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Headphone Mixer solution
Old 19th May 2010
  #1
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Marcocet's Avatar
Headphone Mixer solution

Okay, I did some pretty extensive searching and nobody seems to have covered in details the differences between the headphone distribution systems out there. So far I've been able to find:

Furman HR-6 system: By far the cheapest. It carries both signal and power through two ethernet cables (cheap to install). 4 mono mixes plus one stereo mix with two headphone outs. But I've used them and they kinda seem like pieces of plastic.

Furman HDS-16 system: Has all the upgrades I would look for but is quite more expensive. It also carries the signal on Centronics 50 pin connectors, which are expensive to install and run around the studio. I don't know anybody who has a crimper for those things. I'm anticipating that this would be a HUGE cost but who knows? 16 channels.

Avoim AT16: Another 16 channel system. This one runs and can receive power off of a single ethernet cable! However the initial cost is high and you can't daisy chain them without using additional power adapters.

Hear Technologies Hear Back: 8 channel system that runs and is powered off of a single ethernet line. I can't find any info on daisy chaining them but I suppose you probably can't. Personally I think they look kinda stupid but they're pretty cheap and if they do the job I think they might be the best choice.

Mytek Private-Q: I remember seeing these at studios all the time in the 90s. They're kinda bulky but always seemed to work really well. However they run on Cannon DL connectors and 24 channel snakes, which I think is a HUGE detriment. All that snake cabling has got to rack up the total cost, and every time I've used them there have been issues with the connectors due to the weight of the cabling. Also pretty expensive.

Langevin More-Me: These look amazing, however they also run on big ass ELCO connectors. The good news about that is that you don't need any sort of base unit, you can just send straight from your patchbay. The downside being that each one needs its own power adapter. Kind of a pain if you ask me. They probably sound great knowing manley's reputation but I can't imagine they're worth the cost.


So now for the point. Can anybody talk about their positive/negative experiences with these, name any more options, or compare ones that they've worked with? I'm going to need a system for my new space and want to have the wiring planned out so I never have to tear any walls open.
Thanks!
Old 19th May 2010
  #2
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strewnshank's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Okay, I did some pretty extensive searching and nobody seems to have covered in details the differences between the headphone distribution systems out there. So far I've been able to find:....

[
I've worked with the first three a bunch, as an engineer and musician. The Avoim replaced the HDS16 in one of the places I work, and certainly sounded better, though I know the house engineer had to disconnect the fan in the base unit because it was really loud in the CR (may not be an issue for you). I like the topography of the HDS16 the best, since the layout is easy to compare from unit to unit, so setting them all to a similar mix takes a matter of seconds, but I don't know if that's really an argument against the Aviom system....it certainly is easier to hook up! Also, I've heard that connecting and disconnecting the HDS16 mixers while the base unit is on can cause the mixers to break/short out, so that might be something to consider if you ret your place out to visiting engineers.
Old 20th May 2010
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Hear Technologies Hear Back: 8 channel system that runs and is powered off of a single ethernet line. I can't find any info on daisy chaining them but I suppose you probably can't. Personally I think they look kinda stupid but they're pretty cheap and if they do the job I think they might be the best choice.
Hey Marc,

We have a Hear Back [4 mixers with one Hub] at the studio and its been awesome for us. Though - I have had a engineer complain about Latency, it has not presented such a problem for me, or my clients - in my time using it. You can't daisy chain mixers, so we wired E-net cable to a patch bay next to the mic tie panel, and we can patch up to Eight Mixers to the Hub. I have a mixer in the studio to check the mix, and everyone can dial in their own sound once the intern labels the mixers for them. The Mixers have awful sounding limiters in them, that LOC-TITE fixes right away. They have two headphone outputs per, along with Stereo AUX Line Level Outputs. Sometimes you can get away with two heads per mixer, if they are local to each other in the room.

