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Taking Work Home

September 23, 2009

I do the majority of my work in Central London, in a studio with 5.1 monitoring, but if I need to work late (which is quite often) I do prefer to bring my work home.  However, due to a lack of space, as well as issues with noise levels disturbing my son’s sleep (and the neighbours’ for that matter), it’s not possible for me to have a 5.1 speaker system at home at the moment.  Nor do I have the twenty odd grand knocking about that I think I’d need to build myself one of the shed studios that seem to be popping up at the bottom of a lot of sound editors’ gardens these days.

Consequently, this can be awkward when I’m working on a 5.1 FX session in town but can only monitor in stereo on headphones at home.  It’s fine at the start of a project when I’m sourcing sounds and putting my initial edits together but it’s not long before I need to start working in a 5.1 format.

Up until now I’ve had to work around this in various convoluted ways but recently I’ve got really fed up with it.  Fortunately this final exasperation coincided with stumbling across a post on Mike Thornton’s excellent Pro Tools for Media blog which mentions Neyrinck’s Soundcode Stereo LtRt plugin.  Although this obviously doesn’t enable me to listen in 5.1, it does make it possible to listen to a 5.1 session folded down into stereo without ripping my session to bits with all kinds of alternative auxes (and risking losing important pan automation in the process).

Neyrinck plugin

A friend of mine uses Behringer’s Headzone for the same purpose, but this hardware costs a lot more than the Neyrinck plugin, plus I would need to fork out extra on top of  that for the analogue I/O for my digital 192 because the Headzone only has analogue inputs.  In any case, Headzone by no means provides an accurate representation of surround panning so in some ways I feel safer listening to my session simply as a folded down stereo mix than processed through some kind of (binaural?) algorithm.

Anyway, in light of my new purchase, I thought it was time for a new pair of headphones as well.  My old pair are Sennheiser HD 25-1’s and very good they were/are too, but I’ve been finding the difference between what I hear when I tracklay on these headphones (which are closed-back headphones and sit really tight up against your ear) and what I later hear through my studio speakers so vast that it’s really difficult to make allowances for.

Clearly there will always be a discrepancy – it’s a completely different way of listening – but I felt that the Sennheisers weren’t helping matters.  Instead, I’m now the proud owner of a pair of Ultrasone PRO 2500 headphones.   They’re open-back and the drivers are held less tight against your ears than the Sennheisers so they sound much more ‘airy’ and natural whereas the Sennheisers sound much more dry and focused.  As a result, I think I’d still use the Sennheisers for tasks such as cleaning up dialogues, where you need to hear the sound in surgical detail.  Other than that though, the Ultrasones are definitely the way to go for minimising inconsistencies between headphone and speaker monitoring.

Anyway, what’s good enough for Frank Serafine is good enough for me!

Ultrasone PRO 2500 Headphones

From → Post Production

  1. Great post, Michael. It’s nice to learn about the different options for monitoring 5.1 on headphones. I work from home most of the time and I also own Sennheiser headphones (and I do primarily dialogue editing, which as you said they are great for.) Keep the posts coming 🙂

  2. Hi Michael,

    My personal preference for a “good” set of headphones is the Sony MDR-7509. They are closed back which I find very useful for monitoring in noisy environments, They fold up small and I love the sound. I trust them way more than any of the Seinheisser headphones I used previously because to me the Sony’s are telling me the truth.

  3. sonicskepsi permalink

    Were you involved in the SOS headphone review a couple of months ago Mike? It was interesting that the Ultrasones (closed, mind) weren’t generally highly regarded. I think Sennheiser had the most praised open back headphones, although it was also interesting what different opinions the various reviewers had about each set of headphones. It seems to be a very personal, subjective matter when it comes to choosing cans.

  4. Sorry, I wasn’t involved. I normally only review Pro Tools related stuff. I did see the article and was very interested in the outcome with the Ultrasones. I completely agree that by and large headphone choice is a subjective thing just as monitor speakers, but for me I ‘believe’ the Sony’s are telling me what is going on, I find the Sennheissers a little dull and lifeless for my taste.

  5. sonicskepsi permalink

    Useful to know – I’ll try and get a chance to check them out.

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