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Mixing/Mastering on/for Headphones?

With so many people listening to music everywhere on their phones using headphones these days, is there any movement toward mixing/mastering on headphones, optimized for headphones (vs mixing/mastering through monitors)

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Comments

  • edited February 2017

    There's people in the profession who have been doing it for years already. Edward Unger for example. Nobody has probably ever heard of him, but he's not a hobbyist. He actually owns a studio and makes a living off it. Even if you don't like his music, his mixes are good and the majority done on cans.

    I've read articles about this topic in different magazines in the past. EM, ect. However, most if not all of them guys have done it on phones only up until a certain point, or use a combination of phones and monitors to get the stereo spread right. And also use more than one type of headphone. Closed, ect.

    It will be an inconvenience no doubt, but with proper file management and note taking, field testing in cars and other radios will help. Then go back to your project.

    Don't forget that the majority of people who listen to music on their headphones, also connect their phone to their car and listen on their car speakers, or perhaps their boss home ent, ect

    I doubt you'll find an all in one solution. It seems that learning how your mix will translate and compensating is more or just as important than the quality of monitors or phones.

  • The point of mastering is to ready your material for the market. This means it should sound good regardless of the playback system. Mixing/mastering on headphones is not ideal, but it can (and has) been done. The key is knowing your headphones.

  • I've found that mixes that sound good on my headphones don't always sound good in the car, but mixes that sound good in the car always sound good on the headphones. Everything sounds good with headphones, so you can't really trust them.

  • Sooooo true!!

    I have an old very old pair of Alesia Monotor 1 s and they sound extremely accurate and when played in the car sound true to what I heard in them but them in the headphones sound so much better, headphones do enhance.

    @aaronpc said:
    I've found that mixes that sound good on my headphones don't always sound good in the car, but mixes that sound good in the car always sound good on the headphones. Everything sounds good with headphones, so you can't really trust them.

  • Beyerdynamic dt 990 pro nice one for mastering. Using it since 2 years and sounds crystal clear. Its made for monitoring and used in lot of radio/record stations on this side of the globe. German brands are mostly top notch quality.
    http://europe.beyerdynamic.com/shop/dt-990-pro.html

  • edited February 2017

    Any time I mix on headphones and then hear it on monitors, or car speakers, it sounds wack. Given up at this point. Headphones can be weird, you push them a little closer to your ear, and they get bassier. I suspect the same pair may sound different to different people, depending on how they fit on your head.

  • I've had a few clients (from this forum I believe) who specifically asked me to focus on making it sound good for stock apple earbuds. I make sure it will sound good elsewhere, but then I put a little extra time into tweaking things to be more ideal for that one specific listening environment.

    Usually this means cutting a bit more sub bass and giving a slight bump to the freqs around 140-200Hz to give the appearance of there being a bit more low end than there really is. Probably a slight dip around 3kHz to avoid things getting too harsh at higher volumes. Depends on the track though.

    I've even done some mastering with my Hilo and SE846s while traveling, never had any issues. I spent months doing critical listening with that set up before I felt comfortable with how things translate.

  • edited February 2017

    @telecharge said:
    ... The key is knowing your headphones.


    @Tarekith said:
    ... I spent months doing critical listening with that set up before I felt comfortable with how things translate.

    "The truth is out there."

  • edited February 2017

    I guess the success, or lack there of, of mixing/mastering on headphones comes down to the quality of the set being used and experience using them.

    What I usually do is get the best possible mix on my headphones, then fine tune the final mix in the car. This usually works pretty well. Sounds great in the car and still sounds great on headphones. Though, it's weird how the inverse isn't true. A great car mix usually also sounds great on headphones, but a great headphone mix is often lacking when played in the car.

  • @syrupcore said:

    @telecharge said:
    ... The key is knowing your headphones.


    @Tarekith said:
    ... I spent months doing critical listening with that set up before I felt comfortable with how things translate.

    "The truth is out there."

    Amen.

  • edited February 2017

    @Tarekith thanks for that, do you dip between 110 and 140k?. Where do you start cutting the sub bass?

    I do a lot of stuff with headphones and have a pair i really like but do seem to come back to tweak the bass more often than not.

  • @vpich I'm not trying to answer for Tarekith, but sub bass is roughly 20-60 Hz. I would say let your ears be your guide and sweep the EQ in that range. A common practice is to use a high-pass filter to roll off anything below a certain frequency. As he said, depends on the track.

