Looking for the best headphones for video editing? This guide will help you through the options – and show you the best deals available, once you have decided.
With the best video cameras striving for ultimate video quality, it's easy for audio quality to take a bit of a back seat. Thankfully, fixing this at the point of capture isn't difficult, as there's no shortage of great external microphones that'll give your audio quality a big boost over what your camera can capture through its built-in microphone.
But that only covers the first stage of the film-making workflow. Once you've recorded your audio, it'll usually need editing, and that means you need a reliable way to listen to one or more audio tracks to check quality, syncing and levels. A decent pair of headphones is often the best way to play back audio during editing, as they'll more effectively seal out background noise better than speakers, while also being usable for monitoring audio when shooting on location.
While you could use a standard pair of headphones for the job, to really hear every subtlety in your audio, a pair of studio headphones is a must. These are designed to give the clearest possible sound, while also remaining tonally neutral. Unlike some consumer-grade headphones that may be tuned to produce more bass or treble to make music sound extra vibrant, studio headphones - also call monitors, reference, or professional headphones - give bass, midrange and treble frequencies equal weighting, so you get the most accurate and reliable audio playback during capture and post.
Choosing the best headphones for video editing comes down to several key specifications in headphone design, namely:
This conveys the breadth of tones that the headphone drivers are able to produce, from the lowest bass notes to the highest treble frequencies. The human ear can usually hear a range from 20Hz up to 20,000 Hz (or 20 kHz), so a pair of headphones that at least covers this range is a must. Most boast an even wider response range though, which at the low/bass end can be beneficial, as while you may not be able to hear these frequencies, it is possible to feel them.
Measured in ohms, and symbolized as Ω, this quantifies how easily the speaker drivers are to 'drive' - vibrate - sound waves into your ear. Headphones with a low impedance (below 50 ohms) are easy to drive and don't require additional sound amplification above and beyond what your camera or laptop can produce. High impedance headphones are designed for use with a dedicated headphone amp or pro studio equipment, otherwise they can sound too quiet. On this list we're only recommending low impedance models to ensure maximum device compatibility.
Most of the headphones on this list use a traditional corded connection to your device, usually via a good old 3.5mm headphone jack. This ensures the best possible audio fidelity with no risk of degradation or dropout due to wireless interference. More expensive headphones may have the option to unplug the headphone cord from the earcup, so you can swap it out for shorter, longer, straight or coiled cables.
When you're editing video for long periods, comfortable earcups are a must. For this reason studio headphones don't tend to use an in-ear, earbud design, and instead are generally classified as 'on-ear' or 'over-ear'.
On-ear headphones are less common in the studio sector. These earcups rest flat on the surface of your ear, which can be fine for shorter periods, but could cause fatigue after a while.
Over-ear cups - also called circumaural - solve this by adding a thicker perimeter ring of padding around the cup so it sits around your ear, rather than on it. It's a more comfortable solution for long editing stints, and also creates a seal around each ear to seal out background noise - a feature called noise isolation, or passive noise reduction.
Then there's the choice between open-back and closed-back earcups. Closed back are more common in the reference headphone market, as they help to further isolate sound. Open-back earcups will have a vented exterior casing to allow some sound to escape. This can create a wider, airier sound profile, but it also means others around you can hear the audio leakage, and in the worst case it could end up being recorded as background noise by a very sensitive mic.
The best headphones for video editing
The DT 77O PROs come in three variants, each with a different impedance: 32 ohms, 80 ohms, and 250 ohms. Put very simply, the lower the impedance (ohms rating), the easier the headphones are to drive. The 32-ohm DT 770 PROs are therefore perfectly at home being plugged into a camera, phone, or laptop and will sound great, whereas higher impedance headphones are designed for use with a dedicated headphone amp or professional studio equipment and will otherwise sound too quiet if plugged into a mobile device, even if driven at max volume. A lower impedance can result in greater bass prevalence, but the 32-ohm DT 770 PROs have been tuned to sound the same as the higher impedance versions and are still designed as pro reference headphones, so won't color your audio with excessive bass - a trait you can find with more fashion-focused consumer cans. The closed-back earcups and leatherette earpads help make for a tighter bass response, and they serve to isolate your ears effectively from outside noise.
The Listen Professionals have, as the name suggests, been designed to be great for both recreational listening and also pro monitoring duties. To this end they've been tuned to produce a clear, transparent soundstage without artificially boosting any bass, midrange or treble, while still making music tracks sound dynamic. The Listen Professional's 32-ohm impedance ensures they'll sound great when plugged into everything from an iPhone to a high-end headphone amp. Comfort is also a key factor to the versatility of the Listen Pros. The earcups are made from memory foam, which provides comfort for long editing stints, plus it also forms a circumaural design, meaning the headphones seal around your ears for optimal sound isolation. Focal has also carefully tuned the grip of the headband to be a balanced compromise between comfort and maintaining a good earcup seal. An included rigid carry case, 5m cable, 1.4m cable and a 3.5mm-to-1/4-inch jack converter complete the package.
