Helpful ReplyMixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi

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SGodfrey
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2017/04/20 20:12:57 (permalink)

Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi

Guys,
I’d really appreciate some advice please.  I have a track that’s nearing completion and I’m moving on to mixing and mastering.  The problem I have is that due to living circumstances I have to use headphones 90% of the time and the rest of the time the only other option is the hi-fi in my living room.  I had thought I had a pretty good mix on my headphones but when I listened on the hi-fi it was absolutely terrible!
A word on kit – the headphones are Audio Technica M50’s, so they should be pretty good and they’re coming out of my Roland UA-25EX audio interface.  The hi-fi is very good and I always thought natural to warm sounding.  Speakers Spendor S8e floorstanders (£2k), Musical Fidelity amps (pre + monoblocks - £2K) i.e. it’s fairly high-end British stuff, not exotic.  Connected to the UA-25EX via a (not ideal!) long unshielded interconnect.  Obviously my living room is totally untreated acoustically.
The song started out on Maschine and all tracks are now imported into Sonar Plat and I have available Izotope Neutron and Ozone 7 that I just bought.
I should also say that I know that my ears are not well trained.  Sometimes when I listen to YouTube tutorials on mixing/mastering, I have difficulty hearing the difference!
Where to go from here?
  1. Should I trust the headphones or the hi-fi?
  2. I saw a tutorial on mixing with pink noise.  You solo each track in turn against a constant pink noise and reduce the volume until the track has just disappeared.  Finally turn off the pink noise and enable all tracks and the mix is virtually done.  Anyone tried this?  Also comes back to question (1) – should I try this on headphones or hi-fi?
  3. Would you put Neutron on every single track and how much should I trust the track assistant?
  4. Mastering is some way off at the moment, I’ve only used modest eq and boost11 before.  Any advice on using Ozone 7?  I do plan to export the whole mix to a simple stereo track before feeding it into Ozone, but haven’t planned any further than that.
Sorry if this is RTFM territory, I know it’s a huge subject, but the track is for a competition and I’d really like to do well!

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#1
Sanderxpander
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/20 20:39:47 (permalink)
Do lots of comparisons with professionally mixed tracks in a similar style (instrument setup). The point is not to get (for instance) the guitars to sound the same but it will give you an idea of what a good instrument balance is and how your lows/highs relate. I often find I have too much mid in my mix when I get to that phase.
#2
landmarksound
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/20 22:17:50 (permalink)
I would say the answer here depends on your true focus. From what I'm understanding, you have two goals:
1. Learn mixing, learning mixing in Sonar, sort out the best monitoring option using what you have available.
2. Submit this particular song to a competition.
 
Honestly, if #2 is the most important goal right now - and you have the limitations of inaccurate monitoring tools and are new to mixing - I'd bounce the tracks and have someone else mix. Then send out for pro mastering. This isn't to doubt your ability to learn mixing, just trying to be practical. I've mixed for many years now, and if I ran into the monitoring situation you have while entering a song competition, I would find someone else to mix.
 
That said, if the competition is secondary, or you really are determined to mix for the competition, I would probably use the the hi-fi system to mix. There are inherent issues with this! This system sounds too good, probably deals with lower frequencies much better than the average listener's stereo, and does other processing that will make a mix sound better. As Sanderxpander said, I'd listen to a ton of similar music through those speakers to get your ears tuned to them, and then reference back to those songs frequently while you're mixing. Then I'd use your headphones as a comparison. They won't support the same frequencies, but you'll most likely hear if horrible mids or highs are too dominant in the mix. Work slow, compare, make small adjustments, repeat. If you can use your car stereo, it's usually a great reference as well because lows and low-mids will generally punch hard and sound pretty bad if they're too boomy. Plus - you've probably listened to a lot of music in that stereo and will be most familiar for comparison.
 
For mastering - again my first recommendation since you have the competition is to have someone else master it. Ideally, find someone who will master from stems instead of a stereo track so they have a little extra control to help correct anything really weird in the mix. I should stress that mastering shouldn't generally be used for mix correction, but nonetheless. Find someone who will be cool about it, and let them help you by giving them stems and make some adjustments.
 
