The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Are there any notable albums that were mixed exclusively on headphones?
Old 25th May 2020
  #1
Are there any notable albums that were mixed exclusively on headphones?

Old 26th May 2020
  #2
I guess no top mix-engineer one would dare admit it, or else the internet-mob would shout them down.
Old 26th May 2020
  #3
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by goom View Post
I guess no top mix-engineer one would dare admit it...
For the right money, people will admit to things that aren't even true.
Attached Thumbnails
Are there any notable albums that were mixed exclusively on headphones?-hqdefault.jpg  
Old 26th May 2020
  #4
Lives for gear
As far as I can tell Andrew Scheps has implied he has mixed on headphnes dozens of times. Sony MDR-7506s - which are ironically the only headphones I own that I can't mix on - my mixes always come out too bass light when trying to mix with them.
Old 26th May 2020
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Lieutenant Pepper. Quickly shelved as it didn't receive enough Promotion.!
Chris
Old 26th May 2020
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
As far as I can tell Andrew Scheps has implied he has mixed on headphnes dozens of times. Sony MDR-7506s - which are ironically the only headphones I own that I can't mix on - my mixes always come out too bass light when trying to mix with them.
I always thought that he would eventually mix them through his monitors, but I could be wrong.
Old 26th May 2020
  #7
Lives for gear
 

That's gotta be tough, if you're mixing Reggae or any kind of Dance music with strong Bass frequencies...
Chris
Old 26th May 2020
  #8
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by goom View Post
I always thought that he would eventually mix them through his monitors, but I could be wrong.
You can do editing and stemming and lots of other ancillary chores on cans, I'm sure that's part of it. And certain kinds of track cleanup are actually easier on headphones. Besides which, if I'm doing something like tweezing finger-drumming out of a bass part, my wife really doesn't need to hear that kind of repetitive non-musical tedium sneaking out from under the door.
Old 26th May 2020
  #9
Gear Addict
 

"Jazz Samba" was mixed on headphones. It was recorded direct to 2 track in the main hall at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC by Ed Greene. He did the setup and mix/balance on headphones right there in the room. The whole album took 3 hours to make and then the tapes went to mastering to be cut.
Old 26th May 2020
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanBarley View Post
"Jazz Samba" was mixed on headphones. It was recorded direct to 2 track in the main hall at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC by Ed Greene. He did the setup and mix/balance on headphones right there in the room. The whole album took 3 hours to make and then the tapes went to mastering to be cut.
Perchance do you know what cans he was using?



Old 26th May 2020
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Radio Shack?
Chris
Old 26th May 2020
  #12
Gear Guru
 

I am sure there are some notable albums mixed entirely on headphones. The real question for you is not: "is it possible"? But rather: "is it advisable"? In terms of 'hits' or 'notability', home produced recordings usually have several strikes against them from the start. If you can eliminate one or more of those negatives, why wouldn't you?

This thread is number 1,154 of a series of Gearslutz threads where the question in the thread title follows the format of:

any "hit albums" ?

insert the OP's specific methodology here ____________
(recorded, mixed, produced)

insert the OP's specific gear setup here_________________
(in an apartment, using Garageband, on headphones, using only an SM 57, having no room treatment, using a Sapphire interface, using only programmed drums etc etc.)

You just know on reading the title that the OP himself uses Garageband, or mixes on headphones, or has no room for a real drum set, or owns a Sapphire - and that's the reason why this specific question. He is worried that certain cheaper gear or non-best-practices methodologies will hold him back.

IMO the competition is fierce, so it is right to worry about such things.

And while we all want to be cheerleaders and say "this guy did it, so you can too!", the fact is it's already lottery ticket odds. You can have much better odds if you do not try to find a shortcut for every recommended process.

Quote:
I guess no top mix-engineer one would dare admit it, or else the internet-mob would shout them down.
Nonsense. Mix engineers who work on million selling albums are not 'afraid' of commenters on the internet. I am no big shot, but if I could mix on headphones, I would not be worried about 'admitting' it either.

The true dynamics of forum 'pressure' works in the opposite direction. Experienced engineers will come on the forum and explain how important "monitors" are for the vast majority of engineers. The people who do not have the money for speakers or do not have an appropriate studio space where they can mix on speakers get angry when they are told that something expensive would be better than something cheap.

Those people are the "mob". I have even seen them accuse these engineers of "lying" to them about the need for monitors. They look for 'exceptions'. You will always find some exceptions if that's what's important to you.

