Editors Keys SH10 Studio Headphones Review

2011 Jan 17, 2011

Of all pieces of gear in your studio, one of the most helpful things you can own is a good pair of studio headphones. I recommend most people start out with a basic audio interface and one pair of headphones for a reason: they are an affordable and practical way to monitor, edit, and mix your material. Even as you grow your skill and eventually add a pair of studio monitor speakers to your arsenal, you need a good pair of headphones as part of your process.

Today I’m reviewing a pair of headphones from one of my favorite “new” companies, Editors Keys (www.EditorsKeys.com). I’m already a fan of their USB mics and portable vocal booths, so I knew I would be in for a treat with their entry into studio headphones. In a nutshell, the SH10s are a pair of closed-back, over the ear headphones that are great for tracking purposes as well as mixing. Let’s take a quick look at how they perform in both arenas.

Tuning Out The Noise

When recording with headphones you ideally want two things to happen: be able to hear your self and the recorded tracks clearly at a comfortable volume, and at the same time not let much if any of that bleed out into the microphone(s) in front of you. The SH10’s closed back design is perfect for this as it doesn’t let much sound leak out.

I recently recorded a project and  brought these headphones along for the ride along with my usual “go-to” tracking headphones from AKG. I told the drummer to try out both pairs of headphones when recording and tell me which pair he preferred. The second he put on the SH10s he was sold. Never went back to the other pair. His reasons: “They just feel so comfortable and I can hear myself better with these.” Bingo! That’s what I want to hear as an engineer and producer. If the talent is not comfortable and is struggling to hear themselves, you won’t get a great performance. So having the right tracking headphones is a must.

Revealing In The Mix

Although many people will tell you not to mix in headphones, for some it is their only option: and it can be a good one. I think mixing in headphones is given too much bad publicity and not enough praise. Granted the reasons for choosing to mix on monitors in a nicely treated room are justified (more accurate stereo imaging, less ear fatigue, proper bass response), there are a lot of reasons to mix on headphones as well, reasons I don’t have time to cover today.

But when you want to mix with headphones you don’t want an over hyped sound. Unfortunately many headphones are tailored to boost the bass response and upper frequencies to make your music sound more exciting. This is not useful to a mixer. Ideally you want to hear your music as flat as possible so you can make accurate mix decisions. What I’ve found with the Editors Keys SH10 headphones is a relatively flat frequency response, but with an audible bump in the mid range. At first I thought this made things sound a bit thin, but what I realized was I was actually able to better distinguish parts in that mid-range (guitars, vocals, snare) and I was putting mixes together much quicker.

Perhaps it’s a similar effect to many engineers’ experience with the classic Yamaha NS-1o monitor speakers. Supposedly a very “thin” mid-rangy pair of speakers but always used during the mixing process because “if it sounds good on NS-10s, it’s good.” Either way, the SH10s have now become an invaluable tool in my mixing workflow and I trust them.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the SH10s are an affordable monitoring/mixing solution for many home studio owners. Coming in at about $65 US they aren’t out of reach for most people and should seriously be in the running if you are considering a pair of studio headphones in the sub $100 category. And honestly, you have nothing to lose with these puppies as Mark over at Editors Keys is offering a 100% money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with them. You don’t see that with many other manufacturers!

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