Recording - May 2013 - 61

Often two-way and loaded with five- to eight-inch woofers,
nearfields represent the middle ground of real-world listening.
Of course not every home and project studio can afford nor
squeeze in three high-quality speaker systems. The bottom line
is that at least two pairs are necessary for effective record mixing, preferably of different size and type. The good news is that
it is not necessary to invest gobs of money in the second set of
speakers. A decent pair of nearfields is paramount, and perhaps a small studio owner’s single most important equipment
investment, considering that everything recorded and mixed in
a studio is to be evaluated through the monitors. The second
pair of speakers, on the other hand, can be purchased on the
cheap. As long as at least two sets of monitors are available, an
engineer can move back and forth between them and change
perspective with convenience.
While every mix engineer develops his or her own approach
to using multiple monitors, methods are usually pretty similar.
Most mixers complete specific tasks primarily on the bigger monitors, such as eq-ing a bass or setting drum levels. Other chores,
perhaps vocal riding or guitar equalizing, might be done on the
smaller speakers. The key in these approaches is regular rotation between monitors. This not only forces an engineer to
change perspective, but it also reveals sonic issues only apparent on speakers of different size and type.
Small monitors, for example, often are more midrange-heavy
than their mid and large sized brethren. Midrange instruments,
such as vocals and snare, should thus pop out of the small
speakers. Bass instruments, on the other hand, should be light in
the minis. By regularly moving between speakers, problems can
be identified. As a general rule, a mix is not complete until it

on overall loudness. When we listen softly, sensitivity to low- and
high-frequency energy is significantly curtailed compared to
when we listen loudly. This has a major impact on music mixing.
I recommend you do a web search on the Equal Loudness
Contours (sometimes traditionally called the “Fletcher-Munson
curves”) to learn more about this. A great place to start is an
article by audio educator and frequent Recording contributor
Dave Moulton, from his website: www.moultonlabs.com/
more/equal_loudness_contours/
How does this impact our work when we track and mix? Well,
as an example, setting levels of bass instruments while monitoring softly is not wise, as the tracks will be screaming loud when
listening level is raised. The opposite occurs when mixing loud.
Making low- or high-frequency decisions at extreme SPLs will
make for dark and thin mixes when the monitoring level is
turned back down.
Thus the solution for most engineers is to mix at a moderate
level, somewhere in between the high and low extremes. Studies
reinforce this notion, indicating that our hearing is flattest
around 85 dB SPL, a moderately loud monitoring level. Mixing
in this range is not the only solution, though, for real world listeners consume mixes at a variety of loudnesses. We therefore
need to spend some time mixing softly, just to know how our
mixes hold up in offices, clothing stores, and other quiet environments. Time must be dedicated to loud monitoring too, to be
aware how mixes translate to loud locations, as well. Be careful
to limit loud monitoring to short durations though, as hearing
loss is aggravated by exposure time.
I highly recommend you procure a sound-pressure-level meter
and place it prominently in your control room. These inexpensive

Check out a finished mix in the car, on a boom box, through a laptop’s built-in speakers,
on your personal MP3 player, and at your mother’s house on her old Hi-Fi.
sounds as good as possible on multiple sets of loudspeakers.
The more transferable a mix is between differing monitors, the
more likely it is to sound great on a variety of end-user car stereos, club systems, and boom boxes.
Placing headphones in monitor rotation is also recommended.
Headphones are useful when mixing, as they offer both a
change in perspective and bring light to issues not heard on
other systems. Phones also remove room acoustics from the listening equation, which can help panning decisions. Of course,
the greatest advantage to using cans while mixing is that they
mimic what the final listener hears on their very own earbuds
and/or headphones.
Tip three: Turn it up, turn it down!
It is important to change your monitor loudness while mixing.
Not only do alterations in monitor level trigger changes in perspective, but they also help overcome a notable attribute of our
auditory system: our ears are not flat! That’s right, not only is no
speaker or room flat in frequency response, but our ears also fluctuate wildly in their relative measurement of level across frequency. This is due to evolution, and our ears have evolved to maximize sensitivity in the midrange. Our ancestors needed to communicate, hear their babies cry, and detect predators on
approach. Equal sensitivity to 50 Hz TR-808 kick samples and 15
kHz splash cymbal harmonics was not an evolutionary priority.
The problem with our auditory system is not that it is uneven,
it’s that its frequency response changes considerably depending

devices can remind us when we have pushed monitoring higher
than what is safe, or lower than what is ideal.
Tip four: Time for a break
The subject of hearing loss makes a nice segue into the next suggestion: take frequent breaks! Mixing is an intense, solitary act,
and regular breaks save the ears, mind, body, and perspective.
All mixers know the scenario well: you dive into a mix and the
hours slip away unnoticed. While it is great to be passionate
about one’s work, tunnel vision, mix love, and health issues can
arise. Hearing loss, eyestrain, wrist fatigue, and back pain can all
be triggered from hours in front of a computer or console.
The solution is simple: take regular breaks, leave the studio,
get some exercise, and eat lunch outside the control room. It’s
amazing how much more productive you can be when clearheaded and rested. Returning to work after a few minutes away
often illuminates exactly what needs attention in the mix.
Tip five: Go to Kentucky
A crucial process for all studio owners is learning their own
room and how to compensate for its sonic weaknesses. This
takes time. Mixes are produced, checked elsewhere, tweaked,
and then checked again. Through this process, engineers might
learn that their mixes need to be bass light in a particular range
to counteract the frequency response inherent in their studio’s
control room. A time-honored technique exists to aid engineers
learning a new room: Kentucky Voicing.
RECORDING May 2013

