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ELI5: Mixes in headset sounds great, in friends monitor sounds shit - why?

beyd770

Member
I'm a beginner in both mixing and mastering, and this issue is apparent in all my mixes. I make something in my DAW, mixing it with my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro cans, and then sending the mix to my friend for him to record guitars, bass etc.

The first time I was visiting him, I was shocked about how thin the mix sounded.

Do I need some kind of headset calibration or are there other methods to make my music sound good on a broad spectrum of speakers and earplugs?

Is Sonarworks Reference 4-plugin something that would help me?
 

BenG

Senior Member
Had this issue many years ago with similar headphones that were closed and making it sound as if the bass was way louder than it was!

If you are going to mix on headphones, I would suggest using open-back cans (or at least semi-open) and Sonarworks as you mention. Check out the DT880 Pros for mixing as they will give you a much better, accurate depiction of the soundscape.
 

Alex Fraser

Senior Member
I'm a beginner in both mixing and mastering, and this issue is apparent in all my mixes. I make something in my DAW, mixing it with my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro cans, and then sending the mix to my friend for him to record guitars, bass etc.

The first time I was visiting him, I was shocked about how thin the mix sounded.

Do I need some kind of headset calibration or are there other methods to make my music sound good on a broad spectrum of speakers and earplugs?

Is Sonarworks Reference 4-plugin something that would help me?
Always annoying, isn't it? :)
Before you go any further, are you sure your friends monitoring environment is a good baseline? Else you'll only end up chasing your tail. Good luck!
 

Zx81

New Member
Are you using reference tracks as part of your mixing workflow?

(edit - improve phrasing of answer)

There is already some excellent advice in this thread but I thought it useful to mention that regularly comparing your mix against a reference track in a similar genre is great way to maintain objectivity about your own mix.

w.r.t headphone choice, as others have suggested (IMHO) the DT880 Pros are a great choice. I picked up a pair recently now use them all the time.

I seem to recall reading an eBook 'mixed by marc mozart' ??? which I found quite useful when first starting to try and learn more about the mysteries of mixing.

Good luck,
D
 
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OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Had this issue many years ago with similar headphones that were closed and making it sound as if the bass was way louder than it was!

If you are going to mix on headphones, I would suggest using open-back cans (or at least semi-open) and Sonarworks as you mention. Check out the DT880 Pros for mixing as they will give you a much better, accurate depiction of the soundscape.
DT880 Pros - got it! Thank you
 
OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Always annoying, isn't it? :)
Before you go any further, are you sure your friends monitoring environment is a good baseline? Else you'll only end up chasing your tail. Good luck!
Good point! They are a fair baseline, as far as my untrained ears can tell. Yamaha HS 8, to be specific. Are they ok?
 
OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Are you using reference tracks as part of your mixing workflow?

(edit - improve phrasing of answer)

There is already some excellent advice in this thread but I thought it useful to mention that regularly comparing your mix against a reference track in a similar genre is great way to maintain objectivity about your own mix.

w.r.t headphone choice, as others have suggested (IMHO) the DT880 Pros are a great choice. I picked up a pair recently now use them all the time.

I seem to recall reading an eBook 'mixed by marc mozart' ??? which I found quite useful when first starting to try and learn more about the mysteries of mixing.

Good luck,
D
Reference track - advice taken. Have tried a couple of times, but while the referencetrack sounded good in my cans, I mixed to match that profile, but when later played in my gfs earbuds or at family-stereo, the mix still sucked :P

Will really consider those cans, you are the second one to mention them. Will also look for that e-book, thanks for taking your time to mention it.
 
OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Yep, I'd imagine so, but the room will be a major factor. It's at this point that my knowledge in the area of acoustics comes to a crashing halt. ;)
Aha, right! Well, will try the plugins and the new cans, and then check with new referencematerial and monitor the mix in another room. Thanks again!
 