As I said, this same question comes up about almost everything room treatments, good mics, outboard preamps on and on. Can you find a "hit song" made in an untreated room? Sure, but does that mean rooms don't matter? It all matters in the end.
Old 27th May 2020
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
You just know on reading the title that the OP himself uses Garageband, or mixes on headphones, or has no room for a real drum set, or owns a Sapphire - and that's the reason why this specific question. He is worried that certain cheaper gear or non-best-practices methodologies will hold him back.
Every single assumption you made is wrong.

Cope harder.
Old 27th May 2020
  #14
DJ Shadow - Entroducing was mixed on cans according to Shadow.
Old 27th May 2020
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I am sure there are some notable albums mixed entirely on headphones. The real question for you is not: "is it possible"? But rather: "is it advisable"? In terms of 'hits' or 'notability', home produced recordings usually have several strikes against them from the start. If you can eliminate one or more of those negatives, why wouldn't you?
Agreed, but for me (not being a pro) I snatch time for production so it has become necessity - often at night - I can mix well on headphones, simply through experience, I know that doing certain things such as going super wide that sounds good on cans doesn't translate. I use 'phones with a smile curve to I can hear problems down low and if the top end sounds too loud then it is too loud! Basically I know how the mix is going to sound (95%) when I crank it up on the monitors. It's only years of experience that have enabled me to do this - I tried to mix on headphones a few times about 25 years ago and it was a disaster! These days I rarely get surprised by a mix played back on the HiFi mixed and mastered with cans – even though the sound is totally different.

Would I create better mixes on monitors? Possibly not, but it would take fewer revisions to get there I suspect.
Old 27th May 2020
  #16
Kesha Lee mixed Lil Uzi Vert's multi-platinum album Love is Rage 2 with her Mac soundcard and $99 headphones and it sounds pretty good too.
Old 27th May 2020
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov2.0 View Post
That's gotta be tough, if you're mixing Reggae or any kind of Dance music with strong Bass frequencies...
Chris
Why would that be tough?
Old 27th May 2020
  #18
Lives for gear
 
gainreduction's Avatar
 

30+ years in the studio producing, making noise and mixing... I have redone every control room I've ever had many times to get them to sound right. Those of you who know what goes in to making a really good sounding room, you know.

That said, I have been mixing 100% on headphones for the last year. It's great and the mixes turn out great.

Prior I was in the "you can't mix on cans"-crowd, with a very elitist mindset when it comes to gear. Only the best will do.

What happened was, after spending so many years in isolated rooms, some of them without daylight, I started disliking the studio. Not the work or the process, but the claustrophobic environment. I grew envious of people doing other work who could just bring their laptop and work anywhere. I have been waiting for the laptops to be powerful enough to handle serious mixing work so I could be mobile aswell. And once they arrived (I got one of the new i9 macbooks last summer) I just made a decision that I will make the cans work.

I did some listening on whatever music to tune myself in, and then "practiced" on one mix to get a sense of what the biggest differences are compared to mixing on monitors in a control room. It was a very fast transition, and it wasn't even hard. It felt natural quite fast once I got used to it and I just kept mixing. Faster and better.

I can honestly say I have a much easier time sorting out my biggest mixing-problems on headphones. The 160-400 Hz area that I always find hard to hear accurately even in the best rooms is so easy to work on headphones. Same with harmonic distortion. The soundstage I have no problems with, it's slightly different and if you are at least somewhat good at listening you figure it out real quick.

My mixing rig fits in a small backpack (macbook, trackball, PT keyboard, UA Arrow and Senn HD600) and I can sit anywhere I want that is reasonably quiet. That alone improves my mixing greatly. And when someone wants a last minute revision I don't have to go to the studio to do it. It's great, just great.

Most music is listened to on headphones today. There's no reason you can't mix on the same thing people use to listen to your mixes.

My experience, I respect that others feel differently.
Old 27th May 2020
  #19
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
30+ years in the studio producing, making noise and mixing... I have redone every control room I've ever had many times to get them to sound right. Those of you who know what goes in to making a really good sounding room, you know.

That said, I have been mixing 100% on headphones for the last year. It's great and the mixes turn out great.

Prior I was in the "you can't mix on cans"-crowd, with a very elitist mindset when it comes to gear. Only the best will do.

What happened was, after spending so many years in isolated rooms, some of them without daylight, I started disliking the studio. Not the work or the process, but the claustrophobic environment. I grew envious of people doing other work who could just bring their laptop and work anywhere. I have been waiting for the laptops to be powerful enough to handle serious mixing work so I could be mobile aswell. And once they arrived (I got one of the new i9 macbooks last summer) I just made a decision that I will make the cans work.

I did some listening on whatever music to tune myself in, and then "practiced" on one mix to get a sense of what the biggest differences are compared to mixing on monitors in a control room. It was a very fast transition, and it wasn't even hard. It felt natural quite fast once I got used to it and I just kept mixing. Faster and better.

