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Bitflipper’s Guide To Headphones

Brandon Drury —  October 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

It really depends on the application: tracking, mixing, mastering, editing or listening for pleasure. To the best of my knowledge, there is no single product out there that does it all equally well. That’s why people often end up with multiple models of headphones. (That, and reluctance to hand over your “good” cans to the drummer.)

For most people there is also a cost constraint. Top-quality headphones start around $400-$500 and can go up to ridiculous amounts. Too rich for me!

The ATH-M50′s mentioned above are, IMO, a good compromise between accuracy, comfort and cost. They don’t hype the low end, which I appreciate. But they’re also a little squirrely at the top end, so they’ll never replace my main speakers for EQ decisions. I do not use them for tracking because they are a little leaky compared to the Sennheiser HD280Pro’s that I prefer for that. All in all, the M50′s may not be the greatest on the planet but they’re an excellent [I]value [/I]for about a hundred bucks.

A comparable alternative is the AKG 240, for about the same price. Being semi-open, they’re also not suitable for tracking. Like the AT’s, they’re reasonably flat and detailed, and comfortable to wear.

A third option would be the Sony 7506. Same price as the above models, also reasonably flat, but IMO not quite as comfortable. Better isolation than either of the above, so is more suitable for tracking.

Any of these three should serve as a general-purpose mixing and editing solution, but the Sony is best of the three for tracking. The ATH-M50 is the new kid on the block; the others have been industry standards for decades. If you want something specifically for tracking, the Sennheiser HD280Pro is absolutely the best way to go.

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rvs0002 – 10-16-2012, 08:33 AM
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One of the best pairs of mixing headphones I have ever used is a pair I just bought a few weeks ago at Monoprice.com for practically nothing (For only $21.15 each when QTY 50+ purchased – Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphone | HeadPhones). I actually bought them to have a cheap pair for casual listening because the ones I have at home are really old, and one of my buddies was ordering a pair and asked if I wanted to order some also and split the shipping.

When I got them and started listening it was nothing special, but I thought for 20 bucks they sounded pretty good. Then after a while, I realized that nothing special meant that there wasn’t anything too hyped (like mega-bass), but I could hear everything in the mix. I spent the next couple of hours listening to tracks I use as reference tracks for my mixing, and again, every instrument had it’s place and I could really hear every detail of the mix. Needless to say these went right home to the studio and now I still have the crappy old ones at home.

So maybe I just got lucky with my pair, but I will be ordering a couple of backups for the studio shortly. If you are looking for some budget cans, I’d take a flyer on these.

KEEP IT LOUD!

Johnny Lokke
Web Site Unavailable

challman’s Avatar
challman – 10-16-2012, 08:41 AM
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I had the same experience with Prodype 800s

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dudermn – 10-16-2012, 10:28 AM
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Mean-while there is Yamaha.

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Prado Escondido – 10-16-2012, 10:28 AM
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How about a little love for the Beyerdynamics DT 880 Pro? They’ve done very well in shoot outs with the Sennheiser 650s. The DT 880s can be had for $238.00 at B&P Photo.

I’ve got my ears set on them.

Prado

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rook2c4 – 10-16-2012, 12:01 PM
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Comfort is an important factor that is often over-looked. Not everyone’s ears are shaped the same. If I had a set of top-of-the-line headphones that sounded absolutely wonderful but are constantly sliding off my head or hurt my earlobes after wearing them for only a short time, they just won’t do.

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willj – 10-16-2012, 12:30 PM
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Any of these three should serve as a general-purpose mixing and editing solution, but the Sony is best of the three for tracking
Comparably, i dont doubt this to be the case at all, but i still would NOT want to use my Sonys as a dedicated tracking phone. If they were all i had to track with i would definitely be looking for something else.

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AndiP – 10-16-2012, 01:14 PM
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Personal agony over Headphone choice

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francois – 10-16-2012, 05:06 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by Prado Escondido View Post
How about a little love for the Beyerdynamics DT 880 Pro? They’ve done very well in shoot outs with the Sennheiser 650s. The DT 880s can be had for $238.00 at B&P Photo.

I’ve got my ears set on them.

Prado
$238 is a great price for the Beyer DT 880s, great headphones .I use them to check my mixes and master
A few years back i bought 3 pairs of ATm40 ,they worked OK but did not passed the test of time in the studio .
How do the ATH 50 fare in that department?
Since then all my new headphones goes to the Seinheiser hd 280 pro ,great for tracking and if you are patient they show up at way low price(got one for $79)

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carl – 10-16-2012, 05:14 PM
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I got the ATH-M50, HD280Pro and Beyerdynamic DT990Pro and I use them like this:
- tracking: HD280. This was my first headphone and mixing just doesn’t work well with them… tracking works great !

