Have you ever mixed a track on studio monitors and when hearing it later on earbuds or car speakers, it sounds totally different?
We have all been there, especially when starting out with music production.
It’s essential to always listen your mixes on different audio systems. Each speaker and headphone can sound totally different.
If you’re listening your mix only with professional studio monitors worth thousands of dollars, you’re not stepping into the shoes of the average listener. Majority of people won’t have that kind of audio systems. They might have $50 computer speakers or $10 earbuds.
You have to make sure your mixes sound good accross different devices. However, remember that the mix will almost never be perfect on every system. That’s just a fact. So, don’t try to make it perfect or you will lose your mind. Also, the average listener may not even hear the details you hear. They might not hear or even care if the snare is 1 dB too loud on their crappy earbuds.
1. Studio monitors and headphones
When you’re mixing music, you’re most likely using studio monitors and/or studio headphones. Those are the equipment you should mix the tracks with because they are designed for the task. They provide an accurate sound without ”coloring” it. Many consumer speakers and headphones color the sound with more bass, more high-ends and so on. Consumer systems are designed for a great listening experience, not an accurate one.
2. Consumer speakers and headphones
You should have cheap speakers and headphones that consumers might use to listen your music on. It’s important to hear the mix from the perspective of the consumer, especially if you mix and master tracks that are published directly to them.
What speakers and headphones to get? Just go to any music store (or Amazon) and buy the best sellers. Chances are many people will have those.
3. The cheapest earbuds
Every music producer and audio engineer loves the cheap earbuds, you can’t hear any details with them. Hah! You can have the worst mix that still sounds OK with earbuds. But, it’s still important to check your mix on earbuds.
4. Phone speaker
Most phone speakers are mono and that’s why it’s crucial to listen the mix on it. Everytime I listen a mix on the phone, I notice a flaw in the mix. Usually, some instrument or sound is way too loud or barely noticeable in mono. You can’t always hear that with studio monitors but it’s very easy to notice on the phone.
You’ve heard of the classic ”Car Test”? Back in the days you would burn the mix on a CD, go for a drive with friends and listen the track while driving around (windows open of course!). You can learn quite a bit with this test. The audio systems in cars are a bit different because there can be more than 2 speakers.
I wouldn’t say the car test is necessary simply because not everyone has a car. If you have a car, then go ahead!
After you finish the mix on your studio gear, export it and check it on different systems. If you hear flaws you should fix, take notes and go back to make adjustments. After that, export the mix and check it again until you’re happy with it.