A few questions re headphones for audio book recording...

The ACX website linked to an ACX Beginners Wish List that included a pair of Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones.

  1. How critical a piece of equipment are headphones? $84.95 sounded a little pricey to me, at least until I saw another site that recommended headphones starting at $129.99 & up.

In searching the forums, I found the following excerpts in this post by Mr. Kozikowski:

I would have thought we got past this a while ago.

You can make a successful recording without listening to it.

It’s critical that you make the sound meters, lights, and flashers on your recorder happy while you’re recording. They insure the correct balance between, overload (too high) and noise (too low).

It’s not recommended, but I have made successful sound recordings without hearing a thing, just by using my meters. …

  1. Would someone in their late 50s be able to tell the difference between a pair of high quality headphones and a $15 pair? Yeah, I’m that old.

As a followup, I’m not deaf, but my hearing probably isn’t the best. I did some sort of sound test thing several years or so ago and was surprised to see that I couldn’t hear anything over 10 or 12 kHz or so. As a kid we used to go hunting and target/skeet shooting with my Dad using 12 ga. shotguns without any sort of hearing protection. I’ve also been to my share of concerts & nightclubs and so on with very loud music so my hearing probably isn’t the best, and almost for sure worse than younger folk who may be listening to any audio recordings I might be trying to produce. Is that a major or even prohibitive drawback?

I should also note that my old stereo died in a lightning storm & I now have a hand me down low end Realistic stereo that has some hum/hiss in it that is pretty noticeable during quiet times.

  1. I don’t see it on that page now, but I’m pretty sure I read on their website that one shouldn’t get noise-cancelling headphones, but rather enclosed ones that isolate you from room noise. Is that at least partially because the noise cancelling headphones would also cancel out noise in the audio recording and you would miss it?

  2. Kind of related… Some microphones & most of the interfaces have headphone jacks. Some claim zero latency & others tout very low latency. How important is it to have the ability to listen to recordings as you make them?

For instance, a few options that seem like they might work would be the Studio Projects LSM mic which did well in the Recording Hacks test of The Best $200 Condenser

The Best Entry-Level Condensers

With the exception of the MXL 2003A, all of the tested mics deliver acceptable performance given the price point, and qualify as useful studio tools.

Overall, I’d choose the AKG Perception 220 as the best all-around mic. It was consistently mellow and well-balanced, with an honest top end, making it a reliable and flexible tool.

My favorite colored mic is the Studio Projects LSM, which has a brighter, slightly hyped top end, perfect for pushing instruments to the front of a mix, while exhibiting a solid lower end as well.

Neither of those mics have a headphone jack for direct monitoring, nor does the Rode NT1A that is on the ACX Beginner’s Wishlist. Neither does the Blue Microphones Icicle XLR to USB Mic Converter/Mic Preamp listed on that same wishlist.

That’s not cheap, but not expensive for good headphones either. The best headphones that I’ve ever used (not owned by me) would cost well over $1000. :open_mouth:

The “monitoring equipment” (how you listen to the recording) is very important. Good headphones tend to cost a lot less than equivalent sound quality from loudspeakers.
Poor quality speakers and headphones are likely to over or under emphasise some frequency bands compared with others. If you then “master” the recording so that it sounds good on those speakers/headphones, it will probably sound bad on other speakers / headphones. Being able to hear the “true” sound of the recording (as accurately reproduced as possible) allows you to make better decisions and (hopefully) your final recording will benefit.

Almost certainly.
The price is not only about high frequency response. Many cheap headphones can produce frequencies of 18 kHz or above, but probably do not have “flat” frequency response. Non-flattering “flat” response is what you are after when monitoring - the idea is to be able to hear the recording “as it really is” and not “coloured” by the listening equipment.

Noise cancelling headphones generally do not have a “flat” frequency response and are not good for monitoring.
“Closed back” headphones are generally recommended when multi-track recoding (for example, recording vocals to a backing track), as the acoustic isolation minimises the amount of sound spilling out of the headphones into the microphone. For voice recording that is less of an issue and may not be an issue at all.

If you are on a tight budget, it may be worth looking at some of the cheaper brands such as SuperLux. The Superlux HD681 Studio Headphones are without doubt a grade below the Sony MDR7506 headphones, but at about 1/3 of the price they perform pretty well. My personal favourite for “ultra cheap” monitoring headphones are the t.bone HD 880 (Europe only).

