Mixing help - ear fatigue

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by MrJesus, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. MrJesus

    MrJesus Active Member

    Dec 2, 2007
    I'm fairly new to the whole recording and mixing game, been doing it for a few months now. My 'mixes' sound alright but they always just sound bad for some reason. They always seem to have some funky EQ going on that causes ear fatigue rather quickly. Harsh in the upper mid-high range I guess.

    What usually causes this? I've looked at my tracks running through a spectral analyzer and dont see anything obtrusive in this range.

    I'm mixing on my computer speakers, 2 sattelites and a sub, at the moment as I do not have any proper monitors (problem I know, but I think they sound at least useable).

    I can provide a little demo example if needed.
  2. First up .. buy pro studio monitors :D that IS a must.

    Second up, those harsh freqs can be caused by a looot of reasons, starting with how you record your tracks up to over-eq-ing your tracks/mix. Make sure a track sounds good (not decent, not "yea ok") in the first place, when you first record it. From then on, don't start EQ-ing anything until you got all the tracks and volumes laid out and try to get a good mix out of that, and after that start taking care of the finer details but don't over-eq or over-do anything, keep it simple :) Also make sure you're not editing tracks in solo audition mode as it's almost totally irrelevant in the mix in most cases.

    If this doesn't work for you, just try to isolate the tracks that cause that harsh freqs for you and sweeten them up.

    What I said may not be anything "new", but should be at least a starting point.

    And again .. buy studio monitors.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    It sure does sound like the problem is with your monitors. (How loud are you mixing, btw? Full out? Medium level? Do you turn things up and down as you go, to get an idea of how it sounds in either case?)

    Once you get your monitors (and the space they're in) sorted out, mixing should get more enjoyable for you.

    You definitely should take breaks, but they are useful for more than just resting your ears. While that's a good thing in and of itself, you want to take a little time off every so often to keep your perspective fresh, even with the best system available. It might be once per hour, if you're mastering or mixing, OR, it might be every few hours if you're just tracking and prepping things. Sometimes it's just to get up and pour a fresh cup of coffee, answer the phone, go to the bathroom, etc., but breaks are important.

    And of course, the "overnight" break is all-important as well, if you have the luxury of time to do so. Get the best mix possible, then QUIT for the night. Go watch a movie, have a meal, get some sleep, whatever, and then recheck your work the next morning with (literally) fresh ears.

    This is why it's important to have a good monitoring system if you're going to work professionally. You many NOT have the time to let it "marinate" overnight. With some projects, you may only have a half day, or even a few hours to finish something for a client who's waiting. Assuming your ears are in good shape for the day, it's not at all unusual to sit down with a project in the middle of the afternoon, and wrap it up by the end of the work day. Good monitors and mixing environment will let you do this, even without taking a lot of breaks.
  4. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    I second (third? lol) the motion on quality audio monitors. A great set of speakers definitely cuts down on ear fatigue.

    Also - you should have a sonically treated room in which to mix, otherwise you will overcompensate for problems with your room.

    Your mixing levels are also important. I, and most of my audio post colleagues, mix at a low/moderate level. Quite a few of us also check at very low levels as well as cranking it up a little once we're close to the final mix.

    Crappy speakers = crappy mix & ear fatigue
    Crappy room = crappy mix & ear fatigue
    Loud listening levels = crappy mix & ear fatigue

    You should also use reference songs that are in the same general style to use as a comparison to your own work - at least until you are familiar with your mixing environment. As a freelancer I have a couple of CDs I bring along to a new studio to give me a reference point.

    One last thing; reducing frequencies is just as important - in fact sometimes more important - than boosting frequencies. Having numerous sounds fighting for attention in the same frequency range can definitely muddy up your mix.

    One more - there is a big difference between LOUD and powerful.
  5. Discrete

    Discrete Active Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    First off, I come to this discussion not as an adviser, but one who can relate.

    I have a good set of monitors, but by room treatment is still in the mail. (Got an Auralex room kit).

    My problem has been with my ears! For the past couple of weeks when I start listening to something it feel like there's pressure on my ears. I've been taking sudafed and claritin like mad trying to get rid of anything going on up there, but I don't think that's the only reason.

    Do you think that with an untreated room and fairly big monitors (JBL LSR 4328Ps) I could just be listening too loud? I've been mixing everything from classical guitar to hip-hop and been spending a lot of time at the console.

