Avoid mixing with headphones only. Headphones make you interpret the mix, the frequency response and the dynamics quite different compared to the experience you get when you listen to the mix through ordinary speakers.
However, there’s one occasion when you can benefit from using headphones and its when you’re adjusting the panning. It’s easier to hear how the instruments are positioned in the stereo field when you’re using headphones than when you’re using speakers. One reason is that the sound which is coming out of each speaker will go into both ears. With headphones, you’ll hear the left channel only in your left ear and the right channel only in your right ear. With speakers the sound will bounce on the walls in the room and in the worst case you might experience unwanted resonance, which reduces the stereo effect. Such problems are not inherent when you use headphones.
So when you’re working in your home- or project studio, you may have a pair of headphones connected to the mixer (or the headphone output of your sound card if you’re using a computer based mixer). Don’t use the headphones when you’re adjusting the levels or when you’re working with filters etc, but only when you need to adjust the pan settings. That should be relatively seldom.
Normally (but there are no strict rules, this is art) a mix shouldn’t contain any extreme pan settings. In other words try to avoid panning instruments to the far left or far right. It’s better to stay within the range of say 50% to the far left and 50% to the far right.
Non symmetric layouts might work in some cases, because it depends on which instruments that are used on each track. Instruments which only occur a few times in a mix can indeed be panned to the extreme left or right. On the other hand, the more frequent an instrument is used, the more important is it that its panning is balanced by another instrument in the opposite The Best Mixing Headphones.
There are several reasons to avoid extreme pan settings.
If your track is played on mono gear, then some vendors might have connected only the left (or only the right) channel to the speaker. Then if you’ve panned an instrument to say the far right channel, that instrument will sound much lower than the rest of the instruments efficiently destroying your mix. Although this is not a problem with most hi-tech gear, there are indeed simple and cheap FM radios, which don’t sum the left and right channels, but connect only one of them to the speaker.
Another problem with an extreme panning layout is that it becomes more difficult to create a mix which sounds good, balancing all the instruments correctly. The panning could feel strange for the listener. It can be very irritating to have, say, the bass in the left ear throughout the song, not the least if the bass sound is very unusual and there’s no corresponding instrument in the right channel which balances that instrument. The same applies to drums. Panning, say, the hi-hat to the far right might create a stereo field which doesn’t feel right for the user. Symmetry is the keyword here. If you put something to the left, then you need to put something in the right channel to compensate for it. And if you choose to put an instrument such as a hi-hat to the far left, then you’re in trouble because it will be played continuously, for example 4 or 8 times per beat. To compensate for that, you need an instrument in the far right channel which is played almost as frequently, to balance the hi-hat. And your song might contain very few instruments which can do that. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult
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