Are you looking to take your audio mixing to the next level? Whether you're a professional sound engineer or a passionate bedroom producer, having the right headphones is essential for achieving the best results. But with so many studio headphones on the market, finding the perfect pair can be a daunting task.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll help you navigate the world of headphones and find the best ones for your line of work. Possibly not any of our models. We'll cover everything from the different types of headphones and their features to the key factors you should consider when making your decision. With our expert tips and advice, you'll be able to find the perfect pair that meets your needs and budget.
Join us as we explore the top brands and models, and learn how to evaluate sound quality, comfort, and durability. We'll also delve into the importance of frequency response, impedance, and other technical specifications to ensure a precise and accurate audio reproduction.
Don't let subpar headphones hinder your creative potential. Let this ultimate guide be your road map to finding the best headphones for mixing audio. Let's get started!
Importance of using high-quality headphones for audio mixing
When it comes to audio mixing, accuracy and precision are crucial. The quality of your headphones can greatly impact the final result of your mix. Specifically their frequency response and so called sound stage. Low-quality headphones may not accurately reproduce the full frequency range of your audio, leading to a mix that sounds different when played back on other systems. This can result in a mix that lacks clarity and balance, making it difficult to achieve professional-level results. We call this translation of a mix.
High-quality headphones, on the other hand, are designed to provide accurate and detailed sound reproduction. They are engineered to deliver a flat frequency response, meaning that they reproduce audio as accurately as possible, without adding any coloration or distortion. This allows you to hear every nuance and detail in your mix, ensuring that it translates well across different playback systems. Usually, they sound quite boring in comparison to consumer headphones. The colouration and excitement are added by the final playback device, so you really don't want this in the mixing stage.
Understanding headphone specifications for audio mixing
Before we delve into the different types of headphones available for audio mixing, it's important to understand the key specifications that you should consider when making your decision. These specifications can give you valuable insights into how a pair of headphones will perform in a mixing environment.
One of the most important specifications to consider is the frequency response. This refers to the range of frequencies that a pair of headphones can reproduce and how evenly it's represented from bass to treble. Ideally, you'll want headphones with a wide frequency response, as this will allow you to hear the full spectrum of your audio, from deep bass to sparkling highs. The normal range is between 20 and 20kHz as humans can only hear in that range. In reality even less.
The more important part of frequency response is how sensitive the headphones are in reproducing specific ranges. For example, are low frequencies represented in the same way or amount as the high frequencies? We call this a balanced frequency response when all areas are equally represented. To go down the rabbit hole, you can explore and learn more about target curves for so-called flat sound. Sometimes referred to as equal loudness. How our ears pickup sound is heavily explained with Fletcher and Munson curves and then expanded to headphones tuning by Harman and Sonarworks and of course OLLO Audio too. Any of the mentioned flat target curves are a good start when selecting your pair of headphones for mixing.
Another important specification is the impedance, which is a measure of the electrical resistance of the headphones. Headphones with a higher impedance require more power to drive, but they also tend to provide better sound quality and more accurate audio reproduction. However, it's important to note that high-impedance headphones may require a headphone amplifier to achieve optimal performance. Lately, the industry can provide high sound quality at reasonably low impedance levels of 80 Ohm or less. Again, balanced and neutral frequency response comes first.
Different types of headphones for audio mixing
When it comes to choosing headphones for audio mixing, there are several types to consider, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a closer look at the main types:
1. Closed-back headphones: These headphones feature ear cups that are completely sealed, providing excellent isolation from external noise. This makes them ideal for tracking and recording, as they prevent sound leakage into the microphone. However, closed-back headphones may not have as wide of a soundstage as open-back headphones, which can impact the perception of stereo imaging. Some tricks to overcome this are possible by using room-emulating software or simple cross-feed. But keep in mind, closed-backs are mainly for recording, not so much for mixing.
2. Open-back headphones: Unlike closed-back headphones, open-back headphones have perforated ear cups that allow air to flow freely. This results in a more natural and spacious sound, making them ideal for critical listening and mixing. However, open-back headphones do not provide as much isolation from external noise, and they may leak sound, making them less suitable for recording situations. These are the ones you're looking for if you're trying to mix on headphones.
3. Semi-open headphones: As the name suggests, semi-open headphones combine elements of both closed-back and open-back designs. They offer a compromise between isolation and soundstage, making them a versatile choice for both tracking and mixing. However, it's important to note that the sound characteristics of semi-open headphones can vary greatly depending on the specific model. We also see fewer and fewer manufactures offering this kind of design.
