Headphones or Studio Monitors — Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series I discussed the benefits of using headphones or studio monitors. Now let’s look at some recommendations:

Rokit 5My general recommendation is check your recording from top to bottom in headphones for background noises that might have gotten into the microphone and mark anyplace that needs to be re-recorded. Once you’ve got that taken care of, do the editing using studio monitor speakers. You’ll get the best of both worlds, and you’ll suffer far less ear fatigue this way. Alternating the two types of monitoring will familiarize you with the differences and you’ll be able to trust your ears more and more with experience.

Recommendations for headphones and monitors — Despite the fact that studio monitors are larger and more complex, don’t expect to spend a lot more on them than your headphones. Most professional studio headphones tend to start around the $100 price range, with some falling below that mark. The least expensive studio monitors I can recommend start in the same price range, and rapidly go up in price from there. The headphones should be of the “circum-aural, sealed” type, to block outside noise, as well as avoid headphone “bleed” from reaching the microphone. They are very personal because there are very few “one size fits all” headphone designs. You’ll need to try a few pairs to know what really is comfortable to you.

The absolute cheapest monitor headphones I’ve found reasonably accurate are the Sennheiser HD201’s, which are under $30. They are cheaply made, and feel like it, but for your first headphones are a good choice. Shure SRH440’s are a very comfortable mid-priced headphone. Sony MDR-7506 became an industry standard at some point, but I find them to be overly bright and harsh, plus I think they are made poorly. The Beyerdynamic DT770’s I mentioned earlier are a good choice, and should run you between $185 and $200.

Avoid “noise canceling” headphones like the Bose Quiet Comfort as the active circuitry tends to color the sound (in my opinion), but in a pinch they work OK. I also don’t like “in-ear” monitors or ear-buds like those that come with iPods. Unless you spend well north of $100 on them, they are terribly inaccurate.

Avoid studio monitors or computer speakers with a subwoofer unit that sits on the floor. They are very difficult to calibrate properly and tend to exaggerate the bass range of your voice. Those tiny satellite/subwoofer computer speakers from Bose or JBL tend to leave a “hole” in the response in the critical low-midrange where your voice sits. Stick with 2-way studio monitor designs, such as those from M-Audio, KRK, Yamaha, Mackie, Fostex, and other brands found in pro-audio retail lines. At the lowest end the M-Audio AV30 monitors can be found for under $100 and do an admirable job. If you have the budget and space to go larger, the BX5a’s are a nice choice and are more accurate. KRK Rokit 5 or 6’s are well loved by many voice actors. I don’t see a need to spend more than $300 on a pair of studio monitors, unless you are producing final mixes and need extreme accuracy well into the sub-bass range and higher volumes.

Unless you are trained in recording engineering, or have years of experience in voice-over production, don’t just trust solely your own ears. Drop me an audio sample in my dropbox at vostudiotech.com/dropbox and I’ll be happy to take a listen to your audio. If there are no major problems with the recording, I’ll send it back to you processed the way I think your finish audio file should sound, free of charge. If many problems exist, I’ll let you know so you can pursue solutions.

George Whittam

About George Whittam

George Whittam, owner of ElDorado Recording Services, frequently tackles a new tech topic or FAQ relevant to voiceover recording for the VoiceOver Insider. He also co-hosts the East-West Audio Body Shop with cohort Dan Lenard each Sunday evening. You can reach George through ElDorado Recording Services, or email him at his address below.

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