Creating a mixing-soundstage inside headphones

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crimsonwarlock
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Post 04 Nov 2022

Unfortunately, I have less time available in my studio (which is an hour drive from my house) and have to work mostly with headphones at home on a portable setup (laptop with a Scarlett Solo). However, as we all know, mixing on headphones has its challenges.

Firstly, I use Sonarworks in the studio and therefor have it available for headphone correction. After putting this on my headphones, it is hard to listen to anything without the correction, as things sound really hyped now without it.

Next, I trialed the hell out of the Headphone Correction RE, but it does color the sound in a very unnatural way. So far for me, it's a no-go. I found some information online as to how you can create crosstalk to eliminate the hard left/right separation, and this seems to work pretty well. In addition, I'm experimenting with the 'ambience' impulses from the Bricasti set, as they are meant to create the sound of a room without any obvious reverb. I'm now building a combinator around all this, and tuning settings while listening to loads of reference tracks through this setup.

What are your experiences with this (if any), solutions or suggestions, dos and don'ts, etc.
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integerpoet
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Post 04 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Firstly, I use Sonarworks in the studio and therefor have it available for headphone correction. After putting this on my headphones, it is hard to listen to anything without the correction, as things sound really hyped now without it. Next…
OK, before we get to the "next" stuff 😀

My first question is what you find sufficiently dissatisfying about Sonarworks that you're seeking alternatives. This is not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. And I imagine the answer might help someone who knows more about this stuff respond more usefully.

PhillipOrdonez
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Post 04 Nov 2022

Trial goodhertz can opener and see how it goes. I haven't tried it but you might like it.

I use SW, and in addition to it, i used to use one of those from waves that simulate a studio, but after a while I just didn't bother and went with sonarworks only and it's been fine for me. Have wondered about can opener but 🤷‍♂️
The latest release:

RobC
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Post 04 Nov 2022

Mixing with full professional in-ears, DAC and Headphone Amp has zero challenges, if you're experienced with them.

Headphone correction is unnecessary, since your hearing adapts quickly, and "flattens" the sound. That's why it's so easy to adapt mixing either with in-ears, headphones, speakers.

Again, your hearing flattens whatever sounds hyped.

By adding any kind of "correction" or room simulation, you eliminate one of the main advantages of binaural sound.
Perhaps the only type of convolution reverb that might work, would be one that perfectly simulates your studio and your ears/body.

You listen to reference tracks? Then you can throw all the coloration and effects away. With reference tracks, you can do pro work even on that common "potato". : )

I researched the in-ear/headphone/speaker myths to death, and thankfully, there were a few great, honest people that debunked all the misunderstandings.

WarStar
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Post 04 Nov 2022

RobC wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Mixing with full professional in-ears, DAC and Headphone Amp has zero challenges, if you're experienced with them.

Headphone correction is unnecessary, since your hearing adapts quickly, and "flattens" the sound. That's why it's so easy to adapt mixing either with in-ears, headphones, speakers.

Again, your hearing flattens whatever sounds hyped.

By adding any kind of "correction" or room simulation, you eliminate one of the main advantages of binaural sound.
Perhaps the only type of convolution reverb that might work, would be one that perfectly simulates your studio and your ears/body.

You listen to reference tracks? Then you can throw all the coloration and effects away. With reference tracks, you can do pro work even on that common "potato". : )

I researched the in-ear/headphone/speaker myths to death, and thankfully, there were a few great, honest people that debunked all the misunderstandings.
I agree with you.. I've been mixing in headphones for quite sometime and had some issues getting the low-end balanced.. crazily enough I went on a trip and brought my laptop and interface and was going to bring my big headphones but decided just to bring some very old Sony earbuds that came with a Sony portable PlayStation I bought years ago.. and my mixes have never been better! Doesn't make much sense but everything translates really well and even low-end can be heard just enough to balance it out well.. and there does seem to be a bit of cross talk but might just be me imagining it lol

So find some old Sony earbuds on eBay lol

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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

integerpoet wrote:
04 Nov 2022
My first question is what you find sufficiently dissatisfying about Sonarworks that you're seeking alternatives. This is not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. And I imagine the answer might help someone who knows more about this stuff respond more usefully.
Maybe it wasn't clear from my post, but I'm not seeking alternatives for SonarWorks. It does a great job, both on my studio monitors and the different sets of headphones I use between home and the studio. It is an important part of my setup.