Factors to consider when choosing headphones for audio mixing
Now that we've covered the different types of headphones, let's explore the key factors you should consider when making your decision. These factors can help you narrow down your options and find the headphones that best suit your needs and preferences.
1. Sound quality: The primary goal of audio mixing is to achieve a balanced and accurate mix. Therefore, it's crucial to choose headphones that provide a clear and detailed sound reproduction. Look for headphones that offer a flat frequency response, as this will allow you to hear your audio as it truly is, without any added coloration or distortion. Additionally, consider the overall tonal balance of the headphones and how well they handle different frequencies. You can find that on many websites showing and comparing measurements of different headphones. We have our own research available in a pdf too.
2. Comfort: When you're spending long hours in the studio, comfort is key. Look for headphones that have well-padded ear cups and an adjustable headband to ensure a comfortable fit. Consider the weight of the headphones as well, as heavier models can cause discomfort over extended periods of use. If possible, try on different headphones to see which ones feel the most comfortable for you. We'd recommend staying away from headphones over 400grams and earpads without velour as these cause the heat to build up around your ears. This can lead to headaches.
3. Durability: Investing in a pair of high-quality headphones is a long-term investment. You'll want headphones that are built to last and can withstand the rigour of daily use. Look for headphones that are made from durable materials such as metal, wood or high-quality plastics. Pay attention to the build quality and the overall construction of the headphones. Additionally, consider the detachable cable design, as this can make it easier to replace a damaged cable without having to replace the entire pair of headphones. Also check for spare parts availability. Once you're spending north of 300 USD spare parts must be available. Headphones are prone to mishaps in the studio and must be serviced. All EU manufacturers are obligated by law to provide spare parts, so take this into consideration as well.
4. Portability: If you're a music producer or sound engineer who is constantly on the go, portability is an important factor to consider. Look for headphones that are foldable or come with a carrying case, as this will make it easier to transport them. Consider the size and weight of the headphones, as well as how easy it is to detach and store the cable. This also extends to the impedance levels. Low impedance will sound good even from integrated amplifiers in smart devices or laptops.
5. Budget: Last but not least, consider your budget when choosing headphones for audio mixing. While it's true that higher-priced headphones often offer better sound quality and build quality, there are also many affordable options available that can deliver excellent performance. Set a budget that you're comfortable with and explore headphones within that price range. Don't be afraid to read reviews and compare different models to find the best value for your money. Reddit is full of kind geeks always happy to help :)
Top brands and models for audio mixing headphones
Now that you have a better understanding of the factors to consider when choosing headphones for audio mixing, let's take a look at some of the top brands and models that are highly regarded in the industry.
1. Sennheiser is a well-known brand in the audio industry, and they offer a wide range of headphones suitable for audio mixing. Their HD 600 and HD 650 models are particularly popular among professionals, thanks to their accurate sound reproduction and comfortable fit. Sennheiser headphones are known for their durability and build quality, making them a reliable choice for long-term use.
2. Beyerdynamic is another reputable brand that has been producing high-quality headphones for decades. Their DT 770 Pro and DT 990 Pro models are widely used in the audio industry for their detailed sound reproduction and comfortable design. Beyerdynamic headphones are known for their robust construction and excellent noise isolation, making them a great choice for critical listening and mixing.
3. Audio-Technica offers a range of headphones that cater to different budgets and preferences. Their ATH-M50x and ATH-R70x models are highly regarded in the industry for their accurate sound reproduction and comfortable fit. Audio-Technica headphones are known for their durability and value for money, making them a popular choice among both professionals and enthusiasts.
4. Sony is a well-known brand in the consumer electronics industry, and they also produce headphones that are suitable for audio mixing. Their MDR-7506 and MDR-Z1R models are highly regarded for their accurate sound reproduction and comfortable fit. Sony headphones are known for their reliability and affordability, making them a popular choice for both beginners and professionals.
5. AKG is a brand that is synonymous with professional audio equipment, and their headphones are no exception. Their K702 and K712 Pro models are highly regarded for their accurate sound reproduction and spacious soundstage. AKG headphones are known for their build quality and attention to detail, making them a favourite among professionals in the audio industry.
If you're ready to up your game then consider these:
6. AUDEZE is a well-known and respected headphones manufacturer that entered the professional audio with their LCD-X model of planar-magnetic headphones. These can easily come at 1000 USD or more and require a dedicated amplifier.
