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Monitoring headphones

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by John Stafford, May 24, 2005.

  1. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi all
    I was just wondering what the favourite headphones are for monitoring on this part of the site. I asked about Sennheiser 280s elsewhere, but that's really for close-mic'ed vocalists.

    I use Grado headphones, and I'm curious about other people's choices for location phones. I'm thinking of upgrading to more expensive Grado phones, or the Sennheiser HD650.

    Just curious... :wink:

  2. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    I recently got a pair of Sennheiser HD600, have used a pair of Sony MDR 7506 a long time.

    The Sennheisers sounds very well balanced and clear and I get the impression they have a very flat frequency response (the Yamahas sound a little towards "smile" EQ).. Comfortable to wear also for long periods (the Sonys get a rather warm). Not usable for the CD walkman though, they have much too high resistance so the volume gets low (the Sonys shine there). And absolutely no noise isolation (the Sonys are quite good there).

    So I expect to keep both, one on location and one at home.

    << edit -- changed to Sony, cannot understand why I wrote Yamaha, slip of mind >>

  3. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I've been using Beyer Dynamic DT 250 for almost fifteen years as my primary location monitor headphones. Very clear yet spacious sound, I'm on my sixth pair. These always get a firm recomendation from me..

    Tried the Sennheiser HD 600 and the 650, wonderful phones but NOT for monitoring, both have very detailed sound but are whay to layed back. Use a pair of 650's for listening at home. Edit : The 650's are very dependent on the amplifier You use them with, I use one buylit by a local dude (http://www.harmonydesign.se/) that have a teriffic sound, the built in of the rental Studer desk I use the most does not comply!

    Never liked any of the Grado phones, akward unergonomic construction (or it might be my head thats wierd :roll: ), my next upgrade headphonewise will be a pair Ultrasone ProLine 750, the best sounding pro headphone I've ever tried. If You are condiering a pair of Sennheiser's then You should include the Ultrasone range in your test shootout!

  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I love Grado cans for listening, but for location recording I think they're about useless. NO isolation and they make things sound too good. Revealing flaws is not their strength. They're very detailed and work well for audio restoration work, but not location recording.

    I just recently picked up a new setup for location recording, and I believe it's going to work out very well. It's FutureSonics EM3 in-ears which sound good and are pretty revealing when it comes to flaws. They are said to provide 25dB of isolation. Then I don some 31dB hearing protection muffs by Bilsom.

    When I plug in and put on the muffs, I don't hear squat unless it's coming through the wire. I'll be able to stuff my head right inside a piano to place mics, and I can be confident about what I'll get when the session is finished.

    The only session I've used them on so far is a choir recording, and I haven't gotten into that mix yet, but the listening I've done sounds like what I expected. I'll be doing a REAL quick and dirty piano/vocal recording tonight - straight from the mixer to stereo recording. It should work well for that too. With the outstanding isolation I'll be able to trust the mix I hear and know that's what's going to end up on the disc.
  5. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Tried lots of headphones, currently have HD25's, DT990Pro and DT250-80's. Generally I like Beyer more than Sennheisers and they are built like tanks. The HD25's are natural sounding and very useful as they have low impedence at 70 Ohms, so can be driven loud by gutless headphone amps in most recorders.

    Also have some new Shure in ear things, but they are so hard to fit into my ears and the sound quality is so dependent on the fit, that they are useless. As soon as you get them right in, someone asks you a question and you wip them out, hopeless.

    Probably alright on a long flight when seated next to a passenger from hell, ie, one who wants to talk. Gaaaaa!
  6. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    The FutureSonics with foam tips pop in pretty easily. It took me a while to find the right fit - stuff them too deep in my head and the bass just rumbles. In time, I think I'll invest in custom ear molds so fit doesn't vary. Should be more comfortable too.
  7. Plush

    Plush Guest

    Sennheiser HD 580!


    I never liked the 600 nearly as well as the "cheaper" version.
    Diffuse field equalized imitates speakers pretty well.

    There is a learning curve to be able to "transfer" headphone listening to how the program material will translate to loudspeakers, but I find these to be quite good. In use here for over 10 years.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    For location work, I almost always use the AKG K240S models (with the lower impedence.) They work quite well and aren't so expensive that if you break them you start crying.

