choosing monitoring headphones

Discussion in 'Monitoring' started by Moe Farid, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Moe Farid

    Moe Farid Active Member

    Aug 22, 2011
    Hey everyone,

    I need some urgent feedback and help on choosing between 4 headphone monitors, and since the local vendors don't actually have these models, I'm having it shipped and so I can't try any of them till I actually buy them. I HAVE done quite a bit of research, and I have narrowed it down to these 4 - 5 models.

    The Sennheiser HD 380's, the AKG K 240 MK II's, the AKG K 141 MK II's, & the AKG K 121's.

    The headphones monitors will be used for HOME production of electronic dance music (trance) and will barely be used for personal audio or DJ'ing. I have a few criteria/conditions which might help you guys narrow my search down:

    - I need headphone monitors that will work great WITHOUT needing to buy a headphone amplifier.
    - I don't know whether the headphones I need for mixing/monitoring should be closed, open, or semi-open.
    - The headphones WILL be used occasionally for long production sessions of up to 6 hours at a time, so comfort is important but not as important as the other conditions.
    - I need the headphones with the FLATTEST frequency response (across the spectrum), so that what I hear is what it actually sounds like and what it would most likely sound like if played on club speakers.

    All I have to go on is your feedback guys. Kindly keep your responses specific to the models I just mentioned, unless there is a better monitoring headphone I am missing out that is either AKG or Sennheiser (I narrowed it down to those 2 brands for sure) that is below $145ish (that's my budget).

    Some notes from various reviews I read:

    HD 380's: Have a good "audio/sound stage" but produce some kind of hissing sound...and need a volume attenuator and/or a headphone amp to take care of that problem...can anyone verify that? I'm on a limited budget, so if I buy the 380's I won't have any/enough cash left to buy any extra stuff like the amp or the attenuator. Also, closed headphones, so some sound stage is lost? But better than the HD 280's?

    K 240's: Semi-closed so there is some leakage involved, and so you don't hear everything you're supposed to. Also read that they tend to give a boosted bass response, which tends to muffle some of the mids. I also heard that AKG's in general and especially the K 240's need a headphone amplifier to work properly, but as I said I won't have money for that, so does anyone know if they will work properly without the headphone amp?

    K 141's & K 121's: Aren't as comfortable as the 240's and response isn't as flat and sound stage isn't as wide as the 240's.

    I know about the AKG K 271's, but unfortunately I can't afford them :(

    Help?! Thanks in advance people!
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Read this for a bit of info:

    HeadWize - Article: A Quick Guide To Headphones (A HeadWize Headphone Guide)

    Most headphones don't really need a headphone amp, but it depends on the output of the unit they are connected to, and the sensitivity and impedance of the 'phones.

    Higher sensitivity means louder with less wattage...or, a set with 100dB sensitivity will theoretically be louder than a set with 90dB, given equal wattage.

    Lower impedance will load down the connected device less, and also be louder. So, a set with lower impedance and higher sensitivity should be able to play much louder than a set with higher impedance and lower sensitivity. Most devices should be able to drive most headphones fairly loudly. Does lower impedance/higher sensitivity mean they are better? No. They may be so loud they get overdriven into distortion. Maybe a less sensitive really nice pair will sound worlds better than a more sensitive average pair, even though it's not as loud? It all depends. Can't use specs, alone, but you can get an idea if your device will be able to power them adequately.

    'Closed' or 'open'? Depends on your needs. Closed-back ones have less leakage to get into vocal mics, if you use vocal mics. They also attenuate much more outside noise, so there is less room, traffic, etc., noise able to creep into whatever you are monitoring. Open-back ones can cause problems when recording vocals. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter. Open-back ones can sound "more airy", and close-backed ones can often sound bassier.

    If you do actually intend to even occasionally use them for DJ duties, you may want closed-back ones so you can press one cup to your ear to hear what's in that, while rejecting a bit more of the thumping blare from the PA.

    "Flattest frequency response"? Read "Headphone Specifications" in the linked article. Besides, head shapes and even small distance changes from the ear can affect frequency response, with very little movement. You can prove this by plopping on a pair, getting the music to sound just how you like it with the headphones sitting just how they fit, and then push in, or pull out, very slightly on either or both earpieces. Doesn't take much.

    As far as comfort, that's totally personal depending on your head. "up to 6 hours at a time". I don't know of anyone who would subject their ears to 6 solid hours of even moderate volume strictly headphone usage, but I can probably name a few just on these boards who would advise against it. Personally, I'd have a massive headache after 6 solid hours of headphone, and most likely ringing for days. Protect your ears. Don't abuse them.

    " that what I hear is what it actually sounds like and what it would most likely sound like if played on club speakers."

    Won't happen. As with all monitoring situations, you have to "learn" your monitors (or headphones) to finally know how what sounds good on them will translate to a wide variety of real-world systems. There's absolutely no chance that a mix on whatever set of headphones you choose will automatically sound good on those club speakers. None.

    Headphones shouldn't really be used, exclusively, for your main mixing monitors, anyway. They are excellent for revealing noises, maybe revealing some frequency clashes and levels management, and making panning decisions, but less

    than ideal for final most cases. Not that it can't be done.

    Just some things for you to consider. There are no "magic headphones" that will make you a master mixing engineer from the moment you put them on. With that said, I'm sure some of the helpful folks here will recommend a few of their favorites, but they'll also possibly need a bit more what device will be driving them, for starters. (Headphone outputs on my Mackie will blow your eyeballs out, if you're not careful. Some others may be weaker.) Any use for vocals into mics? Is your room relatively quiet, if you decide on open ones? Do you even have a proper monitoring setup with powered speakers/unpowered speakers and amp?

    Good luck,

    1 person likes this.

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