Quote:
Langevin More-Me: These look amazing, however they also run on big ass ELCO connectors. The good news about that is that you don't need any sort of base unit, you can just send straight from your patchbay. The downside being that each one needs its own power adapter. Kind of a pain if you ask me. They probably sound great knowing manley's reputation but I can't imagine they're worth the cost.
We had one of these boxes at the studio, and besides wiring the ELCO, I loved using it, becasue it sounded REALLY good, and has some cool features that make it easy to talk to the artist. This thing is kind of expensive, but its a fantastic option, even with the ELCO's. I hear Manley's CUSTOM shop has opened. You could bug them to put DB25's on there instead.
Old 20th May 2010
  #4
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bbgallaway's Avatar
 

The only one on your list I've used is the Furman HDS-6/HR-6 system. I can chime in though if only to say I've never had any issues with it. One studio I worked at had some problems, but only because they let interns run amok and all the ethernet cables got crimped, yanked, and generally abused. Even in that case, replacing the cables had the system as good as new. After using the system there for a few years I had no doubts at all about installing it in my studio.
Old 20th May 2010
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Furman HR-6 system: By far the cheapest. It carries both signal and power through two ethernet cables (cheap to install). 4 mono mixes plus one stereo mix with two headphone outs. But I've used them and they kinda seem like pieces of plastic.
I have to take up for the Furman HR-6 for a number of reasons. Having used virtually every cue system on the market (Cue Eight, custom house systems, etc.), the Furman sounds really good, it very easy and straightforward, not complicated for the artist to use, enough "more me" to not get into trouble, is built well (I don't get a sense of it being "plastic" - seems like the other cue boxes have less metal). The thing I like best is the easy to replace cabling - inexpensive Cat 5. Any cue system is going to get abused, what you want is the least-expensive-to-replace-parts with the best sound. I'd highly recommend the HR-6.
Old 20th May 2010
  #6
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You might want to check into this "NOT HIGH END FORUM" option (wanted to get that out of the way before someone chimed in LOL). For $180 the SM Pro HP6E will give you a good way to get a stereo mix plus "More Me" control to four musicians per unit. Just get more units for more players on phones. I really don't like the idea of a musician being able to adjust EQ's in a headphone mix as a good musician will adjust their playing to what they hear. Hopefully if you just feed them what is coming out of the room and give them the option to adjust their own volume (more me) relative to the stereo mix in their cans then that's the next best thing to using no cans at all. SM Pro Audio HP6E 6-Channel Headphone Amp Features:10 TRS inputs, 5 stereo channels/ Mix control for each amplifier output/ 6 class A headphone amplifiers/ Nominal output @ 32Ohm 600mw per channel/ Frequency response @100mw output 20Hz-20kHz ± 0.3dB/ Built-in flash memory for last state memory recall/ THD @300mw less then 0.02%/ Built-in power supply
Old 20th May 2010
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Furman HR-6 system:
Not a fan. Ethernet connectors fail, make loud noises in headphones. Not very flexible with regards to inputs. Sounds okay, not bad, not great.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Furman HDS-16 system:
Haven't used this. Have heard from several people that it's much nicer than that HR-6.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Avoim AT16:
Not a fan. Sound quality is so-so. Usable. Biggest complaint is that they're not intuitive to the average player... That or most players cannot be bothered with messing with it. Either way, they get a lot of complaints.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Hear Technologies Hear Back:
A lot of guys like these. I can't think of a single studio in town that has this setup, and so have never used it. Looks like a better layout than the Aviom for sure.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Mytek Private-Q:
This and the Formula Sound Que 8 were pretty revolutionary twenty years ago. Now, I think they're a little too rudimentary, especially considering the cost. Oh, and players complain about how the Que 8 sounds.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Langevin More-Me:
Sound great. Expensive. Talkback function is nice. Expensive.




I'd say your best would be to do what many of the big studios have been doing. Buy mini-mixers and wire multipair.
A rack-mountable Mackie mixer and a Crown D60 makes a headphone system that sounds pretty incredible, costs less than several of the systems you've mentioned, and lets you create a headphone system with up to 16 inputs. You can even create a talkback system using the pres on the console. It just requires you to do some legwork.

If you're afraid of legwork, get the Furman HR-6
Old 20th May 2010
  #8
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fimone's Avatar
 

+1 for the hearback
easy of use-install
cheapest way to have pro headphone self mixing device !!
after 2 hears of use without a problem I can say it's a problem solver !!






www.telecinesound.com
Old 20th May 2010
  #9
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Marcocet's Avatar
Thanks for the posts guys. It's looking like either the hearback or some little mixers are prob the way to go for my needs. The hearback latency things worries me though, and that's what I wondered about it being digital. Though by that same card it's not really doing any digital processing so it shouldn't have to slow the signal down much. I really need to just find a studio that has them and go check it out.

