Having the right equipment can be just as important for aspiring podcasters as refining your true crime investigative reporting or taking a perfectly researched deep dive into an esoteric art form. In particular, podcasting headphones can make the difference between a comfortable afternoon spent recording crisp audio and a cacophonous catastrophe. The best headphones for podcasting have strong sound isolation and a flat frequency response, while being comfortable and within the budget that works for you.
- Why do podcasters use headphones?
- What makes good headphones for podcasting?
- The best headphones for solo podcasts
- The best podcast headphones for interviewing guests
- The best podcast headphones for talking on a panel or roundtable
- The best podcast headphones if you’re on a tight budget
- The best podcast headphones if you’re able to splurge
- The best podcast headphones if you’re recording on location
- The best podcast headphones if you’re recording on the go
- The best podcast headphones if you prefer in-ear headphones
Podcasters need to be able to hear what they and their guests are saying clearly, crisply, and without distraction. A good pair of headphones helps capture consistent audio without annoying audio interference, plosives, popping, or other sound issues. It also prevents unnecessary hours in the editing room removing errors. To gain more insight into the heady world of headphones, we talked to voice actor, podcast producer, audio engineer, and educator Jamie Muffett. Beyond being an expert when it comes to all things podcasting, Muffett also produces our own “In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast.”
As you begin your search for the right equipment to next-level your podcast, take these elements into consideration:
- Sound isolation: A good pair of headphones should be able to prevent you from hearing the little noises that can distract even the most seasoned podcaster, such as the rustling of paper as you look through your notes or the hum of the air conditioner. “When listening back, it’s most ideal to have headphones that deliver the most accurate representation of your recording, rather than an ‘enhanced’ (or just crappy quality) sound that could lead you to under or over process your audio,” Muffett explains.
- Frequency response: As expressed as a numeric value in Hz, the frequency response indicates the range of frequencies reproduced by a pair of headphones. Look for headphones with a flat frequency response, meaning that the input and output are as similar as possible without adding in unnecessary bass or other sound treatments as they reproduce the sound. A flat frequency response (at least 20 to 20,000 Hz) makes the audio editor’s job much easier, since it prevents manufactured audio issues by keeping it to the basics.
- Comfort: You want the hours spent in the recording studio to be as comfortable as possible, and your headphones are a big part of that. Consider this your princess and the pea moment and be as picky as possible—it’s better to put a lot of time into the headphone purchasing process now than to end up pinched or in pain later.
- Cost: Laying down the big bucks on a high-end pair of headphones isn’t always feasible, especially for those just getting started in podcasting. Be sure to keep your budget in mind while searching for the right headphones for you.
What’s better: open-back or closed-back headphones?
Most podcasters choose to use closed-back headphones, which have ear cups that prevent audio bleed and create sound isolation. Open-back headphones are usually better for just sitting back and enjoying your favorite album.
What’s better: wired or wireless headphones?
Generally, wired headphones are better for podcasters, since the cable allows for optimum sound travel and you don’t need to worry about charging them. But if you’re a pacer or if you take your podcast to the road, wireless may be the way to go.
What’s better: over-ear or in-ear headphones?
Over-ear headphones allow you to fully immerse yourself in your podcast, but they can feel weighty or uncomfortable after a while. Some people go with in-ear headphones, but over-ear is overall what most podcasters choose.
What’s better: noise-canceling or non-noise-canceling headphones?
While sound isolation is necessary to create good podcast audio, noise-canceling headphones don’t work well for podcasts, as they can warp audio during playback.
Sound isolation: 8/10
Frequency response: 5 to 40,000 Hz
What to consider: “If it’s just you recording yourself, your headphones will primarily serve to determine the quality of your recording, both while recording and in post,” Muffett says. “Clarity (for the truest representation of your sound) and comfort are the main considerations.” For both clarity and comfort, the Audio-Technica ATH-M70x studio monitor wired headphones are king. Their circumaural design contours to your ears, and the 40mm drivers allow for the flat, low frequency sound necessary for solo podcast success.
Sound isolation: 9/10
Frequency response: 5 to 35,000 Hz
What to consider: “When there are multiple people being recorded, the goal is to isolate each person’s audio as much as possible,” Muffett says. “This makes editing/processing easier in post.”
