Buying Reference Headphones
Mar 3, 2010 at 3:50 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 6


Mar 1, 2010
Los Angeles, California
Oh boy guys, I am overwhelmed! I've been sifting through posts here for the last 5 days and becoming more and more indecisive. I'm new here and am really enjoying the threads. Thank you all.

I'm a film editor with a somewhat unique situation. I work on an older Avid Media Composer with a Mackie mixer. All my equipment is in a medium/small office with me, so I'm constantly hearing the whine of the old Mac G4 and the horrendously loud fan from the Avid audio interface. I use Event powered monitors which sound very good and flat. On occasion I need to mix shows that I'm editing and while I've learned by and large to compensate, knowing the system as I do, I know I'm seriously missing certain dynamics and frequencies and frankly I think this constant fan noise is hurting my ears. So...even though it isn't advisable to mix with headphones, I think I'd like to get a good pair of sound isolating headphones or earphones so I can at least listen critically for long periods, at lower volumes and maybe do some mixing.

My price range is probably under $200.00 unless I can find a fantastic deal on something used, etc.

I auditioned the following with a section of soundtrack I had just finished mixing which included dialogue, music and effects. Some sections of the dialogue were over-modulated and so was some of the music, which was good because I wanted to hear how accurate the headphones would be:

Beyerdynamic DT-770: good, flat, very comfy felt ear pads, but not too detailed. A little boxy maybe?

Ultrasone Pro 650: Interesting soundstage with the S-logic. It sounded a little more distant and slightly anemic, but the detail was excellent. I did notice the s-logic effect, very slight, but I liked it.

Shure SRH-840: Man, these are luscious. I just wanted to lay back, close my eyes and spin off into lala land. They were too "nice". They glossed over the imperfections. The overmodulations and distortions that I knew were there, went by like jelly. I loved the sound, but not practical for my work. :^(

Sony MDR-7506: I've used these many times, I used to be a production soundman. They're very detailed, but not flat and really hurt both physically on my ears and fatiguing almost immediately. I don't think I could get an accurate mix from these, though I could definitely hear the problems in the tracks.

Sony MDR-7509HD: These were surprisingly good, even great and my favorite of all I tried so far. These sounded very flat and detailed. The earcups were bigger, and fit entirely over my ears, very comfortable. I heard all the problems. They sounded almost exactly like my Event speakers except of course I didn't feel the low frequencies in my chest. The noise isolation was pretty good. So far this is my first choice.

Audio Technica ATH-M50: Very well balanced, flat, but not detailed enough to hear the imperfections. Great for the price, just not good enough.

Sennheiser HD 380 Pro: I loved the fit of these. And I can't put my finger on what was wrong with them, but there was something wrong with them. I don't have any more language to describe it...just not quite right.

These were all closed headphones for the purpose of noise isolation. I've read great things about the following here and would love to get some advice:

Utrasone Pro 750
Audio Technica ATH-Pro700
German Maestro GMP 8.35 D
German Maestro 8.300ds
Equation Audio RP-21

and of course the hi end:

Utrasone Edition 8
Denon AH-D7000
Stax 4070
Koss ESP-950

But those are probably impractical for me.

The other thought is an In-Ear Monitor. I've read that they really can't give me an accurate mix, but I'm not sure why it would be any worse than headphones? Can someone explain that to me?

The ones that seem highly thought of are:

Shure SE530: may be too warm like the 840's
Etymotic ER4S
Head-Direct RE0
Audio Technica ATH-CK10
Ultimate Ears 10 Pro

I like the idea of IEMs for the sound isolation, especially if I get custom gels.

Thoughts and comments are very welcomed!
Mar 3, 2010 at 5:11 AM Post #2 of 6


Headphoneus Supremus
Nov 30, 2008
Forget the RP21 if you want detail and treble. Otherwise very nice and non-fatiguing sound for casual listening. You might consider the dt250. It sounds a little like a v6 that got its act together. My feelings on that one echo yours. The 7509's got a great review in last month's Sound on Sound article on mixing with headphones. They came out on top of all the closed hps they tested. I'd love to hear that one. Good luck with your search.
Mar 3, 2010 at 6:24 AM Post #3 of 6

kool bubba ice

Headphoneus Supremus
Jun 16, 2006
I'm louke warm in recommending the DT48 since you want treble per say.. But you have not heard flat, least for a headphone, untill you have heard these. They were made to sound like headphones, not to mimic modern day speakers like many headphones try to do. They sound very different then other headphones for this and other reasons. Very mid centric.The Maestro's and DBI's are always a good choice along with AKG for mixing and recording.
Mar 3, 2010 at 6:48 AM Post #4 of 6


Headphoneus Supremus
Jul 7, 2008
As a film editor, the vocals will be the most important.

1. 271MKll. very good mids, great for vocals, and very comfy.
2. German Maestro GMP 8.35. Natural sounds, different pads mod the sound, very comfy.
3. Sony MDR-7506. Flat, good monitor, but I'm not crazy about Sony,
4. Ultrasone Pro 650. great bass, superb as playback monitor, not so comfy.
5. M-50. Warm on the bass, good mids, no comfy, but good price on ebay.

As for the hi end hps. (you'll need a pro hps amp)

1. K-702
2. K-1000
3. Stax 4070
Mar 3, 2010 at 7:34 PM Post #6 of 6


Member of the Trade:
Aug 14, 2006
If you're down with IEMs, Etymotic is the way to go for reference, in my experience. Never tried a Westone 3 but you can't go wrong at all with a pair of Ety ER-4's.

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