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Need help choosing an upgrade on my headphones.

Matmah

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Dec 16, 2023
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I need to work out an upgrade for my current production set up. I have a Motu Ultralite mk5 and a pair of Focal Listen Pros and HD25s.

My most important dilemma is my headphone choice. I am looking at either the Audeze LCD-X or MM-100s. I have pretty much ruled out the MM-500s as I don't think the price increase is justified from the LCD-X. Feel free to tell me if they are worth the extra cost though. I do want to try planar magnetics, and Audeze pretty much seem the standard for studio work.

Current pricing in the UK is MM-100 £400, LCD-X £995 and the MM-500 £1695.

Secondly, I think I may need to upgrade my headphone output as I am not sure the Motu woud do my headphone upgrade justice? I am currently looking at the SPL Marc One as I think crossfeed could be useful when I mix and master. Saying that though, a simpler path may be to just add a Topping L50 Headphone amp to my line outs of the Motu, but are those outputs good enough? I have looked at the RME ADI-2 Pro FS, but again I am not sure if the extra cost over the SPL is justified?

I do need at least a couple of DAC inputs, so my options are a bit limited.
 

DVDdoug

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Since you have 3 headphones, what are you dissatisfied with? What "difference" are you looking for? ....The main difference in "sound quality" is frequency response, and to a large extent that can be tweaked with EQ.

as I don't think the price increase
There's almost no correlation between headphone cost and sound quality, as you can see by sorting the reviews here by cost or "recommended".

my current production set up.
Most pros recommend against using headphones as your main mixing or mastering monitors, but I saved two "opposing" excerpts from Recording Magazine.

This is from "Readers Tapes" where users send-in their recordings for evaluation:
As those of you who have followed this column for any length of time can attest, headphone mixing is one of the big no-no's around these parts. In our humble opinion, headphone mixes do not translate well in the real world, period, end of story. Other than checking for balance issues and the occasional hunting down of little details, they are tools best left for the tracking process.

And this is from a mixing engineer:
Can I mix on headphones?

No. But in all seriousness, headphones can be a secret weapon and it really doesn’t matter what they sound like…

Over time, after constantly listening back to my work from different studios on those headphones I really started to learn them. They became sort of a compass. Wherever I went… It became a pattern for me to reference these headphones to see if what I was hearing was “right”…

I learned them, I knew them, I trusted them. It didn’t matter whether or not I loved them…

So, can you mix on headphones? Probably. I just think you really need to put some time into learning them first…

One thing they don't mention, is to use a known-good reference recording to "keep your ears calibrated". That's pretty-much standard practice when you're using real monitors too.

as I think crossfeed could be useful when I mix and master.
I don't know if that's a good idea or not. You don't want to alter the sound too much from what your listeners will hear. But if makes them sound more like speakers, maybe so. It's probably better if you can just learn what a "good normal" recording sounds like on headphones so you can make mixes that "translate".
 
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Matmah

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Dec 16, 2023
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Thanks, I do use monitors but I try to limit their use as I live in an apartment. I try to do about 80% of my work on headphones then finish up using my monitors. I also travel a lot, so even though I take a pair of IK MTM's with me I cannot always use them.

I definitely need an upgrade with my headphones. My HD25s are pretty much 20 years old and well worn. One of my drivers on my Focals is also failing.

The three headphones mentioned, are all very similar on the frequency response, so is probablhy more down to build quality. Unfortunately there is no where near me to test them.

Crossfeed is not a decisive factor but a lot of mixers who use phones swear by it. i can use a VST for it, so it's not too important. I am pretty sure though that the Motu's headphone amp is letting me down though.
 
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