I’m sure that many here can identify with my tiny budget, and total lack of a private studio/mancave/basement.

I currently use a (small, old, feeble) laptop which can run renoise just fine. I have nanokey, nanokontrol, and nanopad because they were affordable and small, and I have a couple of old, hand-me-down altec lansing speakers with a subwoofer for monitors. When I’m away from home, I can use a pair of earbuds. I thought I had it all figured out.

Then someone who likes to mock the impoverished and disenfranchised offered me the chance to try a couple of Bose noise cancelling headphones.

They’re great! The highs are crisp without being spiky, the lows are … well, not subwoofer thumping, but well articulated and not at all muddy.

Of course, it costs about as much as all three korg devices, which is to say not much less than my laptop.

Does anybody have a better price/performance ratio to propose for someone with a coffee habit to support?

Well let’s be honest here, are you looking for consumer products? Or are you serious about your music?

Either way I’ve been using my Sennheiser 280’s; the Price to performance ratio has been proven in my book($100 can’t really hurt your wallet.) However when it comes to headphones I think too many people forget about comfort(the one thing that will keep you on the headphones.) The goal is to get gear that won’t lie to you, but if those Bose headphones really appeal to you the best over other headphones you’ve tried. By all means get it! Skip out on the coffee though and get some apples, after all there’s more nutrients in the apples.

Oh and don’t throw away the earbuds you may still need them for your final judgement on what you make. Best of luck!

I am serious about music. Well, let me clarify that statement:

  • My music makes me no money
  • I never expect my music to make me money
  • I am not starving but I have a very limited actual budget

Within those constraints I am very serious about my music. It took me more than a year to take the plunge and get a Renoise licence. The next big music-related purchase I’m saving up for is a laptop for when my current (old) laptop finally dies. Every benjamin I spend on peripherals puts off a replacement laptop that much longer, where longer is measured in months, not weeks.

I definitely won’t be throwing anything out, but I do appreciate the pointer at the Sennheisers. Definitely way cheaper than the Bose, and with that kind of sound reduction I don’t need noise cancellation. I’ll have to look into them.

If you must use headphones make sure and take a break every few hours, they can really damage your hearing even at lower levels.

You make a good point.

Any thoughts on a good set of monitors instead? How about those headphones which sit away from the ear?

If you have the time and patience,

learn about loudness…


Then use a loudness meter vst. I’m currently using Tonebooster’s EBULoudness.

I have tinnitus, and live where I have to do most of my music with usb headphones (though I have an iLoud portable monitor now).

My eperiments or results under those conditions:




I have a tendency to experiment more than trying to get something done, though that’s changing now.

The point is, some of it might sound bad, so don’t judge the loudness vst or learning about loudness according to my results.

This is computer music after all, where rabbit holes are more like black holes.

I spoke to some friends in person concerning my revelation, and set up a series of headphones as a lineup for tests in a series of direct comparisons.

It mostly makes me feel sad because my low personal budget offers me so very few opportunities for listening to the really good stuff. But that’s all right.

Quick findings:

The Bose noise cancelling headphones have that low, persistent anti-noise hiss. Yes, their sound quality is truly good, but it’s through that noise which is a pain.
Nobody had Sennheisers, but I got to try a set of steelseries which were almost as good as the Bose in general sound quality and of course didn’t have that hiss.

I also tried through a USB sound card which made a big difference - my crappy laptop is not made for clean sound.

My biggest upgrade may well be a USB sound card.

If you are looking for a low bugdet audio interface, take a look at Behringer UCA202. They have a newer one, this, but I have read that some people prefer the older one. Is it the best audio interface in the world? No. But it is low cost, good quality sound. More info here.

Headphones can damage hearing even at low levels? Could you point me to the information on that please?

