Headphones or Near fields for tracking

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by pfschim, Jun 26, 2020.

  1. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    So, small home studio, Focusrite 18i8 with bass being fed direct to the interface through a Cali76CB and Noble DI, or Tech21 VT Deluxe, depending on what I'm after. This basic rig is primarily used to do bass tracks for writers that I gig with, and a slowly expanding set of other original song producers.

    My main goal is to get clean/clear tracks that fit the writers music. Unless requested, I tend to record pretty clean/full, not really flat (bit of bass and treble bump from my outboard gear) with minimum/no fx so others can trick them up as needed using fx or reamping etc.

    I currently use a set of Senn HD280pro headphones. They seem pretty honest and don't hype the sound a lot. I have been considering getting some small/medium format near fields ... say 2 way with 5" or 6" main drivers. My room is not dedicated to recording and while it does sound pretty good, its not a treated room and I wonder if I would really get very much out of monitors vs headphones.

    Another option would be to up grade my headphones ... and I'm sure more $$ would get me better specs, but I'm not sure that it would be a night/day difference.

    any helpful thoughts on this question .... and sorry if its been asked and answered elsewhere.

    DirtDog likes this.
  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    Wellington, NZ
    Everyone will have their own workflow, but I use both near field monitors and headphones in my work flow. I also have sub monitor as well. I have a home project studio that has some acoustic treatment. The room doesn't play a part in what I'm hearing because I only have the volume at just above talking level. I start by using headphones to dial in the gain, EQ, effects (if needed), and level. I always leave plenty of headroom for mixing and mastering. Once I have sound I like, I switch too monitors and record the track. Then I play it back using headphones and monitors. I also try to get a reference bass track to compare with my bass track. I have a referencing app called Metric AB that has a bunch of tools for comparing sound files.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    Headphones or Near fields for tracking
    both. ;)
    QweziRider likes this.
  4. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

  5. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    interesting input. I'm still kind of on the fence about whether to buy better headphones or go with some decent near fields. I do have a set of speakers for listening (older Cambridge Sound Works 4.1 system) but it is EQ'd for listening to completed/mastered recordings vs monitoring tracks in progress.

    I will say that if I'm tracking for a long time ... say a couple of hours, I do get a little bit of headphone fatigue. I feel like it's more a hearing fatigue thing than a physical thing, the Senn's are very physically comfortable on my ears.
  6. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    What problem are you trying to solve? If it's just ear fatigue, take breaks...
  7. Mighty Thumb

    Mighty Thumb Supporting Member

    I stick with headphones for tracking and use a pair of HS8s for mixing. As others have stated above, I too take frequent breaks to counter ear fatigue when both tracking and mixing.
  8. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I’m on this journey too. Decided to upgrade to Senn HD600s. Upgrading my monitors was my first choice, then realized I would have to do a ton of room treatment and possible reconstruction.

    Upgraded headphones seemed like the more rational choice.
    pfschim likes this.
  9. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    what are you upgrading from ? and if you have already got the HD600s, can you describe the differences between the old and new phones ?

    and I hear you about the treating the space. As I mentioned in my OP, while my room is decent and pretty acoustically neutral (it was originally set up as a media room), and while my wife and I are empty-nesters, it's not a dedicated recording studio and I don't really want to start tacking damping panels all over the place.

    Also, for the primary work I do with tracking at home, I'm not sure I would get a huge benefit from decent near field monitors over the headphones. If I was (or started) doing more complex multi-tracking projects it might be worth it.
  10. QweziRider

    QweziRider Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    What @JRA said. Both for me, just depends on who's asleep in the house at the time. If I'm going to be doing any serious processing going in (or even mic'ing an amp), then I'll want to go with monitors to better hear what I'm sending in. If what I'm recording is pretty cut and dried already (bass lines, any guitars done with the Kemper, etc. - no changes planned until mixing time), then it's no big deal for me to use the headphones to keep the rest of the house happy late at night.
    JRA likes this.
  11. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Audio-Technica ATH-M50 somethings. Always had issues with bass response with those headphones. The HD600 seem quite a bit more flat reponse and the open back seems to help with “air”. IMO.
    pfschim likes this.
  12. bbh

    bbh Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    I use JBL LSR28p for tracking and checking my mix. I mix on Mackie near fields.
  13. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Assuming you want to do this seriously, on a reasonable budget, without cutting corners; The sweet spot in terms of budget, to my ears/wallet, is a reasonably priced pair of nearfields withOUT a subwoofer, setup/placed with good engineering practices in mind (centered on the front wall, as close to the front wall as possible without actually touching, firing down the long dimension of the room, elevated so the HF driver is at ear level, spaced to form a triangle that’s ideally equilateral with a convergence point roughly 14” behind the back of the listener’s head), full height vertical corner traps to address low frequency build-up (many companies make these in form factors that blend in nicely to non-dedicated studio spaces to keep partners and/or roommates happy), and then a reasonably priced set of headphones with good low end response. Add to this a smart phone or a set of laptop speakers and you’re in great shape. Do your main mixing on the monitors, check panning, stereo imaging and low end on the headphones, check mono compatibility and reverb/time on the smart phone, then take the same smart phone out to your car, connect it via Bluetooth or aux cable and do the ever-critical car stereo test. All bases covered for ~$1,000 or so and in a way that doesn’t dedicate the room to only studio purposes.
    pfschim likes this.
  14. filmtex


    May 29, 2011
    I agree totally. I use two sets of phone, AKG K553 MkII and Sennheriser HD 280, a pair of Yamaha HS5 G near-fields, MacBook Pro laptop speakers and stock 2014 Toyota Tundra soundsystem. I am currently building a studio, and your recommendations make perfect sense to me. Tha's how I planned it too. Great post silky!