Note I also said that the Hollywood standard for headphones was the Sony MDR-7506. They made it out of years of hard use and satisfying all the physical, electrical and sound requirements of field recording. I know people on their third pair. If you ask somebody to borrow their headphones, there’s an almost certainty you’re going to get a pair of 7506’s.

I also said I could do all those things, but it’s not recommended. I also know people who had made perfect recordings of the wrong thing by accident because they couldn’t hear what they were doing. Recording blind (deaf) is a desperation method, not normal.

I further said I didn’t have a pair because I don’t like listening to them for long periods. If I did more all-day work in the field, I suppose I’d get over it.

A requirement for personal recording is sealed headphones. Where the rubber meets the head. No “open air” or earbud types. Other types can sound great and be comfortable, but anything that can leak sound to the microphone is strictly forbidden.

My current cans are Sennheiser eh-150. I can listen to them for a long time and they seem to sound OK. They would never make it for field recording because the muffs aren’t reversible so two people can listen and I can’t wear them around my neck or put them on with one hand.

Self recording can be self-limited. For one thing you can almost never listen to yourself using the computer headphone connection. It will be late giving you an echo effect and messing up your reading speed. Most stand-alone recorders can be monitored live.

I thought the Blue Icicle did have local monitoring. That takes care of my recommendation of the Icicle.

Back to the Shure X2U with the low volume problems.

The test I did for the forum was a rock-band microphone into a “real” sound mixer, a Peavey PV6, on to a digitizer and then the computer. It scares people because of all the knobs and dials on it. It also doesn’t have many of the restrictions of simpler systems.

I wish I had an illustration of how I shot that test.

Maybe later.


Thank you for that info.

Thanks much. They should be able to help me do this task pretty well then? The savings would be a big help for sure. The comparison of models on Amazon, however (scroll down a bit) lists “noise cancellation” as one of its features. Do you think that would make them unsuitable for audio book work then?

Why do the Europeans get all of the luck? :wink:

The manufacturer doesn’t: Superlux - HD681 Series

Well this old codger in his late sixties still would. :sunglasses:

And like Koz, I too like Sennheiser’s mine are the HD25-1, comfortable for long listening, nicely detailed and a good flat response.


How can you tell, that’s all in Chinese, at least on this side of the pond. Even Google Translate can’t seem to make hide nor hare of it.

It does have a frequency response chart that looks relatively flat, but I’m not quite sure how they came up with it. The ones I’ve seen for microphones have a zero center line on the vertical scale. This one seems to center on around 95 to 100 dB.

Ah, good. So there’s still hope for me.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll try and go with the less expensive pair for now and if I can get a few projects that will help pay for it all I can upgrade.

I shot my recent quiet/noise sound test using the Sennheisers. That’s how I determine that my “recording studio” has hum electrically flying through the air. I would never have known that just watching the meters.

I will admit using Koss earbuds for a recent field recording because I was in public places and didn’t want to appear too FBI/CIA to the people on the street, although being Los Angeles, it would be odd if someone who looked like me didn’t show up once a week. The goal was to make sure I was making a recording of some sort rather than judge the absolute quality of the work.

That and if the recording was bad I could shoot it again tomorrow.


Your recording studio in a bandana has hum electrically flying through the air? That sounds Back to the Futuresque.

LOL. It might be kind of fun to freak out the NSA folks lurking around.

although being Los Angeles, it would be odd if someone who looked like me > didn’t > show up once a week. The goal was to make sure I was making > a recording of some sort > rather than judge the absolute quality of the work.


Do you think the earbuds would have picked up that hum for you? Awhile back I had seen an article about earbuds/headphones that were supposed to fit in your ears, isolate you from outside noise about as well as earplugs and produce hi-fidelity sound, presumably on a par with good headphones. It sounded interesting and I figured that they might be somewhat less expensive as well, but I figured that they might become uncomfortable after a relatively short period of time. But I guess they might not be able to sound as good either if they really have an airtight seal in the ear canal.

Your recording studio in a bandana has hum electrically flying through the air? That sounds Back to the Futuresque.

That’s the theatrical description of the problem, but it’s absolutely true. If you walk into my third bedroom at night, your ears pop from the quiet except the very tiny window leakage from a metrobus driving by. All my equipment is properly grounded and there isn’t enough of it on the desk to have ground loop or other wall power problems. And yet. When I press record or go into Monitor mode, there is classic US-version AC hum in the show. I used to think I had broken microphones, but they all work perfectly somewhere else.