The challenge (the 'next' part) is about getting a soundstage where panning and room reverb are simulated, like you are listening to nearfields. The Headphone Correction RE that is in the shop, does this, but it colors the sound. My current setup does the same without unnatural coloration.
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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Trial goodhertz can opener and see how it goes. I haven't tried it but you might like it.

I use SW, and in addition to it, i used to use one of those from waves that simulate a studio, but after a while I just didn't bother and went with sonarworks only and it's been fine for me. Have wondered about can opener but 🤷‍♂️
There are several commercial options I know of. But I'm trying to solve this inside Reason by building a combinator for it. Partly because it is fun to do stuff like this, and partly because I try to stay away from VST plugins as much as possible.

I totally agree that SonarWorks does most of the heavy lifting. I'm pretty impressed with what it does on headphones, as I've only used it before to calibrate my near-field monitors in the studio. However, panning in headphones still sounds very unnatural to me, so there's the challenge (which goes pretty well so far).
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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

RobC wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Headphone correction is unnecessary, since your hearing adapts quickly, and "flattens" the sound. That's why it's so easy to adapt mixing either with in-ears, headphones, speakers.

Again, your hearing flattens whatever sounds hyped.
That works, as long as your headphones are reasonably flat to begin with. I'm certain that there are expensive ones that do this (to a certain degree), but I'm on consumer headphones, albeit on the more expensive side of the range (500 Euros). Of course, you get used to things, including hyped frequency responses, but if certain frequencies are too low (most cans have some serious dips in the highs, even expensive ones) then you either don't hear them, or going to hype those in your mix as a result.

When I listen to reference tracks on my headphones, it is night and day when using SW correction. It completely opens up the mix in ways that you will never get from just getting used to your headphones. It is not just that headphones hype certain frequencies, it is the fact that those hyped frequencies start masking other frequencies. This is probably because of the perception in your own ears, so this might be different for every other person as well.
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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

WarStar wrote:
04 Nov 2022
I agree with you.. I've been mixing in headphones for quite sometime and had some issues getting the low-end balanced..
Probably because most headphones (especially closed ones) hype the low-end in a very unnatural way.
WarStar wrote:
04 Nov 2022
.. and there does seem to be a bit of cross talk but might just be me imagining it lol
You most likely imagine that :puf_bigsmile: ... that, or your earbud cord is short-circuiting :lol:
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selig
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Post 05 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
05 Nov 2022
WarStar wrote:
04 Nov 2022
I agree with you.. I've been mixing in headphones for quite sometime and had some issues getting the low-end balanced..
Probably because most headphones (especially closed ones) hype the low-end in a very unnatural way.
Interestingly, over the years I only use headphones to check low end, because you totally remove the room/modes from the equation. Love closed back phones for some weird reason. Currently using AKG (various models) and never had a problem with judging low end on them…
I guess this points out how personal these decisions are. Some folks do well mixing on headphones, some cannot abide. I find my speaker mixes always translate well to phones, but my phones mixes don’t translate as well to speakers.
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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
Interestingly, over the years I only use headphones to check low end, because you totally remove the room/modes from the equation. Love closed back phones for some weird reason. Currently using AKG (various models) and never had a problem with judging low end on them…
Well, bass is mostly mono and basically never panned hard left or right, so the perceived problems with stereo imaging are not an issue for checking bass... at least that's my guess. And for checking bass, apparently having a bit hyped low-end has its merits. I came across a video where it is explained that our ears basically have a tilt towards high frequencies, resulting in a tendency to add too much low-end in a mix. This can be remedied with a tilt EQ that lifts the low-end and dips the high-end, both just a few dB. Funny thing is that SonarWorks actually has this curve built-in as an option.
selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I guess this points out how personal these decisions are. Some folks do well mixing on headphones, some cannot abide. I find my speaker mixes always translate well to phones, but my phones mixes don’t translate as well to speakers.
That's where I was not long ago, but as I stated in the opening post, I need to be able to mix on headphones now. And I must say that with the setup I'm doing and tuning it, I'm already coming very close to a near-field experience with my headphones. I'll probably post the combinator later this coming week.
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MuttReason
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Post 05 Nov 2022