7. OLLO Audio is the underdog in comparison to the above-mentioned brands. Its models and frequency tuning are focused on delivering flat (neutral) sound reproduction for specific use cases. For example stereo mixing or spatial mixing in Dolby Atmos or Sony 360. The combination of flat sound and durability is a very attractive alternative to other brands. Supported by 5 years limited warranty and price-to-value ratio, they are seen with engineers working with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Adele, U2, Ed Sheeran, London Grammar and many others.
Tips for getting the most out of your audio mixing headphones
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of headphones and the factors to consider when choosing them, let's explore some tips to help you get the most out of your audio mixing headphones.
1. Use reference tracks: When mixing with headphones, it's important to have a reference point to compare your mix to. Use well-mixed and mastered tracks in the same genre as your own music as reference tracks. This will help you ensure that your mix translates well across different playback systems.
2. Take breaks: Mixing with headphones for extended periods can be fatiguing to your ears. Take regular breaks to give your ears a rest and prevent ear fatigue. This will help you maintain a fresh perspective on your mix and make more accurate decisions.
3. Use a headphone amplifier: If you're using high-impedance headphones, consider investing in a dedicated headphone amplifier. This will provide the extra power needed to drive the headphones and ensure optimal performance.
4. Experiment with different headphone positions: The position of your headphones on your ears can affect the sound you hear. Try adjusting the position of the headphones on your head to find the sweet spot that provides the most accurate sound reproduction.
5. Calibrate your headphones: To ensure accurate sound reproduction, consider calibrating your headphones using calibration plugins or reference tracks. This will help compensate for any frequency response inconsistencies and ensure that your mix translates well across different playback systems. OLLO Audio now offers calibration with any of the headphone models by default.
Where to buy audio mixing headphones
Now that you're ready to purchase your new audio mixing headphones, you might be wondering where to buy them. Here are some popular options:
1. Online retailers: Websites like Amazon, Sweetwater, and Thomann offer a wide range of audio mixing headphones from various brands. They often provide detailed product descriptions, customer reviews, and competitive prices.
2. Specialty audio stores: If you prefer to try out headphones before buying, consider visiting a speciality audio store in your area. These stores often have knowledgeable staff who can guide you in finding the right headphones for your needs.
3. Manufacturer's websites: Many headphone manufacturers have their own online stores where you can purchase their products directly. This can be a good option if you're looking for exclusive deals or limited-edition models. You're reading this on the OLLO Audio web page.
4. Second-hand marketplaces: If you're on a budget, consider checking out second-hand marketplaces like eBay or Craigslist. Just make sure to thoroughly research the seller and carefully inspect the headphones before making a purchase.
Common mistakes to avoid when choosing headphones for audio mixing
As you embark on your journey to find the best headphones for audio mixing, it's important to be aware of some common mistakes that many people make. By avoiding these mistakes, you can save yourself time, money, and potential disappointment.
1. Relying solely on online reviews: While online reviews can be helpful, they should not be the sole basis for your decision. Everyone's ears are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Try to audition headphones in person whenever possible to get a firsthand experience of their sound quality.
2. Ignoring comfort and ergonomics: Sound quality is important, but so is comfort. Remember that you'll be wearing your headphones for extended periods, so choose a pair that feels comfortable on your head and ears. Pay attention to the weight, padding, and adjustability of the headphones to ensure a comfortable fit.
3. Not considering the intended use: Different headphones are designed for different purposes. Consider whether you'll primarily be using the headphones for tracking, mixing, or both. This will help you determine the most suitable type of headphones for your needs.
4. Focusing solely on brand reputation: While reputable brands often produce high-quality headphones, don't overlook lesser-known brands that may offer excellent performance at a more affordable price. Take the time to research and compare different models to find the best fit for your needs and budget.
5. Don't just pick and be done with it. You can return them and try another pair if the first one does not fit your bill. Audio is very subjective, be ready to hear very differently than reviewers do.
Conclusion and final thoughts
Choosing the best headphones for mixing audio is a personal decision that depends on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. By understanding the different types of headphones, their specifications, and the factors to consider, you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision.
Remember to prioritize accuracy and clarity in sound reproduction, and consider the comfort, durability, and portability of the headphones. Take the time to test and compare different models to find the ones that best suit your needs and preferences.
With the right pair of headphones, you'll be able to take your audio mixing to new heights and achieve professional-level results. Don't let subpar headphones hinder your creative potential.
Foto: Alberto Ziliotto