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Billy86

Open- or closed-back cans for mixing?

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I'm in the market for a new headphones to use as part of my mixing workflow (in combination with monitor listening in a non-treated bedroom/music room).

My budget is $200-250 list (which usually means you can find them for something like $150-$200). Anyway, I'd spend $200. I wouldn't use these for tracking, just mixing. I'm looking at both closed- and open-back for this purpose. RIght now, AKG, Sennheiser and Beyerdynamics come up a lot in my price range and intended use.

I want something flat/transparent, not artificially boosted in any frequency ranges. 

To put it mildly, opinions vary widely out on the web for brand and open vs closed back (and probably will here!), but y'all are my peeps, so I'd like to hear from you if you have experience using a headphone for mixing (not tracking) in the price range I'm looking at.

Thanks!

Billy

 

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I always edit/mix with open back headphones - I happen to use an AKG K712 set of headphones, but there are a number of less expensive phones that still sound great.  When I record anything involving a mic, I switch to a closed back headphone, so I don't get any bleed from the phones getting picked up by any mic.

I suggest you look at some of the shootouts that are out there, on headphones, for some guidance.  These compare multiple makes/models of headphones, at different price points.  :)

Bob Bone

 

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Thank you, Bob. I've been lookingt a number of "best of..." rankings  in my budget range and will continue to gather info. Those are super links!

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Open-back, definitely, assuming your environment is amenable to that. IOW, you're working alone in a quiet space. And you already have some closed-back cans for tracking. 

Some suggestions...

Beyerdynamic DT990

AKG K702

Sennheiser HD558 or HD600

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Comfort is everything for me.

Open back definitely.

I cannot wear closed back for more than a couple of hours.

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Posted (edited)

Hey Billy,

I'm getting ready in the next few days to drop about $320 (including shipping) for some new headphones.  Sennheiser HD 650. 

I know that's out of your budget (mine, too), but let me just tell you a quick story.  My general, cheap AKG K240S are very old and I know I want a new pair.  Also, I'm finally at the point in my life where I can, finally, do some recording and mixing.

A couple weeks ago I went up to Sweetwater Music for their Gear Fest for all the free workshops (most interested in mixing), and while in the retail store, they had a wall of numerous headphones that you can try on and listen through - all playing the same track.

There was absolutely no comparison in sound from the 2 Sennheiser models they had (600 and the 650, and are open cans) and all the others.  No comparison.  And they were the last 2 pair I put on.

I also could not get over how comfortable the Sennheisers (HD 600, and HD 650) were with large cans that go over the ear and not on the ear, and the incredible space and sound dynamics I heard.  I was sold instantly.  More than I was intending to spend, but I cannot be happy with others now.  I could not hear any difference between the two, but the HD 650 goes up to 39,500 htz, whereas the HD 600 goes up to 39,000.  I was going to get the HD 600 because they look nicer, but....

One last quick note, just in case I have persuaded you -- The HD 600 (which is prettier, blue) cable comes with a mini (1/8", or 3.5mm) plug and an 1/4" adapter.  The HD 650 comes reversed, with a 1/4" plug and a mini adapter.  That point alone is making me spend the extra $25 because I hate using adapters, and all my usage will be to plug into 1/4" slots.

Edited by Toddskins

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 Some good things to think about here. In researching, I noticed on some headphones I’m considering the ohm rating.  I don’t use a headphone amp, I’m coming straight out of a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.   From what I’ve read, the higher the ohms rating the more power it takes to drive headphones 

Will my set up efficiently drive a pair of headphones rated at 250 Ohms?   Or should I look for a lower rating? 

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16 hours ago, Toddskins said:

Hey Billy,

I'm getting ready in the next few days to drop about $320 (including shipping) for some new headphones.  Sennheiser HD 650. 

I know that's out of your budget (mine, too), but let me just tell you a quick story.  My general, cheap AKG K240S are very old and I know I want a new pair.  Also, I'm finally at the point in my life where I can, finally, do some recording and mixing.

A couple weeks ago I went up to Sweetwater Music for their Gear Fest for all the free workshops (most interested in mixing), and while in the retail store, they had a wall of numerous headphones that you can try on and listen through - all playing the same track.

There was absolutely no comparison in sound from the 2 Sennheiser models they had (600 and the 650, and are open cans) and all the others.  No comparison.  And they were the last 2 pair I put on.

I also could not get over how comfortable the Sennheisers (HD 600, and HD 650) were with large cans that go over the ear and not on the ear, and the incredible space and sound dynamics I heard.  I was sold instantly.  More than I was intending to spend, but I cannot be happy with others now.  I could not hear any difference between the two, but the HD 650 goes up to 39,500 htz, whereas the HD 600 goes up to 39,000.  I was going to get the HD 600 because they look nicer, but....

