Why Where You Mix Matters

2012 Jul 16, 2012

Did you know that your room has a huge impact on how your final tracks sound? Unfortunately it’s true. Your room  (i.e. where you mix) is constantly fighting you as you mix, changing the sound of your studio monitors, and giving you false information about what you think you’re hearing. It’s actually pretty depressing if you think about it.


Via Steve Jay Flickr

Sound Spills All Over The Place

To accurately diagnose the problem we have to be aware of the simple fact that sound doesn’t just come out of your speakers in a nice straight line, direct to our ears. I wish! Rather it spills out of the cone all over your room. It spreads like light from a lamp, in all directions. Sure it shoots direct to your ears, but it also shoots direct to your side walls, ceiling, floor, and even back wall. What a mess!

So what’s really going on is you are not ONLY hearing the true sound of your speakers (aka, your mix) but in addition you’re hearing the reflections of your mix bouncing around your room and ending back up in your ears. These signals blend together and are delivered to your brain as what you “hear” in your mix. So the problem, people, is you never are truly hearing your mix in it’s purest sense. Your room plays a part in your sound.

Headphones Anyone?

So maybe you’re quite aware of the problem. You might even have discovered some solutions. Let’s address them now. The simplest solution that springs to my mind is to simply remove the room from the equation and mix with headphones. Bam! Take that stupid room reflections!

But let me say something about headphones. Although it is perfectly possible to mix on headphones alone, it’s not ideal long term. Mixes that sound good on headphones might not sound good on speakers. But mixes that sound good on speakers, almost always sound good on headphones as well. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I discussed with Joe Gilder on a past episode the Simply Recording Podcast. Check that out for more of my thoughts on headphone mixing.

How About Acoustic Treatment?

Other than removing the room from the equation by mixing in headphones, your only other option is to change the sound of your room and reduce the amount of reflections. That way we will hear primarily what our speakers are telling us, not what our walls are telling us. And we do this how? With acoustic treatment.

To put it simply, acoustic treatment (in the form of diffusion or absorption) is a great tool in the home or project studio because it is an affordable and easy way to stop the sound spilling madness and “tighten up” your sound. But what treatment do you need? Where do you put it? How does it really work? More on that to come. Just know for now that acoustic treatment can be your friend in the quest for better mixes.

Knowing The Truth

What I want you know today is the truth. The truth about your room. And the truth is this: your room is part of your sound whether you like it or not. Where you mix matters. What room you’re in changes what you’ll hear. Where in that room you sit affects things as well. The stuff inside your room plays a huge role also. Over the next two weeks I plan on addressing all of these issues and hope to leave you with some solid tips and tricks to get the most out of your room!

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