The Case For Mixing On Headphones In The Home Studio

| Mixing, Tips, Video

Can you actually get a great mix on headphones? Absolutely – in fact it might be one of the smartest things you do in your home studio.

I have already addressed why I believe headphones are the most powerful recording tool you have, and it seems this could be said for the mix phase as well.

Today I want to give you three reasons why I think mixing on headphones is a smart move and three ways to get better results when you do.

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81 Responses to “The Case For Mixing On Headphones In The Home Studio”

  1. Bruno França

    I mix on my bedroom and lately I’ve been getting reasonable success mixing on a pair of Sony MDR-7506, switching back and forth to a single Avatone Mixcube (mixing in mono). I also have a pair of “regular” JBL studio monitors, but I feel that’s just too much sound for my less than ideal room.

    Your point of switching to another speaker when mixing on headphones is absolutely correct. On my last mix the main vocal was sounding fine on the headphones, but when I switched back to my other speaker it was way, way too loud.

    Reply
    • humbert

      You are mixing in your headphones way too loud. Turn down. I found that this was my problem when I first started mixing on headphones. Decibel level on headphones is deceptively and perceptualy different.

      Reply
  2. Chris Spinelli

    I mix exclusively on headphones. I have a small living space and three young children, two ingredients to make it impossible to have speakers setup and to play loud music. Despite this I think I get a good mix on my songs using my Audio Technica ATH 30s. Below is a link to my most recent song, let me know what you think.

    https://youtu.be/GmhlhoEYFeY

    Reply
    • Elkin Rodriguez

      Chris! Good Mix! It´s really good, I never would have thought that had ended in your headphones. And, What Gear you used to record that song? Do you record this in your house? Blessings! Greetings from Bogotá, Colombia.

      Reply
      • Chris Spinelli

        I’m really glad you enjoyed it. And what you said is very encouraging! I use a Focusrite Forte and an Audio Technica 4033, I record in my house with no sound proofing or deadening, the room I’m in is pretty neutral, thank God.

        And btw Graham’s resources have invaluable.

        Reply
  3. Jerry M

    I use 3 different types of monitors when mixing – near field speakers, computer speakers and headphones. I find it useful to reference all 3 during a mix. Personally, I like to use the headphones to reference the low end of my mixes as I find it difficult to hear the low end accurately in my room, but I find it much easier to judge on headphones.

    Reply
  4. Jorge Silvestrini

    Thanks Graham for the video and the earlier article about mixing with headphones. I agree that it is very easy to get ear fatigue with just using the headphones. Some of you will probably hate this and some will love it – lately: I’ve been referencing my mixes with the Apple headphones from my iPhone, my Plantronics Bluetooth Headset, MacBook Pro speakers, Mackie’s MR5mk3 and Shure SRH440 headphones. I find it useful to listen in the same environment as what others will end up listening to. I’ve even tried the mono speaker on my iPhone 6s Plus – just to hear if my balances and mixes are correct.

    Reply
  5. John Colombo

    I mix almost exclusively on headphones…I check mixes against JBL studio monitors, iPhone/iPod ear buds, car stereo speakers, and a Sonos system speaker. I agree totally with Graham’s point about turning down, that is necessary. Among the things I do to compensate for the limitations is to use multiple sets of headphones (I have 3 pairs, none of them very expensive), each with specific response characteristics. Mixing so a song sounds good on all the headphone models is like mixing across 3 sets of speakers. If I can get things to sound good across all three, it usually translates really well to real world players.

    Reply
    • Rick

      Totally agree with this.. I mix accross two pairs of headphones. Both cheap* but I know their individual characteristics and there is a sweet spot where the low end sounds good in both pairs. This nearly always translates to a good balance of lows and highs. Whether the general mix is good is another story – I tend to mix on two sets of speakers for general vibe/mix before moving to the cans later on for low/hi tweaking.

      * I wouldn’t neccessarily recomend mixing on cheap apple ear bud things but they will instantly tell you if there is too much low end.

      Reply
  6. TJ

    I start mixing on headphones, then move to studio monitors and finally the car. The only problem I had with headphones are the lack of “crosstalk” you get with monitors so things panned hard sounded weird in the phones so I would check it with the monitors. I use Sonar and a few months ago they came out with a plug-in called “The Monitorizer” designed by Craig Anderton that replicates the crosstalk you get from studio monitors. Since I have been using that plug-in I only have to a quick reference check on my monitors.

