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The Quest for the Perfect Tracking Headphones - our Top 10 Picks

Our headphone expert sorted through countless professional studio monitoring models to reveal 2024's besttracking headphones for flawless mix evaluations, tracking, and recording. From budget Sonys to flagship Audezes, we cover planar vs dynamic driver types, sound signatures, wearing comfort, and calibration. Set a budget while weighing sound quality, isolation, and impedance to find audiophile headphones matching your use case. Achieve production clarity!

By: Aleksey Makohon Date: 01 / 02, 2024
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I know that a quality pair of tracking headphones is crucial for laying down mixes and masters that translate beautifully across sound systems. The subtle nuances that high-fidelity headphones reveal allow me to make adjustments that lead to incredibly polished and balanced end results.

However, the world of audiophile headphones can be complex to navigate. With so many specifications to consider and niche headphones that promise pristine audio, how do we cut through the noise to find the perfect pair for tracking?

In this comprehensive guide, I'll be sharing my insider expertise to demystify the tracking headphone market. You'll discover:

What Makes Tracking Headphones Different

  • Learn how open and closed-back designs impact soundstaging and bleed
  • Understand frequency response charts and ideal specs for mixing clarity

Key Features That Reveal Flaws

  • Driver types, sensitivity, and sound isolation capabilities
  • How impedance impacts headphone synergy with your audio interface

Top 10 Audiophile Headphones I Recommend

  • Budget to high-end picks with balanced and revealing sound
  • Models tested and approved in my own studio

Equipped with this knowledge, your next set of tracking headphones will be a precision tool that makes light work of even the most demanding mixing sessions. The time has come to experience audio as it was truly intended - keep reading to begin your journey!



Best Headphones for Studio Tracking

35h play, 2.5h charge
Active Hybrid ANC technology
Secure fit
IPX4 water resistant

Unrivaled Comfort + Sound

Discover your favorite sound/music with ultra-comfortable headphones made of soft leather and memory foam.

Top-Tier Playtime & Charging

Jam out for days with a 45 hr battery life. Once depleted, each Bluetooth headphone with microphone can be fully charged in 2.5 hours, or quick charge in 20 minutes for 5 hrs of playtime.

Read more about TREBLAB Z7-PRO
treblab z7 pro

Demystifying Tracking Headphones

Before we dive into headphone recommendations, it's important to understand what sets tracking headphones apart from other options.

Tracking Headphones Defined

Best Headphones for Tracking image 1

Tracking headphones are optimized for use in recording studios and audio production environments. Their key purpose is to accurately reproduce the full frequency spectrum so that producers and audio engineers can precisely evaluate mixes while recording and mixing.

Key Characteristics:

  • Neutral, uncolored sound
  • Revealing of flaws and imperfections
  • Precise, analytical listening experience
  • Extended and clear frequency response
  • Excellent transient response

Consumer headphones and even mixing headphones may alter sounds to make music listening more enjoyable. Tracking headphones deliver uncolored and neutral audio reproduction to reveal every subtle detail.

The Vital Role of Tracking Headphones

As an audio engineer records and processes multiple tracks, quality tracking headphones allow them to identify any imperfections that would muddy the final mix. Harsh sibilance, rumbling bass, and piercing highs instantly stand out with analytical tracking headphones.

Additionally, superior sound staging and stereo imaging allows engineers to pinpoint the positioning of vocals, instruments, and other elements in the stereo field. This helps make informed mixing decisions on:

  • Volume levels
  • EQ adjustments
  • Stereo widening
  • Pan positioning
  • Compression tweaks
  • Reverb and delay effects

Seeking Pure Neutrality

Audiophile tracking headphones deliver a reference-quality listening experience thanks to very flat frequency response across the spectrum.

What is Frequency Response?

This spec measures how evenly headphones reproduce all audible frequencies - from the deepest sub bass around 20Hz to soaring highs up to 20kHz. Unlike consumer headphones that may over-emphasize bass or bright treble that distorts reality, the world's best tracking headphones provide unfiltered audio neutrality.

Why Neutrality Matters

This neutral tonal balance means every detail and nuance is communicated with scientific precision. Each click, pop, vocal warble fully exposed. And of course, revealing flaws in recordings is far better than headphones that flatter or mask issues during tracking sessions.

It takes some acclimation for producers and engineers used to more lively consumer headphones. But you quickly adapt to appreciate the analytical qualities that support mixes optimized for any sound system.

Key Tracking Headphone Specifications

Armed with core knowledge on tracking headphone capabilities, let's explore the key specifications and features that enable flawless audio reproduction.

