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Headphone setup for tracking

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by ChrisH, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    I'm looking for a solid solution for a headphone setup for my studio.
    I have everyone play together at once while we're tracking the drums. The guitars, bass, and keyboard are NOT amplified, they go direct in.
    Right now I have a cheap headphone amp, where everyone gets the same mix cause its just feeding from my headphone out on the interface.
    With that cheap headphone amp and 5 headphones plugged in at once, you get a really crappy, chaotic signal/sound in the headphones.
    I'm looking for a clean, clear replacement solution, so basically a high quality headphone amp and some routing suggestions.
    Not worried about having separate mix's but that'd be nice.
  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Headphone distribution amps and systems go from $20-$7000
    Do you have a certain price range?
  3. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Back in the day, we used to make just a single headphone mix for everybody. And it was never chaotic when done properly. So even if you have a cheap 1 in 4 out headphone amplifier, it's up to you to generate the proper mix to begin with for the headphones. Everybody can have themselves up louder than everybody else. To do that, you need a separate auxiliary send for each and every headphone mix you want to generate. Then you need a separate amplifier for each and every headphone. That's crazy. Only the rich guys get to have digital headphone mixers that are fed from very sophisticated consoles that can send up to eight separate tracks individually. And that gets real costly. You can also do it with analog mixers but you would have to have it released and eight inputs snake split four ways. That goes well beyond your budget.

    I've designed numerous custom headphone systems for studios from NYC to Ft. Lauderdale and they all cost well over $1000 each for just 2 channels of headphone feeds. If people could do it in the 60s-70s-80s, you can do it in the 21st century also. Hey! Even PA guys have a separate mixer and multiple amplifiers to feed in ear monitors & monitor wedges on stage. And that costs well over $10,000. So what's it going to be? Learn how to do it right with a single channel or spend $10,000?

    You can do it I know you can.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    I like the way you think, Remy.
    Right now I have a cheap 1 in 4 out headphone amp, it works fine, but most of the time I need 5 outs and I don't like dealing with having it in the middle of the floor.
    So I'm thinking a Presonus HP60 would be a nice cost effective setup, and I do need better headphones, what do you recommend in the ways of headphones just for tracking purposes?
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I always like having a couple of really good headphones handy. Most of the time, for tracking purposes, I use cheap, closed back headphones such as the Sennheiser 202's & my other older junkie headphones. In the past I and many others modify these cheaper headphones with heavier cabling because you know, they're going to break right quick. Good microphone cable works well along with some nylon tie wraps and glue. Rock 'n roll bands are hard on headphones and that's why you don't want to use the expensive ones. You need the better ones when you've got the singer doing overdubs and such.

    That Pre-Sonus headphone gizmo looks rather interesting? I'm not really impressed by their statement of it outputs 150 mW. Lots of rockers will feed one Watt into their headphones to blare their freaking heads off. So I laughed when I saw 150 mW. They're telling you it's enough yes maybe but at what impedance? Some headphones are 8 ohms others are 600, 300, 2000, 30, etc.. And all have different efficiency ratings. You know some people go to McDonald's where others go to Burger King, where they can have it their way. The older headphone systems I designed were generally a single channel mono, a single stereo feed or a dual mono feed. My system was completely passive utilizing a central stereo power amplifier rated at no less than 30 W per channel. There were breakout and loading resistors so the amplifier would see a proper load at all times regardless of how many headphones were plugged in. The headphone feed was sent to a junction box placed in the middle of the studio floor with multiple connections on the box. Headphones were plugged into my custom passive aluminum project box where other current limiting resistor's, a volume control or two and a couple of switches. This way, folks could have a single stereo mix. Or, they could choose between 2 different mono mixes. I even built some boxes that instead of a switch between the two incoming inputs to the box, I stuck in a balance control on a potentiometer. So if you didn't want stereo, you could throw a switch and balance between the two incoming mono feeds. Frequency response and transient response was phenomenal coming from the likes of a Crown D-60/75, DYNACO 80's, etc.. I really preferred the Crown since it's almost impossible to blow those up. The DYNACO's had a tendency to blow up instantly if they weren't loaded down or loaded down too much. BGW's, Macintosh's and others were also quite robust to use. They too rarely failed. And with this system, you could easily plug-in up to 100 or more headphones. Thank God I didn't have to make that many headphone boxes! 10-20 was enough. They go great with pizza when you're building them. I like my headphone boxes with anchovies. That way no one else would ever gobble down all of my pizza! I'm no dummy for loving anchovies just a little fishy. Plus with the system, a blown headphone amplifier can be quickly replaced with just about anything. Today, it seems everybody has gone overboard trying to be nursemaid to folks that cannot contend with a single headphone mix. They did it back in the 70s and 80s which would tell me the musicians of today are not as competent as they used to be? They've turned into little whiny children if their headphone mix isn't absolutely perfect. Well neither is the guitar they drive nor their car. People of my generation seemed to learn how to listen better than the younger folks of today? Everybody wants total convenience and total perfection. Too bad they can't deliver their own requests. Don't get me wrong, I think these new digital multitrack headphone systems are pretty freaking cool and everything is on a single telephone cord network computer cable. And each headphone box only costs about $350 each. And you only need 20 of those. Fine for the millionaires.