Anybody else want to weigh in?
Old 20th May 2010
  #10
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fabricaudio's Avatar
 

We are using this

Shure AuxPander Auxiliary Expander 8X8 Insertable Matrix Mixer

and this for headphone amps

http://www.aphex.com/454.htm

So
4 mixes -->in two boxes -->each box can handle 4 headpods (16 musicians) in stereo mode( 2 balanced insert in L and R of the headpod) --> 32 musicians total from both boxes

or

4 mixes -->in two boxes -->each box can handle 8 headpods (32 musicians) in mono mode (1 balanced insert in the stereo in of the headpod)--> 64 musicians total from both boxes


The headpod is quite flexible since we can put it close to the musician instead of a rack mount headphone amp. Also it is quite loud if we need too.

p.s:i hope i am talking bull**** (correct me if i am wrong)

Nikolas
Old 22nd May 2010
  #11
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Okay, after a LOT of thinking about it I've come up with what I want from a headphone mixer. Looks like I'll prob have to build the things myself to get it though.

1) 8 channels (1 stereo 6 mono). Perfect for 8 aux sends on a console like mine. I've worked with the smaller Furman mixers before and I like the minimalism but I always wanted like one more channel. I think eight would be perfect.

2) LCR panning switches. A hell of a lot simpler than pots but it allows people to space things a little bit if they like.

3) Phase switches on each channel (except maybe the stereo one). This opens up a lot of flexibility. If I send the stereo mix that's coming off the desk to the stereo bus on the phones people can actually subtract instruments. All I have to do is send that instrument direct and they can flip the phase and pull it out. Also with the LCR panning they can take things out of only one side of the headphones etc etc. Why doesn't anybody already do this?

4) Separate master L and R mute buttons. That way if someone is wearing just one side of the phones they can turn the other one off easily to cut down on bleed.

5) High quality headphone amplification. Wouldn't it be nice if the headphones that musicians have to play to sounded as good as possible? I end up tracking people in the control room all the time because nobody likes listening to a crappy set of phones out of a crappy amp. I think it would dramatically improve moral and performances.

6) Finally I would LOVE for it to be digital. If I could send all of the audio AND power over one Cat5 cable it would be ideal since the cable is so cheap to run and set up, not to mention replace after it gets stomped on 1000 times. However since it looks like I'll probably be building them myself the best option is probably Dsub and 8 channel snakes. It keeps the cabling thin enough to not be a problem to move around and the connectors are relatively cheap. They'll need separate power lines but I think it's a price I'll have to pay.


Anybody have any other ideas / things they'd like to add / comments about what I should change? My need for these things is still almost a year out but I have an odd feeling it's going to take that long to plan and build them.
Old 22nd May 2010
  #12
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We have the HearBack. It's not as robust or as flexible as the Aviom, but the Aviom is ABSURDLY expensive. The HearBack hub plus four mixers is less than $1500. Then you can add mixers as you need, as you go. As Adam notes, the limiter in the HB system (there's a knob for it on each mixer) is ****e, but otherwise it's a great system.
Old 23rd May 2010
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Okay, after a LOT of thinking about it I've come up with what I want from a headphone mixer. Looks like I'll prob have to build the things myself to get it though.

1) 8 channels (1 stereo 6 mono). Perfect for 8 aux sends on a console like mine. I've worked with the smaller Furman mixers before and I like the minimalism but I always wanted like one more channel. I think eight would be perfect.

2) LCR panning switches. A hell of a lot simpler than pots but it allows people to space things a little bit if they like.

3) Phase switches on each channel (except maybe the stereo one). This opens up a lot of flexibility. If I send the stereo mix that's coming off the desk to the stereo bus on the phones people can actually subtract instruments. All I have to do is send that instrument direct and they can flip the phase and pull it out. Also with the LCR panning they can take things out of only one side of the headphones etc etc. Why doesn't anybody already do this?

4) Separate master L and R mute buttons. That way if someone is wearing just one side of the phones they can turn the other one off easily to cut down on bleed.

5) High quality headphone amplification. Wouldn't it be nice if the headphones that musicians have to play to sounded as good as possible? I end up tracking people in the control room all the time because nobody likes listening to a crappy set of phones out of a crappy amp. I think it would dramatically improve moral and performances.