Best Headphones for Tracking image 2

Frequency Response

As highlighted earlier, a near-perfect flat frequency response is the hallmark of reference-grade tracking headphones. Look for models with a range spanning at least 10 Hz to 35 kHz to fully cover the human hearing spectrum with expertly tuned drivers.

Top-tier headphones hold deviations between highs and lows under 1dB to prevent coloring the audio coming through. This transient response also helps articulate the ultra-fast attacks and decays of instruments like percussion and piano.

Expansive Soundstage & Imaging

Soundstage refers to how well headphones reproduce an immersive three-dimensional space for instruments to shine distinctly. Top open-back headphones project enormously wide and deep stages rivaling high-end speakers.

Imaging helps engineers pinpoint directional origins. So you can distinctly hear the positioning of vocals dead-center or panned guitars towards the left or right channels. Top-quality components like copper cabling help transfer impressive imaging through the headphones.

Sensitivity & Impedance Impact

Sensitivity indicates loudness levels produced by a set amount of power, measured in decibels. High sensitivity models around 100dB will reach loud volumes even from low-powered devices.

Impedance indicates how much power headphones draw, measured in ohms. Low impedance pairs between 32 to 80 ohms play nicely with mobile devices and computers without needing amplification. High impedance headphones over 150 ohms require headphone amps to reach potential.

When used with headphone amps, high impedance studio headphones unlock their most accurate and dynamic reproduction capabilities.

Specialized Driver Design

The driver units converting electrical signals to audible soundwaves require exacting engineering for transparent playback. Top models utilize advanced dynamic or planar magnetic drivers tuned with headphone amps to reveal the finest details and dynamics required for tracking.

Choosing Open or Closed-Backs

Open-back tracking headphones deliver expansive, spacious staging courtesy of exposed drivers allowing sound to freely flow out. This breathability comes at the cost of sound leakage.

Closed-back models isolate audio playback completely for zero bleed. Their compact sound may suffice for recording applications without live musicians.

Comfort remains paramount during long mixing and tracking sessions. Prioritize spacious ear cups with plush padding that won't clamp tightly. Detachable audio cables also prevent damage over years of use.

The 10 Best Headphones for Tracking

1. TREBLAB Z7 Pro - Best Overall

Best Headphones for Tracking - Treblab Z7 Pro

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The TREBLAB Z7 Pro are premium over-ear headphones that represent the pinnacle of tracking performance with a meticulously tuned sound signature. Their expansive 45mm planar drivers and extended 20Hz-40kHz frequency range utilize patent-pending PureTek technology to deliver exceptional transient response and articulation.

The semi-open earcup design and hybrid noise canceling effectively isolate relevant sound while granting a welcome sense of depth and space for precise mix evaluations.

Instrument separation is airy and defined thanks to wide soundstaging. The generous earcups feature gently angled leatherette memory foam padding for lasting production comfort. They are durable on-the-go thanks to IPX4 moisture resistance and up to 45 hours per charge.

Engineered with convenient touch and voice controls, the Z7 Pro works seamlessly with iOS/Android devices and has a 3.5mm connector option for studio interfaces. Bluetooth 5.0 with AAC/SBC/aptX HD support translates to rock-solid wireless performance with minimal lag while tracking.

Ultimately, the Z7 Pro combines gorgeous aesthetics with best-in-class audio reproduction. These headphones empower engineers to sculpt mixes with incredible precision thanks to their revealing transparency and dynamic accuracy across the frequency spectrum.

+ Pros:

  • Neutral, accurate sound reproduction
  • Impressive dynamics across lows, mids and highs
  • Spacious soundstage with pinpoint imaging
  • Great noise isolation for monitoring mixes

- Cons:

  • Premium $160 price tag

Sound Signature Highlights 

Expect airy instrument separation with tight bass, forward mids, and sparkling highs that translate well across systems. The semi-open design grants a welcome sense of depth and space to evaluate dense mixes.

Why They Excel at Tracking 

Whether identifying harsh resonances or isolated vocal takes, the Z7 Pro empowers engineers with the uncolored transparency needed for long days in the studio. They reveal the best and worst in your recordings to build mixes that shine on any sound system.

2. Sennheiser HD 600 - Legendary Open-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 3

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The Sennheiser HD 600 are open-back dynamic headphones revered for their reference-grade transparency and spatial imaging. First released in 1997, these German-engineered classics remain a neutral tonal benchmark for critical tracking applications.

