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Why doesn't it sound like what I hear?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by tooprettymusic, Dec 18, 2003.

  1. Hi,

    I know that this is the question that just about every home recording person asks. I'm actually asking because what I hear sounds VERY different in spite of my equipment.

    I have a Motu 2408 mkII hooked up to various things. I use Cakewalk's Sonar 3 Producer Edition and master w/ Izotope's Ozone. When I record MIDI devices, re-record them as audio (as opposed to midi) so that I can manipulate the sound of them better. My goal is to be able to tweak the sound to be what I want it to be. I used to monitor on headphones, but after much condemnation of that idea, I got 2 Alesis M1 Active Mk2s that I use to monitor.

    My problem is that when I listen on the monitors, I hear exactly what I tweak from cakewalk. Bass is in the right place, at the right volume. Vocals stand out over the instrumentals the way I want. Everything sounds decent to my amateur ear.

    My next step is to mixdown to 128K MP3. I listen to that on the computer (old Cambridge Soundworks w/ sub woofer; not the best sound but reasonable enough) and whoa - what happened to what I just heard on the monitors. I'll take the same song and put it on a CD to listen in my home stereo system (Harmon Kardon receiver, Polk RM something or other speakers) and it sounds slightly better but the bass and drums that I worked to make stand out is barely audible.

    Sorry for the long story, but what am I missing? Any and all help is appreciated. I thought that getting Ozone and the monitors would help me solve the problem. The only difference I here now is that it sounds great on the monitors and wierd every place else.

  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    I used the same monitors once and they are far from accurate, especially in the bass. New monitors won't help much because I suspect your room is also far from accurate. What will help is doing a lot of listening on your M1 Actives to commercial CDs close to the style of music that you are producing. When you mix, you should keep this precedent in your head, even refer to it during the mixing process, and try to emulate it as best you can. Another trick I sometimes use, though it is no substitute for good ears, is using spectrum analysis for comparisons to commercially released tracks. Most pop music follows a fairly close model frequency response.

    Hope this helps.
  3. Thank you. That's great advice. I'm an R&B/Pop songwriter. So, I decided real quickly to listen to two songs - Jill Scott's Gettin' In The Way and Kelis' Milkshake. They're different types of songs, but in the genre. What I noticed on both songs is that on the Alesis monitors the bass is VERY high - straining the speakers even at low to moderate volumes.

    Obviously, I can use Cakewalk to mix the bass high and the vocals farther over the instrumentals (which is what I heard in both songs on the monitors). However, what's I think is going to happen is that I'm going to redline all the way through the song (because of the high mix and I tend to mix pretty high as it is) and 1) get frequent pops during listening and 2) not be able to monitor my levels because they're in the red.

    Any ideas how to prevent that? Am I better off finding good headphones to monitor on that might be more accurate?

  4. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Sounds like your room needs a lot of work, especially if your monitors work that hard. Are you monitoring too loud? I keep my level at low/ moderate and turn DOWN when I sit back to listen to the mix. When I am finally satisfied, THEN I crank it up.

    Take all of your reference materials (more than just two songs) and process them all in the same way you would your own songs, 128K MP3, CD, any other way you present it, and listen to them in multiple listening environments. TAKE NOTES! This will help you get a feel for your room. Oh yeah, go back to the headphones once in a while just for an additional perspective. Make sure that they're good ones.

    There's a real art to mixing, especially if you don't have access to a great room and monitors. Oh, don't be insulted... Have you ever been in a state of the art facility? I'm not talking about the best studio in town, I'm talking about one of those multi-million dollar places. It was a real revelation to me.

    Good luck!

  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2002

    Another thing you can try is plugging one of the ports on each speaker with foam, soft cloth, even a sock. This will help with the bass levels. But... don't plug both ports! I used to do this, and I had woofers go out twice. If your speakers are within a foot of a corner, you might want to try to move them away, as this will also help with the bass. Also, I think you need to start by turning all your faders down. Leave the high level-getting to the mastering phase. If you want more volume when mixing, turn up your speakers. Stay away from the red. Lastly, headphones will never be a good mix reference.

    ( p.s. - that Kelis is ill)
  6. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    You already got the right answer - the problem is your room and probably your monitors too. Hop over the Acoustics forum here on RO and read the forum FAQ. It explains a lot about these issues.

  7. Thanks. You guys are great.

    I'll definitely look at the Acoustics forum.

    My concern now is that if the problem is my room (not really changeable) and my monitors (3 months old), what do I do?

    I got the Alesis because they're supposed to be good amateur monitors. Are there minor changes that I can make to the room to reduce the amount that I have to compensate for other factors?

    I realize that these are hard questions without knowing much about my room and my configuration. I'll take a look at the Acoustics forum and hope I find something there.

    I appreciate all the help!

  8. Greetings talib

    you can do a lot to your room, without ripping it apart. :)

  9. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Distinguished Member

    Jun 8, 2003
    Central Village, CT
    Home Page:
    I would believe as well that a very large part of the problem is acoustic issues in your room.

