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On Location: Headphones or Monitors?

Member for

21 years 3 months
When doing a remote gig do you guys use headphones for monitoring or bring a set of monitors? If headphones what type would you use for chamber group recording or jazz quartet? If monitors do you bring something big or small? I plan on doing some gigs inside a church as well as a school rehearsal room. I figured that headphones would be the way to gosince there really won't be much isolation for me.


Member for

17 years 8 months

Cucco Tue, 03/01/2005 - 16:08
I will use both. If I know I will be able to have good isolation, I will use monitors. If I don't know or will not have good isolation, I will use cans.

For the monitors, I use Audix PH5's. They are a small, lightweight, inexpensive and suprisingly awesome monitor especially given their very reasonable price. They are powered and can be purchased with a carrying bag for around $250. Will they hit 40 Hz? No, but I wouldn't want to carry the monitors and amps around necessary to do so.

As for the headphones, I use a variety of the K240's from AKG and a decent headphone amp.


Member for

17 years 5 months

JoeH Tue, 03/01/2005 - 16:20
I almost always have to use headphones; rarely do I have the chance to be isolated and sealed off from the stage sound.

The trick is to understand what you're hearing, and how it will translate to mixing "back at the ranch". Mainly, I use HPs to deal with all the major issues: clipping, rumbling, phase, hiss, hum, etc. For the most part, I don't expect to be able to do much else with them. (That's why I ALWAYS call it any CDr safeties my "ROUGH MIX". There's always some surprise or anomaly when listening back at the studio.)

If you can get a spot in a back room REALLY out of the way somewhere, it's nice to use monitors, but there's always a tradeoff. Unless you're bringing along a video cam & monitor, you can't see what's going on out onstage. If a mic gets moved, or if there's something unforeseen happening, you're not able to find out - sometimes until it's too late. Not only that, but you're also dealing with the acoustice of whatever room you've been handed; rarely is it any kind of good listening space...usually a linoleum floor, aluminum tables, and a dressing room mirror somewhere.

Most of us probably aren't locked away somewhere when we do our thing, but enough out of the way to be safe. (Last season, I tracked the Delaware Sympyhony on a table just offstage from the basses and cellos, literally. I was just behind the reflectors, near the door to the basement stairway. (It's an old theater, small backstage area.) Headphones were the only way to go there. Not even a broomcloset or spare dressing room to be had anywhere else.

I use SONY HDR-7506s, but everyone has their favorites. They're good and reliable, nothing fantastic, but they're my reference tool for the remotes, and I have several pairs of them to keep my work consistent. As long as you know what you're hearing from them, you can adjust accordingly.

Helpful hint: If you're near the musicians backstage (instead of locked away in a back room like a hermit), you get to meet more people and thus promote your business more. It's a very subtle thing (and certainly you shouldn't inflict yourself on musicians who need to concentrate before a concert), but it's worth noting how many more biz cards and CD copies you'll end up distributing by being VISIBLE instead of hidden like "The wizard" out of everyone's sight.

Like our discussion of Photography and the Zen of "getting out of the way" to let it all happen, a busy but upbeat personal presence right there at the event goes a long long way in client relations.

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Thu, 03/03/2005 - 06:19
For reference while recording I use headphones. I'm on the 2nd
pair of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs (about $80). I found them
very comfortable for MY head. They also have quite long cable,
which is a plus.
As portable monitors I have M-Audio StudioPro-4 (about $150).
It's small (18W), quite accurate active monitors. I never use them
as reference, but it's nice to have them around - to play the recording results for client, for example.
Mixing and mastering is whole different story (from recording).


Member for

19 years 11 months

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 03/03/2005 - 06:40
AKG and AT and Sennheiser headphones and Genelec 1030's when I can use them.

I prefer to use monitor speakers but most times when I am doing remote recording I am in the hall or near to it and I have to wear headphones.

Headphones really give you a very different perspective on the recording and since most of our stuff is done direct to two track I have to really know what I am listening to.

The comments about the contacts you meet when recording and are visable are very true. We have picked up a number of gigs by passing out our business cards at concerts we record. The PROBLEM is that you also get the audiophiles or wannabe recording engineers who come by and want to talk shop while you are trying to set up. I had a person who planted themselved directly in front of our table and kept talking to us the whole time we were trying to setup. He started off talking about what equipment we were using and ended up talking about the weather. I guess he was lonely. The concert was ready to start and I finally had to excuse myself and asked him nicely to return to his seat as the concert was ready to begin and he was blocking my view. At intermission he was back and at the end he came up and started talking again as we were tearing down. He even walked us out to the van to continue talking.

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Thu, 03/03/2005 - 07:15
For small rig jobs (Masterlink and Benchmark 420 mixer) it is almost always headphones (Sony MDR1700). For big rig jobs (Sequoia, Myteks, Precision 8s, HD24 backup) up to 16tk it is almost always speakers (Tannoy 800A) with a control room erected somewhere. I charge $100 setup and a 3-hr minimum on those jobs to compensate for the time and hassle of all that. Depending on the client there are no hard and fast rules. On CD projects it is assumed that I will do the big setup.

As most of you know, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to make precise musical judgements on headphones. Even after consciously going for just a LITTLE more presence with mains and spots I am rarely pleased in that regard when listening on the fullrange monitors back at HQ.

This is also the main reason I have gone from "always straight to 2tk" to Mr Multitrack with Sequoia. Why make artistic decisions that cannot be undone later? And with 16 tracks available, I can put up several main arrays and multiple-mic spots and decide later in a known monitoring environment which mics/array I prefer.

Considering that location monitoring environments are acoustic crapshoots at best, I have complete respect for the engineers of the past who made landmark recordings without knowing FOR SURE what it really sounded like.

I know of at least one instance where Kenneth Wilkinson of Decca had a control room BUILT out of plywood inside a much larger room for that reason. Even after having the lads drag along the 801s, he was not about to make permanent mix decisions in the dark.