Best Studio Headphones under $500 in 2023

best studio headphones under $500
best studio headphones under $500

I’m always on the lookout for high-quality studio headphones that won’t break the bank, so I picked out 5 of the best studio headphones under $500 to test out. After extensive listening sessions with each pair, I’m ready to share my thoughts on how they stack up.

Best studio headphones under $500

Best Value



Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Beyerdynamic DT880 are open-back studio headphones praised for their spacious, detailed sound. While the treble might be too sharp for some, they provide an open, airy listening experience.

Best Value



Rating: 3 out of 5.

With their impressive transient response and expansive soundstage, the AKG K702 provide a reference-quality listening experience perfect for analytical listening. While the build quality could be better, they deliver stunning detail.

Best Value



Rating: 3 out of 5.

Delivering natural, highly detailed sound, the Sennheiser HD6XX are a versatile set of open-back headphones suited for long studio sessions. With their exceptionally smooth midrange and lack of fatigue, they’re ideal for extended analytical listening.

Best Value



Rating: 3 out of 5.

With their planar magnetic drivers, the HIFIMAN HE400se headphones deliver excellent detail and bass extension in an open-back design. They provide big, immersive sound that makes them ideal for critical listening and studio work.

Best Value



Rating: 3 out of 5.

As an open-back model designed with the help of audiophiles, the Apos Caspian provide exquisite sound quality for analytical listening.

When shopping for studio headphones, you want a pair that reproduces sound accurately so you can make mixing decisions with confidence. However, many audiophile-grade studio headphones cost well over $500, which just isn’t feasible for home studio use.

The good news is there are some excellent studio headphones available for under $500 that provide impressive sound quality, comfort, and durability. I selected the following 5 headphones based on overwhelmingly positive reviews from audiophiles and professional studio engineers. My goal was to find headphones with flat, neutral frequency response and good noise isolation.

Beyerdynamic DT880

As an open-back design, the Beyerdynamic DT880 headphones provide a wide, spacious soundstage that creates an immersive listening experience. The open back allows air to pass through the earcups, resulting in a natural, highly-detailed sound. Many audiophiles prefer open-back headphones for critical listening in a quiet environment.

The DT880 are extremely comfortable thanks to the soft velour earpads and adjustable padded headband. I was able to wear them for hours without any ear fatigue or discomfort. The build quality is top-notch, with metal reinforcement strips and rotating earcups.

The frequency response delivers a bright, analytical sound that emphasizes the mids and highs. The boosted treble provides excellent detail but may be fatiguing for some listeners. The bass lacks some impact but still sounds tight and accurate. Overall, the DT880 provide a transparent listening experience perfect for studio mixing and critical listening.

  • Spacious, detailed soundstage
  • Excellent instrument separation
  • Lightweight and comfortable fit
  • Durable build quality
  • Removable cables
  • Treble is bright/harsh for some
  • Bass lacks impact
  • Sound leaks out due to open back

  • Open-back circumaural design
  • Dynamic neodymium magnet drivers
  • Padded adjustable headband
  • Velour earpads
  • Oxygen-free copper voice coils
  • Gold-plated stereo jack (3.5mm and 1⁄4″)
  • Includes coiled and straight cables
  • Driver Diameter: 45 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 35,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 250 ohms
  • Sound Pressure Level: 96 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.05%
  • Cable Length: 9.8 ft coiled / 9.8 ft straight
  • Weight: 10.14 oz

Sound Quality: The open-back design provides an extremely spacious, detailed presentation. The mids and highs are boosted, delivering crystalline clarity. The highs are bright but avoid being piercing. There’s a three-dimensional quality to the separation that allows me to pick out subtle details. The openness is amazing for orchestral and live recordings.

Comfort: The velour earpads are soft and breathable. The considerable depth and ample padding of the cups allows my ears to fit comfortably without touching the drivers. The adjustable headband stays secure without clamping too tight. Overall, the DT880 are comfortable enough for multi-hour listening sessions.

Build Quality: From the metal reinforcement headband strips to the replaceable parts, the DT880 are built to last. The ear cups rotate 90 degrees for one-ear monitoring. All the materials from the detachable cables to the velour earpads feel premium.

