Your Questions , Our Answers – Setting Up a Headphone Mix

universal audio apollo interface

One of our readers asked the following question regarding setting up a headphone mix in Logic Pro X.

As a long term Pro Tools user who also needs to use Logic Pro X, I’m struggling to create a stereo headphone mix to send to a separate recording room. I am trying to figure out how to do this, so that when I solo or mute a channel in the control room, it doesn’t do the same in the headphone mixes. I tried to create 2 pre-fade sends to separate outputs on my Universal Audio Apollo audio interface but they don’t act like I expect them to. Can you help?

The answer is: there’s good news and bad news. Setting up a headphone mix with a multiple I/O audio interface is fairly straightforward. It involves creating bus sends across all of your tracks, dialing in the desired amounts of level, and then routing the output of the destination Aux track to your headphone outputs.

Conventional wisdom is that the sends should be set up pre-fader, so as to be able to easily create a completely unique mix from the one going to your main outputs. Personally, I prefer using post fader sends and setting them all at unity gain as a starting point. I find that performers generally want a fairly close representation of the mix as I am monitoring it, with a couple of exceptions. More of this track, or less of that one, or “more me” in the cans.

For the most part though, headphone mixes are usually fairly close to the main mix, with the exception of a few tracks where the send levels are adjusted uniquely. So snapping post fader sends to unity gain gets me pretty close pretty quickly without having to set up the entire headphone mix from scratch. In fact, I even save my default template with unity gain post fader sends across all tracks, specifically for this purpose.

Now of course this is just a starting point, and there are often plenty of very useful reasons to do things otherwise. Which brings us to the reader’s question. First, the good news. If you want to solo a track in your mains, but not have it soloed in the headphone mix, the simple solution is to set the Aux at the destination of your bus sends to solo safe mode.

To place a channel strip in solo safe mode, control-click the solo button. It will then appear with a red slash through it. In the case of the Aux track being fed by your headphone sends, it will prevent anything being sent to it from being muted. So when you solo a track, it will mute the others in your main signal path, but not in the bus send signal path. Simply click the solo button again to toggle the solo safe function and return the Aux track to normal playback mode. This will work to restrict soloed tracks from being soloed in the headphones regardless of whether the sends are set up as pre or post fader.

The bad news however, is that muting a channel strip via its mute button silences the tracks output completely, and leaves no option for the signal to remain present in the bus send feeding the headphones.

The workaround is to set the sends up as pre fader, and simply pull the faders down all the way to the bottom. By doing this, you are silencing output of the channel strip to the main audio stream. Because the bus send is pre fader though, unity level signal remains in the send’s pathway, thus feeding the headphone mix.

If multiple channel strips need to be silenced in the mains but not in the headphones, there are two options. Select multiple tracks, either via shift clicking or command clicking for non contiguous selections, and pull down any of the selected faders. The multiple selection insures they will all act together. And the good news is that, even though you may be bringing them all down to the bottom, their levels relative to each other are maintained when you eventually bring them back up.

The second way is to create a group containing the necessary channel strips, disable everything except “volume” in the group settings box, enable the group, and pull down any of the faders. They will all move together, and relative levels will be maintained. Groups can easily be toggled on/off with the key command +G.

There may be ways of muting channel strips and maintaining headphone send when using third party routing software with audio interfaces that support direct monitoring (sometimes called hardware monitoring). But Doug, Dennis, and I all confirmed that we could not get it to work on our respective audio interfaces. Dennis and I both use Cuemix with the MOTU UltraLite-MK3, while Doug attempted it unsuccessfully with Maestro and his Apogee hardware.

Eli Krantzberg
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Eli Krantzberg

Apple Certified Pro Eli Krantzberg is an internationally known author and music software trainer for Groove3. His instructional videos have helped demystify music software such as Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Sonar, BFD, Melodyne, and Kontakt for thousands of users all over the world. Based in Montreal, Canada, Eli is involved in all aspects of audio production. In his studio he works with various artists, as well as on commercial jingles, corporate videos, and original music composition.
Eli Krantzberg
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  • Jeffrey Rozier Sr

    What is the difference between the Apollo Twin and the Universal Audio 710 Mic Preamp which is better for recording hot or loud vocals?

    • Garrett Williams

      The Twin is a Thunderbolt audio interface, that contains DSP circuitry for processing UAD2 plugins.

      Not better, but different.

      I have an Apollo Duo, the UAD plugins mostly come into play during the mixing process.

      UAD plugs model mostly vintage hardware, with the Twin you can TRACK with plugins and get a vintage vibe before audio hits Logic.

      In the old days of tape, you record through a compressor, to prevent signal overload and distortion.

      With the Twin you could compress pre-Logic to tame a loud vocal.

  • Eli Krantzberg

    Hi Jeffrey,

    The main difference is that the new Apollo Twin is more than just a preamp. It is a complete thunderbolt audio interface.

    It includes, among other things two preamps, plus a new preamp modelling feature, as well as DSP and a starter pack of UAD plug-ins. In terms of which preamps are better for loud vocals, I couldn’t say. But they are two different products. One is an audio interface on steroids, the other a great preamp.

  • quantise

    Thank you for addressing this, Eli. I have a related question. If I have several channels sharing a common fx bus, say a reverb, how do I solo a channel and only hear that channel and its send to the reverb and not every other channel that is sharing the reverb. Once again, coming from PT, this one has me flummoxed.

    • Eli Krantzberg

      It’s easier than you think:-) As long as you don’t have the Aux track in solo safe mode, Logic takes care of it for you without you having to do anything.

      In other words, simply solo a track, and Logic will automatically solo the processing in it’s signal pathway without you having to do anything. This works if you solo a region (instead of the track) as well.

      It’s only if the Aux track is in solo safe mode that you will hear all the instruments being fed into it.

      • quantise

        Once again, thanks for responding Eli. I have followed your suggestions and here is what I found.

        If I have my previously set up headphone sends in solo safe mode as described in your main article, your method described above for isolating fx sends for the solo’d track doesn’t work. I still hear anything else that is sent to the same fx bus. If however I turn off solo safe on the HP sends, thus losing my ability to isolate the mix between control room and studio, the solo’d tracks sort the routing out as you described above and it works. A bit of a gotcha!

        I’d be interested to know if anyone can duplicate this. if not I’ll take another look at my template.

        • Eli Krantzberg

          You’re right. I just tested it and got the same results. It appears like putting an aux into solo safe mode seems to put them all into solo safe. It does seem like it could be better implemented. As it is now, I don’t think there is a work around other than toggling the solo safe mode as needed.

          • quantise

            Phew! I’m not going crazy after all. I wonder if there’s a way of getting this workflow highlighted with the Logic Pro Devs?

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