    I have a few pair of these and absolutely love them for location work. They are detailed and accurate. The only real problem is they aren't great with isolation, so you'll want to only use them as a guide, not the end-all-be-all behind your decisions.

  9. foldedpath

    foldedpath Guest

    I currently have:

    Beyer DT-250 (80)
    AKG K240s
    AKG K271s
    Sennheiser HD600

    I've used the K240 for years, but had to replace it with the K271 when my S.O. grabbed the 240's for her late night TV listening. :x She was telling me how nice a pair of cheap Ratshack phones sounded, and I made the mistake of saying "that's nothing, listen to what a pair of real 'phones sound like." I won't do that again.

    The K271 is very similar to the K240 with a bit more detail and smoother top end. The seal is good, so it can be used when I'm recording myself doing guitar overdubs. These are my main tracking phones now.

    The DT-250 has the best bass extension of the three closed models I own. It's nice and tight down there, not too boomy. But I don't like the way the smaller muffs sit "on" my ears instead of around them, and they feel a bit tight on my large head. The AKG's are much more comfortable for long sessions. But maybe that's just my head and ears.

    The HD600 is my primo music listening and mix-checking headphone, but they leak too much for tracking. I actually don't use them as much as I should, because I always have the K271's plugged into the system and they're good enough for most things.

    Mike Barrs
  10. 0VU

    0VU Active Member

    I must admit to being a bit of a headphone fan. I realised pretty early in my listening that with headphones, I could afford a standard of sound reproduction of which I could only dream of achieving with speakers. Apart from anything else, eliminating the listening room acoustic (which, on location, usually ends up being anything form average to awful) is a big plus in maintaining a constant reference.

    I still have my first pair of real cans - AKG K240DF - and whilst I now have better headphones, I still come back to these occasionally. They're the 600 Ohm version so they do come in handy for listening to lines and traceing lost line level signals in big setups.

    From these I moved on to :

    Sennheiser HD580 - I got about 10 years ago and I still use these almost daily (though the HD650s are taking over). They're a great reference - clean, accurate, smooth on the ear without being flattering, comfortable enough to wear for hours on end and not so expensive that it's the end of the world if somthing nasty befalls them when out on location.

    Sennheiser HD600 - sometimes I prefer these to the 580s and sometimes not. They seem to be more picky about amplification than the 580s so they're normally at home in the hi-fi. They do, though, work beautifully with the Grace 901.

    Sennheiser HD650 - Imo a real improvement on both the 580s and 600s. With the right amp - again the Grace sounds pretty good to me - these are imo just about perfect as a location reference tool. The only downside is that they're more than twice the price of the 580s. I'll just have to look after them carefully. Before I bought these I tried some Grados (RS1) and Ultrasone 650s and though both are excellent headphones they weren't to my taste.

    As a pair of home listeing cans I've got a pair of AKG K1000s. These are a fairly unusual design which sit about an inch off your ears, supported by pads on the headband. You angle the earpieces to direct sound to your ears without them actually touching/surrounding. They need a power amp to drive them rather than a normal headphone amp. They're accurate and clean and pesent an image that's unlike any other headphone. There's some measure of crosstalk from ear to ear and they have an uncanny ability to image like a pair of speakers. They're hard to use on location - and pretty inconvenient but for someone who likes listening to music late at night they're an interesting option and worth checking out.

    For jobs needing more isolation, Ive got a pair of Sony MDR7509s. They lack the ultimate neutrality and accuracy of the Sennheisers but they don't lose out by much and are much more useable in noisy environments or where spill from the cans to outside would be a problem.

    And last but definitely not least, my treasured babies, which only go out on the most well behaved sessions and where I know they're not going to get passed around some random bunch of musos loitering in the control room for the playbacks, otherwise they sit at home on their stand under a dust cover - Stax SR007 Omega Reference II electrostatic earspeakers. To drive them I have the sweet, musical, (not absolutely accurate but pretty damned good and downright beautiful to listen to) Stax SRM-007t tube preamp/energiser with matched NOS Mullard and Brimar tubesand a custom built Gilmore Blue Hawaii, hybrid tube (NOS Mullard) and solid state amp/energiser. The Gilmore is a scary piece of kit but it delivers a level of neutrality and sonic accuracy that has to be heard to be believed. It also disproves any suggestion that electrostatic headphones lack bass and can't go loud!

