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just call me charlie

How to mix for crappy speakers?

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A year ago I decided to go and record my own music. So I bought Logic Pro, speakers , headphones (etc.). Now when I try mixing my songs (I don't really know anything about mixing, I just try), I do this on my monitors or on my headphones. When I think it's ok (the best I can do), I listen to it on different speakers. On my mp3 player and on the built-in computer speakers it really sounds like sh.. So I redo the mix to make it sound better on those crappy speakers. When I do this it sounds worse on my 'good' speakers. So finally I try to go for something in between. (again, I have no clue what I do, I just mess around with balance and EQ)

Is there a way to make the mix sound good on good speakers as well as crappy speakers?

Since I'm not anywhere near to recording an album, my songs end up on the internet, and 90% of the people listening will do this through their crappy speakers. So why do I even use my monitors and headphones? Why not just use the builtin speakers and cheap earplugs, and get rid of that gear?

And why would professional mix-engineers use 5000$ speakers, when no one (except for their musician friends) will ever listen to the song on such speakers?

Anybody out there with a simple answer? Or is it just my lack of knowledge causing this problem?

cheers

charlie

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You've got the strategy right, listen on as many different types of systems as you can to get an indication of how you different listeners will hear it. Most of the time, if you can get it to sound good off cheap frequency limited speakers, like on a laptop, the mix sounds really good on good speakers. I use a single Auratone mix cube, which is a reasonably decent, but midrange heavy, powered speaker to listen to a mono mix for just this purpose. If you mix on big full range speakers and there is a lot of important information in the low to mid bass, it will disappear on little/limited speakers. . If you have an important bass guitar part and you do not hear it on these little speakers, you can go back to your mix and increase the volume of the higher harmonics so there is the impression of more bass guitar/synth. Typical hi-fi speakers are hyped to make your sound as good as possible, which often masks some problems. Very expensive monitors are usually very accurate, not artificially pleasing, again to help you identify problems. If the bass is an important part of your music, as in dance music for example, it is important to listen on monitors that cover this part of the spectrum. Mixing on headphones is a topic unto itself, however it is important to do because a lot of time pick up little problems that you do not notice on big speakers. If you only mixed on crappy little speakers, a lot of problems, especially with excessive bass in the mix that you are not hearing, become evident when listeners listen on bass heavy speakers (and the bass is oppressive). There is no secret formula. For everybody, it is a matter of listening on different systems and making compromises at times.

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1) What speakers/monitors are you using?

2) Do you have any acoustic treatment (bass traps, rockwool, not foam) in your mixing room?

3) What kind of music are you doing?

Listen to commercially-released music similar to your own on your speakers/monitors, then play those same songs on 'cheap' (crappy, your word) speakers and listen how those songs translate.

A half-decent set of monitors in a room with some treatment (at least no obvious issues) should lead to mixes that translate reasonably well onto most other systems.

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First of all, thanks for your replies.

To answer your questions Mike:

1) KRK RP5 G3 monitors, nothing very fancy

2) I have some, but not enough. My room is all stone and concrete (hooray), and I have some DIY sound absorbers (rockwool) placed on the walls and ceiling. No bass traps.

3) some sort of alternative rock ( my thing on soundcloud )

I have tried listening to somewhat similar music and try to make it sound the same. I am miles and miles away from being a sound engineer so I never come close to getting the same sound. But all considering I'm quite happy with how it sounds on my monitors and headphones. On the built-in computer speakers I find it very hard to get something acceptable. Also I find that when I optimize for the computer speakers, it sounds a lot worse on my monitors.

Again, I have absolutely no knowledge of mixing. I just try and try and try. So maybe my problem can be solved by subscribing for a mixing course (but they are so freaking expensive).

I was just wondering if there were any tips for this specific problem.

sincerely yours,

charlie

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The KRKs get mixed reviews but you should be able to use them. Do you have 4" rockwool? If so, those are bass traps. 2" thick will work on side walls and ceiling cloud.

Don't mix for the crappy computer speakers - not much of anything is going to sound good on them!

Consider posting your mixes in a forum for home recordists/mixers. homerecording.com 's forum has an 'MP3 Clinic' section where people post their mixes, others comment and make suggestions. I've learned a lot by listening to others' mixes and reading the comments as well as posting my own mixes there when I was getting 'stuck'.

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On behalf of every person who has ever pushed a record button I say to you: we feel your pain. I can say with complete confidence that EVERYONE has experienced the horror of pushing play on his or her latest Opus Maximus at a friend’s house or in a car only to have the feeling of satisfied anticipation turn into ego crushing disappointment. Can I get an Amen from the congregation!?

I will leave the subject of actual equipment to those more qualified and instead offer perhaps a slightly more philosophical perspective to the discussion.

Knowing your speakers: The concept you are referring to is something called “Translation”. The ability of a monitoring system (Speakers + Acoustics of mix area) to predict what a recording will sound like on the “average” consumer playback system. The important and rather obvious question is; what the hell is an average playback system? This is not a new problem for engineers. Sure, we have ear buds now, and computer speakers and TV sound bars and such, but there has always been a wide discrepancy between the best and worst playback systems. This also brings the practice of mastering into the equation… more later.

The historical reference for popular music, at least as far as Rock and Roll is concerned was and perhaps still is the monaural, AM car radio. This is why engineers still check for monaural compatibility. I don’t know if it’s true or not but supposedly the concept behind small full range speakers like the old Auratone sound cubes was just a car speaker stuffed into an enclosure. Necessity being the Mother of Invention, I can imagine some nameless engineer getting tired of having to run out to his car to check mixes.