I like using the Waves Nx Ocean Way plugin when I’m using Ableton Live as it really does give the sense of being in a large control room with expensive full-range monitors. Not sure how accurate it is in terms of helping produce a balanced mix, but it sounds good when it’s enabled and the end results seem to check out on different speaker systems and earbud headphones etc.

In Reason DAW I prefer to use REs only with no VSTs so I’ve been looking for a RE or Combi that can (more or less) replicate the Waves plugin. I’m assuming it’s a combination of an EQ curve to correct headphone aberrations (you select different headphone models in the plugin) plus a second EQ curve to simulate specific types of simulated monitors plus a bit of ambient reverb to simulate being in a large control room.

I could have a go at rolling my own Combi I guess (using published EQ curves for the headphones I own, all Sennheiser and AKG) and for different monitor types (if I can get hold of the EQ curves that is). Plus a bit of true stereo reverb using an IR I guess.

Would that work? And - based on interesting views in this thread - is it even worth doing?

I’ve seen the Headphone Correction RE in the Shop but it’s not clear it has specific corrections for a wide range of headphone models so I’m not sure if it would be that useful.

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crimsonwarlock
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Post 05 Nov 2022

MuttReason wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I could have a go at rolling my own Combi I guess (using published EQ curves for the headphones I own, all Sennheiser and AKG) and for different monitor types (if I can get hold of the EQ curves that is). Plus a bit of true stereo reverb using an IR I guess.
I try to use only REs as well, but (in my case) I use the SonarWorks VST plugin for the frequency response calibration. It should be possible to emulate the correction curve with an EQ, and I might even try that to get rid of the VST plugin. To simulate the room, you need a bit more than just some reverb. I tried to use reverb only (with the excellent Bricasti 'ambience' impulses), but that didn't create enough cross-bleed. I do use a Bricasti ambience impulse in my combinator, but only as a minimal effect.
MuttReason wrote:
05 Nov 2022
Would that work? And - based on interesting views in this thread - is it even worth doing?
It does work pretty well in my setup, so to my opinion certainly worth doing. I'm going to release my combi the coming week, so you might pick that one up as a starting point for your own experiments.
MuttReason wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I’ve seen the Headphone Correction RE in the Shop but it’s not clear it has specific corrections for a wide range of headphone models so I’m not sure if it would be that useful.
I started this journey with extensively testing that RE. It does not do any frequency correction, but it does create the cross-bleed effect. However, it did color the audio too much for me, so I didn't buy it (although it is cheap) and decided to create my own setup. It includes a whole bunch of "head models" that you have to pick from on intuition. In the end, not really useful as I see it.
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selig
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Post 05 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
05 Nov 2022
selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
Interestingly, over the years I only use headphones to check low end, because you totally remove the room/modes from the equation. Love closed back phones for some weird reason. Currently using AKG (various models) and never had a problem with judging low end on them…
Well, bass is mostly mono and basically never panned hard left or right, so the perceived problems with stereo imaging are not an issue for checking bass... at least that's my guess. And for checking bass, apparently having a bit hyped low-end has its merits. I came across a video where it is explained that our ears basically have a tilt towards high frequencies, resulting in a tendency to add too much low-end in a mix. This can be remedied with a tilt EQ that lifts the low-end and dips the high-end, both just a few dB. Funny thing is that SonarWorks actually has this curve built-in as an option.
selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I guess this points out how personal these decisions are. Some folks do well mixing on headphones, some cannot abide. I find my speaker mixes always translate well to phones, but my phones mixes don’t translate as well to speakers.
That's where I was not long ago, but as I stated in the opening post, I need to be able to mix on headphones now. And I must say that with the setup I'm doing and tuning it, I'm already coming very close to a near-field experience with my headphones. I'll probably post the combinator later this coming week.
I believe you’re referring to the equal loudness curves, which show that at lower levels the bass sounds weaker than at higher levels. An across the board adjustment as you describe is 100% relative to the playback level. There is no overall tendency to hear things other than how we hear them, which we take to be ‘flat’ because there is no other reference than what we hear.

