Your Questions , Our Answers – Setting Up a Headphone Mix
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.
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