Last month we showed you 3 Ways To Evaluate The Quality of Your Mix. We discussed how you should compare and contrast your mix across different systems, that it is worth investing in some good quality headphones, and that you should investigate frequency analysis. Follow these tips, and your mixes should start to improve straight away. We felt that there were a few more tips we could give you that there was no space for last month, so this time around we decided to provide you guys with a follow-up article. Here are 3 more ways to help you evaluate the quality of your mix.
Last month we raised the point that unless you are in an acoustically treated environment with top-of-the-range monitors, your setup will colour the sound of your mix. Perhaps in your room, certain frequencies will seem more prominent than they really are. Or maybe your monitors don’t represent low frequencies as well as they should. Almost all home set-ups will have one or more of these types of problems. If we can’t fix them, we should learn to work around them. When you listen to your mixes on other systems, do there seem to be consistent problems? If so, this is probably the sign that there is an issue with your monitoring set-up, and you should try to compensate for this when mixing. If your mixes are always bass-light, try adding a little extra bottom end every time to balance out the issue. This is not easy, and takes time, but engineers that are very experienced with a specific room and set of monitors can get very good at compensating for the deficiencies of their setup.
This is a more expensive solution than most of our other tips, but one that is worth considering. You will undoubtedly have noticed that most pro-studios have multiple sets of monitors. It is common practice to have a second set of speakers that sound different to your main monitors, and will therefore enable you to hear your mix in a different way. This is a similar idea to the ‘grotbox’ tip from last month, but here we use a second set of pro monitors, rather than a domestic system, to learn new things about our mix. In fact, in another parallel with the grotbox idea, many studios use notoriously ‘difficult’ monitors as their second set of speakers. The idea here is that if you can get the mix to sound good on these speakers – it should sound great anywhere else! Probably the most famous example of this kind of speaker is the Yamaha NS-10. We don’t have the space to discuss them in details here, but this article on Sound On Sound is well worth a look if you’d like to know more.
We’ve spoken at length about how trying out your mix on different speaker setups and in different rooms can help you to balance your mix. Well, it’s not quite a substitute for the real thing, but Focusrite have created a piece of software that will allow you to simulate this exact process. The VRM Box is generally available for under $100, and is a box that will integrate into your system via a USB port. It will allow you to listen in various virtual listening environments and on different virtual monitors (including the aforementioned NS-10s). Whilst it can’t replicate these setups perfectly, it does allow you to quickly try out your mix in a variety of settings, and you may find that some mix problems you hadn’t noticed on your own monitors will get flagged up.
The thing to remember is that none of the above tips, or those from last month, should be used in isolation. The more of these things you can do each time you mix, the better. Each step in the process will hopefully take you a little closer to getting that mix as good as it can be.
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