Do You Hear What I Hear?

A lot of our discussion seem to revolve around mixing and a couple of times it’s been noted how different songs sound depending on what you’re using to listen to them. IMHO, we will never get a mix that sounds good no matter who hears it or what sort of earphones or system they hear it on.

I’ve been through all this before when I first started making Gymshoes music. I mixed everything, was delightd with the mix, burned it to disk, put it on the stereo in the living room and was horrified at how it sounded. It was then I discovered that my soundcard wasn’t rendering the bass range accurately; there were all sorts of low booming digital artifacts that I’d never heard before. 🙄 OK, so I mixed it all a gazillion times, waste more disks listening to it on the stereo, get it the way I want it there, play it on two other people’s stereos and…you guessed it. It didn’t sound as good as on mine (and I don’t have a real high-end stereo, either). 🙁 I’ve got a digital music player now and earbuds. Again, everything sounds slightly different when it’s compressed and pumped through the earbuds. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, always different. Needless to say different on the car stereo, too. 🙄

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you can’t mix a song so that it sounds exactly the same no matter what device it’s played through, no matter what format you use (CD, mp3, Wmv). You try for a balanced mix and have to know when to quit fiddling with it because it you mix it to sound good on one player, you can screw up the mix for another.

So, why don’t I notice this with all my albums? Uh, I do—if I stop and really think about it and listen to it. The difference is that I automatically accept and mentally compensate for, say, U2 songs sounding different depending on where I play them. Well mixed on the stereo, not in the car, kinda U2 “lite” on my mp3 player, etc. With my own songs, I’m listening very critically and evaluating every time I play them, no matter what I play them on. I’ve sort of trained myself not to notice how mp3s don’t don’t sound as good as my stereo—for everyone else’s music, but for my own music I hear every single difference from one player/earphones/speakers/soundcard to the other. 🙁

What I suppose we need to go for is a consensus mix for songs. Go for the mix that sounds good on the most devices/speakers etc, to the most people. If we try to mix songs so that they sound the same no matter where we play them, we’ll drive ourselves crazy.


Poster: Gymshoes. Category: Uncategorized. Tags:
14 September

3 Responses to “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

  1. Ronnie says:

    I never expect it to sound the same from system to system.. it shouldn’t but what it should do is “Transport well” That is to say from system to system it should sound good.

    Take that U2 album, If I mix a song that has silmmilar aural properties of a U2 song when played on my computer. and I play them side by side on the computer and they sound alike. then when I play them side by side on my portable device they should sound alike, and when I play them side by side in the car they should sound alike.

    Problem arises when They sound alike on the Computer but in the car the bottom drops out or the vocal gets thin. Then you go back into the mix environment and try to compensate for something you can’t hear in that environment.

    This is why so much of todays pop music is compressed beyond all recognition…Portability.

    For me, the earbud mix is probably the most important. If you are downloading an MP3 compressed at 128K you are either listening on your computer first, but if you like it, it is goint to end up on a portable of some sort, probably with earbuds.

    BTW I just listened to Ninja girls on my work computer and couldn’t decern the volume sweeps like on the buds. Can you guys hear it?

  2. Ronnie says:

    CD quality is said to be 128K so any more than that on final mixes seems a waste of space. 🙄

  3. Gymshoes says:

    All my tracks begin life as a .wav file. Unless it’s a scratch vocal or some other rough demo track, I render my tracks as a 256kbps mp3—and I have the option of going even higher than that. Would it be better if we used higher quality individual tracks in the mix? prefers high quality lossless files which it then renders to various lower bit rates after we upload, so doing them at a very high quality would still mean they could be downloaded at whatever cheesy bit-rate the user prefers. 😉

    At the risk of further muddying the waters, I’m about to burn all our current mixes to a disk and put it on the stereo in the living room. I don’t trust what I hear on this laptop. You make a good point that we should mix for a digital/portable enviroment, but even that’s tough: not all those reproduce the mix the same, either. 🙄