For sound engineers on a budget that can’t invest in monitor speakers nor have a proper listening environment, the best way to mix your songs is by using headphones.
This is because if you don’t have a properly treated room and a sub woofer, it’s difficult to accurately mix the bass and get that nicely defined low end.
Should You Use Beats By Dre To Mix?
Before we begin I just want to say, “NO DO NOT GET BEATS BY DRE” headphones or for that matter any headphones endorsed by a rapper or someone famous. It’s all b.s. and marketing hype to make you think that paying $300+ for headphones will help you improve your mix.
Why is it b.s.?
The thing I dislike about Beats By Dre headphones is that they color the sound way too much.
Sure they sound great, but that is not going to help you mix.
You want headphones that are going to give you a transparent reading of what your mix sounds like.
Keyword here is TRANSPARENT.
You want headphones that are going to make you hear all the flaws in your mix.
Beats by Dre is going to make almost any mix sound sweet by doing things like emphasizing the low end, making the top end brighter and perhaps doing some acoustic spatial voodoo (I totally just made that up to scare you).
Having said that Beats are great headphones for the regular person that just wants to listen to music from their iPhone (they are certainly better than Earpods or earbuds or whatever you call them). Though if you are a mixer, you are probably going to want to avoid them in your leisure as they will distort your sense of hearing.
I personally like to make sure that I use the same headphones I use for mixing as I do for when I’m listening to music for fun (which given my occupation is not very often).
If you still want to use Beats By Dre to mix, I’d recommend getting the Beats Solo3, I’ve found them for as low as $200.
Keep in mind they’re usually $300+.
I’ve been using a pair of Beats Studio3 Wireless for the gym and noticed they sound similar to my studio headphones but since they’re Bluetooth they do lack the richness and warmth of analogue which is caused by the digital compression of being transmitted over-the-air. However, I do believe you can get a pair of wired Beats Studio3 and they would solve this problem (though I haven’t tested a pair myself).
What Are The Best Budget Headphones To Mix With?
Audio Technica ATH-M30
My personal fave and the one I started out with are made by a relatively small Japanese company called Audio-Technica.
These headphones are so damn cheap, you can pick them up for about $40 to $50.
You can also get them $50 with free shipping
Why Are These The Best Headphones For Mixing And Mastering?
My friends who are these crazy hip hop producers (who I shall leave nameless) have a studio I love going to just to listen to music.
The reason being is the room and their system is perfect for listening to music.
I used to beg these guys just to go to their studio to listen to new albums.
Coincidentally, during this time I was also looking for new headphones for producing and mixing. I was trying out a whole bunch (and by trying out I mean going to the music store, buying them, using them for a day or so and then returning them) to see which ones I liked and was getting so frustrated. I wanted headphones that sounded like my friend’s studio.
I basically wanted a million dollar studio strapped to my ears. I know crazy.
Anyway after about a month of this.
My girlfriend bought me a random pair of headphones for my birthday. Now I usually hate when my girl buys me anything that she thinks I would like because she usually overpays. I tried out these headphones and literally the second I put them on and started playing music I felt like I was in my friend’s studio.
It was such a magical moment.
Those headphones turned out to be, yes you guessed it, the Audio-Technica ATH-M30. For the price and the sound, you really can’t beat these headphones.
They are truly the best budget headphones for mixing.
Another benefit of these studio headphones is that they are good for recording vocals with as there is little noise bleed. So if you’re an artist that’s mixing your own stuff (which I don’t recommend) these have a dual purpose.
Do I Use These Headphones For Mixing And Mastering?
Yes, I actually use these headphones for my mixing and mastering service as a secondary test to make sure the mix and master is good.
I found that while my studio monitors and sub-woofer are great as well as the acoustic properties of my studio (because that’s important as well), it’s always good to check out the final mix and master on another system you can trust.
What I don’t like about them?
For long term use, these can get uncomfortable. If you’re like me and you listen to a mix over and over again until you are ready to pass out, you will find these put a lot of pressure on the top part of your ear.
I’m feeling the top part of my ear right now and they are actually sore.
Luckily, Audio-Technica makes a higher end version with better pads called the ATH-M50s.
These are not exactly budget, so if you’re looking for something a little better, you can get them for about $150 and $200.
Be sure to get the “s” model as they have the straight cable instead of the (annoying) curly one on the regular model.
I own a few pairs and enjoy them for long sessions and they are only slightly better sounding than the ATH-M30.
Update: You can now get them for $117 on Amazon.