Many people record and mix on headphones, because most rooms suck, treatment and speakers are expensive. And because mobile recording or mixing rigs are becoming more and more popular, as we can do almost everything on laptops now.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
The problem is: While the room is not an issue anymore when you're on headphones, working without speakers comes with a completely different set of challenges.
If you want your songs to translate well, you need to be aware of the flaws, inaccuracies and characteristics of your headphone system. And you need to know how to deal with those.
So let's talk about how you can optimize your headphones (and entire monitoring chain), so you can get predictable, high quality results anywhere!
Here's what we cover on this episode:
- Open vs. closed
- Cheap vs. expensive
- Fit & comfort
Converters & Headphone Amps
Common problems and workarounds:
- Frequency response
- Monitoring volume
- Center vs sides (balancing)
- Balancing reverb / ambience / FX
- Getting distracted by irrelevant details
- Outside noise floor still influencing decisions
Software solutions to optimize your headphones:
Headphones we recommend:
- SENNHEISER HD650
- Audio Technica ATH-M50X
- Beyerdynamics DT770 PRO
- Ollo Audio S4X
- Audeze LCD-X
- AudioQuest Dragonfly Converter / Headphone Amp
Mentioned On The Episode:
TSRB 153 - - Automatic Episode Transcript - Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: Hello and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I am your host, Benedict Tine. If you are new to the show, welcome. Thank you for joining us. If you are already a listener, thank you so much for coming back. If you got any value out of these past episodes, please take a screenshot on your phone of whatever app you're using right now of this episode.Share it with your friends, post it on social. Tag us, uh, tag Malcolm and myself, we are on Instagram. We are on Facebook. Uh, we would really appreciate you sharing this show. So yeah, do that. Leave us a review, all those nice things, you know, so we can reach more people like you and help more people make better records.And if you are looking for a proven way to improve your recordings and mixes so you could finally release impressive sounding music consistently than investing in. Is always the best thing you can do with your money. Better than any plug-in purchase could ever be. And by far the best way to improve your skills and learn what it really takes to produce pro quality records is, in my opinion, personal mentorship, personal feedback, one-on-one mentorship.This is why so many engineers started as interns in studios or as like, yeah, interns, assistants in bigger studios. They got to be a fly on the wall and got real word education. And you can do that now as well from the comfort of your home, uh, own home studio and with a program that's specifically designed for self recording bands, because doing it yourself presents a whole new set of challenges.So the way to get started with this is to simply book a free one-on-one call with me. You can go to the self recording bank.com/call and apply for our coaching program for the self recording syndicate. It all starts with a completely free call. Best case scenario, we end up working together and transform your recordings.Worst case, you get an hour of free coaching. Right. So I hope this sounds fair. Go to the self recording ban.com/call and let's talk about your music. As always today, I am not alone, but I'm here with my friend and co-host, Malcolm Owen Flood. Hello, Malcolm. How are you?
Malcom: Hey, Benny. I'm great, man. How are you?
Benedikt: I'm great. Two, I had a phenomenal Christmas break.I'm feeling full of energy, refreshed, um, ready to start this new year, all of that. So really, really good
Malcom: that felt like the longest break I've had from like getting to meet up with you every week, but I, I don't think that's true. I think probably when I did the Amazing Race, that was probably the longest break, but, uh, I've missed you, man.
Benedikt: Yeah. I've missed you too, buddy. Totally, totally. This routine, as we often said, it's become so important for me every Monday and, uh, as, as good as this break was, I really missed doing the episodes and, uh, yeah. So totally missed,
Malcom: Yeah, totally. I guess I'm realizing now for the listener that we didn't skip a beat. We had episodes every week, didn't we? But yeah, so you're not even aware that Benny and I haven't seen each other for a little bit
Benedikt: yeah. Yes, totally. That's, that's true. That's true. Uh, hopefully we'll do it regularly again now, and I'm curious to hear, Malcolm, are there any plans that I should know of or don't know about? Because you said this is gonna be, I read some, some comment where you said, this is gonna be the year that we finally do something in person together.And I would be so stoked about that.
Malcom: Yes, man, I'd be so stoked as well. Um, well, number one, I hope that you can make it to my wedding. I, I would really love that. I mean, of course
Benedikt: I will.
Malcom: all very circumstantial, but, uh, hopefully you can get 'em out a little early and we could do, you know, something together then, um, get you out on the stack or something at least.But if we could do a podcast or, or make some kind of video content or something together, that'd be unreal. But I also have like quite a bit of arrow points, like arrow plan points, which is, they're, they're essentially air miles. I don't know if, depending on where you are in the world that may make sense or not.But essentially there are points I can convert into flights. And because I travel so much for work, I have a pretty good amount of them. So I might just jump over to Germany at some point.
Benedikt: I would, I would be So all like, all for that. Uh, yeah, whenever you wanna do that, just let me know ahead of time and then let's do something. I would absolutely
Malcom: No, I'm just gonna show up, man. Just knock it at the studio door. be, it'll be this time. You're gonna be waiting for me for the podcast and I'll just knock in the door.
Malcom: I'm gonna wait like 30 minutes late so that you have to start recording without me, or is, I guess I'm just doing this on solo. He's a no showAnd then I'll walk in
Benedikt: That would be so unreal. Yeah. I mean, yeah, do it
Malcom: Um, but, uh, Hey, happy Beated birthday, by the way.
Benedikt: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you so much. Yeah, that was the thing too. Yeah, I had a, I had a blast, dude. I don't know if you saw the video, but we've been to the trampoline, uh, like a trampoline park hall or whatever, a huge hole with like, bunch of trampolines and, and, uh, ninja, ninja Warrior, uh, parkour and stuff like that.And we had a lot of fun with, with the kids there. Uh,
Malcom: no doubt. Yeah, that looked very fun. Um, one
Benedikt: decided to celebrate that way this year with, with, with, just, with the kids and the family. And this was the best decision. Awesome.
Malcom: Yeah. Uh, something we never do is give people a reason to check out the YouTube version of the podcast. Like there's a video option if somebody wants to watch a podcast. So I want to show off . Hold. I'm getting it Ready. , check out the size of this thing. So for those watching here, I'll get it in focus.Uh, I can't even fit it like in the frame. Uh, , I am holding up, uh, like a wildlife camera lens that I got for myself
Benedikt: You can do it vertical so we can see it completely. Right? Not even that way.
Malcom: Oh, like, like diagonally. Does that, does it fit there? ? It's, it's huge man. , it's about as big as they come. Um, yeah, I got into wildlife photography since Benny and I hung out last and made a pretty ridiculous purchase of getting a giant wildlife lens. And it's so much fun. It's so fun.
Benedikt: I had no idea you actually bought that stuff. I just thought you, you used to whatever you had, but like, that's, that's, that's cool.
Malcom: It's pretty serious, man. It's like if you got into guitar two weeks ago and then went and bought a Gibson Les Paul, it's . It's not what I should have done. It was not the responsible choice for trying out a new hobby. Uh, but I did it . I actually, okay, here's some news. I actually sold a guitar to get it
Benedikt: Oh God. . No, it's getting worse and worse.
Malcom: Yeah. . Yeah, I, uh, I sold my Jericho, which is my Everton guitar, because that's the only one I don't have like an emotional attachment to
Benedikt: really? Oh wow.
Malcom: Um, and I do feel sad about that. I'm gonna get another Everton guitar for sure, but I think I'm gonna get like a, a tele with single coils. We'll see.
Benedikt: All right. All right. Well that's too much for me, man. this I love this. Yeah, totally. And I love the Cherry cook guitar to the, like, so much so actually like, just from the looks of it and the features and all of that on paper, so much so that I actually thought about buying that same guitar just because I love everything about it.I love the tele, um, shape. I love the wood finish. I love the ever two and the Fishmans, like all of that. Um, so yeah.
Malcom: I, I sold it to, uh, a friend of mine, actually a friend of the podcast. He's in the, the Facebook community, Derek Madden. Um, he bought it. He lives like five minutes away from me, so if I do need to borrow it, it's there. , which is nice. Um, and, and it's gone to a good home. It'll be getting used on records like crazy.Um, so yeah, it's a little bittersweet, but for now, instead of in tune guitars, I can provide in focus shots of animals.
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and those are great by the way. If you are, I dunno, follow Malcolm on Instagram, like at Malcolm on flat, I think. Right. Then I, I'm sure you're gonna see more of those wildlife shots. I, at least I, I hope you'll
Malcom: It's gonna be a little overkill. Yeah. Don't follow me for audio tips. Follow Benny for that. And then follow me for, for Wildlife Photos.
Benedikt: Which is great. Yeah. If
Benedikt: and you gotta check out those two seal photos. Three actually that I saw. Uh, seal photos, the, one of the, the one seal hunting, like in the, or in the water where they chose the teeth, that one
Malcom: Yeah, that one's a sea lion.
Benedikt: Sea lion. Yeah, that one's a sea lion. Yeah. And then the two of the seal.
Those are hilarious. Dude, these are so great. And yeah, I'd love to, like, if you can make memes out of those two, I would really appreciate that people. So just screenshot those photos or save them and make me memes of those, because they're so great. Anyway.
