• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 19

Topic: Achieving Sonic Quality

  1. #1

    Achieving Sonic Quality

    Like most here, I write mainly classical/film score style music, though I also dabble in some progressive rock. But unlike most here, I have a hard time achieving sonic quality. I really need to do something, as my mixes are currently suffering for one reason or another. In fact, I'm ashamed to really show people my work, not because of compositional elements, but because the sonic quality of my work is SO BAD!! I'm hoping that my recent dive into the world of samples will help, but I cant imagine it being a "one stop fix to a great mix." To get an idea of my current level, please listen to some demo tracks on my website: http://www.avartists.com I really need all the help and feedback I can get!!!

    I'm currently looking for a decent pair of studio monitors to use in a semi-mobile situation (i.e. moving between my home studio and school setup) in the hopes that this will help. In the school environment, I will be forced to do most of my writing with headphones, and using monitors to mix on weekends. I'm wondering, what do you guys use to mix? Are monitors the only way to mix, or will a good set of headphones suffice, or do I need both? How do you balance between the process of writing and mixing?

    Some monitors I'm currently looking at are the Event TR5 and TR6. I'm still in the researching phase, and any advice at products to check out would be greatly appreciated. As you can see, my price range is rather limited. I'm a student after all. I'm really looking for something to simply get me by, though the catch is I need them to be decent, as they will be my only source, besides my audio technica headphones, for mixing/mastering my music.

    I also found these words of wisdom from another poster on these boards "as long as you A/B your mixes against top quality masters, you really can mix on almost anything." So what constitutes a "top quality master?" Any suggestions?

    Sorry if I opened up a major can of worms in a forum thats dedicated to samples and not mixing, but I've been so impressed by the quality of musicianship I've found here that I simply couldn't keep my mouth shut.
    Thanks in advance for any and all replies. I truly appreciate any information you are willing to share!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Los Angeles

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    "as long as you A/B your mixes against top quality masters, you really can mix on almost anything."

    I disagree....

    It depends on too many factors. Are you using the same "sounds" as what you're listening to on this "perfect mix"? Probably not, so you could in fact be doing things to your mix that shouldn't be done. I say "mix what you have". I would never check my mix against another mix... simply because it's a "different mix".

    A/B'ing ---- the other problem is; What are you A/B'ing on? You could A/B on a mono 1/2" speaker and I'd bet you could make a casio sound as good as a real orchestra.....

    Well, that was for dramatic effect, but do you see the point?

    Let's take this mix that you think sounds so close (sonically) to the real orchestra to a "marginally" better system to listen. All of a sudden there is a minor difference in sonic qualities. Now continue on up the scale of monitoring systems till you get to the highest quality monitoring systems (i.e., Genelec, Dynaudio, Adam etc.). Now, what you'll realize once you get to this point is that the mix's sonic qualities are NOTHING a like. So you have on the one end mixes that sound "just as good" and on the other end mixes that sound "nothing a like". (same mix)

    That is the importance of good monitors. On lessor systems you won't notice the problems as readily as on good monitors.

    If people are willing to pay $3,000 (or more) on one sample lib, I'd say to spend at least half of that again on some monitors. Especially if you are a professional (or just want mixes that sound really, really good)

    Good monitors yield "better" mixes "faster"... bottom line.


  3. #3

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    The guy that said "as long as you A/B your mixes against top quality masters, you really can mix on almost anything." is a mastering engineer. I can't remember his name but it was in a thread that I was contributing to. He was only meaning to convey the idea that quality of monitors don't equate to quality of mixes, and, if you really wanted to, you could get a good mix on even the most untrue speakers there are, simply by referencing your mixes to masters that you're familiar with. I think the idea with referencing your mixes to masters is that you're going to find a universally-accepted "good master" that you're famililar with, so you can tell how the monitors affect the mix.

    I'm not a master, but I've been engineering for about 8 years. One of my heroes is Dan Marnien (Joni Mitchel, Elton John). I had the pleasure to be his 2nd for about a year. Now he wouldn't a/b his mixes to masters like you would a/b between monitors, but he'd often times put in CDs from his collection that he thought was close to the mix he was going for. This was obviously on a per song basis. It's not soley about comparing your mix to a master, it's also about perceiving the subtle effects a room has on a piece of music that you know very well.

    The topic was started by a guy who had no money to spend on monitors and felt his mixes were sub-par. The point that I was trying to get across, which prompted the quote in question, was that inferior monitors only mean that you will spend more time referenceing your material. You will never know what your mix actually is, and you can't mix something that will sound good on everything. So you listen to your mixes on every type of medium you can. In the control room, on a boom box, in your car. Referencing mixes this way will gradually highlight the areas that need fixing, and you'll eventually "dial-in" the right mix.

    Jon, your site makes my Explorer crash so I haven't heard your music. I got the latest Explorer but it's still happening. Is this happening to anyone else? At least you know your mixes aren't good. So the question is. Why don't they sound good? What's wrong with them? Here's another reason why other masters can help you. What are the sonic differences between your mixes and professional ones? What are the qualities of the music in the professional master that are not represented in your mix? You don't want your mixes mimicking another, but you want a guide that contrasts a well balanced mix with your mixes.

