One thing I see online a lot is people asking if it’s okay to mix on headphones. One thing to keep in mind is that some people can only afford or have access to headphones. If that’s the case then don’t let it stop you. It’s more about how good your tracks sound than with what you use.
But all things being equal, if you can afford to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pair of monitors, do it. Here’s why.
Headphones are Deceiving
One thing you may notice is that when you’re mixing, everything tends to sound good when using headphones. It might be because you can hear every little detail or the fact that the stereo image sound wider. Who knows the exact reason?
With all that said, you might get a good mix on your headphones but there isn’t anything to says it will sound good in the real world. That’s what is so frustrating. You may have done a great job getting your mix to sound great but it sounds like poop on speakers. I’m not saying a great headphone mix will sound bad on speakers, I’m just saying that usually it can be misleading.
Use Your Monitors First
When it comes to mixing on monitors, I generally find that the opposite is true. If I can get the mix to sound good on my monitors then it generally stand a good chance of translating well onto my headphones. Let me say that again. When I get a GREAT sounding mix on my monitors, everything seems to fall into place on my headphones.
So why is this the case? I can’t really tell you why because I’m not the smartest engineer in the world. What I can tell you though is that I find it’s best practise to start my mix on my monitors and make minor tweaks as I listen to the mix on my headphones. If I start the other way around, it generally sounds like POOP.
Monitors And Headphones Are Like Best Buds
Try not to think of headphones and monitors as individuals but rather as partners. They compliment one each other like a husband and wife. If you just start on the monitors and tweak on the headphones than you should be in a good spot while you’re mixing.
You also need to remember that many people will be listening to your music on headphones so it might be a good idea to make sure that it translates well onto them. I do this with my nice studio headphones that you can find here.
Basically there two devices go hand in hand. Do the bulk of your balancing, EQ, and compression work on monitors. Then move over to your headphones to make sure that nothing is sticking out. After that you can come back to the monitors to make the final tweaks.
Maybe You Need to Keep Quiet?
A big reason that you may not be using monitors and you are using headphones is because of your neighbor, family, kids or even your wife. No one really wants to listen to your music but you and maybe your fans right?
If you can still mix on your monitors than I would highly suggest doing so. Just turn then down quiet so that no one hears them. Way down if you have to.
It’s funny because mixing at low volumes is one of the best things you can do for your mixes. You’ll get a more balanced and translatable mix that way. Then if you absolutely need to, go back and do some tweaking on your head phones. I think you’ll be happy with how your mixes sound 🙂