Headphones for Filmmakers: My Impressions of 7 Headphones

In this episode, I share my impressions of 5 different headphones which I have used for production or post production filmmaking. We start out with a discussion about open vs. closed back design and impedance and why those matter when you’re choosing a set of headphones. As a bonus, we also cover two additional sets of headphones I use when I’m not making films.

If you’d like to learn how to make great dialogue audio for your film and video projects, please have a look at my courses including processing dialogue audio, recording sound, how to use the Zoom F8 and F8n, and how to get the most from the Sound Devices MixPre series of recorders.

Links to gear used in this video:

Sony MDR-7506 (Amazon)- My go-to headphones for when I’m recording

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80ohm (Amazon) - Also very good when recording, super durable, a little bulkier in size

Sony MDR-ZX110 (Amazon) - When I give a director or producer a wireless feed of the audio, they get these with the receiver

Sennheiser HD820 (Amazon) - The most amazing headphones I have ever owned, but expensive and reserved for post production

Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro 250ohm (Amazon) - A very good set of open back headphones for post production, much more reasonably priced

Meze 99 Classics (Amazon) - Classy looking and good sounding “Lifestyle” headphones with low impedance for listening from phones and laptops

Sennheiser PXC 550 Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones (Amazon) - My favorite travel and everyday headphones when I want isolation from the world

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K - I used this to record most of this episode

Panasonic 12-35mm F/2.8 OIS Lens (Amazon) - Used on the Pocket 4K camera

Copyright 2019 by Curtis Judd

Music Copyright 2019 by Cary Judd. Used with permission.

Wireless Headphone Feeds (Comtek)

What do you do when the director or producer come to you and say, "I need 4 headphones..."?

Here's a brief overview of setting up wireless headphone feeds for producers, directors, and others on set. You can do this a variety of ways, even using a spare wireless lav system (but that only gets you one set of headphones). On the pro sets, they often use Comtek or similar wireless systems which are nice in that you can send the same feed to as many sets of receivers as you need from a single transmitter in your sound bag.

Links to gear discussed in this session:

Comtek M-216 Transmitter (Option P7) - expensive but sturdy and up for several years of service on rough and tumble sets and locations.

Comtek PR-216 Receiver - This is the thankfully less expensive receiver. You can use as many of these as you need with a single transmitter. Also well built for years of service

Comtek XLR to 3.5mm adapter cable - If your mixer/recorder has an XLR  output that you'll use to feed audio to the Comtek transmitter, here's an adapter cable to make that work. If your mixer/recorder has a 3.5mm output, any 3.5mm TRS to 3.5mm TRS cable will do. Just keep it short so it doesn't pick up interference.

Sony ZX110 Headphones - Good enough to get the job done with comfort, plenty loud. They fold and have flat cables which help prevent tangles. Not too hard on your pocketbook if they get destroyed by a crew member (about $15 USD each).

Copyright 2017 by Curtis Judd

Sound for Video Session: Mixing Headphones Compared

In this week's Sound for Video Session, we compare 6 sets of headphones for mixing film and video projects (plus a bonus set that almost nobody can afford, just for fun). We also cover why using headphones alone is not ideal and can make mixing a frustrating experience. We also underscore the importance of reviewing your mixes on lots of different playback systems: Near field monitors, hifi system, car sound system, smartphone earbuds, TV, etc.

Jump ahead to particular headphones:

06:55 AKG K240
12:37 Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
16:10 Audio Technica ATH-R70x
20:09 Shure SRH1840
22:45 Sennheiser HD 800
25:23 Audeze LCD-X
30:40 Sennheiser HE 1 Orpheus

Gear discussed in this session:

AKG K240 Studio Pro Semi-Open Back Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro Semi-Open Back Reference Headphones

Audio Technica ATH-R70x Pro Reference Headphones

Shure SRH1840 Pro Open Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 800 Open Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 800 S Open Back Headphones

Audeze LCD-X High Performance Reference Planar Magnetic Headphones

Sennheiser HE 1 Orpheus Headphones

Copyright 2017 by Curtis Judd

Sound for Video Session: Mic Placement and Headphones

This week we covered a couple of additional ideas on mic placement, specifically, how to use a boom mic in a wide shot. Also a quick mention of plant mics (hiding mics in the scene). And we then spent the last few minutes covering headphones and what to look for when considering a set of headphones for production work (monitoring when shooting) and for post-production (for editing and mixing).

Monitoring Audio: Headphones or Near-field Monitors?

KRK Rokit 8" G3 Near Field Monitor If you're looking to improve the sound for your film or video projects, you need a way to listen to your sound so that you know whether it's as good as you'd like. If you're like me, you're not doing your audio post-production work in an acoustically treated studio or control room. More likely you've got a home office or spare bedroom.

And you don't typically want awesome hi-fi speakers for this job because hi-fi speakers are meant to make everything sound as good as possible. They are usually designed to add a little more bass and a little more treble.

What you really need is a brutally honest sound that is as accurate as possible. And that's the job of near-field monitors and reference headphones.

So in cases like mine where you're working in a spare bedroom, do you go with near field monitors or do you go with a good set of headphones? Do you try to acoustically treat your room? Ideally, both.

That's a tough question that I haven't totally answered even for myself. I have a set of the KRK Rokit 8 near field monitors. But they're not exactly perfect, particularly since the room I'm working in is FAR from acoustically perfect. I recently bought a reference measurement mic and used FuzzMeasure to see how long various frequencies hang around in my room. It wasn't pretty at all. Like almost all small household bedrooms, the bass lingers forever. And you might think, "You must get amazing bass sound in that room." But no, it is actually quite the opposite. The bass is mushy and creates all sorts of comb filtering. So I'm not getting an accurate picture of my recordings at all. How frustrating!

So I've got a DIY project in motion to see if I can address that issue by trapping some of that extraneous bass. More on that in the future.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

I also have a set of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 32 ohm headphones that I bought several years ago. These are closed-back headphones that sound very good, but they have a closed back design. This makes them very good for use when you're recording (so that sound doesn't spill out and back into the mic) but to get the most accurate sound, most reference headphones have an open-back design. Evidently you just can't get reference accurate sound in a closed back design.

AKG K712 Pro

So I'm now on the hunt for a decent pair of reference headphones. I've got my eyes on the AKG K712 Pro reference headphones. Anyone out there have experience with these? There are several other options in the same pricerange. Audio Technica has a new offering but their marketing materials say very little about accuracy. I realize that's very difficult or impossible to capture in specifications.