+ Pros:

  • Near-ruler flat frequency response from 12 Hz to 39 kHz
  • Intimate midrange revealing the most subtle of details
  • Expansive soundstage with precise positional cues
  • Open-back comfort for extended mixing sessions

- Cons:

  • Bass may lack slam and extension for some
  • Plastic build less durable than metal alternatives

Sound Signature Highlights 

Expect a balanced presentation with airy highs, articulate mids, and neutral lows. The HD 600 emanates clarity, separation, and an enveloping sense of space ideal for scrutinizing mixes.

Why They Excel at Tracking 

The Sennheiser HD 600 grants mix engineers a window into recordings without coloration. Their transparency provides a reference point to tweak tracks so that final mixes translate reliably across systems.

3. Sony MDR-7506 - Industry Standard Studio Monitors

Best Headphones for Tracking image 5

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The Sony MDR-7506 are closed-back dynamic studio headphones considered an industry mainstay for over 30 years. Their neutral sound, noise isolation, and rugged build quality make them a tracking and mixing standard.

+ Pros:

  • Ruler-flat frequency response ideal for mixing
  • Precise imaging to pinpoint stereo elements
  • Excellent isolation from ambient noise
  • Proven durability to withstand years of use

- Cons:

  • Pleather earpads require occasional replacing
  • Bulkier than modern lightweight options

Sound Signature Highlights 

Expect clear-cut bass, forward mids, and crisp defined highs. The MDR-7506 emanates honesty, allowing you to make mix decisions confidently.

Why They Excel at Tracking

First released in 1991, the MDR-7506 has earned its reputation through decades of flawless studio performance. Their transparency provides reliable reference listening so recordings translate properly across systems.

4. Audio-Technica ATH-AD500x - Spacious Open-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 6

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500x are open-back dynamic headphones offering expansive soundstaging at an affordable price. Their airy and detailed sound makes them a great tracking option.

+ Pros:

  • Wide and deep soundstage
  • Clear and extended treble
  • Lightweight honeycomb design
  • Excellent comfort for long sessions

- Cons:

  • Lean on bass impact
  • Sound leakage due to open-back

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect articulate mids and highs with a very open and airy presentation. The soundstage grants mixes a holographic sense of depth and dimension.

Why They Excel at Tracking

The ATH-AD500x provides producers with a budget-friendly way to evaluate mixes with superb transparency. Their comfort and staging also helps reveal subtle EQ adjustments when sculpting tracks.

5. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO - Closed-Back Studio Workhorse

Best Headphones for Tracking image 7

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are closed-back dynamic headphones renowned for their versatility across tracking, mixing, and mastering. Their excellent isolation makes them ideal for recording artists.

+ Pros:

  • Strong, punchy low-end
  • Intimate mids and smooth treble
  • Great ambient noise isolation
  • Rugged and durable build

- Cons:

  • Earpads may require replacing
  • Bulkier than modern lightweight options

Sound Signature Highlights 

Expect hard-hitting bass, forward mids, and non-fatiguing highs. The lively yet smooth presentation brings mixes to life.

Why They Excel at Tracking

With a closed-back design that isolates sound leakage, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO allows artists to record takes with perfect monitoring and no bleed. They are built to withstand years of studio use.

6. AKG K712 Pro - Spacious Reference Grade Open-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 7

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The AKG K712 Pro are open-back, over-ear headphones lauded for their wide soundstage and precise imaging. They grant an intimate yet expansive monitoring experience.

+ Pros:

  • Ruler-flat frequency response
  • Pinpoint stereo imaging
  • Extremely comfortable memory foam padding
  • Durable yet lightweight build

- Cons:

  • Sound leakage from open-back design
  • May require amplification to reach potential

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect airy treble, articulate mids, and controlled bass. The openness emanates pristine clarity while the angled drivers create a vast soundfield.

Why They Excel at Tracking

The AKG K712 Pro provides reliable reference accuracy so engineers can tweak mixes with confidence. Their comfort allows for long and fatigue-free tracking sessions.

7. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro - Durable Closed-Back Studio Workhorses

Best Headphones for Tracking image 8

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are closed-back dynamic headphones built like a tank while providing excellent isolation. A longtime standard for field recording and drum tracking.

+ Pros:

  • Accurate and extended frequency response
  • High isolation levels in loud environments
  • Can withstand years of studio abuse
  • Budget-friendly price point

- Cons:

  • Clamping force may bother some
  • Less soundstage than open-back models

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect tight bass, crisp mids, and clean treble - all with a subtle mid-scoop for a fatigue-free presentation.

Why They Excel at Tracking

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro provides reliable monitoring and blocks external noise, making them ideal for recording loud instruments or on-location. Their rugged build stands up to heavy use.

