- Okay, but how are studio headphones different from a traditional pair for audiophiles?
- Why should you consider studio headphones compared to traditional ones?
- Now, let’s chat about hearing health and studio headphones.
- I wear hearing aids. Can I even use studio headphones?
- What should I look for in a pair of studio headphones?
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Picture this: You’re in the studio — or working on some beats at home — and you’re getting ready to work on the next track. But you may be wondering, is there a piece of gear that could make your next studio session even better?
Yes there is and that’s why you may want to look into studio headphones.
Okay, but how are studio headphones different from a traditional pair for audiophiles?
Simply put, studio headphones are specifically manufactured for sound isolation and a clear audio representation (aka, how the music or beat actually sounds).
To go even further, this device is made for one main principle: accurate sound reproduction. That means less heavy-handed bass, voice distortions, and even… auto tune.
According to audio engineer and Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) candidate, CUNY Graduate Center, Madeleine Campbell, studio headphones “typically have a flatter frequency response, though every manufacturer and model is a bit different,” she says. “This is important for anyone recording, mixing or producing music because it gives a more neutral reference point and can more accurately reveal any undesired qualities they may want to adjust.”
And what about traditional consumer headphones? “Consumer headphones are often designed to enhance a tonal aspect of music like a low-end boost to provide more bass or a high-end bump for added brightness,” Madeleine says.
Why should you consider studio headphones compared to traditional ones?
There are a lot of advantages to using a set of studio headphones. According to Madeleine, there are some pretty big perks.
“To me, the biggest pro of studio headphones is that they translate my work more honestly so I have a better idea of what changes I want to make,” she says. “Manufacturers sometimes refer to this as minimal ‘coloration’ added to the audio signal.”
But take note: You aren’t going to use studio headphones for casual music listening, lounging, or commuting. First of all, Madeleine says that these headphones don’t have many of the bells and whistles found in regular headphones, like Bluetooth connectivity, noise canceling features, and so on. The reasoning behind this? “In a recording or production environment, these features can add unwanted latency and the hassle of dead batteries,” she says.
Now, let’s chat about hearing health and studio headphones.
If you wear headphones for several hours at a time when making, mixing, or producing music, it is important to be mindful of your hearing health when wearing headphones for any prolonged period of time.
Before we get into health tips from Madeleine, Soundly’s lead audiologist Dr. Amy Sarow has a friendly word of overarching advice when it comes to studio headphones and volume. “Ideally listening volume should be below 80 decibels,” Dr. Amy says. “Keeping the volume at 60-70% of maximum volume is best.”
Healthy listening volume aside, when you’re sitting in the studio for hours on end, Madeleine has some tips. “After long stretches, especially at high loudness levels, your ears will become less sensitive,” she says. “This is listening fatigue.”
If you want to combat (or proactively target) listening fatigue, Madeleine says to give your ears a break. “Take a five-minute pause every hour to reset,” she says.
Next, Madeleine monitors loudness levels. “We know that sustained listening above 85 decibels substantially increases the risk of permanent hearing loss,” she says. “I once read that your volume level should generally be low enough for you to converse without raising your voice.”
I wear hearing aids. Can I even use studio headphones?
The short answer is yes, you can! Here, Madeleine gives some insights on how hearing aid users can also wear studio headphones.
“I’ve met several professional musicians and audio engineers who wear hearing aids and use studio headphones with great success,” she says. “Fit and positioning are critically important.”
Madeleine goes on to say that supra-aural headphones are specifically designed to sit on top of the ear while circumaural headphones fully encompass the ear. And, studio quality headphones are typically circumaural.
If you’re a BTE and RIC hearing aid user, Madeleine notes studio headphones are less likely to cause feedback. However, if you do experience feedback, try adjusting the headphone, which may be pressing down too much on your device’s microphones.
🌟Another handy tip for hearing aid wearers considering studio headphones: “If mixing and production are important to you, it may be worthwhile to have a designated hearing aid program with this in mind,” she says. “Remember that music is a far more complex signal than speech. We can’t treat them the same way!”
What should I look for in a pair of studio headphones?
First things first, Madeleine advises that there’s no universal answer for which headphones are best.
Odds are, Madeleine says, if you ask five professional musicians or audio engineers which pair they like the most, you’ll probably get five different answers. But that’s why we’re here to cut through the noise.
To begin, she recommends listening to music you’re really familiar with. Then, do an A/B comparison of your favorite song or podcast through studio headphones and the listening devices you’re currently using.
As you’re listening ask yourself these two questions:What differences jump out at you?Is there anything the studio headphones reveal that you aren’t hearing through consumer headphones?
As you notice differences and other observations, Madeleine outlines simple points for finding the right pair of studio headphones: “Purchasing criteria for a good pair of studio headphones will ultimately depend on your needs, but price, comfort and fit, frequency response, and the amount of isolation provided are all big contenders,” she says.
Finalize your needs and must-haves (like, price point, amount of isolation, etc.) and you’ll be good to go.
Now, let’s get to the best studio headphones for mixing and production.