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When Mixing With Headphones Can Help

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by DonnyThompson, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm pretty much in agreement with Dan Thompson's ( no relation, LOL) remarks on the video below.

    Personally, I use them more for analytical referencing; checking for too much effect on certain tracks, panning, space and separation, listening for things like a short/cut fade, clicks or pops, etc.

    When I was 19, I had ear surgery - both ears - to remove some cartilage that was growing towards my ear drums. While the surgery fixed everything fine, to this day, I still feel physical pain on the outer shell of my ears if they are compressed for too long, such as sleeping on them, or, using headphones... basically, anything that presses against my ears for too long can result in some pretty serious physical discomfort, so this really does limit the amount of time I can wear HP's.

    As a rule, I don't mix with headphones, but I do use them as a valuable tool from time to time, for short periods.

  2. pcrecord

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

    I do use headphones while mixing as an additionnal reference from time to time but never as my main reference. Space and frequency balance can get screwed up fast with them...
    But I think we can't go without reference on them since many people will listening to our work and headphones and earbuds...
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That is really quite something.

    This could end up being the answer to many home spaces that are acoustically skewed.

    Although, you would need a very nice pair of headphones as well - I don't think you'd want to trust a set of Radio Shack HP's, no matter how nice the HP amp/matrix controller is.

    But yeah, there's no doubt that this would be a great addition to any studio, especially if room acoustics were in question.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    Chris, here's a review on the Phonitor from SOS...

  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I don't know if this makes headphones any more or less relevant as mixing tools, but surely a cool thing. Headphone equipment is probably the weakest technical link in my studios arsenal.

    A tool like this, and a high quality wireless system, and maybe ill change my personal feelings about recording with headphones, because I personally rarely use headphones for anything, besides private casual listening.

    I like that technology company's are addressing things like this, guess the analog gear folks are bored, or hungry looking for new ways to improve. I'm very much a believer in good physcial acoustics, but they all go hand and hand. I'm really getting into the actual playback system itself. Duh I'm supposed to be a sound guy or something right?

    What I mean is my lust for gear has moved away from mics and pres and into eqs and speakers/monitoring. It's seeming silly to me that my guitar rig and guitar, has a value of over 5x my Mackie monitors. Not that they are anything bad or particularly good, it's just that it seems to me, that is out of balance. Or maybe guitar stuff is just overpriced, lol. Oddly, now, as expensive as it is, and as broke as I am, 10-20k, seems like the range to shop in, for a tool that is indispensable and absolutly necessary like monitoring. An obviously rediculous cost, but a couple 1176s and 1073s, are approaching the same range. And that's not even considered 'alot' of OB, and in fact fairly standard.

    I feel like I have been cheating myself, and had a very naive veiw of what is truly important equipment and business wise as a sound guy. imo timbre is far overlooked, and not expressed well by the stats, but yet I'm starting to belive that timbre is what most non-engineer people are talking about when you ask them how something sounds.

    Sorry for the rant, but I've heard all kinds of rooms and speakers claiming flat or accurate, or something else technically amazing, yet none of them really sounded 'the same' or really even that close. Also my slowly growing knowledge of electronics is really allowing me to hear things I haven't before, particularly in the distortion and headroom areas.

    I'm moving towards what I like and feels right, over what I think Im supposed to 'need' to make good records. I've been dissapointed with enough real expensive well established gear, to start to really try and trust my own ears and instincs. the more exciting it is when we hear, the better we play, I'm glad that companies are approaching ways to improve this.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    I don't believe that you are alone in this, Kyle.

    We all know by now that it's certainly not cheap to set up a recording rig of pro caliber - hell, for that matter, it's not really all that cheap to set up a recording rig of 'average" caliber, either.

    Often, the investment requires an amount equal to a second mortgage, and that's quite a bit of money, especially in a service trade that will probably not ever let us see a commensurate return on that investment.
    We don't sell toilet paper, or do lube jobs, nor do we work in a mortuary... all those things are necessities.
    What we do is artistic, and maybe even considered by some to be a luxury, and like any artistic-based business,, there are far more who don't make money at it than there are who do. It's not really money that drives us... it's passion.

    And because we are all so passionate about it, we keep investing in it, and it seems as if there's always something we could do, or add, to make our systems have more integrity.
    But, I get what you are saying, and recently, I've come to the conclusion that somewhere along the way, I've managed to forget - or worse, to neglect - the most important thing - and that's to make good music.

    We have so many tools available to us now - far more than what our predecessors had, ( and that gear, with its limitations, which they used, made some pretty awesome records, too) that it's very easy to get caught up in this never ending technology - to the point where perhaps we sometimes forget that it's all about the music.

