In this article, we are finally seeing the pros and cons of music production and mixing on studio headphones and studio monitors.
And when should you prefer one over the other!
Furthermore, we will see if music mixing on headphones is better than studio speakers or is the music mixed on studio monitors is better?
Now, without any further delays, let’s dive straight in!
Can you produce music with headphones?
Yes, it is feasible and attainable to make good music with headphones only. The most important thing is to start making music during the music production phase and not worry about the following stages like mixing and mastering. For this reason, you can use almost any headphones.
However, I would recommend getting studio headphones as you can use them for music production, mixing, mastering, and tracking audio.
But are there any downsides to producing music with regular or studio headphones?
There are mainly two downsides associated with music production using headphones. The first is that music production on headphones is ear fatiguing, and secondly, you may not get satisfactory bass or low-end response from regular headphones.
You can lower the headphone volume to avoid ear fatigue, leading to an inadequate low-end response.
See how the two cons are connected!
Here’s my personal story!
In the first year of my music journey, I used to produce and mix my tracks on regular sony headphones. However, it was not recommended, but it gave me clarity on how I should spend my money.
Therefore, I spent my investment mostly on VST plugins and Production gear initially.
Once I had got hold of music production and had 22 tracks ready to be mixed, I spent my money to set up my home recording studio and got an audio interface, studio monitors, and obviously, a referencing headphone.
Can you mix using studio headphones?
Music mixing depends on many factors, and most crucial is being able to reference the same mix on different audio sets. Due to this fact, it is highly recommended by audio professionals to mix your music either on studio monitors or studio headphones, ones that have flat-frequency response.
After the first mixing is completed, you must reference your mix on different audio systems like studio speakers, car speakers, tiny speakers, and big speakers. Therefore, it is not about whether you can mix on headphones, and it is more about referencing your mix on different audio systems.
Once you find any flaws in your mix after referencing it on different speaker systems, you need to go to the mix for the another time.
Related: 32 vs 80 vs 250 Ohm Headphones
Some Pros associated with mixing on headphones are:
- You can use them anywhere,
- They are cheaper than studio monitors,
- You can listen to fine details such as pops, clicks etc.
It all boils down to personal preference. But, I recommend mixing on studio monitors for better audio monitoring and reducing your time on referencing and mixing.
In short, it is possible to mix and master studio headphones. But, you need to have different referencing systems in place to find where your mix falls behind.
Related: Studio Headphones Buying Guide!
Two types of headphones for mixing: CLOSED VS OPEN-BACK
Audio mixing and making all the audio files sit together in a mix is a very critical stage after music production.
We saw that you could produce or make music using regular or even studio headphones in the previous section. But, now, as far as the mixing part is concerned, you cannot get away with regular or consumer-grade headphones.
Studio headphones become a crucial part of your mixing journey. These headphones provide a neutral sound required to monitor different audio tracks carefully and make the mixing process more manageable and efficient.
Another important factor while choosing studio headphones is to check the headphone impedance and the need of an amplifying unit.
Now, let us look at two types of headphones. And how can they be helpful for you?
1) Open-back studio headphones for Mixing
Open-back headphones have perforated material around the earcups. As a result, the air moves freely through the earcups and mixes with the audio.
These headphones offer an immersive sound stage, extended stereo space, and clean sound quality, making them great for mixing and mastering.
However, you cannot use them to record vocals or instruments as the sound leaks out of them, and the sound might get picked up by microphones during recording sessions.
This is a prominent place where they fall behind.
2) Closed-back studio headphones for Mixing
Closed-back headphones are made of solid and rigid material and do not let the air mix with audio inside the earcups. Due to this, the audio quality and sound stage is not as immersive as that of open-back headphones.
Closed-back headphones become helpful in noisy environments as they block the outside noise and let you listen to music without any disruption.
A place where they win over open-back headphones is sound isolation. Sound isolation is necessary when you want to record vocals as they prevent audio from leaking out of the headphones and into the microphone.
Studio Monitors / Speakers for Mixing & Mastering!
Studio monitors are like regular speakers but have a much flatter frequency response. This makes them suitable for mixing and mastering songs.
Mostly, you’ll see audio professionals using studio monitors for mixing rather than studio headphones.
There are many benefits to mixing and mastering tracks using studio monitors. The most notable being:
- Flat and neutral sounding,
- Cross-feed between left and right ear,
- Less ear fatiguing than studio headphones,
- You do not need to worry about sweaty ears,
- You have control over bass and treble response.
Related: Studio Monitors Buying Guide!
And here are some cons associated with mixing on studio monitors:
- Expensive than studio headphones,
- You need to take care of room acoustics.
Should you mix on studio headphones or studio monitors?
After mixing songs on both studio headphones and studio monitors, I can tell that it all depends on your work and studio requirements.
If you do not have a personal space to set up your home recording studio, studio monitors will do no good. In this case, studio headphones will give you portability and a much more intimate production and mixing environment.
Similarly, you need to carefully examine your current situation and make the right decision.
We saw the associated Pros and Cons of mixing on both studio headphones and monitors. Let’s see where one dominates over the other.
Studio headphones provide:
- high portability,
- intimate mixing space,
- great to use in noisy environments,
- Multiple uses like recording, mixing, etc.
Studio monitors are:
- Less ear fatiguing,
- No volume constraints,
- Extremely flat over all frequencies,
- Tell how the mix will perform in a large space,
- the industry standard for mixing and mastering.
Are studio headphones better than studio monitors for mixing and mastering?
As we saw above, it is clear that both studio headphones and monitors have their own set of advantages and drawbacks.
Therefore, it is unsuitable to jump to conclusions and say that one is better than the other.
It is better to use both studio headphones and speakers for mixing and mastering purposes. You can get the best of both worlds by monitoring your mixes on both devices.
You can use studio monitors where you need loud volumes and see how your mix reacts in a room environment.
Likewise, go with studio headphones in such situations when you need to monitor the mix up close without disturbing others.
Why you should not Mix on headphones?
Mixing music on headphones is highly intimate and helps you notice fine details such as pops, clicks, and unwanted noise in a song.
However, there are some reasons why you should use studio monitors and avoid mixing music on headphones too often and too much.
Mixing on studio speakers helps you monitor your mixes in a natural environment. When you mix on studio speakers in a properly treated room, sound from the monitor travel in different directions and reaches your ear.
This gives you an accurate and portable mix that will sound alike on most sets of speakers, no matter big or small.
So, is it bad to mix with studio headphones?
Mixing on headphones does not give you a clear picture since both the stereo sides are separated, which is not the case in a live environment. Therefore, it is better to mix on studio monitors to get a proper and accurate mix.
In conclusion, it is quite possible to use and get good mixes on headphones. However, I would recommend getting studio headphones for mixing.
Furthermore, getting good mixes needs you to understand the headphone’s sound representation and how they represent different frequencies.
Moreover, it is better to use both studio monitors and headphones for mixing and mastering purposes. This way, you can reference your mix on multiple sets of speakers. And there is no limit when it comes to referencing your music.
Lastly, I hope you liked this article, and do let me know in the comments if you have any other points to mention.