Professional audio headphones are important for DJ’s, studio recorders and news anchors. If all you want is something to take cell phone calls, probably any set of cheap earbuds will work fine. But if headphones are a necessary tool for the business that gives you your livelihood, there are at least 3 questions you need to ask before you select a set of headphones:
- Are these headphones comfortable to wear?
- Do these headphones have the features necessary for my work?
- Do these headphones have the sound quality that my work needs?
If you listen to music for pleasure, a comfortable set of headphones is desirable. If you need headphones for your profession, comfort is an essential. A professional might need to wear his headphones all day long. If the headphones are too tight, too heavy, or to hot, they are likely affect the professional’s ability to do his work. That’s why customer reviews are important to read and consider before you buy a set of professional headphones. It’s hard, or maybe impossible, to find a set of headphones that everyone finds comfort, but your chances are better to not be disappointed if you check out what people say who have already tried them out before you.
Not every professional work requires the same features in their headphones. Some professionals, like DJ’s, might want a set of professional DJ headphones that has good sound isolation from outside noises, or they might want noise cancelling headphones. Recording artists may want a good set of studio monitor headphones with a rotating ear cup that allows them either to hear or to block outside sound. For a journalist or a news anchor, a wireless headset with a built in microphone may be important for mobility.
There is no set rule for what features a professional headphone must have, since different jobs require different features. The reviews seen below show a few popular headphones of professional quality. With each is a list of features that might be important to the professional so that he can decide if these headphones have what his job requires.
Sound quality is also an important issue when you need a set of headphones for your livelihood. “Best quality headphones” does not necessarily mean the most expensive headphones. But quality does come at a price. The quality of your work depends on the quality of your tools.
The best human ear can hear bass tones as low as about 12 hertz, and can hear treble pitches as high as about 20,000. The best professional headphones should cover the entire range of 12 – 20,000 hertz, or close to it, with a very low level of distortion. A distortion level below 0.3% is best. Since all headphones tend to distort sound at both the high and low end of their ranges, it is best to have headphones that produce a frequency response that goes beyond the range of normal human hearing so that any distortion will be beyond what the human ear can hear.
Some people who use their headphones for listening pleasure prefer headphones that have a strong, emphasized bass. However, a professional studio worker will probably need headphones with clean, well balanced tones throughout the entire range, so that neither the high treble tones nor the low bass pitches are accentuated.
Proper sound stage and sound imaging usually comes easier with open back earcups. Clear sound stage allows the listener to distinguish between sound sources, such as the different instruments in an orchestra. Good sound imaging gives the listener the sensation of being surrounded by the sound.
Sennheiser HD 800 headphones probably have the best sound quality that you will find anywhere. They won the title of “Headphone Of The Year” from the European Imaging and Sound Association. These are expensive: about $1,400 on Amazon (new low price). They have a frequency range of 6 hertz – 51,000 hertz, which goes far above and far below the range of normal human hearing. Total sound distortion is less than 0.02%. Part of the sound quality is due to the 56 mm transducers, which are the largest used in any set of headphones. Open-back ear cups give outstanding sound imaging and excellent sound stage. However, because of their open back design, they have no sound isolation at all. Because of the high impedance of 300 ohms, you will probably need a headphone amplifier to power these. The sensitivity is 102 dB SPL (sound pressure level). Maximum long term input power is about 500 mW. The detachable connecting cable is 9 ft. 10 in. (3 meters) long. Total weight is 11.6 ounces (330 grams). Click on the link to read a more complete Sennheiser HD800 Review.
Sennheiser HD25-1 ii
The Sennheiser HD 25 1 ii headphones are very popular among professionals like news anchors, DJ’s, and studio workers. On Amazon the cost about $200. Part of the reason for their popularity is that they combine the best qualities of open backed with the best qualities of closed back earcups. Soft ear cushions on supra-aural earcups give good sound isolation from outside noises, but for situations when a professional must be aware of outside sounds, the HD25 is equipped with a rotating ear cup for one-ear listening. The adjustable, padded, split headband feature is convenient to keep the earphones firmly in place so that they won’t fall off, even when the user bends over. Total weight is only 5.7 ounces. The connecting cable is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Frequency range is 16 hertz – 22,000 hertz. Total harmonic distortion is less than 0.3% These headphones have a good basic balance of tones throughout their frequency range. Impedance is 70 ohms with a rated input power of 200 mW. Click the link to read a more complete Sennheiser HD 25 1 ii Review.
Shure SRH 440 professional studio headphones are listed as DJ style headphones. For a set of professional headphones, they are very reasonably priced: about $100 on Amazon. Folding hinges allow these headphones to collapse and fold into a very tight unit for easy portable and storage. They also have a style of rotating ear cups for one-ear listening in situations when the user must be able to hear the sounds around him. Circumaural (over the ear) soft ear cushions on closed back ear cups give the headphones about 12 -18 dB of sound isolation from outside noises. Comfort features include soft ear cushions, a padded headband with sliding size adjustments, and a light weight of about 9.6 ounces (272 grams). The detachable connecting cord plugs into the left ear cup and has a length of coiled cable that stretches to about 9 ft. 10 in. (3 meters). They come with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty. Frequency range is 10 hertz – 22,000 hertz with a sensitivity of 105 dB SPL (sound pressure level). Impedance is 44 ohms with a maximum input power of 105 dB. Click on the link to read a more complete Shure SRH440 headphones review.
The Sony MDR 7506 headphones are a very popular, best selling professional DJ style headphone. They are quite inexpensive, only about $85 on Amazon. The fixed connecting cord has a length of stretching coil that can extend to a length of about 9 ft. 8 in. (3 meters). Comfort features include a foam-padded, sliding headband size adjustment, soft, circumaural ear cushions, and a light weight of about 8.1 ounces. It collapses and folds into a very compact unit for easy storage and portability. Circumaural (around the ear) cushions on closed back ear cups provide adequate sound insolation from outside noises. The 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) jack plug is gold plated for a more solid connection, and comes with a 1/4 inch adapter. Frequency range is 10 hertz – 20,000 hertz with a sensitivity of 106 dB SPL (sound pressure level). Power capacity is an exceptional 1,000 mW with an impedance of 63 ohms.