Mixdown question - Monitors v speakers

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Sometimes I'll finish a track and think it sounds OK through my monitors but when I play it through my stereo it won't sound so good - some elements will be too loud and others too quiet, so I'll go back and change the levels in Ableton until it sounds OK through the stereo. Should I be doing this or should I go by what sounds best through the monitors?

paolo, Friday, 17 April 2020 12:50 (three months ago) link

1) First thing I'd try would be to listen to your tracks on other stereos in other rooms to make sure yours isn't an outlier.

2) Normally, assuming good quality monitors in a good (but not atypical) acoustical environment (which is what any decent studio should have), I trust what I hear through the monitors

3) I also listen to my mix through a good pair of headphones that you're very familiar with. Partly for the purity of their sound, but also because that's how a significant percentage of people are going to listen to it nowadays.

Lee626, Friday, 17 April 2020 13:27 (three months ago) link

Have you ever messed with some of those plugins that supposedly simulate a monitor mix in headphones?

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 17 April 2020 13:53 (three months ago) link

Thanks folks. I don't have another stereo, good quality monitors or a decent studio (maybe I should just get some decent monitors?) but I do listen to my tracks through headphones. And this is probably a silly question because I'm fairly new to producing, but why would I want to simulate a monitor mix in headphones when I could just use the monitors?

paolo, Friday, 17 April 2020 20:15 (three months ago) link

Sky Ferreira gave an interview recently where she spoke about how she only signs off on a mix when she's heard it through a variety of sources. I can't remember the exact list but her car stereo was one of them!

I've definitely been caught out mixing stuff on headphones only to find it sounds terrible on a stereo. And everything sounds terrible on a phone or laptop which is of course the way so much music is consumed today.

boxedjoy, Friday, 17 April 2020 22:14 (three months ago) link

If you can, listen through flat response monitors, or at least set your EQs to zero. Any wild frequencies will jump out. Stereo speakers will color the sound, in likely a bass heavy response. Failing all that, mix for your preferred playback system.
If you’re really curious about recording techniques, Tape Op magazine is an excellent resource and, as of a couple months ago, offering free subscriptions. The gear reviews are oriented to producers and engineers and generally beyond my understanding but the interviews are always informative.

Yelploaf, Friday, 17 April 2020 22:28 (three months ago) link

everything i mix sounds like garbage on headphones or garbage on speakers. i guess the constant factor there is me, so i know what the problem is.

And everything sounds terrible on a phone or laptop which is of course the way so much music is consumed today.

this is very true and it's like the obvious thing that no one wants to talk about because it's so depressing. sound fucking sucks, as a medium, because of the disparity in experience. it's true of other media as well, to an extent, but with sound it's just this big huuuuge terrible thing

let me be your friend on the other end! (Karl Malone), Friday, 17 April 2020 22:41 (three months ago) link

If you can, listen through flat response monitors, or at least set your EQs to zero. Any wild frequencies will jump out. Stereo speakers will color the sound, in likely a bass heavy response.

Thanks. I do have flat response monitors (Presonus Eris E4.5) so should I be trying to make tracks sound good on the monitors rather than on the speakers? And aren't all monitors flat response?

paolo, Saturday, 18 April 2020 09:39 (three months ago) link

Monitors that are not accurate is like being a carpenter where your measuring tape is always off.

How are your monitors setup, I'd think for small monitors like this you really should have them fairly close together. Rule of thumb is however many inches from where you sit to work on music, is how many inches apart the speakers should be.

A second cheap thing you can do is to get a couple of the big heavy 'yoga blocks' and set your monitors on them. They make pro isolation blocks/pads for studio monitors, which helps absorb low frequency rattle that is usually passed to the desk or whatever you have the monitors upon. I came across the use of 'yoga blocks' on a recording bulletin board and got a pair to try and I thought they did a better job than the couple pads I got included on a set of speakers I got years ago.

earlnash, Monday, 20 April 2020 21:01 (three months ago) link

All that said, I find mixing anything that is all synths to be a bit of witch to work upon compared to stuff recorded with a microphone.

