Can The Cans? Pros and Cons
In The Great Headphones Debate
Note: The author teaches voice over individually by phone and Skype, and through workshops in major Canadian cities. For details, please click here, or visit: www.micnme.com.
By Deb Munro
Voice Actor & Trainer
Who would think that headphones (otherwise known as "cans") could be a topic for controversy, but alas ... it seems to be so, and I’d like to share with you my opinion on this great debate in hopes that it might help you choose what is right for you.
First, if you’re a home-based voice talent, headphones are completely your choice.
If you like using them, then use them. And if you prefer not to, then don’t.
It’s really that simple.
STUDIOS DROPPING 'EM
However, if you’re a MAJOR MARKET talent or a talent who voices primarily in studios such as in Los Angeles, New York City, Vancouver or Toronto, you may have seen a significant change in the use of headphones in the local studios.
Many top studios are doing away with headphones for talent.
Most quality studios are equipped with talkback, so there is no need for the talent to wear the headphones when the client/director can speak with the talent directly through a speaker without affecting the recording.
WHAT'S YOUR EXPERIENCE?
If you’re an experienced talent, you’ll have grown accustomed to a certain way of recording.
Many talent are used to recording from the old broadcast days, when hearing themselves through the headphones was either a necessity for technique or a way for them to hear that great voice of theirs.
Let’s face it, we’re voice talent, we like to be heard.
... OR NOT?
Of course there is exception to this stereotype.
There are many forms of voice talent, including some who are very introverted and shy ... and perhaps are intimidated or put off by the sound of their own voice.
In fact, many people DON”T like the sound of their voice and find it off-putting to hear their voice playing while they are speaking, or even played back, for that matter.
You have to get over that one, because that is EXACTLY how you sound to the rest of the world.
OVER ONE EAR
A technique that MANY use is to put one side of the headphones over one ear only, and the opposite side placed behind your ear, resting on your head.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to wear the headphones and hear your voice back.
PROS AND CONS ...
There can be significant benefits to using headphones, just as there can be major drawbacks.
As with most things in this industry, it really does come down to personal choice, unless it's required to wear headphones in order to hear playback or direction.
I’ve created a list of pros and cons to wearing headphones in hopes that you can apply this to your needs. Let us know (comment below) if you have additions to these lists.
CAN THE CANS
Let’s start with Cons:
I’m sure there are more, but this is a good start.
ALL IN FAVOR ...
Now for the advantages to wearing headphones:
MY CHOICE IS ...
As you can see, there is cause for argument on both sides so it becomes personal choice and studio choice.
I have worked with headphones since the beginning of my career in 1989, so I’m more than comfortable working with them. In fact, I prefer to work with headphones.
I can work without them, but I do most of my projects from home and I tend to live a very busy workday so I don’t have time for unnecessary redos and I find headphones save me a ton of time.
FOR EXAMPLE ...
I once sent an audiobook project to a client that both my myself and my engineer edited separately to meet a strict deadline.
We both sent in our edited files to the client and the client came back saying he could hear our edit cuts.
We were taken back by his notes because we both have a great ear and use high quality monitor speakers. Plus, my studio is acoustically correct and fairly sound proof.
I decided to listen to the file with headphones (which is how people will be listening to an audiobook and many of the files you voice), and we were able to hear exactly what he was talking about.
HEAR FINAL FILE
This is a great way to hear how clean your finished product is, so I try to always listen to the final file with headphones on, to assure top quality sound.
When I’m in a studio that doesn’t allow headphones, it’s not a problem to perform without them, because the engineers will hear any unwanted noises and necessary redos.
I encourage you to practice both methods so that you are able to accommodate any needs the studios/clients/directors may have.
You must be adaptable - and that’s one thing that isn’t debatable!
ABOUT DEB ...
Deb Munro is a leading voice talent, coach, and owner of Chanti Productions, in the Vancouver, B.C., Canada area. She offers private voice over coaching by phone and Skype, and MIC 'N ME workshops on voice acting, business and demo prep in many Canadian cities.