Why you should not mix using headphones?

EQ treatments on Headphone — > Interaction on your Head — > Results to a flat frequency response to your ear

Any of the above headphone treatments (whether flat or with EQ treatments to sound flat) would not provide accurate audio mixing environment.

Let’s have an example. Supposing you are using a headphone treated to sound flat in your ear (so it’s the one with pre-EQ adjustments). And supposing the fact that the source audio (guitars for example) has very low mid-range frequencies that needs up some boost.

Since the headphone is already treated with high mid-frequency boost by design (see frequency response chart of the headphone above); it would appear that there are no mid-frequency issues because of the boost. You will not be able to detect this problem and as a result, your mix won’t sound great.

Let’s illustrate another method. Supposing you are using a flat frequency response headphone. But this headphone would sound awful to your ears because of the sound waves interaction with your head. Again, what you are monitoring is still not actually the truth.

B.) Nearfield studio monitors

Below is a schematic explaining why a nearfield monitors would be appropriate for any accurate audio mixing activity.

True nearfield monitors flat Frequency response — > Properly treated room acoustic response — > What you hear is actually the true frequency response of the audio being monitored. — > You can make accurate audio mixing decisions.

If the room is property treated (to minimize standing waves, etc.); you are actually monitoring the true frequency response of the audio. This can be easily implemented with proper room acoustic treatment.

Therefore; headphones cannot substitute real studio monitors even it’s designed to provide a “flat frequency response” such as shown below:

Flat frequency response curve

Flat frequency response curve

3. Also mixing using headphones increases the risk of hearing loss due to the closeness of audio source to your auditory system. Learn some tips here on how to take care of your ear during audio mixing/mastering.

Recommendations and when to use headphones

-If audio mixing is your hobby which might become your future career, I suggest buying near field monitors.(photo below)

Near field monitor

Near field monitor

It’s a bit expensive (though some are affordable) but it’s worth the price. You can read my recommendations in this post. It will help you to mix like a pro. Headphones are only used after thorough mixing or mastering; to confirm the results of the mix down and mastering process. Issues with panning, ambiance, reverb and stereo width are more transparent with headphones. It is also used to check for small noise within your recording as they can be very sensitive.

Content last updated on October 22, 2012