I’m lucky enough to come from a background of music production, so I like to think I know my stuff when it comes to the topic of mixing music. In the world of recording and mixing, using headphones still comes with a little bit of a stigma, with most in agreement that mixing on studio monitors (proper speakers) is best. However, being realistic, using cans to mix your tunes is not only the most accessible way for some people to start producing, it is also necessary, we can’t take our studio monitors out with us if we want to mix in a cafe or on a train. Lets face it, headphones or earbuds are the way most music is consumed these days, so they’re bound to have an impact on production too. They’re becoming as widely accepted as speakers, however, it is important to get the best headphones for mixing if you possibly can, so I’ve put together a handy guide on the subject here.
I’m going to start with my go to brand of mixing headphones, and personal favourite, AKG 701′s…
Not only are these amazingly cool looking (not that looks play a part) they’re an exceptional set of studio headphones. Brilliantly clear high end sounds as well as punchy bass, these cans are brilliantly accurate and a favorite among mixing and mastering engineers everywhere. Their open back makes them a top choice for studio mixing (don’t try using these for live DJ mixes), they boast an excellent build quality (as with every AKG set of headphones) and a comfortable design that will keep your ears content even during the longest mixing sessions. Definitely recommended if your budget allows it.
A budget alternative…
Sticking with AKG for a version of their headphones, this time semi-open, that you can get for under $100. Perfect for those who care about sound quality and precision but don’t want to push the boat out.
Sennheiser are another brand you associate with mixing headphones, the German manufacturers have one of the largest range of headphones and earbuds in the world, and in amongst them are these beautifully precise HD600s. Another expensive set, but that’s to be expected if you’re looking for the sharpest, most accurate sound you can get for mixing your tracks, but you wont be disappointed with your investment.
A quote directly from the manufacturer’s page:
“I have used my HD 600′s for casual and critical listening ever since I got my pair. I can depend on the HD 600 in many different environments and can always expect great results out of it.” -Kazuri Arai, Recording and Mixing Engineer
A budget alternative…
Again, I realise that these are a little on the expensive side for some people, but Sennheiser have a huge range and there are a budget alternative
You can see from the reviews on Amazon that these are exceptionally good headphones, with some arguing they’re even as good as the HD600s, I’m not sure I’d go that far but again I would recommend these for anybody on a budget of $100 or so.
If you’re on a Super Budget…
Okay, just a quick and random recommendation for some headphones I’ve never used, but have heard excellent things about, especially considering the price range, you can usually get these AKG K99s for around 50 bucks, which you really cant argue with, and if you do most of your mixing on monitors but just need the helping hand of some decent cans now and then these are a good call.
When I was taught to mix, I was told to listen in as many different environments as possible, most people who are listening to the track will either be doing so through a car stereo, cheap headphones or most likely a set of Apple’s own headphones. Worth considering when it comes to working out your weapon of choice, and though you should have as good a set of cans as you can, you should also see how the finished article sounds on less high quality headphones.