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Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

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Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby Grater » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:50 am

After all these years, I've got a permanent room to record and mix in. I've given it some some decent DIY acoustic treatment, decent monitors (Yamaha HS7s) and, after a considerable amount of work, have got a mix that I'm really happy with. :smirk:

However... :?

Nobody else is ever going to listen to that song through a set of HS7s in that particular room. They are going to listen to it on personal headphones, on cheap stereos in living rooms with poor acoustics, on iMacs and PCs, in the car, etc. And... surprise surprise... having ported a bounce of my mix around to these scenarios, what sounds great in my 'mix den' sounds rather less than awesome on 'real world' systems.

I guess solving this difference might be what one calls 'the mix engineers art' :angel: because it must be an issue for everyone who has ever mixed a song.

But how do the professionals deal with it? Do high end engineers do mixes that sound bad in the studio, knowing they will sound decent on a bog standard car stereo or a pair of ear buds? Is it all in the mix engineer's ears, or do they change the sound of studio monitors to compensate for the fact that the sound which comes out of them is not the same as that emerging from consumer systems in poor acoustic environments?
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby The Elf » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:10 am

It's about working to a 'commercial average'. You would drive yourself to insanity trying to anticipate what systems your audience is going to listen on, so you simply have to take that out of the consideration. A well-balanced mix will sound equally as good as any other well-balanced mix on any playback system, so the objective is to make a well-balanced mix. Use good (by your standards, at least) commercial references and *learn* how your monitoring system translates them - that's the balance you're aiming for, so aim for it with every mix decision you make.

Check your mix against references on as many playback systems as you can - they're not all going to sound the same, but your mix should sound good on all of them, as far as that playback system can translate it.

This isn't just about tonality. The current prevalence of the Bluetooth 'speaker' (in the singular) makes mono compatibility as important as ever - no matter how far technology takes us in the pursuit of audio perfection, the average listener doesn't give two hoots as long as they can hear something that they deem 'OK'.
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby garrettendi » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:12 am

On the back of this, Elf, would you recommend reviewing a mix on cheap earbud headphones just to get an idea of how it sounds for the average punter?

Obviously with my hearing loss I can't use earbuds, but the bassist can.
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby desmond » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:16 am

garrettendi wrote:On the back of this, Elf, would you recommend reviewing a mix on cheap earbud headphones just to get an idea of how it sounds for the average punter?.

The Elf wrote:Check your mix against references on as many playback systems as you can - they're not all going to sound the same, but your mix should sound good on all of them, as far as that playback system can translate it.

:thumbup:
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby garrettendi » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:19 am

Ah! A thousand apologies, I must have glossed over that when reading the post.

I clearly need to learn to read things!
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:08 pm

Whenever you hear a song that sounds good make a mental note to take a listen to it through your studio monitors and see how it sounds in your room. I also found that DJ'ing in a variety of venues helped refine my understanding of a good mix. A few records that I thought were great actually went down really badly on the dancefloor because the mix simply didn't work in that situation.

Another tip is to not rely on the frequency extremes to carry a mix - they won't be heard in many situations. At least most modern playback systems are better than Radio 1 used to sound - back in the 70's a pop record had to sound good on a radio with a bandwidth of around 300Hz-3kHz - not to mention the constant fading if you happened to be in the wrong area.
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:27 pm

The Elf wrote:A well-balanced mix will sound equally as good as any other well-balanced mix on any playback system, so the objective is to make a well-balanced mix.

I love this - spot on Monsieur Elf! :clap:


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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:07 pm

I listen to a lot of music on various systems naturally, and when I find a recording I like that sounds especially good on everything I play it on, even the cheap stuff, I move that song into my reference mix library for that reason.

I have a few songs that to my ear song really good on everything.

So when I mix a track I always bring up the references mixes that I know sounded good on everything. Always a surprise at first when comparing.

I would describe the initial difference like this: The good reference continuously varies the focus of which instrument stands out. You hear this part right up front, then this, then that, like everything that is musically important is right there all the time. It is really about the arrangement of the song. If the arrangement is good then every instrument has a place and time and the mix is easy. But when the arrangement is dense, the mix has to compensate more.

So the music that sounds good on cheap systems has a really good arrangement. And if it did not, then the mixer compensated for that.

At least that is what my ears tells me.

Mixing is really arranging, sort of after the fact.
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:14 pm

BTW This track sounds great on an iphone speaker to my ear! Seriously, it is a silly song, but it reads really well on iphones speakers. The arrangement elements are not lost at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17o1OlroNSE

Add this to your mix reference.
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Re: Resolving the difference between studio and consumer systems...?

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:47 pm

DC-Choppah wrote:BTW This track sounds great on an iphone speaker to my ear! Seriously, it is a silly song, but it reads really well on iphones speakers. The arrangement elements are not lost at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17o1OlroNSE

Yep, that passes all my tiny loudspeaker tests too - bass and kick drum especially clear and well balanced :thumbup:


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