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SOS February 2019 back page comments. Why I love headphones.

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Re: SOS February 2019 back page comments. Why I love headphones.

Postby MOF » Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:59 am

When I said ‘anticipate’ I meant that it’s always a surprise, sometimes the vocal is too loud and other times too quiet, there’s no way I can anticipate which way it will be and it’s rarely at just the right level.
I don’t know if it’s similar in reverse to binaural recordings not translating well to speakers, there’s just something about having the vocal right in the middle of your head that makes it difficult for me. Equally it’s always a bit of a disappointment listening to a mix on speakers after a long period of listening on headphones.
There is another issue for some people using headphones and that’s pitching. Peter Gabriel mentioned this on The making of SO. His pitching was better when he used a speaker to play the backing track while tracking vocals.
I’m glad you’re able to use headphones exclusively but I can’t.
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Re: SOS February 2019 back page comments. Why I love headphones.

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:58 am

This could be a studio myth, but I remember a post from an engineer who said he found singers sang more in tune if the right channel of their headphones was a bit louder than the left. I’ve never had the opportunity to test this.
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Re: SOS February 2019 back page comments. Why I love headphones.

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:58 pm

Hmmm... a few things getting a bit twisted together here....

Headphones for tracking/singing are, by necessity a different animal than headphones for mixing. Typically the choice of phones would be of a closed-back type to reduce leakage back into the microphone, and this leaves them less suitable for mixing. With some vocalists I do find that getting them to take one headphone cup off can help them pitch - reducing the level of one side would achieve a similar-ish result.

As to mixing, if your vocal level is too loud in speakers then it was too loud in headphones - it's really that simple! For some reason you just couldn't tell. What you have to do (should you decide to persevere) is ascertain why you're not translating what you hear in the phones to an accurate mix decision.

Maybe you need to listen to more well-mixed music in your headphones - and use references as you work ( a good practice in any case). Inbalanced vocals should be glaringly obvious if you have good references to compare with. Maybe you need a different pair of headphones (hopefully you're mixing in open-back headphones, which are more suited to mixing, but if not...). And, if you *want* to get better at it, you will need to practice; practice a lot. No magic wand I'm afraid. Some people advocate these plug-ins that create a speaker-ish illusion in phones, but I'm not a fan of that approach. But maybe worth trying?

If the worst of it is vocal level then simply do your final vocal balance in speakers at the end of the process. When you feel you have it right then listen again in phones - how do they sound now? Remember that sensation and try again next time.
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