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Thread: Hearing the mix on different systems/speakers...help!

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    Question Hearing the mix on different systems/speakers...help!

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    I'm in an intermediate stage of this project, and thought it wise to burn the nearly finished instrumental tracks to a CD in order to preview the mix on various systems and get a gist of what I'd be in for when I went back to it. I've been mixing on a pair of MAudio Studiophiles, and occasionally referencing in some god-awful consumer headphones, and achieving what sounds (especially in the monitors) to be the optimal mix...no mud, no piercing, nice definition, and just the right 'brightness' as far as the various instruments go. The CD sounded great on a fairly new stereo system, but lost a little bit of the definition in the car, though I'll console myself by blaming road noise. Just now, I tested the CD out while driving the minivan, which tends to seriously beef the bass at times, and, to my dismay, the low end was so painfully loud and thick that I feel it was actually clipping in the van...the kick drum hit so hard and low that it actually sounded like it was spattering against with windshield with distortion. Terrible. So I brought it inside, and popped it onto the computer, which is connected to a pair of what are probably $5 speakers...flimsy, tinny, came-with-the-computer speakers...and to be honest, the mix, although a touch on the bright side, sounds fabulous! Great definition, great stereo panning...the bass is not chunky at all, but it's definately there doing its job. My question, I suppose, is how could the kick on the same mix be distorting on one system, and sound like a snare drum in the other? How could the sound in the van be muddied beyond recognition, while the sound on the cheap-os be so defined I can hear all my mistakes? And if this is the case, how does ANYONE achieve a balance and make a worthwhile CD that everyone can listen to and not burn up their ears?

    I'm appealing to all you veteran mixers and masterers out there, wondering what you guys do to hit the sweet spot. I'm working with a Korg 1600 and the SP5 monitors, and the music is all about acoustic gtrs, elec gtrs, elec bass, drums, keys, and sprinkles of synth for effects. I'm afraid if I trim the bass, it will be non existant on the tinnier speakers, but if I thicken the mix a bit, it will become pure mud. I have resolved to lower the level of the drums on most of the tracks, which might help with the kick issue, but it won't really solve the muddiness dilemma.

    Any and all hints, tips, or tricks would be super-appreciated. Thanks!

    -Matt

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    I monitor through 3 pairs of speakers (4" singles, 8" 2-ways, 12" 3-ways) & 1 pair of cheap 'phones. When my mixes sound balanced on all of 'em I call it done.

    If you can get your mixes to sound good on every system you play them through perhaps you should consider a career as a mastering engineer.

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    i actually have no real monitors, which i hate, but its the easiest thing to not buy - when you have excellent stereo system speakers readily available, AND you dont have an extra 200+ bucks...ha

    so, i'm mixing on a really nice pair of advents, and a pair of aiwa speakers (came with one of those mini-systems).

    i chose these because
    A - the advents are just really hi quality...just seemed to be the obvious best choice! and i DO try to take into account that they might not be FLAT speakers, but i reference to other cd's that i want to sound like quite often to get it to sound right.
    B - the aiwa's produce a tonnn more bass then anything else, and it seems like it completely drops the low-mids....yet, commercial mixes of course sound GREAT on BOTH of these. Mine are always lacking in one area, and booming on the other - as i switch back and forth to each speaker set.

    i think the key is other music as a reference, and trial and error. Some systems probably just automatically BOOST the BASS, perhaps at around 100hz. So, if YOU have a lot of 100hz in your mix, it'll sound glorious on some systems, and on your car that boosts that even more - it'll sound insane... so maybe move your "bass" hump around, until you get it where - in your car, its not booming, yet you still can hear it great in all your other systems.
    or if you can - make that hump spread itself out.
    Scott Solo

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    It sounds like you may not be hearing subfrequencies in your current set of monitors. Check the frequency response of your system, if it doesn't go down to 20 Hz you may have alot of low frequency content that's causing unnecessary speaker movement and thereby causing distortion.

