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Building out the Home Studio, Part 4 - Headphones

High end headphones sketch

Now that we've got some software, an audio interface, and some speakers - let's take a look at headphones.I know its been a while. Lots of changes for the home studio, and our media business, but more on that later.

For me, and I think for most home studios, a good set of headphones is imperative. There may be a time when you really need hear the details in your mix, or try to drown out the distracting noises in your house, and for this a solid pair of headphones is invaluable.

You'll also need them for when you're recording an instrument or vocalist, and you want to monitor them - but if you're like me you don't have a separate recording booth. That means you're in the room with the vocalist while you're recording. And that means that closed back headphones are best because they bleed less sound into the mic while recording. But open back head phones are better for mixing and mastering because they generally provide truer and more representative sound.

I ended up getting two pairs of headphones - one early on for mixing, and then one later for being able to record. My open back headphones are Sennheiser HD650s - they're amazing. But you will need a good headphone amp to run them. And I got them on a screaming good deal - $500+ on a pair of headphones wasn't in my startup budget. They're really comfortable for long mixing sessions, and they produce great sound. My other pair of headphones for recording are AudioTechnica M50s. These are much more reasonable price wise and where I would have started had I not found that crazy deal on the Sennheisers - they produce pretty good sound, and they do not have the crazy power requirements like the Sennheisers do to sound their best, which means they sound good out of the audio interface without needing to be plugged into my pre-amp.

So for starting out, grab the best headphones you can - but keep in mind that depending on your setup, you may end up needing 2 pairs as they're for very different things. Also pay attention to the impedance rating when comparing headphones - headphones like the Sennheisers that have a high impedance will not sound their best unless they're paired with a quality headphone amp. And these can be VERY expensive, even costing double or triple the amount of the headphones! Most audio interfaces have a modest headphone capability, so choosing something with a lower impedance will allow you to hear more than if you choose a headphone that needs more power. I found this out the hard way when I was trying to mix using my nice Sennheisers but had them plugged into a pretty low powered audio interface.l


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