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Studio Headphones Monitoring Question

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by Kuroneku, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    Hey everybody.
    My set up includes Reaper as its DAW, the AK K240, and a Focusrite 8i6.

    I noticed that when I record/sing/monitor for a long while that my voice loses its stamina faster than it normally does due to the fact that I sing louder to hear myself better even better. The "Monitor" knob on my Focusrite is all the way up, and even if the Scarlett MixControl is set all the way up, I still feel that it lacks a bit of loudness. I am very certain that there is no "damage" or anything on my equipment, and I am not saying that my current Monitoring is not loud, but I am seeking to have it louder.

    I was wondering if there is an extra MixControl I can install to have more control over the loudness of the input/outputs/monitoring?

    I don't know about everybody else, but I personally sing/perform best when I hear myself extremely loud. Not that I require a hearing-aid or anything, but I am able to warm my voice up and perform best without over-doing/straining when the mic is very sensitive to where you have to almost hold the mic away from your mouth (when I sing live). Now, I'd prefer a very, very loud Monitoring set-up while I am recording vocals.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As opposed to cranking your voice inside the cue mix, many vocalists use the "one ear" trick, where you keep one ear of the headphones on while keeping the other one slightly or even altogether off. This serves a few purposes, the first being that you can hear your voice in its natural tone, the way you hear yourself sing or speak everyday, the other is that it allows you to stay on pitch a little bit better because you can reference the side you hear naturally with the side playing the track.

    How are the acoustics of your room?

    If you are mixing within headphones, you're probably not ever going to come up with a mix that stands up very well, as many headphones have emphasis on certain frequencies that will "lie" to you. For example, some have a hyped-up high end, so because you are hearing that extended top end that's not really there,your mixes will be top end shy, because you're not adding those top end frequencies because your headphones are already telling you that you have more than enough. The same goes for any frequency range. So, you should mix through near fields whenever possible, unless the acoustics of your room are so skewed that the room is also lying to you as well.
     
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The scarlett mixcontrol software allow you to create more than one mix. You can assign those mixes to the headphones or rear outputs. That way you can have a different mix in the control room and in the headphones. read the manual on routing and monitoring. Althought the one hear trick is nice to try as Donny said.
     
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    The one ear cup off method frequently helps. But be sure to seal the unused cup against your head to prevent bleed. Better yet, find a way to turn off that side entirely.

    Generally you need enough headphone volume to overcome hearing your voice through bone conduction. And you generally need your voice a little bit over the rest of the mix, including any other voices (which is what makes sharing mixes between singers so difficult). If you can't get the volume you need from the interface you might benefit from a headphone amp.

    Another thing that helps is a bit of a short reverb or a slapback delay. Think about how you hear yourself in a room with the bone conduction sound arriving first, then the reflections off walls arriving 10-50ms later. With headphones you lose that reference, so putting it in artificially can help you hear yourself. The one ear off method works for the same reason, letting you hear your voice reflecting back with a slight delay.
     
  5. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    Thanks for all the answers!

    @DonnyThompson : I've tried the one-ear trick, and I fully understand the concept of how it is supposed to help. But also in that instance I'd rather have the one ear on the headphones be louder, because I still tend to try and sing louder. You are also absolutely right on the hyped high parts! I did notice that on the AKG's that I am using. What can I do in that case aside from purchasing studio monitors? But aren't studio monitors meant for "neutral" playback after recording and not for monitoring?

    @pcrecord : To this day I have not fully taken advantage of the Scarlet MixControl, but are you saying that I can create "extra" Controls for my Headphones/Monitoring and hike up the volume on them as well to achieve a louder sound in my Monitoring?

    @bouldersound : By headphone amp, are you referring to a little device that would connect between my Scarlett Focusrite and my headphones to allow me to adjust settings further?


    Thanks again to all of you. I understand that the nature of my question is more about a basic thing, but I do feel that I am extra-sensitive when it comes to monitoring
     
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Yes, it would be a powered device that might provide more horsepower to drive the headphones that what your interface has. Some headphone amps have other features, like tone controls, auxiliary ("more me") inputs, multiple independent outputs etc.
     
