Mixing and mastering with headphones is a challenge, but this process can be easy if you use the right headphones. Headphones are commonly used by audio engineers, DJs, music producers, and audio enthusiasts.
For audio engineers, it is essential to hear the high frequencies of sounds to mix the different tracks. Headphones are also useful for sound isolation to focus on what they are listening to without being distracted by sounds outside of the headphones. These headphones are called ‘closed-back’ and are more suitable for DJs and audio enthusiasts.
Mixing music with headphones is different from mixing with speakers because it is much easier for a human ear to detect the bass frequencies in a mix through speakers, while via headphones can hear it much more clearly.
An engineer or producer must mix with headphones to listen for bass frequencies and ensure that those frequencies do not go too low and become too dominant.
Which headphone is best for mixing and mastering? Close-back or Open-back?
You should research and buy the best headphones that will help you mix. One type of headphone for this is studio monitor headphones like Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO, but others like Beats and Skullcandy might not be the right choice.
You’ll probably want to use higher-quality speakers or headphones to get the best possible mix. There’s no point in using mixing tools when you can’t hear what you’re doing correctly.
Instead, you should invest in a nice pair of open-back headphones, as these headphones are designed for mixing and mastering. Unlike closed-back headphones, which are typically for listening to music and DJ mixing.
Why do open-back headphones sound better?
Open-back headphones produce sound more accurately by allowing passed air to exit through the ear-cups. This prevents pressure and unwanted echoes within the cups, resulting in a more balanced frequency response.
Open-back headphones typically do not effectively isolate sound sources. This means that with open-back headphones, you can still hear everything going on around you. This makes them sound more natural.
The downside to open-back headphones is that they can worsen the sound quality when you’re mixing on an airplane. On the other hand, open-back headphones provide more accurate sound than closed-back alternatives.
Should you use reference tracks while mixing and mastering with headphones?
Reference tracks are used to ensure you are getting the right balance of sounds for your track. Reference tracks can give ‘advice’ on EQ balance, compression, and stereo width, which you can apply when making your mix.
Make sure to go back and forth between your mix and your reference track to make your mix sound as perfect as possible.
Check Your Mixes on Multiple Systems
It’s vital to check the mix on multiple devices when mixing with headphones. For example, test it with headphones if you hear it booming with external speakers. There must be a balanced stereo soundscape where the low-end isn’t too pronounced and the high-end isn’t too accentuated.
It’s a good idea to listen to your mix on a range of speakers like your mobile phone, a hi-fi system, and your car stereo. This will give you a better understanding of how people would hear it and what frequencies they may be missing.
Every time you hear something that needs fixing, write it down. Make notes from each listen. Sometimes, figuring out where the problem is can be tricky. Is it the sound mix, the playback system, or your listening environment?
For example, if you took the same note in more than one location, the problem is probably your mix. Go back to the studio and make any adjustments you can until it sounds perfect. Make sure you will listen again on the same systems or devices.
Mixing and mastering with headphones can be achieved these days easily. Just choose the right pair of headphones and, you are good to go.