Headphones – Which ones should I buy?

If you’ve been involved in music production for any length of time, there are two or three pairs of headphones that you see repeatedly in studios. The Sony MDR-7506, it’s counterpart the Sony MDR-V6, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to studio headphones.

These three pairs have thousands of 4-5 star reviews on Amazon, and I would recommend them to anyone getting their first pair of studio headphones.

How much do they cost?

I’ve seen the prices fluctuate between $80-120 for the MDR-7506, $60-120 for the MDR-V6, and $120-160 for the ATH-M50x. Although slightly more expensive, the advantage of the ATH-M50x is that it offers slightly better isolation – which is crucial if you want to make sure your click track doesn’t bleed into your recordings.

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What’s the difference?

A common question is, “What is the difference between the MDR-7506 and the MDR-V6?” The most obvious difference is that the headphone jack on the MDR-7506 is gold-plated, meaning it doesn’t rust. Other than that, even professional engineers have a hard time agreeing on whether there is a difference, and if so, what exactly that difference is.Some people will even argue that difference production runs of the same model sound different. For example, there’s an ongoing debate about whether there is a difference between the production run of the MDR-V6 made in China vs the one made in Japan. If professional engineers can’t seem to agree, the difference is close enough for my purposes.

Conclusion

I personally own a pair or Sony MDR-V6 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (previous model to the ATH-M50x). They’ve served me great for the past 4 years, and I would feel comfortable recommending them to anyone in the market for a great pair of studio headphones.

UPDATE 1/17/2018

Patrick’s comment got me thinking about the best purchasing decisions for various scenarios.  Here’s what I think:

If you’re an individual, get both if you can afford it.  I like checking mixes on both because I’ll notice things on one pair that I missed on the other.  If you can only afford one, get the ATH-M50s.

If you’re a studio or band looking into buying multiple sets, go with the MDRs.  Right now, the M50s are $150 and the MDRs are $100.  Unless you have an abundance of money, you’re paying quite a bit for a very small improvement in sound.

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