"Flat" sound?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by lukas, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. lukas

    lukas Guest

    Hello, I'm having trouble with this:
    Everyone says I should have very flat reference sound during recording, mixing and mastering. I use average (BX5a deluxe) M-Audio studio monitors but onboard Realtek HD sound. I can get a sound which is good enough to me out of it but after tweaking the sound driver's equalizer a little. When I set the main sound driver's equalizer flat, I get a little poor sound, in terms of weak bass and muddy treble and the sound is unnatural even with all the commercial CDs. When I boost high and low frequencies a little, I get very clear and natural sounding vocals and bass that sounds tight enough.
    So, my question is: Should I, at all costs, be working with the flat sound card's main equalizer when mixing/mastering, even if the sound is a little muddy that way or can I boost those high and low frequencies and work with that as a reference audio?

    This is the EQ preset on my onboard sound which sounds natural. I know, no values, but it's only Realtek:)
  2. thealexbaron

    thealexbaron Active Member

    I Say New Soundcard!

    You should adjust the mix of the song to sound good through the system, and not the other way around. I would recommend buying a new system to mix your songs on, but keep the old one to use as a reference, because if it sounds good on the new system and the crappy one, then you've got a good mix!

    Does that answer your question?
  3. lukas

    lukas Guest

    Well, partly. It was my initial thought that the problem is in the crappy onboard sound. I'm definitely going to buy a good soundcard later but not now. I was thinking that maybe if the commercial music sound almost great to me when boosting the EQ, I could carefully imitate those sound characteristics when mixing (with the EQ tweaked) so I will actually have also my mix sounding fine on all systems that way- the commercial stuff mostly does sound good on various systems so why wouldn't my mix be close to that too?

    I found an interesting article online covering this topic. Please check it out briefly - I have to admit that probably I like that "disco smile" too :/ here it is: All About Home and Project Studio Monitors
  4. thealexbaron

    thealexbaron Active Member

    Poor Workaround

    This solution doesn't sound like a very good workaround. Too many variables: 1. Crappy sound card with unknown EQ, 2. You counter adjusting the EQ to what you think is right, and 3. Once you're actually mixing the audio, you're going to mix the eq again.

    That's a lot of EQing, and it's not going to sound the way you thought it would in the end.

    I would suggest buying some new speakers. I don't know a ton about integrated sound cards, but I'm pretty sure they have a built in/default flat EQ, and that's why they give you the option of EQ via software.

    Sounds like you need a new soundcard and new speakers.

    Have you tried the speakers out on a different sound card/interface? That would help eliminate them as the weak point.

    I hope my logic makes sense.
  5. lukas

    lukas Guest

    I don't that the monitors are the weak point here- I've had regular speakers before with the same system and it behaved just the same way, so if is there a weak point it's definitely the onboard Realtek sound. I know about that and I need to find a best compromise/workaround possible at this point.
    What I tend to do is that after I finish the mix on the computer I play it back on the living room stereo and on iPod too and if I indentify something bad-sounding I make notes about that and correct the mix eq again. I know it's a bit clumsy and that with better sound card I could use only the main system as a "true" reference. I'm just curious if is my current workaround style acceptable or if it would help my mixes a little to set the onboard sound's eq flat at all costs... Aside from buying a new sound card later, which of the mentioned workarounds would you choose to improve mixing if you had to?
    1. Flat eq at all costs and comparing with stereo/iPod or
    2. Mixing with boosted eq and comparing with stereo/iPod?
  6. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    I would rather get hit by a train than get run over by a truck. So which is the lesser of two evils I need a definitive answer! There is no answer to this question besides buy a better sound generating device and that device, probably, is not a computer sound card but some type of interface. Disco smile away, listen on your stereo, your i-poo, your car, your computer, your TV. If you expect some professional to tell that's a good idea, well that probably isn't going to happen, which when you ask for advice you will find frequently happens. You don't get the answer you wanted.
    I read the article you linked and did not come away with the idea that changing the EQ of your system was a good way to go, furthermore the link later in the article Studio-Central Community • View topic - Getting a flat monitor mix with any monitors?
    seems to better address your issue and it seems that overall advice of that thread is don't do it (EQ). You also have left out of this question other possible sources for your discontent with the sound of your monitors which are speaker placement and room sound, though in the end I doubt you are going to get any really good results with your signal chain of which the most obvious weak link is the realtek.
  7. lukas

    lukas Guest

    yeah, yeah, i know that..it's just my specific situation i'm in what makes me ask questions like this. i can't buy interface/soundcard right now because i'm kinda broke and the deadline of one of my project is very soon that's why i need this kind of crazy temporary workaround. well, i'm guessing there is no pro answer on that. but i think i'd try the flat eq
  8. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Try the flat EQ and then go thru the translation ritual (stereo, i-pod) the worst thing that happens is you make it a little too bass/treble oriented. Learn that as a reference, BTW if you get great sound going in there is not a whole lot of eq you really need, most guitar, vocals are pretty much midrange stuff, just be careful when working the low end of drums and bass and also the real high end like cymbals..
  9. thealexbaron

    thealexbaron Active Member

    Good Answer jg49

    Thank you, jg49. Well said.
  10. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member


    You may not realize that posting the same thing in numerous forums is a no-no? And, posting in the forum that most resembles the subject is a desireable thing to do. This is definitely not a Mastering Engineers topic, nor is it a Pro Audio or Pro Recording subject.

    This should be only in either the Newbies or the Budget Gear section.

    No problem, you may not have realized it. If I didn't bring it up, someone else would most likely have.

    Just something to keep in mind.

  11. lukas

    lukas Guest

    ah, sorry for multiple posts :/ and thanks for advice everyone
  12. lukas

    lukas Guest

    I'm realizing that I can't hear the low end nearly at all with flat eq :(
  13. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Have you checked your levels in the soundcard software, such as recording mic/line, CD, WAV playback...and Master Volume out...AND twiddled those while experimenting with your monitors' levels?

    If you have something too high or too low, you may be getting weak and/or distorted sound. Also, when boosting EQ, you may be adding distortion. Usually better to attenuate the mids, than boost the lows and highs, and simply turn up the amp, if possible. Put your EQ flat, and check your levels. If yoursoundcard Main Out level is too high or too low, (near the top or bottom) that may mean something else is set wrong. Also, make sure ANY of the cheezoid "enhancements" or "effects" or any of that stuff that may be in your soundcard controls is turned off.

    Tell us where your levels on all those are sitting right now.

  14. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    You're using Bx5's. There is no spoon.
  15. lukas

    lukas Guest

    Uhm...sorry dude, but I'm not native english speaker so I have no idea what does this idiom mean.. What do you mean by there's no spoon..?
  16. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Whoops - Sorry... That's a really "inside" thing.

    You aren't going to get "real low end" from those speakers. Trying to boost the low end using an EQ is turning on more lights for a blind person. It's just not going to happen.
  17. WaltzMastering

    WaltzMastering Active Member

    Good analogy... gotta remember that one.

    To op: Even though you have to make the best with what you have, there are a couple things that will help to maximize the potential.

    Even though the speakers aren't great, make sure the speaker placement is in the best possible position at your listening position. Speaker height is important. Ear level. The speakers should be as far apart as they are from your ear. Equilateral triangle. Consider heavily bass trapping a small room. Set up se-metrically in your room. Avoid using a smiley eq or any eq on your mix bus to make up for monitoring defeciancies. Learn your room. Learn your gear. Sometimes just taking care of the basics can improve things to make a workable condition.

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