The code of the beat.

When You Mix with Headphones, the Key is Translation


Why Mixing with Headphones Sounds Different, and How You Can Still Get a Good Mix Using Them


Recently, a member of The BeatTips Community (TBC) posted this question:

So when i’m workin on a beat i’m wearing the beats by dre studio headphones, but when i take em off and listen to the beat once it’s done it sounds completely different i just realized with this beat i just finished. what could cause that?

Below is the thread exchange, which includes replies from TBC moderators Castro Beats and BrandonF42088 and myself.

Castro Beats:
You’re going to have to explain a little more. Do you mean the beat sounds different in another pair of headphones compared to the Beats by Dre headphones or you’re listening to it on speakers/monitors in comparison to the Beats by Dre headphones?

And then, what sounds different about it from one to the other, bass response, treble etc

For starters most headphones don’t have a flat response, and also make sure you have no odd EQ settings on whatever it is you’re playing your music back with.

I make the beats in reason on my iMac with the dre headphones on. I did the mixing with the headphones on and it sounded how i wanted it to. But when i listen 2 it just playin off of my computer the beat sounds nothing like what i was hearing before. I can barely hear the bass, the drums sound weaker, and the whole thing sounds so thin. The problem i’m having i guess is if i’m guna b playin it for people n want em 2 hear it the same way as when i had my headphones on since the sound quality is obv alot higher then the built-in mac speakers, should i just not use the headphone when
doin it.

Castro Beats
There is a philosophy that if you can get a mix to sound good on a bad pair of speakers (NS10) then it will sound good anywhere else.

If there are moves you made in your mix inside Reason that are not translating to what your bouncing it could be because a bypass switch is on, signals have not been properly routed or really a vast amount of other issues. Also make sure that your playback device (windows media player, winamp) isn’t using an EQ setting other than flat response, no reverb or other fx that might alter your newly exported mix.

If you’re simply saying that the iMac PC speaker doesn’t sound as good as dedicated headphones then, albeit an opinion oriented statement, yes most people would agree. To my knowledge the built-in iMac speaker doesn’t have the same diameter of the Beats by Dre headphones meaning it cannot match the bass response, not to mention the proximity to your ear is a factor as well. All things being equal, the engineers at Apple design computers, not speakers. If you have actual stand alone PC speakers then that’s a different issue. A mix should sound the same everywhere you take it, but I will say that trying to mix/hear bass on built-in computer, and some stand-alone computer speakers, is truly an exercise in futility. Mixing in headphones is considered an art in some circles, so no reason to not mix with them. However, the car seems to be a generally agreed on venue to get an accurate mix as well as comparison to professionally mixed material.

Scram Jones told me to play a Dre record on my speakers/setup, then play my mix/beats. Get a feel for how Dre’s mix is and how yours is. When your mix starts to sound like Dre mix, your onto something.

The Beats by Dre Studio headphones IMO are high end consumer headphones not really meant for monitoring. The Beats by Dre make music sound really good because of boosted low end for bass and a boosted high end.

The difference between these headphones and say the Sony MDR-7506 for example is the fact that the Sony have a more flat frequency response meaning they are made for an accurate reproduction of the frequency spectrum. This is what you want when you are mixing so you can spot problems in your mix.

I have had this same problem when I was using consumer headphones. I would take off the headphones and listen to my beat somewhere else and it would sound nothing like it did on the headphones. For example: the bass would be lacking and my samples would be sounding very thin and other elements would be obviously too loud etc.

If you are going to be using headphones for your mixes I would recommend something with a very flat frequency response. The Sony MDR-7506 are a standard and they are only 100$ and you will notice a major difference with how your mixes start to translate.
There are plenty of other options out there as well but I would say in the 100$ price range its hard to beat the Sony’s.

Here’s my reply:

I think this is a simple translation issue. Castro gave a great response, but it might have been a bit overwhelming at first. There’s a lot to unpack in it, so be sure to return to it; he drops a lot of jewels in his response….

Like Brandon, yourself, and probably countless others, I’ve run into this problem before. And, typically, it’s simply a “translation” issue. I use a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones, so I can attest to their quality and response. However, that being said, even using Beats By Dre headphones, you can train your ear to account for the missing bass.

For example, I once used consumer grade stereo speakers as my monitors. They produced a LOT of low end and very bright highs. So I trained my ear to mix for what wasn’t “really” there. It took a lot of A/B mixing and listening across several playback systems, but I was able to figure out how those speakers translated. So regardless of what headphones that you use, always be mindful of how they translate. Listen to a commercial CD that you know in your Beats headphone and on your computer and on any other playback system that you have access to. Take notes on how it resonates, then you’ll have a better idea of what to do when mixing your music with headphones and/or monitors.


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • I nerver tried Beats by Dre,but when im going to mix and master my beats with headphone(i got akg 141)i listen it always with my monitors,my pc speakers and then with my stereo,and there i will listen if they sounds good.

  • It has lots of version or we can say model..In this post I have read about other’s model also..And it seems that all are good..Great post..