One last quick note, just in case I have persuaded you -- The HD 600 (which is prettier, blue) cable comes with a mini (1/8", or 3.5mm) plug and an 1/4" adapter.  The HD 650 comes reversed, with a 1/4" plug and a mini adapter.  That point alone is making me spend the extra $25 because I hate using adapters, and all my usage will be to plug into 1/4" slots.

Have owned the 580s, 600s, 650s.

I prefer the sound (and comfort of the 595, 598, and 599s.   plus side they are a lot cheaper and are more easily driven by different musical sources.  

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Open air so you can hear when it's time for dinner. 😉

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which country are you from if you are from USA you should have a look at massdrop 

https://drop.com/top-list/Headphones

They basically sell the same headphones with different nameplates. These headphones come from the manufactures itself but made exclusively for massdrop. They also come with manufacturer warranty. You can still buy if you are outside US, but you might end up paying a lot for shipping.  

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx as you can see you can buy the same 400$ HD650 by paying about 220$ and its totally reliable. Hope this helps. 

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19 hours ago, Toddskins said:

Hey Billy,

I'm getting ready in the next few days to drop about $320 (including shipping) for some new headphones.  Sennheiser HD 650. 

I know that's out of your budget (mine, too), but let me just tell you a quick story.  My general, cheap AKG K240S are very old and I know I want a new pair.  Also, I'm finally at the point in my life where I can, finally, do some recording and mixing.

A couple weeks ago I went up to Sweetwater Music for their Gear Fest for all the free workshops (most interested in mixing), and while in the retail store, they had a wall of numerous headphones that you can try on and listen through - all playing the same track.

There was absolutely no comparison in sound from the 2 Sennheiser models they had (600 and the 650, and are open cans) and all the others.  No comparison.  And they were the last 2 pair I put on.

I also could not get over how comfortable the Sennheisers (HD 600, and HD 650) were with large cans that go over the ear and not on the ear, and the incredible space and sound dynamics I heard.  I was sold instantly.  More than I was intending to spend, but I cannot be happy with others now.  I could not hear any difference between the two, but the HD 650 goes up to 39,500 htz, whereas the HD 600 goes up to 39,000.  I was going to get the HD 600 because they look nicer, but....

One last quick note, just in case I have persuaded you -- The HD 600 (which is prettier, blue) cable comes with a mini (1/8", or 3.5mm) plug and an 1/4" adapter.  The HD 650 comes reversed, with a 1/4" plug and a mini adapter.  That point alone is making me spend the extra $25 because I hate using adapters, and all my usage will be to plug into 1/4" slots.

Dude, you’re killing me! LOL! I may have to be cans rich and beer poor! HaHa!

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3 hours ago, Sonarman said:

which country are you from if you are from USA you should have a look at massdrop 

https://drop.com/top-list/Headphones

They basically sell the same headphones with different nameplates. These headphones come from the manufactures itself but made exclusively for massdrop. They also come with manufacturer warranty. You can still buy if you are outside US, but you might end up paying a lot for shipping.  

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx as you can see you can buy the same 400$ HD650 by paying about 220$ and its totally reliable. Hope this helps. 

Wow. This is really interesting. I’m in the US and had never heard of this site. 

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8 hours ago, Sonarman said:

which country are you from if you are from USA you should have a look at massdrop 

https://drop.com/top-list/Headphones

They basically sell the same headphones with different nameplates. These headphones come from the manufactures itself but made exclusively for massdrop. They also come with manufacturer warranty. You can still buy if you are outside US, but you might end up paying a lot for shipping.  

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx as you can see you can buy the same 400$ HD650 by paying about 220$ and its totally reliable. Hope this helps. 

A friend bought a pair and we did side by side testing with my 600 and 650s.  All 3 were a little different. 

They are not made down to the "t" the same.  Excellent headphones, no question about that.  Not sure how well they do with resale haven't tracked that.

 

The 600s or 650s are more relaxed, like sitting farther away.  The 590s series are more upfront.  While the drop phones are a good value compared to the 650s, they are still quite a bit more expensive than the 599s which I prefer and I've done a few listening sessions in a studio with friends and I'm not alone.  I like 600s for classical recordings, but tend to prefer 590s for just about everything else. 

 

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10 hours ago, Billy86 said:

 Some good things to think about here. In researching, I noticed on some headphones I’m considering the ohm rating.  I don’t use a headphone amp, I’m coming straight out of a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.   From what I’ve read, the higher the ohms rating the more power it takes to drive headphones 

Will my set up efficiently drive a pair of headphones rated at 250 Ohms?   Or should I look for a lower rating? 

I'd look for a lower rating.  You won't have the output the phones are capable of using 250 Ohms headphones with it.  They would benefit from adding an amp to the stage. 

 

With a much lower rating an amp wouldn't be necessary at all.