Malcom: do, please do post 'em to the self recording band community, so I'm sure they could be music related
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah. Now, um, I'm, I don't wanna talk too much about this because this is another, but Yeah. But I still have one question. Like, did you, is this just the first thing that came out of you using that lens? Or did you like, read a lot? Practice a lot. Educate yourself on how to do that, because those look legit.I'm not a photographer by any means, but I, I looked at these pictures and I thought like, well done, , like, they look professional, they look great. Uh,
Malcom: Um, yeah, I've, I mean, I've been like pretty camera obsessed for, since I got the camera we're filming this with, um, so a lot of YouTube and a lot of research and, and a lot of shooting. But no, that, that, that was actually like my, those photos you're talking about. Were like five days of owning the camera.So pretty, pretty fresh. But I will say that, uh, where I live makes it pretty easy, , like it's beautiful here and we have beautiful animals all over the place. Um, so if I was in LA I think I would've struggled to get good wildlife shots,
Benedikt: Yeah. probably. Yeah. Yeah. Well you seem to be talented . It's
Malcom: Thanks man. Appreciate that. Glad you like him.
Benedikt: cool. A, any plans? That's a final question. Any plans you that you have with this? Like beyond just a hobby?
Malcom: Uh, no, not really. No. Like, obviously I'm doing camera stuff for, for the, the, the YouTube channel making music content. And I do have a secret little video channel started. That's just my adventures with cameras. Um, so I'll be posting and making projects there, but, uh, but no, no real plans.
Benedikt: Okay. Okay. Fair enough. Cool. Well then I guess let's get to today's episode. Right?
Malcom: All right. Let's do it.
Benedikt: Now today's episode is about recording and mixing on headphones. So many people recording mix on headphones because most rooms suck. That's part of it. And then the other thing is that, um, treatment and speakers are very expensive.And if you wanna get it right, if you wanna dial in your room, this is not an easy thing to do. And then of course, we do a lot of work on our laptops these days, so everybody wants to be able to record a mix anywhere, basically. And so mobile recording and mixing rigs are becoming more and more popular now.Yes, the room is not a problem anymore if you're on headphones, but working with out speakers comes with a new set of challenges. And if you want your songs to translate well to other headphones, to other systems outside of the studio, then you need to be aware of the flaws and inaccuracies and characteristics of your headphones system, which doesn't only include the headphones, by the way.So you need to do, you need to know how to deal with those. I just wanted to talk about how you can optimize your monitoring situation if you're on headphones and basically the entire monitoring headphones chain so you can get predictable, high quality results anywhere. That is the goal of this episode.So I'm curious about one thing, Malcolm, you said it before we started recording this. You said that I remembered you talk about how you love recording on headphones and that eventually you want to be able to do just that, but now you just told me that you kind of got back to mixing on speakers and I wonder why that is.
Malcom: Okay, that's a good question. My opinion is, is that I can mix on headphones. I think I figured that out and learned that to a degree that I'm totally happy with. Um, but my mentality around mixing is that I like to think that you could put me in any setting, or, or with any set of headphones and that I could pull off a good mix.Um, my friend Matt said some, I don't know nascar, but he's into NASCAR or Formula One or some kind of rick car racing, and he mentioned some driver of the car and he said, if that person got into your car and you were in their sports car, if something like this, I'm totally butchering it. He'd still beat you in a race, right?It doesn't really, if you're a professional, he's gonna still pull it off. He's gonna rip in a any car
Benedikt: Yeah, that's
Malcom: if I'm a professional mixer, I can't let headphones, what headphones I'm wearing be the difference between a professional result or not it. And I think that mindset is so true. Um, and I mean, there's a skill level and experience level.Associated with that, but I feel like I've figured out how to mix with my headphones just fine. But I've also got these beautiful speakers in front of me, so the only reason I'm not really doing a lot of headphones mixing right now is because I'm in this room that I'm in right now, which sounds great.Has great speakers. Um, it's more fun for me to mix on speakers than it is for headphones. That's, that's really the only reason. But if I was on the road and somebody sent me a song to mix, I would just use my headphones in an instant. I wouldn't hesitate, I wouldn't wait until I got home.
Benedikt: Awesome. Awesome. That's all I wanted to hear. And yeah, that is part of the challenge. Um, part of the, yeah. One, one challenge that comes with Mexican headphones is the fact that it's just maybe a little more fatiguing, not as fun to just mix on headphones versus like speakers. So that's a Yeah, good point.But also you have a great speaker setup that makes it easier for you to do that. Right. So there's always this, this trade off, so Yeah. Might be less fun in a room with like very small speakers in a bad untreated room and like, you know, but yeah, I, I can totally, I can totally see that part for sure. I enjoy mixing on speakers more than on headphones too, so,
Malcom: yeah. Okay. I've got a, a question for you for our audience. Self recording bands and self recording musicians, do you think the most important thing for them to buy first if they didn't have either, would be headphones or monitors?
Malcom: Me too. Yeah. I, I absolutely agree. Um, and the reason for that is, of course for me is, is room treatment essentially, is that it doesn't matter what speakers you buy, what monitors you buy in a room that isn't really set up, they're not gonna really actually be accurate.
Like, you're not gonna know what you're hearing, especially as a beginner.
Benedikt: Yeah, 100%. And I always say that I always recommend that they get headphones, but some pair of speakers in addition to that, whatever they can afford. So I, I'd say you should have some pair of small monitors, like something that is a studio monitor, even though it's just a budget thing or whatever, but some pair of monitors set them up as good as you can just so you have the, the reference and you are able to check it in stereo on speakers.
I think that's important. But if you, if you really can't afford just one good thing, then it would be the headphones and then what, whatever you can spend on, on crappy monitors by those just as a reference
Malcom: Yeah. To, to explain this train of thought even more. Cause I really do think that a lot of people getting started don't think the opposite. They think, okay, I see, I see speakers in every studio. I've gotta get that. But the only reason you really need speakers when you're starting is so that your band can listen as a whole.is like, so people can all be sitting around creatively listening to the same song, right? With headphones, only one person's hearing it. Um, so that's a big problem. And another thing is you need headphones because you actually literally need them to record something like vocals. You don't want the speakers blaring into your mic.
Benedikt: Yeah, there's the necessity and of that, especially if you have, if you don't have two separate rooms, if you have a, a all-in-one sort of tracking and mixing room or like Yeah. Tracking and control room, then there's no way around headphones and yeah, like as, as we said, definitely headphones first. And the cool news is, the good news is that you can get a really, really, really good pair of headphones, including all the other things that we're gonna talk about to get the most out of these headphones.You can get them at a fraction of what it would cost to get a decent pair of monitors, plus the room treatment and all of that. So it's, it's way more cost effective and you can, you can get, get, even, get into like high-end headphones for way less than what it cost to get decent monitors. So,
Malcom: absolutely. Yeah, totally. Yeah. It's crazy to think actually, like I spent a couple hundred bucks on the headphones I'm wearing right now, and I can pull off a mix in these versus the thousands of dollars and speakers in front of me , like, it's like, why did I buy those
Benedikt: yeah, yeah. And, and thanks to to technology and like the tools we have available now, you can, there are workarounds for the, the flaws that come with headphones. Like you can, to a degree at least eliminate the problems that come with mixing on headphones and get closer to what it would be like to mix on studio monitors.So it's not even. That anymore. Like there's the, the difference between mixing on headphones and monitors is not as big as it used to be, because there are ways to, to make headphones behave more like monitors. And we're gonna talk about that too. Yeah. I, I think, I think that mixing on headphones only doesn't limit you in any way as long as you learn those, as long as you practice on those, um, it's will always be a little different than speakers, but it's absolutely doable to, um, to make great sounding mixes and, and absolutely to record with headphones.And, uh, it won't stop you from making great records if you only have headphones. So let's start with the, okay. Yeah, go ahead. What do you
Malcom: Well, I'm just thinking that you can make a record with only headphones, but I, you can't really make most records with only speaker.
Benedikt: Good point.
Malcom: Right. You kind of like headphones have to be there. So it's not really even a, an either or. You're gonna eventually want both a hundred percent. Um, but headphones still beat it out in priority.
Benedikt: Oh yeah. . Yeah, totally. All right, let's start with headphone choice. Um, and before we dive into like particular recommendations or models, there are like general, um, overall like considerations? I think so the three that I,
Malcom: should leave recommendations till the very end, just so people get all this context and then, then they kind of know what they're looking for.
Benedikt: Oh yeah, you're right, you're right. So there's three, um, things here that I think we should consider and feel free to add more, Malcolm.So the ones that I came up with that I could think of are, first of all, you wanna make a decision if you wanna have open or closed back headphones. So there are open headphones, closed headphones. We're gonna talk about what that means. Then of course, you wanna get like, do you have to buy sort of affordable cheap headphones or do you have to budget to go expensive?And is that worth it? So we're gonna talk about that. And then the third part, and that's often overlooked, is the impedance of the headphones. And that has to do with what you are plugging them into. Um, and we're gonna talk about that too. So these are the three. Overall general things, there's more, but those are the main things that I came up with.
