Guide to choosing headphones (Part 2):
Location Sound & Podcasting

Following on from our Guide to choosing headphones (Part 1): Studio and Live Sound article, we explore some nice choices for a bunch of other pro audio applications, including field recording, filming, podcasting plus DJ.

But first…sometimes it feels like all the headphone adaptors run off together for a secret meeting – just at the moment you really need them to be there for you. Don’t forget to grab a couple of these snap-on headphone adapters by Sennheiser. They’ll suit nearly every brand of headphone (both threaded and non-threaded variants). Put one in your car’s glovebox, so you always know where to grab one from when you need it most!

Sound Recordist

Isolation and clarity are paramount here.

Long days on set not only require immense concentration, but also the ability to capture the dialogue (with or without ambient audio) accurately, to avoid ADR in post. Australian TV’s huge offering of ‘reality’ shows, along with travel and lifestyle programs help keep our country’s best sound recordists in a gig (sometimes while they’re in between feature films or advertising shoots), and with a super-fast turnaround between location shooting and broadcast, a suitable pair of headphones is essential.

Our top 3 choices for sound recordist:

Sennheiser HD25 – Not necessarily the most comfortable pair of headphones in the world (especially for those of us who wear glasses), HD25 are nonetheless a clear favourite for top-shelf sound recordists. Their 70 Ω impedance matches with most bits of gear found in a bag, the sound is accurate for critical monitoring, and the isolation from your environment is the best you’re going to find, allowing you to hear the dialogue and make critical boom decisions (if that’s the way you swing).

Audio Technica ATH-M50x – There’s a few differences (for sound recordists) between the HD25 above, and these ATH-M50x headphones. ATH-M50x ear cups are larger (around the ears, rather than on the ears), and they come with three cables – 1.2m straight (nice length if you’re also swinging a boom at the same time), 3m curly (which is more like 1m before being stretched out), and 3m straight (think of it as a spare… being way too long to be usable on set). 38 Ω.

Beyerdynamic DT770PRO8 – As we go down this list, the ear cups are getting larger. Really, out of the 3 choices for Sound Recordist, this pair is definitely the least flexible. there is not a replaceable cable, the earcups don’t twist or swivel, and they definitely don’t fold up for easy transport. So why do they even make this list, let alone the Top 3? Because they sound great, and are super comfortable for long sessions. Also, the larger ear cup give you a nice sense of space while you’re monitoring. Like always, it’s a personal choice. 80 Ω.

Honourable mention: Sennheiser HD280PRO – These cans tick all the critical boxes for sound recordist, while comfortably sitting more in the ‘budget’ bucket. The earcup size is close to what you’d find in the AudioTechnica ATH-M50x, they’re well-isolated from the outside world and the 64 Ω impedance will play nicely with others. The curly cord suits some operators more than others.

Podcasting

Podcast production and consumption has been on a steady increase for a number of years, with the last 3 years seeing an unprecedented rise. TIP – check out RodeCaster Pro for a very well-appointed nerve centre of your podcast production team.

Of course, the best gear doesn’t guarantee the best content – but at the very least, you’ll need a pair (or pairs) of headphones that are enclosed (to stop the sound bleeding back into the microphones). Most podcasts last less than 90 mins, so compared with long sessions wrapped in the cans like you’d find in the sound recordist section above, a good pair of headphones should make the presenters and guest(s) feel comfortable, able to hear each other, along with additional sound bytes, interviews and pre-recorded content clearly.

Our top 2 choices for podcasting:

Audio Technica ATH-M20x1.2m – Almost the least expensive pair of headphones we keep in stock, but for podcasting, ATH-M20x1.2m are perfect! The short (1.2m) cable is a handy length for when 2 or more presenters are sitting around the console, and don’t want the cable getting in the way of the podcast (getting stuck under the wheels of your chair is a real drag). 47 Ω.

Sennheiser HD280PRO – Comfy earpads that completely surround the ear, a clear sound, and great isolation. HD280PRO should probably be #1 on this list, but we really do like the short cable on the ‘budget’ ATH-M20x1.2m headphones above. That said, the curly cable on HD280PRO ends up being around 1.2m anyway. Really, unless you’re busting to spoil yourself and spend extra dollars (that you should be spending on microphones), there is no reason to go any further up the chain than these HD280PRO (64 Ω) headphones. They are great all-round pro headphones.

Honourable mentions – Really, anything that is enclosed will work pretty well here. Choose something upmarket and luxurious if you want to treat yourself, but here are a couple of ‘budget’ offerings that are worthy contenders. AKG K52 (32 Ω) have been around for a while now and as a ‘rigid’ frame option, they’re pretty decent. Likewise, Sennheiser HD200PRO (32 Ω) will be at home around the discussion panel, along with Beyerdynamic DT240PRO (34 Ω).

Filming

To be clear, what we are talking about here is the camera operator who is also monitoring the audio. On a big set, you may find comms are far more important than audio monitoring for cameras, so we wanted to flag that as future article – best headsets for comms.

For the purposes of this article, we are interested in audio monitoring. For the best headphones to suit filmmakers, scroll back up to the Sound Recordist section – they’re ones you want. Really, we just wanted to show a picture of Jackson wearing his favourite DT770PRO (80 Ω) headphones while filming Jeff doing some of his best work in store.

DJ

Our top 3 choices for DJ:

Sennheiser HD25 – The undisputed king of DJ monitoring headphones. Thanks to the huge SPL handling and passive noise attenuation (those pads clamp on your ears like a VICE GRIP manoeuvre from the mid 1990s), there really is no other choice. The cups swivel if you want to monitor with just one ear, while the split headband allows for perfect positioning.

Sennheiser HD25 – No, not the ‘light’ version, the classic HD25 is what we want. If they’re less than $200, then you’re buying the wrong ones! We love HD25 not only for all the reason listed above, but also because they’re tough if you want to pull them off and whack them back on in the middle of your sets. Lightweight feel, but solid performance. HD25 really do occupy the top 2 spots on this list. They are that good.

Audio Technica ATH-M50x – It’s possible this versatile headphone could appear on almost every list over our two headphone articles. They sit comfortably around the ear, offer pretty decent isolation and sound clear. The earcups swivel for easy transit and they’re unlikely to cop damage during a frenetic set. The fact that you get 3 different cables in the pack is a definite winner.

Need Spares?

Most of the headphones we’ve listed in our two “Guide to choosing headphones” articles have good amount of spares available – ear-pads and replacement cables.

Check our Headphone Spares list here, and please get in touch if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

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