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Topic: Tips on mixing for different speakers

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  1. #1
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    Tips on mixing for different speakers

    I\'m looking for advice. When I\'m creating a new piece everything sounds great on my studio monitors. Then I listen to my mix on headphones for comparison and it sounds completely different. After I convert to a mp3 more fidelity is lost. The warmth of the strings is lessoned for example. And then listening to the mp3 on different speaker setups gives varied results too. What\'s the best way to approach these variables and come up with a mix that works well in all situations?

    Jeff

  2. #2

    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    As with all subjective things - the answer is \"that depends\". If you\'re really hearing a drastic difference in monitoring situations, then you\'ve either got acoustics problems (in the room) or transducer problems. What kind of monitors and what kind of headphones are you using?

    In a subjective sense, you will always hear some differences between open-air monitors and \"cans\", as they re-align the transducer to shoot straight into the ear and will often remove the pinae of the ear from the equation (which does some filtering and often the brain uses the outer ear transform to discover phase alignment and therefore stereo positioning). You also \"lose the room\" with headphones, which can impart important information about the mix. Unless you\'re mixing for an audience that will be on headphones, you\'re asking for trouble unless you go to expensive \"headworn monitors\".

    Data loss due to MP3 is inevitable. To a certain degree that degredation cannot be avoided. Throughput and sampling frequency can affect this - what are your settings? 64kbps at 22kHz is much different than 390kbps at 44.1kHz, so the difference can somewhat be accounted for in the details.

    It\'s best to stay with an apples-to-apples comparison, and produce a CD that sounds good in your studio (on your monitors) and then transfer it out of house to listen to how it sounds on other systems. If the mix falls apart (instruments jump out or completely disappear, or if the stereo balance is way off) then you know you\'ve got a problem in your room and/or with your speakers. You need to take the subjective and begin to make objective assessments to find out where the problem lies.

    The other answer (if you\'re only hearing what naturally happens with the change in environment and data rate) is to simply spend time with \"the sound\" that is produced in your room, and find the right combination of factors that allow your mixes to transfer out of house. There are plenty of \"mix masters\" that use old Yamaha NS-10Ms to do their mixes, and the sound great anywhere - they\'ve spent years perfecting the deficiencies of those speaker in *that*room* and there\'s no substitute for that.

  3. #3
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    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    Houston, thanks for your input. My inexperience when I wear my \"engineer\'s hat\" causes me many problems. I don\'t have any experience in the science of recording. So much of what I do is trial and error. My monitors are Studiophile BX8\'s. Headphones, Audio-technica ATH-M40fs. Your comment about \"losing the room\" when using headphones is something I didn\'t consider. I\'m converting my mp3\'s at 44.1kHz.

    For instance, as I listen to mix on one set of speakers, one voice jumps out at me begging for EQ. The same voice on another set of speakers might sound fine, but other problems appear. As you said, it\'s all very subjective. Do you have any recommendations of a way to become self-educated on engineering, without becoming overwhelmed by technical data that I currently don\'t understand? \"Engineering for dummies?\"

    Thanks, Jeff

  4. #4

    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    Hi Jeff, Houston provided a great amout of very accurate information.
    Here\'s my help, the quality of the monitors that we use to determine balance as we mix are absolutely critical. Your question is very valid. No matter what speakers we use, to me, headphones will always provide a more accurate reproduction than speakers, because room acoustics are of no concern. I still don\'t recommend mixing on headphones, but to compare is always good, just don\'t let the phones force you into making changes for them.

    If we mix on a pair of speakers that have a peak in the frequency response around 2 Khz., but we are not aware of this peak (problem), then we will go on our merry way and adjust things to sound balanced, based on what we hear from these reference monitors. As long as that music is only played back on those speakers, it will be the same. Here\'s where the frustration comes in. As you mentioned, we play our music on a different set of speakers, and now the strings are not loud enough or they sound bad. Which set of speakers is wrong? It\'s not a matter of which is wrong, but instead,... which is more wrong?

