So there are big ones, small ones, and even wireless ones. Headphones come in all shapes, sizes and prices these days.
But which are the best headphones for sax players? And which should we be avoiding?
Whether you’re using headphones for playing or practising, recording or gigging, we are going to cover all the types of headphones today, and find out which are the best headphones for sax players.
Sax School PRO Giveaway
Hey, just before we get going, I want to let you know that we’re doing a massive giveaway at Sax School this month.
We’re going to give away a free pair of these amazing CloudVocal in-ear monitors when you join Sax School PRO this month. These are my favourite ear monitors, but I’ll tell you a bit more about these later on.
Why do we need Headphones
Now, if you’re relatively new to saxophone, you might be thinking to yourself, why do we even need to use headphones as saxophone players?
But there’s a really good reason. You see when we are recording our saxophone, we are always trying to get what’s called ‘separation.’ That means we want the microphone for our saxophone to just hear the saxophone, and not the saxophone as well as the backing track.
And this is important so that we’ve got more control when we are manipulating the recording before we release it. So for example, we might be adding some reverb or changing the levels – that kind of thing. So we use headphones so that we can listen to the backing track through the headphones – and it won’t come through on our microphone.
Best headphones for Sax players
So what type of headphones are right for us as saxophone players?
Well, if you’re looking at these larger styles of headphones, there are two variants that you’re going to see most commonly.
- Open-backed headphones
- Closed-backed headphones.
I know it’s starting to get complicated but bear with me!
Closed back headphones
These are your standard headphones. “Closed back” simply means is that the section that goes around your ear is closed, and that retains the sound.
So closed-back headphones are great for isolating you from the sounds around you, and also keeping all of the sounds inside your ears. So the sound isn’t leaking out and coming onto the microphone. This also really helps you to get a better bass response in your headphones.
Now these days, there are just thousands of choices for headphones. And there are some really good quality models that are getting much, much cheaper too – probably because all the kids are using them for gaming! So they used to just be audio file-type headphones. Now there are tons of options.
My favourite closed back headphones
So these are my favourite closed back headphones at the moment. These are Audio Technica M50X. They’re pretty standard headphones. They’re around £130 Sterling / $170 USD.
I love the sound of these. They’re very durable. I love the way that they also fold away. So when you’re travelling, they’re nice and compact. And I think they sound good.
But for years, I used a pair of classic studio headphones, the Beyer Dynamic DT-100. They’re about £160 Sterling / $199 USD these days.
But frankly, I think these Audio Technica are a bit more fun to use.
In Ear Monitors
Now, a big pair of headphones is great, but they are kind of cumbersome. If you want a more compact solution, in-ear monitors are the answer.
These particular ones are from CloudVocal. They’re called the EC-5. Now, I like using in-ear monitors. I use them all the time when I’m recording lessons because when I’ve got these on, I can really separate myself from the rest of the sound in the room.
And they’re also very discreet. I can have them in my ears, and the cable goes down my back.
Even though they’re so tiny, the sound you get in your ears is so great. You can get a really big fat sound which is lovely.
Using in-ears in live gigs
Now in-ear monitors have been used for years on live gigs, for exactly that reason. They’re compact, which means you don’t need a big speaker in front of you. And you can control the volume for you individually.
So if you imagine a whole band, everybody has got their own controls for the volume in their ears, instead of being on stage in a really loud environment.
Using in-ears in the practice room
But for us as saxophone players in the practice room, these can also be fantastic. That’s because you can control the volume of the backing track, but you can also control the volume of the saxophone coming back at you.
These CloudVocal EC-5s are around about £110 sterling per pair.
There are other options too. Shure SE-215, which is about the same price.
But I like the CloudVocal model. I just think they sound a bit bassier, and I like the long cables on them as well.
Sax School PRO Giveaway
Now, I mentioned earlier, that this month we are giving away a pair of these to every person that joins Sax School.
Now we’ve only got a limited number of these, so if you want to grab hold of this offer, you’ll want to be quick. But this is a fantastic deal because not only are you getting a pair of headphones worth over £100, for free. But this is a tool that you can use in your practice and enhance the way that you are learning saxophone. I’ll tell you a bit more about why that’s important in a second.
Why you should avoid wireless headphones
So I talked about a couple of options that are great for you as a saxophone player. We’ve looked at over-ear headphones, and in-ear monitors.
But there’s another option that I think you should be careful about, and that is Bluetooth headphones like these Apple AirPods.
Now, just about all of us are familiar with the Apple AirPods. They’re amazing. They sound fantastic. They’re so convenient. The battery lasts so long.
But – they aren’t always the best headphones for sax players.
So if you’re just using the AirPods to listen to a backing track to play along, that’s brilliant. How convenient.
But if you want to use your Bluetooth headphones to record along to a backing track, it can cause problems. And that’s because of something called latency.
What is latency?
So latency is the time delay between the computer sending the signal out to your headphones, and then us hearing it, and then playing back into the microphone.
And that means you can end up being out of time with the backing track, when you listen back to the recording.
So generally it’s always best to use wired headphones when you are recording. If you’re recording along with something like GarageBand, plug your headphones into your computer, or your tablet or whatever device you’re using, with a cable. That way there’s zero chance of latency.
Hey, and here’s one other tip. If you are using AirPods with your saxophone for practising, make sure you turn the noise cancelling off. That’s because you want to be able to hear your beautiful saxophone sound as well as the backing track.
Pro Tip to speed up your saxophone learning
It’s super -important to keep recording yourself as a saxophone learner,-whether you’re just getting started or whether you’ve been playing for years.
Because it’s only when we record ourselves and listen back, that we can get a proper third party view of what’s happening with our saxophone. We can really listen to our sound, with our technique, with our style.
Trust me, recording yourself and then listening back is one of the best ways that you can speed up your process of learning. And it’s something we do all the time with our members inside Sax School.
There’s one other really big benefit to recording ourselves. It’s a great way to prepare ourselves for performing.
So even if you’re not at the stage of playing in front of people yet, trust me, putting yourself under a little bit of pressure by recording yourself, is going to help you get ready for that next big step.
So I hope you found that useful today. Don’t forget, if you do want to grab a pair of these awesome in-ear monitors from CloudVocal, go check out that offer at Sax School. We would love to see you in there if you’re interested in learning a bit more about saxophone, developing your skills and joining our amazing worldwide community of learners.