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  1. #1

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    I'm working on Covid Shelter recordings with some friends.

    I'm the leader on one of the tunes and the track will eventually be played on the radio, at least once.

    The pianist thinks I need studio monitors to mix.

    Do I?

    I have several sets of headphones that sound decent. My old home stereo has ADS810 speakers which were good quality for their time.

    I'm not worried about losing my Grammy because of a bad mix.

    And, I don't want to spend a fortune. I've seen some Sennheiser phones for about $40 that are touted as good for mixing. Since most people listen on phones, why wouldn't that work ok?

    Thoughts? Or should I just dodge this rabbit hole?

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  3. #2

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    This expert would say yes you need monitors not hi-fi speakers, read post #6 of this thread: Why do your recordings sound like ass? - Cockos Incorporated Forums

    He talks about headphones in post #13 of the same thread.

    That guy talks about things you probably never considered.

    You're right about it being a rabbit hole. Does it make sense to get monitors for an untreated room? Probably not. So that's a bit of the rabbit hole, you probably should treat the room. Is it better to use headphones rather than monitors in an untreated room? Not sure on that one. But you make a good point, I think, that most listen with headphones (or earbuds).

    If I had an important mix, like one that will be played on a radio, and I mixed it with headphones... I'd then test it on several other systems. Other headphones (a lot of headphones hype up the bass (Bose) and/or the treble; your tv speakers (you could actually adjust your mix while listening to the tv speakers if you connect or cast your computer); earbuds; a car stereo. That's a bit of work but could mitigate not having a good room and monitors and using headphones instead.

    For that matter, I have nice monitors and a treated room and still screw up my mixes because I don't go to all that trouble of testing on other systems. Serious studios have secondary monitor speakers that are designed to sound not so good, to check mixes against.

  4. #3

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    I have found that mixes I have made using speakers have been better than ones using headphones. I have no idea why - probably something to do with my own psychology and ears, but I find that my ears forgive my recordings more on headphones than they do on speakers. For me, there is something more 'cold light of day' and unforgiving about hearing a mix out loud.

    I no longer own any monitors- mainly because I almost never mix anymore (and actually also because I hardly ever record anymore!). I'd prefer just to farm mixing out via Fiverr. There are so many mixers and masterers out there online and even the dirt-cheap ones can do a better job than I can. I'd rather pay someone 50 quid to mix a track than spend several hours mixing and not end with something as good. That's time I could have been playing the guitar!

    But having said all that, when I do want to do a rough mix I use my Acoustic Energy hi-fi speakers, which are very crisp and clean sounding. And most importantly of all, I use a reference track: I import a well mixed professional track with similar instrumentation into my mix and frequently flick from my track to theirs to do a comparison for EQ, volume etc. That way, it doesn't really matter if I'm using monitors or headphones or whether my room is treated or not, because I am mixing to the yardstick of my reference track: it is well-balanced overall even if the sound of it in my particularly room isn't.

  5. #4

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    Yes to using a reference track. No to if you do it doesn't matter how good your monitoring equipment is. Read the links that I posted, to get a much better explanation than I could possibly give.

    Good suggestion to send it out to get mixed. Unless you consider mixing half the fun, which I do.
    Last edited by fep; 08-15-2020 at 09:49 PM.

  6. #5
    Both great posts, thanks.

    I'm mixing gpbd and alto. Common quintet. Might replace the alto with chromatic harmonica.

    So, if a pro recording of the same instrumentation sounds good, that's an indication that I'm okay -- if I understand you correctly.

    And, since I'm not going to be treating the room (I have a 15x17 band room which is treated to the point where there's no obvious echo when you clap your hands), I may be wasting my money on monitors, if I understand that correctly.

    I have a car system, three different kinds of headphones and a home stereo. Hopefully it will sound okay on all of them -- if not, I'll have no idea how to fix it.

    Thanks!

  7. #6

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    15 × 17 foot room, that's a pretty nice sized room, that's an advantage over my 9 × 13 room.

    I can speak to what I do re my tv speakers farting out on the low notes of my mixes, which is a problem I sometimes have... multi band compressor in the master channel that hits the overall low end and getting more aggressive with the high pass filter on the kick drum and bass guitar. It's an iterative process trying to get it to sound good on both the monitors and the tv. But mostly I don't bother as I'm being lazy and not too concerned about sounding good on other listening devices. To your earlier point, I suppose sounding good on earbuds may be important, could they be what most are listening with?.