    Reply
  7. Manny

    I usually mix on headphones 98% of times. I find very useful something that you have mentioned in the past. Having a reference track to compare each other and also relying on spectrum analysers helps me a lot sometimes to find specific sections that need to be fixed.

    Reply
  8. Grant Lincoln

    I mix using my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Studio Headphones – $99.00. Recently I was thinking about getting a pair of avatones for second monitors but decided to try the new Waves nx which I’m really enjoying. A lot cheaper too!

    Reply
    • Barry Peters

      I just picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro’s a couple of weeks ago and am loving them. I have to mix almost exclusively on headphones as well, and this is my first set of studio quality ones. I do test my mixes on my computer speakers, ear buds, and in my vehicle.

      Reply
  9. Mats Dagerlind

    I dom about 95% of the mix work on headphones, but I also have a pair of decent monitors that I use for intermittent checks. You can get fooled by relative levels on headphones, for me it’s generally lead vocals and guitar solos that I need to adjust the level for after checking on monitors.

    Another thing to easily get wrong when mixing on headphones that is not mentioned in this excellent video is reverb. I think and have aslo heard from others that the reverb can sound so good on the headphones but be way over the top when you check on monitors.

    I also use moonitors for checking the the bottom end. Depending on what size your monitors are this may or may not be such a reliable thing though.

    Another thing I often find is that boxiness and not so nice frequencies tend to get hidden on headphones but revealed when listening to monitors. When I ride an eq searching for such frequencies to cut them out, I also do a monito check to see if I got rid of enough.

    Also there is no mentioning of headphone quality in this video, and I think you need to get a decent pair to do dcent mixing. I use a pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro and besides sounding overall good they have a big plus – they do not have a ear fetigueing top end as so many other headphones. So you can mix for longer periods as long as you don’t crank the volume up to ridiculous levels.

    Reply
  10. Sean

    Hi Graham,

    Long time subscriber, first time posting (I think). I really enjoyed this video as well as your recent “pro-headphones” vid. My recording studio is built around my iPad – I have never owned or used a desktop DAW. So, with such a mobile solution, headphone mixing is almost a given. Thank you for the tips and a general sense of vindication.

    Two questions. First, do you intend to address the topic of flat-response cans versus colored cans at any point? I own a pair of Samson SR950s I picked up for about 80 bucks on Amazon that are closed back and have a virtually flat frequency response. Is this important, or is knowing the phones you DO have the larger point?

    2nd, I’m curious if you have any thought or plans to speak directly to iPad music production any time soon? There’s a robust subculture of musicians who enjoy the convenience of mobile music production coupled with the insanely low prices and high quality of hundreds of music apps.

    Finally, I will say I turn to my JBL monitors for final mix/mastering, as well as my car stereo, home theater speakers, computer speakers and a pair of cheap Alesis mid-range monitors (with the handy dandy mono button), and eventually every speaker throughout my AirPlay-equipped house. Seems absolutely essential to replicate as many playback environments to ensure a consistently pleasing mix.

    Thanks so much for the tips – I definitely need to give my ears more breaks!

    Reply
    • Graham Cochrane

      Great questions.

      1. No – it matters more that you KNOW your speakers. I will say (like I said in this post) that there is a level of quality that is to be desired and that for me is at the $100 a pair range. You want dedicated studio headphones, not consumer headphones.

      2. Since I don’t do music on iPads I don’t have any plans to address it at the moment.

      Thanks for the comments!

      Reply
      • Sean

        Thanks for the feedback Graham! I actually have some hi-end cans in my studio, but for me, the $80 Samsons strike the right balance of portability and quality for a more mobile setup (ala, the couch) – although I do use a Line 6 Sonic Port VX to bypass the iPad’s headphone out for a more realistic sound.

        Thankfully, the principles of mixing you share apply just as well regardless of the platform, so, straight question, straight answer, keep ’em coming – I continue to pick up a lot of tips from you! Thanks again

        Reply
  11. Fergal O'Hanlon

    I have been making music this way most of the time. I do 80% of the work on headphones with checks on speakers. Mainly my Avantone Mixcube. I use my monitors less often of the three!! I find it much easier to gauge what’s going on in my awful mixing environment on headphones.

