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Headphones vs monitors


Nicko
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Looking at the "beginners guide..." thread there are some initial comments on page 1 about headphones and the suitability of them for a) monitoring and b) mixing.  The links through to more detailed discussions have long since disappeared as far as I can see so can we have some BC wisdom on the subject?

To be perfectly honest I rarely listen to my finished tracks through anything other than those headphones or my computer speakers so I probably don't realise how good or bad anything I've managed to record actually sounds to anyone else.

I'm still using closed back cans that came with my interface.  I hadn't considered whether these are suitable, whether I should be looking to upgrade them,  whether I should invest in a set of studio monitors or indeed how I should listen to my finished tracks - I have some OK ish wireless speakers, some decent in ear headphones that I use for my MP3 player but haven't had a stereo hi fi for years.  I suspect the best quality audio I have in my house is the TV.

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2 hours ago, Nicko said:

Looking at the "beginners guide..." thread there are some initial comments on page 1 about headphones and the suitability of them for a) monitoring and b) mixing...

There's a fairly simple and cost-free way of evaluating what you already have. Use the 'cans' for listening to stuff you know well. I can buy the best stuff on the market, but my hearing is, shall we say, past its prime. This doesn't stop me recording and mixing, as I listen to stuff I know, and compare with that. One of my references is Ziggy Stardust; if the cymbals I hear in my recordings are louder than those on my Ziggy reference, I know to lower them. I can hardly hear them, so if I mixed for myself, with whatever gear, it would be atrocious for other, normal, people. Choose yourself some reference tracks, in any genre that you are familiar with, and compare listening to those with any and all of your systems. That will show up any deficiencies, and give you a baseline from which to decide (or not...) to upgrade.
Hope this helps. :friends:

Edited by Dad3353
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That seems sensible enough as an input to mixing

But, my MP3 player is quite old and standard def.  Mrs Ncko has a newer high def MP3 player and to be honest I can't tell the difference between the two listening back to back so I have little chance with comparing phones in this way against a reference track.😕

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28 minutes ago, Nicko said:

... I have little chance with comparing phones in this way against a reference track.

How, then, do you mix..? (Genuine question...). :/ Do you use reference material at all, listening through whatever..?

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39 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

How, then, do you mix..? (Genuine question...). :/ Do you use reference material at all, listening through whatever..?

I don't really know  (genuine reply)- just adjust eq and levels until it sounds OK I guess.  I've never used refernce material to judge what I'm doing so far. You've heard the results so It's not for me ti judge whether its effective.

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37 minutes ago, Nicko said:

I don't really know  (genuine reply)- just adjust eq and levels until it sounds OK I guess...

That's about all there is to it. The notion of 'sounds OK' depends a bit on what we listen through, and that's where the referencing helps (me, at least...). If I listen to an orchestral work, on headphones, and then listen to what I've done, I can judge by comparison if I've the horns too present, or cymbals too harsh. When I then listen through my monitors, they shouldn't be too far apart. If I don't use any reference, it may sound good to my cloth ears, through my headset, but, to anyone else listening through hifi, it'd be really 'pants' (if that means 'not very good'..?). Another genre, such as acid rock, I'd compare to Iron Butterfly, or The Doors, or whoever, and try for something with a similar sound balance. It's my way of compensating for not having the top-notch systems I used to have access to, and the accumulated, and worsening, auditive faculties. As I lose hearing, I lose it as much for my references as for my own stuff, and so can adjust. I see on video clips of percussionists waving their fingers through a line of miniature suspended tubular bells; I have no idea what that sounds like, as it's well outside of what's left of my lugs. I'd have no chance of incorporating those in my stuff..! I can, however, get a reasonable hi-hat 'chick', as I can compare it to a 'Ziggy' track. Cheating..? I should cocoa..! xD
Anyway, referencing is what I recommend to be able to judge, for yourself, if your cans are as good as your TV, or if they need upgrading. B|

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  • 2 months later...

Hi all, just i case anyone has come across this problem...