Um, so anything add to that? No.
Malcom: I think that is, is the list, um, the most
Benedikt: comfort or, or like how they fit would be another one. Right. Depending on, I think that's different for every person. Personal preference, because you wanna be able to work long hours with those. So,
Malcom: that's, that's actually a great point. If they're not comf, because it, this does take a lot of time. , you're gonna be wearing them a lot, so if they're not comfy, it's a problem.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah. What do, what did you wanna say about that, Malcolm?
Malcom: Well, I was just gonna start out the open and closed, um, description and the, the pros and cons of each. Um, again, going from the standpoint of being a self recorded musician or band, buying a first set of headphones, I think that a closed headphone is actually what I would recommend. Um, personally, I think just because, uh, a closed headphone is going to allow less of the audio you're hearing to escape into something like a microphone.Um, and then vice versa, less of the noise around you is gonna get into what you're hearing. So it's just a more isolated experience, which I think for somebody recording themselves is worth more than say the sound improvement, sound quality improvement of what you're hearing on an open headphone.
Benedikt: I would agree. There's, when it comes to how they sound, there's pros and cons to both, um, open and closed headphones. But I think the, the pros of having the isolation, um, outweigh everything else. If you have to just pick one pair. So if you're self recording, band closed, headphones is the way to go. And that's also what I started with.Those, the first decent pair of headphones that I got was a closed pair, and I didn't regret it. It still did the right decision. Yeah.
Malcom: Yep. Now, uh, one more thing I'll add is that there's, there's often some like buyer's paralysis when making choices in gear. You're buying for your studio setup. Don't worry about being like, ah, should I have got open headphones? Like, like, uh, I'm gonna want to do mixing later in my career. You're gonna end up still needing those closed headphones as well.Like, you're, you're gonna end up with both. It's okay.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, totally. And, and you can mix unclosed ones too. So, but in general you can say clo like for tracking, definitely closed because sound doesn't get out as much and doesn't get in from the outside as much. So that's why you wanna get closed headphones for tracking. Um, example situations would be if you're in front of the mic and you're recording vocals and there's loud playback on the headphones, you don't want that in your mic, uh, but you will have it in the mic.You will have it bleed into the mic if you don't have closed headphones. So this is the one thing. And then the other thing is obviously everything around you, ex ex, like imagine you are a drummer and you wanna hear the click prop prop, uh, properly, you're gonna have a very hard time doing that with open headphones just because the kit around you will be so loud that you won't be able to hear the click, and then you have to turn it up so much and then it will bleed into the mics again.Closed headphones for sure, for tracking. Open headphones have advantages when it comes to mixing or there's like pros and cons, but a lot of people like them more for mixing because there's less, usually less distortion, but also they oftentimes have a weaker low end. So sometimes closed headphones are actually better when it comes to reproducing low end.That could be a pro or closed headphones, but highly depends on the model two. So I'd say for mixing and accuracy, I'd probably pick open headphones for tracking, definitely closed. And for an overall pair of headphones, if you just, if you can just have one, I would pick a closed pair. I, I'd say,
Malcom: I, yeah, I agree. Um, I would find that just another pro of open headphones is that I usually find that they're more
Malcom: Um, so for long hours it is nice having them, I guess.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I agree. Yeah. Okay. So that is the first decision you gotta make closed or open cheap versus expensive. Well, I think, um, there is, as always, I think up to a certain point, it makes sense to pay a little more because you get better quality when you pay more. But then at a certain point, I think the difference is not as big anymore until you get to the very high end stuff.And that is something I would, if you can afford it, go for it. But I would only recommend that for, if you're a professional mixer or mastering engineer, then yeah, go as, as, as good as you can. But I think for most people, , there is this, this, uh, threshold where, where it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay a lot more because the, the difference in quality will be, will not be super huge.Uh, it's hard to, it's hard to explain. I mean, there is this, this sup, this super high-end category that is mind blowing if you listen to it. For the most part, I think the biggest difference is between the very, very, very cheap headphones and sort of the affordable, but still, you know, like the, I don't know, three, $400 category, maybe.Something like that. I think that between the very cheap ones and that there's a big difference. And then if you go higher, you gotta make that decision, if that is worth it for you.
Malcom: Yeah, this is a little off topic, but it just popped into my head. Bluetooth headphones. You're gonna want to avoid
Benedikt: Oh yeah. Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Malcom: so, uh, people don't know this, but Bluetooth has latency that is just, you can't get around. Um, that, and there's also probably, I, I don't know this for sure, but there's probably a sound quality thing as well going with Bluetooth transmission.But, um, but latency is just unworkable.
Benedikt: Yeah, there's co there's a couple of conversion steps and compression involved in the trans, like you don't hear what, what's coming out of the door for sure if you are listening to Bluetooth headphones. Yeah,
Malcom: So wired, you're going wired,
Benedikt: absolutely. So now impedance, why does that matter? That means, so for some models like the biodynamic, um, DT seven, seven ties, I just, no, I don't have them here at the moment.I have them too. They are very, very pop probably the, at least in Europe, the most popular, um, studio headphones, they're close, they are affordable. Um, a lot of studios, almost every studio has them. Uh, it's the typical buyer headphones with the gray pads, you know, you've probably seen them. They are available in I think three, at least three different impedance, um, options.And that is because, so first of all, they sound a little different. They change the frequency response, but, and some other things too. But the main reason is that. if it makes a difference, if you plug those, whether you plug those headphones into a good headphone amp versus let's say a phone, these outputs have different impedances.Some are then also the amps built into the, those are more or less powerful. And for example, if you plug in a high impedance headphone into a weak phone headphones jack output, it might, you might end up with very quiet headphones, even if you crank the cell phone. Versus if you plug in like a low impedance headphones into that, it gets really loud.There's a sound difference too. But first of all, you wanna make sure that you get, you are able to, to get the volume that you need, and you, you are able to actually drive the headphones. Um, and, and it's, it can be that it's not possible. Like the high impedance buyers, if you plug them into some cheap laptop or phone, maybe it's not even, it's not possible to drive those headphones, really, or it's like not capable of doing that.So that's why they offer the low impedance versions of the same headphones.
Malcom: right. So, so how do people figure out what they need?
Benedikt: So if there's just one option, then you know, there's nothing to think about. But if you have multiple options, I, I think the manufacturers tell you that. So if, if you look at the buyers, for example, they even say, this is for buy this. If you use it primarily on your laptop output or your phone, buy this.If you have a good headphone amp, um, they show the difference in frequency response and accuracy. So they tell you the difference basically. I mean, when in doubt, I mean, there you go. I think I would read it. I would just look it up. Just know that. Uh, there could be, there could be different options of the same headphone.And it, it's, it's, uh, important to know the difference and to buy the correct one. And I'm saying that because I didn't know that at first. And when I first bought mine, like more than a decade ago, I just thought there's one and I bought it. And if I would've known, I would probably have gotten a, um, a lower impedance version of it.I have the 250 oms, um, which works, but back then it would be better to have the 80 OMS version. But I didn't know that. So that's why I'm saying that
Malcom: Yep. Yep. That's very good to.
Benedikt: the next thing that's important is the other components of your monitoring chain. So we have the headphones, but what you plug your headphones into is not just as important, but also very important.
So you have. A converter that converts the digital signal in your computer to an analog signal that can then be sent to the headphones. And then you have the actual headphones amp, which amplifies the very weak signal coming out of the converter into a signal that can, um, drive the headphones. And it also matches the impedance.So it's not just the, the level, but it matches the impedance. So this, these two components. Now, why does that matter for the conversion always matters with, it's not that it's super important these days to get a high-end converter because they're all good, but there's a difference between the built-in laptop converter and a dedicated audio interface basically.So it's just a better quality conversion. It's lower noise floor, it's, um, more detailed sound. But once you get to any sort of dedicated audio interface from the last, I don't know, five to 10 years that almost say, um, it's gonna be us. , right? I'm not, I don't think that it's gonna make a huge difference when it comes to conversion.What's more important is the headphone amp. I've seen like pretty, pretty, uh, drastic differences there. Um, so if I compare the built-in headphone amp of one of my small portable interfaces, if I compare that to the, um, dedicated like monitor controller headphone app that I have here, and if I compare that to my RME and to like, I have a couple different devices, they all sound completely different.There's different noise floor volume. Like there's, the power of them is different. Uh, they sound different. So I find it might have to do with impedance, it might have to do with other components, but whatever it is, there is a difference. And to me, a good headphone amp really makes a difference and is worth buying.I think. It doesn't have to be super expensive. Yeah, I don't know your opinion on this, but it become like every dedicated headphone amp that I have available, or even like the monitor controller with the built-in headphone amp, clearly beats the interface that I have. I'm not saying you could use that, but I think there is a difference.
