Listening to our music in forensic detail is crucial in music production, and there are numerous different ways to go about getting deep into your mixes. From high-end monitors to sound-isolating, flat-response headphones.
Here are some of the very best examples of products that serve well for such situations. But what do you think should take the crown?
Scroll to the bottom to cast your vote!
1Brainwavz Audio HM100
These headphones deliver a wide sound which is flat and perfect for monitoring. Importantly, the detail is also there; clashing bass parts that you need to surgically move apart are always present and correct; not flabby, just distinct. The HM100s offer a studio sound at a consumer price.
Focal has a great reputation for studio monitors and has successfully transferred its genius to the headphone world. The Listen Professionals exhibit a pretty flat response with very little colouration that we could perceive, while still maintaining a pretty good vibe. This, combined with the comfort and weight, means accuracy and longevity for your mixing. Accurate and flat headphones can often be wearing, so these Focals have achieved a rare balance. They offer both accuracy and vibe plus great levels of comfort, so are ideal for secondary or even main monitoring.
Great-sounding Bluetooth headphones that are vibey and very pleasant indeed. Next to our superior mixing headphones, they sound better for playback but perhaps not as accurate for precision mixing. Sound isolation is very good, too, which is a plus for monitoring, as you won’t get too much sonic interference from the outside world. You can monitor with these in certain mixing scenarios, but they also double up as fantastic wire-free listening phones for the studio with a great feel.
4ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
These headphones from Adam Audio deliver a rich mix experience. They use Ultrasone’s S-Logic Plus technology which is there to add extra listening dimensions while also decreasing ear fatigue, and the ULE-Technology aims to reduce low-frequency magnetic radiation. In a sea of gimmicky releases this year, the Studio Pro SP-5’s stand out as offering a straight-up and sensible experience – your mix laid bare for you to fix – which is all you need from great headphones.
5JBL 306P MkII
Studio monitors are getting better all the time, and while there are many excellent designs with four-figure price tags, the sub-£500 market is currently thriving with some astonishing-sounding and good-value designs. Anyone looking for monitors in this range should ensure the JBL 306P MkIIs are at the top of the audition list. They are big-sounding monitors with a smooth yet expansive character. Boundary EQ adjustability helps them integrate into a wide variety of listening rooms.
6JBL One Series
JBL’s smaller mini-monitors stand up incredibly well, given price and size. They most definitely fulfil that brief of delivering a best-in-class performance – certainly, you won’t find anything at this price point that gets close. If you are strapped for cash or space, then we simply have to recommend them. These are about as good as it gets for the price and, size-wise, there’s simply nothing else out there that beats them. Monitoring history is being made, and we’re all the better off for it.
7IK Multimedia iLoud MTM
iLoud MTM’s look like three-way monitors, but actually boast a two-way/three speaker setup, so you’re looking at two mid-range woofers and a tweeter in each speaker. This design is produced to deliver point-source sound, which minimises ear fatigue as the frequencies of the drivers arrive at the same time. They are not as cheap as some – but still relatively inexpensive for studio monitors – but we wouldn’t hesitate using them as secondary monitors and even possibly primary ones. They deliver a big sound and continue to redefine what we expect from compact monitors.
8Neumann NDH 20
Neumann designed these closed-back headphones specifically for studio monitoring, editing and mixing and claims that they offer ‘an astonishingly detailed, well-balanced sound image’, similar to the company’s loudspeakers. The NDH 20 does lean more towards the pleasing listen with slight bass lift, but you could consider this a good compromise. This is because they offer so much in other departments that you will probably want to spend time with them to learn their nuances and then go on to mix well with them. They’re a very well-spec’d set of cans for the studio. Accurate mids and highs combine with a good vibe for long sessions.
9Quested S8R and V2108
Tonally these two sets of monitors from Quested are great, and among the very best loudspeakers we’ve heard, large or small, domestic or professional. Their ability to highlight subtle shifts in intonation as an instrument is being played is faultless, as is the way they portray individual elements of the densest and most complex mixes. The bottom line is that both of these monitors are superb, and will meet all your monitoring requirements.
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Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.