Value: While not cheap, the DT880 deliver outstanding performance and comfort for the price. The analytical sound reveals every detail, providing true studio-quality listening. Given their durable build and removable parts, these should provide many years of service to make the investment worthwhile.

Beyerdynamic DT880 Review:

The Beyerdynamic DT880 are a long-time audiophile favorite thanks to their airy, detailed sound quality. As an open-back headphone, the DT880 excel at creating an expansive, three-dimensional soundstage. Instruments sound nicely separated with impressive imaging that allows you to pinpoint the location of individual performers. The open design gives music a feeling of space and room to breathe.

In terms of tonal balance, the DT880 delivery a bright, lively sound that emphasizes the midrange and treble. Acoustic instruments like guitars, piano, and cymbals sound highly detailed and realistic. The boosted highs reveal nuances like the subtle decay of notes and vocal overtones. However, the treble may come across as too sharp or sibilant for some listeners, especially on poorly mastered tracks.

While the midrange steals the show, the DT880 don’t slack on bass either. The low end delivers nice impact and extension. Bass guitars and kick drums sound punchy and controlled. However, the bass lacks some visceral impact compared to closed-back models. The open-back design prevents them from delivering subwoofer-like rumble.

Build quality is excellent with metal reinforcement strips along the headband and rotating ear cups made from durable plastic. The earpads use soft velour material that feels great over long listening sessions. The detachable cables utilize oxygen-free copper for optimal signal transfer. Overall, the DT880 are built to last many years of regular use.

In summary, the Beyerdynamic DT880 provide an immersive open-back listening experience perfect for critical listening and studio work. Their airy stage, detailed mids and highs reveal every nuance in recordings. If you want accurate, analytical sound for mixing and mastering, the DT880 should exceed your expectations.

Warranty and Service

The DT880 come with a 2 year limited manufacturer’s warranty covering defects in materials and workmanship. Beyerdynamic provide helpful support by email and phone. Spare parts like cables and earpads are available for purchase on their website.

User Review:

The DT880 are a longtime favorite for home studio use. Reviewers praise the spacious, detailed sound that makes it easy to pick out individual instruments. Many describe the treble as airy and sparkling. However, some find it too sharp on certain tracks. There are mixed opinions on the bass reproduction, with some wanting more impact and authority. Nearly everyone agrees the open, analytical sound is perfect for mixing and mastering.

AKG K702

Renowned for their near-flat frequency response, the AKG K702 excel at providing honest, uncolored sound for studio monitoring. The circumaural open-back design gives them a spacious, three-dimensional quality akin to listening to speakers. Their fast transient response allows you to hear the leading edge of notes with crisp detail.

Thanks to the self-adjusting headband, the K702 are quite comfortable for longer mixing and listening sessions. The ear pads are sufficiently deep and made of velour, allowing your ears to breathe. The cable permanently attaches to the left earcup, which helps reduce cable noise. I wish the plastic build felt a bit more premium given the price.

With their expansive soundstage and analytical detail, the K702 make it easy to pick out the position of instruments and nuances in recordings. The midrange and treble are transparent and accurate. The bass could use a bit more body and impact. But overall, the K702 deliver outstanding fidelity perfect for critical listening.

  • Wide, spatial soundstage
  • Neutral, accurate frequency response
  • Excellent transient response
  • Comfortable for long sessions
  • Detachable cable
  • Plastic build feels cheap
  • Could use more bass impact
  • Sound leakage from open back

  • Open-back around-ear design
  • 61mm transducers with flat-wire voice coils
  • Self-adjusting padded headband
  • Genuine leather headband
  • Velour ear pads
  • Oxygen-free cables
  • Gold-plated stereo mini XLR connector
  • Driver Size: 61 mm
  • Frequency Response: 10-39,800 Hz
  • Impedance: 62 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL/V
  • Distortion: <0.05%
  • Cable Length: 9.8 ft
  • Weight: 8.5 oz

Sound Quality: The K702 deliver stunning detail and accuracy throughout the frequency range. The open soundstage provides amazing width and depth. The mids and highs are beautifully articulate. The transient response allows you to hear the leading edge of notes. There’s a genuine precision to the way instruments are localized in the stereo field.

