Headphones are great tools, I have some very nice headphones that were given to me on my birthday. They have a wide range of dynamics and frequencies, and are true pleasure to listen through. Their great strength is the width of detail you can hear with them. This makes them ideal for editing. One might ask however, “so why not mix in them too?” Here's why: you don't mix for your high-tech listening set up, you mix for the average Joe's stereo or car stereo! Let's face it, you may have some nice gear, but your audience hasn't gone out and bought high end headphones or speakers to listen to your audio with. That's why you should always check your final mixes on multiple audio devices, in multiple listening environments (such as a stereo in your room, a car stereo, an mp3 player in the great outdoors and any other combinations you can think of).
You mix for the average Joe.
“But my mix sounds so good in headphones Christopher!”
I'm sure it does, and listening in headphones can be fun! But simply put, if your mix sounds good in headphones, it won't always sound good in speakers. However, the converse works differently: if it sounds good in speakers, it will sound good in headphones too. And if you find that last sentence to be untrue when you try it, then that likely means you didn't have the mix as good as you thought when you used speakers. So: mix in speakers.
If it sounds good in speakers, it will sound good in headphones too.
So here is a basic mixing/editing plan I am suggesting for you:
- Initial edit in headphones
- Mix in speakers
- Clean up edit in headphones, looking for little errors you may have missed
- Final mix in speakers
What if I don't have the money for nice speakers or headphones?
That's okay, because your audience doesn't likely either. Sure, we hear lots about flat frequency monitor speakers, and monitor headphones, and they're nice! But ultimately, you make your mix for the common men and women who will listen to your audio on common devices, speakers and headphones. So if all you have are “common” speakers and headphones, that's fine. If you are into audio production at all, you likely at least have speakers that came with your computer, and some ear buds lying around. If not, ear buds or cheap headphones can even be found in dollar stores! For that matter, so can cheap computer speakers! More than likely though, if you ask around your house, you won't need to do any purchasing, because someone in your family can probably lend you some speakers and headphones.
Ultimately, you make your mix for the common men and women who will listen to your audio on common devices, speakers and headphones.
If you are interested in what headphones I use though (and I do recommend them), they are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro http://en-us.sennheiser.com/professional-dj-headphones-noise-cancelling-hd-280-pro. They are noise cancelling, which is a handy feature when you find yourself needing to edit on-the-go in noisy environments. As a matter of fact I have edited productions in Tim Hortons* using these, and due to the noise cancelling, the noisy restaurant was not a problem!
As for the speakers I use, this is a more complex question. At GreenStreams Studio we have multiple areas with multiple speakers. Our audio control room uses speakers off a stereo. Our main studio room is equipped with large stereo speakers. We also have some fun looking speakers larger than small children. That being said, again, any old half decent speaker will do!
And that's it! That's my audio advice for you today! What can I use to cite for this “principle”? First hand experience! Or would that be first ear experience?
So what sort of headphones and/or speakers do you use for editing and mixing? What do you find works best?