8. Focal Chroma Pro - Reference-Grade Open-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 9

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The Focal Chroma Pro are open-back dynamic headphones providing pristine transparency and expansive imaging. An accurate yet musical monitoring experience.

+ Pros:

  • Ruler-flat response from 20Hz to 22kHz
  • Holographic and precise imaging
  • High-end components like Mylar drivers
  • Premium build with aircraft-grade aluminum

- Cons:

  • Very high $700 price tag
  • Sound leakage from open-back design

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect tight bass, forward mids, and airy extended highs. The combination emanates pristine clarity wrapped in musicality.

Why They Excel at Tracking

The Focal Chroma Pro brings mixes to life with impressive dynamics and separation. Their accurate yet fun tuning allows engineers to make reliable mix decisions.

9. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x - Versatile Closed-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 10

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are closed-back dynamic headphones with a fun sound signature ideal for tracking and mixing various genres. A modern classic.

+ Pros:

  • Enjoyable yet balanced frequency response
  • Good isolation levels
  • Durable build with metal headband
  • Detachable cables

- Cons:

  • Pleather earpads may require replacing
  • Bulkier than modern lightweight options

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect thumping bass, smooth mids, and crisp treble. The lively presentation brings mixes to life across genres.

Why They Excel at Tracking

With good isolation and a universally pleasing tonality, the ATH-M50x allows artists and engineers to monitor recordings with confidence. Their versatility suits most tracking sessions.

10. AKG K371 - Modern Closed-Backs

Best Headphones for Tracking image 11

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The AKG K371 are closed-back dynamic headphones with a balanced and articulate sound. Their lightweight build and folding design provides excellent portability.

+ Pros:

  • Neutral, balanced frequency response
  • Good ambient noise isolation
  • Quality build with lightweight materials
  • Budget-friendly $149 price tag

- Cons:

  • Earpads attach via adhesive
  • Less soundstage than open-back models

Sound Signature Highlights

Expect tight bass, clear mids, and crisp extended treble. The mix-friendly tuning brings out details.

Why They Excel at Tracking

Offering good isolation in a truly portable form factor, the AKG K371 allows artists and engineers to track on-location while providing fatigue-free monitoring.

Tips for Picking the Perfect Tracking Headphones

Best Headphones for Tracking image 12

With so many headphone options on the market, choosing the right model for your tracking needs can get overwhelming. Here are some key tips when seeking your next studio pair:

Listen to Different Sound Signatures

While a neutral, flat frequency response is technically ideal for mixing accuracy, some artists and engineers prefer a more colored sound signature. Try out different headphone brands to see what tonality best matches your creative vision - be it slightly boosted bass or extra treble sparkle.

Why Sound Signature Matters

No two pairs of headphones sound identical, even among reference class models. Minute differences in driver materials, housing design, and tuning impact low-end extension, midrange intimacy, and high-end air. Testing options allows you to find the excitement or honesty needed to make inspired mix decisions.

Prioritize Comfort

Tracking and mixing sessions often stretch for hours on end, so comfortable ear pad materials like velour and protein leather prevent fatigue over time. Seek spacious, well-padded ear cups that don't clamp tightly around your head. The goal is creating a fatigue-free monitoring environment suited for extended analytical listening.

Over-Ear vs On-Ear vs Earbuds

Circumaural (over-ear) headphones fully enclose your ears inside padded cups, blocking external noise for accurate monitoring. Supra-aural (on-ear) types press against your ears which some find uncomfortable over time. In-ear monitors isolate very well but can cause ear pain with prolonged use.

Consider Impedance Needs

If shopping for professional high impedance headphones designed for studio use that are above 80 ohms, factor in amplification needs. While they can play at moderate volumes from phones/laptops, adding a headphone amplifier or audio interface unlocks their full dynamic range potential and reference-level accuracy.

What is Headphone Impedance?

This measures a headphone's electrical resistance to currents. High impedance models (often open-backed) above 80 ohms require more power to reach optimal loudness and performance. Using an amp prevents dynamics from getting lost through underpowering.

Weigh Durability vs Portability

Closed-back headphones featuring durable metal and plastic construction can better withstand years of daily studio use and potential drops versus fragile lightweight models. But if tracking vocals on tour or recording bands live on-location, ultra portable headphones may suit your needs better. Assess use cases to strike the right balance.

Compare Prices for Value

While flagship reference headphones from Audeze, HIFIMAN and Focal provide extraordinary resolution and accuracy, more affordable options from AKG, Audio-Technica and Sennheiser still offer tremendous quality that punches above their price point. Set a budget while weighing sound signature, comfort, impedance, and useability to maximize value.

