Reference Headphones: What They Are and Who Needs Them





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There are many ways and devices one can listen to music. But not all these ways and devices give us satisfaction regarding audio quality. We are constantly searching for better ways and devices to help us enjoy our favorite music.

While one person might be satisfied with the audio quality from one device, another person might not appreciate it in the same way ( a game of taste). But there is a standard device that can reproduce audio without altering it. 

The sound quality that enters the device is the same quality that the device will give out. We are talking about reference headphones.

In this document, we will be talking about reference headphones, what they are, what they are used for, and who needs them.

We know you are interested; keep reading to get all you need to know about reference headphones.

What are reference headphones?

“Reference headphones” is a term used to describe headphones that do not alter the audio quality they receive. So, the sound that comes from the earpiece is not different from the original sound.

Reference headphones are also called studio headphones, and in this article, we will use the term interchangeably. So we can say that reference headphones produce reference audio.

But before then, let us briefly explain why we say studio headphones mean the same as reference headphones.

Studio headphones are a type of reference headphone often used in recording studios. As a result, there isn’t much of a quality difference.

On the other hand, Dedicated studio headphones must be exceptionally durable and have a wide frequency range.

Not every reference headphone on the market can match that level of performance.

Because studio headphones are simply another name for reference headphones, the sound quality is the same. You utilize studio headphones to produce a neutral, realistic sound with no distortion.

Reference headphone is the name given to headphones that can reproduce sounds with little distortion. This means that the sound you experience with these headphones is close to the original.

Who needs reference headphones?

People that work in recording studios will typically utilize this equipment for sound design and mixing.

Because reference headphones are faithful to the original sound, studio professionals need them to be able to sort out any undesired sound that can otherwise be detrimental to the quality of the final audio sound.  

How do reference headphones work, and what are they used for?

Reference headphones are frequently mentioned by sound designers and studio managers when discussing studio gear. You’ll see these headphones in a studio setting more often than in everyday use.

You need to hear the exact sound from the other room when recording music from a band or a solo musician. You edit the audio after the initial hearing process, such as adding reverb, auto-tune, and other touch-ups. 

However, it is critical to hear the original sound correctly. Otherwise, the sound designers will overlook crucial locations where they must make changes.

As a result, reference headphones provide sound designers and mixers with an advantage that conventional headphones cannot match.

Reference headphones allow you to hear all of the recording’s finer details. It allows you to spot minor flaws and audio leakage that can detract from otherwise excellent music. This section is critical for sound mixers and designers.

They’re so ubiquitous in studios, they’re also known as “studio headphones.” Because the people who work in studios are professional sound designers and artists, you can also refer to them as professional headphones.

In studios, reference headphones must be able to block out audio leaks. Audio leakage can disrupt the recording from a background instrument or the singer’s voice. You will still require actual speakers in the studio.

When listening to a recording using headphones, you may miss some parts of the recording. Therefore, designers will listen to the recording through speakers to better understand what the finished product will sound like.

Some examples of reference headphones.

Beyerdynamic DT 990

This 600-ohm variant is great for pairing them with a high-output Hi-Fi system with plenty of basses. You can, however, reduce it to 250 ohms for home systems and 32 ohms for smartphones and tablets.

The frequency range of 5 Hz to 35,000 Hz produces rich bass and detailed highs that are enjoyable to listen to in all genres of music.

The bass and treble are very powerful, bringing music genres like rock, rap, and hip-hop to life.

Sony MDR7506

The Sony MDR7506 is an affordable alternative perfect for beginners and studio professionals on a tight budget.

These can be used to listen to accurate audio reproduction of all types of music. The 9.8-foot cable provides ample length, allowing you to relax and enjoy audio from afar.

It’s a coiled cable, which gives the impression of being shot at close range but may be extended.

Samson SR850

It has a frequency range of 10Hz-30kHz. Each note is delivered with superb reproduction and a broad soundstage by the 50mm audio speakers.

This combination allows you to enjoy all of your music tracks in a way you’ve never experienced before. Even at the spectrum’s lower end, reference-grade headphones allow you to hear things you may have previously overlooked.

You can listen to your favorite music in a variety of ways. 

Note: The examples present here are not an exhaustive list of all brands of reference headphones. The purpose here is to guide what reference headphones look like. 

Can you use reference headphones for gaming?

A simple answer to this question is a big NO. Reference headphones have a reputation for being high-quality audio equipment since professional sound designers commonly use them.

On the other hand, Studio headphones must be outstanding for a lengthy period. However, the demands of playing video games differ from those of recording in studios.

Generally speaking, reference or studio headphones do not provide an enjoyable gaming experience. Many sound effects are included in video games, amplified by using a good pair of gaming headphones.

As a result, you can either feel the impact of the gunfire or appreciate the game’s dramatic moments.


Headphones are generally known for their entertainment. However, headphones are specially made for particular reasons and cannot be used interchangeably.

So, therefore, reference headphones cannot serve sufficiently in gaming the same as they will in the studio.

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