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    One of the shortcomings with the 214's - which are fairly popular in studios everywhere - is that they aren't as sealed as other models are. The end result is an inevitable headphone bleed on your vocal track if you run them hot enough. Of course, you can turn up the one ear that you are monitoring with as loud as you'd like - although I would caution you to be very careful of too much db in your ears, cuz once you lose it, it's gone..

    But... perhaps what you need is a different model, a set of cans that are more sealed. Audio Technica makes the ATH- Mf series which are pretty good for killing bleed, and both Sennheiser and Sony make a decent sealed model as well, although that model numbers escape me at the moment.

    Also, try to look for a set of cans that are as flat as possible in frequency range, with little-to-no hyped frequencies, so that if you are forced to mix with phones, you'll at least get a more accurate representation frequency wise. You're probably never going to get them completely flat, just watch out for those hyped frequencies of say, more than a db or 2.

    Although, and I can't stress this enough, I still advise against using strictly headphones for monitoring for mixing purposes. Unless your listening environment is truly a skewed acoustic mess, you're best off to mix through near fields. HP's are okay for quick references in stereo placement, or to temporarily reference what you want to hear what your mix may sound like through ear buds, but my bet is that you'll end up over exaggerating frequencies to compensate.... (usually low end) and you'll likely also end up attenuating frequencies that appear to be sufficient when they really aren't because of the nature of the sonics with the cans in so close proximity to your ears. This generally occurs in the mid/upper mid/high end rang, FWIW.

    Now...mix-wise, all of this is very relative to your room. But you'd be better off putting a few dollars into treatment to improve some of the issues you may have acoustically as opposed to relying on HP's to mix with on a regular basis.

    For monitoring, look into a flat as possible, sealed pair of good cans that you can send a hot enough signal through to your satisfaction - while paying very close attention to just how much db you are actually sending into that ear. ;)

    IMHO of course.
     
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I have a pair of Sennheiser HD-280 Pros, and a studio I work in has three of them.
     
  9. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    I have a little Behringer mixer that should be able to do the same thing for me. I haven't tried it out yet, but I am very certain that it would do the job, now that you've mentioned that to me.
     
  10. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    I just got home from buying a JBL LSR305 monitor for ~$150. I listened to them at Guitar Center, and I thought they were better than the other monitors in the 100-200 dollar range. I cannot wait to see the difference from my headphones.

    I remember sometimes the pitch of my voice sounded dead-on through the headphones, but when I played the track back on my normal computer speakers, it was noticeably flat in certain parts of the track.
     
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The akg 240s are nice phones if your willing to give up some bleed. I why not to just upgrade your studio monitoring area, and cans. I mean how can you realistically expect a better reference mix w out bleed. If your ok w bleed like a lot of people, cool that's good, it'll help w vibe at a (hopefully small) need for filtering, or EQ. Unless I'm trying to manipulate a performance, like drummers hitting cymbals too loud, as a tracking engineer I'll blast anything anyone wants.

    Maybe be your not using real time effects to minimize latency (hardware monitoring) but if you are you can use gain, and channel duplication.

    it just seems to me you need a more 'live' feel in your recording setting.
     
  12. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    I think you explained what I tried to explain better than I did! That is exactly what I need, and I don't know if that's just me if others feel the same. But for both vocal performance and warm up I need that adrenaline to get out my best, and if my ears don't hear loud monitoring I tend to not use the best vocal compression for my high mixed register. And $*^t, as I am typing this there is an earth quake LOL I live in South Orange County
     
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Along with what what Boulder mentioned in relation to bone conduction, we're really not accustomed to hearing our voices in the "vacuum" of headphones, and as he pointed out, we are used to hearing our voices day to day in an environment with natural reflections and decay.

    And, while many singers can perform with both ears of the cans on, you certainly would not be the first vocalist to listen to playback, thinking you had nailed one and then thought ... "wtf"? Myself included, by the way... and being a session vocalist has been a staple income for me for a very long time now. Don't beat yourself up. Just adjust. ;)
     
  14. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    Those words are very encouraging, thanks. I am the "perfectionist" kind of individual, and everything must be excellent and not less. I've been recording on and off with my equip when I had the little time to do so since I am very busy. And yes, it is very interesting getting used to my own voice. Even after such a long time of paying very close attention to my own recorded voice and monitoring myself, I ask myself a lot how I sound to others. Many others compliment on my voice etc., but at the same time I am not entirely happy (yet) with my own voice.
     