That said, one thing I ALWAYS do is check the mix on speakers. For a while there when I was at home all I had was a Roland Cube Monitor, which is an excellent little speaker. Bluetooth speakers can also work well if you have control over the tone settings. And finally, the KEY here is to listen so softly that someone in the next room would not likely hear you under normal conditions. Going back and forth this way was the only way I found to integrate headphones into my mix process, and in fact you can still do well over half of your listening on phones. Mixing at super low levels can be surprisingly effective in my experience, especially when you can check it louder for reference (in this case the louder playbacks would be on headphones!
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DaveyG
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Post 05 Nov 2022

To mix on headphones you really, really need to use a plugin that allows you to crossfeed a bit of the left signal into the right ear and vice versa, complete with a bit of delay and phase shift because that's what you get from speakers. It's not just about EQ correction.

MuttReason
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Post 05 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
05 Nov 2022
It does work pretty well in my setup, so to my opinion certainly worth doing. I'm going to release my combi the coming week, so you might pick that one up as a starting point for your own experiments.
Thanks for helpful response, will look out for your Combi… cheers.

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Vincent Vitellius
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Post 05 Nov 2022

A while ago I created a free speaker/room simulator for headphones as a Combinator 2 patch, using the free Sennheiser Ambeo Orbit VST.

I have now made it available in the Combinator2 subforum here: https://forum.reasontalk.com/viewtopic ... &t=7529875

Perhaps that is worth experimenting with.
:reason: 12 | Expensive plugins | Expensive PC | No wife :thumbup:

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Post 06 Nov 2022

selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I believe you’re referring to the equal loudness curves, which show that at lower levels the bass sounds weaker than at higher levels.
That's not it, it is this:



DaveyG wrote:
05 Nov 2022
To mix on headphones you really, really need to use a plugin that allows you to crossfeed a bit of the left signal into the right ear and vice versa, complete with a bit of delay and phase shift because that's what you get from speakers.
That is precisely what I'm doing :thumbup:
Vincent Vitellius wrote:
05 Nov 2022
A while ago I created a free speaker/room simulator for headphones as a Combinator 2 patch, using the free Sennheiser Ambeo Orbit VST.

I have now made it available in the Combinator2 subforum here: https://forum.reasontalk.com/viewtopic ... &t=7529875

Perhaps that is worth experimenting with.
I'm going to take a look at it, might bring some more ideas and/or insight into the matter.
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Post 13 Nov 2022

WarStar wrote:
04 Nov 2022
RobC wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Mixing with full professional in-ears, DAC and Headphone Amp has zero challenges, if you're experienced with them.

Headphone correction is unnecessary, since your hearing adapts quickly, and "flattens" the sound. That's why it's so easy to adapt mixing either with in-ears, headphones, speakers.

Again, your hearing flattens whatever sounds hyped.

By adding any kind of "correction" or room simulation, you eliminate one of the main advantages of binaural sound.
Perhaps the only type of convolution reverb that might work, would be one that perfectly simulates your studio and your ears/body.

You listen to reference tracks? Then you can throw all the coloration and effects away. With reference tracks, you can do pro work even on that common "potato". : )

I researched the in-ear/headphone/speaker myths to death, and thankfully, there were a few great, honest people that debunked all the misunderstandings.
I agree with you.. I've been mixing in headphones for quite sometime and had some issues getting the low-end balanced.. crazily enough I went on a trip and brought my laptop and interface and was going to bring my big headphones but decided just to bring some very old Sony earbuds that came with a Sony portable PlayStation I bought years ago.. and my mixes have never been better! Doesn't make much sense but everything translates really well and even low-end can be heard just enough to balance it out well.. and there does seem to be a bit of cross talk but might just be me imagining it lol

So find some old Sony earbuds on eBay lol
That's because most studio headphones concentrate on the "mixing" frequency range, which cuts quite a bit both of the high, and the low end. This makes it challenging to get the sub right, cause it's harder for our ears to adapt and flatten the sound. Not to mention, we need to turn the volume up, which doesn't do many favors to our hearing.

