We continue our series talking about what gear we use in our studios by the Pro Tools Expert Team. In the previous article we shared our studio monitor controller solutions, in this article, we share the studio headphones we use in our day to day recording and mixing workflows. Choosing a set of headphones is a very subjective thing - What works for one person in sound reproduction, build quality, comfort and cost may not be right for another. Read the article to find out what headphones we use in our studios and why.
Please share your headphone choices with us in the comments below.
KRK KNS 8400 - Dan Cooper
I've used the KRK KNS 8400 headphones for around four years, this is the longest period I've stuck with the same brand and model of headphones, ever. The reasons?
- Lightweight and comfortable: I can wear these for very long periods of time without irritation.
- Affordable: Less than £100 to purchase.
- Durable: My three sets of KRK 8400 have been used and abused and still not a single set has broken or started showing signs of breaking anytime soon.
- Sound: Balanced low end, defined mids and gentle highs - The perfect balance, in my opinion, for studio headphones.
I also own a set of KRK KNS 6400 that are around £20 cheaper, my advice, do not buy these headphones as they sound terrible and the cushioning is really cheap and uncomfortable. Spend that bit extra and get the KRK KNS 8400 model if you are looking into this range of KRK headphones.
The KRK 8400 are great headphones for tracking and mixing, however, these can be upgraded via software by Sonarworks that I've found to be a brilliant pair of tools to use when mixing with headphones. Sonarworks sent me a pair of measured KRK 8400 with an individual headphone calibration file that loads into Sonarworks headphone plug-in within Reference 3. This enables Reference 3 to work it's monitoring correction magic giving me a much better response from the KRK 8400 headphones. Don't get me wrong, the KRK 8400 sound amazing without Sonarworks, it's just Sonarworks have realised the full sonic potential of the headphones, and many others.
Read Russ' Pro Tools Expert review of the KRK KNS 8400 studio headphones.
Sony MDR 7509 - Mike Thornton
I am on my second pair of these. they came recommended by a friend and although will find them not flat, I like them. When undertaking location recording they are very unforgiving. What I mean by that is that they show every issue and problem. As a result I know if there aren't any issues listening through them when I am on location, everything will sound excellent back at base.
I like the fact that the earpiece is large so they go over and round my ear lobes, rather than squash them to my head. This makes them comfortable even for long periods.
They are closed back which means I get great isolation with them and when necessary in high ambient noise environments I can drive them hard so I know that what I am hearing is what I am recording and isn't being skewed by the ambient noise like PA spill.
I also have a couple of pairs of their smaller cousin the MDR 7506 for guests and performers.
Blue Mo-Fi & VModa Crossfade LP - James Ivey
I often find myself wearing different cans depending on the job I am doing or the job I want them to do. If I'm in the studio drumming I really don't want the click to get out of my headphones and into the mics. In this case, I will use the amazing Blue Mo-Fi headphones. These are a good solid pair of cans which I find are just fantastic for recording drums. They are active headphones meaning they are powered (charged by USB). Thay have amazing bottom end extension so I can really feel the kick drum. You can then, turn this off the extra bass when recording vocals but I have never had a problem with click bleed from these cans. These were not cheap but in my opinion worth every penny. I reviewed the Mo-Fi headphones a couple of years back. You can see my review below.
If I am podcasting or DJing or even just listening back to a mix I use a pair of VMODA Crossfade LP headphones. There feel really nice on your ears and again have a really nice smooth bottom end. These are also great for tracking but they are not so enclosed as the Mo-Fis.
Shure SE425 In Ear Monitors - Alan Sallabank
I absolutely love these Shure SE425 IEM's (in-ear monitors). They are discreet, pretty much completely block out exterior noise without using any electronics, you can fit custom ear moulds to them, and the frequency response and imaging is superb, as they actually have a two-way system - separate woofer and tweeter, packed in to those tiny shells.
Shure claim that these give 37dB isolation, and I can back that up. They are very effective, if a tad expensive, ear defenders in their own right. The leads are replaceable, as are the drivers. After a particularly clumsy day I manged to accidentally stand on one of the drivers, and Shure replaced it for a minimal charge, with a next day service.
If these look familiar to you, they are the same models as were dispatched to all the BBC sports presenters at the 2012 Olympics, to give them discreet foldback so they didn't have to shout over the crowd. They are expensive at £250, but in my opinion, worth every penny.
Sennheiser HD 598SE/HD25 - Julian Rodgers
It was only when I was asked to write for this post that I realised that my most used headphones were both Sennheiser. I am on record as saying that I see headphones as a necessary evil but these two pairs illustrate opposite ends of the spectrum and my reasons for owning them.
Both of these are for editing and mixing. I have another pair which are my favourites for tracking.
The HD 598SE is an open backed pair of relatively cheap headphones which I favour for use in my work room (I'm reluctant to describe it as a studio) as they are comfortable and as they are open backed they are very suitable for extended use as they don't have the constricting feeling of isolation which is an inevitable consequence of closed back designs.
The HD25 on the other hand is the most closed back of closed back designs. Rather than sitting around the ear, these cans sit on top of the ear and isolate very effectively. They are well known as a favourite of DJs and this I'm sure is because of their excellent isolation. I use these in noisy environments as they keep the sound of your environment out better than any headphones I've ever used. However I find them uncomfortable for extended use.
I haven't said much about sound. Both of these pairs of headphones put in good performance but I have to say I'm fundamentally suspicious of the presentation of headphones and while they are useful for detailed listening I've always struggled with capturing the big picture of a mix using headphones.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 ohms - Peter Barter
I am a big believer in using headphones for fine editing work and regularly spend hours at a time with a set of cans strapped to my head. Comfort is of paramount importance due to the extended listening periods so a cushioned over ear design like that on the DT 770 PRO is perfect. Beyerdynamic actually provide a few different impedance options on this model (32, 80 and 250 ohms) with each being slightly more suitable for different areas of studio or home use with the 250 ohm variety being my weapon of choice.
One of the main concerns for me in my current workspace is isolation so a closed back design was essential - this also allows for use in tracking scenarios without the associated bleed you get from semi or fully open-backed models. Regarding the sound, I would say the same as I would with any speaker system - you need to learn how they translate before fully trusting them. Initially, I found these headphones to be quite flattering to my mixes, hiding issues in the low end that would later come back to haunt me but now when used in combination with Sonarworks and my Genelec monitors I've now found a system I can trust
KRK KNS 8400 - Russ Hughes
Like Dan, I'm a big fan of the KRK, I wrote a review of the KRK KNS 8400 some time ago.
Here is a summary of my review;
Starting with the sound. The sound is very open and transparent, in particular at the very top end (often referred to as ‘air’) and was more present. In particular, when listening to the acoustic and classical tracks, I was hearing more of the ambient stuff such as feet moving on sound stages (really) and other artefacts like the movement of the playing on acoustic guitars, or piano pedal noise. I’m not sure I had heard this before, so to be sure I put my regular pair of trusty headphones on and some of this detail was less noticeable.
The bottom end is nice and round without trying to flatter the sound—the last thing you need from a pair of studio headphones is someone trying to gild the lily when it comes to the bottom end.
Overall, the sound is pretty transparent and without any real peaks and troughs often prevalent in Hi-Fi headphones (an intended effect) which have been dressed up to be studio-grade headphones.
These are the headphone we use - Tell what headphones you use and why