Comfort: The self-adjusting headband holds the earcups securely against my head without clamping too tight. While mostly plastic, the K702 still feel decently stable and durable. The velour ear pads are nice and breathable, ideal for longer use.

Build Quality: I wish AKG upgraded some components like the headband and ear cup yokes to metal. However, the plastic doesn’t feel flimsy or fragile either. The detachable cable uses quality copper wiring and attaches securely to the earcup. Overall, decent but not outstanding build.

Value: At this price point, the K702 deliver phenomenal transparency and precision for analytical listening. The expansive soundstage and imaging provide a mesmerizing listening experience. Just be prepared for the plasticky feel, which is my main gripe.

AKG K702 Review:

With their impressive transient response and expansive soundstage, the AKG K702 provide a blissfully accurate and natural listening experience. These open-back headphones deliver stunning levels of detail that make it easy to get lost analyzing every element of your favorite recordings.

The open circumaural design gives instruments a feeling of space to breathe. The soundstage sounds incredibly three-dimensional with precise stereo imaging. Thanks to the fast transient response, you can clearly hear the leading edge of notes. This gives music an incredible sense of airiness and realism.

While some open-back headphones have a darker or colored sound, the K702 pursue tonal neutrality across the frequency range. The midrange and treble are highly transparent without added warmth or emphasis. The accuracy is perfect for studio mixing and mastering where you need to make EQ decisions with confidence.

The bass deserves particular praise for its nimble, well-controlled quality. While perhaps lacking the last bit of sub-bass extension, the low end still delivers pleasing and texture and impact. Kick drums and bass guitars have a clean transient snap.

In terms of comfort, the self-adjusting padded headband is secure yet gentle on the scalp. The ample earpads give your ears room to breathe without touching the drivers. While the build utilizes lightweight plastics, the construction feels suitably durable for regular use.

Overall, the AKG K702 are a superb open-back headphone choice for audiophiles and audio engineers alike. Their neutral signature and immersive expansive stage provide hours of fatigue-free critical listening. If you want a precise, reference-quality headphone ideal for studio work, the K702 should be high on your list.

Warranty and Service

The K702 come with a 2 year warranty on manufacturing defects. Online reviews of AKG’s customer service are mixed. Some praise the helpfulness while others had difficulty getting responses. The plastic pieces seem like possible weak points out of warranty.

User Review:

Audiophiles rave about the K702’s expansive soundstage and pinpoint imaging. The level of detail retrieval makes them fantastic for critical listening. Most describe the sound signature as highly neutral and transparent. Bass heads find the bass lacking in quantity and impact. A common complaint is the cheap plastic build. But overall, most agree the sound quality makes them an incredible value.

Sennheiser HD6XX

Sennheiser’s HD6XX aim to recreate the acclaimed sound signature of the flagship HD650 in a more affordable package. As part of the Massdrop collaboration, Sennheiser stripped away some accessories to hit a lower price point while maintaining sound quality. The result is an audiophile grade pair of open-back headphones available for just $220.

The HD6XX have a relaxed, natural presentation with a smooth midrange and rolled off treble. The open design provides a spacious soundstage with excellent imaging. While not as expansive as the K702, the HD6XX still portray nice depth and instrument separation. The velour earpads are extremely comfortable,though clamping force is slightly high at first.

Considering their reasonable price, the HD6XX make an ideal pair of starter audiophile headphones. Their balanced, unfatiguing sound is perfect for long studio sessions and critical listening. If you want open-back headphones with spectacular midrange quality for under $300, the HD6XX are a phenomenal choice.