Malcom: Right. Yeah, there's definitely a difference. Um, and some of them are really bad. Like I, I think it's been fixed, but the original roader, like, they're kind of like podcasting interface set up. The, the headphone amp on that was like, so hissy, . Um, so people thought it was recording that hiss, but it was just like, it was actually doing a good job at recording things.It just, what you were hearing if you were wearing headphones had a hiss because that amp uh, the headphone amp was just terrible. It was that that's where hiss was coming from. So that can be concerning. And have you stressed about stuff that doesn't even exist in your audio chain? Really? I think it's less of an issue at a certain.Quality bar. Um, like the, I don't mind the, the u a d headphone amps. Um, that, that's all I use. I have heard better ones. Like, uh, I've heard the, the aone, um, is it AONE or Avocet? The Avocet Monitor controller HA has just a fantastic headphone app. . So nice. Um, but, uh, yeah, I, it is, it is important, but it, for, for me, it's like, it's only important if it's really bad.Um, and if you're listening to his podcasts, you probably have other things to prioritize if as long as what you're using is good enough.
Benedikt: yeah. I'm, I'm to, I totally agree. If you have a decent interface, the converters and headphones, amps in. That will probably do. I just want to say that if you're feeling, you, you're not getting the level you want, it's not getting loud enough or it's crazy hissy, then the first thing I would change is the headphone amp.It's probably not the converters if you have an interface, but it might be a bad half phone amp in there. And that's why I would, I would, uh, I, I wanted to bring that up just so you know that you can do that. And then what you wanna do is you wanna go out of a line. Put the headphone amp in between the interface and the, the, the headphones and then use that instead of the headphone out of the interface.I just wanted to mention that, but I agree. If you have a decent modern interface, it should work. But I've, I had, I've, I don't wanna mention any brands or names now, but I I've heard interfaces that are really terrible when it comes to the headphone output compared to a dedicated one.
Malcom: Now, one advantage to maybe upgrading this is that it might give you more headphone outputs. Um, so if you go into, uh, a nice headphone amp or monitor controller, it might have multiple headphone outputs where your interface maybe only had one. So that could allow more people to be on headphones in the studio, which could be, uh, a necessary thing.
Benedikt: yeah, for sure. And I think there are even this one neat solution for on, on working on the go if there are, um, headphone usb, like, um, it's, it's what's an interface, but they, I think they just call it headphone im or headphone converters or something. There are, uh, like these small. interface is that you can plug into your laptop and then the, you plug the headphone into that and it's, it's basically just like a USB stick with a headphone output that has good quality conversion and headphone and built into it.And you can sort of bypass the, the output, the headphone out of your laptop. And I think that could be a good idea for people working on the road a lot, but they don't want to carry around the heavy interface or something. There's solutions to that too, and that is definitely worth it, I think, because unless you have, I think with the, the latest MacBook Pros, I gotta say that it's actually really decent.Their phone output works at least. So I'm, I'm kind of surprised how well that works. But you have an old, if you have an older laptop or, um, one of the more common Yeah. Consumer laptops, then it's definitely a good idea to not use that and buy one of those instead. I can't remember the name of, of the ones that are popular there, but,
Malcom: It's, uh, the audio quests dragonfly,
Benedikt: ah, dragonfly, that was the one.
Malcom: d a c headphone amp. Um, so yeah, yeah, they're, they're, they're meant to be great. I know people that use 'em and swear by 'em. Um, pretty cool little devices, but that only really works if you're not needing, you don't need an audio interface, right? So that means that you're not really recording anything.You're just, maybe if you're programming beats, um, you know, entirely in the doll and, and just, and mixing that, then it's a great buy. Um, but otherwise you're gonna need to bring an interface along anyways, I guess.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Yeah. Okay, cool. Enough of that. Now let's come to some common problems and workarounds. And these are things that everybody has to deal with and, uh, no matter what you have, and even if you have a decent headphones, um, amp and an interface and all of that, those things are things you have to solve.So let's say you pick your headphones, you have your interface, you have all of that. I, I'd say the first sort of problem that you will run into is, at least that was always a problem for me, and we kind of talked about it already in the beginning, is that it's more fatiguing on to work on headphones, especially for longer hours versus working on speakers.So you gotta find a pair that you're comfortable, um, wearing and that is, um, that you like the frequency response of, it's also a matter of personal preference. It just has to be something that you can wear for extended periods of time without, you know, being, it being too fatiguing or even painful. Some headphones are just, Painful after an hour or so.So, um, that, that I think is really important and cannot be under, um, overestimated.
Malcom: totally. And the work around here is to take advantage of those closed ear headphones that are sealing out the background noise around you, and listen really quietly.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. Which brings us to the second problem with headphones. Um, and a lot of people, I haven't actually really noticed that myself a lot, but I'm, I've probably done it too, but a lot of people are telling me that they keep turning up the volume when they mix or record on with, with headphones, they start quiet, but then they gradually turn it up, turn it up, and turn it up, and eventually it, they will work very loud on headphones.I don't know why that is. I don't, I feel like I don't do that as much, but a lot of people told me that this is a problem, that they just, for whatever reason, always want to crank. The headphones. And what that does is you are like, what you're hearing is gonna be less accurate. So because you know, the way we hear, we perceive things, changes with the volume and it's, it's gonna be more fatiguing.It's can, can even be damaging to you hearing all of that. So there is advantages to keeping the monitoring volume consistent and low enough. But for whatever reason people tend to mix louder on headphones. I don't know if you have thoughts on this, Malcolm, but this is what a lot of people have told me.
Malcom: um, the theory I have for why that is, is because of the lack of context with the other volumes. So the only thing you're hearing is what's in your head. And, uh, you don't have, like, if somebody was, that's why people yell when they, uh, have headphones on . They don't have that context of what volume is anymore.So if you had one ear, slightly turned, like pulled off and there was somebody beside you and you're communicating, I bet you would find a volume that kind of works without relationship to the outside world. But when it's just you in your own world, it's really easy to. Crank it up cause it starts feeling better and better.But you will. Yeah. You will ruin the day that you crank your headphones, . You won't get good work done.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whate. Yeah, I think that makes sense. That makes total sense. And whatever it is, it is a problem and you wanna avoid that. So keep it consistent, keep it low. And if you find yourself starting to, to wanting to crank the volume, maybe just take a break and then come back with some fresh ears and context and rest it and all of that.
You just wanna avoid the long hours with very loud monitoring on headphones. Um, so yeah.
Malcom: Little pro tip.
Benedikt: yeah. Mm-hmm.
Malcom: Um, is if you, yeah, little tip is if you find a spot that is like working for you and it doesn't seem too loud and you manage to work a long time with that and it's self comfortable, make a note of where your headphone volume controller, um, is set so you just can get back to that spot and just try and make yourself, force yourself really to just stay at that one spot.It'll get easier and more familiar every time you work at that same volume. Um, so for me, I've got a little, a little r like, I haven't actually marked it, but I, I know exactly where, how many green lights I have to have and I try and leave my headphone volume at that.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, totally. That's, that's a great, uh, a great tip because it's really hard to, to judge that, right? Because you think it's the same volume. It just, you know, you wanna compensate for how it feels, and if you have the visual reference, you know that you're actually too loud. Yeah.
Benedikt: Okay, cool. Now the other thing with headphones is the frequency response.
And that's obviously gonna be different from model to model, but in general, I'd say that a lot of headphones, especially the more affordable ones, are tuned to sound nicer or, um, you know, more high-fi whatever. There's a lot of headphones. It's very typical for a lot of headphones to have a low end boost and a top end boost, which makes them sound more expensive, more high-fi.Um, so. Don't expect, even if you buy a good pair of headphones, don't expect them to be flat out of the box. They have their own frequency response. It's gonna be very different from model to model. And most headphones, I think have a, definitely a low end boost and some sort of presence boost most in most of the timing combination with a dip somewhere else on the top end.So oftentimes the harsh stuff is sort of queued out a little bit and the silky smooth stuff is boosted. So, for example, with my buyers, they have a very, very pronounced like ver upper, like the, the really upper highs like 10 K plus is like super bright. And you know, high hats are crazy loud and it's like really almost thin sounding because there's such a, um, top end boost.But then the 5, 6, 7, 8 k sort of lower treble or upper mid-range stuff is like, there's a, a dip there to make it less harsh. And then there is a low end boost that makes it like fuller in the low end. And you just gotta know what your headphones sound like. And. With a lot of headphones. It sounds nicer than it actually is what you're working on.Right. So that's, that's a challenge. And you gotta be aware of that.
Malcom: Yeah. Um, it's a hard thing to tell, like give a solution for, uh,
Benedikt: we'll get to that. I think,
Malcom: okay, okay.
Benedikt: I mean, there's soft resolution. Yeah,
Malcom: yeah, there's software solutions, but as far as like, Knowing, like not having that software solution I like, it's really boils down to an experience thing. Um, you'll, you'll come to learn cuz you'll, you'll be able to sense that same thing happening to anything you listen to.Right. Um, and then yeah. It, it's a hard thing to explain, but it does get better.
Benedikt: Referencing is key. I think.
