Music Gear News
A Beginner's Guide to Buying Headphones
The importance of choosing the right headphones
One of the most essential items for a musician, engineer or producer who is recording in a home or studio is a good set of headphones. Listeners can use them to determine whether the recording they are working on is pleasing to the ears, technically accurate and well mixed. But prospective buyers must consider a number of issues before choosing to invest in a pair of their own.
What to look for in a pair of headphones
First and foremost, for what purpose does the buyer want headphones for? Indeed, a set purchased for a professional project could be very different to a set for casual use, both in terms of the price tag and technical specifications.
In addition, would-be buyers may need to look at the rest of their recording equipment and how a pair would fit into their overall set-up. For instance, some people may want to use them in conjunction with studio monitors, while others may want them to highlight component elements of the recording such as the bass.
Different types and price points of headphones
Perhaps the best way of deciding which pair is best for a person's needs is by looking at the price, which in general reflects the quality and performance the product offers. For example, headphones which contain a large driver should produce a better bass sound than those which do not.
This is just one of numerous technically specific requirements that could again influence a buyer's decision. Many features such as frequency range and sensitivity may only be relevant or desirable to those who are sufficiently knowledgeable about engineering professional quality recordings.
People looking at the lower end of the market may not feel the need to pay extra for features of this kind. Indeed, many commercial headphones are designed to suit music fans rather than sound engineers, which means people who use these during the recording process will receive a sound closer to what the typical listener would hear upon its completion.
By contrast, flat frequency, unsweetened headphones could be better suited for critical listening, in particular during the process of monitoring and mixing.
Open or Closed back headphones
While there are many different types of headphones currently on sale, they generally fall under two separate categories - the Open Back and the Closed Back.
On the former, such as an AKG K99 Semi Open, the back of each earpiece is open, which means sound is not isolated and can escape. While this makes them less suitable for a studio environment - in which critical listening is strongly required - they do offer an open and clear sound that can be listened to for extended periods.
The Closed Back, however, can be tiring if it used continuously for a long time, as the back of its earpieces are closed and the sound is isolated. This can be very useful for people such as DJs, as they have a solid bass response and are conducive to monitoring in a loud environment such as a nightclub. Alternatively, the isolated sound of devices such as Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro Headphones could be good for studio engineers and musicians, as they do not want the sound to leak out.
What are circumaural headphones?
Buyers of headphones may also wish to look at whether they are circumaural, which means they completely encircle the ear and prevent sound going both in and out of the cans. Supra-aural headphones, however, rest on the ear rather than around it. While products such as the Sennheiser HD-205 may be considered a more comfortable alternative to, say, the AKG K240 MKII, they do not isolate the sound as well, and the seal they form is not as good.
What practical things need to be considered when buying headphones?
But practical as well as technical features need to be considered by prospective buyers. If headphones are going to be worn for long periods of time, are they comfortable to wear? Are they appropriately sized or do they weigh too much?
Furthermore, regular headphones users will want to make sure they invest in a highly durable device, particularly if they are travelling around a lot. Some manufacturers have made sure that a set of cans can withstand the rough and tumble of heavy duty activity, with the M-Audio IE10 Pro Reference for example coming with its own carry case. Buyers of top-end devices in particular may also be well advised to make sure that in the event of any damage, features such as the ear pads and cable can be replaced without the need to invest in a new pair.
Headphone cables can easily be damaged if they are too long or too short, so consumers should consider what is appropriate to their needs, particularly as longer leads are more likely to reduce the quality of the signal passing through to the listener's ears.
With all these various factors taken into account, DJs, musicians and studio engineers should be able to decide upon the headphones which suit them best.Posted on 24 Jul 2009 16:24 to category : Tips and advice
Related Music News
Don't leave it to trial and error. With a bit of research, you can find your perfect pair of drumsticks.
Gear4music social media competitions | terms and conditions of entry
Update available to improve performance and fix bugs.
Shure recently discussed how guitarists can achieve great results when recording at home or in a small project studio. We took a look and picked out our favourite points.
Some people could find the prospect of recording an electric guitar quite daunting, but musicians and engineers in fact have many options open to them.
Musicians who record at home to produce demos or professional quality recordings can build up a vast array of equipment to come up with their ideal sound. However, it is not just the instruments themselves that can determine how a recording turns out, as the engineering and production can potentially make or break a track.
Recent Music News
The HeadRush MX5: the most compact, powerful, and easy to use guitar processor to date...
RANE collaborates with A-Trak on a signature, limited-edition Battle Mixer.
Premium guitar. Built-in synth capabilities. BOSS announces an exciting new venture with its first-ever solo guitar project.
Akai MPC 2.10 update further reaffirms you can truly stand alone with an MPC
Our quest to find the ultimate Boss stompbox is over. Read more to see how close the competition got and win your very own pedalboard.
She kept us entertained during quarantine with the release of Folklore, but what's the secret to Taylor Swift's Long Pond Studio sound? We've picked apart the Disney movie to bring you the equipment you can use to recreate those bluesy folk tones.