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Mixing In A New Era: Listeners drop speakers in favor of headphones.

This topic is NOT about mixing on headphones. It is about the trend towards more and more use of headphones / earbuds by the public to LISTEN to music.

I do all of my mixing on a good set of near-field monitors in an appropriately treated room.

During the mixing stage of a CD recently, the artist returned after listening to the mixes overnight complaining that things seemed "too spread out" in the mix.

Turns out that she always listens to her music through headphones / earbuds and almost never on speakers.

This got me to wondering if my mixing techniques need to be adjusted/adapted to the ever-growing trend of people listening on headphones / earbuds instead of speakers.

This would especially affect panning. When listening on speakers, both ears will hear a sound (to varying degree) even if it is panned all the way over to one side. But on headphones / earbuds, the sound would appear totally and only on the one side.

I have always mixed on speakers for speakers, without too much thought of how the mix will sound on headphones / earbuds. But I'm now wondering if others have considered this trend and how, if at all, it has affected your mixing choices?

Just hoping for some discussion on the topic!



Davedog Mon, 01/18/2010 - 20:23
Try your mix in mono. Always check everything in mono before moving on. If things disappear, then you have phase coherency problems. If something seems louder in the mono mix than in the stereo mix, then it is too loud. It is possible to spread things out a bit too much. I always put at least one track in a mix that has some wide-spread panning to it just for the headphone people.

thatjeffguy Tue, 01/19/2010 - 10:52
Thanks Davedog...

Yes, I always check the mix in mono, I'm not having any phase issues.

The irony with this particular mix was, after the artist complained that it sounded "too spread out" (on earbuds), a musician friend of hers commented that it sounded "claustrophobic" and mixed too much to the center (on speakers).

I usually avoid panning things hard left or right (90 degrees), preferring to place things at about 60 degrees or so max like they would appear if you were sitting in a room listening live. (I record acoustic music).

Link555, yes, it seems listener's habits have changed. Mixing to sound good on all systems has that added dimension now of speakers vs. earbuds.

Thanks for your input!