61


http://www.moultonlabs.com/more/equal_loudness_contours http://www.moultonlabs.com/more/equal_loudness_contours

Recording - May 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - May 2013

Recording - May 2013
Fade In
Contents
Talkback
Fast Forward
Jim Anderson Records Patricia Barber
Lewitt Authentica LCT 940
PreSonus Eris Series High-Definition Studio Monitors
How To Record Great Vocals At Home
Audio-Technica AT5040 Studio Vocal Microphone
Plug-ins To The Rescue—Real-Life Remedies For Vocal Tracks
Moon Professional 3500MP 2-Channel Microphone Preamp
DPA Microphones d:fine Series Headset Microphones
Plug-in Outlet: Toontrack EZmix Pack: Vocal Toolbox
Plug-in Outlet: iZotope Nectar Elements
Blue Spark Digital USB Microphone
Plug-in Outlet: Noveltech Vocal Enhancer (and Character)
Readers' Tapes
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 17: Sweet Spot Conundrums—Part 4
CAD Audio Acousti-shield 32
Advertiser Index
Fade Out
Recording - May 2013 - Intro
Recording - May 2013 - Recording - May 2013
Recording - May 2013 - Cover2
Recording - May 2013 - 1
Recording - May 2013 - 2
Recording - May 2013 - 3
Recording - May 2013 - Fade In
Recording - May 2013 - 5
Recording - May 2013 - Contents
Recording - May 2013 - 7
Recording - May 2013 - Talkback
Recording - May 2013 - 9
Recording - May 2013 - Fast Forward
Recording - May 2013 - 11
Recording - May 2013 - 12
Recording - May 2013 - 13
Recording - May 2013 - Jim Anderson Records Patricia Barber
Recording - May 2013 - 15
Recording - May 2013 - 16
Recording - May 2013 - 17
Recording - May 2013 - Lewitt Authentica LCT 940
Recording - May 2013 - 19
Recording - May 2013 - PreSonus Eris Series High-Definition Studio Monitors
Recording - May 2013 - 21
Recording - May 2013 - 22
Recording - May 2013 - 23
Recording - May 2013 - How To Record Great Vocals At Home
Recording - May 2013 - 25
Recording - May 2013 - 26
Recording - May 2013 - 27
Recording - May 2013 - 28
Recording - May 2013 - 29
Recording - May 2013 - 30
Recording - May 2013 - 31
Recording - May 2013 - 32
Recording - May 2013 - 33
Recording - May 2013 - Audio-Technica AT5040 Studio Vocal Microphone
Recording - May 2013 - 35
Recording - May 2013 - 36
Recording - May 2013 - 37
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-ins To The Rescue—Real-Life Remedies For Vocal Tracks
Recording - May 2013 - 39
Recording - May 2013 - Moon Professional 3500MP 2-Channel Microphone Preamp
Recording - May 2013 - 41
Recording - May 2013 - DPA Microphones d:fine Series Headset Microphones
Recording - May 2013 - 43
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: Toontrack EZmix Pack: Vocal Toolbox
Recording - May 2013 - 45
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: iZotope Nectar Elements
Recording - May 2013 - 47
Recording - May 2013 - 48
Recording - May 2013 - 49
Recording - May 2013 - Blue Spark Digital USB Microphone
Recording - May 2013 - 51
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: Noveltech Vocal Enhancer (and Character)
Recording - May 2013 - 53
Recording - May 2013 - Readers' Tapes
Recording - May 2013 - 55
Recording - May 2013 - 56
Recording - May 2013 - 57
Recording - May 2013 - 58
Recording - May 2013 - 59
Recording - May 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 17: Sweet Spot Conundrums—Part 4
Recording - May 2013 - 61
Recording - May 2013 - 62
Recording - May 2013 - 63
Recording - May 2013 - CAD Audio Acousti-shield 32
Recording - May 2013 - Advertiser Index
Recording - May 2013 - 66
Recording - May 2013 - 67
Recording - May 2013 - 68
Recording - May 2013 - 69
Recording - May 2013 - 70
Recording - May 2013 - 71
Recording - May 2013 - Fade Out
Recording - May 2013 - Cover3
Recording - May 2013 - Cover4
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