I was wondering how many of you use those earphones (like the Sennheiser IE 4's) when recording, editing or even DJing? Compared to normal headphones like the MDR 7506, HD202 etc, what are the pro's and con's? Can the design of the earphones increase the dangers of audio fatigue and the potential for ear damage?


9 Answers 9


Never. In fact I hardly ever use ear-bud / earphone style headphones any more. As Iain said above, audio fatigue sets in faster and also, after a while, physical fatigue will set in. I also find it very disconcerting to block out almost all sound, especially on location where you actually need to hear some of what is happening close to you, not just what is happening in front of the mic.


One other thing I want to add is that you also need to consider the extra heat that might increase in your ears, this might sound stupid but if you have any wax buildup (which actually increases with regular use of earbuds and earphones) then the extra heat may cause this wax to melt slightly and could block the ear canal. Since I stopped using earbuds and earphones I have had less problems with wax buildup.


I used to be a bit of a avid gamer, everyday, headphones for about 8 hours a day, and I used to get a lot of ear infections.

Now that I don't play so much or wear headphones/earphones more than an hour a day, I am ear problem free.

Earphones are awful for infections, don't use them for long periods.


I don't use them at all as I find that audio fatigue kicks in faster.


I use them for live audio engineering. I use IE-40's and JH audio custom fit. I need the isolation. I wouldn't say they're useless at all, they have their place. For live work the 26-30+dB SPL isolation comes in very useful. I've never had any problems.

For studio work I'd hesitate to use them because of fatigue. If I need to use headphones I use my HD650's but the environment has to be quiet as they offer little in the way of isolation.

There is no real substitute for monitors in a studio environment, in my opinion. But if you have a poor room to listen in, this isn't going to do you much good either.


The only reason I ever would use earbuds is to verify a signal is present. They are worthless in a professional environment, except possibly in a mastering situation where you wanted to hear the work through an iPod or something. I use Sennheiser HD-280s for the artists' monitoring. I like them because they close and seal around the entire ear and prevent bleeding into the mic. Also if you're on a noisy set and want to try to hear what you're recording they help cancel out ambient noise.


I prefer to use headphones whenever possible, but it is not always practical. In-ears generally result in more fatigue, wax build-up, infections and hearing damage - all mentioned in previous responses. Even worse, they are generally not very accurate and can play hell with a mix.

The only possible exception might be the Etymotic ER-4 range and even these should only be used in situations when it is not practical to use proper studio monitor headphones, such as when stuck at the airport or in a hotel room. They also include a nifty little adapter they supply that allows you to use them when watching an in-flight movie instead of suffering the torture ensured by the crappy ones the airlines supply.

The benefits of the ER-4s over other in-ears: They offer about +/-40dB isolation, effectively blocking out background noise, which allows you to use them effectively at lower levels. They are probably the most accurate in-ear on the market, so it is actually possible to use them and not screw up your mix. They can also double up as monitors for drummers and other musicians that benefit from a bit of isolation, just remember to change the pads between users!


Unfortunately, as I am at the begining of my career and havent bought my dream studio yet, i do use headphones when i am at home. I use the Senheiser HD600's. They are open back monitoring headphones which i find an absolutle deslight to use. Open backs are the best choice for this type of work as they let the sound deiffuse around your ears rather than direct them into them - it also helps for frequency response as there are less presence peaks and you achieve a flatter responce.

Im very happy to work with them on the whole and tonality does translate well accross system. My biggest concern really is reverb. When i mix in the studio then listen on headphones reverb always appears to promnant and when i mix in headphones and playback on speakers reverb is lost.

I reakon headphones are great for comparing accross systems and brilliant for tracklaying. You could probably get away with it for radio work, animation, games etc but of course for anything commercial, try and get into a studio for final mixes and reverb design!

hope this helps!

  • Hi Gillian. I think you may have misunderstood the question, it's not about the use of headphones it about the use of earphones, as in the ones that you actually stick in your ear!! As you say, headphones are brilliant for tracklaying and basic editing but for final mix the studio is always the way to go.
    – Si Charles
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 15:45

I came from a live mixing background, so I looooved my in-ears. It is the ONLY way to isolate sound from the console without blowing your ears out trying to fight the noise level in the room. It also gave me a chance to listen to exactly what my musicians were hearing in their monitor mixes.

That said.. I agree with the rest that using them for long periods of time build up a lot of moisture. I would prefer to use them - I love the isolation and the range you get from a good pair, but just can't do them for that long. I always keep a pair for on-set recording - good to listen closely from time to time, but for the most part I use my Sony MDR 7506s on-set. For post production, I have good monitors and a quiet room, so I rarely even put on a pair of headphones.

On that note, if you want a great pair, get the Altec Lansing UHP336s. They are a killer driver from Ultimate Ears with an Altec Lansing brand slapped on them and a massive price reduction.

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