headphones or monitors

Discussion in 'Monitoring' started by reddb, Sep 6, 2003.

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  1. reddb

    reddb Guest

    when I apply effects to my inst. and vocals and listen to it through my headphones and it sounds great but when i hear it through my monitors i can hardly hear the effects. What source should I trust the monitors or the headphones?
  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    You can only trust your monitors if your monitors and the monitoring enviroment are trustworthy. Most of the time they are not. You can somewhat compensate by learning what the limits of your monitors are, and adjusting for those limits, but it is hard if not impossible to trust them if they are not telling you the truth. Keep in mind that heaphones will always sound different than monitors and for the most part will reveal more details. It takes a very, very good monitor to reveal the same details. Try to listen on many different types of speakers to get a better sense of what details are there and not there when compared to yours. Listen on a great pair of monitors and you will instantly learn how important they truely are.
  3. launchpad67a

    launchpad67a Guest

    Hi reddb,
    AudioGaff brings up a valid point, but what's missing is "What kind of monitors do you own"? I have learned from many years and many different speaker systems, to "Just be able to translate your mix" across all mediums. Meaning, Learn your speakers and how to mix on them so that the "final" cd will sound good on All stereos (car, home, boombox, ect...).
    I use JBL studio monitors and AKG headphones. I only use the headphones for "tracking", thats it!
    I use my JBL's for mixing, they are so true BUT also similar to "home stereo" speakers. (which most people will argue with me but) You should mix/master on very good home/pro speakers.

    Think about it......What do most people listen to your music on? Home audio products (mostly average)!! Right? So why not mix and master on them, makes sense doesn't it?!

    It's all a matter of "Learning" your system and being able to translate that to everyone else. Not a very easy thing, but totally achievable!!!

  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I do see the validity of 'checking' mixes on as many different kinds of speaker systems as possible, but actual mixing on even the highest quality 'home stereo speakers' is going to give a false application of balance and eq every time.

    Now I realize that as simple and straightforward this true statement is, it's going to cause extreme consternation and chest thumping along with arguments that reach from here to next Sunday.....bring it on.

    For mixing, everything should be flat in the response curve of the speakers ...and squeaky clean.You WANT to hear every little fart and hiccup in order to deal with all the issues involved.I find that many folks who are newer to this art, prefer a colored speaker as it tends to hide particular non-digestive nuances in the music....in short everything sounds better at face value, but when you send a project to a real mastering facility, all warts and such will be exposed without regard to anything else.

    This would be another reason that mixing on phones can become a problem.Due to the proximity of the speakers in the cans and ones ear, theres not enough time and space to allow the sound to develop.This is why the original poster is hearing things in the phones that are much easier to hear than in his mixing environment.

    Peace to all and this is a fine subject for us to pontificate on.Lets hear what everyone's got to say.......
  5. Dave Nyberg

    Dave Nyberg Guest

    Definately monitors (speakers). I have a set of AKG 240 headphones but i find it very hard to get used to them. My monitors (Behringer Truth, not the best but reasonably good) i trust so much more. It's also because i know how things must sound on them that helps. You could use some high quality home speakers but these wo'n be very linear in eq and such. So listening to them softly will give much different results then listening to them loud. A thing also very important is the room acoustics as AudioGaff says. I'm just starting to get to know about acoustic treatments to a room so i also need to learn a lot still. But even putting some tiles on a wall made a huge difference in the sound for me. My monitors translate even better now. :)
  6. kinetic

    kinetic Guest

    Unless you are a lucky person and have a mixing room that is sorted (ie been treated acoustically so that the room itself does not have a great impact on on the sound you hear from your monitors) it is dangerous to rely solely on the mixes you do in that room using those monitors. As someone said earlier in this thread, you need to check your mixes on other speakers (and all manner of speakers) in other rooms/situations. It is not easy to do a mix in a less than ideal room! I always check and sometimes mix on fairly standard headphones. I don't use so called hi-fi headphones as I find them too bright. I use Fostex T120 (from memory) which I find fairly balanced. I recall reading an interview with Bob Clearmountain, a great and famous(?) producer who has mixed some magnificent albums. I remember he said that he also checks and sometimes mixes on headphones.

    What I'm starting to do is to do two seperate mixes - one on my monitors in my project studio and another on my headphones. Burn them to CD and go and listen to both mixes on different systems. You never know, if you front up to a mastering house one day, the headphone mix just could be the mix that saves the day.

    It ain't easy doing a mix in a less than ideal environment, and I think it is fair to say that the majority of us (project studio owners)do not have one of those.

    Good Luck
  7. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    listen to your mixes in your car, and other places that you listen to other music on.