If you really want to do it yourself, here are my recommendations.
  • Get your mix as close to the right sound as possible before mastering. Don't rely on mastering to finish your mix.
  • Because of the monitoring limitations, I'd be careful applying presets that give a large color change to the song. In Ozone, "Mix master" seems to generally work well for some leveling things off and level boost without crazy color. The 4 band presets toward the top of the list can be okay too, but add more color.
  • Due to the monitoring limitations, I'd recommend not pushing the mix too loud. It'll be nearly impossible to get a commercial volume track with bad monitoring without squashing the song. I'd just accept it will be quieter, people will need to turn it up a little, but you'll have a better sound overall.
I hope that helps!
#3
Woodyoflop
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 00:23:07 (permalink)
As other have said, use reference tracks to make them similar in stereo imaging and frequency.

I myself am a Neutron user and love it. I don't normally use track assistant because I gee rally apply my own compressions and EQs to what I like, granted I'm in a treated control room. I use Neutrons Eq sidechain aloot. Especially because I mostly deal with hip-hop artists that don't have tracked out beats can make it difficult to create space for the vocal. So basically I only use Neutron on vocal tracks I want to do EQ sidechaining with. Other tracks I use other EQs/compressors.

As far as your monitoring situation (which iv been in similar situations). Mix it, do the infamous car test, play it on your Hi-fi, listen in other headphones and notice the differences/similarities. Mentally note or write down the changes you wanna make and change them. It's like Kentucky Windage... but with Audio.
#4
synkrotron
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 02:58:14 (permalink)
Some good advice here, of course.

I mix on headphones. Have done for many years. I do have a pair of nearfield speakers but I only use them as a final check. I also check, when not in lazy mode, on my TV sound system.

One thing I always do now, though, is put SPAN on my master buss to watch out for troublesome frequencies.

I gave up "mastering" a couple of years ago. My ears are not up to the task... And neither are my skills, I hasten to add.

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#5
noynekker
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 02:59:58 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby synkrotron 2017/04/21 03:15:04
Mastering is a very subtle art, if you don't have a great mix, you may have to do too much to get a good mastered version of the mix, compromising the outcome if you go too far.
 
Though, you're always in control of the recordings you make, and how the sounds are mixed, it's really about what outcome you want. For example: an acoustic guitar can be mixed very bright, or very subdued, depending on how important it is in the song idea . . . and especially, how loud it needs to be in relation to everything else.
 
As far as mixing and mastering "90% on headphones"  . . . the most difficult challenge would be to get a proper tonal balance between the bass and the treble. 100 hz sounds "different" on headphones than it does in an ambient room.
 
Headphones are great for fine tuning, but you can be fooled by the closeness and ambience in your head. As others have stated, it can't be done quickly if you are new to it all, you ears gain experience the more you do it . . . and the most important thing is to listen in as many sonic environments as you can, since it sounds like you don't have access to a "tuned" studio room . . . car, truck, living room stereo, earbuds, headphones, small speakers, big speakers, indoors, outdoors, listen to it loud, listen to it quiet, early in the morning, late at night.
 

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#6
Woodyoflop
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 06:28:59 (permalink)
One plugin that can help is WAves Virtual mix room, its actually really good if your purely confined to mixing on headphones. It helps make the sound in the headphone replicate a room and monitors. It's not too pricey. I believe it's on sale now for like $70. Not sure what your budget is like but it's a good investment if your working on headphones a lot.
#7
The Grim
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 06:42:31 (permalink)
also toneboosters morphit can do a good job, and cheaper at 30 euros, tonebooster make pretty good plugs
 
http://www.toneboosters.com/tb-morphit/
 
and arguably one of the best sonarworks reference 3 is excellent, a bit more pricey at 99 euro, but well worth it
 
http://www.sonarworks.com/headphones
 
i have the waves nx, toneboosters morphit and sonarworks ref 3, i'd give the edge to the sonarworks, but they all do the job well, and at the price of toneboosters morphit, it's certainly worth a try. you can demo all of them for yourself
 
there is also a little thing which i think should be in sonar, made by craig anderton which can be used for this type of thing, i have tried it, and it's ok, not up to the others mentioned, but maybe worth a try, can't recall what it's called though
 
[edit] you can also use toneboosters isone in conjunction with morphit, or either or on its own, a lot use them in conjunction with eachother, some use one or the other, it's relatively cheap at 19.95 euro
 
http://www.toneboosters.com/tb-isone/
#8
Pragi
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 06:48:53 (permalink)
There have already been posted some very good advices above.
Basicely every way is possible, even with a hifi system and headphones,
but it will probably take longer time
Good studio monitor speakers can accelerate the quality of your mixing skills,
otherwise there are young "producer" able to make very good mixes with
cheap desktop speakers.It takes longer and it´s more effort
to manage that.
Mastering is imo another theme.
 
