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

OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Just to add, so that you don't overdo it based on our feedback - a lot of the mix is already lovely and spot on. My suggestions about EQ and levels might only apply to the strings. The piano and woodwinds and bell like layers seemed to work really well together already.
Point taken! Will try to alter both by changing orchestratin and some cutting to make the overall sound change to the better.
 

Fredeke

Active Member
Duly noted, I already am hearing something related to strings and piano, so will try to adress that with some EQ and volume-tweaking.

But it's true - the original is not treated with EQ at all. I am very new to this, and usually when I try to scope out the "good stuff", it often sounds to muddy or to nasaly, so I end up with reverting to no EQ, which also is the case with this track.

I have also noticed that there are a lot of collision from instruments in the same mid-low range in the part we already talked about, so I have decided to alter some of the orchestration as a start, to see if that can deal with some of the sonic aspects of it, before I start cutting like a madman :P

Thanks again for write such nice comments, I'm learning a ton!
Indeed, arrangement should come before mix. You can hardly mix your way out of a lacking arrangement.

I can't give a whole EQ lesson here, but here's a bit of insight:

Digital EQs sound better when dipping than when boosting (contrarily to analog ones), so try to favor the former whenever you can.

For example: say you want to boost instrument X at Y Hz because that's the portion of the spectrum where it sounds most useful or interesting. Instead of boosting instrument X at freq. Y, try to dig into instrument Z at that frequency, to make room for instrument X to cut through.

This is of course a simplification on top of a generalization, but I hope it puts you on the right track...
 
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OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
I'll check it out too :)



I am by far no expert in orchestral music, but as the spectral balance goes, I would say: there are too much low mids, and not enough highs. So it sounds kinda 'closed'.

Maybe correcting the low mids will automatically balance the highs... Start by trimming the former before boosting the latter.

Since the third quater of the song (from 2:00 to 3:00) is better balanced spectrally (it sounds more open, with enough highs), I would advise EQinq tracks individually before trying to EQ the whole master. There are good tutorials for that, e.g. on Youtube.

It's hard to judge the low freqs, because there's not a lot of them in the composition to begin with.
(If anyone wants to check them out, the lowest notes are around 1:30.)

I find the song pleasing btw :)
Here is my remix after taking all your good suggestions into account. Trying to make more space for the woodwinds, rebalanced many instruments that was sticking out, removing spatial placement of sustained cymbals, increasing prescence of pizz bass and reorchestrating to remove muddiness in the mids. Do you think this mix is an improvement from the first version?

 
OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
So, hold on - I feel the opposite about @Fredeke 's "low mid" feedback =) But maybe not in a contradictory way.

First off the music itself and performances of the instruments are beautiful. Nice orchestration too. the words "provocative tranquility" are all I can think of to describe it.

For the mix - to me there's an entire octave of richness that is missing from low frequencies. For example - I can barely hear some pizzicato basses at around 0:45. They do exist, right? or am I imagining it? Bringing those out a LOT will help greatly. I feel that the "bed of strings" is not rich enough and needs more fullness. I can't tell if it's an composition/orchestration question or a mixing one, maybe those notes don't yet exist and I'm just yearning to hear them here.

The cymbal swell is another example that's easier to verbalize what I feel is wrong - it doesn't feel like it's place correctly in a stereo image. It sounds panned, but then the natural reverb I would expect to hear is not filling the entire room. Are you by chance panning your post-reverb signals? Are you using virtual instruments, and you can pan/position them before putting them through reverb? and also, are you using a true-stereo reverb (i.e. each input channel is processed twice, one for each output channel)? I'd recommend trying that for at least some of the instruments, or maybe overall.

Are you using dry virtual instruments? Another thing that helps magically make instruments melt into place is to EQ them to simulate the correct distance that I think you had intended. When I do this for myself, I find that the EQ curve usually looks like roughly straight-line sloped so that lower freqencies are reduced and the slope contines all the way past 600-800 Hz. I know this sounds a little bit contradictory to my complaint that there's not enough low frequency present, but it's not - the difference is that you can EQ individual instruments to have a certain tone, but you may still need to adjust the levels of some of the low bass instruments and mid-low instruments, too.
Trying to make more space for the woodwinds, rebalanced many instruments that was sticking out, removing spatial placement of sustained cymbals, increasing prescence of pizz bass and reorchestrating to remove muddiness in the mids. Do you think this mix is an improvement from the first version?

 
OP
beyd770

beyd770

Member
Indeed, arrangement should come before mix. You can hardly mix your way out of a lacking arrangement.

I can't give a whole EQ lesson here, but here's a bit of insight:

Digital EQs sound better when dipping than when boosting (contrarily to analog ones), so try to favor the former when you can.

For example: say you want to boost instrument X at Y Hz because that's the portion of the spectrum where it sounds most useful or interesting. Instead of boosting instrument X at freq. Y, try to dig into instrument Z at that frequency, to make room for instrument X to stand out there.

This is of course a simplification on top of a generalization, but I hope it puts you on the right track...
Great advice, makes a lot of sense. I have only been doing the first, boosting everywhere - and it made the track very messy. Will for sure try this alternate method to make more room for the actual instrument. Thanks!
 

Fredeke

Active Member
Here is my remix after taking all your good suggestions into account. Trying to make more space for the woodwinds, rebalanced many instruments that was sticking out, removing spatial placement of sustained cymbals, increasing prescence of pizz bass and reorchestrating to remove muddiness in the mids. Do you think this mix is an improvement from the first version?

The spectrum is better balanced already, and now there's coherence between the different parts of the song (that 3rd quarter doesn't sound different from the rest anymore).

However it all sounds 'pinched', or artificial, now. I think that's what you call 'nasal'. You probably need to set your EQs with gentler slopes, lower Q (= broader curves), and if you're working on many frequency points on one track, try simplifying that. Also, did you try the dip-instead-of-boosting trick? (I don't believe your choice of plugin is at fault. Some EQs are better but none is bad.)

It could also be a little brighter, but that's a minor concern, and a matter of taste - and it could be done on the master, or later in mastering.

Btw, I'll give you another trick:
When there's something you don't like but you can't pinpoint the problematic frequency, try this: Boost an EQ band and sweep across the whole spectrum. When you hit the problematic spot, you'll hear the problem stand out. Then dip that frequency. Choosing the right Q that way requires a little more practice, so at first set it to values between 1 and 2.
Just one thing: those sweeps will tend to mess with your sense of reference, so you have to take breaks or listen to something else every now and then. It's especially hard to know how much to dip right after having listened to a boost. So take a breath in between.

He has a Apogee Duet soundcard, with two Yamaha HS 8 in an untreated room. Sounds fairly decent to my untrained ears.
It is possible that coming from headphones (zero room reflection) to an untreated room is what unsettles you...
I wouldn't bet on it, but it's possible.

I don't know the HS8 but if they are anything like the Yamaha NS-10... Those are very unflattering, unforgiving monitors. They make everything sound ugly, the philosophy being that if you can make it sound good on them, it'll sound good everywhere. I personally can't stand them, but they are a reference. Maybe the HS8 are a bit like that too ?

The choice of soundcard is probably not the problem.
 
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FrontierSoundFX

Dan Warneke: Sound Designer & Audio Engineer
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?
Another factor could be your panning. Headphones will isolate the left/right, but when you play it back through monitors you could be getting some acoustic cancellation.
 
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