    Don't mean to hi-jack your thread, Jesus, but maybe we have some of the same issues.
  6. basilbowman

    basilbowman Guest

    Dunno man, pressure when you turn up the tunes? Seems like you'd have to have a lot of speaker cone moving to get anything like what you're describing. Although, I suppose if we can sense altitude changes of tens of feet, anything is possible. I think I'd try turning the tunes down. Or hopping in my car and cranking the Van Halen and seeing if the same thing happens :)


    And yeah, pick up some nice monitors. Even the cheapest "studio monitors" [ cheapest one's I've found are the M-Audio Studio Pro 3s (retail $99)] are gonna make a huge difference as soon as you hook 'em up.
  7. Discrete

    Discrete Active Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Yeah, you're probably right. I think my problem is medical, as in sinus infection of some sort.
  8. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    $99? I can go lower...
    Edirol MA1EX at SoundControl.co.uk
    Ok, these are NOT monitors and I would rather use a pair of $20 headphones to mix, but they're listed under monitors on the site.

    And yeah, it could be the room acoustics causing a jump around the high mids that isn't showing up on your software analyser.
    Can you try it on headphones, see if that solves the problem?
  9. basilbowman

    basilbowman Guest

    Hehe, nice
  10. Fozzy

    Fozzy Guest

    There are some medical conditions that could explain what you are experiencing - any of the ear infections (middle ear, or outer ear) or blocked eustacian tubes.

    On the other hand I would also want to rule out listening too loud. If you have ever been to a "too loud" live concert you will know a tight feeling that is caused by the ear adjusting to the loudness and tightening up to restrict the movement and thus attenuate the sound. If it feels like this then you need to reduce the level you are working with. Time is also a component - many hours at moderate to loud level can load and potentially damage your hearing to the same extend as an hour or so at very loud level.
  11. AwedOne

    AwedOne Guest


    Sometimes if you take too much of a medicine like these, you can get a "rebound"effect, which means it makes the condition worse rather than better. I'd try laying off the OTC's and give your doctor a call.

    Mr Jesus,

    I was using JBL home stereo speakers when I first started. When I bought a pair of KRK ST6's for $99ea, what a difference.
  12. Discrete

    Discrete Active Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Thanks for your responses. Turns out, I went to a "Doc-in-the-Box" and I have two ear infections. Apparently they were caused by a cold I didn't know I had. Been on antibiotics for a few days and things are improving. Had to take a break from my projects, though. :cry:

    So, learn from my mistakes, if something feels awry, just go to the doc. The $150 you spend is nothing compared to what you could lose in work production and compared to what you've likely spent on your recording gear!
  13. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I had a really scarey thing like that happen last summer. I had a fairly sudden change in EQ and overall drop in HF content in my right ear. Suddenly things started sounding like the Right channel phase was reversed from the left. Only problem was, this was EVERYWHERE, and not just the speakers in front of me! Then a bit of tinnitus set in. It was pretty depressing hearing a 1k tone come and go for a few weeks. I was pretty scared.

    I went to a local doc (Ear Nose & Throat specialist). I was underwhelmed with his bedside manner, lack of understanding of what I do for a living, and lack of finding anything the matter with my ears. His tests showed nothing physically wrong, but a pronounced dip in the HF curve for my right ear. I was doubly freaked; was I just getting old!?!?!?

    I at least thought it could have been compounded earwax, but nooooo. (He also gave me some claritin, smilded idiotically, and sent me home. The claritin did nothing to help, btw...)

    I was, to say the least, non-plussed. The tinitus was also moving from one ear to the other once in a while, which was REALLY getting weird.

    I did a good bit of research on eardrum and back-pressure by now, too, since that seemed to be where the problem lie: some kind of fluid build-up against the eardrums from the eustacian tubes, perhaps? So, at that point, I was headed to see a more professional private therapist in Philly who sees most of my vocal clients. Before I could get an appointment, however, an odd thing happened....

    I ran out of those Breathe-right nasal strips that I had been using for about 2 months prior to my ear problems. (Yes, I snore and wanted to help my wife get a better night's sleep... :roll: ) I can't prove it, of course, but I have a theory that using those strips over a long period of time had a culmulative effect: I think by pulling my nasal passages open every night for 6-8 hrs at a time, I was drying out my throat or doing something odd to my eustacian tube openings - perhaps drying them out, or....???

    I was busy and couldn't get to the store for more for a while, and so within three days of stopping the breathe-right strips cold, my ear problems simply stopped. I almost cried the first time I realized my tinitus was gone, and my RH side was back, with full EQ! Stereo imaging was back full on, too. What a relief!

    I have no idea if I really did have an infection all at the same time that took almost two months to heal, or if it was the nasal strips, but I haven't had any problems whatsoever since then, and no more nasal strips. I've had a few headcolds since then, but the ears are just fine, and my wife just pokes me in the ribs to roll over when I snore. :twisted:
  14. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Home Page:
    Interesting, I was sleeping with them on my nose for a while, I swear I feel more rested without them.

    I haven't used them in a month or so, no hearing problems, just the feeling of better sleep without...

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