Q It Up: Best Headphones for Radio Production and Voiceover

Q It Up: What headphones do you find best suited for your work, and what do you like about them? Do you use them strictly for doing voiceover work, or do you also use them when mixing? Some producers might say no to using headphones to mix with, but with a large number of listeners using earbuds to listen to your station(s), should we perhaps use headphones as part of the mixing process? And if so, why not actually use earbuds to check and tweak the mix?

Please reply in the comments section below and add any other thoughts you have on the subject. 

Comments (16)

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You really can't go wrong with Sony's MDR-V6's. They sound good, they're built like tanks, and if the earpads crumble, just get new ones for a few bucks on eBay.

Every once in a while, I drag out the Koss Pro4-AAs for laughs or to keep my ears warm during the winter. Throughout our early careers, we never knew they had a lifetime warranty, outlined in a tiny slip of paper in the box. I keep mine in my wallet.

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(PS - The MDR-V6 also gives you the best overall ear-view of how your work sounds on multiple platforms, including speakers and ear buds.)

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In the nineties an old Program Director gave me a set of Beyerdynamics headphones that I wore because, hey...at $200 plus I'd have been an idiot to pass on his generous offer. They were indeed good sounding phones, but fast-forward a few years when the wire between the speakers eventually gave out, I ended up buying a collapsible pair of SONY MDR-7506s. For my tastes these phones offer a true representation of all frequencies, which is what you want when mixing. At $99...the price is palpable and while I'm no engineer gazing at sine waves, gages, and meters...my ears tell me they sound as good if not better than headphones that cost hundreds more. Essentially, you get a fantastic headset for an entry level price. Additionally, they come with a quarter inch jack that unscrews to reveal a smaller eighth inch jack, which makes transitioning for broadcast boards to mobile devices convenient. All that said, in today's digital mixing environment...where systems automatically mute the...

In the nineties an old Program Director gave me a set of Beyerdynamics headphones that I wore because, hey...at $200 plus I'd have been an idiot to pass on his generous offer. They were indeed good sounding phones, but fast-forward a few years when the wire between the speakers eventually gave out, I ended up buying a collapsible pair of SONY MDR-7506s. For my tastes these phones offer a true representation of all frequencies, which is what you want when mixing. At $99...the price is palpable and while I'm no engineer gazing at sine waves, gages, and meters...my ears tell me they sound as good if not better than headphones that cost hundreds more. Essentially, you get a fantastic headset for an entry level price. Additionally, they come with a quarter inch jack that unscrews to reveal a smaller eighth inch jack, which makes transitioning for broadcast boards to mobile devices convenient. All that said, in today's digital mixing environment...where systems automatically mute the speakers to alleviate feedback, you only need headphones if you're working in a noisy environment (like say a club,) or if you're so new to the business you've yet to figure out where the sweet spot of your microphone is where proximity is concerned. With enough repetition and experience...you just know where to stand for a given mic, and like me...you'll find your SONYs sitting on a shelf.

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I use the same Sony MDR-7506s, and have for years. (I'm always looking for the sweet spot on the mic.) Ever since getting the Sonys, I've felt they had too much emphasis on the highs. What I hear in the headphones is considerably different that what I hear on reference monitors. So about a year ago I bought a pair of Sennheisers, the $99 set with the same full spectrum response. They sounded MUCH flatter -- maybe even a little too weak on the highs (or maybe I was just used to the Sonys, or maybe my aging ears are playing tricks on me). I suppose I'm still in search of the perfect cans, but I'm with you on the price... $99 is palpable. I've never tried the 2,3 and $400 models and not sure I'd pay that, even if I did like them.

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Best headphones? Any pair lying around that actually works. HA! I only use headphones when I need to, such as when interacting with a recorded phone-in. I mix listening to the fairly large Alesis monitors in the studio I use.

If it's a complicated piece of production or music, where I want to make sure everything "prints" in a couple of listening environments, I will also give a listen on my car stereo.

For me, headphones are not the best judge. I find intonation (pitch) can sound a lot better in headphones than it actually is. Mixes sound better too, deceivingly so. I want to make sure mixes and pitches sound as good as they can outside the phones, so outboard monitors are more reliable. Headphones are necessary to prevent feedback that monitors create from a live mic. Or for private listening. Obviously disc jockeys need 'em.

But for production? Not unless you're doing voiceover along with music. To me even that is only necessary when singing.

So when it comes...

Best headphones? Any pair lying around that actually works. HA! I only use headphones when I need to, such as when interacting with a recorded phone-in. I mix listening to the fairly large Alesis monitors in the studio I use.

