Car stereo for checking mixes

Jack White listens to mixes in his car . . . a Tesla with a kick-ass sound system. Most people don't have that luxury. White also records only to eight tracks on two-inch tape, or so I read. Another quirky luxury--or is it some kind of obsession? I never use the car stereo's system to check a mix, because my car system, the stock system in a Chevy Cruze, sounds like crap. The custom system in my old 2006 Dodge Caravan sounded really good, but the best way to check, I think, is how most people world-wide listen--on ear-buds. So, I use a set of Bose earbuds, around $110.00 retail, out of an Ipod Nano, an indestructable little beast. The bass is rolled off a bit, and the mid-highs are up, but they're my go-to way to check how all the civilians out there are going to hear what I'm doing. Still, that can't substitute for the monitors and room I have. Also, listen on 'phones in the studio. Never hurts to check a mix that way.

Amen!
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Ho Hum. I would just like to say, there has always, IMHO a 'convention' if you will in commercial sound work that the originators of the sound use equipment of higher technical grade than the common man.

Thus the tape guys used (some still) 15ips and 1/2 track stereo on 1/4" tape (and pro rata as M track evolved) despite the fact that a well setup B77 1/4 track machine is only a couple of dBs worse and would barely be detectable as inferior. Balanced lines are used to keep noise as low as possible and mic preamps and othe electronics are built to higher standards than 'prosumer' gear.

Word length is 24bits as standard when 16 bits would make no difference at all in 99% of cases and when the end point will be 16 bits or worse...maybe a LOT worse! Sample rate is often 96kHz now as there is some possiblity of a problem with 41/48 (but I'll take a chance and save space!)

Similarly, monitoring has been vastly superior to almost anything the average Joe or Jill had at home. OK the Tannoys and Altecs were not exactly uncoloured but they had the grunt and probably more accurate than most 'hi fi' speakers.

So, my understanding of 'professional' recording is.You record the best performance on the best instrument syou can and with the best equipment you can afford. The result coming out of the monitors should be a very close version of the original.

Of course, if the sounds are coming out of a box of lektrik magic? Go nuts.

Dave.
 

ronhar

New member
Nothing I can add here. If I want to listen to real music I do so in my studio. It's the best I can do with my meager equipment.

When doing chores around the house or some garage/woodworking project I'm usually have Pandora playing oldies (at least oldies for me) on my phone. Incidentally when I upgraded from an iPhone7 to the iPhone11 there WAS a noticeable improvement in the quality of playback from the phone speaker. I was surprised. Not great but better!

With the car speaker thing, my son needed a speaker repair for his car. A set of Kenwoods fit his budget. One of the old speakers had NO surround. Rotted or evaporated I guess. I took the best of the pair that seemed to be OK and gutted one of those little Bluetooth speakers and placed everything in a Wooden cabinet. The bigger speaker really boosted the low end and now I blast my phone out at the ire of my kids.

As for car sound, my Miata has a Bose system but with the top down I'm lucky to find any fidelity. I spliced in a FM patch thingy and play MP3s that are leveled for loudness by some program that levels the music but it really sucks. At least everyone can hear me coming. :facepalm:
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
Does anyone here have a car stereo set up in their studio for checking mixes?
It's an interesting idea......
But I wouldn't bother with a car stereo set up in the "studio" {such as mine is !}. When I'm done with a mix I listen to it on a variety of set ups but in the actual environments they'll be listened to. So on the computer where the computer is, on a couple of stereos in the different rooms they're in, on the boombox in the various locations I'll use it like the kitchen while cooking, the headphones with a mono setting, the ipod as I'm walking or cycling or on the bus, with the regular earphones I use......
I do it primarily out of curiosity, just to see how they sound. All I'm really looking for is: does this sound OK ? Is anything jumping out as odd or :cursing: in more than one medium ?
Having said that, that's just personal. I think pretty much everyone's individual approach is present and correct because it works for each person. And we can learn from each other if we are finding our specific method wanting. But no approach is the approach for all and sundry.
 

bensh

New member
So looking for advice:

I have a mix I'm happy with on Yamaha HS50m monitors, hifi tower speakers, bassy Klipsch earbuds, Bose QC-2 closed cup headphones. Good translation, I thought. Tried the car: huge, masking bass destroys everything. Same car setting on commercial tunes sounds amped-up, but clear and powerful

I have a Mastering the Mix Reference Plugin on my master bus in Reaper, my tune is very close to the ref track both visually and aurally (except in the car). I have the session on my laptop plugged into the car audio jack. My theory: some buildup is in the low mids of my mix that's not in the ref track or other pro recordings, and is inaudible on all my playback except the car. So I'll find that frequency in the car and narrowly cut it. Car will sound better, track will sound almost the same as before everywhere else. Wrong! Cleaned up around 115hz, TINY q to (somewhat) cure the car boom BUT now bass is noticeably thin everywhere else. Experimented by sweeping and cutting other areas but can't escape this same trade-off. It's as if the pro tracks have a secret bass frequency with a secret hole that can sing on a car stereo without triggering an overpowering resonance, and my mix is the opposite: bass is out of control in the car unless I kill it for every other playback.

I guess I can just write off the car, but it feels like a huge compromise, and I can't wrap my head around what that x-factor could be that's holding my bass hostage in the car. Anyone been through this? Thanks for any wisdom.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
... Tried the car: huge, masking bass destroys everything. Same car setting on commercial tunes sounds amped-up, but clear and powerful...

I have had this problem. My car's system has preset EQs for Country, Jazz, Classical, Pop, Rock.. usually, one of those corrects the situation nicely. The system also has the basic tonal adjustments of bass and treble which don't help much so I leave them up the middle.

Sometimes I have overshot the bass in the mix, then I remix and this will sound ok with one of the above EQs.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
I have had this problem. My car's system has preset EQs for Country, Jazz, Classical, Pop, Rock.. usually, one of those corrects the situation nicely. The system also has the basic tonal adjustments of bass and treble which don't help much so I leave them up the middle.

Sometimes I have overshot the bass in the mix, then I remix and this will sound ok with one of the above EQs.

The setting for "classical" is likely ELECTRICALLY flat but of course, the response of the speakers in the car is probably all over the shop, especially the bass!

Subaru Man! Woomp,woomp.

Dave.
 

bensh

New member
Thanks all for very quick responses.

All well-taken: I'm sure my untreated room is far from flat, and I can certainly tweak the car system to flatter my mix more, but the point is to get a mix that doesn't require that. The pro mixes do not lose their essential balance and clarity when heard with the current car settings, only mine does.

Logically, if my mix is consistent across multiple rooms, speakers and headphones EXCEPT the car, then I should be able to find a resonant frequency that I ONLY hear in the car, that I can then reduce without changing the mix when played back elsewhere, right?

But so far, everything I can find that cleans up the car sound categorically weakens the mix for all the other spaces, and I'm trying to be super surgical. Maybe it's some flaw in the raw recording that's just "inoperable," which is disappointing because how would you ever know when you're tracking that something you can't hear is compromising your ability to get a final mix that really translates?

But thanks again!
 

bouldersoundguy

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Thanks all for very quick responses.

All well-taken: I'm sure my untreated room is far from flat, and I can certainly tweak the car system to flatter my mix more, but the point is to get a mix that doesn't require that. The pro mixes do not lose their essential balance and clarity when heard with the current car settings, only mine does.

Logically, if my mix is consistent across multiple rooms, speakers and headphones EXCEPT the car, then I should be able to find a resonant frequency that I ONLY hear in the car, that I can then reduce without changing the mix when played back elsewhere, right?

But so far, everything I can find that cleans up the car sound categorically weakens the mix for all the other spaces, and I'm trying to be super surgical. Maybe it's some flaw in the raw recording that's just "inoperable," which is disappointing because how would you ever know when you're tracking that something you can't hear is compromising your ability to get a final mix that really translates?

But thanks again!

Trying to guess what fixes it for the car without wrecking it for everything else isn't a reliable way to work. You need to actually hear it at your mix position. If you aren't, it's probably because of one frequency canceling out because of the acoustics. Bass trapping should reduce that effect.
 
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