    Reply
  12. Steve Keith

    Hi everyone – 90% of my mix time is on headphones – been at it for over 10 years. I’ve worn out my HD280 Pro (still sound great but the foam pads are all messed up. I’m thinking about getting the open back type of headphones. I want the HD800S, but cannot talk myself into spending the money. I’ll probably just get the HD700. Anyway, I agree if you get used to mixing with headphones, you learn what things should sound like. When working on a new song, I bring many CDs out to the truck and evaluate while driving to my day job. Then make adjustments at night on the phones and repeat as necessary. When I first starting mixing seriously (with phones), I’d test things out on my Yamaha HS8s when noone else was around, and it would sound like a pretty crappy mix. After a steep learning curve, I learned to limit the bass and leave a lot more space, and that seems to have helped a lot. Anybody have any comments on electrostatic headphones?

    Reply
    • Grant Lincoln

      Sweetwater has Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Replacement Earpads
      for $26.52 a pair. Just thought you might like to know.

      Reply
  13. Max Daniels

    I’m mixing exclusively on headphones and have been for a little more than two years. It’s all I had and it’s much better with a little 2 year old running around or sleeping to have nice quiet headphones. You really covering everything there is to cover. Thank you for the video! I found it very uplifting because most of the articles I read bash mixing on headphones (especially exclusively). I find that referencing my mix on a bunch of different speakers like my laptop speakers or ear buds and/or car speakers.

    Thanks again for the video!

    Reply
  14. John W.

    I usually do a calibration of levels like you would with room monitors. So when that K14 zero hits (see Bob Katz) , my ears aren’t gonna start ringing. Once I know how the loud peaks sound in the phones at a comfortable level, I wont “shock” my ears trying to mix levels or high end.! Then, as you suggest G. I START the mixes at low volumes, get it sounding good, then by the end of the session check it at “normal” levels and see how much the tone & balance hangs in there. I find I can do longer sessions this way. I also practice listening with new headphones, just the bass, just the vocals, etc from a previous known good mix. This helped realize frequencies the phones accent or hide until I know the pair well enough to mix on. Lastly, if yer doing the itunes mix, check the xfer on the buds or a tablet.

    Reply
  15. Robert Harvey

    I have mixed on headphones for years, with excellent success.

    Before deciding on a final mix I always validate my mixes on at least two other systems, usually my monitors and my car. That always results in some adjustments.

    Vocals almost always seem to require adjustment after a headphone mix. I’ve also noticed that most folks who are unaccustomed to mixing in headphones tend to pan things too much towards the center; a mix should sound very wide in headphones.

    I recommend finding a pair of really accurate (flat response) headphones. I currently use Sennheisers for this purpose, and wish I had started out with more accurate headphones in my early years, as I got too used to the specific sound of my first pair of headphones (they were “scooped out” in the midrange). For awhile it compromised my ability to judge the overall tonal balance of audio systems.

    It takes a bit of practice to do it properly, but having the ability to mix in headphones is a really valuable skill, as you can do it anywhere.

    Reply
  16. Onome

    I have the same. Headphones Graham is holding, tho i thought at the initial stage that it was weak until recently i went back to it. And found it is a good thing for the money. Thanks graham. You the best

    Reply
  17. Alien Graffiti

    What about tools for mixing on headphones like NX from Waves? NX is said to simulate a perfect room – at least, this is how they promote it. I purchased it and think it’s cool. Recommended or not?

    Reply
    • Andy Harrington

      NX is pretty neat. Another one to check out is redline monitor by 112dB. Both do a pretty slick job of what they say they do. I, starting to prefer NX due to two things: it’s a little more tweakable, it has an neat feature where it follows your head which can be useful for leaning toward one “speaker” or another (a feature which can be turned off)

      Reply
  18. Mark Englander

    I’m fortunate enough to have my studio in an area of the house that’s separated from everything else by thick walls and concrete floors, so ambient noise from the rest of the house is not an issue as far as distraction when I mix, nor an intrusion when I record vocals. However, my studio room is not acoustically treated, so I had to build a little isolation booth around my main vocal mic which helps to avoid picking up the room reflections when I record vocals. Ultimately, though, I do check my mixes frequently on my headphones (Sennheiser HD 280 Pro) for exactly the reasons Graham listed (consistency, eliminating the room ambience that screws with the way my mixes sound from my monitors (a 3-way system: 2 satelites and a central subwoofer), subtlety of EQ and compression, etc.)

