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Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

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Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby james090 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:32 pm

I just wanted people's thoughts on Mixdowns, on headphones, then sent onto Mastering?

I know this is bad, but I don't have any room for Monitors at this temporary set up and wondered if there was anything out there, or something that I'd missed that I could use for referencing mixes?

The mix sounds good, and tight, but know a Mastering Engineer would tighten up the EQ, and master compression etc. I want to use a Mastering Engineer because of the set up i'm on (with no speakers). And If i did have monitors, I think the room/sound would be all wrong anyway..

Does anyone have any tips for mixing on headphones, or similar, to me, sending the pre-master off to an engineer?
Or is there anything on the market now, that i've missed that i could use for quick referencing?

Thanks !
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:39 pm

If you're forced to mix on headphones, a good working relationship with a regular mastering engineer seems like a good idea. They can give a heads up if things are off, and help to address any issues that crop up from mixing this way.
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:42 pm

There's a good article on here from Martin Walker about mixing on headphones. You may be doing all this already but could be worth a read : https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... headphones
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby Zukan » Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:19 pm

That is the de facto article to read.

BTW, which headphones are you using?
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby james090 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:24 pm

Zukan wrote:BTW, which headphones are you using?

They are my Technics DJ-1210's, although not ideal for mixing, My music is house music and listen to a lot of things through these (as well as DJ with them).
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby CS70 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:40 pm

james090 wrote:I just wanted people's thoughts on Mixdowns, on headphones, then sent onto Mastering?

I know this is bad, but I don't have any room for Monitors at this temporary set up and wondered if there was anything out there, or something that I'd missed that I could use for referencing mixes?

The mix sounds good, and tight, but know a Mastering Engineer would tighten up the EQ, and master compression etc. I want to use a Mastering Engineer because of the set up i'm on (with no speakers). And If i did have monitors, I think the room/sound would be all wrong anyway..

Does anyone have any tips for mixing on headphones, or similar, to me, sending the pre-master off to an engineer?
Or is there anything on the market now, that i've missed that i could use for quick referencing?

Thanks !

Couple things: first of all, mastering for digital/cd is not some fixing vodoo, it's just a series of quite clear technical operations to get your mix to sound as you send it (i.e. get the same feel) on different playback systems, while getting it in the same level ballpark as similar available material. On vinyl things are a little bit more convoluted due to the technical limitations of the medium, but still very much in a quite precise way (typically, loads of bass cutting and try to recover the lost bass feeling with EQ :D)

So a mastering engineer will not necessarily "tighten", EQ or compress anything.. for a good mix, all he/she does is to remove the working headroom to get something that peaks at a resonable level (from say -1 to -0.3DbFS depending on the track and what are your most important uses for them). There are of course things that he/she may do in addition - mono-izing the bass is a typical procedure, maybe expand or narrow a little the stereo image and of course a little limiting to get the proceedings louder in an absolute, non-normalized environment (even if there's less and less need thankfully)... but mastering should not change the sound of your mix at all. Any compression applied should be as transparent as possible, EQ at most corrective and imperceptible etc. If things need to be "tightened" (whatever it means for you :D), most often the moment to do it is the mixing stage.

Ideally the mastering engineer should give you feedback of what's wrong with the mix (and maybe ask "do you really want it to sound like this?") and a kinda "back and forth" process may lead to improvements, and with a close collaboration he could also really provide creative input or even shape sound... but in these days of "cheap" online mastering there's just no budget for too much of that, and automated services don't give (yet) feedback at all, at least lasts time I checked.

So be warned: if you give a mastering engineer a mix which is, say, washed with reverb and grating on its highs, you will likely get the same back, just louder, because that's what the engineer will think you wanted...

All that said, a good way to mix on headphones is to learn how they sound by listening to a good reference mix on the same headphones, and try to reproduce the way they sound.

Reverb levels tend to be more prominent on headphones so the mix can sound a little dry on speakers - to get something that gets you a similar feel on both speakers and cans, it pays off to shape the reverb return with an EQ, more than the usual low and high pass filters.

However, most people has at least another speaker available; their phone! And these days, also smart TVs can often reproduce files (sometimes in convoluted way such as uploading a private file on youtube or other websites...), and a car is another great place to test a mix.

Always worth checking things out for me at least.. I guess that once you've done for twenty years you may not need to, but I am not there yet. :)
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby The Elf » Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:35 pm

james090 wrote:I know this is bad
No it isn't. If you know what you are doing, and your headphones are up to the task, then you can make perfectly excellent mixes on headphones.
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Re: Mixdown to Mastering Engineer?

Postby Wonks » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:02 pm

james090 wrote:
Zukan wrote:BTW, which headphones are you using?

They are my Technics DJ-1210's, although not ideal for mixing, My music is house music and listen to a lot of things through these (as well as DJ with them).

I'd certainly recommend buying a better set of headphones if that's all you can mix on. If you are in the UK, then Scan Computers sell refurbished AKG K702s (I have a pair, as well as my K712s) which should provide a lot more detail than the Technics ones (other makes can be very good too, but these are exceptional value for money). Whilst closed back headphones have their place (and a noisy environment is one of them), you have to spend a lot of money to get ones that sound as good as many cheaper open-backed headphones, as a lot of engineering goes to compensate for the inherent problems with closed-back headphone design.

You can also take it a step further and use the Sonarworks Reference 4 software plug-in to flatten out the response of the headphones so you really get the best out of them. They (the 702s) have a very low bass response, so you can tell what's happening with the low end. The downside of this is that loud and low bass plays that well on the headphones might be too much for normal speakers, so you'll always need to check your mixes on some other systems before even thinking of sending tracks off for mastering.
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