Headphones vs Studio Monitors: Which One For Music Production?

Headphones vs Studio Monitors: Which One For Music Production?

Headphones vs. studio monitors is a common debate in music production.

But to be honest, I don’t really think it’s all that complicated.

In an ideal world having both is nice.

But if you have a limited budget or are a beginner, then a pair of headphones just makes way more sense.

They’re portable, cost-effective, and great at isolating audio so you don’t have to worry about external noises around you.

Fun fact, I’ve owned the same exact pair of headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M50x) since I first started my music production journey, and they allow me to make great-sounding music with no issues.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
$229.95 $163.90
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10/01/2023 03:55 am GMT

With studio monitors, you’ll have to worry about sound treatment, price, and portability.

That being said, it’s important to explore the key factors you should consider when choosing between headphones and studio monitors in music production.

Headphones for Music Production


Using headphones for music production comes with several benefits.

For starters, they’re more budget-friendly compared to studio monitors, allowing you to invest in quality headphones without breaking the bank.

Second, headphones are great for working in smaller spaces where acoustic treatment might be a challenge. They help you focus on the details and make precise adjustments by isolating specific sounds, free from the influence of room acoustics.

Another advantage is portability. You can take your headphones anywhere, giving you the flexibility to create and mix music in different environments.

Additionally, headphones provide better noise isolation, making them excellent choices for listening to music in public areas.


Despite the benefits, there are some drawbacks to using headphones for music production.

One of the most common issues is the perception of stereo width, as headphones tend to exaggerate the separation between the left and right speakers. This can lead to panning decisions that might not translate well to other listening systems.

I personally don’t think this is too much of an issue, especially if you are using reference tracks when mixing and mastering.

But it’s still worth noting.

Also, extended use of headphones can cause ear fatigue, which can hinder your ability to make critical mixing decisions over time. You’ll definitely want to take breaks from time to time to allow your ears to get some rest and reset.

The final disadvantage is comfort. If you have a pair of headphones that are tight or uncomfortable, then it’s going to distract you from making good music.

When to Use Headphones

You can use headphones for various music production tasks such as:

  1. Recording in untreated environments: If you don’t have access to acoustic treatment, headphones help you work around room reflections and other acoustic issues.
  2. Portability: When you need to work on the go or in different spaces, headphones are your best option.
  3. Noise reduction: When your workspace is noisy or you need to record in a quiet environment, headphones are the perfect choice.
  4. Mixing reference: It’s always helpful to check your mix on both headphones and studio monitors to ensure it translates well across different listening systems.

Studio Monitors for Music Production


Studio monitors are great for music production, as they usually provide as close to a flat frequency response as possible. This allows you to accurately hear how your music will sound in various listening environments.

They are also better at stereo imaging and panning than headphones, which is crucial when positioning instruments in a mix. Having a pair of left and right speakers provides realistic feedback on how the mix will sound when played on different monitors.


One of the main challenges with studio monitors is that they can be expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Additionally, studio monitors require an acoustically treated room to optimize their performance. Without proper acoustic treatment, sound waves may bounce around the room, creating unwanted reflections and inaccuracies.

Another issue to consider is that studio monitors may generate noise that neighbors might find annoying, especially when working on music with prominent sub-bass frequencies or at high volumes.

Trust me, you do not want to piss off your neighbors.

When to Use Studio Monitors

Use studio monitors if you have the budget and space for an acoustically treated home studio. Studio monitors can offer a consistent listening environment, allowing you to make better mixing decisions with confidence.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Headphones or Studio Monitors

When deciding between headphones and studio monitors for music production, several factors come into play.

Budget: Your available budget is an essential consideration. High-quality studio monitors and headphones can be expensive, but investing in the right equipment is crucial for achieving the best sound. Keep in mind that quality headphones tend to be more budget-friendly than quality monitor speakers.

Space: The size and acoustic treatment of your room directly impact the effectiveness of studio monitors. If you’re working in a small, untreated space, headphones are absolutely a better option, as they eliminate room acoustics from the equation. On the other hand, an acoustically-treated room can significantly enhance the performance of studio monitors.

Noise: Consider the noise level in your working environment. If you need to work quietly without disturbing others, headphones are the way to go. Studio monitors would require proper sound isolation and a dedicated space to prevent noise leakage.

Preference: Personal comfort and enjoyment should also be considered. If you prefer the intimacy of headphones or feel more at ease working with monitor speakers, this can heavily influence your decision.

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