Benedikt: The, I think the problem that other people have is that they, in their, when they listen to music, um, just for, you know, uh, for, for fun, they often oftentimes don't carry around the big studio headphones. So they listen on AirPods or something else, or they listen to the car and they, the only time they listen on their studio headphones is when they work on their own music.And I think to really learn those headphones, you should spend some time listening to other stuff and not just while you're recording, I mean, that helps referencing while you're recording and mixing, but just sit down every once in a while and listen to, to random stuff on Spotify or YouTube for an hour, or your playlist on the computer or something.But just really learn what music sounds like on those headphones. And I think that that's a challenge. And I do that same thing too. I have great headphones, but when I, when I'm on the go and I listen to something, I use my, my Apple AirPods things, you know, and I, I don't use these, so I have to intentionally put these on and listen to music to really get to know what they sound like.
Malcom: One of my favorite, uh, mastering engineers, Brad Blackwood of Euphonic Masters, he primes himself like every day. So he goes into the studio and throws on a playlist, and it's like all, you know, great sounding mixes and masters that are professionally released and successful. And, and those are just there where he kind of gets set up and, you know, whatever, and then starts working and it's like his brain is like calibrated to this quality all of a sudden, you know, it's so smart.
Benedikt: Yes, and I, I totally do that, but only with speakers, if I'm honest, because I can have the speakers on in the background while I'm setting up. I can, like, even when I clean up the studio, I always have the speakers on, and that really helps. Just having it on in the background trains my brain to, to know what it sounds like, but I don't run around with the headphones on in the studio.So you would have to intentionally sit down, put 'em on while you do other things. But yeah, that's a, that's a great tip in general, and you should totally do that if the headphones are your only choice. Maybe while you do, maybe you have some while you're doing backups or you have something that, that you do on the computer that you don't have to think a lot about, uh, where you can have music in the background, put the headphones on, listen to stuff while you're doing that.Yeah. Okay. Then we talked about volume already. Then another problem, and I think we addressed this on the show before too, and this is also something very common, is that. Let's say you have just the headphones and the interface and no sort of software that corrects that. What I'm, I'm gonna talk about, uh, what I'm gonna be talk, talking about.Now, if you have just the headphones the way they are, you're not gonna have crosstalk between left and right. So when you listen on speakers, both of your ears hear both speakers, you know, you can, there's still, you know, the difference between your left and right ear. But if you cover one ear, the other he ear still hears both speakers so you, there's no clear separation between left and right on headphones.You have one speaker attached to your one ear and another speaker attached to the other ear, and that creates a totally different stereo image and a different center of the image as well. And what that leads to is oftentimes, Stuff that's on the sides, like hard pan guitars tends to end up being quieter than it should be, and the center tends to be louder than it should be in people's mixes because you can hear the stuff on the side so clearly on headphones that you think it's loud enough.You can clearly hear the one guitar and clearly hear the other guitar on the other side, and you turn up whatever is in the center because you think that's a great balance when in reality the center can be a lot quieter and the sides can be a lot louder. It just seems overly wide and, and, um, yeah, and, uh, yeah, like that be just because the speakers are directly attached to your ears.It's hard to explain, but I've heard a lot of mixes and I've made that mistake myself for a while where, uh, the sa the center is just way too loud. The kick, the snare, the vocals, the bass is way too loud and the guitars are way too quiet when people mix on headphones. So if you're not compensating for that through some, some software, then you gotta be aware of that and just, again, reference a lot.
Malcom: Yeah, referencing as, as, that's for me. Uh, every time when I first got these headphones, I would listen to something on Spotify and it's like, wow, that snare is not far forward when I have these headphones on, and I gotta be used to that. I gotta be okay with it. Um, and so, yeah, it, it's totally a trick.And like, like you said, it's, it's something I see all the time. Um, for headphones mixes, it's like, oh, they, they weren't compensating for that, that change in the imaging.
Benedikt: Totally. Yeah. Before I'm gonna explain my thoughts on the next one. I wanna ask you, Malcolm, did you have, did, do you notice a difference in how you apply reverb or ambience or other kind of wide or, or deep sounding effects when you work with headphones versus speakers? Is there a difference?
Malcom: Hmm. Slightly, uh, . So a lot of reverbs aren't, Uh, how do I, I don't even know actually how to technically explain this, but if you send a motto signal that's maybe panned hard, right into a stereo reverb, often that reverb will recreate reverb, but out of the left and right speaker, so you've got an instrument panned one side in your mix, but the reverb for it is coming out of both speakers.It's like not, don't, yeah. Again, I don't know. There's probably a technical term for that, but some, some reverbs do compensate for that. And if you panned, sent just a hard right signal into that reverb, it would only come outta the right side of that, but a lot of 'em don't. Um, and with headphones, that sounds pretty weird to me.if it's on its own, if it's in a mix of other instruments, it doesn't matter to me. But if it's like a guitar starting a song and there's just the reverb signal coming outta the, the left side, but the guitar is hard panned, right. that sounds really weird for me, where with I take off the headphones and hear that sounds totally normal.So, so that's really the only thing that comes to mind of how reverb sound different with headphones to me.
Benedikt: Okay. That example is actually a pro, in my opinion, like, uh, an argument for headphones because it's, I
Malcom: yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Benedikt: things. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're totally right. I think that's a perfect answer, but I think that's actually, uh, an argument for headphones because you might miss those things if you mix on speakers.
Sometimes it's also, sometimes I wanna do that intentionally. Sometimes I add a touch of stereo ambience to a hard pan guitar, because it's also, to me, sounds always, some always sounds really weird on headphones. If it's just hard pan and nothing's on the other side, then it sounds like you're deaf on one ear.So I often don't want that too. And you could bring in the guitar slightly for that part. That's one solution. Or you could add a stereo, some sort of stereo information, like an ambience, a very short reverb that just adds a little bit on the other side and all of a sudden it's still hard pan, but it's not like your deaf on one ear.So I like to do that, but it's way. to, to dial that improperly on headphones versus speakers. Because first of all, the whole thing just o only happens on headphones. It's not even weird on speakers. And second, um, on, on, if you apply a stereo reverb to the Har Pan thing, you will probably turn it up too loud on speakers and on headphones you will hear how quiet it actually can be to do the job.Um, so yeah, totally. I, I totally agree. And that's an argument for headphones. But I struggle with reverb sometimes when I'm mixing on headphones for a different reason. And maybe it's the same reason, but it's a different phenomenon. So what I struggle with is I mix on headphones and I think my vocal reverb, my snare plate, whatever I use, is totally fine and like the right amounts of everything, and it just works.
And then if I turn, if I put down the headphones, listen on speakers or listen to the car, everything's boned dry because. , I just apply way more river when I'm on speakers compared to when I'm on headphones. Just because you hear it's so detailed that I always think it's too much on headphones. Like the tiniest bit becomes obvious to me.And I always, I'm always afraid almost to add enough of the effect enough of the river because I can hear it so clearly and it sounds so wide and ambient and, and long and whatever, immediately versus on where on speakers. Even in, in my treated room, that is pretty dry. I don't add, uh, uh, I'll add much more of it to make it sound good.And then, yeah, so I, I sometimes struggle with that in a, in an untreated room it's the opposite. And it's better on headphones because,
Malcom: I was just gonna
Benedikt: because in a, in an untreated room, you're gonna have so much room information just coming from the room while you're listening to it, that it sort of masks the actual ambience present in the recording.So you end up adding way too much and it like, Because you're fighting the, the natural reverb in the room. Uh, and then on headphones you get the accurate picture. But for whatever reason, my scenario, if I mix on headphones only and then listen on speakers, it's almost always too dry for my taste.
Malcom: Interesting. Yeah, I, I don't know. I, I should probably watch for that. I don't feel like it's something that's been an issue for me. Um, but I do know that I've had people, uh, send me mixes that have had that problem. Um, but in both ways, like an untreated room of speakers, and it sounds like it's very reflective, so they think it's wet enough and they don't add
Benedikt: Okay. Okay. Yeah. That can also be the
Malcom: Um, or, or vice versa. Like it's almost just a mindset thing. Um,
Benedikt: True. It can go both ways.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. It, it totally can go both ways and I think monitoring volume in those situations plays a huge part of it too. Yeah. Just, you gotta be careful. Of course,
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. I think main takeaway is compare. I mean, just, just make sure that, um, just be aware that it's different. It's probably different, especially if you are in a less than ideal room, and most rooms are not perfect, so, or no room's perfect. So, um, just be aware of it and compare the headphone mix on, like listen to that on speakers too.Listen to that on other devices, and then find the perfect balance. I'd say just be aware that it, that it's likely to be different on your headphones versus your speakers. I think that's the
Malcom: I, I think people getting started have a tendency to over reverb anyways. It's, it, it takes a certain amount of comfort level to like, get, be okay with a dry ish , like vocal sound, for example. Um, so, so definitely pay like extra attention if, if you're new to the game.
