Best Headphones vs. Best Monitors: Which Should You Use For Mixing Audio?

If you’re an independent filmmaker, you’re probably no stranger to acting as your own audio mixer during the edit process.

Whether you’re sound designing a promo reel or editing down an interview, getting a good sound quality is extremely important to the overall quality of your video.

But what’s the best way to listen to your audio as you’re editing?

After wading through complex subjects like acoustics, amps, ohms, frequency ranges, impedance, and background noise, this argument almost always simply boils down to headphones vs. monitors. But which should you use?

Well, the answer is, it depends.

audio volume knob


For most, studio headphones are the right choice. An accurate pair of headphones will generally be much cheaper than an accurate pair of studio monitors. And those with adjustable headbands and earpads provide a great degree of comfort.

Additionally, noise-cancelling editing headphones are not vulnerable to acoustic frequency response issues that may be present in your video editing environment, such as HVAC noise, echoes, poor room shape, etc.

Headphones aren’t perfect, but they are usually going to be accurate enough to paint a realistic picture of your mix, particularly when you’re dealing with dialogue noise, edit points, and low frequencies.

Headphones can be categorized into over-ear headphones, earbuds, closed-back headphones, open-back headphones, wired headphpnes, and wireless headphones.

Even if you only have access to the cheap wired or detachable earbuds or earcups that came with your phone, headphones are much better than typical internal computer speakers.

Models such as the Audio-Technica ATH, Sony MDR-7506, Sennheiser HD 300 Pro, Sennheiser HD, and the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are popular choices.



While headphones are going to be the right listening experience for most, if you have a good acoustic environment and some budget available, you’re going to want to think about getting a good pair of studio monitors.

The fact is, in the correct acoustic environment, a high-quality set of monitors is going to be even better than quality headphones in terms of sound reproduction. You’ll have a more realistic stereo field, more transparent frequency balance, better separation between treble, mid-range, and bass frequencies, and your mix will generally translate better across multiple listening devices.

For your listening environment, the use of acoustic absorption panels, bass traps, and even a well-placed rug can help dampen your room’s inherent noise and provide a cleaner setting for your monitors to provide neutral sound (much like on a soundstage). But monitors tend to be in a higher price range than headphones.

audio monitor


So there’s the answer: high-end headphones are good, cheaper, and simple to use (and can provide active noise cancellation), where monitors are more expensive and require a good room, but can deliver the best audio quality under optimal circumstances and good build quality.

At the end of the day, every filmmaker’s situation is unique and you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of each option when editing video.

Hopefully, this overview will help you find the perfect listening setup for your edits.

audio on set

Kevin is the Music Director and Lead Composer at FIlmpac.

FILMPAC Filmpac is a premium stock footage + music membership library.