He adds: “If everyone is recording in the same room, there will be a certain amount of unavoidable bleed into all of the microphones whenever someone speaks. We do however want to avoid any headphones exacerbating the problem of bleed, by making sure sound from headphones doesn’t get into the microphones. This can be done by being aware of headphone levels and choosing headphones that reduce leakage of audio. Over-the-ear, closed-back headphones are best for this.”
Finally, “If multiple people are recording remotely, the only bleed that needs to be addressed is that from headphones; so if the correct headphones are used, and the levels are monitored, it is possible to achieve complete isolation between all of the speakers,” Muffett says. “This is ideal as there is ultimate flexibility in post when it comes to leveling, EQing, and even editing the flow/structure of the conversation, if needed.”
So if you’re looking for minimal audio bleed and a neutral sound signature across a variety of vocal sources, the closed-back, over-ear, wired reference headphones Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is the pair for you.
Sound isolation: 7/10
Frequency response: 12 Hz to 35 kHz
What to consider: “Cost is a significant factor here,” Muffett cautions, “as well as also making sure the audio interface has enough outputs, or if an additional headphone amp/splitter is needed.”
“As a general note, it is important to check the ohmage/impedance of the headphones, and the power output of the device feeding them,” Muffett says. “A higher impedance headphone requires more power to drive it, so it’s best to match, as closely as possible, the specifications of the audio device with the headphones to ensure that they will be as loud as needed, and perform as best as possible.”
Low impedance headphones use a smaller amount of power to create high-quality audio. However, they usually carry a higher price tag, which doesn’t always translate well to panel and interview work. Thankfully, the Philips SHP9500 hifi precision stereo over-ear headphones offer low impedance and excellent sound quality—despite being open-back—at minimal cost.
Ana Maria Tone/Shutterstock
Sound isolation: 5/10
Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
What to consider: “Any wired headphones (assuming the ohmage is appropriate) will work in a pinch, but it is wise to consider headphones an essential part of the setup, and invest appropriately,” Muffett says. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s hard to go wrong with these over-ear, closed-back wired pair.
Sound isolation: 8/10
Frequency response: 5 to 56,000 Hz
What to consider: “I would recommend going somewhere to try them out,” Muffett advises. “Bring a device with a headphone output so that you can listen to familiar audio, to help judge the accuracy of the sound being played. This is also the only way to determine if they are comfortable for your ears and head. Cost doesn’t guarantee comfort unfortunately.”
So your colorful podcast episode interviewing people with synesthesia went viral (congrats!), and you’re ready to spend the big bucks on premium podcast headphones. With their retro bamboo cups, leather headband, Neodymium magnets, low impedance, and distortion-free sound, the wired Denon D9200s are as pretty as they are powerful. They’re certainly a splurge—but not as painful a price as some of the other ones out there.
Sound isolation: 6/10
Frequency response: 40 to 50,000 Hz
What to consider: “As well as many of the other considerations mentioned previously, keeping ambient sound out is an additional factor here,” Muffett explains. “You can’t effectively monitor what you are recording if sound from the room is finding its way into your ears. Closed-back, over-the-ear options are best for this.”
These over-ear, closed-back headphones create high-quality neutral audio and excellent sound isolation that block ambient sound, making them an excellent choice for recording on location.
Sound isolation: 7/10
Frequency response: 100 to 10,000 Hz
What to consider: Although “anything can be used in a pinch,” according to Muffett, when you’re on the go, over-ear wireless headphones are best, especially since handling a bunch of wires can be quite the entanglement. The Bose SoundLink wireless headphones offer quality Bluetooth connectivity, a top of the line microphone, and HD vocal options for noisy environments.
Mohd Syis Zulkipli/Shutterstock
Sound isolation: 6/10
Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
What to consider: Muffett likes in-ear headphones because they’re “comfortable over long periods,” let you move around without issue, and avoid the cheap plastic sometimes used by over-the-ear headphones, which can create squeaking and clicking noises that are difficult to remove in postproduction. “If you aren’t having to listen critically, and you can keep the volume low enough to avoid bleed, they can be a great option,” he says.
Apple AirPods are the go-to choice for many early podcasters. The host of the “Entrepreneurs on Fire” podcast, John Lee Dumas, always uses Apple AirPod headphones for podcasting. Beyond being small and wireless, he says, “they are quality headphones.”