If I told you that I used to mix only when listening through a hyped bottom end and top end on my speakers you would tell me that I’m crazy. The truth is, that’s exactly what I used to do, only I didn’t know I was doing it. That’s the unfortunate reality of not knowing the dangers of mixing at loud volumes. We all have to learn it somewhere!
Via Orin Zebest Flickr
Fooling Myself One Mix At A Time
When I was first out of college I bought my a pair of studio monitors. I was excited to have some professional speakers in my room and couldn’t wait to hear what they made my mixes sound like. (That’s a dumb statement if you think about it.)
When it came time to mix, I would crank up my monitors and listen to my tracks in all their sonic glory. The bass was rocking, the top end was sparkling, and mix had energy. I was like a mixing genius. What I didn’t realize, though, was that I was fooling myself. My mixes didn’t actually sound like that at all.
Why Is My Mix So Dull Everywhere Else?
Much like how I misused reference tracks, when mixing on my studio monitors, everything sounded great. But the moment I took the mixes out in the “real world” they fell apart. They lacked bottom end power, top end clarity, and overall energy. The best way to describe my mixes during that season of life was “dull.”
What happened? In my studio on my cranked up monitors my mixes sounded amazing! But in my car, on my headphones, in the kitchen stereo they fell apart. Could it be that my speakers were lying to me? Should I return those puppies for something else??
Not The Speakers’ Fault
Of course my first thoughts were: “I need to buy a different pair of speakers. Probably something more expensive.” I was still subject to the myth of “better” gear back then, because let’s be honest it’s more satisfying to believe that the problem is your gear, not you.
The truth is though, it wasn’t my speakers’ fault that I was hearing things improperly in my room: it was MY fault. That’s right. My lack of understanding of something called the Fletcher Munson Curve, led me to crank up my speakers for each and every mix. What I didn’t know was by doing that (turning up the volume considerably) my ears started to perceive way more bass response and top end clarity than there really was in the mix.
What that leads to is for me to boost the midrange to “compensate” (because I can’t hear enough of it) and to not mix in enough bass or top end because I can “hear” plenty of it. The result? A dull mix that sounds nothing like what I mixed. Yuck!
I Didn’t Want The Truth
Like many things in life, I wanted to live in denial. I’d rather fool myself into thinking my mix sounds great before I mix it, rather than monitor at a lower volume to hear the truth, that my mix needs some work. I was young and insecure about my abilities, it’s normal.
These days, I try to do anything and everything I can to hear my mix for what it is (good or bad) so I can actually help it sound good in the real world. But I had to do a lot of dumb mixes to get to this point. Save yourself years of stupidity and start mixing at lower volumes today. Please 🙂