I must get three e-mails per month from people who are frustrated because their mixes do not translate outside of their studio. The e-mails go something like this…
“Hi, David – I have a question. I have been mixing for about a year and I am having a terrible time getting my mixes to sound good on a variety of different sources (ie. car, i-pod, hi-fi system etc.) I work on a mix for days and get it to sound perfect in my studio and as soon as I bring it to another sound source the entire mix falls apart. What am I doing wrong here?”
When I receive an e-mail like this the very first thing I ask is:
“What type of acoustic treatment do you have in your mixing space”?
Most time the response is either “none” or “I have a few panels of foam on the front wall behind my speakers”. Here is where the issue lies.
We are all so caught up on the latest vintage/analog plugins, outboard gear, the latest DAW, etc., that we forget about the single most important thing to achieving a well-balanced mix, and that is the room itself.
Mixing in a room with improper or no acoustic treatment is the single largest mistake new home studio owners make. You will NEVER be able to accurately hear what is coming out of your monitors if the room is not properly treated. This is because in an un-treated room the sound reflects off of all the hard surfaces and creates frequency voids that will throw off your judgment and you will compensate by adding/subtracting EQ, thinking you are making your mix better when in fact your mix will sound a lot worse outside of your mixing space. The bass or low end will be the most difficult to manage and get correct.
So what type of room treatment do you need? Well, every space is different and depending on your room that will depend on what type and how much of acoustic treatment you will need. In most cases, you will need some combination of bass traps and absorption panels. My suggestion is to visit a site like Aurlex.com and fill out their FREE room analysis. They will help guide you through the process of picking out the proper acoustic treatment.
I promise you that once you have a well-treated room your mixes will be better. At the very least you will be able to accurately hear what is going on in your mixes and make better mixing decisions.
Until next time, treat that mixing space!
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