    Play cd's of material comparable to the style of music you are working on and A/B between the reference cd's and your music.

    Monitor at reasonable levels; around 85db and less...if you don't know how loud that is get a cheap db meter from radio shack.

    Get your monitors in an equilateral triangle at about the same height as your ears, with the speakers roughly 3-feet or so apart, and your head as the third point.

    Try and get the best near-field monitors you can afford. Price to performance sways towards self powered monitors imo at the cheaper price ranges.

    Try not to use consumer gear. The theory that since this is the final playing field and therefore why not just go there is flawed.
  8. BlackTalon

    BlackTalon Guest

    Interesting thread I was just doing some reading on the web on this earlier. I don't have much choice but to mix only on headphones ( small apt ).. but today I tried to mix briefly on some fairly expensive computer speakers for the hell of it. I couldnt believe how much easier it was every miniscule change in anything I did i could hear instantly compared to my headphones witch also don't have a flat responce. I figured it test and took one part i was absolutely happy with in headphones, saved that remixed with the speakers and the tonal qualities sounded way off, to bright, after that i was happy with the speaker mix i relistened on the headphones and it sounded just as good. maybe i can get away with mixing this way i have to keep my speakers down low though. I have a question I don't have many options money wise right now for monitors but have two speakers which would be more ideal to mix from...for now?...Altec Lansing computer speakers with sub woofer I don't know the specs but they were around $200, then I have a kenwood home stereo system I bought maybe 7 years ago, that was $1700 at the time, don't have the rear and center speakers any more but the main left and right huge b@stards.
  9. Treena Foster

    Treena Foster Active Member

    Jul 4, 2003
    Recorderman, I am glad I read your post before I replied, I would have repeated your post almost word for word. :D

    BlackTalon, you can monitor in your apartment if you follow the 85 db level. There is something to be said about lowering your volume to almost completely off and listening to your levels then, you might be surprised at what will jump out at ya.

    I use a set of auratones for this and then I switch to the Ns10's and then I bring the mix up in the Tannoy's.

    Hey Kurt did a review on the Yamaha MSP5 powered studio monitors, you can read it HERE

    I was present and did some critical listening with those puppies and I really like their sound.

    :h: Treena
  10. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Member

    Jun 1, 2003
    i've always been a tannoy man myself. when i mix i listen at low levels. and monitor at different areas....car, stereo, auratone, and little mono speaker in half inch machine just to make sure it's consistant. you should never mix on headphones or stereo speakers. you will never get a true response, stereo speakers are colored..... usually have a midrange bump for the consumers. you should always mix on a good set of flat speakers to get the truest version of your mix. i know i'm probably repeating what's already been said but i think this point cannot be stressed enough.
  11. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    :) Lot's of great points here. I use phones for checking critical imaging (panning), true center channel info and the like. I never EQ with phones because the SPL's are far too high. However if your monitor system and room is fairly accurate, and you have a good set of phones, those EQ balances should not be too drastic when A/Bing the two.

    If you are hearing more detail in phones, then your monitor system is clouding the sound with comb filtering, reflections off nearby surfaces and console, distorting the image to your ears. In small rooms, my preference is to arrange the speakers in the room, before bringing any of the other gear into consideration. No matter what you have to do, don't let a console, control surface or standard ergonomic layouts come between you and a clear shot from your monitors. Also watch out for reflective surfaces where highs are arriving at your ears at different times.


    [ September 09, 2003, 02:52 PM: Message edited by: Rick Hammang ]
  12. white swan

    white swan Guest

    I don't know the technical reasons, but I find that headphones are very bad for setting effects levels. They may be great for hearing small details, bass levels, etc., but anytime I try and set effects levels using headphones, they never translate well to real speakers.

    I'm guessing it may have something to do with the fact that our ears hear L&R on headphones as two completely seperate and isolated signals, whereas when we listen on speakers, some of the right speaker is heard by the left ear, and visa versa.

    But that's just an undeucated guess! :h:
  13. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    You already heard the main reason headphones are not good for mixing - you hear everything too clearly. Not only is this a problem with effects, it's a big problem with all tracks. Since you can hear the background singers so clearly you'll wrongly make them too soft. Likewise for any other track.

    I disagree with those who say you need many different types of speakers. All you really need is one set that's truly accurate. But you also need a room that is flat at all frequencies and devoid of early reflections. Rooms vary far more than any gear, yet they are the last thing most home recordists consider!

    Sometimes it's useful to have a pair of really crappy speakers or a cheap boombox with limited response, just to be sure your mix does not rely on very low or very high frequencies that many speakers cannot reproduce at all.


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