I’m guessin’ radiation from the overhead power lines. Literally flying through the air.

Do you think the earbuds would have picked up that hum for you?

They don’t. They do primarily upper mid-range sound. Apple Earbuds are even worse.

I had seen an article about earbuds/headphones that were supposed to fit in your ears

They do. I have set of SIIG in-ear buds that appear to work very well. They deliver remarkable high quality sound. They live in a bag in my desk drawer. They were profoundly unsatisfactory for walking around because they completely divorce me from the environment. Yes, that is a Metrobus coming up behind me. I will admit to listening to conversations at Starbucks, but not with these.

They marry me. It takes me some shuffling and shifting to get a comfortable fit and they form a vacuum when I take them off, both uncomfortable. It’s nothing like slipping on a pair of cans to hear something briefly, or turning up the large sound system at my desk.


Top right corner of the page - select “English”.

Thanks much!

Either that or you freaked out the NSA folks with your CIA impersonation one too many times. Have you checked for bugs?

Seriously though, I was surprised to learn how much power leaks from those lines. I remembered reading that if you hold up a fluorescent tube under power lines it will begin to glow. I just googled it & found some interesting images of glowing fluorescent tubes under power lines.

Maybe you could build a Faraday Cage around your house, eh?

Too late. The house is classic California stucco with metal lath underneath the stucco. I have trouble getting wifi in the back yard and for years I thought I needed a roof antenna because TV reception inside sucked. No. It only sucks below the attic because that’s where the stucco and lath is. The attic TV antenna works a treat. Signal Strength 100%. Signal Quality 98%.

When I get a second, I’m going to make a “fake” microphone without a shell shield so it intentionally hums, and then go looking for the source. I can wave a normal microphone around and get the interference to come and go as if it was in blobs around the room. 'There’s a peak by the credenza and it’s oriented roughly north-south.

Classic radiation interference.

hold up a fluorescent tube under power lines it will begin to glow.

Maybe not the 3000 volts in my neighborhood. That’s pretty tame. Yes, the interstate lines can do that.

Somewhere here I have pictures of one of the transmitter techs at WRC-AM standing next to one of the towers with lit tubes in his hand. That’s an old crowd-pleaser for visitors. I didn’t get to do that. Mine was FM and TV. Our stuff was at the 660 foot level of the tower.

Still, it is annoying because that’s the quiet room of the house. Maybe if I teach it the words.


I would hate to be the guy that has to climb up there & hook everything up. Or to paint it, assuming you’re talking about an antenna tower, rather than an office tower.

In a major metro area, you can run on the emergency antenna(s) for a while. They’re rarely on the same tower level. We could also go dark at night although they would rather we didn’t.


Having good headphones to listen to recordings is very important in my opinion. With better headphones you will be able to hear all the details in the mix which can be really helpful. Sony MDR7506 is an excellent choice and I would not recommend going as low as $15 if you are serious about what you do (you will hear the difference). For your budget, a bit under 100 bucks, I would say that the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is one of the best choices: http://www.headphonesunboxed.com/best-headphones-under-100/, even better than Sony MDR7506 in my opinion.

Also, regarding your question about noise-canceling headphones – you would definitely not need them to listen to recordings in most cases. Those are only needed to listen to things in noisy environments. Also I would not recommend getting any noise-canceling headphones under $100 anyway, you really need to move up in price for those to be any good.

The last pass I made through the ACX recommendations said the in-ear earbuds worked well enough to be used. They do work well, I’m just not crazy about the comfort.

One day I borrowed a set of 7506s and did direct comparisons between them and a shopping bag of other headphones including other Sonys, Koss Pro4 and Pro3, various Sennheisers etc.

My casual listening headphones are still the HD414s which are on their third foam muffs and sometimes cut out if I pull on the cord just right. They’re sealed. I can’t get in and fix them like I’ve done with others. They’re shy of bass, but I can watch an entire movie and forget I’m wearing them.

That’s how I found the 7506s sound harsh to me, but they certainly don’t hide anything. That and they have all the mechanical and physical attributes required. There’s value in having an entire industry using the same equipment.


One pair that I forgot to mention is the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, I’d really recommend having a look at them as well :slight_smile: