Ask David Glenn — Episode 2: Mixing on Headphones
Mix them, do whatever you want, they’re yours to use, you just can’t sell them. Also, you’re going to pick up a couple of free video courses, a whole slew of impulse responses, done by my friend Joe Sayers, modeling analog gear and more.
So, go check that out. Davidglennrecording.com, and then of course, all of the incredible content from my friends at theproaudiofiles.com.
Today, we have a great question from my man, Collin Jansen, who comes from within the forums of The Mix Academy, but before we jump in, I want to let you know that the Ask David Glenn podcast is sponsored by themixacademy.com, where each month, members gain access to session files, start to finish mix tutorials, online coaching calls, exclusive member discounts, and more.
If you sign up today, I’ll give you your choice of one of my premium training courses included with your membership at themixacademy.com.
Alright, today’s question comes from Collin Jansen over in The Mix Academy forums, and he writes in, “Hey, David. Is it true that you mix exclusively with headphones? If so, why? And which ones are you using?”
Well, it’s a great question, and I’m not necessarily exclusive to headphones, but I do enjoy mixing on headphones. I think that comes from growing up, I always had a Sony Walkman. I always had a cassette player with headphones.
Then, moving into the CD player, always had a portable CD player with headphones. I traveled a lot growing up playing soccer. So, music on the go was always kind of my experience being in a hotel room, so.
Growing up – I mean, listening to music going to sleep on repeat, it was horrible for my ears, and probably for my sleep pattern, but always listening to music on headphones, I became very comfortable early on working with headphones.
I traveled a lot, and it was a very convenient way to work and to keep working, be it on a plane, or in different studios with different rooms, and different speakers. I always felt comfortable coming back to my cans, but I use the Sennheiser HD 650s now, and I really like those.
I used to use the Beyerdynamic DT-770s. There’s a couple of models. There’s the 80 Ohm and the 250 Ohm. I like the 250s way better. Actually, quite a bit of a difference between those two models, but those broke, and a bunch of people told me, “Hey, check out the 650s. You’ve got to be careful around the low-mids, there’s a little bit of a bump there, and something different in the mid-range, just a little bit.”
But they showed up, I Next Day Air’d them when the 770s went out, and I absolutely hated the Sennheiser HD 650s the first time I put them on, the first time I listened to something with them, I thought they were total crap. I absolutely hated the experience, so I messaged a couple of friends.
Joey from The Mix Academy web show comes to mind. He was really adamant about me checking these out. It was like, “dude, what the heck is going on? You’re killing me, man. I had a record to finish. It was last minute.”
And he said, “Hey, just go listen to a bunch of music, and learn to like them, because once you start mixing on them, I guarantee you’re going to love what your mixes sound like.”
Kind of can relate that to what a lot of people say about working on Yamaha NS-10s. How they would hate the experience of actually listening to music on them, but whenever they push through it, and they just did their thing, their mixes would translate well across multiple playback systems, and so I definitely can experience – I have experienced that, and I can relate to that through using the Sennheiser HD 650s.
So, if you’re in the market for them, I can’t remember how much they are right now [$500 USD], but they’re definitely worth the money, and I definitely recommend picking some of these up.
A couple of reasons I like headphones as well is I don’t trust the low end in my room, and even though I have some Yamaha HS5 speakers, which are great in a small room, especially untreated rooms, I still feel like the headphones give me a better representation of pretty much everything, but the low end especially. You got to get the low end right.
So what I’ll do is I’ll reference quite a bit with the headphones. I’ll pull in, you know, hot tracks on the charts, Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk, Muse, Dead Inside we just talked about on The Mix Academy web show. I’m pulling in songs like that, or if I’m working on a live gospel track, I’ll pull in something mixed by my friend Salvo out of Nashville. Israel Houghton.
I’ll just click back and forth from my mix to their mix. Back to mine, back to theirs, and I’m just listening for what my low end is giving me. If you follow me for any amount of time, you know I’ll take a FabFilter Pro-Q2 or any EQ on my master fader, and I’ll cut all of the top end out of the song to where it’s just like, 30Hz and below.
Only the sub stuff, and I’ll compare my mix to another mix, and then I’ll open that up to 40, 50Hz. 100Hz. Just kind of work my way up through the spectrum to kind of get a picture of what my low end is doing, versus what the industry tracks are doing. I do that religiously with my headphones, and then I check on the speakers. Anywhere from 100 up, and then I go back and forth between the cans and speakers.
I feel like you get a really, really great mix doing that, which translates to the car, and the iPod headphones, the phone. I think it does really, really well at helping me establish a mix that works well across multiple playback systems, so.
A couple of thoughts on mixing with headphones. I really dig it. These are open back, so I feel I can go a little bit longer and not be fatigued. If you are mixing on cans, you want to be careful not to blow your ears out. You get really tired really fast. I’d recommend taking some breaks and making sure that you watch that. I set a timer with Siri using my iPhone.
Say, “Siri, set a timer to one hour.” I’ll mix for an hour, take a ten minute break, come back. It’s not for everybody, but it definitely helps me to continue the flow, and there you go, man.
So that was a great question, and just to recap, if you do decide to work with headphones, you want to make sure you listen to a lot of music on whatever headphones you decide to use. You want to make sure you reference against industry tracks from both within your genre and outside of the genre, being that we’re competing with all genres nowadays. And you want to use the EQ trick.
Put it on your master fader, suck out all the top end, pull it open and listen to your low end, and their low end, your mid-range, their mid-range, how much top, how much air. Check against the reference tracks, and make sure you’re in the ballpark. You want to watch your volume, make sure you give yourself a moderate level to listen to, and then you want to make sure you take breaks every hour or so. If you have closed backs, I would probably even recommend 30-45 minutes before taking a break.
So I want to thank you guys for tuning in. Collin, thanks for the question. If you’re listening and you’d like to have your question featured in an Ask David Glenn podcast, head to DavidGlennrecording.com/askdavidglenn, and you can submit your question via the built in audio recorder, or feel free to shoot me an e-mail. David@davidglennrecording.com, with the subject line, “Ask David Glenn.”