So many synths have sound that are all over the EQ, so yeah that buzzy part sounds awesome, but same sound might be pushing tons of low end that is also in same frequency as the kick drum or some other virtual instrument. Really a lot of the EQing is totally assbackwards from recording a band. You start mixing recorded tracks with virtual instruments and I often find what might sound good on it's own won't cut in a mix or vice versa same awesome sound eats up everything in it's path.

earlnash, Monday, 20 April 2020 21:07 (three months ago) link

The fact that a lot of soft synth patches are stereo further complicates things when trying to get a clean mix

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Monday, 20 April 2020 21:12 (three months ago) link

I have terrible trouble with this, but I started getting better results once had decent headphones (Grado SR80i, except that the earpieces fall apart, they still work but I have to stick it together each time) and got used to them. I hate my M-Audio monitors and stopped using them, so I just bounce down mixes and check them on a stereo and in the car.

I still have some surprises for sure with bass and more dense mixes, but it's so hard to account for everything. Music sounds so different even through different web players (Bandcamp vs Soundcloud vs Dropbox) etc, not to mention all the variations in headphones and speakers. But yeah, if something sounds clear and balanced on headphones and on a basic car/speaker check, I know I'll be in good shape.

Mostly it's affected how I arrange to a huge degree, meaning I try to get away with as few tracks as possible, so everything has more room and it's less of a nightmare to mix.

Also I've had the opposite experience with real instruments, I get spoiled working with all samples and synths, once you start having to make actual instruments sound 'not dumb' and like they're all in the same room, dealing with phase, compressing for actual dynamics instead of just to make things sound cool, etc.

change display name (Jordan), Monday, 20 April 2020 21:55 (three months ago) link

Speaking of checking mixes, I kept hearing pops and clicks while listening to mixdowns of my new tracks, whether on Soundcloud or playing the file directly. Turns out that everything I listen to on my work laptop plays back with pops and clicks for some reason (and these new tracks are spare enough that they're really audible).

Took a while to figure out that it wasn't the player, headphones, or cable. There are a million edits/chops on these tracks, so I figured sloppy edits (not putting tiny fades on everything) would be the culprit, it was driving me insane.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 23 April 2020 01:02 (three months ago) link

Could also be digital artifacts getting in there. I've had that happen with my computer or software briefly glitching and leaving a little pop in a track.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 23 April 2020 01:34 (three months ago) link

True, although they were inconsistent (definitely in different spots on playback)

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 23 April 2020 17:46 (three months ago) link

Sky Ferreira gave an interview recently where she spoke about how she only signs off on a mix when she's heard it through a variety of sources. I can't remember the exact list but her car stereo was one of them!

When I was driving all the time, I definitely did this. Rn I am listening to my most recent mix on a private Soundcloud stream through phone speakers in the bathroom with the fan on.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Friday, 24 April 2020 00:37 (three months ago) link

Thanks for the advice! For my Cough Pill Nation submission I mixed it so it sounded good on the stereo, but when I play it back off Bandcamp (through the stereo) it doesn't sound like I wanted it to so I guess I'll just go by monitors and headphones in future :/

paolo, Friday, 24 April 2020 08:18 (three months ago) link

on a private Soundcloud stream through phone speakers in the bathroom with the fan on.

lol. standard practice!

Tib, Friday, 24 April 2020 09:04 (three months ago) link

paolo it sounds good here. really good. what did you hear/not hear?

Tib, Friday, 24 April 2020 09:25 (three months ago) link

Thanks, I wasn't fishing for compliments by the way :) I wanted the drums to be a bit quieter and the bass to be a bit more prominent but if the fans are happy that's the main thing.

paolo, Friday, 24 April 2020 10:08 (three months ago) link

Do professional musicians ever listen back to their tracks after they've been released and feel annoyed at whoever mastered or produced it or whatever for not making it sound the way they wanted or is it standard practice that they'd sign off on the final mix before a song or album is released?

paolo, Friday, 24 April 2020 10:09 (three months ago) link

o, yeah, i can totally imagine this with a more immersive bass sound. I guess mixing for home stereo that would be hard to judge?

Tib, Friday, 24 April 2020 10:52 (three months ago) link

ha no listening now on headphones sounds perfect.
a lot of great stuff on that comp

Tib, Friday, 24 April 2020 14:45 (three months ago) link

is it standard practice that they'd sign off on the final mix before a song or album is released?

Oh for sure, although time & budget can limit the number of revisions.

When I hear a huge major label album in a loud bar where you can only hear the bass and kick drum, or on phone speakers where you can only hear the vocal, I console myself that the artist would probably be cringing too.

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 24 April 2020 14:59 (three months ago) link


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