What headphones do location sound mixers use?

This is one of the more hotly debated topics in the sound mixer community. Which are the best headphones for location audio work.

Not everyone agrees that there’s a best headphone but they certainly agree there is a most popular headphone and that would be the Sony MDR-7506. I’ve owned 3 pair of these headphones! Not because they wore out but only because two were stolen off my set. I must love these headphones, right? Well, somedays I do. And some days I love my Sennheisers.

First let’s discover the criteria for a good set of headphones on set. First they have to be transparent – meaning they should enable you to hear all the sounds and not favor one sound over another. Loud ones and soft ones. Low ones and high ones. Sharp ones and dull ones. You get it.

They should have a relatively flat responsive curve. This is more than just being transparent. This means a very accurate monitoring of the actual recording. This is the exact opposite of a consumer headphone like Beats or even other headphones made by Sony for listening to music.

Why is this so important? Because we need to understand exactly what it is we’re providing post production. Not listen to the best possible sounding headphones but the best representation of what will be heard by the post-production mixer and dialog editor. When we approach it from that aspect we can make more accurate decisions about what microphone works (not sounds) the best and which lave placement works the best etc.

Once these criteria are accounted for it all comes to personal taste. How much isolation do you want? I also own a pair os Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones which provide a lot more noise isolation. This helps in noisy environments where we know that there is going to be some background noise – like for documentary or news recording – but I need to know if it how much noise is actually be recorded vs what is bleeding through the microphones.

Some mixers like much lighter headphones like the HD 25. Or even use in ear systems. Others just prefer how one set of headphones feels compared to another.

Ear fatigue is another concern. After a long day on set, which could include up to 12 hours of listening, the amount of pressure on your eardrums can be of concern. This is another reason some days I like to wear the more isolating Sennheisers so I can turn down my mixer volume and still hear dialog clearly.


Some more to consider are those made by Beyerdynamics including the DT 770 Pro.


The Shure Brothers are legendary in the pro sound community probably mostly for the SM 58 microphone and their Shure SRH840 headphones are another one of the reasons for the stellar reputation. 

Ultrasone Headphones like the HFI-580 Pro has a reputation for being easier on the ears than others after long periods of listening.

If you’re planning on making a career of recording sound, a great pair of headphones is critical. There’s really no more important piece of equipment for a mixer than their ears and by extension their headphones. Buy more than one and listen to as many as you can. If you live in a big city with a pro sound store, you can listen to various headphones and see how they’re different and figure out what works for you. If not, maybe you can borrow some from a colleague. Good luck!

Posted on: May 15, 2019, by :