Getting back to the idea of translation. The reality for amateur or semi-professional engineers is that we most likely won’t have a professionally designed, uber expensive monitoring environment to work in. This means that in a way, we need to mix with our brains as much as with our ears. We need to know our monitoring environment so well that we can make mental adjustments to our perception while making mix decisions. Developing that is just a matter of doing it and doing it over and over until you sort of “calibrate” your ears and brain to your mix environment. Just like buying a new stereo, have a CD you know well as a reference mix to recalibrate your ears every once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I would never tell someone to not buy better stuff or spend money on acoustic treatment. I WOULD tell them that they will eventually run out of money long before they solve all the issues, and at some point will need to adapt to the limitations imposed by reality.

2nd possibility: Your speakers are actually telling the truth and your mix really does suck. Well, not “suck” but not be as good a mix as you thought you heard. Part of this is usually due to over listening, where everything either sounds good or bad but objectivity is lost. Time to pull out the reference CD again and recalibrate. Or better yet… take a walk.

Mastering.

Mastering engineers originally were responsible for making the music physically fit on a vinyl disc and be playable by a record player without skipping. Today the mastering process is all about translation. A good M.E. can listen to your mix and make you aware of where the problems might be. They can often give suggestions for re-mixing before you return for the actual mastering session. During mastering, adjustments to frequency and dynamics can further neutralize the mix for the "average" system. If you are serious about distributing your music, a relationship with a mastering engineer would be invaluable and have the side benefit of improving your mixing skills immensely.

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First of all, thanks for your replies.

To answer your questions Mike:

1) KRK RP5 G3 monitors, nothing very fancy

2) I have some, but not enough. My room is all stone and concrete (hooray), and I have some DIY sound absorbers (rockwool) placed on the walls and ceiling. No bass traps.

3) some sort of alternative rock ( my thing on soundcloud )

Your problem is right there..KRK Rokit. They push the bass way too much, the mids aren't clear and they tend to exaggerate everything. What this means is you're mixing will not translate to other 'cheap' systems (or expensive) because the sound you're hearing isn't accurate. The bass for example is too heavy so when you mix you're gonna cut lows out of your kick and other instruments and then play it on your mp3 and you'll notice there's no body and there's a huge hole in the middle.

I had the same problem with Yamaha HS7. And like you, it was a balancing act. What you want is monitors which are sterile and accurate that DONT sound amazing at the store, instead have clear mids and bass and highs rather than exaggerated. You may notice transient peaks in your vocal too (on other systems), that's because you're speakers aren't able to accurately pick up them.

My solution...Yamaha MSP7. They're a bit more expensive but its worth it. When I mix I know everything's gonna translate well and they're exceptionally good at revealing high transient spikes.

Dont base your assessment on reviews because those who publish them are telling you how 'great' everything sounds rather than accurate and most people who do reviews dont mix professionally. They're just music enthusiasts and they're basing their assessment on how great stairway to heaven sounds.

Also you need room treatment..bass traps etc. They make a world of difference because they allow the bass to be focused and reach you in real time, instead of bouncing around the room.

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I would argue that your KRK's are not that bad! However, here are a few tricks:

1. GET GOOD HEADPHONES - Instead of paying for better monitors, spend a little extra and get a good set of open back headphones. Your mixes may sound different, but they will be consistent.

2. MONO MIXING - I actually wrote a 3-part article about this on my website brendenleigh.com Good or bad monitors, this is a good idea.

3. MIX AT LOW VOLUME - When your mix is blasting at crazy volumes, you can lose some critical listening skills. Turn the volume down, and now you have all this room.

Hopefully this helps!

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Really cool song.. what are you wanting mix wise to be better?

If it were me maybe wider panning, is that live guitar or amp sim?

I notice that the tremolo/verb is attached to the guitar pan like they were from the same take in mono..

If you can separate them and spread the source from the verb/trem it will widen the mix up.

Perhaps a bit more drums, especially the lower drums..

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Guest nasirDZ

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Earmoldsydney earplugs are flexible ear plugs that are ideal for a variety of uses, including sleep, bikes, noise, industry, musicians, and water. Earmoldsydney earplugs are;

  • Made of high-density thermoplastic which is incredibly good at blocking snoring, machine sounds, bike engine sounds, water and other nocturnal sounds
  • Incredibly comfortable, even when lying on the side, riding bikes without helmet, etc.,
  • With antibacterial security to prevent ear infections
  • Great colours; much easier to find when you drop them on the carpet in the room, industries, swimming pools
  • Durable; it will give you years of restful sleep, bike rides and do tension less works

http://www.earmoldsydney.com.au/ - Custom Ear Plugs

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How protective earplugs could possibly help anyone mixing is beyond me.

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Since I'm not anywhere near to recording an album, my songs end up on the internet, and 90% of the people listening will do this through their crappy speakers. So why do I even use my monitors and headphones? Why not just use the builtin speakers and cheap earplugs, and get rid of that gear?

And why would professional mix-engineers use 5000$ speakers, when no one (except for their musician friends) will ever listen to the song on such speakers?

Following your logic . . . Since the vast majority of people on the internet will never listen to a nanosecond of your music anyway, why bother to make music and post it on the internet at all?

If you're not making the best music you can for you, and if you're not mixing your music as best you can for your own satisfaction and self-pride, then really, why bother to do it all all?

P.S. FWIW, I have the Rokit 5's. But, the acoustics in my room is so bad that all speakers "lie to me." I don't even use them. I mix with $42.00 headphones, and I think I'm doing alright.

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I found a solution for mixing on crappy speakers:

 

Write a crappy song!

 

Oh wait! I did that part already, I'm half way there!

=Bob=

 

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