  8. #7

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    Thanks for sharing that thread on the Cockos forum. I have to vehemently disagree with that guy's dictum however "If there is one area in your studio to splurge on, it is monitors" - for me, monitors are the last thing I would splurge money on. Personally the thing to spend money on first is acoustic treatment for the room.
    However, to be fair that guy, he does mention room treatment as the second most important thing and he is taking that as a given. If you start from the perspective of an acoustically treated room, then spending money on monitors suddenly becomes worthwhile. But if you don't have an acoustically treated room then monitors are just a pair of speakers like any others: your untreated walls introduce standing waves, flutter effects and serve up the resulting translation to your ears, irrespective of how good the monitors happen to be or how much you have paid for them.

    I really like that post about 'trusting' your recording and sound-reproduction chain by doing test playback and test recording of a great sounding CD.

    I haven't read anything in that thread yet that contradicts what I said above about using reference tracks however. While I wouldn't say reference tracks are a panacea - the ideal is to have a treated room, good neutral monitors, test on several different speakers and use a reference track or two - I haven't yet read anything in that thread that undermines the logic of using a professionally mixed track as a comparison point to compensate for a bad-sounding room. There are 52 pages to that thread however and haven't yet read them all!
    Last edited by Matt Milton; 08-16-2020 at 08:52 AM.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Milton
    I haven't read anything in that thread yet that contradicts what I said above about using reference tracks however. While I wouldn't say reference tracks are a panacea - the ideal is to have a treated room, good neutral monitors, test on several different speakers and use a reference track or two - I haven't yet read anything in that thread that undermines the logic of using a professionally mixed track as a comparison point to compensate for a bad-sounding room. There are 52 pages to that thread however and haven't yet read them all!
    I may have extrapolated, don't remember it was a long time ago that I read that very long thread. The way I see it, it's hard to paint exact details if you are starting with a blurred image. Or, take it to the ridiculous extreme and use your smartphone speakers or earbuds to mix on... yes you have a reference track but you aren't hearing the reference track very clearly.

    Yes, that is a gross exaggeration to illustrate a point. In reality it won't be nearly as bad using studio style headphones for example.

  10. #9

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    Regarding Reference Tracks... it is good practice to bypass the master channel in your DAW for your reference track so any effects/plugins you add to the master channel will not effect the Reference Track

    In Reaper you click "Route" on the track (just to the left of the track title on image one)

    Image two is what will pop up, click on the master channel button to un-select master channel (top right)

    Image three, about 2/3rds down click on the "Add New Hardware Output" dropdown window and select the appropriate output for your audio interface (in my case "1. Out 1 / Out 2". The routing window should now look like image 3.

    Adjust the volume of the reference track to match the perceived volume of you mix (i.e. don't use meters, use your ears). This is known as "level matching". (In the final mastering bit you probably want to flip it and level match your mix to the reference track, or use a LUFS meter for loudness adjustments).
    Attached Images Attached Images Monitors-reference-1-png Monitors-reference-2-png Monitors-reference-3-png 

  11. #10

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    I’ve been on forums where the prevailing mythos is to mix on the cheapest crappiest monitors available. If you can make it there...

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by TedBPhx
    I’ve been on forums where the prevailing mythos is to mix on the cheapest crappiest monitors available. If you can make it there...
    Isn't that checking your mix against secondary monitors, where the secondary monitors simulate less-than-ideal speakers?

    , ironically, these crappy speakers are kind of expensive. The Yamaha ns10 are ridiculously expensive. But even these modern ones are expensive for what they are (Avantone Mixcubes).

    Sorry! Something went wrong!


  13. #12
    Sometimes I need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern world.

    So, one view is that to get great results I need to treat my room and buy expensive speakers.

    Another view is, $40 Sennheisers.

    My ADS 810s, sold to me years ago for a lot of money based on how flat the frequency response was, are not adequate, according to another view.

    My peak music listening experience, for recorded music, was a certain moment listening to the 4 inch oval speaker that came with a 1970 VW bug. It was the right song at the right moment. Maybe I'm not discriminating enough for this kind of work.