Usually we'd recommend the simple, unbiased sound quality of reference/monitor headphones for video editing, but the Nuraphone goes one better - these cans are designed to give you a personalized, customizable listening experience. But don't go thinking this is just a fancy way of marketing a graphic equalizer. The effect is achieved via the companion Nura app for iOS and Android, which guides you through an advanced profiling process to help set up your optimal soundstage. Just be sure to sit yourself in a silent space to get the best profiling accuracy. The headphones then send a signal from the speaker driver and a tiny microphone inside measures the shape of your ear canal by calculating the time it takes for the signal to bounce back. The Nuraphones can then determine the strengths and weaknesses of your hearing and tune the sound to compensate - wow. And the tech doesn't stop there. Sound isolation is achieve not just by ANC (active noise cancellation), but also Tesla venting, whereby the speaker drivers effectively pump air through the earcups when they vibrate to help keep your ears cool. The only potential issues with the Nuraphone are the in-ear portion of the earcups, which helps improve isolation and reduce sound leakage, but it inevitably results in a more invasive earcup design than conventional reference headphones.
With their over-ear, closed back design, the ATG-M50x headphones have the ideal earcup profile for periods of extended wear, while also isolating your ears from outside noise. The only downside with this level of comfort is slightly reduced portability, as these are bulkier headphones more designed for home use than on location. That said, they do have swiveling earcup yokes (the brackets connecting the earcups to headband), so can be folded flat for a slimmer profile when not in use. You can also plug these headphones into cameras or mobile devices when on the go, as a 38-ohm impedance means they can be driven by pretty much any audio source - no additional amplification necessary. The 45mm drivers feature neodymium magnets and are capable of a respectable 15-28,000Hz frequency response. The sound is also tuned for a flat response, meaning no one section of the frequency range is intentionally or unintentionally boosted to produce a more biased sound profile - headphones for video editing should provide a neutral soundscape.
If you're after a pair of headphones that'll work just as well when you're out recording as they will in the edit suite, these are the ones to go for. The earphones can pivot to fold flat (relative to the headband) making them easier to slip into your kit bag. A metal-reinforced headband and aluminium yokes further enhance the rugged, go-anywhere ethos of the DT 240 PROs. The size of the ear cups is also smaller than with most pro headphones, which is great if you're after max portability, but those with larger lugholes - and we're not just talking Spock size here - may find them slightly scrunched up inside the earcups, which could get uncomfortable for longer editing sessions. The leatherette earcup padding and closed design is also a recipe for heat build-up. Even so, these are still great all-round, all-location headphones with decent build. Factor their wide 5-35,000Hz frequency response and the DT 240 PRO's are quite a bargain for the money.
Sony's MDR-7500-series headphones are designed for pro studio use, and the entry-level MDR-7506 has developed quite a reputation. Even so, it's the slightly more upmarket 7510s that we reckon are the better buy for video editing. They're only marginally more expensive to buy than the 7506s, but you get extra-large 50mm drivers compared to the more average 40mm units in the 7506s. Frequency response is improved quite considerably, too, expanded from 10-20,000Hz in the 7506s to 5-40,000Hz in the MDR-7510s. But the main advantage with choosing the 7510s is they have a lower 24-ohm impedance, so can be used with any device - camera, phone or laptop - and still produce good volume. The headphones are supplied with a soft carry case, though they won't fold like the 7506s, so transportation is a little trickier. We do like the large, over-ear closed earcups though, which are elongated to help them surround most ear sizes and keep outside noise from leaking in.
The HD 300 PROs aren't cheap, but you do get a pair of very well engineered folding headphones for the money. Their 123dB max sound pressure means they're also loud at max volume - good for checking for unwanted subtle background noise in your recordings. That said, to reach their max volume, you may need to be listing through a dedicated amplifier, as the 64-ohm impedance of the HD 300 PROs makes them slightly harder to drive than most of the other headphones on this list. Even so, they can still be used with camera equipment or a laptop and should produce reasonable volume. As with many monitor headphones, the HD 300 PROs use a closed-back, over-ear earcup design that encloses your ears for increased long-term comfort and better passive noise cancellation. Even if you're blessed with big ears, these Sennheisers should still enclose them with space to spare, as the earcups are generously large. A well-padded headband enhances the ergonomics, and it allows the earcups to fold inward for a more streamlined profile when not in use.
When you need a pair of headphones that'll perform double duty as reference devices for video editing, as well as for monitoring sound on location (or listening to music), the WH1000XM3s have every base covered. For starters, they include advanced active noise cancellation, which may not be vital when editing in a quiet studio, but could be a neat trick for masking background traffic noise on location, or if you need to edit while on a plane. The closed earcup design and leatherette pads add some extra passive noise cancellation for good measure. You're also free to move while filming or editing thanks to the wireless Bluetooth connection giving up to 10m of range, while the built-in USB-rechargeable battery is good for up to 30 hours runtime with NC on. What's more, there's still an optional 3.5mm wired connection that enables you to use the headphones even if the battery is flat, or should you need to connect to traditional Hi-Fi equipment. There are also other nifty features to help justify the premium price, like Ambient Sound Control which automatically feeds in background noise should you want to know what's going on around you when on the move. Of course all this tech is no good without decent sound quality. The WH-1000XM3s aren't designed as reference studio monitors, which is why they're not higher up this list, but their wide 4-40,000Hz frequency response is very respectable. You can also tune the sound profile to suit your taste using Sony's Headphones Connect app.
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