Recording - January 2013 - 39
closed-back (typical for this type) they will also prevent sound from the phones from getting out into the room. These can provide good, deep bass response, and high SPL, from the sealed coupling around the ears, but are often heavy and hot, and can be uncomfortable in extended use. The application where they shine is providing monitor mixes for the musicians in live recording—tracking and overdubbing, especially when there is a lot of loud sound in the live room. The sealed design helps block out the sound of other instruments, and the closed-ear design prevents sound from the headphones from leaking into the nearby mics, causing feedback, or adding that familiar thin headphone chatter we all hear so much from riders’ phones on trains and buses (aarrgghh!). This last consideration is especially important in situations like vocal overdubs, especially with a softvoiced vocalist who likes loud playback in his/her phones while singing. Another issue that may arise in such situations is a singer who only wants to monitor his/her voice in one ear, and turns the other earcup around, facing it into the room. Singers sometimes do this because it feels more comfortable to hear their voice acoustically, and it can help them to stay on pitch, but if the engineer doesn’t notice it, a lot of leakage can get recorded, and it’s very hard to get rid of it without compromising the quality of the vocal track. It’s
important to always maintain a visual of the singer, and kill the sound into any earcup that’s not solidly on the performer’s head, to avoid these problems. The next type of headphone design is supraaural (on the ear) phones, where the earcup sits on the ear itself, rather than surrounds it. These can be lighter and more comfortable, but do not block or contain sound as effectively—they’d be better for mixing applications than tracking. As far as sound quality goes, either design can deliver top-notch audio, and, as always, the choice often comes down to personal preference. Keep in mind that headphones, just like speakers, vary widely in tonal balance. Some equally fine phones might be very bright, others warm and full, and both might have their uses. For live tracking, bright, slightly hyped phones (like some of the popular Sony models) provide a pumped-up sound for musicians as they perform, but may be too bright and present as a mix reference. The enhanced bass of some DJ models may be good for getting a sense of what a mix might sound like through a sub in a club, but may be way too bass-heavy to be a good reference for a mix of a jazz or acoustic ensemble. As always, the most neutrally-balanced
headphone is the most useful, especially when referencing mixes—even if it doesn’t sound as exciting in a casual listening test, it’ll serve better in the long run. And finally, in-ear designs (a.k.a. earbuds), because of their inclusion with portable music players, are probably in the widest use for casual listening nowadays. Many of them have pretty mediocre sound, optimized more for cutting through a noisy environment than for quality reproduction. However, the (much more expensive) kind used for on-stage in-ear monitoring in concerts are certainly up to professional use, and the highest-end ones have been known to substitute for conventional headphones for certain engineers. In the studio, though, I would think most in-ear monitoring is done with earbuds to audition mixes for potential iPod/MP3 listening considerations. Give your ears a rest We’ve discussed a lot of options, and in the course of music production, you’ll probably end up using them all, if available. Choose your tools wisely, and set them up for their best performance, and your music projects will sound as good as they can for as many listeners as possible—after all, that’s the bottom line when it comes to studio monitoring.
Joe Albano (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an engineer/producer, musician, and educator living and working in New York City. Learn more about his work at www.rooftopproductions.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013
Table of Contents
2012 AES Convention Report.
Universal Audio Apollo.
ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Monitors & Monitoring.
Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Getting Into Your Head.
Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
2012 Annual Index.
Recording - January 2013 - Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013 - Cover2
Recording - January 2013 - 1
Recording - January 2013 - 2
Recording - January 2013 - 3
Recording - January 2013 - Fade In.
Recording - January 2013 - 5
Recording - January 2013 - Table of Contents
Recording - January 2013 - 7
Recording - January 2013 - Talkback.
Recording - January 2013 - 9
Recording - January 2013 - 2012 AES Convention Report.
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Recording - January 2013 - 13
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Recording - January 2013 - 19
Recording - January 2013 - Universal Audio Apollo.
Recording - January 2013 - 21
Recording - January 2013 - 22
Recording - January 2013 - 23
Recording - January 2013 - ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Recording - January 2013 - 25
Recording - January 2013 - Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Recording - January 2013 - 27
Recording - January 2013 - Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
Recording - January 2013 - 29
Recording - January 2013 - AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - 31
Recording - January 2013 - 32
Recording - January 2013 - 33
Recording - January 2013 - Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Recording - January 2013 - 35
Recording - January 2013 - Monitors & Monitoring.
Recording - January 2013 - 37
Recording - January 2013 - 38
Recording - January 2013 - 39
Recording - January 2013 - Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording - January 2013 - 41
Recording - January 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
Recording - January 2013 - 43
Recording - January 2013 - PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Recording - January 2013 - 45
Recording - January 2013 - Getting Into Your Head.
Recording - January 2013 - 47
Recording - January 2013 - 48
Recording - January 2013 - 49
Recording - January 2013 - Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
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Recording - January 2013 - 55
Recording - January 2013 - Readers’ Tapes.
Recording - January 2013 - 57
Recording - January 2013 - iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Recording - January 2013 - 59
Recording - January 2013 - 60
Recording - January 2013 - 61
Recording - January 2013 - Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - Advertiser Index.
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Recording - January 2013 - 2012 Annual Index.
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Recording - January 2013 - Fade Out.
Recording - January 2013 - Cover3
Recording - January 2013 - Cover4