Should you use studio monitors or headphones for music production in 2020?
The debate between studio monitor users and headphone users is almost as old as Mac vs. Windows discussion or the epic battle between the Ableton, Logic Pro and FL Studio enthusiasts. Its also a disput between people claiming to make world-hits on ear-buds vs audiophiles. As with almost every debate, the answer really comes down to the question what you are trying to achieve and ultimately personal preference. Here are some pros and cons to help get you started with your decision:
Studio Monitors for music production
If you ever made mysic for an extended period of time you will have realized that there is a point, where your ears become really sensitive especially for higher frequencies. This is ear-fatigue. Over the many years of producing I’ve found that I, at least personally tend to get it way faster with headphones than with speakers.
More realistic stereo imaging
Stereo Imaging makes a mix sound wide and full. This is way better displayed on speakers to reflect what your mix will sound like in cars, home hi-fi and so on.
Less artificial coloring of the sound
Headphones tend to color the signal quite heavily. This leads to the mix sounding way different on other systems or in another environment. With professional monitor speakers this is not as much of a problem.
Rather “broad” sound/Hard to focus on details in the mix
While it’s a good thing being able to focus on the overall picture of the mix, sometimes you may want to listen in on very specific details of sounds or frequencies. In my opinion this is a little more difficult on studio monitors.
That’s pretty obvious. Headphones are just the more flexible setup.
Need to be set up carefully and mindful
Building a studio or an acoustically treated room for your home-setup really is a science in and of itself. I won’t go into the details here, but there are many things you will have to consider in terms of monitor placement, wall reflections, and so on.
Headphones for music production
Possibility to focus in on very specific sounds
With headphones its possible to focus on every detail of your mix as there are no environmental distractions.
If you prefer producing music on a laptop while being on the road, headphones ard the obvious choice. No setup will give you more flexibility. And with the right amount of noise cancelation you can literally make music everywhere.
Of course you can’t use just any old headphones for high quality music production, but there are great choices if you are on a budget.
Distorted stereo imaging
Since both “speakers” are just separated by your head the stereo image has no space to work its magic but rather is beingstimulated. This is why the stereo image of your mix will sound way different when listening to it on other systems.
Ear-fatigue during longer sessions
Like I already mentioned in the studio monitors section – ear-fatigue can be a serious problem in longer sessions with headphones. Taking regular breaks is essential.
No physical experience of the music
To really “feel” the music you have to experience the vibrations and pumping of a bass and stuff like that. You just won’t get the same sensation with headphones.
As you can see, there is no right or wrong answer to the question which is “better”, but I will give you the best options I possibly can. For studio monitors as well as for headphones.
Down below you will find the two posts I prepared for this topic. One will show you the best music production monitors the other one will focus on headphones so you xan decide for yourself.