If you’re serious about podcasting, you’re going to be hyper-focused on getting the right equipment. While not the first bit of podcasting kit that comes to mind, a professional-quality pair of headphones is essential for guaranteeing the best audio quality.
As I briefly covered in my guide to the best podcast microphones, there are just a few pairs of headphones used by most of the top podcasters in the business. In this guide, you’ll learn about the top 3 podcast headphones out there, who uses them and which might be right for you.
Let’s dive right into it.
What are podcast headphones?
Podcast headphones are not an official category of headphones, but any headphones built to reproduce audio quality for studio or professional audio use will work well as podcast headphones when recording or editing episodes.
Do you need headphones for podcasting?
If listeners don’t like the way you sound, they’re not going to stick around.
You need headphones for podcasting when:
- recording podcasts (to monitor audio levels and noise)
- editing podcasts (to ensure sound quality)
If you use cheap or poor quality headphones to monitor and edit podcasts, you’re not going to pick up on any potential audio issues, and thus risk releasing podcast episodes that sound pretty bad to some listeners.
Don’t forget that many people listen to podcasts with headphones themselves, so it’s easier for them to notice any sound issues.
While they won’t make up for a bad microphone or recording environment, a good pair of podcast headphones will let you monitor and improve sound quality as you record and edit your podcast.
What type of headphones do I need for podcasting?
These are the main features you’ll want to look for in podcast headphones:
- Closed-back design – for ultimate noise isolation
- Wired – for optimum sound quality
- Frequency Response – 20 to 20,000 Hz range is sufficient and represents standard hearing range
- Cable length – around 9.8 feet (3m) should be comfortable enough to reach your preamp/computer and allow movement
Best podcast headphones as used by professional podcasters
Sony MDR 7506 is not the most catchy product name ever invented, but, to misquote Shakespeare, good podcast headphones still sound as sweet with any name, and the MDR 7506’s are the most popular podcast headphones on the market for good reason.
MDR stands for Micro Dynamic Receiver, which refers to the dynamic speaker driver that converts electrical signals into acoustic waves inside the headphones.
Here are just a handful of hugely successful podcasters who use Sony MDR 7506 headphones to monitor audio while recording their podcasts.
NPR (National Public Radio) uses Sony MDR 7506 headphones in its studios in Washington D.C.
Comedian Bobby Lee and guests use Sony MDR 7506 headphones while recording episodes of the TigerBelly podcast.
Roman Mars uses Sony MDR7506 headphones to record his podcast, 99% Invisible.
Sidenote: Roman also uses the popular Shure SM7B podcast microphone, which you’ll see crop up a lot in this article. If you want to more about why it’s so popular and how the mic works, ready my in-depth Shure SM7B review.
Host of the podcast that kick-started podcasting, Serial, Sarah Koenig, wears Sony MDR7506 headphones when recording.
Phoebe Judge, host of popular crime podcast, Criminal, also uses Sony MDR7506 headphones while working.
Host of This American Life, Ira Glass, wears Sony MDR 7506 headphones in the studio.
Gimlet Media’s podcast The Nod has plenty of pairs of Sony MDR 7506 headphones in the studio.
I put on my Sony Professional Studio Monitor headphones, which I wear pretty much all day. They make everything sound better. – Brittany Luse, co-host of The Nod (source)
Smoshcast, the podcast from YouTube channel Smosh, uses plenty of pairs of Sony MDR 7506 headphones while recording.
Inside of You host Michael Rosenbaum uses Sony MDR7506 for himself and guests while recording
Anna Faris uses a couple of pairs of Sony MDR7506 headphones while recording her podcast, Unqualified.
I could bore you with many, many more photos of podcasters wearing Sony MDR7506 headphones, but I think you get the message – they are very popular!
While it might seem like Sony has the monopoly on podcast headphones, there are other big players in town, namely the Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones.
Used by some big names in podcasting, including Joe Rogan and Marc Maron, Sennheiser HD 280 PROs are professional-quality, dynamic (HD stands for Headphone Dynamic), closed-back headphones.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones are used by Joe Rogan and his guests on The Joe Rogan Experience.
YouTuber Grace Helbig uses Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones while recording he podcast, Not Too Deep.
Marc Maron records WTF with Marc Maron in a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones are used in the Midroll podcast studios in New York, now part of the Stitcher. Many top podcasts use Sticher’s studios to record, including Office Ladies and Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness.
While not as popular as Sony MDR 7506 or Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones, beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones have their fans in the podcast world.
Dax Shepherd, host of podcast Armchair Expert, uses beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones while recording his podcast interviews, and his guests get to wear a pair of their own too.
Aileen Xu, host of popular self-help podcast, The Lavendaire Lifestyle, uses beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones while recording.
BBC Radio 2, one of the UK’s biggest radio stations, also use beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones in their studios.
beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones tend to run a little more expensive than Sony MDR 7506 or Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones, and they also come in several versions: 32, 80 and 250 ohms.
Dax Shepherd uses the 80 ohm version, so what’s the difference and which one should you choose?
It all comes down to something called headphone impedance.
According to beyerdynamic, the higher impedance headphones are better suited to professional studio mixing.
The 80 ohm version should be sufficienct for most podcasters:
80 ohms DT 770 Pro is optimized for very high listening levels in a recording studio, for example musicians, playing an instrument, etc (source)
I suggest you read beyerdynamic’s guide to headphone impedance selection for further context.
For reference, DT stands for Dynamic Transducer, which means that these are dynamic headphones.
Sony MDR 7506 vs Sennheiser HD280 PRO vs beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
If you’re struggling to choose between the Sony MDR 7506, Sennheiser HD280 PRO and beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO headphones, have a look at this handy comparison table.
|Sony MDR 7506||Sennheiser HD280 PRO||beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
|Weight||8.1 oz (230g)||10 oz (285g)||9.5 oz (270g)|
|Cable Length||9.8 feet (3m)||9.8 feet (3m)||9.8 feet (3m)|
|Frequency Response||10 to 2000 Hz||8 to 25000 Hz||5 to 35000 Hz|
|Sensitivity (Sound Pressure Level)||106 dB||113 dB||96 dB|
|Impedance||63 Ohms||64 Ohms||Choice of 32, 80 or 250 Ohms|
Ultimately, you’re in good company if you choose any of the 3 popular professional podcasting headphones we’ve covered here. They’re used by big names with mega-successful podcasts and the specs are fairly comparable: closed-back, dynamic headphones with similar weights, cable lengths, sensitivity and frequency response.
The main difference comes down to whether you like the style and fit, so don’t forget to go somewhere to try them on or buy from a place with free returns so you can get a feel for the headphones before committing to long sessions.