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It's not just the sound, I like the Sennheiser 598's for mixing, they have a single sided straight detachable cable and you can also get the shorter cable for them, they are light and the velour pads are nice, they also don't clamp so are very comfortable for long listening sessions, they sound great. They are also 50 ohm so you can use them without an amp, just plug straight in to the audio interface. Ticks all the boxes, I don't like the dual cabling or the high impedance of the 600 series. I don't want to buy an amp, just another annoying gadget sitting on the desk.

With all the other open back headphones I looked at, there seemed to be some annoying feature. The beyer dynamics don't come with the velour pads in the lower ohmage model, the AKG I cannot stand the noisy squeaking birdcage sitting on your head and I hate coiled cables, worse than useless for my uses.

Others may like different features.

 

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I also posted this on another tread just recently, may be more relevant here:

 

It's nice to have monitors because you don't want to be wearing headphones all the time but the truth is, unless your in a good acoustic environment for your monitors then you are probably better off using 2 or 3 pairs of headphones both to set up and mix and then use the monitors as reference.

I also have 4 pairs of headphones at the moment as well and I find I mainly use those for setting up sounds etc.

HD 280 Pro - Best isolation of any studio headphone i've heard, great for getting a good sound from your acoustic guitar and separating harmonies but highs just a touch harsh, a bit clampy and weird looking on your head

HD 380 Pro - Really comfortable to wear for long periods and great for vocals and separating out midrange instruments, they look pretty cool as well.

ATH-M50X - cups are a bit small, just touch top and bottom of my ears, i don't have particularly big ears, they make everything sound good but not that accurate on midrange instruments. Brilliant for hearing drums and bass, toms, kicks, can hear really well, great for general listening and when your first putting stuff together and don't want to be bothered that much about what things sound like.

HD 598 - very light and comfortable, good for general mixing and vocal foldback monitors when there is no click involved, I don't care about bleed from instruments! I seem to be using these a bit more for general listening. They certainly seem more sensitive to anything that is not mixed right. Also great for identifying stereo placement.

I was going to choose between these headphones but instead have decided to keep them and get a headphone bag to put them all in.

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Posted (edited)

I bought the massdrop HD 6xx.... 

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx#overview

Original question: OPEN back for mixing. 

Closed is ONLY for monitoring tracking when there's a live mic in your same room. Closed has the wrong sound stage for mixing.  

 

Many people have told me that mixing with cans is always a tradeoff, but that if you simply can't get your room set up for critical listening, that cans can be better.  Many pros mostly mix with cans.

Note that for a pair of cans like the HD6xx or HD650, you either need a headphone amp or an audio interface that can drive them.  Your laptop's audio out is not gonna do.  And if you're mixing using a laptop audio card, you're doing it wrong.  High fidelity is important for critical listening and your laptop DAC is not good enough.  Don't bother buying fancy cans till you own a proper audio interface.

 

 

Edited by Warren Postma

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1 hour ago, Warren Postma said:

Note that for a pair of cans like the HD6xx or HD650, you either need a headphone amp or an audio interface that can drive them.  Your laptop's audio out is not gonna do.  And if you're mixing using a laptop audio card, you're doing it wrong.  High fidelity is important for critical listening and your laptop DAC is not good enough.  Don't bother buying fancy cans till you own a proper audio interface.

 

I would agree that you need a headphone amplifier to drive the 6 series but they are not going to sound good through an audio interface alone, especially a USB powered interface. Laptop audio out's are generally much more powerful than USB audio interface outs. They are driven off mainboard power 12volts as as opposed to 5 volt usb, higher amperage as well.

I'm having a tough time at the moment deciding which sound I prefer for my 598's, the sound from my laptop or the sound from my audio interface. Laptop sound is more powerful, bigger and fuller, more bass, audio interface sound is less powerful but slightly clearer and better balance, might be better for mixing but in terms of sound separation, the laptop sounds better. In terms of generally listening to music, the laptop sounds better.

Difference is not so noticeable with the other headphones, given the 598's are only 50ohms, I would hate to hear what 250ohms into a USB powered interface sounds like.

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10 hours ago, Brian Walton said:

A friend bought a pair and we did side by side testing with my 600 and 650s.  All 3 were a little different. 

They are not made down to the "t" the same.  Excellent headphones, no question about that.  Not sure how well they do with resale haven't tracked that.

 

The 600s or 650s are more relaxed, like sitting farther away.  The 590s series are more upfront.  While the drop phones are a good value compared to the 650s, they are still quite a bit more expensive than the 599s which I prefer and I've done a few listening sessions in a studio with friends and I'm not alone.  I like 600s for classical recordings, but tend to prefer 590s for just about everything else. 

 

Yea they are not 100% identical. There are reviews online for the massdrop models which are helpful perhaps and HD6xx has got quite raving reviews from what I have seen. Btw I had good experience EQing the 590 series and make them sound more relaxed like the 600 series. The 590 series is a little bit harsh on the 5-8K region. A plugin like Toneboosters Morphit is really useful for this. 

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