget studios all around the world. Have I mentioned that Shure is a United States company, as opposed to Japan? Make America Great Again, eh? Okay, let’s talk about these headphones!
Shure SRH440 got a closed back, therefore, good sound isolation. The adapter is gold plated which means better sound conversion. Moreover, exceptional sound reproduction (real good for referencing, no heavy equalizing). And yeah, they are quite comfy to wear for a few hours in a row too! Sounds pretty good, don’t you think?
* More About Shure SRH440.
6) Shure SRH840
I tend to include both the cheaper and the more expensive version of the similar product line. It works the same way with almost everything. A company would add a few nice tweaks and release the more expensive product.
This pair is supposed to be a lot colder and more detailed, while the SRH440 is a little warmer and more “fun”. What that means is that the later ones are more studio oriented.
However, after giving a try to both, I noticed that without the preamplifier, the difference is very little. I mean you can notice the slight changes in the output signal, but is it worth paying twice the price?
* More About Shure SRH840.
That’s really something for you to think about. Let’s move on!
7) Sennheiser HD 280 PRO
These ones are designed and put into production by a German company that has been around since 1945. Yeah, these guys are old folks of the industry, but they haven’t made any headphones until 1968. And guess what? This year they developed the world’s first open headphones!
It’s actually a pretty cool animated slideshow that they have on their website about the company history. If you are really curious, check it out on their website.
Let’s get to the headphones review (finally)!
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO got the extended frequency and natural sound reproduction. I would say it’s more on the warm side, but that’s what’s perceived natural these days. They basically enhance the listening experience, and not giving you a cold response.
When I say it’s a little warm, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. I mean they are still 10 times better than conventional headphones that you would buy for $30 at Wal-Mart.
Still great for referencing, with a few flows here and there. The new model’s design is a lot slicker, and the new improved seal doesn’t let them bleed as much as they used too.
Great for the beginners, hands down!
* More About Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.
8) Beats Pro
Well, this isn’t entirely a joke. I got a pair of those when I was in high school just to listen to music. And to be hype of course.
Even though they are not worth the price, and you mostly pay for the brand, they are not too bad. You can definitely tell a difference between a cheap pair and Beats. They cost a lot and are not particularly for studio production.
I remember they’ve been sponsored in one of Ty Dolla’s music videos and I just couldn’t help it.
Why am I writing this? I just feel like they are not horrible, like a lot of people say, they are nice! Just not the best bang for a buck, you know?
They are equalized a lot on the low end. The bass is boosted a lot, so the fat bass line that you hear might not be that fat when you listen to it on other headphones or monitors.
Some people call the treble aggressive too. Didn’t personally notice, but considering how much they bragged about the high-end EQ on the release day, I can see how this can very much be true.
Don’t buy them unless you are a big baller and flexer like me, deal?
Conclusion: Best Budget Headphones for Music Production
There are tens of tens of good headphones of amazing quality you can buy at a low-ish price. The headphones on this list are the most well known, reputable, and reliable.
So that’s something, am I right?
It’s hard to tell if I want to suggest you do mixing with the headphones on the list. They work a lot better as the second reference point, so if you own a pair of studio monitors as your first one, cross-referencing the two should be easy! Now you are set.
Also check out my insightful article “How to Build a Budget Music Studio: Best Guide for the Beginners” if you want to learn which hardware you need to build an affordable studio at your place so you can produce in the comfort of your house, like most beatmakers and rappers, do.