    So while that Pre-Sonus headphone amplifier looks cool, it's still a rack mount device. That's good to be mounted in your control room not in the studio. I guess you could put it in the studio also but then the dumb freaky musicians would have to know how to use it, wouldn't they? And if it's in your control room, you're going to need a headphone snake cable going out to the studio. So I'm really not sure why someone has not come up with a simple passive system like I've described as an integrated system you could simply purchase? That way you only need a single headphone connector jack in the studio to be the simple passive, nine shielded, unbalanced ZIP cord headphone breakout junction box feed. And all headphone boxes only need about 10 foot cables each along with keeping it stupidly simple for the musicians to use. This is something I should just go into the business to create myself and sell? It makes practical sense it's so practically stupid. And I like stupid. Stupid is better than dumb, I think, maybe? Or maybe that's stupid?? It's certainly not dumb.

    Remember never plug any headphones directly to the output of a power amplifier rated at more than 1 W.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Thank you, Remy.
    How much would you charge to build a simple 6 out headphone box for a single stereo mix?
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Thank you Chris. Actually I don't do much of that custom one-off kind of work anymore. In the past I have posted some descriptions here about how easy this is to do. It's something you can do while sitting and watching a ballgame on television and enjoying a cold beer. That is if you're over 21. You can build these passive headphone boxes as cheaply or as luxuriously as you would like to make them. No real power oriented components are needed except for the amplifier output load resistor and series current resistor. Those should be at least 10-20 W each for 2 8 ohm resistors, 2 10 ohm resistors are all that's necessary on the left and right outputs of the amplifier. The headphone boxes can actually utilize off-the-shelf Radio Shaft components utilizing 1/2 W, even 1/4 W resistors. That's because it's better to blow out the resistors than to blow up headphones. The same holds true for the 1000 ohm audio taper Potentiometers. Let them fry. Because at first if you don't succeed, let them fry, fry again. And no problem with those miniature DPDT toggle switches. If you overbuild these headphone boxes, you stand a better chance of blowing out the headphones. Each box is less than $10 worth of parts. Headphones are a little more money. Though you can still blow the headphones even with these low rated parts. That's because it takes the parts longer to heat up and fail than it does the little voice coils in the headphones. So something can be purposefully designed as underrated and work out just great. I don't even use any of those stupid wire wound L-pads that you find at Radio Shaft to control an 8 ohm speaker. Those are lousy and not worthwhile. You should utilize at least 100 ohm resistors as the additional current limiting input resistors in the headphone box before it goes into the potentiometer. It's that freaking simple. And they will be as clean sounding as the amplifier in which you choose to use. I generally don't recommend microphone cable since its shield. Apple fires don't like to see shielded wire on their outputs. A simple vinyl jacket with 3 unshielded wires quasi-electrical cable is the best to use from the headphone boxes to the master breakout junction box. While you can get most of the parts from Radio Shaft, I really hate their 1/4 inch jacks and plugs. So in that respect, I'd recommend a more professional version from Switchcraft & Neutrik, Etc.. The boxes can be plastic, aluminum, steel electrical AC junction boxes, etc.. It's really nice when you can obtain boxes like Radial uses for their DI boxes and such. In fact I believe they actually make exactly what I'm talking about? I think I remember seeing something like that? Though their's is a little more money. I think they were $147 each? A lot of money for a box with nothing in it. But it looks real cool. And very heavy-duty. I'm sure much better than anything I've made? Since I seen so many of those boxes in the past, they are probably available from some other manufacturer? And it would look as Mickey Mouse like as mine. I'm not much into aesthetics. Maybe prosthetics? I got some that vibrate when you put batteries in them and I like those. But I don't plug my headphones into those. You'd only hear a hum. This is one of the simplest DIY projects I could possibly describe. There is no active componentry involved. You don't even have to be good at soldering. Active componentry like the Pre-Sonus can be cool. The drawback of Coors is that when that active stuff fails that's usually it. Though Pre-Sonus does have a very good build to their other devices I've opened up. I would hope that device was built as well? But who knows these days? This might be a device that they outsource? This project certainly isn't like custom building an analog audio console or wiring up an entire control room. It isn't much different than plugging your microphones into your mixer and your mixer into your computer audio interface or digital recorder.

    Feel free to PM me with your phone number and the best time to call if you'd like some further assistance.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. aj113

    aj113 Active Member

    There's another way of doing it. I have one of these Behringer HA4700 Powerplay Pro-XL - Thomann UK Cyberstore

    Each separate can amp has an auxiliary input so if you site the main unit in the recording room, you can send the basic monitor mix to the main amp input, then each musician can have an auxiliary signal from his DI/mic going into the auxiliary input of each can amp respectively. The nice thing about this is that each guy can adjust his own can mix by walking up to the amp and adjusting the auxiliary/monitor mix balance - and of course the volume and EQ - for his own cans.

    These amps have enough power to drive 400 ohm DT100's. For 5 can mixes obviously you would need 2 of these units but that would still be way under budget - and you would have the flexibility to go up to 8 separate can mixes.
  10. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Thanks Remy!
    I'll let you know when I'm ready to build one.

    Thank you all for your advice
  11. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    i like the Presonus HP60 here as well.
    had one for sometime with no issues i also use the HP4 in conjunction with it.

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