I know that it’s not such a healthy thing to do for my ears, but I happen to use earbuds a lot in my everyday life; when I’m listening to music or when I’m watching a program or a movie on my mobile phone, etc. I like the isolation aspect of it. A huge headphone set could provide a better result maybe but I don’t find it comfortable to walk around with a monstrosity on my head like an alien.
Needless to say, a headphone cannot provide what a quality speaker or a monitor may give you but more often than not, the convenience of it leads you in that direction. The same goes when you’re working on a mix. When you don’t have a professional studio and you are surrounded by neighbors who are ready to jump at your throat at the hint of a beat, regardless of its level. You don’t have any other choice but to use headphones. In all fairness, I understand your neighbors, too, because I AM one of them. I hate being forced to listen to someone else’s choice of noise, even when it is the breeziest, the nicest example of some classical music piece.
For years, I used regular headphones (Sennheiser, Sony, AKG) which were quite good for listening to anything as a LISTENER. But when I mixed my demos with them and then I tested them on different sound devices, the results were either terrible or not at all like what I had heard on MY recoding system. I had to go through waaay too many trials before I could get a tolerable final mix.
Not that all my problems are fixed now but what I’ve realized is that earbuds that go inside my ears are way more useful than usual headphones when it comes to monitoring my mainly rock/pop kind of mixes. I still have to do a lot of trial and error but the results are closer to what I hear at the source and more reliable than what I get from bigger headphones that leave some air between the signal and your ear that may be somewhat deceiving.
Of course, my ears get worn out way quicker and I’m sure, the high frequencies are doing no good for my hearing. But I think, when used carefully and without over-doing it, the earbuds are a good technical alternative for a home-recorder like me.
the qualities of earbuds and their frequency responses vary, they are limited in many cases. Not only that, they are designed to make anything sound nice and friendly; that’s not what we’re looking for when we’re mixing, we WANT to hear the ugly and the unpleasant so that we can fix it, right?
Disclaimer: I am not saying that one SHOULD use earbuds or headphones; on the contrary try NOT to use headphones when you’re mixing if possible. Nothing beats a good monitor in an appropriately arranged room. I just wanted mention what I happen to be doing with my tiny, tiny budget, that’s all.
Mix on, friends.