    With all that said, mixing is as much an art as composing is, in my opinion. Kid-Surf has some really good mixes (listen to some) but there are people that have equally good mixes that might use a process totally different than his. People go to these engineering schools, get certified, and still can't get a decent mix. It requires either an inherent talent at hearing frequencies or a good many years of acquiring that talent through solid experience.

    P.S. Some guys here swear by headphone mixing. I don't. It's something to look into though.
    Michael Peter

    If music be the food of love...
    play on

    William Shakespeare


  4. #4

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by His Frogness
    P.S. Some guys here swear by headphone mixing. I don't. It's something to look into though.
    I don't recommend mixing by headphones alone, but they're an excellent reference. For $99 you can get a near flat response and you don't need to treat your room to make them sound good. That said, I mix on monitors first. When it sounds good on both the monitors and the headphones, then you're done. Headphones don't convey phase information and imaging the way speakers do, so don't rely on headphones alone.

    Cans are also a necessity when tracking. Get a closed pair so you can listen to the click-track/backing without it bleeding into the mic.

    Top recommendations are the Sony MDR-7506 (a touch bright) and the Sennheiser HD-280 Pros (flatter, but not as sweet as the Sonys). Others swear by Beyerdynamics, but I haven't heard those.

    The nice thing about the above headphones is that you will keep them for life. The cheap monitors will likely be replaced with better ones before too long.


  5. #5

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    hi jonathan,

    i just roamed a little through your site and listened to some pieces...

    i think the main thing you first should invest some money in is for some good sample libs, rather than going for high class monitors to do better mixes.

    i guess the biggest lack in your mixes is not the ability to mix good, but the quality of your sounds you are using.

    i think i will out myself here and probably the one or another will not understand this but i have two aureal monitors for 40$ each plus sennheiser headphones for around 15-20$ and i think my mixes aren't that bad.

    i did two demos for east wests gold library and everyone was pleased so far ... there were only really few people who gave me some more instructions about mixing better or where i could improve, which i really appreciated and found helpful to know.

    i don't want to brag or be mr. knowitall, but all i wanted to say is, that you should trust your ears and know your monitors. listen to your mixes on every medium you can find. no matter how cheap they are.

    i know some very huge genelecs in a befriended studio (forgot the exact product name) and i wouldnt be able to mix on them if i should have to do mixes in the first days using them.

    so my suggestion would be to get some better sounds and libs and then take care of some good speakers later

    edit: another hint: the drums on your progressive song is so very out of timing that it really sounds very ungroovy or kinda wrong. you might check that. if you tried to get human feeling on them, it was definitely too much

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Los Angeles

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    His Frogness--

    First off, thanks for the complement!

    And yes you are absolutely correct, my way is not the only way. I hope I'm not coming across that way.

    I too come from a sort of engineering background. Well, I started in rock then worked in a few studios as an intern then an assistant. In fact I "thought" I wanted to be an engineer till I realized how bad it sucked (meaning: no life and way too many hours). I've been recording for about 18 years now (I'm 33). ---- Like you, just info about myself.

    I should also add that , I'm confident I can get a relatively good mix, but I'm also in the camp of "forever learning". I'm far from believing I'm gods gift to the mixing board.

    But yes, it's been a journey along the way. 18 years ago I mixed on a 4-track using boom box speakers. Just the progression that (I'm sure) we all go through.

    The point I was making before is that I think it's misleading to insinuate that "any" monitors will allow you to achieve the same qualitative results. I take that quote to mean "Don't not mix because you have not the greatest monitors -- Don't feel like you shouldn't try to get good mixes on what you have". And I'd agree with that 100%.

    I don't believe that to be true statement at face value. And I also believe it's a bit misleading to newer audio guys. I believe there is a good chance of something lacking, even though it may not be apparent on these lesser systems. That's why I used the example of the worst possible thing to monitor a mix on, leading to the best.

    Simply put, you may have a mix done on computer speakers, headphones, or even not so great monitors where you say "Ok, that sounds pretty kick azz, I think this sounds as good as anything else out there". Then you take it out to the car etc. and are like "WTF? This sounds like crap... what happened???? I thought it was perfect?".

    Take this same mix and listen back on some decent studio monitors and the anomalies of the mix will probably smack you in the face. The response would be something like "Oh wow, so that's where I was off".

    So you listen to your mixes on every type of medium you can. In the control room, on a boom box, in your car. Referencing mixes this way will gradually highlight the areas that need fixing, and you'll eventually "dial-in" the right mix.
    I agree, if you are newer to mixing that stuff will definitely help you....

    It's hard to give advice really, cuz you never know what someone's experience is. I believe that info should change the response one "should" get. In this case I may be far beyond what is actually applicable to Jonathan.
    But I'm a huge fan of good monitors. Mine (Genelec 1032A's) are the one thing in my studio that I doubt I'd ever sell.or trade in.....

