In order to make your work on the go worthwhile, neutral-sounding headphones are paramount. They enable you to continue the work you began in the studio on speakers, without things sounding too different and vice versa—take your remotely started work seamlessly to the studio.
The models in this category can be considered universal. They can be used for production, mixing, and mastering on the go or in the studio and even for tracking sessions. They won’t deliver as much sound isolation as dedicated tracking headphones, yet there are plenty of scenarios where that’ll be good enough to not cause any issues with your recordings.
When carrying your headphones around, you want them to be able to withstand some beating in the backpack. In case they break, it’s great if the manufacturer offers a range of easily replaceable spare parts. To save space in your luggage or backpack headphones should be foldable and not too bulky. Bonus points if headphones can also be driven from a laptop’s built-in audio output.
All headphones in this list will be reliable monitoring tools, however, for the less expensive models, you won’t find replaceable parts, limiting their longevity.
Hopefully, you can stretch your budget to one of the models found in the Goldilocks zone. There you’ll find sturdy headphones that’ll deliver close to perfect sound when used in tandem with SoundID Reference, yet are still relatively affordable. Though, in most cases there’s still a tradeoff between comfort and mobility, so you may have to prioritize one over the other.
1. Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Headphone 8823
If you are looking for your first budget headphones or need an extra monitoring option for a reasonable price – this is a really good choice. These cans have their minuses like build quality feels cheap and they are not the most comfortable option for long studio sessions but for working on the go, there are a few good things these headphones can offer like a detachable cable, 2 included cables and they can be easily driveable from portable devices. Most importantly, these headphones deliver where it counts and with SoundID Reference calibration can be considered a serious monitoring tool. Read the full headphone review here
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
These headphones are high on our list because these are one of the most neutral-sounding closed-backs out there. For the price offered, these cans are a very reliable tool for your work on the go. Although these headphones are very light, the overall comfort is not great. The headband is very good though, as are ear pads, which feel not that different from the ones you’ll find on pricier M series headphones. Despite the abundant use of plastic M20x give an impression that they’ll withstand some beating. One minus is the fact that the cable that connects the left and right ear cup before entering the headband, leaves a tiny fragment of cable exposed, which is a potential point of failure. Discover all pros and cons in the full review here
3. Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
It’s almost unbelievable how such a low price offer can offer such good sound isolation and build quality. The build is way more substantial than one might expect at this price point. Ear cups and yokes are metal, and most of the other parts are robust plastic. These headphones are built to last and in combination with the compact size make them a good candidate for this list. What’s also great is that the cups can swivel 90 degrees for more convenient storage and transport. And another plus – the detachable cable can be connected to either of the ear cups. Read the full review here
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
These closed-back headphones offer great value for a few reasons. Although these headphones are not as light as other competitors on the list, they do have a nicely foldable and durable design. And they are easily driveable from portable devices. The biggest drawback is that the overall comfort is not ideal. But for the asking price, this is a really good choice for your off-site session work. Watch our full video review here
5. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
These popular closed-back headphones have many of the features one would look for in a monitor headphone – superb comfort, over-ear design, replaceable parts, and good sound isolation. For mixing on the go these are a great choice because they will last for many years, are lightweight, sits comfortably, and are an affordable pair to have. Read the full review here
6. Focal Listen Pro
These closed-back headphones have a few reasons for being high on the list. These headphones have really great build quality and overall comfort is great. They come with a transport hard case and have a foldable design which is great for constantly taking them in a backpack or suitcase. The sound is not great because of its W-shaped frequency response but if paired with SoundID Reference, these are among the best closed-back options you could wish for. Read our full review here
7. Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
Every part of these closed-back, over-ear headphones feels great to touch and use. Especially the ear pads are comfortable for extended sessions. These are a great pair for work on the go because they come with a good set of accessories and spare parts like a semi-hard case for storage and transportation, two slightly different sets of ear pads, and two mini-XLR cables. While comfortable to work with, they lack high frequencies and sound harsh in the high-mids so if your setup doesn’t allow running calibration, Shure SRH1540s are a better option where neutral sound is required. Read the full DT 1770 Pro review here
8. Shure SRH1540
When it comes to closed-backs with flat frequency response (apart from the bump at 100 Hz, there’s relatively little calibration needed), these over-ear headphones from Shure are second to none, yet as an overall package, sadly, they’re still not perfect. While the overall feel is premium, they are lightweight and great for traveling, the overall comfort really depends on the person. Unlike most other over-ear studio headphone designs, the ear cups can’t swivel, so there’s a set angle for ear pads and headband to rest against the listener’s head. If this angle matches the shape of your head, most likely you’ll find SRH1540 divinely comfortable, if not, it’s likely that after about an hour of use you’ll feel an uncomfortable pressure applied by the headband. To make the right choice, read the full headphone review here
Read the full Headphone Buying Guide with more headphone options here.
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