Many producers based in small studios or home studios are forced to use headphones after dark, so as not to disturb family or neighbors. That, obviously, is not a method that many would recommend to obtain a great mix with headphones or speakers, but it is possible to achieve a reasonable result with helmets if you use to be aware of the pros and cons.
Unbelievably, great mixes can be achieved using almost any set of speakers in any venue, and that includes headphones. You must have spent enough time using those same headphones to have a benchmark, which allow you to distinguish what sounds good and what sounds bad when you play your mix elsewhere.
That is why use headphones for mixing and thus engineers started taking their speakers wherever they went or asking for something like the Yamaha NS-10. They happened to be a reference they were already familiar with, and being near-field loudspeakers, the enclosure was not that decisive when mixing, so they could be surer of the result.
However, mixing with headphones has four significant drawbacks:
- You cannot wear them as long as it would take let us put in between 8 and 12 hours. Your head and ears will tire from the added weight.
- You will tend to turn up the volume, which can lead to listening fatigue, further limiting your ability to use speakers to mix music for long periods.
- Although most of the more expensive professional headphones sound great, they can give you a false impression of what the mix really is like, especially in the low frequencies. That can make the correct balance of frequencies in that part of the mix not work as much.
- Many people will not hear the finished mix on headphones. In addition, since a mixing engineer will always aim to get a mix that sounds great on whatever speaker it is going to be played later, you will want to stick with that environment if possible, and even listen to the mix on some crappy speakers as a test volume, of course). The headphones just sound too good for that.
That said, headphones use to have their place. They are great for editing and listening to clicks, pops, and inconsistencies that you might otherwise miss, and they are an excellent system for checking pan and reverb tails in your mix. However, using them for a complete mix is not the best option.