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Mixing on electrostatic headphones?
Old 1st May 2019
Mixing on electrostatic headphones?

A ton of audiophile gear gets mixed into my world as I see it all as good audio referencing. Anyone else mixing on Stax or a different brand of electrostatic cans?
Old 1st May 2019
Gear Addict

Stax owner here.. i like them for critical editing and general listening pleasure. They are comfortable to wear, too. But I find the bass is hard to judge (too flat?) on mine, so for balancig a mix i would rather use speakers or different cans.
Old 1st May 2019
Lives for gear

All Headphones have several inherent faults which prevent you from getting and ideal mix.
You can use them for tracking, stereo positioning/balance and hearing details. When it comes to adjusting the ideal frequency response and using time based effects they are completely untrustworthy. Doesn't matter what the cost or quality of the headphones are either.

When you wear headphones you isolate the left and right ears and eliminate crossfeed. The audio image also appears in the center of your skull instead of in front of you with air and crossfeed between a set of speakers. Doesn't matter how skilled you think you are, your hearing is impaired when using things like Echo and reverb because there is no triangulation using both ears and there isn't a darn thing you can do about it.

On top of that when you place the speakers on the ears your outer ears are no longer used funneling the sound which also colors the sound. You'll wind up getting a strange upper midrange curve every time using headphones that you don't when using monitors. Again, this is an inherent flaw that occurs when you remove your outer ears from the mixing equation. The monitors can read 100% flat on a frequency analyzer it still wont matter. What you hear as being flat in the open air is heard by your brain differently when those outer ears are lost. Close proximity to the speakers causes a bass boost too so you often get a thin sounding mix using headphones.

They do make some crossfeed plugins and hardware devices which are supposed to add distance and crossfeed when using headphones.
you may want to give them a try and see what happens. I wasted 10 years of my life trying to mix with headphones. I averaged maybe 10% of the mixes being a decent quality, but even those could have far better using monitors. When I switched to mixing with monitors, the success rate went up to 90% and was able to match pro quality on over 50% of the work I did, and a lot of that took allot less work getting things right because I didn't have to constantly cross reference the music on different playback systems.

I use headphones to eliminate feedback tracking vocals. I cant stand to have them on otherwise. The sound is compressed and claustrophobic sounding when you use them. Getting a decent groove playing an instrument is even difficult. Of course you use what you have to when you haven't got any other options. I use AKG's now which produce very tame volume levels. That helps to reduce ear fatigue which handicaps your ability to hear frequency accurately.

I can have my monitors set for the recommended 83dB I A/B compare the levels so the headphones match the same volume level. This maximizes the time I can use them. With monitors I can do a 4 hour session and get not feel like my heads been stuck in a meat grinder. I can track my instruments through them and dial up ideal tones that need far less tweaking when mixing too. When using headphones I'd be lucky is the tone or proper gain staging was anywhere in the ball park.

I think someone could make a mint inventing a dB meter for headphones. I suppose the ideal design would be a dummy head that you place the headphones on with ears that's are microphones. Then you'd play back an audio file that comes with the DB meter. It could even run through the tones at different frequencies or do a sweep which tells you how flat the headphones actually are. So many headphones have what you call a loudness curve where the mids are scooped and lows boosted to make them sound more plush. That winds up doing just the opposite to your mix. If the file did a sweep like an audio test disk and audiophile uses for gear setup you could even EQ the headphones to make them flatter so long as the dB meter was able to test the levels with a flat response.

