Audio production involves a lot of complex processes and it takes a certain level of expertise as well as experience to know what you need.
For instance, mixing is an involving process that requires one to know the fundamentals of audio production as well a good ear and overall good judgement.
To possess these qualities, experience is what you need.
This post will discuss whether mixing with headphones is a good idea and whether it should be done at all. I chose this specific topic to write on because numerous producers of varying skill levels that I’ve encountered I’ve posed the question: “Can I mix with headphones?”
Therefore, if you had a similar question in mind, you’ve come to right place and I promise that your click was worth it.
With that said, can you mix with headphones?
With mixing, you’ll mostly be advised to use studio monitors, and headphones only for reference. However, it is possible to mix on headphones but it takes a certain level of skill because the stereo image on headphones is unreliable as compared to studio monitors that are able to offer a diverse and more reliable stereo image taking into account several characteristics of the space in which they’re being used in.
Of course there’s also the positive side to using headphones and I’ll discuss them below.
Pros of Using Headphones for mixing
One of the pros that comes with using headphones for mixing is that they are affordable and basically cheaper compared to high tech studio monitors.
This makes them the go-to solution for beginner music producers that are looking to test the waters and have a general idea of what audio production is all about.
My advice? get headphones if you’re a beginner, there’s no need to rush to studio monitors if you cannot afford them.
At-least, spend some time mixing on headphones so you can later appreciate the use of studio monitors for production.
One thing you can count on when using headphones is that you won’t be disturbed by noise in the room.
If you’re carrying out your mixing in a room full of people that are all in conversation or are simply in a place that has a constant interference of noise, headphones can be a great way to get away from interference and noise so you can focus on what you’re mixing.
This leads me to my next point.
You can Lock in!
Headphones allow you to lock in! and by this I mean, they allow you to be focused on your mixing in an almost “zeroed in” manner that can allow you to concentrate and get work done.
I personally like to work on headphones when I’m applying the final touches to a mix.
Headphones alow you the freedom to dive deeply into the music and focus solely on it without your ears being distracted by what may be happening around you.
This unique attribute is why most people prefer to work on headphones that speakers.
One other thing that has to be mentioned is that headphones offer a certain level of privacy that studio monitors cannot.
If you’re like me, you sometimes need a level of privacy especially when dealing with compositions.
Headphones are a great way to lock in and be private.
Headphones are also helpful on flights because you can easily pull out your laptop, plug in your headphones and straight away get to working rather than waiting to land so you can get all your gear out, connect speakers and then get started on your audio work.
Cons of mixing with headphones
Bad stereo imaging
Your headphones are basically made up of a left and right channel which means the audio that enters your ear is from each channel.
This means you cannot properly gauge the stereo image because there’s no cross over of sound from one channel to both ears.
All you’re simply getting is audio through your two channels and this can easily affect how you go about your mixing.
This is the reason why it’s better to mix with studio monitors and then use your headphones later to have a clear sense of what is happening in both the left and right channel.
If you’ve used headphones for long extended hours non stop, then you know that they can be fatiguing. Especially during the hot season.
This can be a disadvantage if you don’t have speakers because it would mean having to take frequent breaks, which isn’t necessarily bad but it can affect your workflow.
Wearing headphones for long extended hours can certainly make your ears sweat as well as make you uncomfortable because your headphones will ultimately feel heavier.
Mixing usually involves long hours of constant work which makes headphones not a good idea because of the fatigue you might experience.
Using Headphones for mixing makes it harder for you to spot out phase problems.
Dealing with instruments like drums and bass requires you to have all instruments in phase which is easier done on speakers than headphones.
So this is another con of using headphones.
Mixing on headphones is possible and can be done, however you may run into some issues that you can avoid if you were to use studio monitors.