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We reveal the best audio equipment for music-loving creatives to invest in, focusing on quality, design and functionality.
If you’re looking for creative inspiration, then your favourite music can be just what you need. Whether it’s upbeat and energetic drum and bass to drive you through to the deadline or ambient chill to help new ideas flow, the right tunes can make the difference between motivation and innovation or slump and frustration.
A perfectly mixed track can elevate any creative pursuit, but it has to be reproduced well. In contrast, playing your sounds through the tinny speakers found in your smartphone, tablet, or laptop will likely reduce your beloved beats into a garbled dirge.
Instead, it’s worth investing in the right audio equipment to properly bring your music to life. Below, we’ve brought together our favourite gear to prioritise fidelity and promote an immersive listening experience while keeping an eye on design and comfort.
Ultimately, the right equipment can both enhance the creative process and your enjoyment of music. So, while it might seem pricey, it’s a great investment in your listening experience and the artistry and passion it can drive throughout each working day.
Our pick of the best headphones
For studio work
Professional-grade headphones such as the Sony MDR-Z1R or Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro offer exceptional clarity and flat frequency response, crucial for accurate sound mixing and mastering. These expensive cans are very much overkill for home use, but for studio work, they’re worth their weight in gold.
The newly developed diaphragm with a magnesium dome and liquid crystal polymer edge in the Sony MDR-Z1R enables up to 120kHz playback in high-resolution audio. When teamed with improved special filters to control air resistance, the result is an outstanding level of sound purity and precision.
Meanwhile, in the Beyerdynamic option, these circumaural headphones use a 250-ohm, 45-mm dynamic Tesla neodymium driver for high-end studio use. The open, circumaural design offers a natural and extremely spatial sound, and these headphones come with a single-sided, detachable cable with a mini-XLR connector.
Noise-cancellation for focus
Creatives working in noisy environments can benefit from noise-cancelling headphones such as the Bose QuietComfort or Sony WH-1000XM4. These provide excellent sound quality while effectively blocking out distractions.
Sony WH-1000XM4. Image courtesy of Sony
For the former, these spatial audio headphones with Bose Immersive Audio place the sound just in front of you. So, in practice, it seems like you aren’t listening with headphones at all! In the latter, these advanced headphones blend Sony’s most advanced noise cancelling with exceptional sound quality and a range of smart features. Dual noise sensor technology, featuring two microphones on each earcup, captures ambient noise and passes the data to the HD Noise Cancelling Processor, making for a superior listening experience.
Who doesn’t love AirPods? And these are the highest-quality models Apple offers today, combining personalised spatial audio, active noise cancellation and a design that fits your ears perfectly. At the same time, the Sennheiser Buds offer high-resolution wireless audio thanks to their proprietary aptX Adaptive codec, which makes you hear every detail. You can tailor the sound experience to your personal taste with a choice of presets and an intuitive equaliser feature.
Apple AirPods Max. Image courtesy of Apple
Audio-Technica’s acclaimed headphones feature passive noise isolation, comfortable ear cups, and large aperture drivers that deliver a first-rate sound signature. They include an upgraded detachable cable for convenience and versatility, ideal for the studio, gaming or when you’re out and about.
Meanwhile, the MDR-7506s are professional headphones from Sony engineered for a combination of strength, comfort and practicality and are used daily in broadcast and recording studios worldwide. They come complete with a protective carry pouch and gold-plated 3.5mm/6.3mm adaptor.
Speakers that bring sound to life
Studio monitors for precision
Unlike studio monitors with added bass or treble frequencies, which may sound more flattering at first, the Yamaha speakers are designed to give you the most honest, precise reference possible, providing an ideal audio platform to build on throughout the mixing process.
The bi-amp professional monitor by KRK features a DSP-driven Graphic EQ with 25 settings, helping condition your acoustic environment while offering new levels of versatility in a studio monitor. Matching drivers made with Kevlar ensures the same sonic integrity across all frequencies.
Bluetooth speakers for flexibility
Portable speakers such as the JBL Charge 5 or Bose SoundLink Revolve+ provide high-quality sound on the go, perfect for impromptu creative sessions.
The JBL Charge 5 offers a big room sound, even when you’re outdoors. That’s thanks to its optimised long-excursion driver, separate tweeter and dual JBL bass radiators.
And the SoundLink Revolve+ is something Bose engineered as a 360° speaker so that when everyone stands around it, everyone gets the same experience. If you place it near a wall, sound will radiate and reflect around the room, making you feel like you’re at a concert. And with a flexible handle, it’s easy to carry.
JBL Charge 5. Image courtesy of JBL
Hi-fi speakers for audiophiles
The LS50 Wireless II is an all-in-one speaker system fit for audiophiles, streaming from any source thanks to wireless compatibility with AirPlay 2, Chromecast and more, plus wired connections for your TV, games console and turntable.
The 606 S3 stand-mount speaker offers the joys of true fidelity to enhance the experience of any music lover. That’s thanks to its titanium dome tweeter, combined with the accuracy of Bowers & Wilkins’ acclaimed Continuum bass/midrange cone.
Smart speakers with voice control
Amazon’s speaker doesn’t just let you use Alexa; it offers premium, immersive audio, too. That’s delivered by a five-speaker array with Dolby Atmos that generates studio-quality 3D sound.
Prefer to say “Hey Google” than to address Alexa? Then here’s how to get a rich, clear sound at the same time. Nest Audio’s woofer, tweeter, and tuning software mean it is 75% louder than the original Google Home, has 50% stronger bass, and delivers crisp, clear vocals.
Features to consider
When hunting down the best audio equipment for your studio or home office, here are some factors to take into account.
Sound quality: Look for a flat frequency response for professional audio work and a rich, balanced sound for general listening.
Comfort: Look for well-padded headphones with adjustable features. This is especially important for long listening sessions.
Connectivity: Consider whether you prefer wired or wireless options. Bluetooth is essential for portability, while wired connections offer stability for studio-based work.
Design: As creatives, let’s be honest: aesthetics are important too!