Whether you are running a home studio or a professional one, some studio gears are common in both approaches. Headphones are one of them. But when you hit enter on your keyboard after typing studio headphones, you get stuck. There are so many models and types to choose from. Without a prior knowledge of how to choose studio headphones, these Google results just create confusion on your mind.
Do you know, headphones are the most common gear in audio recording gears? And obviously, more common gear means more confusion on the internet.
Well, to save you from that kind of confusion, I’m here with this article. In this article, you will read 9 quick tips on choosing studio headphones. After reading this article you can take a quick decision that which headphone is really built for you.
So, let us begin.
1. Type Of Operation (Mixing, Mastering or Monitoring)
In the very first, you have to clarify this on your mind. Do you want a headphone dedicated to only mixing? Or do you want a headphone that can be used both mixing and monitoring purpose? Even there are headphones which are used only for mastering purpose or DJ operations. Quit confusing. Right?
Well, the 1st and most important step is identifying your work. Some of us are mixing engineers who only mix projects, some of us are music producers cum mixing engineers, and some of us are an all-rounder(Vocalist, Musician, music producer, mixing engineer).
Have you identified your type of operation?
Now, come to the 2nd tip.
2. Open-back, Closed-back or Semi-open
However, headphones are of many types, but when it comes to studio headphones, we have 3 choices to select from.
- Open Back headphone
- Closed back headphone
- Semi-open headphone
Let us gain some knowledge what are these and for which purpose they are used.
Read this article to know more about Open back and closed back headphones
Or watch this video
Open back headphones
Open back headphones have their backside fully open. This structure helps it to release the sound pressure generates inside the headphone enclosure. These headphones are used for mixing purpose. The open backs release the sound pressure generates inside the enclosure hence there is no reflection inside. As a result. you get accurate frequencies than other headphone types.
Note: There are many other factors which affect the frequencies. So don’t judge any headphone on the just open back feature.
Closed back headphones
Just opposite to open back headphones, the enclosure is closed in this type. These headphones are used for monitoring purpose, especially for vocal monitoring by the vocalist.
The main advantage of these type of headphone is, there is less outside noise as compared to open back headphones. In vocal rooms, we use condenser mics which are very sensitive and easily catch the sound released by the open back headphones. So in vocal rooms closed backs are an ideal headphone type.
But the disadvantage is, due to internal reflections, you don’t get accurate frequencies. So “as per some music gurus” closed back are not ideal for mixing purpose.
This is partially right, but as I noted out above there are many other things which decide the quality of the headphone, it’s not completely true that closed backs are not ideal for mixing.
Even, I used Roland’s RH200 headphone for a long time in my early carrier for mixing purpose and believe me that headphone gave good results.
Check out the Audio Technica ATH-M50xRT Review – Best multipurpose wireless headphone
Semi-open headphones are my best type of headphones. The advantage of this type of headphone is, you can use it for both mixing and monitoring purpose.
This type of headphones is partially open from the backside to release the extra sound pressure but not as noisy as open back headphones. This feature makes it my 1st choice among others. Whether you are recording vocals or you want to mix projects this type of headphone is ideal for both operations.
The benefit is, you don’t need separate headphones for both purposes. You can save money by choosing this type of headphones.
Want More Information on headphone type? Head over to our article
Whether you choose closed back, open back or semi-open headphones, whether you mix with headphones or monitors, the end goal is a professional mix. And accuracy is the key to success in a mix.
Your mix quality depends on 2 things – your skill and your gears. Without gear which provide you accurate frequencies, you can’t achieve a pro mix. No matter how skilled you are.
So, when choosing headphones for audio mixing or mastering, keep in mind that how flat the frequency spectrum that headphone provides you. As flat as frequency spectrum as good as your mix.
Isolation is another important thing you should consider before hitting the buy button for your studio headphone. Generally, studio headphones are isolated with foam on their driver. This foam isolates headphone sound from the outside noise as well as stops the headphone sound leaking outside.
Isolation is an important thing in recording studios. A well-isolated headphone stops the click tracks leaking outside and capturing by the microphones, as well as stops the outside noise so that the musician or vocalist don’t distract by the noise.
In open back headphones, the isolation works in one way, ie; it stops the outside noise from entering the headphone enclosure, hence open backs are good for mixing. In closed back headphones, isolation works in 2 way. That means neither sound leak out from the headphone nor outside noise comes into the headphone.
So, when buying headphones keep in mind that the headphone should be well isolated.
You work for hours in your studio. Right? I just guessed it but in many cases its true. If you are a professional music producer then you have to spend a lot of time in front of mixing console and your monitor.
So, comfort is as important as other things. If you don’t feel comfortable in a long sitting, you can’t handle the production workflow. And in case of headphones its extremely important that you choose a comfortable one, nor you could feel fatigue and discomfort in a long session.
Note: Open back headphones are very comfortable because the pressure generates inside the driver enclosure get out from the back and make the sound more comfortable like listening to monitors. Don’t use closed-back headphones in long sessions. If you are using closed back headphones, take breaks between session.
Nobody wants a gear which is not durable. You invest your hard money on those expensive gears. If the gear is not durable and long lasting, you may lose your hard cash and your mind also.
There are 2 tips I want to give you on this topic.
- Choose a better brand
- Always go for tested headphones not newly launched (read customer reviews on shopping sites)
Does your audio interface has 1/4″ phono out or 1/8″. Do you want to use your headphone inside vocal booth? These are some of the things you should consider in this section.
Let’s dig out more
Wire length: Wire length is important if you are going to use your headphone apart from your mixing desk. However, for vocal rooms, you may use extension cables. But make sure your headphone’s wire length is as enough as it fits for most kind of operations in your studio.
Connector type: Headphones generally come in two connector types. 1/4″ phono and 1/8″ phono. Most audio interfaces and headphone amps have 1/4″ connectors so make sure you get 1/4″ connector or if not then the 1/8″ to 1/4″ adaptor along with the headphone.
Durability: Here I once again want to talk about durability. Make sure the joints near the connector and the headphone is strong enough to get rid of shocks. A Phone receiver style wire is recommended for extra durability of the wire.
8. Low-Cost Vs High-Cost Headphones
Out of cash?
Many of us start our 1st studio in the bedroom. And don’t have enough money to afford costly gears. Even if we have, we don’t want to invest it in a business which is new.
Well, there are many low-cost studio headphones exists on this planet to get a perfect mix or monitoring.
But, that means not that costly headphones are useless. Manufacturers make costly headphones because they have an X-factor which low costs do not have.
Choosing low cost or costly studio headphones is your very personal decision. But keep in mind before going for low cost or costly debate review them wisely by review sites or customer reviews on shopping websites.
9. The Need Of Headphone Amps
Generally, No. Because your audio interface or mixer has a built in amp for one or two headphone outs.
But if you have more then one headphone (and if your audio interface does not have more then one headphone out), and use them simultaneously then you must have headphone amplifiers in your studio.
Well, you just read 9 quick tips on choosing studio headphones. I think this article cleared out most of your doubts.
Now its time to choose your headphone. Here are some top picks. Check out them.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20x: Amazon | Sam Ash
- Sennheiser HD280PRO: Amazon | Sam Ash
- AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open: Amazon | Sam Ash
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Also, check out our other useful articles
Gautam Roy is a professional Blogger and Freelance Mix Engineer from India. He loves leading looks, listening to music and travelling.