I’m receiving questions around headphones for mixing on a daily base – for obvious reasons!
Many of us mix in different places all the time, we travel and work from bedrooms, hotel-rooms or trains – in situations where headphones are the only viable solution to get some work done.
As you might know, my Mixing Book starts with concepts and recommendations around your monitoring setup and listening room, and as I’m „eating my own dog food“, my team and I have over the years optimised our control room to perfection.
As a result, I work in a room that makes it very easy for anybody to hear the difference between a good and a bad mix. Descriptions and attributes come up all the time during listening, like „dead vs. full of life“, „over-compressed vs. big and dynamic“, „dull vs. sparkling“, etc. – a great mix will sound awesome, and a bad mix will sound horrible. A great mixing or mastering room is honest and revealing, gives praise only to the best mixes.
These are of course exactly the same qualities we would expect from headphones that work for mixing. My assistant Nick and I brainstormed and discussed the topic over many months.
In Spring 2015, we had started to have meetings with major headphone manufacturers to discuss our specific mission „headphones for mixing“, and of course received dozens of different models for review, in addition to the already extensive collection of headphones we had at the studio.
As many boxes with headphones arrived at the studio – different models priced from $99 to $1599 – we of course took them randomly out of their boxes, listened to some of the reference mixes we are very familiar with, and did some casual listening on the road, using an iPhone or MacBook, listening to everything from Diana Krall’s latest album to a live broadcast of a football match.
Would I have to decide on a headphone for casual listening – most of these headphones are very pleasant to use on a wide range of material. The decision could have very well been based on the lightest weight and fluffiest ear-pads.
Or I could say many of the expensive headphones inherently lack bass – you know, the kind of low-end you need to feel in your stomach. In that department, a brand that gets a lot of bad rep performs really well, but then again, if I mix with too much low-end in my monitoring, we all know where that leads…
Bottom-line is, headphones for mixing need to be measured and calibrated just like any neutral sounding mix- or mastering-room. This is not where my headphone review ends, but before we continue to Part 2, here’s an honest recommendation.
Before you spend big $$$ cash on expensive headphones, try this:
• go HERE and sign up for a FREE trial of Sonarworks Reference 3 headphone calibration.
It’s a very straight to operate plug-in that comes with calibrations for the most popular headphone models we are all using:
AKG, Audeze, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, Focal, KRK, Sennheiser, Shure, Sony, etc. – try it with the pair of headphones you already have.
• I’ve done A/B comparisons with all my headphones, and Sonarworks Reference 3 does a great job creating a neutral low-end and a flat frequency response at a stunning precision.
• The plug-in is cross platform Mac/Windows, it works as AU, AAX Native, RTAS and VST, in all DAWs.
• If you already own your favorite pair, you can send it in to Sonarworks for a costum calibration profile.
Seeing the original “BEFORE” frequency-response of some of your headphones will be an eye-opener – so try it!