Headphone Calibration Explained

While some tracking headphones aim for accuracy out of the box, minor variances in frequency response between left and right channels can still cause mix decisions to sound slightly different across playback systems. Here is where advanced headphone calibration enters the picture.

Best Headphones for Tracking image 13

What is Headphone Calibration?

Headphone calibration applies digital signal processing (DSP) to subtly tweak the frequency response curve of a specific headphone pair. It builds a custom compensation filter tailored to any minute peaks and dips measured from that model.

The goal is achieving as neutral and accurate playback as possible. Most high-end reference headphones still have a ±3 db variation that calibration can improve.

How Frequency Response Measurements Work

Headphones are measured on a specialized mannequin ear simulator in an anechoic chamber emitting sweep tones. This analysis determines any deviations from perfectly flat audible reproduction.

How It Improves Tracking Accuracy

Say a pair of headphones lacks sub bass extension below 50 Hz by a few decibels. The resulting calibration file brings up lower frequencies to correct the bias. Now basslines and kick drums translate more accurately without excessive EQ tweaks.

It grants confidence that your mix decisions will sound more consistent when played back on studio monitors and consumer playback systems.

Software & Hardware Calibration Options


Options like Sonarworks Reference 4 and Acoustica Mixcraft 8 integrate directly into DAWs like Pro Tools allowing real-time headphone calibration when tracking and mixing. Enable it globally or on a per-track basis.


The Antelope Audio Zen Tour syncs with their Zodiac DACs to calibrate headphones directly from the hardware source. This prevents CPU load issues when using many software plug-ins. External amp/DAC combos from JDS Labs also include calibration.

Bluetooth Headphone Processing

Wireless headphones present calibration challenges due to Bluetooth data compression. However some models include custom EQ settings accessible via mobile apps for rough compensation adjustment.

While not necessary for casual users, advanced calibration grants peace of mind for professionals delivering mixes directly to record labels and streaming platforms. Even budget models can achieve a reference tuning level.


What are tracking headphones?

Tracking headphones are optimized for studio use when recording audio and evaluating mixes. They aim to reproduce sound as accurately as possible unlike consumer headphones that may overemphasize certain frequencies.

What are reference monitoring headphones?

Reference headphones target extremely flat frequency response and low distortion. They allow audio engineers to make reliable mix decisions that translate across systems - from studio monitors to car speakers. Flagship models from Audeze and HIFIMAN qualify as reference grade.

What’s the difference between tracking and mixing headphones?

The core difference lies in sound isolation. Tracking headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are closed-back, blocking external noise for recording instruments and vocalists. Many mixing headphones are open-back for an expansive, speaker-like presentation.

Should I get open-back or closed-back headphones for tracking?

It depends on context. Closed-back isolates sound leakage for recording studio use. Open-back types provide a more natural representation of space but allow outside noise in. If tracking loud guitar amps, choose closed-back models.

What impedance rating do I need for tracking headphones?

Check your audio interface’s headphone amplifier impedance capabilities. Low impedance headphones from 16 to 80 ohms play nicely with smartphones and computers. High impedance models above 80 ohms require dedicated amplification to reach full potential.

How do I connect headphones to an audio interface?

Tracking headphones include either a 3.5mm TRS or 6.35mm TRS jack to plug directly into headphone outputs from audio interfaces. Some models allow switching cables. Interface inputs differ - plan impedance and connectors accordingly.

What headphone amp provides the best sound?

Top headphone amplifier brands include Schiit Audio, iFi Audio, Drop, and JDS Labs. Models providing plenty of clean headroom and power like the Schiit Magni provide reference conditions for harder-to-drive high impedance headphones above 80 ohms.

The Journey to Precision Tracking Continues

Choosing the perfect tracking headphones for your creative needs requires deep exploration. While the 10 models highlighted provide unmatched insight into recordings, there exist countless options I still have yet to test. The combinations of sound signatures, wearing comforts, and useability factors boggle the mind.

Yet through the diversity of choices, patterns emerge - the importance of fatigue-free listening environments, hearing honesty to make reliable mix decisions, assessing headphone technicalities like impedance rating and calibration capabilities. The path winds ever forward in pursuit of tools granting clarity of artistic vision.

My quest persists in seeking out transformative listening experiences sure to unlock new realms of sonic imagination as an artist and producer. For once you fully submit to music’s emotive spell, new technologies matter far less than the passion they help unlock within ourselves and transfer to audiences. The hardware fades away, creativity pulses unhindered.

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