If it's a complicated piece of production or music, where I want to make sure everything "prints" in a couple of listening environments, I will also give a listen on my car stereo.

For me, headphones are not the best judge. I find intonation (pitch) can sound a lot better in headphones than it actually is. Mixes sound better too, deceivingly so. I want to make sure mixes and pitches sound as good as they can outside the phones, so outboard monitors are more reliable. Headphones are necessary to prevent feedback that monitors create from a live mic. Or for private listening. Obviously disc jockeys need 'em.

But for production? Not unless you're doing voiceover along with music. To me even that is only necessary when singing.

So when it comes to "cans" I have no preference for any brand or model.

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Ditto some of the comments below. Those Sony MDR-V6 headphones are the ones I've used for I don't know how many years now. More than 2 decades. I think I've had 3 or 4 over that time period. The Sony 7506 is also a good pair of headphones. It's a toss up to me. I highly recommend them for production and on-air use. Prior to my Sony headphones, I had a really good pair from Onkyo. They were over-the-ear phones. After about 5 or 6 years of heavy use, they broke. I tried to replace them, but I couldn't find an outlet. That's when I switched to the Sony MDR-V6. Haven't looked back since.

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The survey says.... Sony MDR-7506. $99 on Sweetwater. Simple and clean with no excessive bass. What you hear is what you did. Good ear muffs and yes, easy and cheap to replace. Speakers are nice if you have the right setup to keep volume reasonable. I have been using the Sony's for years. Its clean. High dollar bass speakers can throw things off. Since I am only doing VO work the Sony is great, but I think it's perfect for projects with music production. The sony gives you great opportunity to see what you have produced to be heard with an ear plug to a high end stereo with background noise.

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The only time Cans hit my ears is when I am on a directed VO session via phone patch, ISDN, or voicing to a jingle. They tend to make you play to your Bass.
Maurice Tobias said years ago... If you want to deliver the whole message instead of using half your brain to speak and the other half to analyze your delivery, try Voicing without headphones...it will change your life. Boy did it! If you're worried about hitting the sweet spot on your Mic...learn more about your mic. Play a little!
To mix with headphones is something I try to avoid at all costs. Most Headphones are tuned. You tend to get a different sound from a good pair of speakers. Tune the room! But then again mixing to a crappy speaker and hearing everything is a great way to judge what prints (I use a 4 inch cue speaker)..and then check it in your go to monitors. Flip back and forth...you'll be pleasantly surprised.
If I have to use the cans they are ATH M 50 x flat response studio headphones. All earbuds are...

The only time Cans hit my ears is when I am on a directed VO session via phone patch, ISDN, or voicing to a jingle. They tend to make you play to your Bass.
Maurice Tobias said years ago... If you want to deliver the whole message instead of using half your brain to speak and the other half to analyze your delivery, try Voicing without headphones...it will change your life. Boy did it! If you're worried about hitting the sweet spot on your Mic...learn more about your mic. Play a little!
To mix with headphones is something I try to avoid at all costs. Most Headphones are tuned. You tend to get a different sound from a good pair of speakers. Tune the room! But then again mixing to a crappy speaker and hearing everything is a great way to judge what prints (I use a 4 inch cue speaker)..and then check it in your go to monitors. Flip back and forth...you'll be pleasantly surprised.
If I have to use the cans they are ATH M 50 x flat response studio headphones. All earbuds are not created equal...don't worry about the platform your listened to...worry about the finished product. If your mix is a good one, it will translate across the board. Cheers!

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Oh yes. I agree. Best to record voice without headphones when possible (depends on the type I am doing). I generally use a Sennheiser 416 or the MK4 (which I use when I have to be more animated with a read).

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I only use headphones when i'm mixing at home because I can't rely on the monitors & the room i'm in to give me a correct sound. So I use Beyer DT-770's. For me the most important thing is that whatever I hear in my ears is gonna be EXACTLY what I hear when I play it back through my monitors at work. These headphones do that. They're quite comfy but they do get a bit warm to wear for long periods. You'll need a break, which you should take anyway to let your ears come back to normal. But I don't think i'd ever mix with anything other set now due primarily to their accuracy.

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Sony Pro 7506 phone are the best

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I am using Sennheiser HD201's to record dry VO with because they are low cost (battle tested and easy to replace) light weight and have a great, natural sound. Keep in mind, I came to VO from radio where my primary cans were KOSS Pro 4AA's that sound great but are heavy! For editing and mixing, I rely on smaller ALESIS monitor speakers to replicate the sound of car audio or other radios, that includes other ambient sound. If they sound great on the speakers, the production will sound great anywhere.

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