Picking the Perfect Headphones for a Musician
Hearing is believing, especially when it comes to headphones! Every good studio needs at least two pairs of headphones, especially if you are planning to record and mix music. There are so many alluring headphones out there we thought we’d share this blog on buying the right pair for your musical setup.
Good brands like Bose can seem like a sound investment, yes they will make your music sound epic but it won’t be accurate. Say you picked up a pair of Dre Beats (god forbid) they may give your tune a ton of juicy base but it won’t be accurate.
Why go pro?
For making music you need a proper pair of professional headphones that will almost flatten your melody out. You want your pro headphones to make your music sound natural and as close to your ear as possible. You don’t need to blow your budget to get it right. Obviously, you can if you are a budding audiophile but there is a danger cos the sky really is the limit when it comes to blowing money on headphones, just Google Sennheiser Orpheus HE 1. Enough said.
So, If you’re not Bill Gates or don’t have a Lambo parked in your underground car park below your house in Knightsbridge, then here are a few considerations for your choice of headphones. This is not a de facto ‘you must go and buy these now’ review of the top 10 headphones in the world etc… we’ve got options for different budgets.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, if when mixing a tune your headphones aren’t up to snuff, you run the risk of assuming you have more base than you actually do or possibly missing the mid-range clarity. This means you will compensate when you don’t need to and you’d have no way of knowing if it sounds right. Chances are your track would be very badly mixed.
As we mentioned you need two pairs of headphones. Recording Studios use two specific types of Headphones for two very different purposes.
What’s the difference between open & closed-back headphones?
The main purpose of these types of headphones is recording.
Closed-back headphones provide good sound isolation and little or no sound bleeding out into your microphone. Some musicians recommend different cans depending on their instrument of choice. For example, A drummer once told us that Beyerdynamic’s DT 100/150 kept falling off as they’re quite heavy, so he favoured a lighter closed-back set of cans. Our in-house composer Mike uses the DT 150’s for recording… but then again he isn’t leaping around behind a drum kit too often, maybe after a few whiskies on a Friday night for our amusement.
Open Back Headphones are mainly used for mixing in the studio and by Audiophiles (sound geeks). Ideally one should use a good set of external Monitors from companies such as KRK and Genelec. However, in many cases, it’s not an option, especially in ‘volume sensitive’ home studios with angry neighbors and also most people probably don’t want to have to treat their bedroom or sitting room with acoustic foam.
Open Back can give you a much more natural and realistic sound but very little in the way of sound isolation. Personally, we think a good set of Open Studio Monitors are a wonderful thing to behold. Being able to hear every detail of your mix in ultimate clarity is something every musician needs to have in their life.
Closed-back headphone suggestions
Sennheiser HD280pro – Around £100 – Good, solid sound.
Beyerdynamic DT150 – Around £115 – Based on the Industry-standard DT 100’s of old. If you’ve been in any recording studio, chances are you’ve seen a set of these.
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro – Around the £100 mark or cheaper. Lighter and more comfortable than the above. But not as bulletproof. In my opinion, unless your a drummer, go for the DT 150s.
Sure SRH 1540 – Around £400 – Shure are well known for top-quality headphones. These certainly don’t disappoint. A higher price tag that’s definitely worth it and easily the most comfortable and best sounding closed headphones on this list.
Open back headphone suggestions
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro – Around £100 – Good performance for a good price.
Sennheiser HD 650 – Price varies but should be able to get a pair for under £300 nowadays. These have been around for over a decade for one simple reason. They’re good. Very good. Thousands of people swear by these, Audiophiles and professionals alike. Our editor also has a pair of these beauties and paired with a decent headphone amp and DAC, says they are fantastic.
Shure SRH 1840 – Around £400. Similar to the above HD 650s in sound quality. In our opinion, these are a bit ‘bass light’ and don’t quite have the sound stage of the Sennheiser’s. They are also more expensive… The opinion is divided with these ones. Our advice would be to go and listen to some in-store and make your own decision.
Shure SRH 1840
Sennheiser HD 800 – £1000 – Yup, that’s right. A thousand pounds for these guys! Are they worth it? Well, we’re now really in to the realm of diminishing returns here. Yes, these cans are very very good indeed. Are they 3 times better than the Shure’s or HD 650s? We don’t think so.
In our next blog we will deal with external Monitor as part of our series on How to Make Music: The Vital Tools You’ll Need. If you made this far enjoy the picture below of the dream headphones you could only buy realistically if you were a millionaire. Nobody needs a marble case but it would be nice, right?
Sennheiser Orpheus HE 1
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we’ve missed something out. If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for your daily dose of media, music, production & drone chat!
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