It is also a solution to mix on one, and then EQ the bass and treble on the other 'phones.

For me, the best way was with the ATH-E70. My ears always adapt to the sound within minutes. I tops want to try open-back in-ears over the E70. Just not for the 3000 € price, lol.

RobC
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Post 13 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
05 Nov 2022
RobC wrote:
04 Nov 2022
Headphone correction is unnecessary, since your hearing adapts quickly, and "flattens" the sound. That's why it's so easy to adapt mixing either with in-ears, headphones, speakers.

Again, your hearing flattens whatever sounds hyped.
That works, as long as your headphones are reasonably flat to begin with. I'm certain that there are expensive ones that do this (to a certain degree), but I'm on consumer headphones, albeit on the more expensive side of the range (500 Euros). Of course, you get used to things, including hyped frequency responses, but if certain frequencies are too low (most cans have some serious dips in the highs, even expensive ones) then you either don't hear them, or going to hype those in your mix as a result.

When I listen to reference tracks on my headphones, it is night and day when using SW correction. It completely opens up the mix in ways that you will never get from just getting used to your headphones. It is not just that headphones hype certain frequencies, it is the fact that those hyped frequencies start masking other frequencies. This is probably because of the perception in your own ears, so this might be different for every other person as well.
Yes, I agree that some crazy cuts and boosts - while we can adapt - might damage our hearing in the long run.

That said, our hearing has its own unique f.response curve - different for each ear, even! So, not even an artificially flattened speaker will sound perfect. Far from it. That's why flat microphones can sound kind of boring.

ATH-E70, which is Audio-Technica's flagship in-ear, only cost about € 400. Although they are fairly priced. That for pro/high-end in-ears.

If unsure, I just use references, and ask for opinions.

For a true flat sound, you need to get your headphones calibrated individually.

Now, I didn't notice any special differences, since I adapt quickly to any system; however, I did notice things in certain songs after getting full professional DAC and Headphone Amp. So it's not just the headphone/in-ear.

At the end of the day, whatever gets you there, works.
I think, the gear should have priority.

And I also think, the full wideness of in-ears is something to praise, not to color with software. That said, I do understand that it's not easy for everyone's ears to adapt to different systems. It's just that mine do in a perhaps unusual way, pretty fast.

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selig
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Post 13 Nov 2022

DaveyG wrote:
05 Nov 2022
To mix on headphones you really, really need to use a plugin that allows you to crossfeed a bit of the left signal into the right ear and vice versa, complete with a bit of delay and phase shift because that's what you get from speakers. It's not just about EQ correction.
Maybe true if you ONLY mix on headphones and never check your mixes on speakers. And even then, you wouldn’t want to ALWAYS listen that way since one of the main reasons I check the mix on phones is because many folks listen on phones/ear buds. In that case, you want to hear as close to what they will hear as possible I would think, no? :)
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selig
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Post 13 Nov 2022

crimsonwarlock wrote:
06 Nov 2022
selig wrote:
05 Nov 2022
I believe you’re referring to the equal loudness curves, which show that at lower levels the bass sounds weaker than at higher levels.
That's not it, it is this:

Five minutes in and all I know is this guy REALLY likes to use video effects. I have no idea what the point is - could you save me time and just tell me? ;)
I’ve heard fantastic mixes that are white noise flat, amazing mixes that are more pink noise tilted, and just about every other possibility and realized there is no “correct” tilt that should be applied to every mix. The goal is to figure out what you THINK you hear vs what you actually hear. For me, I preferred more bass and less highs, so I quickly learned to tune/choose my system based on MY needs such that I could continue to mix as “I” heard it and still get the results I expected.

