I'm struggling with the age-old problem of getting exactly the right mix of the lead vocal in relation to the instruments. I've noticed that when I'm trying to preview my mix on different types of speaker and headphone systems, I find that the relative level of the lead vocal compared to the instruments changes, depending on the amount of stereo separation in the playback equipment. I'm looking for feedback on how other producers handle this particular issue. I find that as stereo separation increases, the lead vocal seems quieter, and as stereo separation decreases, the lead vocal seems louder. I believe it's because, in general, instruments are traditionally recorded in stereo, while lead vocals are recorded in mono and panned center, and we're getting additive phase for the lead vocal because of this. I believe that when I play back the mix on stereo speakers, I am getting the effect of additive phase; the actual sound of the lead vocal (at least the main non-reverb'd part of it) is identical coming from the left and the right speaker, so each wave is adding to its twin as the waves move through the air in the room. The closer the speakers are placed to each other, the greater the effect. The opposite effect happens when I listen to the mix on a pair of headphones, which can be said to have 100 percent stereo separation. There is no additive phase because each speaker sends a unique signal to each of my ears. The fact that the two signals happen to be the same isn't relevant and isn't interpreted by my brain as increased volume. On the other hand, stereo-recorded instruments will be sending somewhat different sounds to each speaker in terms of the timing of each of the waveform peaks, and so there is much less additive phase happening. Thus, on a pair of headphones, they seem louder in relation to the vocals. The result is: Listen on speakers=louder lead vocal, listen on headphones=louder instruments. I know that the mantra is not to mix for headphones, but in this Age Of The Ipod, I know that a significant portion of my albums' listeners will be listening on headphones (including those terrible white Apple earbuds, ick), so I don't want to discount them. What I've tried so far is to add a stereo simulator to the lead vocal (in effect just combing the frequencies of the mono signal and panning them LR), and this helps a little, but strangely, it doesn't help as much as I thought it would. If my theory were correct, it should have completely fixed the problem. My next step is to try recording vocals in actual stereo, too, but I worry about that. Has anyone else run into this, and what do *you* do about it?