- mixing: ATH-M50. It’s a very “neutral” sound (I bought them after reading Brandon’s high praise for “saving his butt several times”) and before I had my KRK Ergo on my monitors, I used it to dial in final EQ on some instruments, and my monitors for the sound field and volume rides. However, this headphone is not super revealing on tiny issues with the mix or recordings. It’s great for mixing since it keeps my wife’s talk completely out at still pleasant listening levels (She hates them for this “feature”).

- final mix/extra check: DT990Pro. Recently I plugged them in and had to turn down the volume because there was so much noise in what I thought was the final master setup! The other headphones or my monitors didn’t bring it out so much. In reality, there was no problem on regular HiFi or in-ears, but I got rid of the noise anyway. So: this headphone is very “revealing” and has a bit of an emphasized high-end and bass. Bass is very pleasant but the high-end is a bit too much in my opinion. Not harsh or brittle, just too much.

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briguy1960 – 10-16-2012, 08:59 PM
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Just a word as to the durability of the hd280s. I sleep in a very noisy environment. For the last three years I have slept with these cans on with some ambient music going. They still work perfectly. and suffice to say my pair is broken in

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onlinemusic – 10-16-2012, 11:56 PM
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The Monoprice headphones that Johnny mentioned were also favorably reviewed the current issue of TapeOp. I’m looking forward to trying them out. I’ve had pretty good luck with Monoprice products, though I’m usually ordering computer cables.

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Hartley – 10-17-2012, 01:55 AM
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I bought a pair of Denon AH-D1100 and they’re by far the clearest and the best headphones I’ve ever owned.

I’m in the UK and bought them in a shop (HMV) so was able to try them alongside other makes and models. The testing station at my local branch allows you to plug in your own device as well as listen to a selection of different musical genres on about 20 different sets of headphones…

After over an hour of different listening in the shop I chose the Denons and have discovered they’re wearable for longer periods than any other headphones I’ve tried/used/bought/owned… for listening, tracking and mixing… (others include sennheiser, head candy, and sony)…

(I was particularly looking for 32 Ohms as the manual for the device I use to track, so therefore use the most, suggests between 32 and 100 …and someone told me the lower is the better.)

In the USA the suggested retail price is $199 and you can find them via this link if you’re interested in trying ….

Find A Dealer | Home Receivers, Sound Systems, Headphones | Denon

I can’t say how long they’ll last…I’ve had them under a year but so far so good…

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deanushka – 10-17-2012, 03:26 AM
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Have to admit I love my AKG 171 studios. When i really need to get in and work those reverb tails I always pull them out.
They are pretty well in the price range mentioned by bitflipper too.

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floydtom_951 – 10-17-2012, 11:06 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by AndiP View Post
Personal agony over Headphone choice
I deeply recommend this website for viewing and comparing headphones: HeadRoom: Stereo Headphones, Amps & DACs, Wireless, Noise Canceling, Ear Canal, Earbud, Audio Cables & Accessories

Keep creating.-

toom–

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floydtom_951 – 10-17-2012, 11:08 AM
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I deeply reccomend HeadRoom: Stereo Headphones, Amps & DACs, Wireless, Noise Canceling, Ear Canal, Earbud, Audio Cables & Accessories for headphone selection purposes.

Keep creating-

toom.–

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brandondrury – 10-17-2012, 03:20 PM
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My experience with multiple headphones is limited. I’ve got 5 pair of the Audio Technica ATH-m50s. Bitflipper nailed it about perfectly as you could with “squirrely” in the top end. They do well during tracking for me, but I can’t say how they compare to anything else. To be honest I’ve not really thought about it. They seem to be good enough to divert my attention elsewhere.

Brandon

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Prado Escondido – 10-17-2012, 03:48 PM
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I think the key concept, assuming ‘cans,’ is that closed are ideal for tracking to minimize bleed, but open are better for mixing type applications such as cross checking against near fields or in a pinch mixing. With products such as 112db’s Redline Monitor plugin mixing on quality earphones it feasible.

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willj – 10-17-2012, 04:34 PM
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With products such as 112db’s Redline Monitor plugin mixing on quality earphones it feasible.
How do you like this? Does it work pretty well then? If its not too much trouble would you mind talking about “monitor” for a second?

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Prado Escondido – 10-17-2012, 04:58 PM
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I like it. It uses an algorithm to bleed the left and right channels into one another to approximate how stereo sounds in an open room to create a ‘center’. There are adjustment so you can ‘sync’ it to replicate your regular ‘mixing’ position. You do this by sitting in the mix position and taking your phones off and on while you adjust the parameters and then save a preset. The basic parameters are center, i.e., how loud the phantom center should be compared to the L&R; soundstage, i.e., how wide the sound stage should be; and, distance, i.e., how far forward or backward you are listening to the soundstage. There are a some other useful features like ‘buttons’ for mono, dim, L or R solo and L or R phase.

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willj – 10-17-2012, 05:16 PM
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Awesome! I demoed Redline Reverb and they were super cool. Id like to see monitor in action. Thanks a ton for the time on this.