    Ordinarily this little setup would cost more than a very respectable pair of active speakers but I picked up the Stax hardware in a closeout sale for a small fraction of their list price. The Gilmore amp I had to buy separately but it was worth every penny! The only downside of the SR007s is that they have absolutely no isolation. The diaphragms have a true balanced drive and virtually bipolar output. The earpieces are so open and the diaphragms so light that when held up to the light, you can see through both earpiece and diaphram. Spill to outside is huge and proximity to external objects can be a problem - even as you raise your hands to take them off, you can hear colouration increase as your hands get within about 12" of the headphones

    The sound from the Stax headphones is still - 18 months after I bought them - the best sound reproduction I've ever heard from anything. As a pair of cans they're ludicrously expensive but as a seriously accurate, full range monitoring system they start to look like good value.

    (Sorry - another long and rambling post :roll: )

    (Edited for a bunch of typos. I've just spotted more but they'll have to stay or I'll be here all night!)
  11. foldedpath

    foldedpath Guest

    I've been interested in those, so it's good to hear a user report. You mentioned a Grace 901... does that have enough juice to drive these directly, or do you need an actual power amp? Also, what's the power requirement... would 105 watts per channel do it? I have an old McIntosh MC2105 amp that I've been thinking of using for a new passive monitors setup, but it might be fun to turn it into a headphone amp.

    No, that was a great read, thanks!

    The problem with headphones, as I see it, is that this is even MORE subjective than most other things we talk about with audio... because now we're talking about how all our different heads and ears couple to these speaker systems. And we're not all alike.

    Speaking of which, would the K1000 work on a someone with a fat (7 3/4" hat size) head? It's amazing how many of these things don't work well, if your head size is a little outside the norm.

    Mike Barrs
  12. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    This is brilliant -lots of great info :!:
    I'm going to pretend I didn't see anything decent written about Stax phones -given that my unfortunate credit card is begging me for mercy. I really want some of these, but the slippery slope to bankruptcy is oiling itself as I type.

    The good thing about the expensive Sennheisers and Grados is the level of performance for the price for listening purposes. I have to admit that I've always ignored the possibility of closed headphones for anything apart from situations where spill is entirely unacceptable, but I've been hearing so many good things about some of the current models it's probably time for a re-think.

    This thread is great :D

  13. bap

    bap Member

    I use Sony MDR7509s and like them but would like to try others if only there weren't so many other things calling out to my pocketbook. I have a few pairs of 'More Me' headphones around as well.

    My headphone pre is Presonus and I desperately need something better. The Grace is far too rich for my blood and so I have ordered PCB boards and parts for the PPA Project headphone pre and power supply. After I get it built the Sennheiser 650s may be next on the list. :D
  14. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    When isolation is required, Etymotic ER-4s in-the-ear phones. A bit light on the bottom end, but very transparent and excellent isolation. http://www.etymotic.com

    When I have a quiet monitoring room, or for reference playback between takes, my Grado HP-1 with the Joseph Grado Signature headphone amp. These are the 'old Grado company', about 13 years old, and my long-term headphone reference. Not very comfortable, but suffering is part of the art... :lol:

    By the way, you can get the original flat, gray, with the hole in the center Grado replacement pads from http://www.toddthevinyljunkie.com. Much better sounding (if a little less comfortable) than the pads of the newer style Grado phones.

  15. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    How good is the isolation on the DT250? My current Sennheisers stink in this regard. Would they be sufficiently isolated for, say, immediate offstage monitoring of an orchestra?

  16. richiebee

    richiebee Guest

    I second the Sennheiser HD580. These are wonderful headphones. Very comfortable, with a great sound. I prefer monitors, but when it has to be headphones, the 580's are excellent.

  17. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

  18. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I belive the isolation is fair, but I very rearly have to do gigs where I don't have somewhere well of stage to set up a controll room, so I cant comment about such a situation. To me there aren't a headphone that would cope with such a situation, the best way would to doo like Karl Z using inear thingees and muflers for noice cancelation..

  19. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I've decided on the AKG K271 and it's on its way, so I hope it is satisfactory. I really just need something for dubbing, and for monitoring where there's an open mic.

    Looking forward to receiving it. I'm hoping that they will make my vocal recordings more consistent, as I only have open backed Grados at the moment, so monitoring in front of an open mic is very difficult.

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