    Reply
  19. Joel

    Hey graham awesome video! You’re looking great 😀

    A quick question. I seem to remember you talking about mixing on open back headphones in the past, as they give a more realistic picture of the mix. Especially (if I remember rightly) in terms of your panning decisions, i.e. if tracks are panned hard left and right, they still tend to merge with each other in your hearing, because the headphone cups aren’t completely closed- so the right ear, hears a little of what is panned hard left and vice versa.

    Did you say that, or am I making it up?

    Thanks again! Joel, UK

    Reply
  20. Casey

    Definitely understand the necessity of people who only can use headphones. I have always preferred using monitors as the primary mixing method for music because I feel it makes for better overall decisions, but I switch often back and forth between headphones and monitors while mixing. If possible the one thing I would recommend for those only using headphones would be working out a way to listen to your headphone mix in mono, whether hardware or software solution, because one of the most skewed things from monitors to headphones is perception of stereo and panning related to relative levels in the stereo field. My favorite over the ear headphones for every day editing/mixing are beyerdynamic dt235.

    Reply
  21. Casey

    Ps – my other most important tip no matter whether you’re using headphones exclusively or not is ALWAYS check your work from ar least one other listening device, no matter what it is. Even if all you can do is listen with a pair of earbuds instead of your OTE cans, that can be an invaluable reference. My other thing lately has been to check a mix through a consumer Bluetooth speaker since I think many people use them for casual listening around the house- it’s kind of today’s “crappy boombox” test.

    Reply
  22. Paul Osborne

    First of all, thank you for all your advice. I “discovered” you a little less than a year ago, and I have gone from honestly TERRIBLE mixes to things that actually sound good when put next to the pros. Your videos have also inspired me to record an EP this Spring, which I am having a blast doing. You’re a lot like me – a worship leader who writes some songs, and for me, I just want to have a good-sounding version of them to share. I’m on my way, thanks to you.

    I mix on headphones since I live with a toddler, and don’t have a room to barricade myself in. Everything here is pretty spot on. Comparing to reference tracks has been a serious “AHA” moment for sure. I have found that checking the translation on the worst possible systems has actually been helpful, since they will really bring out the mud. I have this ipod docking speaker from like 8 years ago that is boxy and bass-heavy, and if I can get my mix to sound good on that thing. I’ve got a great mix. I also use my phone speaker and laptop built-in speakers to test the opposite – what it sounds like with little bass response.

    Thanks again. You da man.

    Reply
  23. Rom

    Thank you again Graham to make clear something I’ve noticed yearling ago, because I Spend O much Time out of my home studio, headphone bé came compulsory to to forward with my mixes.
    Equalization is always the Big issue when mixons only with headphones, so the final Touch always go on monitoring speakers.
    I share a basic tip when you don’t have different ways to check your mixes or need to wake your ears and brain up: I Reverse the headphones ( left on right and right on left!) and your perception of the mixe appears with a fresh dynamic and surprises, because ears don’t compress or filters the same . Helps for the fatigue, but as Graham you Saïd, make a break is better to protect your ears and re fresh your ideas..
    Try it and I hope you will boost your creativy.
    All the best from France!

    Reply
    • Rom

      My smartphone mixes english and french words, the result is very funny…. Sorry guys

      Reply
  24. Tiisho

    I mix on headphone because I have no choice here, The fact that I travel away from my studio & the only thing that I have is a pair of Headphones (Sennheiser HD600), cheap monitors (Behriner MS40), cellphone speakers (Nokia Lumia 535, Nokia X2-01 & Nokia Asha 201) & lastly laptop speakers. I can go back & forth with the mix & referencing how the song sound on multiple speakers. This way I tend to work too hard to get my mixes to sound really good.

    Reply
  25. Andrew Harvey

    I personally use the krk kns 8400 as it has very wide frequency response from deep sub bass to a pin drop but still giving an overall good flat and even sound.

    I’ve also used these to mix a variety musical genres which include Dub,Hiphop,dance to spoken word with some very pleasing results. I also compare what i here on my main studio monitors at home – a pair krk rp 6 which i feel give me the best of both worlds when tracking and mixing down

    Reply
  26. Milton Messenger

    I use AKG K712 reference headphones through a SPL Auditor headphone amp and sometimes through a plugin “Hear” by Flux. I usually do most of my levels, pan, eq, compression, and reverb tail auditioning with headphones but always use monitors when the preliminary mixing is done. Without a good sub woofer it is hard for me to get the right bass levels in a mix. My bass levels usually come out too bass heavy. I usually mix the bass a little less than I want to and it turns out good most of the time. I think you definitely need both, a flat response pair of headphones with a good headphone amp, and the best “uncolored” monitors you can afford. Listening to good reference tracks in the style and genre of the music you are working on is really important and allows one to get “use to” the imperfections in their headphones, monitors, and room irregularities which allows one to compensate for these inconsistencies. Thanks for your help Graham. You rock!.