Prado Escondido – 10-17-2012, 05:28 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by willj View Post
Thanks a ton for the time on this.
Glad to be able to give back an infinitesimal amount of all I get from this and other forums and my friend, Google.

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gorgorsan – 10-17-2012, 07:00 PM
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I was just about to purchase the Monoprices but found the review here that changed my mind:
The $30 Budget Comparison: Monoprice 8323 vs. Panny RP-HTF600 vs. Incipio F38

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DanTheMan – 10-18-2012, 11:43 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by AndiP View Post
Personal agony over Headphone choice
Excellent! Even Floyd Toole agonized over this phenomenon.

There’s a lot of research about how to make headphones sound ‘right’(like monitors or sometimes oddly chosen sources). Essentially it can’t be done exactly. A few softwares are under development to approximate, but to my knowledge the “Eureka!” Moment hasn’t happened. That is one deep rabbit hole.

The diffuse field curve has been judged to be less problematic while playing stereo recordings vs. free field EQ. Almost seems counterintuitive based on loudspeaker/room studies. It all just demonstrates the complexity of human hearing.

Dan

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cporro – 10-20-2012, 03:11 AM
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+ on the akg240s.

also worth looking at for mixing: Sennheiser HD 650, BEYER DYNAMIC DT880, Sennheiser HD 650. the shure srh 1840 are supposed to be great… but i’ll wait for the excitement to settle. and none of these are cheap.

for tracking the only thing people seem to want is loud. guess i work with animals. so i got some ok sounding radioshack cans and a noisy but LOUD headphone amp. i’m amazed at how loud some people want their cans. these are all closed design to minimize bleed.

i frankly think open cans sound better as a class. just less resonance, or modes, or whatever you want to call it.

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DanTheMan – 10-20-2012, 02:34 PM
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German Maestro makes some cans worth looking into as well for mixing. For tracking, pretty much every IEM will outperform cans as far as bleed goes.

Dan

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dudermn – 10-24-2012, 12:33 AM
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You really want to play the game of how good are your head-phones…. Fine….. !!!

Lets do it. The first thing you should no is that you are going up against.
1. Sony MDR-XD200
A.On music mode.
B.On movie mode.
C.On dude modes.
2. Yamaha Rh-5Ma
3. Sony MDR-V150.

The first test.
Spot the points on the recording when the vocals are cut in. It is nearly impossible to hear this On the 150 and the 200 but the 5-a passes the first test.
If you can get past this first test than we can have another test to see what is the best head-phone on the market.
Maybe I can visit the local audio specialty shop again

Now if you can not hear the audio cut in-s At the end is the vocal track left over so that you can train your ear to listen for it.
Good luck.

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kokopu – 10-24-2012, 03:56 AM
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This is all interesting stuff, i have some takstar TS-670 headphones which i have found really good, can hear much more detail in many songs i have listened to on other headphones (mainly low quality cheap ones) , be interested to hear if anyone has tried takstar headphones and how they compare to others in this post.

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dudermn – 10-24-2012, 04:47 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by kokopu View Post
This is all interesting stuff, i have some takstar TS-670 headphones which i have found really good, can hear much more detail in many songs i have listened to on other headphones (mainly low quality cheap ones) , be interested to hear if anyone has tried takstar headphones and how they compare to others in this post.
Can you hear or can you not hear when the vocals cut in ?

Sorry about the ugly first post.

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challman – 10-24-2012, 07:12 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by dudermn View Post
Can you hear or can you not hear when the vocals cut in ?

Sorry about the ugly first post.

My 2C
even though I have found a several different types of headphones which are pretty good for mixing

imo I will stick with monitors. I use headphones to make sure it sounds OK on headphones. YOu just cannot tell if something sounds good on speakers through headphones.

that being said…. I know someone will think I am nuts for feeling this way. Go ahead and blast me

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DanTheMan – 10-24-2012, 08:49 AM
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That’s awesome Duderm! I’d be surprised (but of course I’m ruining it now) if people won’t complain about the low bit rate…

Dan

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kokopu – 10-25-2012, 02:52 AM
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Can you hear or can you not hear when the vocals cut in ?
not real sure, i can hear a few clicks in places not certain its vocal track cutting in though, need to train my ears more, this stuff helps tho im sure, could be the headphones though have tried a few and a stereo.

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dudermn – 10-25-2012, 11:23 PM
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its tricky, because the vocals have such a low fundamental frequency

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dudermn – 10-25-2012, 11:27 PM
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the low bit rate is a price we must pay…..
I have assured that the cuts are still audible.

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dudermn – 11-07-2012, 12:39 PM
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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I left the yamaha phones at guitar center !!!!!!!!!

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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One response to Bitflipper’s Guide To Headphones

  1. Haha,

    Very interesting article. Enjoyed reading this :-) Actually during holiday seasons, one can get a decent quality headphones around 200$

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