Finally got a hold of a new pair of AKG K-701’s. My old Sennheiser HD570’s (discontinued little brother to the HD650’s) had finally deteriorated to the point that I had to replace them (and my HD600s were broken). I mix on monitors as well, but my apartment setting(s) have pretty much relegated all my late night sessions to headphones, so I need the best I can afford. Google them if you don’t know about them but want to know more, there are enough sites that already cover their specs and quality.
Apparently, these things have a break in period of about 200 hours.. but right out of the box they are easily the best can’s I’ve ever stuffed my head into. The Sennheisers’ I’ve owned over the years hid a lot more from me than I previously thought, they were a bit too sweet in the mid-ranges and not honestly clear enough in the highs. I cannot speak for the HD650’s though.. I’m sure those are some amazing reference/production headphones as well.
I can’t explain how clear the high’s sound on these headphones.. I can hear a clarity now that I’ve never heard before outside of expensive monitors. I’m not suggesting headphones are replacements for monitors.. but I would definitely say that a quality set of headphones like these, or the HD600/HD650’s, or Grados’ headsets, would blow away a budget or low priced set of monitors.
The obvious side effects of sticking to just headphones though: speaker bass response, because of the cones, especially in consumer products, will always be better. That’s not saying the bass or details of the audio will be better or worse, but the actual RESPONSE will show up on monitors/speakers in a way that’ll reveal them in the mix according to how most people will hear your music. For example, I’ve got a track I was working on late at night that sounded great on my headphones, but the next day when i checked out the mix on my monitors it was disturbing to find out that a mid bass tone repeated throughout most of the song was dominating and killing the song (badly). Another obvious side effect would be natural panning. Panning instruments hard left/right on headphones can sound and feel unnatural when your are producing which could lead you away from respectably mixing your stereo-field and levels.
Open-air headphones are much better in dealing with the panning issue than closed headphones, because you get some natural sound bleeding out from the headphones around you, you can work at training your ears to adapt to this sort of thing so your mix is solid, but that takes years of experience and besides.. they’re still no 100% substitute for monitors. AKG made a wild (and expensive) set of headphones a few years ago to address that issue.. if you can honestly call them “headphones”. The speakers are supported in the open and positioned away from the ears, while aiming towards them. Take a look:
By the way.. the K-701’s packaging is really nicely done and is fun to open. ^_^