    Your probably sitting in a peak - which raises your bass levels - and when you mix in that state you low end is going to sound weak as soon as you're done and go to another system.

    You can do a lot of non-destructive acoustical treatments.

  10. Luke

    Luke Guest

    Go to the Acoustics forum, you'll find how to treat your room to make it sound better.Good Luck,
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    For a very modest sum, you can go to yer local Radio Shack and buy a decent Db meter.Set it 'weighted' and listen @around 70 decibles.Also read the forum as has been suggested.Until you can upgrade your room, do not mix or listen to your material over this limit.You will find your mixes will translate immediately better.
  12. bgavin

    bgavin Guest

    Interesting. 75 dB is the preferred value of speech intelligibility. Not very loud, for sure.

    I own the aforementioned Radio Shack precision instrument (30 years old now), and it still works fine. It routinely tells me my damn band is too loud, i.e. 105 dB at 25 feet.

    I suspect the reason for the 75 dB recommendation is to avoid having the ears desensitize and go deeef on ya. My guitar player goes deeef after 2~ 3 tunes, and cranks his amp to 11. Amusing to watch, awful to endure. (I play with ear plugs).
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I knew that!All those scales are quite well known to me...and I think theres times when my band is at least that loud....JCM800,Twin,Blues DeVille,....I brought it down a bit because I have found, Especially with particularly inaccurate monitors in a room that may be lacking somewhat, that listening and mixing at a particularly low level not only allows the speakers a chance to have a decent bandwidth, but it also doesnt allow any 'nodes' prevalent to the room to get excited and cause trouble ....which is what this particular poster was describing.Of course I WAS wrong yesterday...and a high-five to the Deeef answer.

    "Now that it sounds good, lets all have a BeeR" :c:
  14. Mike Tate

    Mike Tate Guest

    Why are you doing that? You should at least have one copy of your music that is uncompressed. Doesn't make sense to have the only copy in existance be severely sonicly damaged.

    And if you don't hear the damage that MP3 compression is doing, maybe that's the problem right there. Your ears could need more training at critical listening. Once you learn to listen, your mixes will improve and translate better to other speakers.
  15. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    1. Definetly not a good idea.

    2. MP3 of any variety is going to change the sound of your balance. Especially if you are listening critically to your balance before you convert. It's like working on a uncompressed high resolution on a photo in photoshop and then complaining on how it looks after you've compressed it down to the size and qualty needed for an avatar on the net.
    You don't get something for nothing.

    3. The "trick" to making judgement in untreated rooms is to get you monitors very close to you away from boundaries and monitor at very low volume , checking/monitoring in mono frequently. Large volume will excite the unwanted room modes a poor room will exhibit. Low volume will help keep away from that.

    4. Again do not cover the port(s) they're there for a reason.
    masterdeeno likes this.
  16. werewolf

    werewolf Guest

    THis is a great thread. I give my thanks to the guy that started it. I to have been wondering about my mixes.

    Ethan's forum over at the acoustic section has showed me alot of things I didnt know. And alot of things I was doing wrong with my room.

    But the monitors I am using is a pair of passive alesis and I have seen the same problem? The bass is wayyy off. But from 200hz and up seem to be fine. But I am getting some imaging problems. Is there any monitors that you guys know of that are more accurate than the alesis? Within my poor white trash budget. say under $600??
  17. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    Talib, What range do you have your channel meters set for in Sonar? I went to a Sonar 3.0 clinic a few months ago and someone was worried that all their tracks were in the red.....turns out they had the meter range set to -48db. Worth checking, but even if they're set to -12, turn you channel levels down and your monitor levels up (sparingly) to keep your speakers and ears healthy & happy.
  18. bgavin

    bgavin Guest

    Plugging one of your ports will tune the cabinet significantly lower. This causes the whole bass region to droop, and encourage you to apply even more bass to your mix.

    Played back through drivers that correctly reproduce the bass range, your mix will be muddy and tubby.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    The main reason for monitoring at 85 dB (not 70 or 75 dB) is due to an effect called the " Fletcher Munson Curve". The human ear hears at it's flattest at 85dB. Under 85dB the ear rolls off highs and losws. This is why most home stereos have a loudness button that boost the bass and treble for low level listening .... If you monitor all the time at levels above 85dB you will push the mids, below 85dB and you will push the highs and lows ... at 85, your mixes will be balanced ...
    bigtree and masterdeeno like this.
  20. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    :) Kurt, even though most recording books present this critical information along with "What is the decibel?" in chapter one, Fletcher Munson equal loudness research is often overlooked.

    I can't remember the last time it was mentioned in a post.

    An RO search showed,
    Nothing in Micing, Tracking, Mixing & Editing.

    Once on 12/15/03 in Producers Engineers & Hardware by Tommy P.

    Twice in Mastering, on 6/19/03 & 12/19/03

    Thanks for bringing this critical information back into the light, right on! :tu:

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