If you know me you’ve heard this before. It’s not your gear it’s your ears. Or more importantly it is your ability to creatively listen, understand, and INTERPRET what you are hearing.
First let’s get out of the way the fact that I am NOT saying room treatment is worthless, or that you shouldn’t do it. I am saying that just slapping up some foam panels around your room is not going to solve your room’s issues. It will likely change your room’s issues. It is actually pretty complicated to analyze your room and “do it right”. It can also be quite expensive.
What I am saying is this: Don’t let lack of budget to treat your room stop you or more importantly be your excuse for not turning out great professional mixes.
Here’s the way I look at it. No room is perfect. No set of speakers are perfect. No set of headphones are perfect. And guess what? A very small percentage of your music will ever be listened to on $5k speakers in a professionally treated room. That is simply not your Target Listening Environment for your mixes.
What you can do today, right now – is start to learn your monitors/room, your headphones, your iPhone Apple ear-buds, and your car stereo.
Learning your speakers and headphones by always comparing and referencing every one of your mixes in all four of those environments will give you the skill to INTERPRET what you hear out of your monitors and headphones.
I’ve gotten to where I know very accurately what my mix is going to sound like in my car and on my ear-buds. I’ve gained that skill by repetition. I usually will make a few small adjustments. For example: Things like reverb and delay tend to sound more present on ear-buds and headphones. It is a balancing act to make the mix translate to all these environments. I also strongly recommend that you get a set of inexpensive “PC Speakers” as a 5th reference. These very midrange loaded speakers will highlight and exaggerate mid-range build up.
The use of reference tracks is a great equalizer. Listening to music in the same genre as the song you are mixing that you really like and referencing your mix against that can be super helpful. And finally, and this is really obvious, listen to the music that you love and that you admire IN YOUR STUDIO. That way your will learn what those mixes sound like in your room on your speakers and on your headphones.
In closing mixing is an art and a science and the two must be blended together. Trust your instincts. And if it does not sound good then it does not sound good. Keep working on it until it sounds amazing!
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Owner/Operator, Art Davis Studios