Benedikt: Cool. All right. And then, um, this next one is sort of. Yeah, kind of. It's kind of part of that is I feel like on headphones I'm getting easily distracted by pretty irrelevant details. Sometimes when I should focus on a very important EQ decision or balancing decision, I might notice some pick scratch noise or whatever on one side of the headphones, and that's sort of distracts me.And then I go down that rabbit hole and try to fix that when it's actually maybe not even a problem, instead of focusing on what's really the problem. Because all of those tiny details are so obvious on headphones and you can totally ignore them on speakers, better at least. And I get a lot of, a lot of times when I work with with people that I mix for.and I, I can almost always tell when they're only checking it on headphones because that's when I get revision requests. Like there is this at like 1 47, there is this pick scratch noise on this one lead guitar note. Can you please tame that? Or whatever. Or there is this, whatever sound that I didn't maybe even notice while I was mixing because it's like it wasn't irrelevant to me.And I can tell that they are listening on headphones and they are focusing on all these tiny little details that you could also consider ear candy. And actually good for the record. But other people think it's like bad and they wanna fix everything. But if they catch those details at all, it's probably because they listen on headphones and they really focus on all those tiny details when in this is most likely not the most important thing about the
Malcom: Yeah, it, it's funny cuz I, in reality, that's how nobody's gonna be listening to your song. Nobody . You're not gonna release a song and somebody's gonna like go grab their hi-fi headphones and find a quiet room and sit down and crank it.
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly.
Malcom: Like, that's not gonna happen. They're gonna be driving in a car and there's gonna be an engine and traffic noise and stuff like that and all of that stuff.It doesn't play, um, in, in reality or, you know, a lot of people listen with headphones of course, nowadays, but they're still, they're, they're people listen to music while they do things. They, it's a passive activity. Um, so
Benedikt: and, and they listen to the music, not the recording. They're listening to the music, not the recording, not the noise and, and those things, you know, so, yeah. Yeah. But the also the opposite, um, is also true. That is also an argument for headphones sometimes, because if you, for example, if you're editing and you wanna make sure that you don't miss any clicks and pops and you get the cross phase right, and all of that, then headphones are really good for that because of that same reason, because you might miss those, those clicks and those artifacts on speakers, but you clearly hear them on headphones.So there are some audio tasks that are almost impossible on speakers, but, but easy on headphones.
Malcom: Yeah. Before we started this podcast, my last studio space was in like a, I lived in like pretty much a tiny home, so I had a fridge like five feet away from where I was working. Like a full fridge that would just, you know, boot up and that hum would come on. And if you're doing very tedious, low level, uh, editing, that's, that's masking that noise, that noise floor.Um, so headphones, close headphones, throw those on, and that would, Be my solution for if I really needed to hear, like if there's like, like a click track just hidden in the background there that I think could come up later. I need to clean up those spots kind of thing. Um, headphones were the only way for me to work in that situation with a fridge right beside me.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. And I think even in the quiet studio, there are some things that I clearly hear on headphones, but I have a hard time spotting on my good monitors, so some very subtle clicks and stuff. It's just easier to, to hear that on a, on a headphones, I think. Um, but yeah, so pros and cons to that as well.You just gotta be aware of the difference, um, that it makes, and. now, the story you just told about the fridge, uh, this brings us to the next point there. The outside noise floor around you, of course, matters more on speakers because yeah, it gets directly masking what comes outta the speakers, but I feel like it's very cool that you added this point here, because depending on the type of headphones you have, it can be really weird sometimes because you think, you hear only what's coming outta the headphones when in reality something outside is happening and you don't realize that this is outside and you think it's part of what's coming outta the headphones.At least that's how I interpret that point here. But I had this sometimes where I was fighting something and I, I, it drove me nuts because I didn't know how to fix it until I figured out it wasn't even in the mix. It was coming from the
Malcom: Yeah. . Yeah. It's totally unrelated or, yeah, and like those noises can mask like frequencies entirely. Like low end can really be a problem mixing if you're in like a, a environment that has a low rumble. Um, uh, so my, my favorite story of falling for this mistake was taking a mix on the road with my laptop.This is years ago, like 2015 or 14 or something. Um, so I just headphones straight into the laptop. I'm just gonna make it work. And I was touring with my band Band of Rascals, which by the way, our intro music is my band. I don't think we ever really mentioned that Um, but yeah, if you've heard the podcast, you've heard some of my musicUm, but yeah, so I was on tour with them. We toured in an RV and we have to take a ferry to get off Vancouver Island where we live, to go on tour anywhere. Uh, I would just stay in the RV and mix, um, sitting in the RV and fairies are very loud. Um, and so it's just like this low kind of noise constantly. And I tried to do, uh, a mix while I've taken this, you know, hour and a half long ferry ride and I was like, nailed it, finished it.And it was like the worst mix I've ever done. , like when I heard it without that noise floor, like shit was wrong. Everything was wrong. It was like, oh wow. And it was so loud. I remember having this huge headache when I was done because I just cranked my headphones to try and get like past that, which introduces more problems like distortion and not being able to tell levels and stuff.
It was horrendous
Malcom: It was one of the few times that I just deleted it and started over.
Benedikt: Yeah. I think a ferry is pretty much as bad as it gets. I was thinking about, you know, mixing on a plane or a train or
Malcom: I've tried the plane too. The plane never works.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah. That, that's, that's for various reasons. It's very tricky. Uh, the elevation, the noise, all of that like plays into that. But I think a ferry is pretty much as, as, as bad as it gets when it comes to
Malcom: I, I think people that haven't been here have ideas of what fairies are, but our ferry is essentially like a cruise ship. Like it's massive
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and the tricky thing is it's probably subtle when you have the headphones on, but, but then not subtle enough . So it's like, yeah. Yeah, I can totally see that. Yeah. So, uh, takeaway is that even like, yes, you can work from anywhere with headphones on, but you still gotta be aware of your surroundings and know that headphones are not gonna eliminate that completely or isolate you from that completely.And it's very important to pay attention to that stuff and know that it not only masks, like it's not only audible and distracting, but it can actually mask and almost cancel out things in your headphones. And when you listen in the quiet spot, it, things are completely off, as you said.
Malcom: Yeah, totally. Um, now to give some context for this, uh, so people aren't overthinking this, um, like, like anybody with a 2016 MacBook has a fan problem,
Malcom: better piece of crap computers, I hate it. Uh, that, but like you can still work with that fan noise. Don't, don't worry about it. Um, you just gotta, what we're saying is optimize as best you can, if you can work in a quieter space, do so.Um, if you can't, you just gotta make it work. Of course, it's not as much of an issue, uh, for things like editing or, or recording necessarily, especially if it's deed instruments. Um, but for like, uh, another example, I've got a washing machine upstairs for my studio. I can do 99% of my work with that thing running because my studio is really well insulated.Um, but if I'm mastering, I just wait for that load of laundry to be done. And because it matters for me in that context. But otherwise, I, it's not gonna stop me.
Benedikt: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Yeah. Okay. So now what can you do about those things? I mean, mainly be aware of them. Um, try to work in the quietest possible environment you can. And if it's not quiet, then be aware of what's happening around you and always double check and stuff. So just know about these things that we've been talking about right now.Also, the, the, um, specific character characteristics of your para headphones and then those general problems, common problems that all headphones share, sort of. But then there are some workarounds that help you with at least some of those things. We can't do anything about the noise, basically. I wouldn't recommend noise canceling headphones or anything like that for mixing.They are completely screwing up the, the frequency response and most of the time they're Bluetooth or consumer speakers anyways, or headphones. So that's, I think it's not a good, good option. And if I. , if I do that on my apple, um, headphones, it works well. But the, the amount, first of all, these are not mixing headphones, but also it's pretty fascinating how much the sound changes when you turn on the noise canceling.
So don't even think about that, I think. Um, but there are things you can do to prevent some of the things or the, to prevent some of those problems or to find workarounds for them. Uh, and those are software solutions, modern software solutions for those problems. So first is the frequency response of your headphones.
This is, I think, the easiest one. It's not so easy in a room. There are ways to do that too, but in a room and speakers, there's a lot, like the room will be bad if it's a bad room and. Compensation can only go so far. But with headphones it's actually pretty easy because you, you can take the room out of the equation and you just have to correct the frequency response off your headphones.
It's not gonna turn them into high-end headphones because there's transient response and all of those things. But it's gonna, you, you are able to create a flatter, uh, response, uh, pretty flat response actually, and get a more accurate listening environment that way. And I think the most popular solution for that is Sona Works reference id.
It's a program that, um, you install on your computer and there's a headphones only version, and then there's one with a measurement mic where you can also calibrate the, the speakers. And what that program does is you, you tell the program which headphones you, you're using, and then it has for both of the common mixing headphones, it has.
Presets profiles built into it. And then you just, you tell the program which he pair of headphones you're using, you pick the profile for that, and then it compensates for the inaccuracies and flaws and the frequency response. And you can make it entirely flat or you can mix it and go sort of in between.
