Studio Gear

How to choose headphones for music production: recording, mixing & mastering

How to choose headphones for music production: recording, mixing & mastering

How to choose headphones for music production

One piece of equipment that no home studio can be without is a pair of headphones for music production. If you’re recording in a home studio, it’s likely that you’ll be using headphones for a number of tasks. Perhaps you use headphones whilst you’re tracking. Maybe you use them for mixing. Or perhaps you use them for a combination of both. This article will get you up to speed with all you need to know about headphones for music production.

Studio headphones can be broken down into two main types: ‘open back’ and ‘closed back’.

Headphones for music production: Closed Back Headphones

Closed back headphones provide isolation. So they’re great at preventing sound from escaping from the headphones into the room. They also limit sound from the room being heard by the person wearing the headphones. As such, they are ideal for recording. Take vocal tracking for instance, closed back headphones minimize the risk of the singer’s headphone mix bleeding onto the mic. This is really handy, as there’s no worse feeling than realizing that the sound of the click track has spilled onto your vocal take.

The isolation that closed back headphones provide is also really useful if you’re recording a live band with all of the musicians playing in the same room. This isolation allows the musicians the best chance of hearing the monitor mix in an otherwise noisy environment. This benefit also applies to producers who are recording a band in a space where there is no separate live room and control room. In this instance, closed back headphones allow the producer to hear the signals being captured despite being in the same room as the band.

Closed back headphones are also really handy if you mix away from your home studio on a portable rig. If you like to mix on a laptop in a coffee shop for instance, then having a pair of headphones which isolates you from the noisy environment around you is important.

Headphones for music production: Open Back Headphones

Open back headphones offer excellent sound quality which is often described as more natural, immersive and accurate than that of closed back headphones. They do not however offer sound isolation. As such, open back headphones are great for producers who are mixing or mastering in a control room type environment. That’s because in this instance, there would be no sound that the producer would need to be isolated from, or any problem caused by sound spilling out from the headphones into the room. They’re not however suited to use during tracking or by a producer who is in the same room as the band that they are recording.

Headphones for music production: Conclusion

So, what type of headphones should you use in your home studio? Well, it all depends on your individual situation. If you only use your headphones for mixing or mastering and you use them in an environment where you don’t need to worry about sound spilling out from, or leaking into, your headphones, then use open backed headphones and benefit from their high resolution sound. If however you use your headphones whilst recording, closed back are generally the way to go. The same is true if you mix music in any environment which is noisy. In both of these cases, opting for closed back headphones allows you to benefit from the isolation they provide.

What kind of headphones do you use? Let me know in the comment section below.

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