    I've also been reminding myself that many people believe that they need a boutique power cable between the amp and the wall, or guitar cables that align the electrons in a special way (or something) -- but that testing some years ago showed that wire hangers twisted together were as good as boutique speaker wire in audiophile applications.

    So, it's hard to know where to draw the line with this stuff.

    For the moment, I'm going to mix with my usual headphones, check it with the others and send the render to my kb player, who has done the whole quality monitor thing, although I don't think he treated his room, so what does he know?

  14. #13

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    It is necessary to spend thousands of dollars on the correct equipment, so that everyone can listen to the compressed audio via YouTube on a phone using cheap earbuds...

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    It is necessary to spend thousands of dollars on the correct equipment, so that everyone can listen to the compressed audio via YouTube on a phone using cheap earbuds...
    That is a good point. For some, like me, it's just a hobby and folks sometimes kind of go overboard with their hobbies. Not really different than buying another guitar.

    But given you already have a computer, it doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars, for that matter it doesn't cost a thousand dollars. It can but it doesn't have to.

    That thread that I linked to takes a twist and it talks about some of the best records from places like Motown, that were recorded in a dirt floored basement with, by today's standards, primitive equipment.

  16. #15
    I had an uncle who was an engineer and a cork sniffing audiophile.

    He built an extension of his house for a room that would faithfully reproduce the lowest note on a pipe organ. I think it was 36 feet. A building inspector found a problem and forced him to reduce the room to 34 feet. I might have these numbers wrong, but the point was, it was just short of twice the wavelength of that organ note, or something like that. It bothered him for the rest of his life. You couldn't listen to anything in that room without first hearing the story of the missing 2 feet.

    At the same time, he had fired a kitchen remodel contractor mid-project and had a kitchen with plywood counters and roughed-in plumbing for years.

    He'd probably suggest that I build a house in a far off land with no building codes and make sure the architect knew a lot about Reaper.

  17. #16

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    Every musician needs the max emotion from music. Each day.
    Good gear is so underrated.

  18. #17

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    I have lots of experience with both home and professional recording studios. Here's my humble opinion:

    Mixing on headphones is probably not going to give you a mix that translates well to other playback systems.

    Mix on whatever speakers are available, but check the results on several other speakers to see if your speakers might be hyping certain frequencies. You can then compensate...if your ears are good enough!
    Make a CD of your rough mix and try it everywhere. I have good studio monitors, but I always check my mixes this way. (Fortunately, I have several friends with recording studios) I have found that, when you learn the limitations of your monitors, you can compensate almost automatically. Also, ask others if your mixes sound well balanced.

    Of course you'll get better results with better equipment but, since you're not planning on doing recording as a career, use what you have and do the best you can, and have fun!

  19. #18

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    [QUOTE=Gilpy;1055362 Of course you'll get better results with better equipment but, since you're not planning on doing recording as a career, use what you have and do the best you can, and have fun![/QUOTE]

    That final part, "use what you have and do the best you can, and have fun" would serve well as the musician's motto. (I wonder what the Latin for that would be....)

  20. #19

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    Studio monitors are essential o endeavor to get accurate mix. Full disclosure: I have and run a professional commercial studio. Headphones for serious mixing is a big mistake! BIG. Home stereo equipment in most cases is skewed wrong to attempt a mix. Start small, you don’t have to go crazy but find some pro powered monitors and try to situate yourself in a space that is balanced and as isolating as you can manage. While headphones give you the illusion of isolation, unless they are super high end you are going to get fooled. Hope your piece turns out awesome. Let us all hear it!!

  21. #20
    Here's a link to my latest mix of the tune I mentioned.

    Ginga | SoundClick

    The tune is called: 27Aug20 Rick's Samba mix 5 Project 1. It should be the first one you see on the list of tunes.

    Comments/advice about the mix are welcome.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Here's a link to my latest mix of the tune I mentioned.
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar

    Ginga | SoundClick

    The tune is called: 27Aug20 Rick's Samba mix 5 Project 1. It should be the first one you see on the list of tunes.

    Comments/advice about the mix are welcome.
    I really like the performance and tune, great job by all. And it sounds locked in.

