When we think of podcasting equipment, we immediately think of microphones, mixers, and recorders. Headphones, though, are one of the most important pieces of kit you can buy. What are the best podcast headphones out there, though, and why should you worry about them in the first place?
In our recent podcasting gear survey, we found out a lot about how podcasters are recording and producing their shows. You can see the full results right here. The thing that stood out to us most was the fact that nearly 1 in 4 people record without podcast studio headphones! Why's this important? Well, let's take a look, before jumping right into some of the best studio headphones for podcasting.
Why Use Studio Headphones for Podcasting?
There's two main reasons to use headphones. Firstly, when recording, it's good practice to monitor your audio. This simply means plugging headphones into your recording device and you'll hear everything that's being recorded.
Monitoring your recordings enables you to hear any issues in real time, and fix them. An example could be mobile phone interference. The sort of thing that could completely destroy that interview you drove 3 hours to do. Imagine you only discovered this problem once you were back home, loading the audio into your computer.
Surprisingly, 26% of the 330 folks who responded to our survey do not use headphones whilst recording. It's fair to say, they're playing a dangerous game…
The second reason to use headphones for podcasting, is for the editing and production.
Obviously you need to listen back to your audio, if you want to do any sort of work to it. You can listen in lots of different ways though – from laptop speakers, to state of the art studio monitors.
According to our survey though, by far the most common way, was through using headphones.
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Granted, this year's survey didn't break it down to find out exactly what kind of headphones. Included in this 74% will be cheap earbuds, and consumer headphones designed for music listening.
Choosing Headphones for Podcasting
So what are we looking for in a decent pair of podcast headphones? There are a few factors to consider.
- Do they alter the sound of your audio in any way? You want to hear exactly how it sounds. Avoid consumer music headphones that add things like extra bass or treble.
- Are they comfortable? Can you edit for 3-4 hours without the sides of your face becoming sore and itchy?
- Are they portable? Can they be easily transported in a bag? Considerations here are bulk, flexibility, and cable length.
- How much do they cost? Everyone has a budget, so what's the best you can get with yours?
The Podcast Host Headphone Roundup
We've been badly in need of some new headphones for our studio, so wanted to try out various types before buying them.
Myself and Colin set up a little “test” where we'd both listen to selected audio clips through each different set of headphones.
We did it in a way that we didn't actually know which headphones we were listening through. So this was a bit of a blind test. We wrote down our feedback on each, then found out exactly which one was which.
So how did we get on? Did any particular model impress? Or disappoint? Here are our thoughts…
Audio Technica ATH-M20X
Price: $49/£38 – Audio Technica ATH-M20X
This was the cheapest out of the 3 Audio Technica models we tested. The M20Xs have less of a frequency range than the 30s and 40s, though we both couldn't notice any audible difference between the 3 during our tests.
You also can't fold these, like you can with the 30s and 40s. Weight-wise, these are slightly lighter than the other 2.
Audio Technica ATH-M30X
Price: $59/£51 – Audio Technica ATH-M30X
The mid-range Audio Technica pair we tested. They have more of a frequency range than the 20s, but less than the 40s.
These can be folded to make them easier for transporting.
Audio Technica ATH-M40X
Price: $79/£71 – Audio Technica ATH-M40X
The top range Audio Technica pair we tried out. They have the highest frequency range of the 3, but sound-wise, we couldn't tell the difference between any of them.
You can fold these for transportation, and they come with their own carry bag too.
You can also turn the cans round if you need to quickly hear something through one ear. The cable is detachable, with the option of a straight or coiled cable.
Weight-wise, these are slightly heavier than the other 2.
Price: $59/£35 – AKG K92
We thought these sounded fine (though not as good as any of the Audio Technicas), but were possibly the least comfortable of the lot. If these are your price range, you'd be better opting for the MX20s.
Price: $108/£89 – Sony MDR-7506
These were a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. We both thought the sound was slightly tinny. For the price point, it's hard to argue any case for choosing these as your headphones for podcasting.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250
Price: $141/£99 – Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250
This pair have been living in the studio for a few years now. Their sound quality is excellent, but their USP is in their sheer comfort. You can edit for an entire day with these without getting the audio producer equivalent of bed sores.
Their comfort is mainly down to their furry padding. This does come with its downsides though as they can get a wee bit smelly over time. They're not the sort of headphones you'd really want to share with anyone!
Being on the Premium end of the scale, they're also a bit pricey, and would be overkill for the vast majority of podcasters.
Best Podcast Headphones Summary
There's usually a lot of “it depends” with this sort of stuff. However, I'd say that for 95% of podcasters out there, the Audio Technica ATH-M20Xs will be absolutely ideal podcast headphones.
If you're somehow in the position of having to wear headphones for 4+ hours a day, then you might consider the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250s for their comfort value.
But again, for the vast majority of folks out there, the Audio Technica ATH-M20Xs are the best headphones for podcasting, based on their price to quality ratio!
Need More Help?
Whether it's equipment advice, or guidance on content, strategy, editing, growth, or monetisation, check out The Podcast Host Academy. In there, can work through all our courses, join us for regular live Q&A sessions, and be part of an active community of podcasters working on their craft.