Headphones are a tricky subject when it comes to music production, specifically audio engineering.
Most people make the mistake in assuming that they can use all headphones like gaming headphones for music production, but this is not the case at all.
This post will discuss whether gaming headphones can be used in music production. Most newbies I encounter usually ask me this question so I thought I’d put together a comprehensive post explaining the topic.
So, can you use gaming headphones for music production?
For music production, you need studio headphones that are well optimized for music production. Gaming headphones are calibrated to entertain the listener in a non-professional setting, which is why you’ll find that most gaming headphones have an over emphasized low frequency response which makes them produce a lot of bass. On the other hand, Studio headphones especially ones that are meant for mixing and mastering will exhibit accurate and flat audio representation to give an exact description of the audio being played through them.
Studio Headphones Vs. Gaming Headphones
Impedance means the resistance of a circuit or device to AC.
For example, An AC can basically be two audio devices connected together like a speaker and an amp.
Low impedance means more power will flow through a speaker, which will put more strain on the amplifier to produce this power.
High impedance on other hand means lesser power will be driven to the speaker.
Most gaming headphones have low impedance hence their ability to exaggerate audio and make it more prominent which is not an actual representation of the original audio.
Studio headphones on the other hand, along with other gear meant for music production are high impedance which makes them produce a true and accurate portrayal of the original audio because they’re being driven by lesser power and theres no strain on the amplifier to handle high power.
This is why I don’t recommend using gaming headphones for music production. You can use them for easy listening on your devices like phones etc. but not for professional audio production.
The Microphone Feature
Most gaming headphones have a microphone attached to them. This design is meant for the game to be able to communicate with other gamers while the game is underway.
This is not a feature that you need for music production because it is utterly unnecessary.
Therefore go for gear intended for the work that you’re doing which in this case would mean getting high quality studio headphones.
Gaming headphones are usually equipped with various features such as wireless connectivity, noise cancellation, various controls such as EQ settings etc.
Most of these features are required for gaming but are not necessary for music production.
For example, you don’t need EQ settings on studio headphones because all EQ’ing will be done in your DAW because that is the right way to go about things.
Such features make the headphones highly expensive and rightly fitted for gamers and not music producers.
Therefore, get studio headphones rather than gaming headphones.
Most gaming headphones, especially newer versions, utilize wireless connections which make them cordless.
For music production, you need a headphone that you can directly connect into your audio interface and not a wireless headphone. You need to be able to capture audio in its original form without any alterations or colouration.
For gamers having a cordless and wireless microphone is a great advantage because they can play games better without being restricted to be really close to the console.
For music producers, you need headphones with a cord to avoid any unnecessary false representation of audio that would lead you to make the wrong mixing decisions.
For gaming, having headphones that are bright sounding with added frequency boosts can be great because it can help you be able to experience sound better such as subtle low frequency FX that you need to pay attention to as you take part of play your game.
In music production, we strive to get an accurate audio signal because how we basically perceive it, will determine what various editing processes we’ll carry out during the mixing or mastering process.
False representations will lead to wrong decision making that can easily destroy even a good record.
This is why getting high quality studio headphones is great and you also have to ensure that you have the correct equipment to match such as a good microphone, a good audio interface and a good computer with the proper specifications.
For recording music, you need closed back headphones that preserve the sound within the headphones so its not heard by people not wearing them.
When you use open back headphones, music from the headphones will be recorded together with the vocal of the artist.
This makes it rather cumbersome when it’s time to mix because you’ll have the vocal playing plus a low audible bleed of the music from the headsets that was recorded.
I have recommendations below of the closed back headphones that I use.
Audio Processing Headphones
For audio processing, you need headphones that are made and designed for audio production.
You have to be very careful when choosing the ones you purchase because it will have a very huge effect on how you mix and how your mix ends up sounding.
Same goes for mastering, you need good headphones that won’t alter the record in any way but will give you an actual representation of the mix.
I have some recommendations below of my go-to headphones that I specifically use for my mixing and mastering.
My Headphone recommendations
These headphones are widely known for their use in music production and this is fitting because they are excellent and serve their purpose well.
They’re closed back headphones, that will do great work and they’re applicable for both recording and audio processing purposes.
I’ve used the MDRs for over 6 months and I appreciate them and recommend them because of their durability.
With these headphones you’ll get a combination of comfort and high quality audio that will help you make good mixing decisions.
They are closed back headphones so I I primarily use them for recording but they do great for mixing aswell.
I haven’t really used them on mastering because I prefer the sennheiser for their straight to the point audio delivery.
For Mixing and Mastering
These are good headphones for both mixing and mastering because they have a great frequency range.
They are open back headphones so I only use them for processing and not recording. The DT990s are very comfortable and offer some of the audio quality that you’ll ever hear.
The AKG K701 is a recommendation that most audiophiles will agree with.
They have great low end which makes them ideal for processing songs that are delicate and require careful attention to bass or long end frequencies.
Furthermore, their high impedance allows them to be driven less by powerful amplifiers which makes them great for all kinds of audio production.