To all them using "windows media player" too check out your finished track ! !

there is a process before you listen to your song on headphones or monitors much MUCH more important to the sound if you have converted your song to wav or mp3 to hear how it sounds on your PC.

ok this does not apply to people using apple.

if you are using " windows media player " to play your tracks on it wont matter what you use to hear the track cans or speakers because it will sound dull and lifeless and nothing like what you exported out of your cubase prootools reaper or anything else.

did you ever wonder why your songs sound sh!t once you had exported it when using WMP ? the answer is WMP its self, its awfull. as a test download "quick time" and do an A,B test or even check out the mix you had in your daw against playing the exported version in WMP, its shocking the amount of loss WMP does to the track.

to proove its not the exporting of the track, you can try this..

export your track to say a wav file then inport it as a new track into your daw and listen, you will hear very little if any loss.

so... my bit of advice is before the cans V monitors test, get a good sounding player able to play your track as it came out of your daw. something that uses ASIO maybe.

Edited by funkgod
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8 minutes ago, funkgod said:

... using "windows media player" to check out your finished track ...

S'been a very long time indeed since I used WMP; I've forgotten what it 'sounds' like. I use 'Foobar2000', which is free, and 'GOM Player', which has a free version with ads (which I ignore...) and a 'GOM+' version, which cost... I don't know, as I've never even considered spending anything. Both of these play back my tracks, whether in WAV, MP3, OGG or any other format exactly as my DAW (Reaper...) rendered them. GOM has the advantage of being a very flexible video player, too, allowing subtitles, which I like.
Just my tuppence-worth. :friends:

Edited by Dad3353
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12 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

S'been a very long time indeed since I used WMP; I've forgotten what it 'sounds' like. I use 'Foobar2000', which is free, and 'GOM Player', which has a free version with ads (which I ignore...) and a 'GOM+' version, which cost... I don't know, as I've never even considered spending anything. Both of these play back my tracks, whether in WAV, MP3, OGG or any other format exactly as my DAW (Reaper...) rendered them. GOM has the advantage of being a very flexible video player, too, allowing subtitles, which I like.
Just my tuppence-worth. :friends:

Hi Dad, i was still using it till recently when i looked into it, it seems to be a widely known problem googling it, i always did wonder why it was never the same.

christ i went through all sorts thinking it was the exported track, so i got it explained to me by someone in the know

i will have a look at Foobar2000, thanks for that :hi:

 

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I'm by no means an expert, and for this very reason I have spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos about how to do home recording. The conventional wisdom seems to be that one problem with using headphones exclusively for mixing is that it screws up your perception of the stereo field because there is no "crossover" between the two channels - all and only the left channel goes into your left ear and the same for your right. When played through speakers, the two channels interact in ways that you don't get through headphones. Having said that, there is also a lot of warnings about bad monitor placement (eg don't have them with their backs to a wall, have them at ear level, etc etc) and poor room acoustics also screwing up your perception of frequency balance, which use of headphones can avoid, so there's no simple answer unless you can design, arrange and treat your studio room for optimal results. One good tip is to always check your mix on your car stereo (assuming you have a half-way decent one) - the reason being that cars do not suffer from the internal reflection of bass frequencies that can plague acoustically poor rooms; all the bass leaks straight out through the car body, as is all too often painfully obvious if you live near a busy road.

Edited by Earbrass
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4 hours ago, Earbrass said:

I'm by no means an expert, and for this very reason I have spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos about how to do home recording. The conventional wisdom seems to be that one problem with using headphones exclusively for mixing is that it screws up your perception of the stereo field because there is no "crossover" between the two channels - all and only the left channel goes into your left ear and the same for your right. When played through speakers, the two channels interact in ways that you don't get through headphones. Having said that, there is also a lot of warnings about bad monitor placement (eg don't have them with their backs to a wall, have them at ear level, etc etc) and poor room acoustics also screwing up your perception of frequency balance, which use of headphones can avoid, so there's no simple answer unless you can design, arrange and treat your studio room for optimal results. One good tip is to always check your mix on your car stereo (assuming you have a half-way decent one) - the reason being that cars do not suffer from the internal reflection of bass frequencies that can plague acoustically poor rooms; all the bass leaks straight out through the car body, as is all too often painfully obvious if you live near a busy road.