    I like to audition with IEMs that seal, as well as open-air headphones.

  • @telecharge said:
    @vpich I'm not trying to answer for Tarekith, but sub bass is roughly 20-60 Hz. I would say let your ears be your guide and sweep the EQ in that range. A common practice is to use a high-pass filter to roll off anything below a certain frequency. As he said, depends on the track.

    I like to audition with IEMs that seal, as well as open-air headphones.

    Thanks, i do come back and tweak with different sources but i was wondering if he had a ball park range that usually works, same as the 140-200 bump. I find that i have to exagerate the bass a bit with my headphones but that i still have way more control than even good speakers since i don't have a prepared mixing environment.

  • @vpich said:
    Thanks, i do come back and tweak with different sources but i was wondering if he had a ball park range that usually works, same as the 140-200 bump. I find that i have to exagerate the bass a bit with my headphones but that i still have way more control than even good speakers since i don't have a prepared mixing environment.

    Are you also looking to optimize for stock Apple earpods?

  • @telecharge said:

    @vpich said:
    Thanks, i do come back and tweak with different sources but i was wondering if he had a ball park range that usually works, same as the 140-200 bump. I find that i have to exagerate the bass a bit with my headphones but that i still have way more control than even good speakers since i don't have a prepared mixing environment.

    Are you also looking to optimize for stock Apple earpods?

    Not really but would surely be interested in seeing what eq curve is best through the pods

  • @vpich said:

    @telecharge said:

    @vpich said:
    Thanks, i do come back and tweak with different sources but i was wondering if he had a ball park range that usually works, same as the 140-200 bump. I find that i have to exagerate the bass a bit with my headphones but that i still have way more control than even good speakers since i don't have a prepared mixing environment.

    Are you also looking to optimize for stock Apple earpods?

    Not really but would surely be interested in seeing what eq curve is best through the pods

    I know enough to know I don't know shit with regard to mastering. I do know this though: there is no EQ curve that works for X. I know 'it depends on the song' feels empty when you're looking for solid advice but it's true.

    Find a decent analyzer plugin and run your favorite 15 songs through it. They don't look the same.

    A "transferable" eq curve is really only useful if the source material is the same. Even "genre" EQ curves fail because there is a presumption that the source material is similar. That might be true for mastered material of a particular genre within a particular time period (so the R&B EQ presets on a car stereo "work") but pre-mastering, there's just too many variables.

    All that said, Apple earbuds certainly have a curve of their own and there are surely certain frequencies you could adjust to make your tune translate well on them but at best they'll be rough rough guidelines. Unless your music consists of nothing but a440 sine waves.

  • Yeah that. A rough guideline based on experience working to get the apple buds better sounding. Just curious.

  • I think trying to approach mastering with a "one size fits all" mindset just causes more problems than it solves if I'm honest. It really does depend a lot on what is happening in the song for this sort of thing. If I song doesn't have much happening in the sub bass region, it doesn't make sense to cut there. Or maybe it has way too much, and the cut I would use for one song would be inadequate for that one.

    I'm not trying to fit an EQ curve to the track based on the headphone's response, I'm trying to tailor the specifics of the song itself to make the best use of the limited dynamic range and frequency response of that playback system.

    Does that make sense?

  • I would love to mix on headphones. What I am missing is the crosstalk which you have from real speakers. In the desktop world there are plugins which can simulate the crosstalk. I would love to see such plugins on iOS too (e.g. as audio unit)

  • Interesting thread! Problem with headphones as when with speakers is they all have a specific sound. And the more expensive you go, the more it's sounds different on ordinairy headphones/speakers. The trick in my eyes is to use stuff that uses as less filters as possible to get an average feeling. For headphones the old Sony MDR-V700 would do.

  • @syrupcore said:

    @telecharge said:
    ... The key is knowing your headphones.


    @Tarekith said:
    ... I spent months doing critical listening with that set up before I felt comfortable with how things translate.

    "The truth is out there."

    Knowing your monitoring system (headphones and/or monitors) is a process that takes time, but reference mixes can helo speed it up. For instance, take your favorite records, play them through your monitors & headphones repeatedly until you're familiar with the high & low end and stereo field. I remember listening to newer, recently released stuff (even if it wasn't my favorite) to get a picture of the balance of those records and how the loudness war was playing out on my monitors/cans.