    We analyze, to hell and back, every little wart, every little "glitch". We spend hours editing breaths out of a vocal track, de-essing and EQ'ing - all the way down to one note - and I've caught myself doing this a lot, because I, like everyone else here, have the tools at my disposal to do those things. But... do these "fixes" really matter that much? In the process of editing, sometimes down to the frame, am I also perhaps editing out the soul, the human side of the performances?

    I think that, because we are who we are, and because we want to do what we do as best we can, we mix with great attention paid to details that many listeners will never even hear.

    I think that sometimes we forget that we're not mixing for other audio engineers... we're not mixing for people who are listening for "too much 2k edge on a hi hat", or "not enough around 80hz on the bass".
    We are mixing for the "average" listener. And those listeners almost always listen for the song. They either like it, or they don't. It either moves them, or it doesn't, and whether or not there's "too much 1k on an electric guitar" is of no consequence to them.

    Truthfully, we have to actually work at listening to our mixes with the ears of an "average" listener. It's nearly impossible for us to do that, because we've all spent the better part of our entire lives doing critical listening. I often wonder if all the little changes I make in a mix will ever even be noticed by John Q. Public, when he's listening through his $8 earbuds. ;)

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't always do the best that we can. We absolutely should.
    But, I've realized that quite often, I'm spending far more time on things that - when all is said and done - probably won't matter as much to the average listener; while at the same time, I'm perhaps ignoring the things that actually do matter.

    IMHO of course. ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm inclined to say, monitoring is the weirdest and most frustrating part of this business. Its one thing to create music and mix something but to be able to finish it so our mixes translate on every playback system is a huge challenge for most of us. I think part of this is because we don't realized what monitors suit our tastes bests, We go by recommendations when we really should be buying monitors to fit our room and our own hearing loss or hype.

    My idea is to learn about what's fooling me and adjust my monitoring situation to compensate for my personal abnormalities. What I hear in my head is not what others hear . First and foremost, my idea is to discover where I am weak and forget about all the distracting stuff.

    This entire business is a self control and self awareness program.

    I tend to love the top and bottom of a mix so what do I buy... speakers with more of what I love which is hopefully solving my problem.

    I think we all hear differently and therefore, we need to discover how to make the right decisions that translate.
    Some of us are born balanced, some of us need to adjust to that happy norm. This is where the right gear and tools can help us.

    I think this Phonitor is a tool that might help emulate and adjust headphone mixing to sound close to my room. I'm not sure why the 120v rails are that important but the ability to recreate a room is intriguing. It looks like a great headphone problem solving tool. But the main thing I believe I need help on is all in my head. Meaning, my addiction for top and bottom end. Thus, if I get enough of it from the speakers, I may not over do it in every mix I do.

    This is all just a theory.

    And I'm using the term "I" loosely.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Looks like they have a mini now. Check this out:


    The outstanding technical and sonic characteristics of the Phonitor 2 were translated into a more compact and less-expensive format to create the Phonitor mini. Its ease-of-use, small and sturdy housing and affordable price, make the Phonitor mini the perfect headphone amp for home studios, hi-fi enthusiasts and mobile recording and mixing. The Phonitor mini is our high-end/low-size version of a premium headphone amplifier. And it obviously features the Phonitor Matrix too, to recreate speaker-like working conditions, plus the developments of the second generation of our 120-Volt amplifier technology.

    Important Features

    • 120 Volt Amplifier for Headphons
    • Phonitor Matrix
    • Optimally suited for all dynamic headphones from 10 Ohm
    • Mount-stand compatible with VESA adapter
    • Maximum Output Power: 2x 2 W (1kHz/300 Ohm), 2x 1 W (1kHz/600 Ohm)
    • Frequency response: 10Hz bis 300kHz (-3dB)
    • THD+N: 0,00052 %,
    • Dynamic rang
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I would think it's because of the summing involved.

    I think you may have missed my point - you're listening skills are not the least bit weak, nor are your mixing chops. I mean, okay, maybe there are areas where you feel you are somewhat weak, and it yu feel yu can improve those thngs, then of oucrse you should, but even on your worst day of mixing, it's still going to sound fine to your average listener.

    I'm not disputing that we should do the best work we can. I was suggesting that, when we do work that involves a great deal of minutia, that it's doubtful that those who are listening would ever be able to tell the difference on those things you did - those those fine, subtle changes.... changes which may seem big and important to us as engineers, because we've spent the better part of our lives training ourselves to listen critically - but my bet is that most of what we consider to be important - or even necessary - those finer details, probably aren't going to be heard by those people who are "average" consumers, and even if they could be trained to hear what we hear, it's entirely possible that they wouldn't really care one way or the other.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    @DonnyThompson without a doubt
    BTW, I'm generally speaking and was not thinking you were speaking to me. I would have quoted you. But, my wording was goofy so I edited it . I'm using the word "I" loosely as well.