    Reply
  27. Greg Barnett

    Headphone are great, but my ears get hot! For me, they’re fine when recording a part, but too uncomfortable for a long mix.
    Nice video as always.

    Reply
  28. Danny McQueen

    Hi Graham and other mixing friends. Any thoughts on “Nx – Virtual Mix Room” over Headphones? I’ve read some good reviews, but wasn’t too sure it was worth the money?

    Reply
  29. Armin

    Thanks Graham. You are right to emphasize to know what your gear sounds like. I regularly A/B between the mix and similar commercial content. Whether on headphones or room monitors, it helps immeasurably to know what to listen for.

    Reply
  30. Nathan Kaye

    I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pros, but I do about 80% of my mixing through KRK Rokit 6 monitors & 10% on a crappy Yamaha MS10 mono speaker as a reference point, only using the HD 280’s for referencing about 10% of the time. Headphones definitely fatigue my ears too much and they trick my ears with bass end. When budget permits I’ll get a pair of open back headphones to limit all that.

    Reply
  31. Phil Mayse

    Can I just plug my headphones into my MacBook Pro?
    Or should I plug the headphones into an interface?

    Reply
  32. Steve

    I always use them to check my bass levels (my room lies to me) and at the end of the mix when I want to clean things up more precisely, particularly when I’m making small eq moves in the mastering stage. I like to master on headphones because they help reveal the problems I may miss when working on speakers in my imperfect room. The ear fatigue is a big thing to watch out for though, I have ruined mixes before from spending too long on something without a break

    Reply
  33. sergio

    Hi Graham,
    OMG – You sent me back to my days in broadcasting school with your video. Completely agree with you, using “cans” and monitors, no doubt. One thing I still do to this day (I do commercial voice-over productions, commercials, audio books, etc. more so than music per sé these days, but it’s still worth doing it) is to listen to your potential final product on the “lowest common denominator” monitors available. In my case, I remember taking my radio commercials and the odd song here and there and play them on a mono cassette player (remember those old ones with the big, clunky buttons at one end?) I believe this step gives you a good perspective of your mix if a sub par consumer speaker set can show you the nuances of a project. If those low end speakers/headphones can decently reproduce your work, to me, that means you’re on the right track… You might not be fully done, but you could be very close…
    Listen to your mixes in those old speakers, in your grampa’s old quadraphonic car stereo, or dump the mix onto old cassette tape (if you still can do it) and pop it into your aunt Mildred’s old Datsun 500 car stereo while you drive… It could show you what needs to be adjusted or maybe you got the right mix in the end…
    Cheers and keep pluggin’ away. I enjoy your recording insights.
    ~S.

    Reply
  34. Freddie

    Yes headphones work good, I use 2 different sets. Keeps your ears guessing.

    Reply
  35. J. E. Flanigan

    I have always mixed on headphones, (out of necessity), and would be dismayed when I would hear folks talk about why that was taboo.
    I always check my mixes on my car stereo against songs on the radio, so I didn’t see what the big deal was. Once, I did a mix using some small monitors, checking at low volume, etc. and it came out awful!
    (I suspect the room had a lot to do with that.)
    It’s headphones only for me!

    Reply
  36. Art Davis

    I mix primarily on Presonus HD7s. I use a pair of Bose $99 earbuds, a pair of Bose PC speakers, my iPhone and finally my car. Those all represent the way the vast majority of people listen to music. And I’ve found that I can take a mix to a friend that has $1000+ monitors and the mix sounds great.

    Reply
  37. Allen Burnett

    I too have always mixed on headphones. First out of necessity in then later because it was what I was used to. It is so much part of my workflow now that I wouldn’t know what to do without them. I am really happy to hear you give mixing in headphones validity. Although I heard many times in the past that it was a bad thing, I continued to fight the good fight. I mix on a pair of Ultrasone 750s and have several other pairs I can use to get another reference. I don’t always play the mix through my speakers but I always transfer the song to my iPhone and listen with a different pair of headphones and play other songs along side of it.