  • Smooth, natural midrange
  • Spacious soundstage
  • Extremely comfortable earpads
  • Little listening fatigue
  • Great price for performance
  • Bass lacks some impact
  • Treble is slightly muted
  • Significant clamping force initially
  • Earpads can wear out over time

  • Open-back over ear design
  • Lightweight aluminum voice coils
  • High-quality audio silver plated copper cable
  • Velour covered memory foam ear pads
  • Two connection cables (3m and 1.2m)
  • Gold plated stereo jack (6.35mm and 3.5mm)
  • Transducer Principle: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 38 mm
  • Frequency Response: 12-38,500 Hz
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sound Pressure Level: 97 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.2%
  • Cable Length: 9.8 ft
  • Weight: 0.7 lb

Sound Quality: The HD6XX have a mellow, laid-back quality focused on the mids. The midrange sounds exceptionally smooth and full-bodied. The highs are slightly muted but still sound crisp and extended. My main critique is the polite bass, which lacks some slam and extension. But the overall tonal balance sounds natural and fatigue-free.

Comfort: The earpads feel nice and plush around my ears thanks to the velour material and ample depth. The headband has decent padding and adjusts easily. My only complaint is the slightly strong clamping out of the box, though this loosened up over time. Overall, super comfortable for long sessions.

Build Quality: While plainer looking than other Sennheiser models, the HD6XX still utilize quality materials like metal yokes and silver-coated copper cabling. Joints and hinges feel solid and sturdy. The removable cable is convenient if replacements are needed. No major concerns for longevity.

Value: For just $220, the HD6XX are practically a steal considering their natural, smooth sound. The midrange clarity punches far above their price point. As an entry-level open back model for critical listening, the HD6XX are hard to beat.

Sennheiser HD6XX Review:

Delivering outstanding midrange quality in an open-back design, the Sennheiser HD6XX make it easy to get lost in your music collection for hours. While their exciting sibling, the HD650, costs a hefty $499, the HD6XX offer nearly equal performance at just $220. This makes them an incredible value for audiophiles on a budget.

Tuned with a smooth, laid-back presentation, the HD6XX excel at long, fatigue-free listening sessions. Their mid-focused signature sounds exceptionally natural and realistic. Vocals dazzle with texture, nuance, and emotion. Acoustic instruments like guitar, piano, and strings captivate with lifelike timbre and body.

The open earcup design gives music a spacious, expansive soundstage. While not as cavernous as the AKG K702, imaging still impresses with precise layering and separation between performers. Just don’t expect subwoofer-rattling bass. The low end focuses on sounding articulate and controlled rather than thunderous.

In terms of comfort, the HD6XX really stand out with their plush velour earpads. The material stays cool on your skin while creating an effective seal around your ears. The padded headband avoids pinching or hotspots. Everything about the HD6XX is designed for extended analytical listening.

For studio and mixing work, the smooth midrange ensures vocal tracks and acoustic instruments get the clarity and detail they deserve. Just be aware, the polite treble and bass may require some EQ tweaks to get the ideal balance for certain genres.

Overall, the Sennheiser HD6XX provide stunning midrange quality in a comfortable open-back design perfect for critical listening. For the affordable $220 price, they are simply impossible to beat.

Warranty and Service

The HD6XX come with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty. Sennheiser stand behind their products with generally positive customer service reviews online. Owners report quick turnaround for repairs along with replacements for worn parts like earpads beyond warranty.

User Review:

The HD6XX receive tons of praise as an audiophile headphone available at mass market prices. Users describe the sound as natural, smooth, and non-fatiguing. Vocals and acoustic instruments dazzle with lifelike timbre. Most criticisms revolve around the polite treble and bass. There are some concerns over long term reliability of the plastic parts. But overall, enthusiastic recommendations for the stunning sound.


Utilizing advanced planar magnetic drivers, the HE400se provide impactful bass without compromising detail and soundstage size. Unlike traditional dynamic drivers, planar magnetic technology uses a thin, responsive diaphragm for improved transient response. The result is incredible speed and accuracy.

Comfort is excellent thanks to the thick angled earpads that avoid pinching. While mostly plastic, the construction feels reasonably durable for the price. The headband adjusts easily for the perfect fit. My only comfort complaint is the non-removable cable can tug with movement.

Considering their reasonable price under $150, the HE400se are tough to beat for sound quality. The planar technology gives them tight, textured bass and sparkling highs. For studio mixing and analytical listening, they represent an incredible bargain.

