How different headphones color your mix

…and how to get a mix that translates

 

I’ve already covered in another post all the pros and cons of using headphones. Now I’m going to show you exactly how the most popular models compare at different price points!

 

AUDIO TECHNICA M40X & M50X

 

 

These 2 models feature a very similar frequency response.

They both have a 3dB boost at 100-120Hz, a slight dip between 200-700hz and accentuated highs.

The most important difference is found in the low-end.

The M40x has a 5db resonance boost at 60-70Hz, and less gentle bass roll-off than the M50x. This makes the M50x much more suitable for balancing the low-end instruments like kick and bass.

 

AKG K702 & K240 

 

 

Both these models have way less bass than the Audio Technica’s, but they have a slightly more linear frequency response thanks to their open-back design.

Some notable problems are a 6dB boost at 5-7Khz in the K702 and a huge dip from 13-20Hz in the K240.

You cannot trust these headphones alone to balance the low-end, but this might actually be beneficial for your mix because it makes you focus more on the most important part of the mix spectrum: the low-mids(100Hz – 3KHz) and the high-mids (3Khz – 10Khz).

 

SONY MDR-7506

 

The Sony MDR7506’s are called an “industry standard” for a very good reason: they offer a relatively flat sound at under 100$. They aren’t perfect though!

Like most closed-back headphones they have a few problems with resonances in the low end.

You can clearly see they have a 6dB dip at 200Hz.

They also have a couple of 4-6dB spikes in the 4-10Khz range, and they often sound a bit soft in the 12-20Khz range.

 

 

SENNHEISER HD650

 

Unfortunately with headphones, you get what you pay for!

This model sits at the high-end budget (around 400$), and has a frequency response that’s undeniably more linear than all the other headphones in this list.

The only major drawback is a slight roll-off in the super low sub-region 20-60Hz. For this reason, they might not seem like a good choice on paper if you mix a lot of bass-heavy music, but their flat frequency response far outweighs this small con in my opinion!

 

BEYERDYNAMIC DT770 & DT990

 

The DT770 is a closed-back design while the DT990 is open-back, and this is reflected in the low-end.

You can clearly see that the DT770s have a bit more linear dropoff in the sub-region, but also a massive 6dB cut at 200Hz.

Other than that they both share a hyped high-end, from 5Khz to 20Khz.

Out of these two, the DT990’s are slightly better for mixing since they don’t have the dip at 200Hz. With both of these, you gotta keep in mind the hyped highs when mixing.

 

 

A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

 

You don’t need expensive headphones to get a mix that translates to other systems. In case you don’t have the budget for a pricier model you have two options: just get to know your headphones or use Sonarworks to calibrate them

It doesn’t matter if you placed a couple of bass traps and a few foam pads. Unless you have a professional treated space, you can’t trust your room.

That’s why headphones are crucial for home studios, they are your only way to reliably monitor the low-end.

If your headphones aren’t included in the post and want to see their frequency response, you can download the free trial of Sonarworks Reference software.⁣

I’ll leave you with my personal headphones recommendations for mixing⁣:

Under 50$ ➡️ Superlux HD681⁣

50-100$ ➡️ AKG K240 MKII or Sony MDR7506⁣

100-150$ ➡️ AT M50x or Beyerdynamic DT990⁣

Above 300$ ➡️ Neumann NDH20 or SennheiserHD650⁣