6) Finally I would LOVE for it to be digital. If I could send all of the audio AND power over one Cat5 cable it would be ideal since the cable is so cheap to run and set up, not to mention replace after it gets stomped on 1000 times. However since it looks like I'll probably be building them myself the best option is probably Dsub and 8 channel snakes. It keeps the cabling thin enough to not be a problem to move around and the connectors are relatively cheap. They'll need separate power lines but I think it's a price I'll have to pay.


Anybody have any other ideas / things they'd like to add / comments about what I should change? My need for these things is still almost a year out but I have an odd feeling it's going to take that long to plan and build them.
Because You haven't designed it yet? Good ideas man. FWIW, I remember The LANGEVIN does have a Polarity Flip on Cha1.
Old 23rd May 2010
  #14
I'm running the HDS-16 here... I really do love it.

The cabling indeed is a "pseudo" PITA... you'll definitely hone yer' soldering skills if you take any of it in-wall.

The Centronic's cables/connectors that come with each unit is really good build quality, and as yet, don't foresee too many issues with them.

What I especially like is that it's all analog technology. If anything goes wrong, you CAN service them yourself, if you are so inclined.

The boxes themselves appears to be solid, well built steel construction, and should hold up to several years of abuse.

The fact that you can daisy chain em' is the big bonus, IMHO. While I have plenty of panels in the tracking room, if it's more convenient to daisy chain one or two of em'... it's no problem.

They also have a right decent gain structure. As a drummer, there's plenty of gas to where I don't need to gag the thing wide open!

I also like the fact that they have the built in talkback mic and level.

As long as you don't turn everything wide open, the system is a dream to work with on both sides of the glass.

Granted, I've only been up and running with the system for 5 months-ish... but so far, I think it was a great decision.
Old 23rd May 2010
  #15
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Thanks man!

Yeah, on further inspection it appears the langevin is almost exactly what I want. However at $1600 a piece I think I can do better, especially if I'm not worried about the talkback functionality.

I spent the last week reading every page on summing on the prodigy pro forums. My brain's just about to lose a hinge.

I'm gonna have to take a closer look at the top of the line furman.
Old 8th June 2014
  #16
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I know this is way late but I'm going through the [I]exact same quest.[I]

Thanks everyone for your input!
Old 8th June 2014
  #17
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… furthermore one issue I see with the Furman 16 is the front mounted inputs on the control unit. Building a patch bay close to mix position so it will look weird.

Tempted to just put an elco in the wall for future proofing and just do Langevin, Que 8, or build your own.
Old 8th June 2014
  #18
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I'm sorry that I don't have any input on these products, but what I'd like to say is- I absolutely LOVE your studio.
Old 8th June 2014
  #19
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I had a hearback and was glad to get rid of it. It had more latency than I consider to be good here, it's like 6ms or something which might be fine on its own, but with latency being cummulative it can be an issue if the sends are post daw. Also 8 ch always seemed just a little short, and the pots are prone to going bad and not working correctly over their entire range.

Now I have the behringer one, which IMO is better, but can run a tad noisy (at least when connected via analog). Generally younger folks like this and can figure it out, but older/less-techy guys can be baffled by it. IMO definitely better than the hearback and the internal latency is lower...

I did try to just wire a mult soldered into a bunch of cheap behringer mixers and that was a nightmare....I think if you are going to build something from scratch be prepared to put a lot of effort into making it into a smooth functioning system.

At some point I would like to try out a furman 16ch system. I think they are laid out the best with simple controls that still offer enough options, IMO it is nice to be able to pan things on the mixers...I notice that after a day or few of tracking that most poeple like to push other things than themselves off to the sides. Hope that helps.
Old 9th June 2014
  #20
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Surprised to see this thread come back up.

Anyway, just to give a heads up, I ended up designing my own system, followed that by getting to wrapped up in construction of the studio, and now I've been using the hearbacks for years and they seem to do a passable job. At some point I'd still like to upgrade, or finish my own system, but it's a long way off I think.
Old 10th June 2014
  #21
We have the Furman HDS-16 system and sat the control box behind the desk so it's not in the our main outboard racks. It's wired to our patchbay and so we can feed the inputs from auxs, group outs from the desk or directly from pro tools interfaces. We really like that we can feed it what we like rather than having to feed it only from interfaces. Our local office IT guy sorted cable extensions no bother at all. I think we paid £1000 for the control unit and 4 mixers on eBay. Every single band have commented on how fantastic the headphone mix sounds. Couldn't be happier!!
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