AKG headphones would be my choice, maybe AKG K619 or something if you’re on a budget and something like K702 if you can afford it.\d, t5f
I find AKG to be a very solid brand and one of the companies with the longest experience in this kind of audio technology and they don’t seem to add all these fancy stuff just to sell, they make what you need and they make it comfortable and solid. I’m not really that updated to be honest, so things might have changed.

Anyway i would suggest you go try a few different ones before buying. At least if you’re going for the more expensive headphones, as they often don’t have a test set for the cheaper ones.
Also when buying for studio use you shouldn’t be looking for the ones with a WOW! effect, but ones with a full rich sound and maybe just as important that they are comfortable to wear.

I have a set of ATH-M50 (Audio Technica) that I really like. These are monitor headphones; the idea is that they give as close to a neutral sound as possible (i.e they should not punch up the bass).

I paid around US $80 a year or so ago. Amazon has them now for $108 (as a rough estimate of current price; look for sales from other places).

I find them quite comfy and they sound great.

They’re closed-ear. This was important to me since I sing and did not want sound bleeding from the cans while recording.

I still make a point of of listening to my music on various systems (car stereo, ear buds, Photive Bluetooth speaker I happen to like, etc.) to see how the mix works in real life, but while working on a piece I use either some decent Logitech PC speakers or the headphones.

I switch to the headphones when I want really pay attention to the mix, EQ, etc.

More info: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-headphones-audio-technica-ath-m50/

I’m using the sennheiser hd680. I bought them 2009 and still loving it. Still pretty expensive today. You should invest your money to some high quality headphones, then you’ll have more fun with it for a long time.

Koss KSC75. $15 USD

No I am not joking. Do a search for “Koss KSC75 kramer mod” and find out that this is truly the best price:performance ratio in the entire audio industry.

I have modified several pairs over the last 5 or so years, and I can honestly say they sound nearly as good as my Sennheiser HD590’s which cost me more than 10x as much as the Koss’s.

Just do it. You can’t go wrong for $15, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Trust me.

I have to like this. I have $15. I have a drill. In fact, I have a few drills.

I think I might just have to give this one a try.

I second the recommendation for the ATH-M50. For the relatively inexpensive price, they are very solid. I got mine for €99 (the limited edition ones went on sale since apparently people don’t like red headphones), but they are normally more in the €130-140 range, which may or may not be outside of your budget. As far as studio headphones go, this is more or less as inexpensive as it gets.

If I were to get a new audio interface now, I’d go with the Steinberg UR22 (around €100). I had bought the Scarlett 2i2, but in retrospect my original guess that I wouldn’t need MIDI I/O wasn’t so accurate. The UR22 is essentially better and costs less.

I’ve been using Sony MDR-V6 headphones for the last 3-4 years and am relatively happy with them. They sound good and cost around 100 USD. They can get uncomfortable if you wear them for several hours, but it’s not normally an issue as I usually don’t work for long chunks of time anyway.

I also use the ultra-cheap Behringer UCA202 for financial reasons and have found it to be not too bad at all. Definitely an essential improvement to my laptop’s built in audio.

I don’t have monitors either but would like to get some one day.

That’s great. That audio graphic comparison is really good information. Thank you very much for that link.

I third the recommendation for Audio Technica ATH-M50. I actually have the updated version, the M50x. According to people who have examined both, the newer versions have slightly deeper bass extension apparently.

But yeah, very unflattering - which is of course a good thing if you’re using headphones for mixing.

The other recommendation I have is the Alessandro MS-1 phones. They’re fairly inexpensive, and sound super flat. I’ve had a pair of these for about 8 years now and they’ve been invaluable. People will argue about the merits/validicy of “burn-in” for headphones (and I also was a skeptic too) but I can say that these sounded extremely different after I left them playing a CD for 2 days.

Headphone health is something which really concerns me too, because I’m forced to use headphones where I work. I make sure to keep higher volume use at an absolute minimum (during mixing, sound design only) and take a break every 30 minutes or so.



I have those and I am quite happy with them. They are quite flat compared to others.