Why You Need Closed-Back Studio Headphones for Recording

Closed-back studio headphones are essential for the best possible recording quality. To capture sound accurately, your headphones must be able to block out most outside noise. Since the recording environment can vary greatly from studio to studio and even from room to room, it is essential to record with the most comfortable headphones possible.

This article explains why closed-back studio headphones are needed in the studio for recording and briefly discusses the benefits of closed-back headphones over open-back models, including increased sound isolation, less bleed, natural listening environment, and, sometimes, better durability.

The reasons musicians need closed studio headphones to record

Closed-back or closed studio headphones offer musicians ideal recording conditions:

  • Lightweight (not heavy on the head)
  • Good isolation from outside noise
  • High sound pressure level
  • Low bleed

These are essential to record voices, track acoustic instruments, voice overs, etc. However, studio headphones with closed design also have some disadvantages:

  • Sub-bass distortion
  • Reverberation
  • Can make you sweat during long sessions

Despite their few shortcomings, there is no better alternative for the aforementioned studio applications than closed-back headphones and I hope you now understand why they are essential in the studio.

Closed studio headphones are necessary for recording & productivity

When producing music, the recording part of the process is crucial. Your song falls flat without a good recording to base your mix on.

Closed-back headphones allow you to hear how your vocals or instruments sound in the moment without making a recording and checking it later.

Furthermore, the room may have a void at a specific frequency or gain, which is reflected in the captured sound.

Therefore, recording and listening to a pair of closed studio headphones allows you to track down exactly where this void is and how to address it.

In short, from a productivity standpoint, closed studio headphones are essential for recording, tracking, and getting things done quickly.

Closed headphones are a must

For those who are not aware, people choose to record with closed headphones rather than open headphones because open headphones bleed—they leak a lot of sound that is picked up by the microphone.

Recording with open studio headphones may seem like a good idea when you think about the balanced sound reproduction, spacious soundstage, lack of distortion and bass muddiness, and improved clarity, but these benefits come at a price.

Sound leakage is the enemy of any recording, whether recording vocals, instruments, or soft music; it’s a big problem. Many recording engineers record with open headphones, only to find that everything is a mess when they mix the track and remove the bleed.

Sound isolation allows you to hear the recording more accurately

It’s well known that the room you record in plays a large role in the quality of your recording. If you have a perfect room, go for it. Certain rooms affect the recording in the following ways:

  • Reflections: sound reflections mess up your stereo image and doesn’t allow you to judge/hear things accurately
  • Standing waves: these are not you’re buddy; they cause your bass to sound boomy and your snare drum to ring/over-sustain
  • Studio ambient noise: even with a soundproofed room, a bit o ambient noise can creep in from air-conditioning, computers, etc.

The best ways to avoid these problems are (in my opinion) proper acoustic treatment and listening to your recording with closed studio headphones.


Are closed-back headphones better for recording?

Without a doubt. Closed-back studio headphones are your best option for recording quality tracks. The passive sound isolation and high audio quality offered by closed-back headphones are essential to accurately tracking your recordings. Closed-back headphones ensure an airtight seal around your ears, which traps the sound waves and prevents outside noise from seeping into your recording area and vice versa.

Do you need closed-back headphones for recording?

You can record without closed-back headphones, although this is quite counterintuitive. If you use open studio headphones or no headphones at all, you need to check your recording after each take or remaster the track at the end to remove reverb or other unwanted artifacts caused by acoustic leakage. On the other hand, without headphones, you can’t spot errors or subtle artifacts in your recording to know when to stop and try again.

Are reference headphones required when recording?

Reference headphones are designed to provide musicians with neutral sound reproduction, perfect for editing and mixing. This ensures that the engineer’s mixes are as close as possible to the artist’s vision. When recording, you don’t need finely tuned reference headphones, especially if they’re expensive. A reliable pair of closed studio headphones is sufficient for the recording phase.

Later, when critical listening is needed to finalize the mix, you can switch to a pair of reference headphones. Reference headphones are critical listening devices requiring more power to drive and accurately capture subtle sound nuances.

‘Reference’ as a term in the audio world is something that you compare other things to; your reference system/component is the baseline to which anything else you listen is judged.

Rav – head-fi.org

Are Beats headphones suitable to record with?

Beats headphones are fun and exciting, but they’re not suitable for recording because they don’t have a linear enough sound response. Their built-in equalizer is designed to give you a more personal listening experience that emphasizes bass and vocals. So Beats headphones don’t really provide the flat response required for recording. Even if they don’t leak too much sound, sound coloration will disrupt your recording.

Often, musicians listen to their songs with several pairs of headphones, including Beats headphones, to understand how their music will sound to listeners on the most common audio equipment.

Conclusion & wrap-up on recording with closed-back studio headphones

When you’re in the recording booth, you’re more than likely using closed-back reference headphones. This particular type of headset is essential for all quality DJs, musicians, producers, and songwriters to hear their own music in the project. Hence, they know what to expect during the mixing and mastering phase.

As for the mastering phase, it is important to note that a professional mastering engineer can provide top-quality services for your project. But if the raw tracks are not already good enough, no amount of mastering can really make a song a success.

The bottom line is that there are multiple reasons why closed studio headphones are necessary. If you are planning on recording, it is imperative that you take the time and learn how to purchase a pair of closed studio monitor headphones if you don’t already own some. They massively help you in many ways as your project takes shape and can even be helpful to YouTubers and video editors in general. LINK HERE