What are some reasons to avoid a new pair of studio headphones? Studio headphones can be a bit of an odd purchase. Functionally, there’s nothing wrong with getting a pair of high-end headphones.
However, if you’re looking to use them for any serious audio post-production work, it shouldn’t be your only option. Studio headphones aren’t for everyone, and many users might be better off just sticking with a pair of consumer headphones or earbuds.
If you are new to the world of professional audio, you’re in the right place. This guide will cover some reasons to avoid a new pair of studio headphones, along with some alternatives to get you started in pro audio.
What Are Studio Headphones?
Studio headphones are higher-end listening solutions meant for recording or production work. You will find pairs of them all across the world in the likes of film studios, TV studios, and recording studios.
Some, like the Sony MDR-7506, are just seen as a standard item for most tracking purposes. That said, for users looking to get into audio production, a pair of studio headphones might not be the ideal choice.
Reasons to Avoid a New Pair of Studio Headphones
Here are six reasons to avoid a new pair of studio headphones.
Reason #1: They Aren’t Portable
This seems contradictory since headphones are by design more portable than speakers. You do have to understand studio headphones are far bulkier than their consumer counterparts.
Some pairs, like the Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pros, are huge when compared to something like the AirPods Max. This is by design, as studio headphones need to have high-quality ear cups and drivers to make the most of the sound source.
As such, this isn’t something you’re readily throwing in your bag. Studio headphones are likely going to live on a desk or hang on a stand when not in use. If you’re looking for a portable solution, this is one of the reasons to avoid a new pair of studio headphones.
Reason #2: Flat Frequency Response
If you’re looking into a pair of studio headphones for casual music listening, you might be disappointed. Studio headphones are designed to deliver a flat response, so aspects of your audio like bass and treble will seem fairly tame.
They aren’t designed for casual listening; instead, they serve as something of a midpoint to proper studio monitors. That isn’t to say you can’t listen casually with studio headphones, but there are cheaper solutions to deliver your streams from Apple Music or Spotify with calibrated output meant for enjoyment.
Reason #3: Trade-Offs
There are multiple types of studio headphones. When selecting a pair, you’ll have to make a choice between closed-back, open-back, or semi-open-back. What this means is you’ll never have a true representation of your sound.
You get great isolation with closed-back headphones, but you won’t get a representation of how open air affects the material.
Open-back headphones let you understand how it sounds in a room but can be prone to letting outside sound in. The ideal solution is to have more than one pair, but that isn’t viable for every user.
You’re going to have to compromise to decide which is best for you, which is just one of the reasons to avoid a new pair of studio headphones.
Reason #4: Cramped Soundstages
Studio monitors are generally suggested for audio production because you have a wide-open soundstage. Closed-back studio headphones don’t get this luxury, as you’ll have quite a bit of isolation from the closed-ear cups.
This isolation of the soundstage can lead to the headphones having a V-shaped profile. Now, for closed-back studio headphones, this can be a massive boon.
However, if you’re looking at things and expecting width, you might have to look at other options. The cramped soundstage is just another reason to avoid a new pair of studio headphones.
Reason #5: Sound Leakage
One of the drawbacks of a set of open-back studio headphones comes in the form of sound leakage. You can hear how the audio reacts to the ambiance of your room, but that also leads to a lack of solid isolation.
So, if you’re looking for an accurate representation of the sound itself, you might want to avoid studio headphones.
Reason #6: No One Size Fits All Options
As you can tell from the last few reasons, there isn’t really a universal solution to the issues you’ll face with a pair of studio headphones. You’re either going to sacrifice space or isolation. You can’t have both.
The ideal solution is to combine the flexibility and openness of a pair of headphones with monitors. Monitors are going to give you the absolute best representation of your sound, especially when taking into consideration things like bass and treble.
If you’re looking to do any audio post-production or film scoring, you’ll want to lean heavily on a pair of studio monitors before you go to headphones.
Alternatives to Studio Headphones
So, with all this in mind, what are some alternatives to studio headphones?
1. Studio Monitors
Studio monitors are the choice to make for anyone getting serious about production work. Powered speakers have far more accurate frequency response than a pair of headphones.
A set of monitors like the Yamaha HS7s get you well into the lows and highs without sacrificing too much in terms of the subfrequencies.
The HS7s have a massive driver on each speaker, and they do require power from your mains. While it might seem like a hefty investment, they are very much worth it for aspiring engineers.
Now, in-ear monitors are effectively just a different take on headphones. Due to the IEMs being placed further back in your ear, you get more detail to the sound. Getting the same level of detail out of a pair of headphones just isn’t done.
The Shure SE215 IEMs are on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of price, but they still deliver massive sound. You can get a great bird’s eye view of how your mix really sounds.
Thanks to the ear tips, these will be more comfortable over longer durations than a pair of headphones. The SE215s won’t help with getting a sense of space, but they’ll fare far better than comparable headphones in the same price bracket.
3. Corrective Equalization
- Room mic for isolating frequencies to correct studio monitors
- Wide support for a number of consumer headphones
- Comes with a standalone app and plugin for digital audio workstations
- Includes Waves plugins for your digital audio workstation
Corrective equalization is a process to negate some of the hyped-up frequencies in your current set of headphones. Apple users are likely familiar with this thanks to its implementation in the newer AirPods, like the third-generation model and the second-generation AirPod Pros.
There are multiple pieces of software that will readily correct the frequencies of your current headphones, however. SoundID Reference is the one to choose from, as it has support for quite a few common commercially available headphone sets.
If you do decide to opt for a set of new studio headphones, these will at least get things squared up so your mixing will be accurate.
New studio headphones can seem like a quick fix for whatever is ailing you in your production work. However, there are far more sound investments you can make that will benefit your audio.
Options like studio monitors are recommended above headphones most of the time for a good reason. You’ll also notice most professional stage musicians and sound engineers aren’t using a pair of headphones during concerts and other live events.
|Reasons to Avoid a New Pair of Studio Headphones|
|1. Their bulkier size doesn’t lead to great portability.|
|2. Studio headphones are designed to have a flatter frequency response.|
|3. You are going to have to make trade-offs when picking a pair of headphones.|
|4. Studio headphones can have very cramped soundstages.|
|5. Open-back headphones are prone to sound leakage.|
|6. There isn’t an ideal solution that can be purchased.|
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