Fredeke

Senior Member
@beyd770
You're experiencing two basic issues :

1. You always need to check your mix on many different monitoring systems in order to make them sound good everywhere. Take your current work with you everywhere, play it wherever you can, and in time making mixes that sound good everywhere will become natural and intuitive to you. It took me about 2 years of this exercise to get there. Maybe I'm slow, but it's a learning curve anyway.

Another problem with trusting your monitors only (be them speakers or headphones), is that you probably chose them because you like their sound. Which mean they will be flattering to your work, at least according to your taste. You have to listen to your work on sound systems you don't like, too.

2. Mixing in headphones is particularly difficult. Headphones are great to check for minute details (like stereo balance or reverb tails), or to verify the cleanness of a recording (like clicks and background noise), but I don't trust them for the overall balance.

Two common mistakes when mixing/mastering with headphones: overmixing or undermixing the bass and drums (because you never physically feel their punch, or lack thereof), and consistently undermixing the reverbs (because without the room's natural reverb, the reverbs in the mix stand out more).

At least, I fall for this every time.
 
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vitocorleone123

Active Member
Yeah - you'll need to listen on those headphones a lot to other music and also practice translating your mixes. I have the dt880s. They're overly bright and, to my ears, almost require correction (I use sonarworks) AND more recently I've also added Can opener by goodhertz as well in the monitoring chain before sonarworks to better approximate speakers. Others can't stand any software and think it's bad or that mixing on headphones is evil and will never turn out well.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
Two common mistakes when mixing/mastering with headphones: overmixing or undermixing the bass and drums (because you never physically feel their punch, or lack thereof), and consistently undermixing the reverbs (because without the room's natural reverb, the reverbs in the mix stand out more).
+1 on this. the natural compression effect of human hearing really kicks into high gear with headphones, and its harder to sense loudness differences - this is a great thing for hearing details, but it makes it hard to know if you got the right levels - you might not know when one thing is to loud compared to another because you can hear them both just fine with headphones. This human hearing compression effect also totally screws with the perception of reverb decays. And on top of that, combined with the "in your head" stereo image (as opposed to "in front of you" phantom center on speakers), it really gives you a different sense of space than speakers. I feel it's been easier to get mixes to translate from speakers to headphones rather than from headphones to speakers.

I'm not an expert, but have learned of several other gems of advice thath have worked for me, and I think these are essential:
  • Listen at slightly lower-than-comfortable volume levels. It will help force you to mix the song so that important elements are all audible without the human hearing compression effect.
  • Try to make levels sound good in both mono and stereo, favoring mono slightly. Between lack of acoustic treatment and casual listener setups, mono might actually be a more representative baseline of what people hear when they don't use headphones. An awesome stereo image is only a bonus.
  • Try checking heavily high passed and low passed versions of your mix - it should still sound decent. For example, if you high pass at 400-800 Hz, or even as high as 1000 Hz with a 12db/octave slope, it would be ideal to still feel like the low frequency stuff is at least present and audible... Like the click of the kick drum, or the rich harmonics of a string bass. Obviously there are limits to this - a subbass with no harmonics and no transient isn't expected to be audible after a high pass...
  • I find it necessary to test multiple speakers/ headphones
  • mix referencing in combination with all the above tricks is pretty essential too. It's the only way to overcome the human psychology biases of judging your own mixes
Looks like dt770 did have a bit of a bass bump and a dip around 4-5 kHz - https://www.innerfidelity.com/headphone-measurements

Knowing that can also help you decide how to mix. No long term experience with sonarworks myself but had a demo from them before, and it was definitely great for ironing out the frequency response part. But that's still only part of making mixes translate well.

Cheers!
 

averystemmler

Active Member
I've been mixing in headphones a lot lately , and I think it's always a bit of a gamble. Having several different headphones/monitors to alternate between is helpful, as is constantly checking the mono mix. I've been using Sonarworks lately, but that sure hasn't stopped me from making bad decisions, particularly in the bass.

I'm considering iZotope's Tonal Balance Control, as a reality check. Visually comparing your mix to one you know and love on a spectrograph or analyzer can point out things your ears may have missed too.