What did I miss?
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crimsonwarlock
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Post 13 Nov 2022

selig wrote:
13 Nov 2022
DaveyG wrote:
05 Nov 2022
To mix on headphones you really, really need to use a plugin that allows you to crossfeed a bit of the left signal into the right ear and vice versa, complete with a bit of delay and phase shift because that's what you get from speakers. It's not just about EQ correction.
Maybe true if you ONLY mix on headphones and never check your mixes on speakers. And even then, you wouldn’t want to ALWAYS listen that way since one of the main reasons I check the mix on phones is because many folks listen on phones/ear buds. In that case, you want to hear as close to what they will hear as possible I would think, no? :)
I don't exclusively mix on headphones, I think you saw the pictures of my studio in the pictures topic. The problem is that currently I don't have much time available in my studio. Getting a headphone mix as close as possible to what I hear on my near-fields makes stuff more efficient regarding available time in the studio. It means the difference between doing the mix completely over in the studio, or doing small corrections.
selig wrote:
13 Nov 2022
Five minutes in and all I know is this guy REALLY likes to use video effects. I have no idea what the point is - could you save me time and just tell me? ;)

What did I miss?
Yeah, his video effects can get a bit irritating.

I also do prefer more bass, and that is exactly what he points at, at least that is my interpretation. As he describes about himself, I tend to mix bass-heavy, to the point that I always have to correct after listening on other systems, especially those with subs. I don't have a sub in my studio, which might be part of the problem, but on the other side I don't do actual sub-heavy music. Using a tilt-EQ seems to solve the problem for me. Listening to reference tracks with a tilt-EQ now also sounds more natural to me. I'm obviously correcting for MY ears, not saying everyone should use this. We all agree that hearing differs between people, and indeed even between your own two ears. That's all there is to it.
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RobC
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Post 13 Nov 2022

A Tilt-EQ will do more harm than good, simply because it's linear, while our hearing is not. It's yet another novelty, people try to sell, just like the AI mastering that compares the statistics of other songs.

Just find an EQ sweet spot for your subs, then boost, so you hear what you need to focus on. Then, simply dial it back until it's not louder, nor quieter than the rest of the mix/frequencies. If you got it right, you can double/triple check by starting again from a boost, or the opposite, from a cut. You should land on the same value from either direction. At least it works like that for me. That said, this only works if your sub is well balanced. If there are crazy dynamic differences, then do some dynamics processing on that frequency region, first.

I'm surprised people still worry about 'phones vs. speakers. But I guess, marketing-wise, I'll just say in the future that I own a Million-value studio, that's why my sound is so balanced. x D

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crimsonwarlock
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Post 13 Nov 2022

RobC wrote:
13 Nov 2022
A Tilt-EQ will do more harm than good, simply because it's linear, while our hearing is not.
First you say that everyone's hearing is different, and then you say that how you do things should work for me. There is no silver bullet solution (there never is for anything). If a tilt-EQ gives me mixes that better translate, then that is working for me. Will that work for anyone else... maybe it will, and maybe it won't. But that's not relevant, as long as it works for my situation.
RobC wrote:
13 Nov 2022
It's yet another novelty, people try to sell, just like the AI mastering that compares the statistics of other songs.
No selling involved here, I simply built a tilt-EQ combinator with stock and free stuff :puf_smile:
RobC wrote:
13 Nov 2022
I'm surprised people still worry about 'phones vs. speakers.
Well, as I made clear before, not everyone has access to high-end headphones. My Sony headset has some serious crazy curves that make it completely unusable without correction. Besides that, stereo positioning is a known problem with headphones, unless you do LCR-mixes.

Bottom line is the simple fact that every famous/successful mix-engineer points out, that the most important thing in monitoring is to know your monitoring system (which seems pretty obvious to me). That goes equally for speakers and headphones. To 'learn' your monitoring-system, you should listen to loads of (reference) tracks on it. And if any form of correction makes it easier for me to recognize the behavior of my monitoring, being headphones in this case, while listening to reference tracks and mixes then that is a win in my book :puf_bigsmile:
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The smart thing to do is using a DAW because of what the DAW does, not because of what the company behind the DAW does.

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