I can honestly say I have a much easier time sorting out my biggest mixing-problems on headphones. The 160-400 Hz area that I always find hard to hear accurately even in the best rooms is so easy to work on headphones. Same with harmonic distortion. The soundstage I have no problems with, it's slightly different and if you are at least somewhat good at listening you figure it out real quick.

My mixing rig fits in a small backpack (macbook, trackball, PT keyboard, UA Arrow and Senn HD600) and I can sit anywhere I want that is reasonably quiet. That alone improves my mixing greatly. And when someone wants a last minute revision I don't have to go to the studio to do it. It's great, just great.

Most music is listened to on headphones today. There's no reason you can't mix on the same thing people use to listen to your mixes.

My experience, I respect that others feel differently.
Wow, I thought I was alone in this. Thank you!
Old 27th May 2020
  #20
Lives for gear
 

Hi EH! I know it would be particularly challenging for me to mix on headphones, with strong bass notes because...
Like in Reggae, where you really FEEL the bass hitting you, either live or on a Sound System-That's an actual physical thing.

Hard to extrapolate IMHO from just headphones. Same for heavy hitting Funk music too.
Chris
Old 27th May 2020
  #21
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
30+ years in the studio producing, making noise and mixing... I have redone every control room I've ever had many times to get them to sound right. Those of you who know what goes in to making a really good sounding room, you know.

That said, I have been mixing 100% on headphones for the last year. It's great and the mixes turn out great.

Prior I was in the "you can't mix on cans"-crowd, with a very elitist mindset when it comes to gear. Only the best will do.
with the current COVID situation I've been going into the studio a lot less and working from home a lot more, so I have been forced to work on headphones lately. I could never get decent results on headphones in the past. My studio has a very good control room and my mixes come out the way I want them to and more importantly I can really hear what's going on. And I think that is the real key. I hear on headphones a lot differently now that I'm used to working in control rooms where you can really hear what's happening. I hate working on headphones and I have to work harder, but I am getting results that I didn't think were possible before because I can hear better now than I used to.

I think just knowing what accurate actually does sound like goes a long way to working in an inaccurate environment.
Old 27th May 2020
  #22
Gear Head
 

Can of worms alert: don't reference tracks make all the difference? When you have a mix you know works well to compare to, doesn't it reduce the influence of whatever you're monitoring on, as long as it has enough "resolution"?
Old 27th May 2020
  #23
When I mix on monitors, it's easier for me to get a realistic live sound … like the band is in front of me. On headphones everything sounds like astro-projection.
Old 27th May 2020
  #24
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stikoun View Post
Can of worms alert: don't reference tracks make all the difference? When you have a mix you know works well to compare to, doesn't it reduce the influence of whatever you're monitoring on, as long as it has enough "resolution"?
I can only speak for myself, but my answer is no. You cannot be the first person to come up with the idea of mixing to reference tracks, so if that 'solved' the issues that so many have with headphones, it would already be a known thing. And people with speakers can use references too

These headphone mixing discussions often devolve into hair-splitting about frequency response and whatnot. But frequency response has never ever been my problem with headphone mixing. As Brent Hahn said, lots of nerdy detailed prep work can be done on cans. It's the Big Picture part of the mixing that is the problem.

It's fine to present strategies for "overcoming" an unfavorable circumstance. But what I would be convinced by is a long list of people who have ideal circumstances. People who have an unfettered choice of both: Who are sitting in an isolated, acoustically treated room in front of a great pair of studio monitors as well as owning a great pair of headphones and who say:

"honestly, my mixes come out better on the headphones than they do on the speakers". Let's hear from more people like that. And also, what are they asking for those speakers they no longer want?
Old 27th May 2020
  #25
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I can only speak for myself, but my answer is no. You cannot be the first person to come up with the idea of mixing to reference tracks, so if that 'solved' the issues that so many have with headphones, it would already be a known thing. And people with speakers can use references too

These headphone mixing discussions often devolve into hair-splitting about frequency response and whatnot. But frequency response has never ever been my problem with headphone mixing. As Brent Hahn said, lots of nerdy detailed prep work can be done on cans. It's the Big Picture part of the mixing that is the problem.

It's fine to present strategies for "overcoming" an unfavorable circumstance. But what I would be convinced by is a long list of people who have ideal circumstances. People who have an unfettered choice of both: Who are sitting in an isolated, acoustically treated room in front of a great pair of studio monitors as well as owning a great pair of headphones and who say:

"honestly, my mixes come out better on the headphones than they do on the speakers". Let's hear from more people like that. And also, what are they asking for those speakers they no longer want?
First let me say that you make some excellent points, so the counter-arguments I'm about to present should not take away from the fact that I like most of what you're saying.