    Mastering engineers use speakers that have extremely flat frequency response. In the mastering process, most of what is done is equalization to the different songs on the disc, relative to each other, kinda like what we do when we balance instruments, vocals and other sounds in each song or piece. If all the instruments are balanced pretty well, but the violas and cellos are too loud, the mastering engineer can only call you and ask if this was your desire, and recommend a remix or, live with it. If the mastering engineer tries to correct it by cutting EQ in that region, all the other instruments and sounds in that region will also be reduced. So, having the most accurate monitors to begin with, is the only answer to eliminating this problem. Mastering engineers don\'t buy their monitors from Guitar Center, and if we want great results, then we can not skimp on the monitors that we buy. I am a recording engineer by trade and can only offer my opinion, and we know there are tons of those too. In case you have purchased your studio monitors from Guitar Center and you are happy with them......... great!

    I also agree about the MP3 thing. When we hear our song on a different system, it will surely sound different. Trusting computer speakers is a joke, you know, the cute little 3\" speakers with the MASSIVE 6\" SUBWOOFER, oh boy! Geez

    Another thing to make sure of,........ is the brand and model of headphones that you are using for your comparisons. If they are not really really good, they too will make you want to remix. There are a ton of headphones on the market, and they all have gobs of bass and treble, like most of the small \"home studio\" speakers. Even the real expensive Sony foldup headphones sound horrible to me. You can bet that if the headphones\' box says \"DIGITAL\" .....put them back on the shelf. Again marketing bull. A real professional pair of headphones would not likely advertise that they are capable of \"DIGITAL\" sound.

    Keep in mind that midrange is where virtually all sounds originate. So, if at least the midrange frequency response is not flat, you can bet your mixes will sound really different everywhere you go. I have found that the AKG K240DF headphones are very good. I am embarrassed to admit this but, I have mixed live stuff on them, and the mix was surprisingly good. Don\'t buy the AKG K240 headphones, they look practically identical, but don\'t sound near as flat, the highs on those are too bright and unnatural sounding. Make sure they are model K240 DF. I think they go for around $130.00 new on Ebay.

    The next chance you have an extra grand laying around, buy a pair of used Tannoy LGM monitors, they are very true, and \"true\" is what you need for monitors so that this problem will go away for good. I use Tannoy LGM speakers for mixing and mastering for clients as well as my stuff. There are quite a few other great monitors available, I just have not had to shop for monitors, so I don\'t know what to recommend if you want to buy new ones.

    I Hope this helps your understanding of this very common problem. It is very good that you noticed the difference, so many don\'t, or don\'t care, at least you are looking into it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    Hey guys this is a very informative thread! Obviously, there is much to consider when mixing and headphones were always a necessary evil for me. Much of my work is done after the wife and kiddies go to sleep so it is hard for me to use my monitors.
    Speaking of monitors, what about the difference with near, mid and far field monitors? How advantageous would it be to use more than one or two brands of monitors.
    OOPS! Sorry, I started getting carried away. Didn\'t mean to tread on your thread. Just a topic I love to read and talk about.

  6. #6
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    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    DPDAN,

    When I used to be involved in the jingle business, I remember the studios always had a set of really small \"consumer\" type speakers that they referenced during their mix. Is it a good idea to have a second set of \"bad\" speakers connected to your board? Being the weakest link in the chain, if it sounds good on those, it\'ll sound great everywhere else.

    Jeff

  7. #7

    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    I have never used one of those \"bad\" speakers, but I actually think it\'s OK to do. Just don\'t use a two way speaker for the bad speaker, make sure it\'s just a single cone speaker. I think the name brand that is common is Auratone.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    You\'re gonna laugh at me but I still have a pair of old Drive Inn speakers that I sometimes send a mix though just for grins. You would be surprised at how them old metal cased speakers sound sometimes.

  10. #10

    Re: Tips on mixing for different speakers

    I don\'t really see what\'s so bad about using headphones for mixing. I mean I\'m using Bose QuietComforts headphones now (thanks to a friend.) They have great frequency range and true to life bass response. They\'re open-air as well. Of course, I haven\'t any experience using monitors though. But I\'m like Styxx, I\'m forced to go this route. Can\'t have my wife asking questions about my music can I?

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