    Try using a filter to remove all frequencies below 16-20 Hz and see if the low end improves.
    Tom Volpicelli
    The Mastering House Inc.
    www.masteringhouse.com

    Selected Credits

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    I just use my ears to mix. The monitors I'm using translate well to every speaker system I've ever tried a mix on. Even the raggedy POS $10 boom box at the shop.

    Even my computer speakers sound good until the sound is uploaded into the computer. While recording into the computer and monitoring on the computer speakers it sounds fine. As soon as the sound is digitized and played back it looses something.
    "Isn't this WIERD"

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    Thanks guys, for all your tips...I'll search around for those filters, it's very possible I've got a bunch of really LOW LOW end that is kind of sneaking around in the mix, then comes out and kills on certain systems.

    A follow up question, if I may -- I plan on getting this all mastered, either proffessionally or semi-professionally. What excatly will this do, besides sweeten the mix in general? If I were to send my current mix in for mastering right now, with all the aforementioned problems, would they be able to work some magic and FIX exactly what I'm talking about? Or would I have to work it out first, and then the Mastering will polish that? Also, if I'm not satisfied with the Mastering job of a friend of mine, where would I go about shopping around for a good company/person? What should I look out for while shopping, and what's the going rate? I've seen snippits on the board here mentioning $35-50 per hour, which isn't bad, even if it takes 10 hours. Thanks again guys.

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    Sennheiser: How are you transfering your tracks onto the computer? You should be able to get good sounding tracks on the computer.. if you're ripping the tracks from a cd, make sure you use a good ripper (Exact Audio Copy), if you're doing it through analog it is probably you're A/D converters in the soundcard that aren't up to par..

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by gumboots
    [B]Thanks guys, for all your tips...I'll search around for those filters, it's very possible I've got a bunch of really LOW LOW end that is kind of sneaking around in the mix, then comes out and kills on certain systems.

    A follow up question, if I may -- I plan on getting this all mastered, either proffessionally or semi-professionally. What excatly will this do, besides sweeten the mix in general? If I were to send my current mix in for mastering right now, with all the aforementioned problems, would they be able to work some magic and FIX exactly what I'm talking about?

    For a general description of mastering, please see:

    http://www.masteringhouse.com/mastering.html

    In regards to fixing the bottom end, it's usually better to take away that to try to create it so this shouldn't be a problem. Alot of the mixes I get tend to be a bit heavy on the bottom, so this is normal. What you want to look out for is muddiness on the bottom. If you remove the subfrequencies what stands out in the bottom end? Is this what you intended? Or is it just a mush? Distinction and clarity are always an issue at the bottom since most intruments tend to use this range in pop music. Try using compilmentary EQ setting, in other words if you are increasing 80 Hz on the Kick, try removing a touch on the bass. Also don't forget about mid freqs. 500 Hz on a bass will allow it to stand out more (especially on lower-end speakers) rather than just cranking up 100Hz. Also play around with 1-3k on a bass to give it a little more presence.

    I mention these things because mastering is not a magic bullet anymore that "fixing it in the mix" is. Once everything goes down to 2 stereo tracks, it can be difficult to remedy some problems. You should basically expect mastering to add clarity, a volume level enhancement and consistency to the ENTIRE mix. It can't really fix bad EQ and levels among the indivdual tracks.
    Tom Volpicelli
    The Mastering House Inc.
    www.masteringhouse.com

    Selected Credits

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    the volume level we listen to while mixing can have a lot to do with it, if ya listen to a low volume while mixing it'll tend to be bass heavy,a too high volume will tend toward treble heavy. the optimum level for mixing is 85db. this is due to the fletcher munson equal loudness contour curves wich graphically show the ears frequency response relative to amplitude, wich is non linear.in other words we hear different frequencys differently depending on the volume,at 85 db. the ears freq. response is about as flat as it gets.

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    Just remember, all Cds sound different on different stereos. You just don't question the sound because you can't do anything about it. It is best to bring a profesionally done CD with you so you can gauge how your stuff is holding up on these systems.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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