One thing that many recording studios, audio engineers, producers and musicians are quick to disvalue are high-quality headphones. Although many of these people consider quality headphones a somewhat glamorous purchase, choosing a high-quality set of cans is not only crucial for producing a quality product, they can also save your hearing.
Headphones undeniably have an impact on sound performance. Anyone who has spent hours in a studio with a vocalist will understand how they respond to what is being played into their ears. Singers enter a zone when singing in a studio setting, some even enter a completely different universal realm, so if you are putting tinny, distorted, low-quality audio into their ears, it’s unlikely they will hit that zone where they are most comfortable.
When a singer enters a professional space, the last thing they want is to sound like they are hearing themselves in their loungeroom. Adding effects like reverb and delay to the artist’s requirements will help achieve a better result, even if your headphones are crap. But they shouldn’t be crap, and that is the point.
Getting the most out of the artist
As an engineer, it’s your job to get the most of the artist, and the entirety of this can more than often rely on their headphone mix. Experienced artists will know what they need to exceed. If you’re not listening to them and getting impatient with the headphone mix, you’re not doing your job. Sure, there are times when you will deal with someone difficult or inexperienced, but getting the levels and mix right into their headphones will not only make their job easier but yours too, especially in post.
Headphones should be comfortable, high-quality, and have a great mix coming through them. If you can hear through your monitors what they are hearing, this will make things better overall for everyone.
Durability in a studio setting
In a studio setting, many items are expensive, fragile, and hard to replace. Headphones are one item that is handled by musicians day-in-day-out. Artists don’t consider the expense and fragility quite as much as the person who paid for them, so it’s crucial to have a durable set of cans available for the artists. Let them know exactly how you want your items treated, so there are no issues halfway through a session. Have headphone stands available so they don’t get left on the floor or hung over the top of a $10,000 microphone.
Choosing the right headphones for your studio setting
There are two things to consider when choosing headphones for your studio. What you hear, and what the artist hears.
Your headphones as an audio engineer or producer should be extremely high quality. You need to get the most out of your mix, and to this, you simply cannot use crap headphones.
“AS AN ENGINEER, IT’S YOUR JOB TO GET THE MOST OF THE ARTIST, AND THE ENTIRETY OF THIS CAN MORE THAN OFTEN RELY ON THEIR HEADPHONE MIX. EXPERIENCED ARTISTS WILL KNOW WHAT THEY NEED TO EXCEED, YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN.
The artist also requires a high-end set of phones. If you’re working with an experienced professional, they will know a bad set of cans when they hear them. Choose a brand that has a great reputation in the studio. Headphones like Beats are an absolute NO GO. Brands like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, AKG, Sony, and Shure all made the cut in the Top 10 studio headphones of 2020 on Music Critic. A great range of studio-grade headphones can be purchased through our good friends over at Guitar World.
This list includes the Sennheiser HD280 Pro, which One76 Academy swear by, and use both in our classes and in-house studio. These headphones in particular are well under the $200 mark and will last ten years + without an issue.
Headphones should never be an afterthought, whether you are recording at home or in a pro studio. Your product quality, your artist experience, and your hearing will prove the extra spend was well worth it.
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