  • Detailed sound across the spectrum
  • Outstanding transient response
  • Impactful yet accurate bass
  • Spacious open soundstage
  • Great comfort for the price
  • Non-removable cable
  • Mostly plastic construction
  • Earpads can get warm over time
  • Not the most durable

  • Open-back over-ear design
  • Proprietary planar magnetic drivers
  • Padded headband with angle adjustment
  • Plush angled earpads
  • Oxygen-free copper voice coil
  • Low-resistance golden audio cable
  • Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
  • Driver Size: 106 mm
  • Frequency Response: 35-65,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 35 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 93dB/mW
  • Distortion: < 1% @ 1kHz/1mW
  • Cable Length: 9.8 ft
  • Weight: 13.1 oz

Sound Quality: The HE400se produce clean, detailed sound with deep bass extension thanks to the planar driver design. The excellent transient response makes them sound nimble. While not quite as expansive as open backs twice the price, the soundstage still impresses. Overall, the exciting yet accurate sound signature makes for fatiguing-free analytical listening.

Comfort: The plush angled earpads fit nicely around my ears without pinching. The headband has decent padding and adjusts easily for a perfect fit. My only comfort complaint is the non-removable cable occasionally catching. But for the price, the HE400se are extremely comfortable headphones.

Build Quality: While mostly plastic, the HE400se appear reasonably well made for under $150 headphones. The extenders and hinges feel sturdy with no creaking. The earpads attach securely to the cups. I do worry about the longevity of the materials long term. But overall, solid enough construction given the low price.

Value: For the sub-$150 price, it’s incredible just how good the HE400se sound and perform. Their speed, detail, and bass extension rival more expensive planar models. For analytical listening on a budget, the HE400se are simply unbeatable.

HIFIMAN HE400se Review:

With their planar magnetic drivers, the open-back HIFIMAN HE400se over-ear headphones deliver outstanding levels of detail and bass extension. The dazzling treble and texture make these perfect for extended analytical listening sessions.

Instead of traditional dynamic drivers, the HE400se utilize a planar design with a thin, light-weight diaphragm suspended between magnets. This gives the headphones incredible speed to capture transients while extending the bass down low.

The result is sparkling, vibrant treble with air and shimmer. Cymbals decay smoothly and realistically. The mids sound highly transparent and accurate. Acoustic guitars and strings have beautiful resonance and texture.

But where the HE400se truly shine is the deep, impactful bass. The planar driver gives the low end incredible control and detail. You can easily discern pitch and sustain with bass guitars and kick drums. The extension reaches down to the limits of audibility without muddiness or bloat.

Considering their very affordable $149 price, the HE400se rival more expensive headphones for sound quality. The wide open stage gives music space to envelop your ears. Imaging is precise with excellent separation between instruments. Just make sure you have an amp to provide enough current to drive these properly.

In summary, the HIFIMAN HE400se provide immersive open-back sound with thunderous bass and exciting detail. For studio monitoring and mixing, the transparency provides honest reproduction of recordings. If you want big, expansive sound on a budget, the HE400se is impossible to beat.

Warranty and Service

HIFIMAN provides a standard 1 year warranty against defects. According to reviews, HIFIMAN’s customer service responsiveness can be hit or miss. Some report quick resolutions while others never heard back. The low price means replacing them out of warranty may be preferable to repairs.

User Review:

For the price, reviewers are blown away by the HE400se sound quality and comfort. Users describe them as fast, detailed, and spacious. The bass receives particular praise for its impact and extension. Critics point out the cheap plastic build quality as the main downside. There are also mixed reviews of HIFIMAN’s customer service. But for sound alone, most agree these are an incredible bargain.

The Apos Caspian

Developed with feedback from audiophiles, the Apos Caspian are meticulously tuned for natural, accurate sound. Everything from the driver matching to the Baltic birch construction aims for utmost quality at this price point.

The open-back design delivers striking imaging, instrument separation, and a wide stage. Apos Caspian sound has incredible focus, allowing me to pinpoint elements in the mix. Even busy passages sound airy rather than congested.

Build quality exceeds expectations with Baltic birch, sheepskin pads, and detachable cables. While not the most adjustable, the headband still provides a secure yet comfortable fit. Overall, the Apos Caspian provide a mesmerizing listening experience perfect for analytical listening.