That can be solved to a degree with software. I mix with headphone and in my research I have found the best setup for my needs.

1- Morphit (basically it flattens the frequencies of my headphones)

2 - CanOpener (This provides crosstalk to my headphones, this is to correct the stereo field issues)

I found that using this combo my mixes translate better.

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There is sometimes an element of 'over-thinking' creeping in, too. If the end result of the recordings are for one's own pleasure, or sharing with band mates, 'good enough' is 'good enough'. If, however, they're destined to end up in a final mix for public (paying...) consumption, it would be much easier to get a better result by using your local recording studio. Home studio recording can be very, very good, if enough time, effort, expertise and finance is thrown at it, but 'good enough' is usually very good indeed, for most usage. It's very much a case of diminishing returns, trying to get 'pro' performance. Just sayin'. :friends:

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3 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

There is sometimes an element of 'over-thinking' creeping in, too. If the end result of the recordings are for one's own pleasure, or sharing with band mates, 'good enough' is 'good enough'. If, however, they're destined to end up in a final mix for public (paying...) consumption, it would be much easier to get a better result by using your local recording studio. Home studio recording can be very, very good, if enough time, effort, expertise and finance is thrown at it, but 'good enough' is usually very good indeed, for most usage. It's very much a case of diminishing returns, trying to get 'pro' performance. Just sayin'. :friends:

Yes that is a very good take. I think the main issue with home recording is that most of the times people don't have enough knowledge on production and what needs to be done in order to get the best recordings.

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There is a place for high-end neutral monitors and headphones but it's probably worth checking via the ways listeners are using too.  A lot of people nowadays are listening to music via laptop speakers, phone speakers, alexa devices, cheap/tinny in-ear headphones etc.and from low quality/compressed sources like YouTube so a couple of amateur producers I know take that into account - basically by listening via those methods.

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5 hours ago, SumOne said:

There is a place for high-end neutral monitors and headphones but it's probably worth checking via the ways listeners are using too.  A lot of people nowadays are listening to music via laptop speakers, phone speakers, alexa devices, cheap/tinny in-ear headphones etc.and from low quality/compressed sources like YouTube so a couple of amateur producers I know take that into account - basically by listening via those methods.

What the nice friend above just said, absolutely the truth.

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7 hours ago, SumOne said:

There is a place for high-end neutral monitors and headphones but it's probably worth checking via the ways listeners are using too.  A lot of people nowadays are listening to music via laptop speakers, phone speakers, alexa devices, cheap/tinny in-ear headphones etc.and from low quality/compressed sources like YouTube so a couple of amateur producers I know take that into account - basically by listening via those methods.

All true, but I'd still recommend getting the individual tracks and the final mix as best as possible using the best gear/environment one can. Then, depending on target, one may master to one or more different systems, and check with cheap ear-buds or car stereo or whatever. The pre-master will still be best heard on the best system, though. I wouldn't recommend using an Alexa for recording or mixing. (I say that, but hardly know what an 'Alexa' is, anyway, and have certainly never heard one..! xD )

Edited by Dad3353
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8 hours ago, Dad3353 said:

All true, but I'd still recommend getting the individual tracks and the final mix as best as possible using the best gear/environment one can. Then, depending on target, one may master to one or more different systems, and check with cheap ear-buds or car stereo or whatever. The pre-master will still be best heard on the best system, though. I wouldn't recommend using an Alexa for recording or mixing. (I say that, but hardly know what an 'Alexa' is, anyway, and have certainly never heard one..! xD )

Yeah, doing the whole mix via laptop speakers would be a bad idea (I guess unless your whole audience listens on the exact same laptop speakers), but a check on how it sounds through them at some point is probably useful. 

To the original headphone question: I mostly use closed backed AKG ATH-M50X, but also open backed Sennheiser 599, and KRK Rokit 8 monitors (and then other things too towards the end). I'd recommend any of them. 

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