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being self critical - if it makes you a better artist. Just don't get bogged down in the minutia, and don't get to a point where you might edit out some mistakes that sometimes end up being very cool, things like voice breaks or certain inflections that while may not be "perfect" will add an element of emotion and artistry to the performance.

    Remember, that in the end you're human, and you don't want to get to a point where you are forensically analyzing every single note or nuance under a microscope to the point where you turn the performance into what might be considered "perfect", yet at the same time is sterile; lacking artistry, emotion, passion, or any semblance of those minor imperfections that can and have made for some very cool performances in the history of popular music.

    If you get a chance, listen to The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter. Mary Clayton, a phenomenal studio singer, did the female vocal track on that song... if you listen to the section where she is singing
    "Rape, Murder, ...", on the third repeat of that line, you can hear her voice break, and it's incredible. Was it intentional? Maybe, but I tend to think that it was one of those all too rare magic moments that just spontaneously happened. If you listen very closely, you can even hear Mick, way in the back, yell "Whew!" as if he's digging it big time.

    Now, there are producers out there that would have made her re-track that section. I thank God that the producer on that session didn't, because it's a grand highlight of the song... at least to my ears, not only as an engineer, but as a musician and performer myself. To me, those kinds of imperfections are gold, brother. :wink:

    My point is that it's great to pay attention to pitch (I'm a stickler about it) and phrasing, etc., but don't discount the human element of the performance, either.

    I found it for you. Check it out.... right at 3:02

    Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter - YouTube
     
  16. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    That's my favorite part of that song, and it only lasts about 1 second. When I hear the intro, my senses go on high-alert waiting for the inevitable goosebumps when Mary's voice cracks ….
     
  17. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member


    I sometimes do tend to critically analyze every single note there is, but eventually I bother myself too much to where I stop caring a bit less.

    I just checked out the track, and you are right! That is an incredible decision to leave it like that, but it works very, very well.

    I am really, really hoping to get some of my work DONE so I can publish them on here for criticism!!! I've been working on so many tracks, but I never finished a single one of them. Mostly due to the fact that I am diong pretty much all the work myself and am extremely busy with multiple jobs, family, and school.
     
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, if I were to have been sitting at the producer's desk when she hit that note, I would have jumped up and high-fived somebody. :)
    ( although I don't believe the "high five" existed yet in 1969... LOL)

    DvDHawk said:
    For me, it wouldn't have even been a choice I would have had to make. Like Hawk mentioned above, I also get those goosebumps when I hear the intro to Shelter, for several reasons, the first is I think it's a great song to begin with, has a very cool and haunting guitar and vocal intro; I also dig the distorted harp, and, of course, because of Mary's incredible passionate performance....(come to think of it, I don't believe I've ever heard a track that Mary sang on where she didn't absolutely knock me out.) ;)

    Those are the types of nuances I'm referring to, not just with the Stones track, but with many songs over the years - those spontaneous moments where what would be considered "imperfect" ends up working great .
    Of course it depends on the context of the song. "Flaws" are probably not considered great under any circumstances in opera or classical genres, but hey, what do I know? Maybe they are.
    If you start to look at everything you do under a sonic microscope, you'll always find flaws... but you can also very easily end up losing some awesome little gems along the way if you let your "perfection" hold the razor blade.

    Don't get so wrapped up in your quest for the perfect performance that you ignore - or worse, destroy - those very rare, but very cool incidental moments.

    IMHO of course.

    -d.
     
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's funny to me that the big money guys still don't take more than a day or so, on mixing a song. Or at least that's what they say in general.
    I strive to only edit mistakes, to me mistakes are errors. Fluctuations? Screw it I keep emotion. Even if it shows performance flaws. You want the rock or u don't, which is fine. All of us have the capability to digitally change performances. Less is more sometimes. I don't feel punching in on a word/phrase basis is bad, I'm just sayin sometimes weird sounds happen and don't hurt.

    let it happen. A performance. Recording is somewhat science, but performances are harder. Play well. Make the instruments sound better so schleps like me can make better recordings.
     

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