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Mixing on Headphones


Is it possible to mix and master on headphones? Yes, it is, with Headphone calibration software and a Virtual Mixing Room Simulation or Crossfeed Plugin!

Free headphone mixing plugin tutorial:

Mixing and Mastering on Headphones 

  • Use your EQ as a Headphone Plugin, or use a Headphone correction Software

  • Also, use a Virtual Mixing Room Plugin


Indeed you have had the problem of making the right mixing decisions. When you work on your songs at night and can't turn up the speakers that loud, your room acoustics are not good enough to ensure your mix will sound good on all speakers.

A headphone plugin always makes sense to support you when mixing with headphones for better decisions or to serve you as a 2nd listening possibility.

Popular headphone EQ software is, for example, Sonarworks Sound ID Reference, dSoniq Realphones, Acustica Audio Sienna, or Tonebooster Morphit.

But did you know that you can also use your preferred parametric equalizer like Crave EQ, Fabfilter Pro-Q, DMG Equilibrium, or Kirchhoff EQ in Ableton, FL Studio, or Reaper and sometimes get an even better sound when mixing on your headphones?

 If you don't have a suitable equalizer plugin, use one of the following eq plugins.

Best free Parametric EQ Plugins:


Table Of Contents


A headphone EQ plugin provides linear balanced sound. You will be surprised by how good your headphones can sound.

The Virtual Mixing Room Simulation or Crossfeed plugin creates a more realistic stereo image when mixing with headphones.

Both Plugins do not actively intervene in the mixing process. But they change the Audio signal on the headphones so well that mixing decisions are made for an optimal translation.

 The respective plugin must always be the last one on the master and deactivated before exporting the finished mix.

 *In the DAW Reaper, for example, there is a "Monitor FX". All effects that are on this channel are not rendered at all.


Virtual Mixing Rooms &  HEADPHONE  EQ Plugins

Best headphone EQ software, Crossfeed Plugin alternatives and Virtual Mixing Rooms for mixing and mastering on headphones.
realphones plugin

 DSoniq Realphones 

If you need help getting your music to sound good through headphones, I've got a suggestion for you. Check out this plugin called dSONIQ Realphones. It's pretty sweet because it corrects the sound of your headphones and lets you hear what your music would sound like in different environments, like a fancy studio or even a car. Here's what makes it so great:

First, it works with over 200 headphone models and lets you choose from different sound profiles. Plus, it makes your headphones sound like you're listening through some excellent speakers. You can even hear what your music would sound like in a club or a car.

It's a helpful tool for ensuring your music sounds good no matter where it's played. Give it a try!

Sonarworks Sound ID [Headphone and Speaker Calibration]

If you're into music production, you should check out this software called Sonarworks Sound ID Reference. It's pretty cool because it can calibrate your speakers and headphones to ensure the sound is consistent on any device.

It measures the frequency response of your room and speakers using a measurement microphone and creates a calibration profile to correct your sound system's acoustic flaws and colourations.

It also has over 300 supported headphone models, so you can apply a pre-made calibration profile for your headphones. This is helpful because you can confidently create, mix and deliver your music, knowing that your sound will be accurate and consistent across different platforms and devices.


- Acustica Audio Sienna [They also have a Free Virtual Mixing Room Simulation with 2 Studios)

- Tonebooster Morphit

- Waves NX (now comes with oratory1990 Headphone Presets)

- Dear Reality 

- Blue Cat Audio - Re-Head

- Slate Audio VSX 

Tip: I use the DMG Equilibrium Equalizer for the headphone calibration and the virtual mixing room of dsoniq Realphones. For me, this combination achieves the best sound on my headphones.


Headphone Crossfeed Plugins

- Goodhertz CanOpener (Use the Mix Engineer preset, Safe Gain Off)

- Airwindows Monitoring 3

- MathAudio Headphone EQ  (only activate the crossfeed; keep the rest off)

- 112db Redline Monitor

- Or use a Virtual Mixing Room like Acustica Audio Sienna or DSoniq Realphones


Headphone Crossfeed Hardware

- SPL Phonitor

- Merging Technologie Anubis



How to Mixing and Mastering Headphones?

Use this Free Headphone calibration software option for incredible results. 


Yes, you heard right; with the correct headphone EQ settings, you can use an equalizer with at least 10 bands to optimize your sound.

The result via the DMG Equilibrium sounded even better with my headphones than with Sonarworks Sound ID Reference. The sound was much warmer at the end, and the bass response in the low end was so much better. Therefore, try the following steps in any case.

This is possible thanks to the Headphone EQ list from Oratory1990 on Reddit. You will find the best studio headphones for mixing and hundreds of HiFi headphone models from which the frequency response was measured.



1. Visit Oratory 1990 on reddit

Visit the following link to use your equalizer as a free headphone calibration software.

* If you can't find your Headphones in Oratorys list. Then try this link, and search for your headphone model on the web page. Measurements by Crinacle,, Innerfidelity, oratory1990, Reference Audio Analyzer and Rtings are included.

2. Search for your Headphones and open the "Harman Target" Curve PDF

Optimizing the best headphones for mixing and mastering: In this example, I have picked the headphone profile from the Sennheiser HD58x and will transfer it to my DAW in the following steps.