    I'm not saying I have a "problem" from your OP. I think we all have differences in hearing. I think learning how to overcome this in order to make the decisions that translate is greatly improved if we get the right monitors for our hearing. Its why I suggested you get speakers that are more mid range heavy because you tend to mix weak in the mids. If your speakers are heavy in the mids, and you personally don't like heavy mids, you are going to pull them out in a mix. But if you use monitors weak in the mids, you won't have a tendency to reduce the mids at all. This is what I'm talking about when I refer to our weaknesses. Its part of being human. We're all built a bit different.The key is self discovery. ;)

    Whats good for you, may not be good for me", :)

    This Phonitor should be able to emulate ( whats good for us) better than a set of headphone.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Looks like its been upgraded to the Phonitor 2

  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's very difficult to determine which minutia is actually important to the final detail. I'm starting to wonder if translation really is the goal anymore. It's fairly certain most people will listen on a portable device of some sort. It's eaiser than ever to hear it how most people will. I've bought albums that sound worse than the streamed version. iTunes mastering is in no way shy or light handed. It's cool I like it, cuz it sounds better and better.

    I think what I'm getting at with this is more the artistic side of the systems we use. How much does it inspire us? Like that guitar you pick up at the store and just shred to bits on, outa nowhere. You know? With all this stuff we have it's gonna sound okay if your reasonable at engineering. I want to be impressed when I listen to my system, knowing that how I like it, (big tall mixes, with a clear round top) will be reasonable. I don't really have an interest in trying to make sure my minutias are 'there everywhere' anymore. I want to feel the bass. I'm a child of the 80s, and 90s music was when electronic kits and live stuff was all hashed together in pop and rNb. Basicall, Lmao, I like my music system and music to have the string low end definiton of hip hop and dance.

    To get this typ of performance out of studio monitors they have to be way too loud! I enjoy an exhaggerated response. My bass translates decently on my mixes, they always have. The first time I 'broke the rules' in a while was to mix a hip hop project with a Yamaha hs sub, along with the meyer HD1s. (Those have ver honest responSE in the thst udon they are in particularly i the low end.) but the client wanted to feel it more, and so did I, so we wouldn't add way too much bass in e mix. So I set it where I like it, and the mix how I liked it, instead of how I thought it should be, and it was fine, the bass was fine. I'd prefer to feel the bass nicely, while keeping the range im hearing at a nice modest db level.

    My old sets of mixes that I used to use your typical awia, Sony, hifi system circa '95 technology :) they still move okay. In fact I'd argue they sound similar in timbre than a lot of mixes I did for the first few years of my studio mo itors, the. When I started at the studios rooms, it was another long adjustment.

    Basicall what I'm getting at I guess is, using those big main speakers changed the game for me. I do about an even 30/30/30 split between studio live and technology work, and I love the big clear sound of a nice PA (thanks to Hubert sumlin and a really nice historic theater. And Yamaha m7cl.

    For some reason, the fact that my amateurs mixes on a consumer system moved fine, subwoofers are fun for me, and live sound system in nice big rooms can sound both natural and impressive, are changing what my idea of a mix room is. Same for film. Those post houses have sound stages similar to what the final product is gonna be, and I don't think flat response is number one, they have they're own specs.

    I want a nice big room, select peices of good OB, and reliable digital, with a big inspiring sound system. I'd better get to work... I'm moving the idea of my own studio from the more traditional thing to a more multimedia and perfomance based center, rather than the compartmentalized, smallish facilities. I'll have to do a skecth up some day soon to express the thought better. Anyway. Sorry to ramble again, this is an interesting area of conversation to me. It blends physicis, pshycoaacoutsics, personality, and the intangible. Art is weird.
  14. Joej

    Joej Active Member

    Here's my 2 cents

    I agree with Dan 100% monitors accompanied with decent cans and throw a little bit of accoustic treatment in the room will make a hell of a difference in your mixes. I live in an apartment as well and have a pair of Krk rocket 5 monitors. I don't have to crank my monitors to hear what i need to hear . I stopped Frustrating myself long ago trying to get my mixes to translate on all the different systems out there you need to have 30,000 dollar compressors and so on to achieve those results.

    I have asked myself what do the majority of people who buy and download music use to listen to music on and the answer is ear buds and middle of the road headphones at best. I use my monitors and headphones to mix and when I think it sounds good I listen to it through earbuds and cheap speakers. If the mix sounds good through those as well then it's a wrap. Will the phonitor help ? Maybe maybe not I would recommend spending the 900.00 the phonitor is selling for on monitors , acoustic room treatment and sound absorption material.

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