Every producer has been in this situation: you’re listening to your mix, and it sounds great. Everything’s right in the song. You burn a CD of it and head out to the store, listening to the mix on your way. But on your car’s speakers, the beautiful sound you’d heard coming from your monitors isn’t there. Instead, everything sounds terrible. Why do your home recordings sound so bad on a different pair of speakers?
Different speakers allow us to hear different problems in a mix. If your home recordings sound bad on one set of speakers, but great on another set, here are some common reasons why. After reading the reasons please head over to digiarch.org to pick the best component speakers for your house.
1. Poor compression. Compression evens out the volume fluctuations of a song, and when used properly, it helps all of the instruments in a song lay flat against each other and sound natural and well placed. When used incorrectly, certain instruments can stick out, or sound flat and lifeless if too many dynamics are removed. If you feel uncomfortable listening to your recording, and if something seems highly unnatural, you may have used too much compression on certain instruments, or if it sounds amateurish, yet all of the instruments sound individually well recorded and all of your EQ is appropriate, you may have used too little compression or the wrong kind of compression.
2. Poor EQ. A well EQed song should sound natural, with bright highs and powerful lows that aren’t muddy. Different speakers enhance different parts of a song’s frequency ranges, so more often than not, a song will sound worse on a certain set of speakers based on how it’s EQed. If a song sounds drastically worse on that second set of speakers, and you can tell that it’s an EQ problem, keep going back to those speakers to get EQ ideas. They’re likely enhancing the frequencies that are troublesome in your current mix. Mixing engineers, both professional and amateur, should be prepared to listen to their mix on as many different kinds of speakers as is possible.
3. Poor panning. Never forget that panning is as important as EQ. Placing instruments in their correct positions in the stereo spectrum is just as great of an art that requires just as great of an ear. Since many different speaker systems have different speaker placement, bad panning can make a mix sound decent on one pair of speakers, yet terrible on the next. While mixing, try to keep each instrument to its own place in the stereo spectrum, avoiding any conflicts, and resist the urge to put an instrument in the direct center, left, or right of a mix, unless you’ve got an extremely good reason to do so.
Do you have tips or experiences to share? Post in our comments section below.