post edited by Pragi - 2017/04/21 07:15:48

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#9
Sanderxpander
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 07:24:06 (permalink)
A little advice, not because it's great but because you're going to run into it by home mastering - if your mastering preset greatly improves tonal balance (more highs or lows or whatever), try to fix it in your mix instead of leaving it to the mastering preset. This is because the mastering processor can only deal with the stereo signal and if you fix it in your mix you have a choice between, for instance, adding more bass guitar or boosting the low end of the guitars.
#10
rebel007
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 09:24:59 (permalink)
I too have the issue where I have to mix with headphones. It can be done and there are many (even in this forum) that use them. Just be sure to try your mixes on as many different systems as possible to get an idea of where your headphones fall down. You'll find your ears will eventually be able to hear what's missing, or needs compensating for. I'm not a big fan of mixing on stereo systems, they are usually EQ'd in a way that doesn't represent the frequencies truly. And if your room is not treated, that adds even more issues to get in the way.
I've not mixed on that model of AT headphones so I can't help there. Maybe others can chime in and let you know what to be careful of. The fact that your getting wildly different results from the two choices should tell you that something's not right. My guess (and it's only that) is your speakers are not representing your mix correctly. I also must agree that listening to imported mixes is a great way to get started and as a continued reference.
Some good advice above. It's all a matter of trial and error when you're beginning, keep at it and your mixes will improve the more you do it.

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#11
patm300e
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 11:32:08 (permalink)
The Grim
and arguably one of the best sonarworks reference 3 is excellent, a bit more pricey at 99 euro, but well worth it
 http://www.sonarworks.com/headphones
 



+1 for sonarworks!
 
I use this on my $27.00 Superlux 681s. 
 
https://www.amazon.com/Superlux-681-Dynamic-Semi-Open-Headphones/dp/B002GHIPYI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492774285&sr=8-1&keywords=Superlux+681
 
Without the curve they are very boomy.  But the curve smooths them right out!  Love listening to my reference tracks (Steely Dan, AJA and Anything Mastered by Bob Ludwig).
 
This is the Mix I did for the Mixing Practice found here: [link=http://forum.cakewalk.com/Mixing-Practice-m3537464.aspx]http://forum.cakewalk.com...Practice-m3537464.aspx[/link] The individual; tracks were available and recorded well.  I just had to put together a mix using only Sonar Platinum Plug-ins. I did use the CA-2A plugin since that was free for a while....   Let me know what you think https://soundcloud.com/patm300e/im-alright

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#12
LongJohnBaldy
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 11:55:08 (permalink)
Yeps. Sometimes headphones are all we got, sadly.
My advice for you with eq is to solo each track and just use the prochannel. Turn on the high pass filter and sweep as far up as you can before you hear the sound going into a telephone effect. In other words - you hear NO CHANGE. Then try the same with the low pass going down.  Then try and boost each instrument, voice etc in its own dominant frequency with a tight Q setting so that it has its own little place. You'll need to tweak this up and down the frequency range. Don't boost anything by more than 5. Keep all reverb to an absolute minimum and maybe just on one track even. Compression is tricky on headphones. Maybe just use one on the master rather than per track and use it as little as possible. Most presets will do what they say on the tin.
 
Good luck
#13
Slugbaby
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 13:05:16 (permalink)
As far as headphone mixing goes, I use Waves Virtual Room (for the panning) and Sonarworks (for flattening my headphones for an honest mix).  That combination gives me the best path to ensure that what I’m hearing is what’s being sent from the DAW.
After getting that, it’s a matter of learning how to mix and master.  Those are tricky tasks, and after decades of trying I’m still not as good as I want to be. I still hire a producer/engineer to mix/master the projects that I use for anything more than my own listening pleasure.

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#14
SGodfrey
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 15:00:59 (permalink)
Hey Guys,
Thanks for all the advice, it's really kind of you to all chip in.
Just to update you on progress - having been alarmed by the initial sound going from headphones to hi-fi, I've managed to put together a mix that sounds pretty decent on both.
As suggested I'm trying to keep the volume quite low on headphones and next I'll try listening via laptop speakers and maybe burn a CD and listen in the car.
There may be a couple of elements to add to the song and then it's on to mastering.
I won't be sending it away for mastering because although I'd like to do well in the competition, more important is the learning process, so I will have a bash at mastering it myself.
Hopefully, I'll be able to release something onto SoundCloud in the near future and I'll post a link so you can check out the fruits of your advice!
The nature of the competition was that I was given a dozen long samples and had to incorporate them into a composition.  I decided to challenge myself a bit more and have made the entire track using only the samples, including percussion.  There was no percussion (kicks, snares, hats) anywhere in the samples, so I've used micro-samples to create, distort, twist into things more useful.  It's kind of an upbeat ambient thing!

