PG TIPS: Know your headphones

Festival season is tough. It’s usually, hot, sweaty and stressful. On top of all that, it’s more than likely you won’t have a soundcheck at all.

And you’ve got ten minutes to get your band line-checked and ready to go.

This is where you need to relax, be comfortable, and make your money. If your band kicks in and they sound like shit, half the crowd will walk away in disgust – and that’s where you need a great set of reference headphones.

The current festival tour that I am on has short change overs, and the line check is done over a muted PA. All that I have is my headphones.

I’ve used Sennheiser HD280s for the past five years. Not because "they sound amazing," not because "they translate really well," but because I got given them by another engineer five years ago, and I never could afford to try something different.

I listen to music on them at home; I watch movies on them in my bunk; I know them inside out. So when I line check, if something sounds wrong or weird I know about it immediately and I can fix it.

A week ago my left ear stopped working on them. Two shows went by where I used another engineers cans from another brand. My shows sucked. My high-end was harsh; my lows were muddy. It felt wrong.

I got a taxi to Guitar Center and just bought a set of HD280s outright. My shows are back on track and I’m not drinking myself to sleep anymore.

Lesson: learn your reference headphones, use them as often as you can, take good care of them, and buy a back-up pair so you don’t have a crap two days like I did!

PG Tips is a new regular advice column from Bring Me The Horizon FOH engineer Phil Gornell. To read Gornell’s previous column on how to gain more control over a mix, click here.

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