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Headphone mixing

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Headphone mixing

Postby suni » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:30 am

Hello guys, I am using sennheiser HD 280pro for mixing on cubase, after I applied compressor and limiter, I think from what I hear it is loud enough, but after I bounced it into a mp3, and played at the same level with a commercial cd using a ipod earphone, my volume just couldn't compare with the commercial one, guys, why is that? Is my earaphone fooled me? Or if considering the listening device most people use, should I dare to think about mixaing just using the normal earphone(like ipod earphone), if I mix the level (or anything else) right on a everyday earphone, should I be assured that I will get a matched sound qualiaty in a similar listening device?Or maybe someone will suggest me using real monitors, but as most people listening music using earphone nowadays, and I also like to distribute music directly to the internet, so do you think mixing using headphone is an advantage or a disadvantage for me comparing with using monitors, what do you think? Thanks!
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby The Elf » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:19 am

Firstly I do all of my mixing on headphones. I’ve not used the headphones you mention (and anything with the ‘pro’ word sets my alarm bells ringing!), but it can be done. I mix in headphones by choice and it works for me.

Assuming your mixes are peaking near 0dBFS then I believe what you are probably hearing is a higher *average level* on those commercial CDs. If you really want to compete with those commercial songs (and depending on what you are using as a reference there might be good reasons both for and against competing!) then you need to reduce the difference between your average and peak levels. In other words you will have to compromise some dynamic range to make it seem louder overall.

A lot of folks seem to try to do this all at the ‘mastering’ (there’s a lot more to real ‘mastering’ than tweaking EQ and levels...) stage, when in reality there’s likely a lot more you can do in the mix. One way or another you are going to have to reduce some peak levels, so look at your loudest sounds first. Compressors can be counter-productive, since you’re often creating a louder attack transient, which is actually *increasing* its dynamic range. Kick and snare are often victims of this approach, which means that their short attack phase then define your mix’s peak level. Reducing the amount of compression may be the answer and a fast, sensitively set limiter may help also.

Rather than mix, master and *then* compare. Why not compare as you’re mixing and mastering? Just rip a WAV of a reference track and keep it alongside your song. It helps to have something you can refer to as you progress, but you need to be aware that you’re not trying to match it for overall level until you reach the final stage.

Oh, and it would be an idea to bounce to 44.1kHz/16-bit WAV files, not MP3. That way you are comparing like for like when listening to a CD. Once you have something that sounds right you can then convert the WAV file to an MP3.
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:17 pm

Welcome to the SOS Forums suni! 8-)

Very helpful answer from The Elf there :D

You may also find having a read of my SOS feature on Headphone Mixing useful as well. Here’s the on-line version:

www.soundonsound.com/SOS/jan07/articles ... phones.htm

Hope you find it useful!


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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby suni » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:06 pm

Thanks guys, it is quite helpful. Elf mentioned he is pretty cautious when there is word "pro" in it, just wonder if you can enlighten me more on that, thanks!
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:35 pm

:D

I was just making the point that anything sporting the word 'pro' in its name usually isn't!

I consider Pro Tools a rare abberation! ;)
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby afterworks » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:19 am

Well, I've got very good headphones (AKG 701) and very good monitors (Acoustic Energy AE22's). But, an ok room. It's treated, but its size and shape don't lend it to being all that great.

IYour best off buying some really good cans. Spending £200 on some decent cans is like spending a £1000 on monitors...without the room issues.

And if you do want monitors, theres nothing I like lower than £500...and even then, you need to spend that again on modest room treatment. But it depends how far you want to take it...I mean if your just getting ideas down etc get some half decent cans and away you go...but if you take it more serious and want to progress...I think, eventually, it's good to have both. Good cans, good monitors (with a treated room).

To be honest if your not looking to turn a room into a mix room, with treatment, don't bother with any serious monitoring. You will forever chase your tail. Waste of money in my opinion.
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby Dynamic Mike » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:12 am

The Elf wrote: :D

I was just making the point that anything sporting the word 'pro' in its name usually isn't!

I consider Pro Tools a rare abberation! ;)

Similarly most cars with 'sport' in the name aren't remotely sporty! Although I find most women purporting to be amatuers on the internet tend to be pros :?
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby Exalted Wombat » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:50 am

suni wrote:Hello guys, I am using sennheiser HD 280pro for mixing on cubase, after I applied compressor and limiter, I think from what I hear it is loud enough, but after I bounced it into a mp3, and played at the same level with a commercial cd using a ipod earphone, my volume just couldn't compare with the commercial one, guys, why is that? Is my earaphone fooled me? Or if considering the listening device most people use, should I dare to think about mixaing just using the normal earphone(like ipod earphone), if I mix the level (or anything else) right on a everyday earphone, should I be assured that I will get a matched sound qualiaty in a similar listening device?Or maybe someone will suggest me using real monitors, but as most people listening music using earphone nowadays, and I also like to distribute music directly to the internet, so do you think mixing using headphone is an advantage or a disadvantage for me comparing with using monitors, what do you think? Thanks!

There's some confusion here. You seem to want maximum "loudness" but then you mention "quality". They're not mutually exclusive, but very often they do pulll in opposite directions!

The only test of your mixing environment is whether the result translates well to all the systems where it's going to be heard. Some of this is about equipment and setup, rather more is about your skill, judgement and experience. Until this is fully developed - if it ever can be - I suggest you listen to your mixes on as many systems as possible. Two of my favourite tests are listening in the car and listening to my good monitor speakers from the next room, with the door nearly shut. Both of these tell me a lot about the balance of my mix, and both are about as far removed from listening on headphones as you could imagine!
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby djangodeadman » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:04 am

You really need to reference your tracks against commercial mixes while you are mixing them, not afterwards, otherwise your perception of loudness is influenced by the level of your monitoring.
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby Mike Craig » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:57 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:
Similarly most cars with 'sport' in the name aren't remotely sporty! Although I find most women purporting to be amatuers on the internet tend to be pros :?

:bouncy: :D ;) :D
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby suni » Sat Aug 07, 2010 11:39 am

Thanks for reply! Sorry I reply a little bit late. I come across some very interesting point here, especially Dynamic Mike's, although it is not quite related to my question.

As to the volume, I prepared to check in T-racks 3 to compare with commercial ones. One thing is my headphone tend to amplify the sound a lot, compared with a cheaper one, so that is where I got misleading with volume.

Going back to elf's reply, he mentioned I'd better convert it to 16bit, 44.1khz before mp3. I have some thought about this, cause I have no intention to put music on CD before internet, so what I do is export from cubase in 32bit float 44.1khz for mastering and then after mastering I import it back to cubase and directly convert to mp3, is this the right way to go, I mean for the purpose of not comprising the quality too much when converting to the final format, or do you think I need to convert to 16bit, 44.1khz in any stage, thanks!
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Re: Headphone mixing

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Aug 07, 2010 12:02 pm

It seems silly not to save a copy of the final, mastered mix at the best quality a CD will take - 44.1/16 WAV. Even if circumstances force you to degrade it to MP3 for distribution at present, something better may be just around the corner.

Just mix as well as you can. This means auditioning on a selection of playback systems. If you prefer to master for pounding loudness now, at least keep a copy of the project. Your taste may mature :-)
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