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#15
mettelus
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 16:52:27 (permalink)
Not sure if this has been mentioned above, but be very conscious of any post processing when comparing systems (ensure any "FX" are off). Also be aware of the speaker capability... I have old LS-15s I rarely use and the bass from them is overwhelming compared to what I expect (from commercial tracks). With headphones it is nigh impossible to gauge low frequencies accurately, which is where visual representation can help.
 
I just wanted to throw that out, since when you say "Hi-Fi" you could very likely have virtual surround, other effects, etc. going on as well.

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#16
Anderton
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 17:29:48 (permalink)
The Grim
there is also a little thing which i think should be in sonar, made by craig anderton which can be used for this type of thing, i have tried it, and it's ok, not up to the others mentioned, but maybe worth a try, can't recall what it's called though



It's called the "Monitorizer" and was part of the Kingston update. You should be able to find it in the Anderton Collection folder. Please note it's not designed to model a room or specific speakers, but simply sound more like listening over speakers than headphones, particularly in terms of imaging. As the documentation in the eZine says...
 
The Monitorizer FX Chain, part of the Anderton Collection, is a send effect that helps eliminate the "super-wide" stereo sound of headphones to approximate an experience that's more like listening on monitors. Furthermore, some people simply like the stereo imaging better with the Monitorizer engaged when listening on headphones, as it can also introduce subtle room damping and room reflections, and you can adjust the effect amount.
 
While not as sophisticated as some products that try to emulate a complete room environment, the Monitorizer is based on the same principles:
 
  • Feed a little left channel into the right channel, and feed a little right channel into the left channel.
  • Delay the additional feeds by 1-2 ms to emulate that the right speaker signal hitting your left ear is delayed slightly compared to when it hits your right ear, and the left speaker signal hitting your right ear is delayed slightly compared to when it hits your left ear.
  • Add in some very subtle reflections to be more like a "room."
  • Reduce the highs of the additional feeds just a tiny bit because your head is in the way and attenuates the highs.

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#17
Anderton
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 17:40:31 (permalink)
FWIW I've often been forced to mix over headphones. How well the mix translates depends entirely on the headphones. Because I use KRK monitors, and the KRK KNS-8400 headphones are voiced like the monitors, I get good results with them due to my familiarity with the monitors.
 
I even had good results with earbuds using the (believe it or not) Monster Turbine Pro Copper models. Unfortunately they're not available anymore. 
 
Here are some links you might find helpful.
 
Can You Really Mix on Headphones?
Headphones for Mixing - Subjective Impressions
Mixing on Headphones
Mixing on Headphones (has the same title as the previous but these two are different articles from Sound on Sound)
 
 
 

The full-length, 12-song "video album" Neo-Psychedelic Music for the 21st Century is now posted on my YouTube channel - yes, it was all done with SONAR.
 
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#18
VinylJunkie
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 18:00:20 (permalink)
SGodfrey
 
  1. I saw a tutorial on mixing with pink noise.  You solo each track in turn against a constant pink noise and reduce the volume until the track has just disappeared.  Finally turn off the pink noise and enable all tracks and the mix is virtually done.  Anyone tried this?  Also comes back to question (1) – should I try this on headphones or hi-fi?



Interesting article on this here:
http://www.soundonsound.c...g-pink-noise-reference

VJ
#19
fret_man
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 19:53:52 (permalink)
Interesting read on using pink noise as a reference. That article includes a link to download free test tones, including pink noise. But does Platinum already come with instruments that can generate pink noise?
#20
SGodfrey
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 21:31:22 (permalink)
fret_man
Interesting read on using pink noise as a reference. That article includes a link to download free test tones, including pink noise. But does Platinum already come with instruments that can generate pink noise?


I downloaded an mp3 of pink noise and did initial mixing levels against that.  I found that it was useful, but I had to make quite a few adjustments afterwards.

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#21
Lynn
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/21 22:32:11 (permalink)
Mixing in mono can accomplish the same thing as using pink noise in most cases.  Using pink noise is like listening to a demo of your mix in your car with the windows open.

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#22
Base 57
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Re: Mixing & Mastering with Headphones & Hi-Fi 2017/04/22 01:36:04 (permalink)
Tip 130.
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