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  1. #1
    Administrator Jason.Mounce's Avatar
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    Default Lets talk monitors.

    Back around 2000 when I was first getting in to composition, all I had was a bear of tiny Boston Acoustics computer speakers. One of the things I always had trouble with those was getting a clean sound mix.

    I'd slave away for hours each not, for what seemed like weeks on a mix and when I put it on any other audio system it sounded terrible. It was always a muddy, incoherent disaster. I tried different types of EQ's I researched EQ strategy, I tried higher sample rates and larger files types, nothing seemed to clean up my tracks.

    Now some of that certainly was that my grasp of mixing was tenuous at the time, but a big part of the problem was the set of speakers I was using as my audio reference.

    What many consumers don't understand about audio electronics is that in many cases they are designed to produce a certain type of sound. Beats by Dre would be a good example. The audio engineers behind those headphones have spent a lot of time and money designing a package that produces lots of bass from a small diaphragm speaker and ear surround. For somebody wanting to listen to some bass heavy hip-hop, their a decent choice.

    What is being produced by those headphones however is not accurate to the original recording. Think of it as a dramatization of sound. They are specifically attenuating certain frequency ranges to produce an end result.

    This is cool on the listening end, but not ideal for music production, especially if you don't know it's there. This was the case with my little computer speakers. With their little 8" power sub, there wasn't much bass response in the system at all, so to make it sound correct while I was working, I'd end up giving the mix far too much mid and bass levels. When listening on a system that produces these lower frequencies better (like a modern car stereo or your living room hifi) it just didn't sound right.

    Once I figured out that this was my problem, I found ways to work around it as best as possible. At first that means I listened at a somewhat lower volume, but had the woofer cranked up as far as it would muster. Along with that change and knowing that I didn't need as much 1500hz and below as I thought, I was able to start producing music that sounded much better on a far larger array of speaker systems.

    In and around 2002 I had purchased a new surround sound system for the TV which means I had a better system to move to my computer. It was a pretty standard sony hi-fi system that I utilized the speakers from. An upgrade from those tiny computer speakers I had previously, but still the same problems persisted, although to a somewhat lesser degree. It wasn't until around 2004 that I finally was getting serious about my audio quality. I was already in college taking music related classes and I was looking at Berklee for production and technology courses.

    It was through this research that I really discovered that there was such thing as a reference monitor. Not a hi-fi speaker mind you, but a tool to as accurately as possible project the sound that you're creating. I ended up purchasing an M-Audio LX4 system with powered satelites and an active subwoofer. Not withstanding a bit of sticker shock at the time, I was interested to see that the package came with detailed instructions on how exactly to set this system up for accurate monitoring. Hey it even came with a speaker dyno print out showing my exact system's frequency response and accuracy from below 20hz to above 20,000hz.

    Based on the space I was using I wasn't really able to do exactly what the monitors wanted, but immediately I noticed a massive difference in the quality of the recordings I was producing. I still utilize this same system to this day and it's done well by me. In time I'll upgrade again.

    With a proper set of reference monitors, you know exactly what you've put in and are getting our of your DAW. Even with zero knowledge of EQing schemes or other mix strategies, just being able to accurately hear what is being produced is in my eyes the single biggest advantage of any hardware or software you may be using to create quality recordings.

    In addition to this set of powered monitors, I also use a pair of Sony MDR-7506 reference headphones. These were a requirement for my critical listening course through Berklee online. Once again, they are an accurate monitor that you can trust to give you honest sound. Perfect for when you're working offsite with your laptop.

    So, if like me you're having trouble producing clean sounding mixes, you may want to consider reference monitors. With that said, what are you guys using now for your playback system?
    Jason Mounce
    Content Producer
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    877-999-4JAM

    Emil Werstler on Active Pickups:
    Pros: you can put them in a 2 X 4 and sound like zakk wylde
    Cons: you can put them in a 2 X 4 and sound like zakk wylde

  2. #2
    Premium Member palico's Avatar
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    Default

    When I do mix, which is rare, I start on a good set of headphones. I know the cans are not ideal but I also don't have studio space or the funds to setup a proper studio, plus I am not charging for mixing and record it's just for my band or for fun. I do use a set of Alieses(sp?) reference montiors (small ones they lack bass) to back and forth with to make sure my choices are not ear fatigue. BTW, if anyone reads this an looks at a set of reference monitors, I would recommend getting ones with 5 inch speakers. My little ones are really hard to use.

    I found my keys to get a decent (nothing I got is great) mix is two things. One to not try to produce something that would rival a big time studio an mastering house. I accept my gear and my limitations and do the best I can and at some point just call it done. Two and probably the most important is a reference track. Some that is from a big mixing house and mastered with the skill of true profesional that I compare my tracks to on my monitors. The point of the reference track is to find a bring out the problems in the can or the monitors. Another trick is I start mixing in all mono. If it sounds good in Mono once I take it Stereo and get some seperation it will sound even better. No Stereo mixing on the can either. They spread the field too much. Learned that after a dozen mistakes. And lastly, I listen to it on ever device I can find before I let others listen to it.

 

 

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