Second, let me qualify my experience - I have taken part in sessions in pro studios with gear costing millions, in which it was mostly me sitting beside the mixing engineer. On the other hand, the recording gear that I own is anything but pro, with my interface and its built in preamps seeming like the weakest link. One could argue that I somehow know the whole range, meaning I have some experience with both cheap and expensive, pro and amateur, speakers and headphones, you name it.

With that in mind, my opinion is this: under perfect circumstances, mixing on a great pair of studio monitors in a well-treated room is preferable to mixing on headphones. These perfect circumstances have one interesting quality: they hardly ever happen.

Cans have these things going for them:
- They more or less take the room out of the equation. 9/10 cases, this is a good thing. Not that 9/10 rooms sound bad - they just sound too different from the environments in which the listeners are going to listen to the music. The room introduces extra variables/coloration.
- The best headphones in the world (meaning those that present details you didn't even know were there, as well as not"hyping" any frequencies too much) cost about as much as a single prosumer "studio monitor".
- As has been pointed out, the way people listen to music has changed. You don't have to like it (I don't), but it's a fact. Headphones of various types/qualities/price ranges are the norm these days, while listening on a nice pair of speakers has become something only audiophile geeks like us do. Why not mix on something that people are going to use to listen to the music?

Especially the last bit is how I would respond to the "why isn't everybody selling their monitors" argument.
Why should they? They already have them, and they sound wonderful. Not flattering (they are studio monitors, right?), but revealing. But most importantly - it sometimes takes many years for the "scene" to adjust to a paradigm shift. I don't think engineers (especially older ones - I'm not young myself) have reacted to the change in listening habits in the general population, and I'm happy they haven't. I prefer things done the old way. So if someone has spent the time, effort and money building a great control room with great monitors, there is not much reason to stop mixing there (or "sell their speakers and transition to headphones").
But how about someone who doesn't have that luxury? Either they are on a tight budget, or they have to/want to mix on the go. Armies of conservative engineers will be quick to claim that such people are condemned to produce bad mixes. They say it's simply impossible to get a good mix on cans. I sure hope such people are wrong. Actually, I'm fairly certain they are.
Old 28th May 2020
  #26
Lives for gear
 

This thread has now become officially uncanny!
Chris
Old 28th May 2020
  #27
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stikoun View Post
They say it's simply impossible to get a good mix on cans. I sure hope such people are wrong. Actually, I'm fairly certain they are.
Here's me, as of now: I can make a mix on speakers that works on speakers, and it'll work on headphones for sure. I can make a mix on cans that works on cans, and it might work on speakers but it also might not.
Old 28th May 2020
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Here's me, as of now: I can make a mix on speakers that works on speakers, and it'll work on headphones for sure. I can make a mix on cans that works on cans, and it might work on speakers but it also might not.
I may not have much longer to live, but as long as I do, I'll never forget this piece of information. Thanks Brent.
Old 28th May 2020
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Fay Smearing's Avatar
 

One day I hope to record an album as an art piece, with the left channel done on headphones and the right channel with a monitor. The cover art, obviously, will be the same person from behind with the rest of the scene split down the middle, depicting two completely different rooms, with one side being listening on headphones in a bare retro-modern setting like a scene from the movie 'Sleeper', and the other with a bang-for-buck stereo system in a small cluttered apartment like in Steve Guttenberg's Audiophiliac YouTube videos.

Vinyl will be a must, and a cheaper version of just the album cover will be available without the record, along with a T-shirt without the cover art or the name of the album. The songs themselves will fairly irrelevant, other than the mix needing to sound obviously lopsided, because everyone who buys it will be so excited to show everyone around them how artistic they are because they understand simple metaphors.

It'll be great. I might even start a Patreon, and if that does well enough as performance art that contributors can feel they're a part of, the album cover, album, album title and songs might not even be necessary. What could be more compellingly exclusive and artsy than funding an album that no one else can ever own or pirate because it never got made?

Then there'll be a third option to discuss in the next new thread that someone starts every other day somewhere on the internet about the exact same f*cking topic.
Old 28th May 2020
  #30
According to a Tape Op interview, Sufjan Stevens has mixed some of his records entirely on headphones. At the very least, I know Michigan was done that way, and possibly Illinois.
πŸ“ Reply
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
πŸ–¨οΈ Show Printable Version
βœ‰οΈ Email this Page
πŸ” Search thread
♾️ Similar Threads
πŸŽ™οΈ View mentioned gear