You should always use a good pair of speakers whenever you possibly can. This is because speakers tend to reproduce a more truthful representation of the actual sound than headphones do.

Tannoy monitors

If your mix sounds good on speakers, then it will definitely sound good on headphones too.

Actually, it is easier to create a great-sounding mix on headphones, but unfortunately that mix probably won’t sound half as good on most people’s home-stereos or even on your car radio.

Computer speakers are not the best speakers to use for recording. They are okay to start with but once you really get better in your mixing, you definitely need to purchase a pair of speakers that are made specifically for recording purposes and not for home-stereo units or computers.

The difference is simple. Studio monitor speakers are made to sound as “flat” as possible. This means that they reproduce all sounds as faithfully as possible with no added bass or treble.
Home stereo speakers are made to beautify the sounds. That’s not what we want in the studio.

Pol Audio monitors

People choose their home speakers by the way different brands sound in their own ears. The most pleasant ones win. Everybody has different ideas on what sounds best to them. It’s a very personal choice.

If budget is an issue, just find a pair of speakers that are at least half-ways decent in quality. It’ll really help you a lot more than you could possibly imagine.

Nowadays people listen to their music on all sorts of speakers, headphones and even bud-sized earphones, so a mix should sound great on all these devices.

It’s a daunting challenge – but a lot of fun!

Sometimes engineers do a dozen or more different mixes of the same song before they finally select “that magic mix” for release.

When an engineer has done the first mix of a song in their studio, they will take that mix outside and listen to it on any number of different systems in the “real world”.

This might include the speakers in someone else’s home, or a good set of headphones, or maybe cheap iphone earbuds. They’ll even go and listen to it on their car stereo!

JBL monitors

Each time they listen in a different environment, they think about what might be missing, or what instrument seems too soft or too loud and how the mix could be improved.

Back in the recording studio they will make these subtle changes then repeat the “real world” listening process as many times as it takes until finally that perfect mix is obtained.

It will be the best compromise for all systems.

Engineers sometimes sweat on a mix for days and days.

After a while you will know instinctively how all these inferior systems reproduce the sounds and you will mix accordingly without having to step outside so often.

And if you do insist on using headphones, get a less-expensive pair that don’t sound that good. (Much more on monitoring and mixing).