Headphones for Music Mixing

With so many different types of headphones on the market, some types of headphone are bound to be better for mixing than others.

If you have already read the article; “Over-the-ear, In-ear, On-ear, Come ear!”  you will already know about the different types of ‘phones available on the market.

In fact if you are reading this you probably know more than I do about the availability of different types of headphones interchangeable term with earphones (UK) and earbuds (US) and “phones for short. “Cans” is the term used for circumaural (around the ear models).

I am not going to talk about anything as base such as money, but, and let’s just say a good headphone set can be acquisitioned for around the same price as entry-level monitor speakers at Headphones Unlimited, my favorite webshop.  So basically that’s all we need to say about price, don’t compromise your sound for sake of a few dollars.

Some types of headphone are going to be more suitable than others for mixing;

Circumaural open backed “Cans” are recommended

Why?

Because open backed means they are cooler and keep the ears more comfortable when using for long periods.

And circumaural headphones will give you the deepest and most natural bass sound

However

The disadvantages for open-back ‘phones for performers are;

  • In a noisy environment you will allow background noise in as well as airflow
  • So for noisy environments you and long mixing sessions you are going to have to suffer the heat to block out the background noise with closed back headphones

And

  • Closed back headphones maybe a better choice for your short and sharp mixing sessions, when you are alternating between headphones and speakers

What about the bass?

Let’s talk about the problem with bass

  • Of course with headphones you are not going to feel the bass in your body as with loudspeakers
  • With less high technology and laying out less cash you are faced with the real problem of
  • Judging how much bass sound to use to make it sound right through headphones
  • Vibration transducers may work well with electronic sounds may not be so good when used for mixing decisions
  • It can be easy to misjudge the sound of bass making it sound “bloated” when played on loudspeakers

Now let’s talk about the solution

  • Unfortunately it may come down to money again, as with very high quality headphones the bass mixing problems are greatly reduced
  • One of the only sure ways to check your sound is to keep checking throughout the session to hear how it sounds on loudspeakers
  • Also doing comparisons of similar genres will help you to decide how much bass you need
  • Standing by the door is a good rule of thumb to use, i.e. don’t stand too close
  • Another tip would be to turn your headphones down to a whisper ensuring that no single sound stands out too much 

Turning it up!

If you can’t resist whacking up the sound on the headphones, try to keep within health and safety limits!

Deaf=definitely not good for music producers.

What about using crossfeed plug-ins?

There are many options for free crossfeed plug-in programs on the internet and they are great for use with existing recordings

But

The problem is

It is better to avoid using them in your mixing experiments so your mix sounds good to all headphone listeners not just the top end users with the best equipment.

The solution being

To blend the left/right channels at lower frequencies making for a more natural sound for all listeners

Just quickly, a word about amplification

A headphone is an essential piece of equipment for the serious.

You cannot plug headphones into line-level outputs so what can you do?

Some hi-fi amps include a headphone socket, however, this can result in bloated, heavy bass.  Try it first!

For super sounding bass, consider buying or building your own amplifier.

Headphone amplifiers come in all shapes and sizes beginning with budget basic models up to audiophile top of the range.  You really will get what you pay for.

If you have a background in engineering you can definitely save some of your budget by building your own amp, there is plenty of information on the internet on how.

Over all;

If you are fortunate enough to be doing what you love for a living, investing in your equipment is not going to be too much of a sacrifice.  I hope now you know what the most fundamental needs are to get really going, you really will be able to get going.

Remember this, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.