Monitors Vs. Headphones
Updated: Oct 13, 2019
I can’t count how many times I’ve seen monitoring discussed on social media. It usually starts when one person asks if it is possible to get good mixes on headphones. Then the monitor trolls come out in full force with their projectiles and shaming techniques. I’ve been a passive observer in this debate but wanted to jump in and contribute my 2 cents. Specifically for those new to the home studio game.
In my opinion this is an unfair debate. If you are a professional recording or mix engineer working in high end studios you are, without question, using monitors for a majority of your sessions. If you are a home studio enthusiast on a limited budget, you are making the best with what you’ve got. This is why I feel it is such a silly debate. Costs in gear and software have dropped to the point where it’s possible for more people to start recording at home. What is unfair is comparing your budget studio to high end recording studios. In my opinion, the focus should be on making music and honing your craft.
If you really want to dig into the monitoring debate it goes far beyond monitors or headphones. Pro studios are acoustically treated by professionals and all gear is placed in optimal locations in the room. A home studio is often budget gear shoved into a corner. You can spend a bundle on high end monitors in this case but there is no way your mixing environment will be optimal.
Just be realistic and don’t let anyone get you down. If you share an apartment and just can’t make a lot of noise then go crazy mixing on headphones. No, you may not be producing platinum albums this way but everyone has got to start somewhere. If you can get a decent pair of monitors and control your playback levels you can start to work with monitors and reference your mixes on your headphones. Pros reference their mixes in many different environments so this is good practice learning the best ways to reference your mixes. The awesome part about having a home studio is you can grow it over time. As your budget permits you can upgrade your gear. Especially as you learn more you’ll understand better what you need and want.
I started recording at home years ago on 4 track tape recorders. Over the years I added gear and slowly upgraded my setup. I’m a home studio enthusiast, not a pro mix engineer. I took my time to learn and slowly grew my studio as my skills improved. I’m still learning and know my space will continue to evolve.
My best advice is to be realistic. Work within your budget and be patient. If your goal is to make music then make music. Pro recording and mix engineers use headphones AND monitors as needed. There is nothing to debate. So you might as well master what you’ve got now and expand your monitoring capabilities as your budget allows. Just enjoy the ride and love making music any way you can.
The Lonely Rocker