    Reply
  38. humbert

    For anyone that would be contemplating this style of mixing, remember to get thoroughly familiar with the way your headphones sound and pay attention to your monitoring level (If you can’t hear your hands clapping while listening to music, your way too loud).

    Reply
  39. Benny Tillman

    Great suggestion. I found the KRK’s on Amazon for 96.00 and received them today and totally love them. Looking forward to mixing lots of music.

    Peace.
    Benny

    Reply
  40. Buck Rasmussen

    Thanks Graham!
    Over the years I’ve acquired more than a handful of drastically different headphones and earbuds. They range in cost from free with a cheap cassette Walkman (now THAT’S old!) all the way to old school Koss Pro 4 AA’s. Having all these different headphones and ear pieces make it possible to audition mixes thru an extreme range of qualities but the fun thing is, if I’ve done my job well enough, they will all bring something real to the table. It’s a bit like having 8-10 different near field monitors sitting in front of you of a drastically different response.
    Cheers, Everybody!

    Reply
  41. john tardiff

    Myself, I mix on beyerdynamic dt 770 headphones, and maudio bx5 monitors. But I always take the mix to my car stereo lastly. I have had mixes I thought were good, I listen in my car and ………….
    it sounds….. not so good. then I fix it.

    Reply
  42. Luke from the UK

    After reading Mike Seniors ‘Mixing secrets for the small studio’ book, I bought a pair of HD280 Pro’s and have never looked back. I also have a crappy pair of multimedia speakers that I use – as anything sounding wonky sticks out a mile – but I always burn a CD and listen to stuff I’ve mixed in my car as that’s where I listen to most of my music so it’s easy to tell if I’m way off a good mix or not.

    In Mike Senior’s book, he suggests that you’re way better of buying a reasonable pair of headphones than below par monitors – although one day I’d like a pair of Adam A5s…..till then, headphones all the way!

    Reply
  43. Voicey

    Graham, this is a bit OT but we can see your studio in the video has very flat plaster walls. Perhaps the nice black additions are enough to compensate.

    My best recording/listening space is under an old timbered roof, and the uneven wooden floor, with carpets here and there, is full of odds and ends – quite messy. The walls are uneven non-pointed stone. I prefer the acoustics there to any professional acoustically treated studio or concert hall. Sound is reflected all over the place.

    For recording or listening it’s lovely and warm, but I suppose for mixing other people’s recordings we have to use headphones or a deadened room as nobody else has our particular “room-instrument”.

    Reply
  44. Marcus

    Because I’m doing a lot of mixing at home while the kids are sleeping, I’ve been mixing a lot more with headphones lately.
    Got 2 different Beyerdynamic headphones, and I check mixes with earbuds, phone speaker and a small Bose Bluetooth speaker at home. Before finishing a mix I try to get some time in the studio where I’ve got 7″ Adam monitors, but there’s not always time to go there with everything (it’s across town).

    I feel like the pitfalls are kick drum, bass and lead vocal levels when on headphones, but proper referencing on different phones and speakers gets me pretty close.
    I should really be more careful with the level creeping up, and very true about ear fatigue!

    Reply
  45. Jeff

    Great stuff, as usual!
    BTW, I keep having to remind myself to turn down my car radio, my headphones at work, etc. I can easily listen to things way too loud and fatigue my ears before I even get started!

    Reply
  46. Bryan

    I sold my Yamaha Monitors 8″ and so now…. head phones is all I have to work with.
    I have the Sony MDR- 7506 you mentioned and I also have the Sennheiser HD 380 pro Both Sound Great just way different. I do like my 380s better I think.
    I was felling kind of bumped out because I sold my monitors and haven’t been doing any recording or mixing for a while. But you have re inspired me to get going again and ” use what i have” for now.
    Thanks. Take good care.

    Reply
  47. MAD MERLIN

    When I was a presenter on community radio here in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I used an old pair of Sony Headphones for editing and mixing sound. My instructor of the day, Brian Newington [ the Guru of Sound ] told me of a good final mix tool. Get an old analogue tape deck and run your mix through that. It was a real leveller [ pun intended ], as the sound you got was either WAY OFF! or actually sounded good.

