Is Pro Mixing And Mastering On Headphones A Reality?
A few months ago I did a direct comparison of two major players in the headphone-monitoring world of audio plugins. The first headphone-monitoring plugin I tested was the Redline Monitor by 112db. The other was the Sonarworks Reference 4 headphone calibration system that was tuned to my Sennheiser HD 600 headphones. I chose the Sonarworks over the 112db as the clear winner for its sonic accuracy.
Since then I have added the Waves NX-Virtual Mix Room headphone monitor plugin. The Waves NX focuses more on imaging calibration whereas Sonarworks focuses more on frequency calibration. The Waves NX actually monitors your heads position in the room using the camera on your computer to follow your head movements. This means that as you turn your head, the volume changes in the headphones, much like real speakers do in a control room. This feature took me a little bit of time to get used to, however the realism truly is amazing. The Waves NX offers another calibration option allowing you to lock in the sweet spot, giving you perfect imaging no matter how your head moves.
Around late June 2017, Waves released the NX-Virtual Room monitor plugin with an updated version that adds pitch calibration. The pitch calibration is similar to the Sonarworks, however I have found that the Sonarworks is far superior in frequency accuracy. With the strength of the Waves NX imaging calibration and strength of the Sonarworks frequency calibration, together they can provide some truly amazing results.
Good studio monitors can cost between $1000.00 and $25.000 dollars a pair. Then you have to factor in the cost of treating the room for acoustic imperfections. This can cost from several hundred dollars to several thousands dollars. You see what I am getting to.
Since these two plugins can allow you to do all of your audio engineering under headphones, they are a perfect choice for home studio engineers who are concerned about neighbor complaints coming from studio monitors. Also you can mix off of your laptop computer when traveling.
The cost of a great set of professional headphones and the software plugins can easily be purchased for under $500.00. If you already have a great set of professional headphones you are mostly there. Sonarworks provides a growing list of headphones that are calibrated for their system. The software for both plugins can be purchased for well under $200.00 depending on upcoming sales and promotions.
My personal favorite headphone is the Sennheiser HD600. These headphones provide great comfort and clarity, however there are many great headphone for every mix engineer’s individual needs. For the money you can’t beat combining these two plugins when used with a great set of professional headphones.
Drew Puzia is a multi-award winning Mix Engineer at SoundBurst Studios in Las Vegas. Drew is certified in Audio Engineering from the world renowned Berklee College of Music. His experience spans over three decades in the music industry and he has recorded and mixed countless musicians in many genres of music.