You can correct it just a tiny amount. You can change the overall behavior a little bit, but if you want to, you can make it just as flat as possible. And then you don't have this, uh, these things anymore that I, I was talking about before where you have the base boost and the highs, uh, boosted and the upper mid-range dip and all of that, you can compensate for that.I have to say that if I do that with my buyers, for example, The first time I did it, I was shocked because I thought it sounds way worse than without it. And I was like, why do people like that? I can't, like why? What, what's behind this? But then I gave it a try and I, I, I, um, yeah, I stuck with it and I listened to a lot of music on it, and I made mixes and then all of a sudden, I mean, I got used to it, but then also I realized the value and I realized how mo, how much more honest everything sounded with the calibration and how much better everything sounded on the headphones compared to how good it actually was, without the compensation.So, um, when you first turn it on, it sounds way worse in my opinion. And then you gotta get used to it and then you'll find, you find out about the benefits. I
Malcom: Y y yeah. It, it hurts because like, the truth is, the truth is ugly
Malcom: that's what's happening. It's, you're hearing it more accurately. So it's like, well, you may think that's less pleasant sounding. That's really what's actually happening there. Um, or, or more closely. So, uh, yeah, the truth hurts.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. So Sono Works, reference id. Um, I, I think there's a, a trial for that probably. So just go to their website. It's not, not an affiliate link or anything. Just go to their website, see if you can try it out and, um, test it with your set of headphones. And I really recommend this for most people. I think with speakers, I'm more careful recommending it because I think you should treat your room first and all of that.But with headphones only, I think it's a good idea for most people. So just try it out.
Malcom: agree. I do not mix or master ever without reference id, but I do not track with it. Benny, I know that's different between us just cuz of our workflow, but I do wanna mention that like it is totally one of my top tools. Love it to death. Won't work without it, but I am totally happy to track without it.That's because I generally think I know what I'm doing and know what I'm hearing and can make guesses to if what I'm hearing is at all accurate while tracking. Um, and if I had the workflow you had, Benny, I totally would track with it.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, I could totally see that. I use it for everything because of two reasons. First of all, I have Cubase and there's the control room where you can insert the plugin on the monitoring path only, and then you can just forget about it. So, um, you cannot accidentally leave it on the mixed bus like you, that gets the case in with other dos.Uh, so I just have it there and I never think about it, and I just switch between the profile for my speakers and the profile for my headphones. That's it. So that's one, uh, part of the reason. But the other reason is I just like consistency. I like to listen to my headphones. One way. Basically, I want to hear them with the calibration.And I don't wanna, I, I just wanna train my brain to know exactly what these headphones sound like with calibration. And if I go back and forth between calibration on and off, I'm afraid that I don't know, that I don't really learn them as well, if that makes sense. So it's the same reason for if I listen to YouTube or Spotify, whatever, on my speakers in the studio, always have the calibration on.
I don't do it without it because everything, even if I'm listening to online courses or spoken word, everything that's coming outta my speakers on my headphones should always sound exactly the same so that I can really learn what that setup sounds like. That's why I don't like turning it on and off, but I can totally see, if I was on Pro Tools or some other system that made it more complicated, I would probably not do it while tracking, um, as well.
Malcom: Right. Yes. Um, yeah, I guess the main reason again for me is that when I do record, which very rare these days, I'm not in my studio.
Benedikt: Oh yeah. Then,
Malcom: so it's not like I'm not gonna spend the time to like analyze their studio and set up Sona works kind of thing. So it's just a reality for that. Um, now I will say though, I think you should try leaving it off and doing some Spotify.
I think these little context checks are have helped me. Hear better what it is doing. And then thus helped me be able to like, pick up inaccurate results elsewhere. , like I feel like, I honestly feel like I can go into another studio, throw in a mix that I know well inside this, this room, and be able to tell what their room is doing pretty well.
Um, so it, it, it can be a good learning curve, turning it on and off, I guess is what I'm saying.
Benedikt: yeah. You're, you're right. Yeah, you're right. You're right. Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Okay. But, uh, so, but anyway, very, very valuable tool. Um, For mixing, absolutely recommended for tracking. Maybe not necessary, but in general, I think, yeah, almost a must have these days. So, so works. Second option here is Slate.Vsx. Vsx is something you probably heard of. It's by Slate. Is it by Slate Digital or is it by Steven Slate? Um, the two companies, anyway, something by Slate. Um, VSX is the, the thing, and it's a pair of headphones combined with a software that they've developed. And the difference to Sono works is it doesn't calibrate your headphones.You have to buy their headphones and it doesn't calibrate them to be just flat, but it simulates mixing rooms. So you can be like, I wanna mix in. The control room of that famous studio, or I wanna check what it sounds like in a car, or I wanna check what it sounds like in a music club or whatever. Or on, on earbuds or, I don't know.They've modeled different listening environments, control rooms, real life situations, and they do a pretty good job with at that. So I've, I've tried it and I've found it pretty impressive. So it kind of, it adds the crosstalk that you're missing on headphones. It adds the room information, it adds the response of the speakers.So it's not accurate, like with Sona works, but it's more like sitting in a room and it's, it's so good that you kind of, if, if the hot headphones are comfortable, you can kind of for, I mean, and I think they're comfortable. It's like a personal preference of COR of course, but I think they're pretty comfortable.And I think, um, I've not had them on for a long time, but I got to a point where I almost forgot that I had headphones on, which is pretty impressive. So it sounds like you're in a room, but. , I still recommend Sona works over slate most of the time when I'm working with students in the coaching, for example, because it's also super confusing to me because I think it's way better to have a pair of headphones that you know really well that are calibrated where, you know, this is an accurate, um, monitoring situation.One that you can trust, one that has no room information, one that is like, um, flat and accurate, and you can learn it pretty well. And I think this is way better than having all the options in the world, including all the flaws and inaccuracies, because unless you really know what you're doing, because this can be so confusing, like, how do you know?At least to me it was like, I don't know how to explain it. I mean, I, I think I could handle it because I kind of know what I'm doing. At least I would hope to think so, but. , but I, I can see it be totally confusing if you switch between different track, uh, like control rooms, everything sounds different.Nothing sounds really perfect and accurate. You don't know what to trust, and I just prefer to have one accurate reference versus all of these options. That's my take on it if you pick. Yeah, and, and if you, I mean, if you are disciplined enough to just pick your favorite mix room on the slate system, stick to that.And every once in a while, check it on other systems. Good. That can work as well. But I've talked to a lot of people who are constantly, every day switching through, recycling through 10, 15 rooms and then not knowing anything anymore because they don't know like, what should I, what should I trust? Like, is this accurate?Is this accurate? Am I somewhere in the middle? You know, so.
Malcom: To give a theoretical example that explains your train of thought is that I would have a much easier time mixing a song in my little studio here where I am right now compared to like Abby Rhodes, which is obviously an amazing studio where amazing records have come out of. I know this room, I don't know that room.
It doesn't matter that that's a nice giant fancy room. Uh, it's just that I know this one. Um, so that, that kind of, I think, explains why that is. Um, but the other thing that happens when you have all these options that you can just flick through is that you're gonna be mixing and then you're gonna flick through and be like, Hmm, that one doesn't sound good.
I'm just gonna keep going until something tells me that I'm doing it right. and one of them will make your mix sound better and you'll be like, great . But in reality, you just had a bunch of other profiles tell you you have problems.
Benedikt: Yeah. Totally. That's a great point. I didn't even think about that. But you're looking for confirmation and that's, that's the same thing that happens when people ask a lot of people for feedback, is oftentimes they don't really want the feedback. They just ask often enough until somebody says their mix is great
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. And another reason to be careful choosing the songs you reference with, like choose ones that you know sound good. If you compare your song against them and your song doesn't sound good, don't just go looking for another reference. Track . Like, you just gotta look it in the face and be like, all right, I gotta keep working.
Benedikt: Yeah, for sure, for sure. So I'm not bashing slate by the way. Like I think this, this, it is a phenomenal product. It's impressive. It sounds great. I think it's just very dangerous. And when in doubt I would just pay the a hundred bucks for Sona Works by a decent pair of headphones. Really learned that. Um, versus investing into that system.
It's not crazy expensive too, but I just, it's my personal preference. That's all I'm gonna say. It's not a bad product. Not at all. But I think it's dangerous. And I would rather have one pair of headphones with Stoneworks,
Malcom: Yeah. I, I'm personally in that boat too. But yeah, we're, it's definitely a good set of headphones. Like I know people that use it and I totally respect their,
Benedikt: Yeah. That being said, that if you prefer the way speakers sound and you just can't handle the typical flaws with that, come with headphones and all those challenges we've been talking about. Then it might be your product. I can deal with that. I can handle that. So I'm fine with headphones and Sona works, but if you want the crosstalk, if you want the slight room information, all of that, then slate all the way.Um, personal preference, I guess.