    Don’t quote me – but I think one of the Guns ‘n’ Roses blokes talked about everybody thinking that you had to crank it into the RED ZONE for the best recordings. He, however, said that the band usually recorded on a flat line, just above idle. The logic being – YOU ARE ONLY RECORDING THE SIGNAL COMING IN. NOT PRODUCING EFFECTS! THAT CAN BE DONE LATER. IF YOU RECORD ON 50,000,000,000 CHANNELS AND MUCK ABOUT WITH THEM, YOU HAVE ALREADY STUFFED UP THE RECORDING. CHEERS AEDENN

    Reply
  48. Rick 'BlueRick' Solomon

    I mixed my last song thru headphones and thru monitors as an A/B comparison and here’s why.

    I think my studio monitor mix was misleading me. It sounded great in the studio but when I played my song thru headphones the mix sounded distorted. So I went into my computer, where I do my final processing, and EQed the mix until they sounded both good, and identical, on the monitors and in my headphones.

    The resulting mix was much improved when played through my other stereo playback systems.

    So I guess I learned something.

    Reply
  49. Woodoo

    Hey guys!

    I have never mixed anything (serious) on headphones, but have used some for A/B from time to time. Something like the opposite of what you’re saying here in sense of the main source of monitoring being the speakers. Headphones provide more detailed perspective and are good for resetting the ears, but for me have a very different soundstage than speakers. The stereo imaging is very inconsistent moving from speakers to headphones and vice versa. Also the space representation tends to be more isolated on headphones, especially on closed back ones. Most of the subtle moves done on headphones concerning reverbs, panning or “3D” positioning I find misrepresented when moved to the speakers. It might be because of me not having get used to any headphones exclusively for mixing, but I never relied on them for more than getting a different perspective.

    Lately I have considered trying to get some pro cans for home projects (nothing flashy, the tips for headphone choice in these posts are very useful, thnx!), and take some time to know them and try doing more serious work on them. Apart from the mentioned usual circumaural models (the open/closed difference is something that could use more discussion), I’m considering even IEM’s. Balanced, dynamic or hybrid (some very promising ones are out there), my question is are there any of you headphone guys that are using or have at least tried those?

    Great topic, great blog, rock on Graham!

    Reply
  50. Ryan

    I mix on HD280’s for the most part and switch back and forth with my Tannoy Reveals. But once a good mix is coming together I start taking it around to the kitchen speakers and the car because thats where I listen to music the most. I have a pair of Auratones I’ve never used but want to re-cone and hook up.

    Reply
  51. Neil Speers

    Time to revisit mixing on headphones I guess – my first efforts (Years ago – before discovering The Reording Revolution 😀 ).

    I’ve been reading and hearing really good things about the Rev33 which is a kind of headphone pre-amp the greatly reduces ear fatigue : http://rev33.com/

    Reply
  52. Celso Ahnert

    I also mix on headphones and check the mixes in a pair active speakers that I use to listen t music at home. I pretty much record drums in my home studio (or drum room) and mix the material I receive from the rest of the band (that is 2000 km far from me…). The phones I use are Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, not ideal but good ones.
    This is the first mix I made with them, tell me what you think.
    Thanks Graham for the precious tips and advice.
    Greetings from Brazil!

    https://soundcloud.com/celso_ahnert/7-portas-do-sol

    Reply
  53. Joshua Hall

    Graham,

    Excellent video – lots of good points!

    I mix on monitor speakers but check the mixes on a pair of Sennheiser 280’s and a different, actually cheaper set of Sennheisers as well. Each tell their own story about how the mix is sounding, but the advice to listen on laptop speakers, or iPhone speakers is great. Most people are going to be hearing new music for the first time on some kind of computer, tablet, or phone. Those devices are not going to have great speakers, but it is how the audience is first going to be exposed to your stuff. It makes sense to check of your work on those sources since that is how the audience is listening.

    Peace,
    Josh

    Reply
  54. Alex

    I love this post and fully agree. I started a mix for one of my songs on my monitors (Presonus Eris E4.5) but due to varying circumstances, had to finish the mix on Apple earbuds. This was accompanied with consistently running out of the coffee shop to car test and occasionally annoying other coffee shop goers by turning on the laptop speakers and even the phone speakers.

    I just knew that I needed to stick to the fundamentals of EQ/Compression and not give in to the temptation to make drastic alterations to the sound. The cleaner the better.

