Hello everybody.

I’m about to buy new headphones which I will use both for studio purposes and ordinary music listening. So I wonder what is best (or less bad) - studio headphones for music listening or music listening headphones for studio work.

I should mention that I have plans to get a pair of near-field monitors for mixing somewhere in the future.

Any comment on this is appreciated.


Don’t mix with headphones.

If you are just using them to track, and you will have lots of people using them, buy cheap ones from radio shack. People step on wires and destroy headphones pretty often when they are caught up in the recording process.

Yeah, mixing with headphones is of course not the
ultimate solution…

But these headphones sold in music stores as “studio headphones”, aren’t they intended for mixing (or at least mixing aid)?


Mostly what the others have said. But for tracking (need isolation) and just listening, the Sennheiser Pro 280 cans get my vote. They are comfortable and sound great at low and high levels. And…you’ll need good isloation if you’re doing any type of vocals since many of the cheaper headphones will bleed into the mic.

Quote (Flake @ April 13 2006,08:33)
Yeah, mixing with headphones is of course not the
ultimate solution...

But these headphones sold in music stores as "studio headphones", aren't they intended for mixing (or at least mixing aid)?


By "music stores" do you mean Guitar Satan and the like? They are intended to get people who don't know better to buy them. Really! :)

I would recommend either the Etymotic ER-6 (also sold under the name Hearos) or the Shure E2c. These are insert styles and when used as designed (you have to get them to seal like earplugs) have extremely good frequency response. They have some coloration but are more accurate than any loudspeakers you will get anywhere near the price (US$100-130). If you find inserts too weird or uncomfortable Sennheiser makes some very good headphones. Check out Headroom for some alternatives and reviews. I have found their ratings generally accurate even though they are trying to sell you something. Perhaps becuse they offer darn near everything they can afford to be honest.

In contrast to others I do all my preliminary mixing with headphones (ER-6 usually). This has some advantages and some disadvantages for which there are work-arounds. First of all, I use them to avoid driving my family crazy while I work. Before I started using headphones I permanently “turned them off” to the songs I was working on due to hearing sections played over-and-over again. No fun for anyone but me (not always fun for me but my choice).

To make this work you have to understand that headphones and speakers sound different and teach yourself to compensate when you are confident that you understand the differences and limit what you adjust when you aren’t. For example, by listening to music that I am very familiar with on many different loudspeajkers I have learned that the ER-6 is somewhat brighter than loudspeakers and will emphasize some of the high-frequency detail. The low-end extends far deeper than any loudspeaker you can buy (flat to below 10 Hz. if properly sealed to your ear, no bass at all if not well-sealed) but does not sound that way for a variety of reasons (mostly because the perception is limited to your ears while with speakers you feel it with your body too). This means that I adjust the mix to sound slightly light on the bass when using the headphones (knowing that it will sound louder on speakers). The high-end brightness means that I allow the mix to seem slightly bright when listened to on the ER-6. It is important to remember that even loudspeakers have significant differences, sometimes due to the acoustics of the room, and you have to follow a similar proceedure if you want a “portable” mix.

Even on unknown headphones and speakers you can adjust the relative loudness of tracks if you are careful to listen to their loudness within the same frequency range. For example, voice, fiddle and harmonica all overlap in pitch range so I can adjust their relative levels without too much fear it will be different in the final mix. Since I am not hugely confident of the details of the headset response I am cautious in my EQ when using headphones, waiting for the final mixdown on speakers for the final tweaks.

Two things that I never consider final until evaluated over loudspeakers are bass and pan (and any other “spatial” effect). Even these can be “roughed in” with headphones.

If you do not feel that your speakers are good enough for a “final” evaluation, burn a CD and carry it around playing it on a variety of systems typical of your target audience, noting what needs work. The you can go back and make small adjustments, repeat the listening and converge on a final mix.

You can probably get 90% of the work done on headphones and they can excel at finding ticks and pops and a lot of the more routine clean-up that takes so much time. In the process you can avoid anoying those around you. When you are nearly done you will need to use speakers but you don’t necessarily even need to own them.


I work very much like Jim. I have to or the family will revolt!

D – Sennheiser HD280Pro = excellent cans for $100

I understand the headphone thing for family reasons but if one should mix totally with nearfield monitors it should be done at conversation levels anyway. This lessens ear fatigue and “for me” is much more accurate and I don’t have to account for differences. Just a thought.

Cruiser :cool:

I’m hip cruiser. What I do is get relative levels set and maybe a little EQ tweaking done with the cans. Then, when conditions permit, I switch to the Events and do the final work. I always check the mix at different volumes but the bulk of the work is done low enough you could converse over the playback. Mixing at LOUD levels will do a few things to ya’… one you will mess up your EQ big time… two you will definitely get burned out quicker… NOT good.



I have a pair of cheap Sennheiser eh1430 headphones which I use for everything except the final mix.
I’ve had them for a few years now and know them well, so I can compensate for their little quirks.


i like my sennheisers. even though they are not top of the line they are still sennheisers. i just recently learned, you have to do the final mix without the headset.


Personally I really like my AKG K240s. Never heard a more “transparent” headphone.