    I know some call BS on references but give it ago. I know "Abbey Road", "Who's Next" and STP's "Tiny Music" like the back of my hand and how they sound on my car stereo, home hifi, earbuds and through shitty laptop & smartphone speakers. So if a mix is giving problems I'll throw "Bargain" lets say on, listen close, then try the mix again.

    I use Sony MDR-7506's for my main recording & mix/master monitoring. I know conventional wisdom is don't mix on headphones but I think if you know them, you can do it quite effectively. I always double check through monitors, used to use Alesis Monitor Ones like @MusicMan4Christ but now use a budget Mackie pair that translate well to modern listening (earbuds, smartphone, etc.)

    Just my $0.02 but I think you can definitely mix with headphones (I prefer it) although you do have to do some investigation & homework or you will get snakebit with mixes with wooly, overdone bass and dull highs or vice versa if your cans hype either end of the spectrum. Just get to know your tools...

  • edited February 2017

    Mixing and mastering on proper headphones is better than mediocre studio monitors, especially if the room isnt treated with bass traps etc. You dont want to try mastering with speakers unless you have high end studio speakers(and a sub) and treated room.

    You need open or semi open back headphones for it(obviously with flat response). Closed back headphones are for monitoring, not mixing/mastering

  • good points - I've used AKG K501 cans for ages and still do (for everything), so I'm pretty 'adjusted' to them. Works quite well except for club subbass, which is a bit of guessing around, but I usually don't mix that genre.
    Old K601, K701 work similiar and even the current versions/successors, but those are more 'sounded', not as neutral as the old models.

  • Personally it wasn't until I got some higher end IEM's that I gave the idea of mastering on anything other than my larger D2x's a serious consideration. Not saying it can't be done, but I personally just don't want to always got through all the referencing elsewhere each time.

    Mixing is a slightly different story for me, I find I can mix in cans with a bit less work. Panning and stereo placement is always a bit challenging still. On the laptop I use Goodhertz CanOpener Studio for providing crossfeed, decent app for fairly cheap. Or just accept it's totally different from on speakers and embrace the weird. :)

    The low end is always the trickiest bit when doing any sort of critical frequency work in headphones, though I'd say the same is true of most studio monitors too. I've been pretty impressed with the IEMs lately compared to other high end headphones I've tried (Audeze, Focal, etc). I recommend people try some of those if they're thinking about getting a bit more serious with their headphone work. They're not for everyone, but it's pretty amazing how accurate the low end can be.

  • Can-opener seems to be interesting and the released an app for iOS. Unfortunately it's doesn't work with audiobus/IAA or audio unit.
    If someone would code an crossfeed app I would buy it.

  • The iOS version is mainly a media player, but a really nice one with the crossfeeding options built in too. Sadly the developer pulled it from the store and doesn't plan on releasing a new version.

  • The point of mastering is to make sure it translates to every speaker, headphones included. With that said, because so many people listen on Apple's earbuds I do pop those in and give the mix special attention in those before finishing a master. I kinda like that so many listen the same way. Less variables :)

  • @Telefunky said:
    good points - I've used AKG K501 cans for ages and still do (for everything), so I'm pretty 'adjusted' to them. Works quite well except for club subbass, which is a bit of guessing around, but I usually don't mix that genre.
    Old K601, K701 work similiar and even the current versions/successors, but those are more 'sounded', not as neutral as the old models.

    I had a pair of k501s too, that I liked and that I used for many years. Great headphone. The last pair of AKGs that I bought and like are the K612Pros, and they're pretty cheap too.

  • Mixing and mastering purpose is that final touch that a song receives for a good representation on every medium.There is not such thing as headphone music.I know that a lot of music has so much detail and also some nice stereo dynamics but it was probably mixed on Monitor speakers and maybe verified on Headphones.
    Yes it can be done in theory on headphones but there are some problems with bas.For me it was a problem .I always end up with much more bass than i wanted.I prefer a room very good treated and Monitors

  • @modul8ar said:
    Mixing and mastering purpose is that final touch that a song receives for a good representation on every medium.There is not such thing as headphone music.I know that a lot of music has so much detail and also some nice stereo dynamics but it was probably mixed on Monitor speakers and maybe verified on Headphones.
    Yes it can be done in theory on headphones but there are some problems with bas.For me it was a problem .I always end up with much more bass than i wanted.I prefer a room very good treated and Monitors

    https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tb-morphit/id1487595036

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