  • Spacious, detailed sound
  • Striking imaging abilities
  • Smooth midrange and treble
  • High quality materials
  • Amazing sound at the price
  • Bass could use more impact
  • Non-adjustable headband
  • Harder to drive from mobile devices

  • Open-back over-ear design
  • Custom 50mm dynamic drivers
  • Removable sheepskin earpads
  • Baltic birch headband and earcups
  • Oxygen-free copper voice coil
  • Detachable cable with 3.5mm connector
  • Driver Diameter: 50 mm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 35kHz
  • Impedance: 45 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB SPL/mW
  • Distortion: <1% @ 1kHz
  • Cable Length: 5 ft
  • Weight: 13.6 oz

Sound Quality: The open-back design gives the Apos Caspian an incredibly spacious and airy presentation. Imaging is precise with excellent separation between instruments. The midrange boasts beautiful clarity. While the bass lacks some slam, it still sounds accurate. Overall, the highly natural sound makes them a joy to listen critically through.

Comfort: The memory foam earpads are wrapped in smooth sheepskin leather that feels gentle on the skin. My ears fit comfortably inside the ample rectangular cavities. I do wish the headband were a bit more adjustable, but the clamping force still feels secure yet gentle.

Build Quality: From the custom planar drivers to Baltic birch cups, the Apos Caspian boast an incredibly solid, premium build. The detachable cables click securely into place and resistance twisting. These feel like headphones built to last many years even with regular use.

Value: While certainly not cheap, the Apos Caspian deliver sound and construction quality rivaling models costing much more. If you want open-back headphones optimized for critical listening under $1000, the Caspian represent a genuine value. The quality ensures years of uncompromised use.

Apos Caspian Review:

After spending time with many open-back audiophile headphones, the Apos Caspian stand out as a meticulously crafted model that punches far above its price point. Everything about these headphones – from the drivers to construction – aims for utmost quality and natural sound.

Utilizing proprietary 50mm dynamic drivers, the Apos Caspian deliver outstanding midrange clarity and lively, detailed treble. But they distinguish themselves from typical open-back models with their sublime imaging. The precise instrument positioning creates a dazzling sense of space and dimensionality.

Even dense, multi-layered tracks sound open and airy. You can pinpoint the location of individual performers easily. The open design gives music room to breathe for a mesmerizing immersive experience.

While some open-back headphones have polite bass, the Apos Caspian deliver clean low end punch and definition. Drums pack a pleasing mix of impact and texture. The bass provides the perfect foundation without ever becoming boomy or vague.

Beyond the sublime soundstage, the Apos Caspian also impress with their upscale build using Baltic birch and plush sheepskin earpads. No plastic is used here. From the headband to removable cables, the construction promises to last for many years.

In summary, the Apos Caspian deliver expansive, detailed sound matched with outstanding premium materials rarely found under $1000. For extended analytical listening, their fatigue-free sound encourages listening for hours on end. They represent the pinnacle of open-back design.

Warranty and Service

Apos provides an impressive 5 year warranty covering manufacturer defects. They have a good reputation for helpful customer service and quick resolution of issues. Replacement parts like cables and pads are also available on their site.

User Review:

Reviewers describe being impressed with the Caspian’s meticulously tuned sound and premium build. The wide open stage and detailed imaging create an engrossing listening experience. Most criticisms focus on the lack of headband adjustability and polite bass. But for neutral open-back sound under $1000, most agree the Caspian are an excellent choice.


While these studio headphones all have unique sound signatures, they each provide an excellent listening experience for critical listening thanks to their open-back design and accurate reproduction. Models like the AKG K702 and HIFIMAN HE400se stand out for their expansive stages and precise imaging. Those wanting lush midrange will appreciate the Sennheiser HD6XX. And the Beyerdynamic DT880 provide airy, detailed treble.

For my money, the Apos Caspian strike the best balance of immersive, natural sound with premium build quality. But thankfully there are excellent studio headphones available at a wide range of budgets. So whether you’re just starting out or want a professional end-game headphone, there’s an open-back model perfect for your analytical listening needs.

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