    I think the balances are really good except maybe the kick drum... I'm having a hard time hearing it on my monitors and on my headphones. So I don't know how much kick there is... what does the drummer say about the mix? Your ability to control this is dependent on how many mics/tracks you have from the drums. Is there a seperate kick track?

    Panning... On my monitors the guitar sounds center, keyboards left... on headphones maybe the guitar is a hair right? I think it would be a good experiment to move the guitar a bit right (or a bit more right?) to see if you like that separation from the keyboard.

    Also, if you have the tracks, how about more separation on the drums... across the soundstage following the positions of a drum kit, i.e. kick center, snare near center, hi hat to one side, ride to the other etc.
    Last edited by fep; 08-29-2020 at 05:10 PM.

  23. #22
    Frank,

    Thanks so much for listening and commenting.

    The drums are recorded on 8 tracks and there is a separate kick. I can bring it up.

    You're right about the panning, including noticing that the drums are in the center. Mostly, I panned to separate the piano and rhythm guitar. Each is 20% off center (I'll have to double check that number).

    The drummer liked the mix just before this one, commenting only that the hi hat mic was too hot, which is lowered in the version you heard. The mix is pretty simple -- all 8 tracks with some EQ on several to 1) take out a crash cymbal sound that was harsh, ringy and maybe the wrong note for the tune 2) to reduce the sharpness of the sidestick. My first mix was kick and one overhead only, but, I guess I got used to the drum sound and added it back in later.

    My main concern was that I got the lead guitar at a reasonable level throughout. After so many times listening to the tune, it feels like I could easily make a mistake on that.

    As far as locked-in goes, the drummer is a top pro -- and the bassist has really good time. The kb player is a pro too, but, beyond that, he'll edit like crazy to make sure every note is in exactly the right place. For me, it was more of a learning curve -- requiring many takes and a good deal of editing afterward. I learned some useful things about my playing and, of course, about recording from the project.

    Anyway, this one is almost finished, I think, and today it's more tracking on the next tune.

    Thanks again!

    Rick

  24. #23

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    Hey Rick,

    FWIW, here is a reference how EZdrummer default pans it's jazz kit (see image). That top slider is the panning; Kick and snare center, Hi Hat a little bit right, The Toms panned a lot, Overheads hard left and right, Chamber (Reverb) hard left and right.

    And it sounds like (played by David Haynes) (click the link): Box
    Attached Images Attached Images Monitors-jazz-kit-panning-png 

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    Hey Rick,

    FWIW, here is a reference how EZdrummer default pans it's jazz kit (see image). That top slider is the panning; Kick and snare center, Hi Hat a little bit right, The Toms panned a lot, Overheads hard left and right, Chamber (Reverb) hard left and right.

    And it sounds like (played by David Haynes) (click the link): Box
    The drummer agreed with you about the kick volume.

    And, that panning strategy is pretty much what I ended up doing. I just panned the way the kit is usually set up. Snare centered. hihat to observer's left. Toms in different places. Kick in center. I panned the overheads based on where the mic was.

    Drummer suggested a mixing lesson with a local pro drummer/engineer. Probably a good idea, but I like to think it over before jumping into a new rabbit hole.

    Thanks!

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    That final part, "use what you have and do the best you can, and have fun" would serve well as the musician's motto. (I wonder what the Latin for that would be....)
    Here is what Google thinks the Latin for it is:
    uti ea quae habes et optimus potes, et habent fun

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    The drummer agreed with you about the kick volume.

    And, that panning strategy is pretty much what I ended up doing. I just panned the way the kit is usually set up. Snare centered. hihat to observer's left. Toms in different places. Kick in center. I panned the overheads based on where the mic was.

    Drummer suggested a mixing lesson with a local pro drummer/engineer. Probably a good idea, but I like to think it over before jumping into a new rabbit hole.

    Thanks!
    Yep, you can pan the drums from the drummers perspective or audience perspective, 6 of one half dozen of the other. I seem to like audience perspective.

    Since your drummer is pointing you towards that lesson... Let me turn you on to this (although watching a pro mix tracks to one of my tunes would be fascinating):


  28. #27
    Ginga | SoundClick

    The final mix is on the soundclick site now. Should be first on the list.