    The reason I don't check my mixes is because I know these monitors really well. Almost like I can "see" the frequencies. So if I hear a problem it's not like "hey, it's too bassy" it's more like "Hmmm? sounds like I need a 2.5 dB cut at around 35 Hz". like I can see the frequency like a piece of clay that needs molding. More of a surgical sense of the over all mix. I don't think you can fully realize this on certain monitoring systems... and that's usually why the problems are there to begin with. Simply put, all the info isn't there for you to dissect...

    But sure, there a a zillion and a half things involved in getting a good mix.... Just pointing out that one should think of good monitors in this way (IMO)

    "Good monitors will achieve better mixes faster... mixes that WILL translate to other systems no problem".

    Although that assumes you can mix to begin with, so...

    *** my biggest peeve is people that don't think they need studio monitors... can you tell. I think at some point you realize that you do need them.


  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Los Angeles

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality


    If you are getting good results..... be happy.


    Sorry I never quite answered you specific questions.... (just went on my rant )

    What I use to mix are Genelec 1032A's and Sony (I forget the number) phones to check spatial imaging, clicks and pops. 99.99% of the time I'm using the monitors.

    Headphones aren't enough if you want "killer" mixes... but you're in school, not a pro, so don't sweat it too much yet. But if you can afford it... ya know, get something. But no, pros don't use Headphones only..

    How to balance? Mix on the monitors then check it on the phones. If something sounds weird fix it.

    I don't know much about those monitors. Are those the new shinny ones? I've heard those where pretty good. Although there's a low end pair I've heard sucked. Mackie makes a pair for like $600 that are pretty good on the cheap.

    I'll check out your mixes later....


  8. #8

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    Quote Originally Posted by kid-surf

    If you are getting good results..... be happy.

    lol, i forgot to mention that if my next budget allows it, i would surely buy some better monitors but all i wanted to say is that no matter how cheap or expensive your monitors are, you need to know them to get the best out of them. i don't wanna say, that i find good or expensive monitors crap

  9. #9

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    IMHO, if you want a good mix, use good intruments and good orchestration.
    This two things can explain 90% of the "bad mixes" you will hear around.

    Good Luck!

  10. #10

    Re: Achieving Sonic Quality

    Wow! Thank you all for the wonderful advice! Let me see if I'm understanding the concepts correctly.

    Kid-surf, from what I gathered, you are saying that you cannot "mix on just about anything" because no one has "the perfect mix" to reference for your situation/style. Everyones mix is just different, and will sound different from the bottom line speakers, up to the top quality monitors. My question is then, how does one make their mix sound decent throughout the chain? Not many listeners have pro quality monitors in their home (heck, not many musicians do) so how does one create mixes that sound great on their systems? I guess this is where "listening to your stuff on as many different systems as possible" gives you the results, though with so many different sounds being produced by so many different systems, how do you know when its your mix chops at fault and not the colorization of the system? Judging from your later post and His Frogness's posts, I guess this is less of an issue when you use top quality monitors? If you make it sound good on your Genelec's, then your mixes will sound good on anything? Or are you still A/Bing?

    His Frogness, is your main point in a nutshell that its important to A/B your mixes with other masters solely to understand your monitors better, and therefore mix TO that "sound" rather then make your mixes sound exceptional on your system, which then (at least for me) will not translate well to others systems? This sounds like a good solution in theory, though it also sounds to me like it forces you to mix against what you are hearing, and rather mix towards a more mental picture of what the music will sound like on other systems. If I've learnt anything in my limited experience mixing, is that I cant mix using my brain, I have to use my ears. Maybe this is again why Kid-surf is hammering home the need for pro monitors? P.S. I'm sorry my website your explorer crash, but it works in mine, and never heard anyone else have problems. Do you have quicktime installed? My site opens with a short quicktime mp3, which may not be loading and causing your system to crash. Please let me know if you figure out why.

    JonFairhurst also brought up a good point of using headphones as another reference. Once I get some sort of monitoring system, I will not longer be forced to use only headphones to mix, which might be one cause for the poor translation of my mixes. Though I have another question; Hypothetically speaking, lets say you get your mix to sound great on your monitors, but then you listen on your headphones and find that the mix is muddy on the low end for example. So you bring down the low end on your track, and find that it now sounds good on the headphones, but through the monitors, its now missing the low end kick it once had. So now your stuck in an endless conundrum of adding and lowering bass between your systems. How would one make a mix sound great on both systems, given that each medium has its own colorization and quality?

    Waywyne: I did invest in some new sounds (EWQLSO Silver and VSL Opus 1) but am waiting on the family computer to arrive before I can use them. I'm hoping this will improve my mixes as well, as I will now have more realistic sound sources to place on my virtual stage. You also mentioned that you mix on what some would call very low quality monitors. So how did you go about "learning" your monitoring system? Was it through the same system of listening to tons of CD's and/or listening to your mixes on multiple systems, and mixing to that sound?

    Thank you all for taking the time to listen to my mixes and post such wonderful thoughts and advice. I truly appreciate everyones willingness to share information with me more then you will ever know. Its people like you that make this world a better place to live, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! (sorry for the sappy halmark moment, but its true! )


Go Back to forum


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts