We have all been there… sitting in front of the screen, googling, reading review upon review and skimming endless forum posts from random people, searching for the “best” headphones for monitoring electronic music. Or you go into pro-audio shops and just end up being dazed and confused by the countless variety of brands with even more seemingly random numeric model numbers on offer PLUS the added chaos of “helpful” sales staff persuading you which “cans” you should buy… often the ones with the highest profit margin for them.
Now the irony of writing an article about the best headphones for monitoring electronic music isn’t lost on me, but the undisputed fact is that there is only one headphone on this planet which can be consistently found in use by both professionals and noobs across multiple industries (recording, DJ, broadcast, live sound) which has stood the test of time while being easy to repair, doesn’t break the bank and is incredibly easy to purchase. It’s the non-assuming, somewhat stealthy, “no bullshit” and extremely popular Sennheiser HD-25(-1 II).
The HD-25 has been around since the times of the second summer of love back in 1988, and the basic design has remained un-changed and muchly copied by Sennheiser’s rivals throughout the years. That design consists of a simple and durable over the ear, noise reducing closed cup arrangement with user replaceable pads and a fully adjustable headband for both stereo and single ear monitoring (for situations where you need to cue material while monitoring live or when you just need talk to people without taking your headphones off all the time).
Mounted inside the cups are 70ohm drivers with a relatively present frequency response right across the audible spectrum from 60-22,000hz and a max sound pressure level of 120db with less than 0.3% total harmonic distortion. That probably doesn’t mean much to the average non-technical person but what it translates to for music gear nuts is that basically, what you hear is what you get! When it comes to monitoring and reference headphones, getting a clear and precise representation of frequency content trumps everything else, and when everything else is solid then you’re left with what is arguably “the best” headphone for its intended purpose.
Specs, functionality and durability aside, the other defining factor which lifts a reference headphone up into the “best” category simply comes down to mathematics! Picture yourself in the studio… you’ve just completed a mix-down and you want to shoot it over the net to a colleague in a different studio on the other side of the world to check your mix BUT, both your primary monitoring systems and rooms are completely different. There is no way your colleague will hear things exactly the same way as you are hearing them UNLESS there is a constant. Something which is identical in both studios. That something is a pair of HD-25’s. You both have them, you both know how to listen to them and you both know how other tracks sound on them… you know how DJ’s will hear them. This is the single piece of monitoring kit which removes everything else out of the equation. It removes bad room acoustics, out, they’re gone. Different monitors? NO PROBLEM. Endless permutations of monitoring environments are thrown out the window because having the most commonly found reference headphone on the planet levels the playing field and makes your job so much easier.
Translation is everything in a reference headphone and quality audio reproduction coupled with the sheer number of professional users worldwide, is what puts the Sennheiser HD-25 at the number one spot for listening to and monitoring of electronic music during production AND performance.