Can I mix songs well on headphones?
Updated: Aug 19
You may be wondering if you need a $5,000 pair of studio monitors to mix properly in your recording studio. Well there is a lot of things to consider when answering this so let's take a look.
Headphones have come a long way in recent times and now you can get a decent pair of mixing headphones for around $300-500. The difference between normal listening headphones and mixing or reference headphones, is that normal headphones are designed to make music sound hyped and smooth. Silky highs and boomy bass. Unfortunately this is no good for mixing. What you are looking for in a mixing pair of headphones is a flat frequency response so that any decision you make about EQ or dynamics, is a accurate one. If the bass is too boomy, you will hear it and if the mid range sounds flat, you will hear it. Then, once you get the mix sounding great in the headphones, it should translate well outside on other listening devices.
Let's take a look a a few examples of some mixing headphones
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Street Price - $200
Sennheiser HD 600 Street Price - $450
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Street Price $390
The thing to remember with mixing headphones is that they are all open-backed. This means that you need to be in a reasonably quiet place as external sounds will come through. So if you are planning to mix on the train on the way to work, you better get some closed-backed ones.
Are headphones better than cheap monitors?
There are some great budget monitors out there so for around the same price as a great set of mixing headphones, you could pick up some studio monitors. Cheaper monitors are great if you get to know their flaws and have a reasonably well treated room. By this I mean you need to acoustically treat your room to try and eliminate reflections and get a flat frequency response. Otherwise your monitors will be telling you all the wrong things when making crucial decisions of EQ, dynamics, space and panning. If your room is untreated and you can't be bothered doin it, then headphones is the way to go for sure.
The best of both worlds!
For me, the best solution to make sure you are making great mixing decisions is to take a bit of both. I would check out a cheap monitor like the KRK Rockit 5's that come in at around $450 for a pair new or an older generation can be picked up for $200. Then on top of that, you buy one of the cheaper but still great mixing headphones - say the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro for $200. The idea of using both is that you can rest your ears from fatigue and cover all the gaps in the frequency range and faults of both. Spend a few hours mixing on your speakers and the every 30 minutes you switch to headphones just to check what's going on. Pretty soon you will come to learn what the strengths and weaknesses of both are and you'll be pumping out great mixes in no time!
In my recording studio in Melbourne, I have 3 x sets of monitors that I switch between regularly to check my mixes. However even with all these speakers, I still use headphones to check a mix before sending it out.
Well that's it - I hope that has helped you on your quest for the perfect mix! As always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me any time.