Headphones are of course an essential part of any studio and tracking would be near impossible without them on most occasions, but what about for mixing?
There are a few consideration to bear in mind when considering going about mixing your next masterpiece on a pair of cans, firstly, the accuracy of balanced frequency representation is a must here.
To do any serious monitoring, it is primary that the speaker of choice is no too biased in any particular area across the frequency spectrum thus allowing a true to picture of the songs relative balance which is essential to make sure your recording can be played through any system and not throw any surprises that may occur had they been mixed on a sub standard system.
Headphones both suffer and benefit from the proximity of the drivers to your ear and this can be something to look out for when choosing a good set of monitor headphones.
The upside of this is the fantastic stereo field that realises all your crafty panning work and gives such width to the soundscape, also high frequency detail is revealing in equal measure, the downside is of course the ‘feel’ of the bass. When listening to speakers the bass frequencies not only enter your ear but also pass through your body and this is also a big part of the sound you experience. To compensate for this, speaker manufacturers usually have a bass hump and also a little mid/high dip to even things out.
Because of this you should always check the bass end on a good full range system, It can be quite a shock to hear your Master on a sub-pumping system and find out that you’re going to get sued for structural damage to the building you were listening in after you subsonic bomb was dropped! Another aspect to check are the reverbs and delays, the room the speakers are in will affect the ‘space’ of the recordings quite a bit depending on the size and level of dampening.
As always, to get quality, price comes into play here when selecting a good pair of trusty ‘phones’, the good thing though is that a really good set of professional monitor headphones can be a lot cheaper than splashing out on the equivalent set of loudspeakers (not that there is such a thing as a direct equivalent…but you get the picture). Traditionally, this has been a good way of keeping your budget for mixing equipment down but still doing a great job.