[EDIT – Looks like model listed below is discontinued. Ebay might be your best bet – or this similar model]
Many of us have been brainwashed into thinking you can “buy” your way to a better mix.
We find it hard to accept that the surest path to a better mix is getting a better understanding of EQ, compression, and balance and then using a few simple hacks like mixing in mono and referencing pro recordings. None of which costs you any money.
I think we simply enjoy spending money on things and love living as if we are one purchase away from happiness. But I digress.
Via Steve Bowbrick Flickr
If You’re Going To Spend Money
But if you’re looking to improve your mixes and you think gear can solve your problems, forget about all the gear you WERE going to buy and instead grab $99 and buy this one thing.
It is so simple, so foolproof, that you can’t help but get better mixes by using it. Honestly, I use it on every mix and without a doubt my mixes are better for it.
OK, enough build up. Here it is.
My trusty Behringer Behritone speaker.
Literally this is a copycat of the old school Auratone cube speakers that you see in so many studios around the world. In concept it is simply a midrange heavy, bass and top end light speaker. But it is mix changing if you use it.
Exposing Your Mix’s Midrange
For better or worse, the Behritone (or any speaker like it) exposes your midrange. And that’s a good thing.
Really good studio monitors can give you nice bass and top end response, but even with all that clarity they can hide what’s happening in the mids. And the mids is where all the action is. It’s where a mix is won or lost.
When I mix, I spend a good chunk of time on my main monitors. But the moment I think I have a good mix going, I flip over to my Behritone.
Instantly two things happen: I’m in mono (since it’s literally one speaker) and my ears perk up as my mix’s midrange is shown in a different (more naked) light.
This is where I tend to notice guitars, keys, and vocals that have “scary” frequencies jumping out. I can quickly and easily correct those tracks with some subtle EQ and when I flip back to my regular monitors they still sound just as great. But now I know they will sound great everywhere else.
Waking Up Your Ears
In general, it’s a good idea to have some alternative speaker(s) to reference your mix on simply for the fact that our ears (clever as God designed them) can and will adapt to whatever they are hearing, meaning you lose perspective on how your mix really sounds.
The moment you flip over to your little mono box, your ears “wake up” and reset in a way. It’s like you are hearing your mix fresh again, and that can help you identify weak areas of the track that you hadn’t noticed before.
If you never have these “ah ha” moments in the mix, then you never get the chance to correct the issues (masking, harsh frequencies, etc) and therefore you’ll churn out an inferior mix.
A simple mono, mid range speaker like the Behritone can be the difference maker. Not bad for a $99 investment.
Get Your Mono Box And Get Back To Work
Do you NEED to buy the Behritone like I did? No.
Do you NEED to spend $99 on your mono midrange speaker? Of course not. I say spend as little as you can.
The point is this: if you’re going to spend money on gear in your studio, specifically in the hopes of getting better mixes, then do yourself a favor and invest in your own version of the “mono box”.
It’s a boring, and anti-climactic purchase, but it works.
And isn’t that what you want after all?
P.S. If you currently use a mono type speaker to reference in mixing, share here below what specific speaker you use and how much it cost. Might give everyone some options!