After you have searched and selected your headphone profile, click on the Harman Target curve. This specific target frequency response produces the "best possible sound" for headphones. Next, a PDF will open where you can get more information.

3.Left side without EQ (Before) - Right side with EQ (After)

Are your headphones - the best headphones for mixing music?

In the example on the left side, you can see the frequency response of your headphones. The Sennheiser HD58x Jubilee has a slightly too-weak bass response and a little too-present midrange.

On the right side, you can see the compensated frequency response curve. So how the sound will sound after we have made the equalizer adjustments?

4.The Optimum EQ Settings for Sennheiser HD 58x

If you scroll down the PDF, you will find the EQ filter settings for your headphones on the left side. This will optimize your headphones for mixing audio.


The first thing we do is put a gain plugin on the master track. Since the settings on the equalizer change the volume, this must be balanced beforehand. Otherwise, clipping can occur, and your headphones will sound worse than before.

Why must the gain plugin be used? If you raise a frequency by 10 dB, it becomes 10 dB louder. But a software EQ cannot produce more loudness than the maximum (0 dBFS). To avoid this problem, you use the gain plugin.

In most DAW, you will find a gain plugin: In Ableton, this is called "Utility gain." Otherwise, you can also use the free "Purest Gain" plugin from Airwindows.

 The value for the gain plugin can be found in the marked red area; see Preamp gain.

6. EQ Settings: which you enter into your equalizer

In the red-marked table, you will find the equalizer values for your headphones - Here, you can see the EQ values for the Sennheiser HD58X.

 In this case, 8 bands have to be added to your equalizer.

7. Start to add the "Filter Type", "Frequency", "Gain", "Q-Factor" or "BW" in your EQ

Now add band by band to your equalizer and set the correct "Filter Type", "Frequency", "Gain" and "Q-Factor". 

  •  In some EQs, you have a "BW" value instead of the "Q" which sets the curve's steepness.

  •  Fabfilter - Pro Q3 uses a different system, and all Q values need to be multiplied by 1.41 (Source)

8. Five minutes later I have transferred all values for 8 bands
into Pro-Q

Now it's almost done; check the sound and hear how your mixing and mastering headphones have been optimized.

9. Or Use any other Equalizer like DMG Equilibrium


Load the headphone EQ first and then a Headphone Crossfeed Plugin or a virtual Mixing Room behind it. The crossfeed makes the headphones less fatiguing to listen to for long periods. 

Let your headphones behave more like loudspeakers for a more transparent and precise sound. This allows the listener to reduce the channel separation to a natural level. 

The main difference between headphones and speaker monitoring is the perception of stereo width.

In theory, the sound from the left speaker is for the left ear, and the right speaker is for the right ear, but in reality, both ears hear the sound from both speakers to a greater or lesser degree.

With headphones, however, this is different - the left ear hears only the left signal, and the right ear hears only the right because the drivers in each earcup are isolated.

However, with the help of correction plugins (crosstalk or virtual Mixing Rooms), it is possible to reduce the difference in perception between speakers and headphones.

The goal is to achieve a subtle feeling of openness and natural directness of sound on headphones. So mixing and mastering on headphones leads to better results.


Read more about Virtual Mixing Rooms &  HEADPHONE  EQ Plugins at the beginning of this article.


Crossfeed and Headphone Mixing Plugins are part of your monitoring chain, not your mix. Bypass both Plugins when printing your final mix.


Any pair of headphones can be improved with a Headphone EQ, but the Headphone amp is also essential. Get the most out of your headphones by getting an external headphone amp or a decent audio interface / DAC.


Tip 1: Invest in High-Quality Headphones

Investing in a high-quality pair is the first step to achieving great results when mixing on headphones. Look for headphones with a flat frequency response or whether the frequency response is relatively flat after processing with an eq, which will give you the most accurate representation of your mix.


Tip 2: Use Multiple Headphones

Using multiple headphones with different sonic characteristics can help you get a more accurate representation of your mix. For example, you might use a pair of open-back headphones for the mid-range frequencies and a pair of closed-back headphones for the low end.


Tip 3: Check Your Mix on Different Systems

To ensure that your mix translates well across different playback systems, it's essential to check it on various speakers and headphones. This will help you identify any problem areas and make adjustments as needed.


Tip 4: Take Breaks and Listen at a Reasonable Volume

To avoid ear fatigue and ensure that you're accurately judging your mix, it's essential to take breaks and listen at a reasonable volume. Experts recommend taking a break every 20-30 minutes and listening at a comfortable but not too loud volume.


Tip 5: Use Reference Tracks

One of the best ways to ensure your mix is on par with professional releases is to use reference tracks. These songs you know sound great on various systems, and can serve as a benchmark for your own mix.



Also with a Windows PC you have the possibility to use an equalizer between your sound output. You can download a free Windows equalizer like the "Equalizer Apo" here. Use this Parametric / Graphical EQ to get the best sound out of your Windows system.



To optimize the audio output for Spotify or Youtube on your Android phone, you can use the following Headphone EQ.


  • Qudelix - 5K 

DAC with headphone amplifier, which also includes an EQ for tone correction.


Hello! My name is Marcus, and I am a music enthusiast who runs a mixing and mastering business. I also write enlightening articles for my blog and produce music as a member of the techno duo Agravik.
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