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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

4 Tips For A Great Headphone Mix

headphones on console image
Most musicians perform better with a great mix and headphones that work perfectly. Here's an excerpt from The Recording Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that provides 4 tips for getting those headphones session-ready.

"Perhaps the greatest detriment to a session running smoothly is the inability for players to hear themselves comfortably in the headphones. This is one of the reasons that veteran engineers spend so much time and attention to the cue mix and the phones themselves. In fact, a sure sign of an inexperienced engineer is treating the headphones and cue mix as an afterthought instead of spending as much time as required to make them sound great.

While it’s true that a veteran studio player can shrug off a bad or distorted phone mix and still deliver a fine performance, good “cans” makes a session go faster and easier, and takes a variable that can sometimes be the biggest detriment to a session out of the equation.
1. Long before the session begins, test every headphone to make sure there’s no distortion and they’re working correctly (test with actual music). 
2. Make sure that there’s plenty of cable available so that the musicians can move around as needed. Use cable extenders as necessary. 
3. Check to make sure that the cables are not intermittent (nothing stops a session as fast as a crackling phone). 
4. Some engineers send the stereo monitor mix (the mix that you’re listening to in the control room) to the phones first, then add a little of the individual instruments as needed (“more me”). This is a lot easier than building up individual mixes, unless that’s what the musicians request.
Where at one time each studio had to jury-rigged together their own headphone amp to power their cue mixes, these days its easy and fairly inexpensive to buy a dedicated headphone amplifier from any number of manufacturers that’s easy to set up and sounds great.

Companies like Behringer, Furman, PreSonus, Rolls and Aphex all make units that will work better and can be a lot cheaper than the traditional method of a large power amp and resistors."

To read additional excerpts from The Recording Engineer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of

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