A good set of headphones are an essential for a home studio, and one of the first thing I think you should buy when you start recording. I have two pairs I regularly use, one pair for tracking (recording) and one pair for mixing.
I highly recommend getting a pair of open-back headphones for mixing, and a pair of closed-back headphones for tracking, if you have the funds available. My favorites are the AKG K702s open-back headphones for mixing, and the Sony MDR-7506s closed-back headphones for tracking (Amazon affiliate links).
If you’re interested in why I recommend one pair for recording and one for mixing, check out this article – Can you record with open-back headphones? – for an explanation. Quick summary: closed-back headphones are great for recording as they minimize bleed into the microphone, whereas open-back headphones give you a more accurate sound for mixing.
Headphones to wear while tracking
When you are recording a part, obviously you need to hear what is being recorded (“monitoring”). You could use a set of speakers connected to your audio interface or computer; the problem with that is the sound from the speakers would then end up going back into the microphone and being recorded, creating a feedback loop. Not a problem if you are DI’ing into the interface, but something to avoid when using a mic.
The Sony MDR-7506 closed-back headphones are actually used in pro recording studios all over the world. They are considered to be a solid workhorse headphone for tracking, and most pro studios have a few pairs of these tucked away somewhere. Some of the reasons they are so highly regarded…
- Great isolation – minimal bleed
- Sound quality
- Comfort – these feel great even for long sessions
- Price (around $100 is very cheap for pro kit)
- Foldable – take up minimum space
I have been doing all my tracking on these for several years now, and are what I always reach for when I have a part to record.
Headphones to wear while mixing
Some people say that you shouldn’t mix at all on headphones! I do not share this view. While I agree that the absolutely best way to mix is to have a pair of high-quality studio monitor speakers in an acoustically treated room, that sort of setup is way beyond the reach of a hobbyist home studio.
So a good set of open-back headphones is the next best thing in my opinion. The open-back headphones bleed far more of their sound into the environment than closed-backs, but they give a far more accurate sound. This makes them ideal for mixing where you are focusing on individual frequencies, and need to be very careful about the balance between all the elements in the overall mix.
They also give you a consistency in your listening environment that the monitor-speaker setup cannot provide – you cannot take your speakers into a hotel room for example, whereas your headphones will sound exactly the same as they would in your room at home.
I have been using the AKG K702 open-back headphones for all my mixing duties for the past few years. They have never let me down, some of the reasons being…
- Clear, crisp, accurate, open sound
- Comfortable for long mixing sessions
- Detachable cable
- Replaceable ear-pads