Decent studio headphones are an excellent investment for a home or project studio. A good pair of headphones allows for accurate monitoring and a good back-up for mixing (you should always use your monitors as your primary mixing source), and you don’t have to spend too much to get some decent cans.
Here are some tips for buying studio headphones for a home or project recording studio.
1. Keep your purpose in mind. Ask yourself, why am I buying studio headphones? Are they for mixing, or are they for the performers that I’ll be recording? If the headphones are for performers, then you can get away with buying relatively inexpensive headphones–pay about $30 a pair, get some decent over-ear cans that will isolate well, and you’ll be done with it. But if you’re buying headphones for mixing, you’ve got to go for something with a reasonably flat frequency response pattern and excellent ratings. Otherwise, your home recordings will be far more challenging to mix.
2. More expensive doesn’t mean better. Past a point, that is–$50 headphones will almost invariably be better than $20 headphones. But Bose headphones, considered by many to be the best in the field, are also the most expensive–and there’s a reason for that. Studio headphone buyers sometimes automatically assume that more money means better quality, which it doesn’t. Bose charges more for their headphones because they’ve got a good reputation, and because they can. That’s not to say that they make an inferior product, of course, Bose headphones are fantastic, but they’re not necessarily better than studio headphones from a manufacturer like Grados, whose headphones cost a fraction of what Bose headphones cost.
3. Shop around. Huge discounts are available on headphones that have been lightly used, courtesy of eBay, and on new studio headphones, you’re likely to find a lower price. While you’re there, be sure to read as many user reviews as you can; both websites are good about posting every valid review that they receive, so you’ll get some realistic idea of the quality of the headphones you’re considering by reading up first.
4. Check their returns policy. If you find a great deal on some studio headphones, but when you get them, they’re too bassy or tinny, you might have received a bad unit. This isn’t a big deal if you’ve got an excellent return policy in place. To make sure I’m getting good headphones, I like to test a few sets at my local music store before ordering a pair online (at a much lower cost than the local store can offer).
Do you have any tips for buying studio headphones? Post them in the comments section below.