Benedikt: Yeah, so another product is d o v D of v r I think this is what, it's what, what you pronounce it. This is, uh, this comes included with my plugin alliance bundle that I have. It's by a company called, what is it called? Deere something, deer Reality. And the plugin is called D of Vrr.It's similar, um, it's not, not as fancy looking, but I mean, yeah, also quite, quite impressive. Don't give, doesn't give you as many options, but you can simulate a room, basically. You can just say midfield, nearfield, main monitors. Um, you can dial in the amount of room information, crosstalk and all of that.And it just, um, tries to eliminate the problems with headphones and makes it sound more like a room period. It's just an alternative program. You'd have to try it and see if you like it works great. Um, then there's another one that's called d uh, real Phones by Des Sonic. This is also very similar. It calibrates.I mean, with that I think you can completely. , you can do the Sono Works thing. At least that's what it I, what it told me when I briefly tried it. So you can, um, pick a pair of headphones and then calibrate it and, and, and even out the frequency response. And it can also do the slate thing where you can choose between different studio environments.So it's kind of, it kind of can do both. I didn't spend enough time with it to be able to tell if it's as good as those other options, but something you might wanna look into. I just discovered it and thought, uh, was at least an interesting product because. It's sort of best of both worlds. Um, or like, not best of both worlds, but can do both things.I don't know if it can do it equally good. And then there is another thing, and that's called can opener. Can opener Studio by Good Hertz. And this one is a really interesting product because what this one does is it doesn't simulate a room, it doesn't simulate, it doesn't do any sort of yeah, emulation or any sort of, um, processing per se.But what it does is you can dial in an amount of crosstalk between the two. Um, speakers of the headphones, like cross feeded. Um, without the room stuff, it's just a little bit of crosstalk. Uh, you can adjust the angle, sort of like it, it simulates speakers, but without all the room stuff, it's just that it makes it sound like it's coming from the front rather than from the sides.And it, it adds a little bit of crosstalk. You can eq it manually a little bit. If your speakers have too much base or too much trouble, whatever. You can eq that a little bit. Uh, you can adjust the left and right balance a little bit if you feel like it's leading to one side, so you can correct your headphones manually.A little bit. Couple of really cool options there. It has some smart features like the soft star time, which is really cool if you enable that. Uh, it, it always, whenever you hit play, it fades in the volume, which prevents like these annoying bursts of, of volume. When, when you have a singer in the, in the, um, the, the booth for example, uh, it's very.
It sometimes can be very annoying for them to hear those outbursts of transients when you accidentally hit play or something. So it has the soft start thing that's, that can be really pleasant, stuff like that. So it's a, uh, a really cool, simple but really cool pro, uh, product that eliminates some of the headphones problems without adding the, the problems that come with all of the other features like the room simulation, because that's obviously not, uh, without artifacts as well.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. The, I like just love, now that you've explained what that plugin is, the name can opener is so good,
Benedikt: yeah, to Totally, totally. And I, I really, um, that's one thing, one product that I can really recommend and I think everybody should, should at least try it because yeah, it has a lot of smart features. Like also like this rings in there, you can, the, the, um, have an output and it's just a couple of small, uh, smart features and, and.
The crosstalk alone and the amount you can dial in all of that. So yeah. That's really cool. These are some products that we have on our list here that we just wanted to mention because these give you workarounds. If you are limited to headphones but you want the, the, the pros and you don't want the cons as much, then these software solutions can help you with that.
And in my opinion, a decent pair of headphones combined with either one of those solutions, um, is absolutely enough to make great sounding mixes and recordings.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That's, that's again, why we're so pro headphones, um, as a priority is because like, you know, a matter of hundreds of dollars, you have something that can give you professional results. That's pretty crazy.
Benedikt: Yeah, to absolutely. Now, what are some models, before we wrap this up, Malcolm, what are some models of headphones that we can recommend
Malcom: Yeah. So again, we, we left us to last just so you could have all of these contexts and problems and, and all that and solutions in your mind and kind of think, okay, I could see that being an issue for me versus, uh, you know, somebody else. Everybody's got different, everybody needs something slightly different, you know.Uh, so for me, if it's a closed he phone and it's your first set of headphones, I'd recommend the audio Technica, A T h M 50 X. You've probably seen them everywhere. They're probably the most over here. They're easily the most popular. For, for music recording period. Uh, and then for closed headphones. And by the way, they're like 200 bucks Canadian.So really affordable. It's awesome. Um, and then, uh, for open ear headphones, uh, the Sennheiser HD six 50. Uh, I'm just gonna literally take off my headphones and make sure that's actually the model number It is. Yep. That's what I'm wearing right now. Uh, so they're open. Um, they're actually pretty sealed for an open back headphone compared to others.I find, like I record this podcast with them where I wouldn't, with my grado open ear headphones cuz like my voice would literally be just as loud as my talking voice
Malcom: Um, so, so they, they, they're fine for that kind of stuff, but, uh, they sound fantastic. Lot of great mixers mix on them. Um, they're, they're almost an industry standard.I would.
Benedikt: I think within the category of like affordable, um, headphones, like not the very, very high end ones. These are the most linear ones out there still to this day. Like if you look at the, the measurements, the frequency response, there's no other headphones as linear as the six 50 s. Even with if you turn Sono works on, on this, on these, it's not very drastic.I the one thing that they don't have is they don't have a lot of low end. So if you engage Sono Works and calibrate it all the way, then uh, you will experience a significant low end boost on those sanden hiers compared to what they sound like without it. But other than that, they are super flat. Yeah.And so that makes 'em great, great mixing headphones and they're comfortable to wear the, so I would, for mixing, I would 100% recommend those. Um, so I'm, I totally agree with you and there is standard for a reason and yeah, the audit technicals two agreed. Uh,
Malcom: Again, 99% of the time, if you're asking me for, okay, I need to get my first set of headphones. I'm gonna recommend those audio technicals for sure.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. For me it would be those or the buyers that I have just because I know them so well and they are also kind of the industry standard. It's a personal preference between the two, I guess. So I find the buyers also to be very comfortable. They're closed. Um, yeah, everything you said about the autotech would be true for the buyers for me too.
Malcom: yeah, the biodynamics DT seven 70 Pro.
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. Biodynamics, DT seven 70 Pro. There are three different, three or four different impedances available with these, so be careful to pick the right one there. Um, these are very, very good, in my opinion. Um, also affordable. Yeah. Everything you said about the Autotech is. And then, um, I have something that's not as common, but I love them.
These are the ones that I'm wearing right now, the Olos Olo Audio, O L L O, Olo Audio. S four X is the model. This is a company from Slovenia. They're handbuilt here in Europe. They are all of wood and metal. There's no plastic in, in the, out on the outside of the headphones. It's like they look beautiful. Uh, you can repair them yourself because everything is like, um, built with tiny screws and you can open it up, order some replacement, put it in there, it's put the screws back in and then it's repaired.
It's a really, really cool concept. Um, I love how they sound for what they are and the handmade thing that they are and all of that. They are still pretty affordable, I think. I don't know the current price, but I think they're four or 500 euros, something like that. So not super cheap, but also not crazy expensive.
I really love those very transparent sounding open headphones. Oh yeah. You can change them to closed ones, by the way. So they have open plates now here, but you can exchange those for, uh, closed plates on the sides. And then there's a, an additional piece of insulation on the inside and that turns them into closed headphones.
Malcom: super cool. And again, if you're watching the YouTube stream, you can uh, see that what he's talking about there, the, they are by far the coolest looking headphones I've ever seen. I want them just because of how cool they look. I'm jealous every time I see our little podcast videos go up on Instagram or something.
I'm like, damn it. Those are awesome
Benedikt: Yeah. Uh, it, I, I truly love them and that's why I, uh, yeah, I, I was, I wanted to try them and, uh, full disclosure, like I am endorsed by them, so I have a deal. I get them a little cheaper. Um, they don't give it to me for free, but I have 'em a little cheaper, but I would've bought 'em anyways because they're su super great.Those are the Olo audios. And then I have one thing I wanted to. And this is not a recommendation if you're a self recording ban, because I don't think it's really necessary. But I wanna add it because it was so impressive when I heard these. There's a company, and please, if you know how to pronounce this properly, and if I, in case I missed it up, uh, let me know in the comments or sent me an email.I think the, the company's called Odyssey. That's what most people say here in Germany at least. Or, uh, what I've heard other people, um, say too. So Ozi, um, L LCD I think is the model of the headphones. LCD X I think. And those are super high end headphones. They are a thousand Euros plus, but they sound incredible.They sound. extremely flat. You don't need, someone works for those. They, um, they are just impressive. I don't know what else to say. I've, I've put 'em on and I was just blown away. So if you really wanna go high end and you don't plan on getting monitors and you just wanna get the best headphones for mixing or whatever, um, I'm pretty happy with my alls.And I would say try those too, because they are, they are the more affordable option of that kind of headphones in my opinion. But if you really wanna go as good as it gets, then go get the Odys disease or try them on because they're phenomenal. I just wanna put it there because it's, it's really fantastic.
Malcom: they look pretty darn nice. I've never gotten to try them myself, but I would love to.
Benedikt: Yeah. All right, so sum it up. Audio Technica adh, M 50 s closed or biodynamics DT seven 70 Pros closed for open headphones, senders HD six 50. I can't recommend to all those enough. S four X. And then if you wanna go, super high end odd, Z. And those are our. . Yeah, those are our recommendations here. And there's, you know, tons more, but you can't go wrong with these.These are for a reason. Like the most popular headphones out there, at least the first three ones that we mentioned. Uh, you, you definitely are not wrong when you're with those, like, so. Yeah. All right. Let, as always, let us know in the comments. If you're watching on YouTube, let us know. Send us an email or go to the Facebook community if you go to the self recording bank.com/community and just post there.If you have a question about your pair of headphones or any, any struggles you have when you're mixing or recording with headphones, uh, let us know there. If you wanna add something to what we were talking about on this episode, also let us know that we always love feedback and more ideas and insights and tips and tricks.
So please reach out to us and as always, have a good one and talk to you next week.
Malcom: See you next week.
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