    The results speak for themselves: https://soundcloud.com/zenshin-2/insert-witty-title-here

    Reply
  55. Dan

    I usually do both – headphones and monitors. First get a balance of the instruments through monitors, then get creative with panning and subtle eq/saturation stuff in the headphones.

    Reply
  56. L. Martinez

    I use both methods on every mix and YES, please get into the habit of mixing at very low volumes, you will be surprised on how much more you hear. Just as a heads up, if your going to mix on headphones, purchase Open Back headphones….you wouldn’t want to mix on the same type of headphones you would use to record vocals “closed back”. Lastly I have found a cheaper alternative to the $99 model that works great for me, The Samson SR850’s. You can get them at around $50 and they fit the job well. Keep it up! Love what you do for us here G!

    Reply
  57. Walt

    Great points on things to watch out for if you mix on headphones. Another I’d like to add is hearing damage. A good headset can trick you into playing the mix louder and louder as your hearing fatigues. This can lead to hearing damage, so that is another great reason to monitor as low as you can reasonably do it – especially on cans. You only get one set of ears…

    I started that way, mixing on Sennheiser HD280s. Then an audio engineer convinced me to invest in [modestly priced] studio monitors. I spent hours and hours getting my room right and the monitoring position right.

    It had a great payoff. My mixing immediately improved – finding flaws I could not hear on any cans. Hearing more dimensions from monitors that create a true soundstage is invaluable. I still do parts of the mixing on cans and of course change sound sources occasionally for perspective, but I significantly benefit from keeping the bulk of the mixing on the monitors.

    Andrew Scheps has been a legend for decades and I wasn’t terribly surprised that he turned out some flawless mixes on cans and completely in-the-box – because he’s still Andrew Scheps with 3 decades of top notch experience. It’s pretty interesting hearing him talking about mixing completely in-the-box while sitting next to his wall of great equipment that he doesn’t use much these days – and he explains why…

    Graham’s right that it is possible to turn out great mixes with cans, but as he stated, change your sound source very often if you do and you need to know one headset very well. You’ll need that perspective of alternate sources partly because cans don’t present the depth of field that monitors do – you could even use some home stereo speakers if you have them for an alternate source. Remember to use those reference tracks, too…

    Reply
  58. Carl

    First of all let me wish a big Happy Brithday Graham Cochrane. Thanks for the encouragement to mix with my headphones. I don’t have much money so speakers are out of the pictures for now at least. Great info and tips from ear fatigue to the consistency of the headphones and how that consistency helps and hurts your mix. I just ordered my first MacBook Pro don’t have enough money to get ProTools.

    Reply
  59. Masi

    I did some mixes with closed back headphones and ear fatigues was a real problem for me. Thought it was only me. So I’m glad to hear the advice to take breaks much eralier than I allowed myself to do.

    Cheers

    Reply
  60. Stephan Weber

    Great stuff! I can’t always use my monitors because of respecting other people in the house, our the people in the apartment next to us. So it’s important to know about mixing with headphones..

    Perhaps you could discuss mixing sine, square, and triangle waves in an upcoming blog, podcast, or video?

    Thanks,
    Stephan

    Reply
  61. tom harrison

    All I have to work with are Sony MDR-V55 headphones. They were for sale in the bookstore at the college where I studied music technology last year. We were required to have headphones to work in the “lab”. There was always a class going on at the same time along with a dozen or so students working on a project at the same time and we never worked with studio monitors.

    If I put some monitor speakers in my bedroom and listened, I would get a noise complaint within hours from the landlord.

    I keep this in mind. Almost everyone I know listens to their music downloaded onto their phone with a pair of cheap earbuds. People look at me strangely on the bus when I pull out my big Sony headphones like I am some kind of relic:)) People listen to their music cranked up in their cars but I only hear rap music blasted on those and that’s not my genre. People also listen to music at the gay clubs where there is a wall of speakers. But they are also drunk, stoned (Seattle) and not very discerning:))

    Growing up, we heard all of our music on the radio on a little transistor radio or waited for Dick Clark to come on t.v. and tell us who was cool this week while we fiddled with the rabbit ear antennas. That didn’t stop the Staple Singers from laying down arguably the best bass ever with “I’ll Take You There”. So, I’m thinking of investing in a pair of $10 earbuds like most humans listen with and see what my music sounds like on those. If it doesn’t sound good on those as well as monitors I am probably wasting a lot of time. Thoughts????

    Reply

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