Best Closed Back Headphones for Mixing and Recording in 2023
Open-backs seem to get a lot of the love in mixing and recording setups. But there are plenty of equally skilled closed-backs to consider as well. These might be what you're after if you want to keep headphone sound leakage out of your recording when you're tracking or overdubbing, or if you use the same pair on your commutes that you use in the studio – bedroom or otherwise. I'm including a few headphones on this list that aren't the usual generic choices for reference cans, as I think they fly a little under the radar and are perfectly worthy options for recording, mixing and monitoring. Regardless of your reason for wanting reference-grade closed-backs, you've got a pretty wide variety to choose from, so let's jump in.
Beyerdynamic DT 770
Let's start easy. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 is a tried and true classic, and you've probably already seen a pair on the heads of podcasters, studio musicians, and mix engineers alike. With the 32 ohm version seeing a usual price tag of $180, but frequently on sale at a significant discount, the headphone has earned itself an every-man reputation for the high price-to-value ratio that it has to offer. 80 ohm and 250 ohms versions are also available, which is a versatile option for people who might want to plug these into a high-powered interface or console. Its rugged build is a particularly noteworthy feature, making them a great commute and beater pair as well as an ideal pair for accurate and analytical listening.
Impressively wide for the price, traces of depth and height as well.
- Light on bass
- Highly accurate mid range
- Dominant treble profile, with a peak around 10 kHz that is more-or-less a staple of Beyerdynamic's tuning style.
Purchase or read more about the Beyerdynamic DT 770 here.
Beyerdynamic DT 1770
Alright alright, last Beyerdynamic on this list – they're a hard company to leave off as they are one of the early pioneers of analytical sound signatures. While the DT 770 can admittedly sound a little cold and clinical at times with its light bass response, the DT 1770 brings some extra warmth, emotion, and just overall pleasantness without sacrificing the balanced articulation that's needed in a mixing scenario. They also feature an even more durable build than the DT 770, and come with famously comfortable velour earpads (included with the DT 770, but only on the 80 ohm model).
Insular and analytical, but still possesses sufficient width, depth, and height.
- Light sub-bass roll-off that's typical to see in reference-oriented tunings, but generally bassier than a lot of headphones designed explicitly for professional use
- Mostly flat mid-range with a cut in the low mids for increased separation between lower and center frequencies.
- Similar treble profile to the DT 770 with the classic Beyerdynamic spike at 10 kHz
Dan Clark Aeon 2
This is a pair that gets a little more attention in audiophile circles than the engineering community, but it nonetheless possesses the qualities that make for a great mixing pair. The Dan Clark Aeon 2 is a fairly lightweight headphone, that features a comfortable manual adjustment suspension headband that makes it easy to wear for long mixing sessions. Damping pads come included, which allow a listener to make subtle adjustments to the balance – mostly targeting the treble region.
Not very large, but active and accurate
- Accurate low end, though a noticeable boost in mid bass around 100 Hz.
- Reuler flat, extra accurate mids that are perfect for vocal production
- Well-balanced treble, including an ear-gain cut around 4 kHz. Significant upper treble extension – some might find this harsh, but it can also be a useful and revealing quality in mixing scenarios.
Purchase or read more about the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 here.
Audeze LCD 2
Audeze runs on the pricier side of reference headphones, but you get what you pay for. The company has done a pretty effective job proving itself as the premium option for mixers, musicians, and audiophiles alike. The LCD-2 is one of their most popular headphones, offering listener's an ultra balanced sound with the speed and accuracy that the Audeze LCD-2's planar drivers have to offer. Fair warning: Audeze headphones are built like tanks. While this make them extremely durable headphones, they're also famous for being some of the heaviest headphones on the market.
Some of the most expansive and vivid imaging you can find in closed-back reference headphones
- Light on bass
- Accurate mid range with light emphasis on the high center mids
- Flat and accurate treble, with a carefully implemented cut around 4 kHz to account for ear gain.
Purchase or read more about the Audeze LCD-2 here.
Hot Take: HiFiMAN Sundara 2022 Closed Back
Surely there are a handful of audiophiles reading this who are sharpening their pitchforks and lighting torches and furiously searching for my home address. But I insist that there's something to be said for the mixing characteristics the closed-back Sundara has to offer: light sub-bass roll off, low mids and high mids that are even in amplitude, and a pretty decent treble extension that adds clarity and extracts details from cymbals and reverbs. The one drawback here is a V-shaped mids profile that subtracts amplitude from center mid-range frequencies. While I don't think the HiFiMAN Sundara closed-back is the best stand-alone choice for mixing on this list, it might fulfill the needs of someone who wants a headphone that's one part mixing and one part pleasure. Also, as you can see, it looks pretty damn cool.
Close-to-the-face but not lacking in width or depth.
- Evenly amplified low-end with a high-bass cut around 200 Hz that enhances low end and mid-range seperation
- V-shaped mids profile that airs a little more on the warmer side of things.
- Mid treble emphasis and considerable high-treble extension
Purchase or read more about the HiFiMAN Sundara Closed-Back Edition here.