There are many benefits to mixing on headphones in a home studio. A good pair of headphones can sometimes give a more accurate picture of your audio than speakers if you are mixing in an acoustically challenging room.
Furthermore, they can be vital for making sure that your neighbors don't complain if you are working late into the night! In an ideal situation, we would combine headphones with a pair of monitors – but what if that is not possible?
In this article, we consider three mistakes that you might make when mixing on headphones and explain how to avoid making them.
Invest in a pair of studio monitoring headphones. When mixing, it is important that we listen through headphones or monitors that have the flattest frequency response possible – because we want the most accurate picture we can get of our mix.
If you are listening on headphones meant only for listening to music, the frequency response will have been deliberately colored by the manufacturer rather than for mixing it. For example, they may well have been designed to boost the bass if you bring your bass down. As a result, your mix will end up sounding too thin. Do some research and try to pick up a pair of headphones with a relatively flat frequency response – AKG and Beyerdynamic are great places to start as both manufacturers make good headphones at a range of prices.
You can also take advantage of software such as Sonarworks Reference 4, which actually redresses your 'phones' frequency imbalances to give you a more accurate picture of your mix.
The stereo field sounds much wider through headphones as the speakers are literally sitting on your head's left and right sides! In addition to this, you do not experience the 'crossfeed' of your right ear hearing the left speaker and your left ear hearing the right speaker as each ear is listening to an isolated sound source.
When mixing, keep reminding yourself that the mix has to work on speakers too – and push the stereo image wider accordingly. You can test this by listening on any pair of speakers – you don't need studio monitors to see if the stereo field is nice and wide while being well balanced – you can listen on any hi-fi speakers you gave access to.
Working on headphones is much more tiring for the ears than working on monitors. Again this is because the speakers are so close to your ears; this is a very tiring way of listening. When your ears are fatigued, it is harder to make good mixing decisions as you may not accurately assess the audio you are working on.
Therefore it is important to take regular breaks when mixing on headphones. Take a ten-minute break every hour to give yourself a 'reset'; this will keep your decision-making processes nice and sharp.
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