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Headphones are the other device that you'll use to monitor your audio, and they're really helpful for a lot of tasks. They are great for zooming in on sounds. If you have little things you think you hear a little pop or click, but you can't quite see it, or can't quite hear it, you can put the headphones on and try and listen back a little critically. They really bring the sound right to you and eliminate any surrounding sound, so they are great for kind of putting certain little moments of sound under the microscope. They are also great if you are working with microphones, because obviously you can't have live speakers in the same room as the microphone that you are working with, the exception with stuff like guitar amps, but obviously not your monitor speakers.
So if you are singing, doing vocals, and you want to hear the playback track, headphones are where it's at. You have to hear what the playback is and hear yourself coming through the microphone. They are also good for working late into the night, whether you want to or not. It's also good for not bugging your neighbors and kind of keeping your work to yourself. Like every other audio device they also have frequency response or frequency reproduction quality, and so you can look at a chart and find out how they do. You'll find that most headphones tend to struggle with the bass, and this is because there is a limitation of smaller speakers.
They've gotten a lot better, but you don't want to use them to monitor full range music, the way you do your near-field speakers. But they are great for getting kind of a snapshot, and you can definitely do mixes in them, but it's easier to use speakers. Your ears get kind of tired. And it's good to hear sound around you when you are mixing, kind of the air in the room and the reflections. So there's three different types of headphones that you need to know about, there is the closed back, the open back, and then semi-open back. And what this refers to this closed or open is whether or not sound is allowed to leak in or leak out of the headphone when you are wearing it.
Closed back means that the sound is not supposed to get out into the room. So if you're doing vocals, it won't get out into the microphone. It also means that sounds in the room around you, their designs that you won't hear them. They are like earmuffs. If you go to the airport and those guys wearing earphones, they are like super, super closed, they don't want to let any sound in or out. Open back head phones are the opposite. They let lots of sound out and lots of sound in. If you are in a situation where it's important to hear what's going on around you, maybe hear the other players in the room, perhaps in a string quartet or something like that, open back headphones are very helpful.
Now semi-open, they live right in the middle, they let a little bit less in and a little bit less out. And this is really a great application for people like singers where you don't really want it to leak out into the microphone, but you do want to able to hear some of your own voice. Generally speaking, when you get started, if you have to make a decision, I recommend you just get a closed pair of headphones. You'll find that you'll use those most of the time in most of the recording applications and for critical listening and for working late nights. Because that way, if you are sitting next to someone and doing some work, they wont hear most of what's coming out of your headphones.
You've actually probably experienced the difference between these kinds of headphones when you sit on subway or a bus and the guy next to you, you can hear what he's listening to from two seats away. Or if someone's sitting there with their big disco-muffs on, and you can't hear what they are listening to at all. And you're kind of curious what they are listening to. They've got the closed back style. One other thing to know about is that a lot of headphones have only one cable that runs up to one ear-cup, and that's always up to the left ear-cup. Now most headphones will have markings on them, somewhere at left, right, but as soon as you see that you can pick it up and know that that's left.
It's just the standard. I don't know who invented it or why. But that's always the case, and it's helpful. The reason this is worth knowing about is so that you don't put them on the wrong way. So that's about it for the magic of headphones. They are really cool, great worth having a great pair. If you get a nice comfy pair, it's great for singers. It can really help make people more comfortable while they are performing, because a lot of recording is wearing headphone while you are behind the mic. So it's worthwhile to have some that you enjoy wearing.
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