About ear fatigue : headphones or speakers?

I recently noticed that I’m most sensible to ear fatigue for long musical sessions. I use headphones for years but I wonder if it’s really a good solution (except at night, because I’m not alone at home)

What about you experience?

1 Like

Speakers help prevent - but do not solve - ear fatigue. The best thing for me to do was to get speakers that are decent, though. They offer a more accurate, yet general representation of the sound everyone will hear.


I have monitors which I try to use when the time allows it and when i’m not doing some precise eq stuff.

1 Like

Mixing at low volume minimizes fatigue for me — never 100%, but it is definitely better. And honestly, I think I mix better at low volume. Maybe I’m stating the obvious


Agreed, because it forces the composer to listen! I agree whole-heartedly. There’s absolutely no need to be crushing my ear-drums with a racket. Listen hard and it works better.

I also use headphones all the time (I’ve got neighbours and usually I can’t start creating music earlier than 21 o’clock). I think it’s a good solution, of course you should keep an eye on the volume. If it’s not too loud (which you can check if you’re literally talking while using the headphones, you should be able to hear yourself and understand the words you say while the music is playing) it shouldn’t be a problem. And if you can, you also can use speakers, of course it prevents ear fatigue more than headphones. But ear fatigue is quite normal for everybody, it doesn’t matter how you work, sooner or later your ears are tired. That’s why mixing and mastering can’t be done on one day properly, you have to wait 2 days (at least 24 hours) and check again, because it will always sound a little bit different, which is because of ear fatigue.

You’re right, it’s recommended to mix at low volume. But personally I also check at high volume and of course in mono, which is the most important step.

Mixing on monitoring always on low volume. Keeps more focus for details and ears aren’t getting tired.
For both production and mixing I’m using headphones as well. Sometimes most of the times and using monitoring for the final check only. Which I do at different volumes. Normal and loud.

I use Beyer Dynamics DT 880 Pro 250 Ohm. With the huge resistance of 250 Ohm they never go loud. I can produce and mix without ears getting tired on them and the accuracy of the headphones is pretty good. The shells are half open, so the bass can get out and is not disbalancing the sound. Only a little frequency range in the mid/high has a little dip in my experience, but if you know it, you can work around it. Surely recommend this headphone.

1 Like

Interested by all feedbacks, I’m also careful of the volume and try to keep it lower usually, but it’s not easy to do all the time. Then I think speakers can help to make an aternative, but I’m soooo used to do all by headphones that I would have to take new habits!

About headphone I wonder if a semi-open one is better or not for that? I have only closed headphone.

Now I also have to think about making more short sessions or pauses, when I do music I can spend easily 3 hours whitout stoping when I’m captivated.

Ear fatigue is unavoidable. For me it sets in on headphones way sooner than with speakers.

As others said already, low volume helps a lot. And regular breaks. Especially when you’re mixing. 5 to 10 minutes of silence every hour / hour and a half. Making a cup of tea. Or maybe listen to a few tracks by other artists. Keeps my ears fresh.


The best thing for me is kinda using the Pomodoro method (Putting a timer and taking 5 min breaks here and there). You can use headphones but remember to turn it down once in a while and keep in mind that the longer you listen continously at higher-than-needed levels your perception of bass and treble distorts temporarily.


A little thing I do is when my ears start to feel tired, or perhaps more accurately when I think to myself “I need to turn this up” I turn it down instead and focus on what change that makes. What stands out now, what can I change etc. Or stop the music and tidy the project up, label things, mess with track colours, remove unused devices or samples etc. I’m a real noob though so YMMV etc.

Of course a cup of tea/coffee and a handful of biscuits feels good as well.


This works surprisingly well at dealing with what initially made you want to turn it up. Occasionally completely derailing your train of thought is a great technique. Also, Oblique Strategies.

But I fear I’m starting to lean off-topic. :open_mouth:


some great advice in this thread. thanks, all…

one thing I like to do to refresh my ears is hang out with earplugs in for an hour or two.

sometimes I’ll even sleep with them in. feels like I have super hearing when I take em out


1 Like

I often find that the more natural a mix/speaker/headphone sounds the less fatiguing it is.
When i use monitors (my room acoustics is not very good) i get ear fatigue after 10 minutes already at normal listening volume. But i can work for hours with my more natural/linear sounding open back headphones.

Opening the window and listening to the sounds of nature or the street once in a while also helps to keep an unbiased perception.


I have always slept with ear plugs in, I cant sleep without them in fact. I have always credited them with some amount of hearing recovery properties, but I have no basis in scientific or medical fact for that claim. But I’m 37, old raver, use headphones a lot while at work, commuting etc. and my hearing is decent/tinnitus free. But again that’s a very anecdotal story and YMMV.


What’s not up to debate :

  • speakers are better for your ears than headphones
  • low volumes are better for your ears and your mixes (because less room reflection and Fletcher–Munson curves and a couple other things.)

When to use headphone :

  • fine tuning, low end tuning…
  • you have paper thin walls and someone is sleeping in the next room
  • (the most annoying : ) you environment is noisy and you can’t hear a darn thing.

At low volume, a good balanced headphone can be comfortable for a long while. And by low volume I mean that my audient sono is set to 0.7 and occasionally 1.5 when I want to party. I wear a AT-m70x which is known to be a bit tiring, and never had a problem

What’s more subjective :

  • each speaker has its own frequency response and some will be more comfortable to you than others. But you might want to try to move it around because the fatigue might come from phase issues rather than the speaker itself

I’d say headphones are quite a trap with stereo, the sound travelling in your room does things a headphone can’t prevent…

I worked for years with cheap monitors/headphones but I think that was an error because it prevented me to work a lot of sound aspects I couldn’t just ear on bad speakers…

I think headphones are good for fixing issues in stereo and frequencies (too much bass, to harsh highs, things like that) What I also noticed (and that was a “wow” for me), is that they are really bad at dynamic range. For example, I can listen to a track which has a too loud kick on headphones and it won’t bother me. Then I turn on the monitors and I hear the obvious “booom booom”…

1 Like

This is a huge thing.

I’ve even gone so far as to make an impulse response of my listening space and put it on the master channel when stuck with headphones. It ain’t perfect (since the headphone response is obviously not totally flat, and the impulse is shaped a bit by the microphone used to capture it), but it does help to fool the ear and the mind a bit.

Similar with all the highs, especially when it comes to hihats, hats or percussion. On headphones it’s normal, almost too soft, but when you switch to speakers it’s prominent. Maybe it’s just my equipment, but having too prominent hihats on speakers is always the case. On the other hand someone told me on his monitors the highs in my tracks are a little bit too soft compared to the bass. I don’t know the exact reason, so I just continue mixing via studio headphones, Hi-Fi speakers and if necessary more types of speakers. But at the end finetuning is always needed to be done via headphones, no doubt about that.

1 Like