Maybe have two versions, one with a class A meter for simply getting the overall volume set using a pink/white noise file and an expensive version Class C meter which allows you to flatten the response over several octaves. This could help a studio to get similar frequency responses from different brands of headphones. That in turn allows the performers to hear the music with the same frequencies and volume levels and then its simply a matter of the players matching their loudness by playing harder or softer.
Old 1st May 2019
Lives for gear
Plush's Avatar
I like to listen on STAX, but I mix on loudspeakers.
Old 2nd May 2019
Not ideal at all to mix on cans but certainly doable (and it’s no secret that some great records have been mixed primarily in the can). It’s like anything else, if you know how it will translate you can make anything work, just like the famous engineer says his desert island gear are his crappy old bookshelf speakers cause that’s what they know best. Its the same information just way harder to “guess” how two sources of audio will gather in a room than actually hear it in real-time. But like anything else, it’s a skill that can be developed. I for one would hate to be restricted to only my monitors. My cans remove the room and allow a different kind of referencing I find integral to the mix process. I adore my k701’s and my Stax are also a fantastic way to reference my audio in a mix! Let’s not forget that the end goal of music is to sound great and connect the human soul. You can mix great music on anything if you’ve got talent and creativity. Every now and then I meet some 20 year old kid on some consumer junk speakers and earbuds mixing incredible music like a boss from his gut and his girlfriends laptop and I smile. He makes this whole forum feel pointless and I love that just as much as I do learning proper mix technique. I think a great engineer learns from both schools. It’s both adages combines:
Every man a student, every man a teacher. The other being the direct translation of Tao De Ching: “the way called the way is not the way.” Careful of those claiming only one true way. They are usually the fool in the room
Old 5th May 2019
Gear Addict
MontyMakesMusic's Avatar

Wow. First I’m hearing. What sets these apart? I love working with my HD800’s but I’m always on the lookout for more referencing options!
Old 5th May 2019
Here for the gear
Having a few types of headphones is nice to double check things on: I used to have HD800+Q701+K271's ... then discovered Planars/electrostatic headphones. Sold the dynamics pretty quickly. (Tried Elear/others but I really prefer non-dynamics nowadays) Have a pair of Stax L300's and they are the flattest headphones to me that I've tried. They lack low bass compared to Planars/Dynamics - but if you have a good set of closed-back Planars to double check low end - you can't go bad!

Last edited by sm5; 5th May 2019 at 08:31 PM..
Old 5th May 2019
Gear Addict
MontyMakesMusic's Avatar

Man you’re really persuading me on checking them out. I just mentioned this in another thread but regarding bass I highly recommend the Subpac. It changed the game for me in 2017 and I haven’t mixed without it when using headphones since. If bass is important to your final mix and of course it is hahaha, I highly recommend you check it out. Game changing for real.
Old 6th May 2019
Here for the gear
Yeah, I actually used to have one that went under the chair years ago - I actually forgot they existed :p Not sure if I personally use headphones enough to warrant getting another one though - 90% of the stuff I do is on Magnepan or ES speakers w a sub. It could happen though :p

I admit I'm curious to try Raal SR1a headphones though ... the only type of headphone I haven't tried. Or ORA graphene whenever they happen to come out - If they ever come out ha ha ha - though to be honest I remember reading about the Ribbon headphones years ago and they took a long time to be commercially released too.

Now these too :/ HEDD announces HEDDphone: full-range headphone with AMT technology

Would be interesting to compare all these brand new types of headphones to see which works best for mixing/mastering!

Last edited by sm5; 9th May 2019 at 03:58 AM..
Old 9th May 2019
Monty, if you haven’t heard of electrostatic headphones, check them out, they are of a completely different design than typical cans. Kinda an old design too but can get insanely expensive. Mine were 3k and are by far not the most expensive you can get but the soundstage is unreal.
Old 23rd May 2019
Gear Nut

Full disclosure: I've never listened through electrostatic cans. But, I am very curious about them. As I understand, electrostatics generally offer the fastest transients - which would make them great for auditioning dynamic-based processing. I am reading, however, that they tend to lack bass. So, I'm thinking it may be wise to have a pair of planars to go with them.
Old 24th May 2019
Can't go wrong with Audez and Stax. The admission price is high. For those in the cheaper seats the Monoprice planars are pretty good. I use 1060's here. Monoprice also makes a lower cost ES headphone set. It has a battery operated power supply so it's the only ES cans I know of that are portable. Those sell for about $700.

Electrostatics on a plane?
Old 4 weeks ago
Gear Head

Anyone have experience with the Koss ESP950? Drop has a version with different pads for $500.
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