Headphone Mixes (Alternate Mixes)
There are many uses for alternate mixes, but one of the most common is a separate headphone mix. Pro Tools can easily accommodate headphone mixes so long as the interface has the necessary outputs. We will stick with the term headphone mix, but understand the mix could be used for any purpose.
There are really two approaches to creating headphone mixes; add to the existing main mix, or building a mix of the tracks from scratch. The simplest approach for a headphone mix with some flexibility is to add a track to the main mix. If your headphone system accommodates multiple channels, simply assign the track to be added to a separate interface output that is connected to a headphone channel. For example, connect or send the main mix to headphone channels 1-2, then connect the additional track output to headphone channel 8 (example: a click track). The musician can blend the track on headphone 8 with the main mix as needed using the headphone system’s mixer features. Done!
If your headphone system does not accommodate multiple inputs you can create a separate mix that mirrors the main mix, then add to that mix in Pro Tools using Auxiliary Sends (Aux sends). The following setup assumes the main mix for the control room monitors is assigned to Output 1-2 and the headphone amp is connected to Output 3-4 of the interface. This is only for explanation sake. You could use any open pair of outputs for the headphone connection.
Tip: Holding Option(Mac) or Alt(Windows) while creating an Aux send or selecting options will select or create that feature in that slot for all tracks in the session (does not change send level). Alternately, see Tip 3 below.
Post-fader headphone mix:
- Create Aux sends assigned to Output 3-4 on all tracks to be included.
- Option click the Aux send faders to set them to 0. So long as the Aux sends are in their normal state (post-fader), this should represent the mix levels.
- Select FMP on the Aux sends. FMP (Follow Main Pan) will replicate the position of the track's pan. Pan an Aux send as preferred by de-selecting FMP on that track.
- Output 3-4 should now mirror the main mix for the tracks included.