Should you use studio monitor speakers or headphones while recording a podcast?

Photo Credit: CJ Sorg via Compfight cc

It’s important to hear what you’re recording while you’re podcasting, but studio monitor speakers or headphones will probably not be the right choice. Here’s why.

George Niebling from My Lightbulb Moment asked, “Do you use or recommend the use of a monitor or monitor headsets during podcast recording?”

Thanks for the question, George!

No, I don’t recommend either of these for while you are recording.

There are several things you should consider about the headphones you use for podcasting. In this case, you need to focus on leak and isolation.

Sound leak with monitor speakers

Studio monitors are specially designed speakers for audio-editing. They are created to accurately represent the sound, and also are supposed to be better at not feeding back into the microphone and creating a feedback loop.

You’ll see monitors used in the editing bays of recording studios and on stages for live events. But you usually won’t see monitors inside the recording studio because of the audio they’ll leak back into the microphone. Even if this doesn’t create an audio feedback loop, it can create an unwanted echo or reverb effect.

I do recommend that you “monitor” your audio while you’re recording, but I don’t think studio monitor speakers are a good choice for this. Wear headphones or earbuds of some sort.

Should these headphones be studio monitor headphones? I also don’t think so.

Sound isolation with studio headphones

Professional “studio headphones” are usually designed to give an accurate reproduction of the actual audio. They won’t enhance or “color” the audio like DJ or consumer headphones would. It is good to hear your voice in the most accurate way, but this is best for editing, not recording.

This issue with headphones comes down to isolation. The best studio headphones will block outside noise (computer fan, HVAC, room noise, etc.) so you hear only what plays through the headphones, as much as possible. This is perfect for editing, so you can catch and enhance or remove the finest details of your audio in processing.

But this kind of sound isolation is bad for recording. The better the isolation gets, the less of your own voice you’ll hear with your own ears. Instead, you’ll hear yourself more through bone conduction.

The result is that you’ll sound like the bass boost is too high when you speak into your audio system with studio monitor headphones. Every time I have tried this, it literally gave me headaches! (I do mean “literally” in the literal sense.)

The workaround to this is to turn up your headphones loud enough that their audio overpowers your own bone conduction. But then your headphones are loud enough that noise could leak back into your recording. Additionally, you will still sound much quieter than anything else playing through the headphones (guest or cohost, music, sound clips, etc.), so you’ll experience great discomfort from everyone else’s high volume.

These reasons are why I don’t recommend using studio monitor speakers or headphones while recording, but only for editing.

What may work better for podcasting

I do recommend something more comfortable with less noise isolation, like some earbuds. I actually really like using my Apple EarPods for while I’m recording. Then, when I switch to editing, I wear my Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

For more information, read or listen to “9 considerations for podcasting headphones.”

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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his wife, Jenny, live near Cincinnati with their son, "Noodle Boy."

16 comments on Should you use studio monitor speakers or headphones while recording a podcast?

  1. Troy says:

    I completely agree with this post Daniel! Here is my question. How do you connect your Apple EarPods to your headphone out on the mixer? Or do you? for some reason my 1/4″ to 1/8″ jack doesn’t seem to like the TRRS connector on the EarPods making the connection not as clean as I would like. Suggestions?

    1. I kind of have the same thing, except more pieces between. My mixer goes to a headphone splitter/amplifier. That has the 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter.

      I sometimes have to twist my EarPods plug a little to hear everything clearly.

  2. podmedic says:

    I have used those same Sony headphones for years in both my studio and remote recording rig. Excellent set of “cans.”

    1. Yes, they are good. The best balance of comfort, quality, accuracy, isolation, and price that I could find. (I tested a bunch of ~$100 Studio microphones.)

  3. mikewilkerson says:

    No headphones via ANY of the 2GuysTalking Network-created stuff. We’ve been without headphones and continue both in studio and remotely for 10 years. The tether to traditional radio AND, that it literally becomes a conversation that happens to be captured really is a breed apart. Even the Podcast Bug (an on-location remote recording platform/studio, fashioned from a 1974 Custom Superbeetle) is all capped headphoneless.

    1. Nice! But do you feel your quality suffers at all because you don’t know what’s going into the recording?

      An experience I’ve had is that cohosts may not realize a noise would make it into the recording unless they hear it in their headphones. Headphones also ensure that we clearly hear each other without having to speak too loudly.

  4. Richard Farrar says:

    I use my studio monitor headphones (Beyer Dynamic DT770 Pro) for both recording and editing with no problems or discomfort. I prefer to hear what’s actually going to “tape” whilst recording.

  5. Thanks so much Daniel for taking my question! Since others have made identified specific products, and you made some specific suggestions regarding noise isolation I’d like to ask about the Bose Quiet Comfort series … specifically the QC-2 in-ear/bud style, as opposed to the over or on-ear “cans”

  6. PepperKilo says:

    The newer apple ipod headphones have some sort of pre-amp or bass boost and I highly recommend you do not use them for any sort of thing relating to recording or editing music (possibly not even listening). I found that the bass boost dampens all other frequencies and gives you a horrible representation of what’s actually being transmitted. I don’t recommend any sort of apple product for recording either.

    I have no idea if your apple EarPods are the same as mine which came with the iPod nano 7th gen, but if you like that large bass boost, who am I to judge?

    1. I think the Apple Earpods are fairly accurate and great for recording because they’re comfortable, don’t block outside noise (and force me to hear myself via bone conduction), and they don’t leak much noise. But they’re not good for editing, because they’re not 100% accurate and they let in a lot of outside noise.

      1. PepperKilo says:

        I will have to admit that I have used them once to record, but my ears just could not take the overpowered bass, maybe it is my young hearing. I too also like the design of them, they rest almost perfectly in my ear.

        I own studio monitors that I use to edit music specifically. It is good to use a variety of headphones for listening to a mastered track to test how it sounds on a variety of possible headphones people will use. This is something I like to do in order to hear what other people might be hearing. There is no one pair of headphones I will leave outcast, but in my personal experience, I lean more towards a truer sound as much as possible.

    2. Winston Smith says:

      “Who am I to judge?” So dramatic.

  7. studiomonitorspeakers says:

    Studio monitors are specially designed speakers for audio-editing.This speaker is quite a good one and give good mixes. Check this studio monitor speaker friends http://beststudiomonitorspeakers.com/

  8. Hi I am fairly new to podcasting and also starting up my first digital radio station. I have a new microphone the RODE procaster and I am reading this post with interest because I made the mistake of recording with my noise cancelling earphones and then when I listened with my studio headphones the base was too deep. You mentioned apple in-ear pods that you use, do you have any recommendations for recording for ‘over-ear’? I feel claustrophobic when I put things into my ears. And will it still be accurate as the procaster is very deep bass as it is?

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