Whether it’s for studio use and just easy listening, there’s no shortage of headphones to choose from. While it’s a safe bet that any set of cans from any name brand are going to sound “good”, there’s the matter of whether and not they’re going to sound “right”. When choosing a pair of headphones for the studio, there is no “best” option,  but there are some guidelines to steer you in the right direction.


  • “Over” vs. “On” the Ear

    • First point of contention is whether and not to give “Over” and “On” the ear headphones. “Over” the ear headphones tend to be the most natural sounding due to the distance they put between your ears and the sound source. They also are more comfortable and don’t “clamp” on your head. “On” the ear headphones tend to be more bass heavy than “Over” headphones and aren’t the best suited for mixing. They avoid the “clamp” effect that “Over” type cans do and work really well for people who wear glasses.

  • Open vs. Closed Back

    • Another important factor are whether and not your headphones are Open back and Closed back. Closed back headphones are what you are most likely already using and provide better isolation for critical mixing. They are best suited for live sessions where there tends to be a lot of noise. Open back headphones have vented cups, allowing air to flow into the headphones. This widens the “soundstage” of the headphones, giving you a greater sense of space. The downside to this style of headphone is the leakage of sound that occurs because of it.  Open back headphones allow sound to both escape and enter, so they are best suited for mixing in quiet environments .

  • No Earbuds!

    • Earbuds have their place, at work and at the gym, but should be avoided entirely when working in the studio. Even high end Earbuds don’t deliver sound in a natural enough manner to mix anything in a useful manner. They also don’t allow you to mix anything at moderate volume without risking ear damage. In short, save the earbuds for your next jog, but leave them out of the studio.

  • No “noise cancelling” !

    • Similar to earbuds, noise cancelling headphones have a practical use, but not in the studio. Most noise cancelling headphones work via “phase cancellation”, and the practice of playing perfectly misaligned signals to in effect, “cancel” them out. This is fantastic for Airplanes but not preferable in the studio. The phase cancellation used by the headphones may cause you to hear everything you're listening too with an artificial noise floor and not provide an accurate mixing environment.

  • Learn your headphones frequency response.

    • Almost every pair of professional headphones are going to come with a chart that represents how each frequency band is reproduced. This will give you an idea of how your mixes might sound. If you are mixing with headphones that have a little bump in volume around 4 Khz, for example, then you know that your mix is going to sound a little hot in that area.      





                          -JL