You may be thinking that a pair of simple earbuds are all that is needed for checking a mix. But if you are serious about taming the low-end of your mix or even getting close to a home produced ‘master’, an excellent set of headphones are essential.
I look at the different sets of headphones I have in terms of their function. I use my Sennheiser HD800s for checking low-end and listening for unwanted pops and cracks - I think of these as my magnifying glass. The Beyerdynamics are great for recording, and the other miscellaneous sets are useful for mix referencing.
The crème de la crème!
For isolation when recording, I picked the Beyerdynamic DT770s Closed Studio Headphones. When other musicians come around to record guitar or vocals, the DT770s are very versatile - I don't let anyone use my Sennheiser's for recording! I use the Beyerdynamics when recording my drums too. They provide fantastic sound isolation, and you can wear them for a very long period. Sometimes I spend five or six hours solid practicing my drums and don't find the DT770s uncomfortable at all – they just get a little sweaty that’s all!
After continued use (mine are about 10 years old) the ear foams got very tattered but were replaced reasonably inexpensively. I purchased a set of (made in China) replacements on eBay about 3 years ago. They were easy to swap out and are still going strong - I still have the other replacement pads.
As another listening reference – “for the earbud gang” as Dave Pensado would say - I use a pair of off-the-shelf ‘Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds’. I find it challenging to wear buds for extended periods (I switch to full over the ear headphones if I'm traveling), but these are much more comfortable than the standard earphones you get with your Samsung or Apple phone.
Also, their tight fit (which is what makes my ears most uncomfortable) means that outside noises are reasonably well isolated. Really another excellent tool for the toolbox.
Listen with earbuds to how well your mix translates to ‘in-ear’. Especially listen to the bass and high frequencies and pick a track that you are accustomed to and note how it sounds on your earbuds. Then use this as a reference for your own mixes.
The over-ear design makes these super comfy. The headphones can be used with Bluetooth, but I always use the cable - charging and pairing headphones is not my idea of time well spent! I think these headphones were designed with gamers in mind as they tend to emphasize low frequencies - I find this useful for my own mixes to help judge too much or not enough low-end.
I also use the headphones when I am at my drum studio for brief times (just an hour). They are useful as sound isolators and for playing along with tracks. They're not as comfortable or as isolated as the DT770s but are good enough and save on wear and tear of the DT770s.
I'm on my second pair of these in 15 years - the first pair broke at the swivel connection between the head support and housing body (on both sides!). I was a little disappointed with the quality, but that didn't stop me from buying a second pair soon after. I used to do a lot of air travel on the noise canceling feature is incredible for in-flight movies, train, and bus travel.
Instead of letting them rot in the draw, I pull them out to occasionally as another reference. The sound quality is just okay, but they do give another perspective. I certainly wouldn't recommend getting a pair exclusively for your home studio use. However, if you do a lot of air travel and you've got some spare cash, these come highly recommended.
Can I mix exclusively with headphones? Some people do, but I personally find it very fatiguing for mixing. Sure, in an emergency, with a regular break, I have produced some great sounding mixes on headphones alone. I have been surprised by how well things can turn out. But would really recommend using your room and monitors for the bulk of a mix and keeping headphones for listening to individual recorded tracks, mixing details, and final checks.
Back in 2009, I bought myself a copy of Pro Tools and recorded some home made music. It was challenging to start with, as I had no idea what I was doing. I made many mistakes on my journey - some fun, some expensive, and many time-consuming! I find running a Home Music Studio a fascinating and rewarding hobby and still enjoy it every day. This website is where I’d like to share everything that I’ve learned.