Headphones are a crucial, but often overlooked, piece of equipment required for a home studio. This is the way you, your bandmates or your clients are going to hear as you are tracking, mixing or mastering. You want them to be comfortable and accurately reflect the sound you’re trying to achieve. If not, you’ll walk out into the real world after spending countless hours on your new song only to find it bears no resemblance to what you thought it would be.
As a project studio owner, producer and songwriter, I’m constantly buying and checking out different headphones, as everyone has their own particular preferences. For me, it all comes down to the perfect ratio of frequency response and accuracy, isolation, comfort and durability. The new Mackie MC-450 headphones excel in all areas and are worth a look.
These are the first open-backed headphones Mackie has released, and the company hit a hole-in-one on their first shot. They feature a sturdy, yet comfortable headband and real leather padding and stitched leather ear cups, giving off the appearance and impression that they are a lot more expensive than you might expect. The ear cups hug and fit your ears but aren’t confining, and I’ve been able to comfortably wear these for hours on end without wanting to throw them off my head. In the listening department, I had none of the dreaded ear-fatigue. The headphones come with a rather long, 10ft braided ⅛” cable which never gets tangled or becomes restraining. I can’t tell you how many pairs of headphones I’ve loved in the past, but I’ve had to replace the stock cable to a longer one (or wished I had the ability to). This cable made my face look like the “heart eyes emoji” for certain. First impressions are built from the little things.
After throwing these through the ringer in my daily studio applications and routines, these quickly became my go-to’s for cutting vocals. I can hear the natural sound of my voice without having to take one of the cans off my head. Though they are open-backed, there’s only a normal amount of bleed while recording, even while running my playback and click track pretty hot. I’m able to sing effortlessly and hear my voice while tracking, and I can withstand a couple hours of session time without getting ear or throat fatigue. If you are new to open-backed headphones, just know that they don’t have the same isolation that you would find with closed back alternatives, however they provide better sonic accuracy and detail. I’d recommend these for singers, guitarists and pianists that want to hear a little bit of the room while recording.
The detail, clarity and density on these headphones are provoking to write home to mom about. The flat-frequency response is accurate and lively, and there is a definitive distinguishability between your “center” and your “sides”. Reverbs, delays, modulations and panning automation are accentuated, and the opened-backed design makes you feel like you’re in the room listening to all the magic going on at the time it was made. The drivers’ frequency response definitely favors your mids and highs, and you can easily separate a dense mix blindfolded. The separation shines through, especially with some of my mixes that feature stacked acoustic and electric guitars and thick vocal arrangements, and I was easily able to hear every detail. It was like I was hearing my mixes for the first time honestly, which on the other hand showed all the flaws and cracks that I didn’t pick up on when I initially mixed it. That’s a good thing to know for the future though, and now I know to grab the MC-450’s as my first reference option.
Though the bass isn’t as punchy and prominent as you might like for boasting to your EDM bass drops, that’s not what these cans are geared for. They give you a non-hyped, accurate representation of the sum of your mix, and I’ve found mixing with these on reference has since made my mixes translate better on a wide array of other speakers. That doesn’t mean the bass is not there, by any means. It’s nice and round and you can hear details down to sub frequencies without it being overbearing and clogging to other areas in your mix. EQ’ing bass guitar on these has taught me a lot as well.
As I said earlier, these headphones are truly built like a tank. The headband is anything but flimsy, the pads are durable and comfortable, but all that said these are still rather light! They fit my head perfectly and don’t move around no matter how hard I am rocking out. The MC-450’s come with a hard padded carrying case to store in and preserve their life even more, and I can still see me using these ten years down the road.
Mackie MC-450 headphones street price: $299
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 101 dB / mW
- Maximum Input Power: 20 mW
- Impedance: 54Ω
- Drive Type: Dynamic
- Input Type: Male 1/8″ or 1/4″ Stereo
- Output Type: L/R Headphones
- Cable Length: 117.6 in, 48.0 in (x2)
- Weight: 0.8 lb