And most importantly, if your mix sounds even better than the reference to you in your monitors, something is probably horribly wrong. I make this mistake every single time.
 

storyteller

Senior Member
I haven’t seen it mentioned yet, but mixing in mono will reveal quite a lot. Mix mono first, then stereo, then back to mono, etc. It is surprising how bad your mono mix will sound when learning how to mixing on headphones. Seriously. It happens to the best of us.

Waves NX is a great tool used in conjunction with Sonarworks. But, being honest about it, I find I strongly dislike the artifacts added by both pieces of software and find myself returning to a clean signal straight to headphones (HD650s btw). But I do use the plugins on every headphone mix before I return to hating them again. Necessary evil I suppose...

You’ll need to make sure you have a great headphone preamp with great DA converters too. Even if you don’t think you’ll hear the difference, you’ll be mixing to an inadequate signal chain that you will subconsciously mix to.

Edit: And as Avery mentioned just before my post, Tonal Balance is an excellent tool! I use it all the time.
 
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chimuelo

Star Of Stage & Screen
Another great plug in that works great is Mono maker by BX Digital.
Not sure if it’s in the BX Digital Suite as I use their ancient DSP Plug Ins.
But it’s a mid/side mastering plug in, it can go from mono to stereo, or mid /side, and Mono maker keeps everything below a selected sub range frequency in Mono.

This is very useful as a stereo mix where low freqs get dual signals is no bueno.
Cancellation is destructive to a mix.
 

Fredeke

Senior Member
Try to make levels sound good in both mono and stereo, favoring mono slightly. Between lack of acoustic treatment and casual listener setups, mono might actually be a more representative baseline of what people hear when they don't use headphones. An awesome stereo image is only a bonus.
This is true, but it's a little bit more complicated. When wavefronts from both speakers combine in the air, they are not well correlated, wich gives you +3dB compared to if only one speaker was working. When you add signals electrically (or digitally), their correlation is perfect, which gives you a +6dB gain over one sole channel. This means whatever is in the center will get a +3dB rise when downmixing to mono, compared to what's in the sides or very wide.
So, the wider your mix, the more perturbed the balance will be when switching from mono to stereo or the other way around (unless it's so wide there's nothing in the center ;)).
That is one reason (among a few others) why mix vocals and percussions in or near the center.

a subbass with no harmonics and no transient isn't expected to be audible after a high pass...
Have you ever tried slightly distorting the whole master (or a bus grouping the bass with something else), in order to hear the effect of the bass modulating the higher frequencies ? It has limits too, obviously, but it's always worth trying.

I 100% agree with everything else you've said.
 
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OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
@beyd770
You're experiencing two basic issues :

1. You always need to check your mix on many different monitoring systems in order to make them sound good everywhere. Take your current work with you everywhere, play it wherever you can, and in time making mixes that sound good everywhere will become natural and intuitive to you. It took me about 2 years of this exercise to get there. Maybe I'm slow, but it's a learning curve anyway.

Another problem with trusting your monitors only (be them speakers or headphones), is that you probably chose them because you like their sound. Which mean they will be flattering to your work, at least according to your taste. You have to listen to your work on sound systems you don't like, too.

2. Mixing in headphones is particularly difficult. Headphones are great to check for minute details (like stereo balance or reverb tails), or to verify the cleanness of a recording (like clicks and background noise), but I don't trust them for the overall balance.

Two common mistakes when mixing/mastering with headphones: overmixing or undermixing the bass and drums (because you never physically feel their punch, or lack thereof), and consistently undermixing the reverbs (because without the room's natural reverb, the reverbs in the mix stand out more).

At least, I fall for this every time.
Wonderful response, thanks a bunch! Have taken your advice and already checked my newest mix on several cans and loudspeakers - really interesting to hear the differences.

Undermixing the bass is surely one of my shortcomings - any advice on how to deal with that? My BD770 feels a tad soft and thin in the lower frequencies, so I have applied a headset-adjuster-plugin to flat'en the responsecurve a bit. Is that advisable to use on the master channel?
 
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