Headphones

02022-11-17 | Question:Answer | 11 comments

Ian asked:

your new portable recording system sounds amazing. What are your preferred headphones for mixing and/or tracking

Thank you, Ian. I am very happy with the sound as a starting point. I also love how the guitar sounds with the rain.

I took a look at what I wrote about headphones in the past. There is this post from 2005. Unfortunately the links don’t work anymore because Stax no longer produces those headphones, uh, Ear Speakers. I just searched for the Stax headphones and tube amp I use – SR-404 + SRM-006t – and found a set on Ebay for $880. Great price.

Those Stax are my most used pair of headphones in the studio, ever. I bought my first pair in 1990 and bought this combo about 20 years ago. I can say with confidence that I spent more time listening with those headphones than any other headphones or loudspeakers. I mixed every album with those. At first I mixed on speakers and occasionally checked the mix on the Stax but slowly that reversed over time until I worked mainly with the Stax and checked and confirmed with the loudspeakers.

Headphones for tracking: what I wrote in 2005 about tracking headphones was valid until last year…

I have an indestructible pair of Sony MDR-V600. They are a little bass-heavy, but are used by many musicians and road engineers. They last forever. About $75.

They lasted a long time and I still have them.

What I have been using since this Summer, for both tracking and mixing, is a pair of Audeze Euclid IEMs. They are tiny, and travel well, but have an amazing sound.
OL 221008 13 09 05
I was also wearing the Euclid IEMs in this photo from Rockport, Massachusetts, last month.

When I work on music I can wear the Euclid for a couple of hours and forget they are there. These monitors use the MMCX = Micro Miniature CoaXial connector, developed by Amphenol, which makes it possible to easily switch out cables. I have a custom-made long cable with a 90º stereo mini plug, for listening to my laptop, the MixPre, or my stage monitor mix, and also use the Audeze Cipher BlueTooth cable for listening to my phone on the go.

Ideally I would love something like this IEM of my dreams:

  • MMCX plug for the option of using a cable for higher quality sound
  • built-in BlueTooth
  • built-in Noise-Cancellation
  • built-in mic array for making phone calls
  • In other words the one ring that rules them all… :-)
    It’s not likely to ever happen because it is not something that a lot of people would need or want.

    Back to headphones. Check out Stax, if you can find a dealer, and check out headphones by Audeze. All of their headphones are really nice. A few times a year Audeze sells so-called B-stock at great prices. Stephen Duros uses a pair of Sennheiser that he swears by and, while I have never listened to any Sennheiser cans, I have heard a lot of good things about them.

    11 Comments

    1. Ian Findlay

      Ottmar, once again thanks for sharing your valuable experience. I recently moved to the Slate VSX headphone system which has been a game changer for me, they use a headphone and software to simulate various mixing environments and they really help to get the mix correct.

      I have spent the last few days analyzing Barewood 2 and using the Massenburg EQ, Sonnox Inflator and Limiter I’ve gotten my mixes to the next level – thanks for sharing that info.

      Reply
      • ottmar

        Ian, if it works for you that’s great. Always do what works.

        I myself don’t like simulations very much. I don’t like the software simulation of amplifiers, or microphones, for example. Give me a real amp and a good mic – I don’t want a mic that claims to simulate another mic by way of software. I have been shown several of those and did not enjoy the sound.

        I remember visiting a studio in NYC in the Eighties. They had a wall of speakers, including different car speakers, all kinds of speakers, and you could switch between them to get a real world idea of what your song might sound like. I always liked that approach and had several different speakers and sound systems in the studio and the house. Some of them were good systems and others were intentionally mediocre or bad systems for comparison. I would walk around and compare. Yes, that is flawed because the space in which the loudspeakers sit is also different. But it worked for me.

        I checked out the website of Slate VSX and found this statement:
        “Produce and mix in the finest studios, cars, clubs, and in over $6000 worth of other industry headphones. Hear the most precise details and get pro results fast.”

        When I hear that something for $500 will sound like something that costs $6,000 I immediately distrust a company. That’s just my $0.02.

        Reply
    2. anne

      top equipment – for golden ears

      … the rest of us …still liking the “Apple”

      Reply
      • ottmar

        Apple is a great way to listen on the go. I wish I wasn’t allergic to one of their plastic components.

        Reply
        • anne

          ok-… sensitive ears .

          steve jobs was a genius to come up with an icon brand name.

          . Apple – such a simple word. What a game changer!

          Reply
    3. Steve

      >I was also wearing the Euclid IEMs in this photo from Rockport, Massachusetts, last month.

      Do you use these on stage as well?

      Reply
      • ottmar

        I haven’t worn them for a show yet, but am trying them at soundchecks.

        Reply
    4. Ian Findlay

      I picked up a pair of the Euclids today (I had no idea there was a dealer within a 10 minute walk from my house). They are incredible and will be my primary headphone for everything now. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
      • ottmar

        So great to actually find a dealer!! Did you get a chance to try them out before you bought them? It’s even better when one has that opportunity. I am glad you like them! So small and such a big sound, right?

        Reply
        • Ian Findlay

          I’m in Toronto, when I googled Audeze dealers one came up about a 25 minute walk. The store is a proper high fidelity headphone dealer – all the top names (including Stax). I was able to demo the Euclid IEMs and with the proper ear tips as I have a large ear canal. I’ve never had this level of headphone. I worked on a mix yesterday with great results – much better than the Slate headphones. I also love how portable these are and can be used with my phone etc. When you listed your perfect IEM I have found a product that gets you close – Qudelix 5k Bluetooth transmitter. It’s a little box you plug the headphones in, it connects to your phone and has a microphone for taking calls – I don’t know if the Cipher cable can do that (no noise cancelling though). The battery charge lasts 4-6 hours. Thanks again for sharing about the Euclid IEMs.

          Reply
    5. Ali Shafai

      You turned me onto Audeze years ago, and I have been with them ever since. I started with the LCD-2, that you were using at the time. And since, I have moved up to the LCD-5, their latest.

      For IEMs, I use the AirPods Pro for casual listening and Jerry Harvey Audio Lola’s for serious listening.

      Reply

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