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Getting a balanced stereo image when mixing on headphones

There are times when you have to listen to your music on headphones. It’s not a problem when recording, (it’s often highly desirable), but when mixing it can give you a false sense of perspective, it can make your mix seem wider than it really is, (unless you’re listening on earbuds).  When listening on speakers, the sound you hear is a blend of both channels, with any separation diminishing the further away you are from the source.  What we need is a way of allowing some controlled blurring of the left and right channels to let us hear the mix as if on speakers when the rest of the household doesn’t want to hear it at all!

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Tuning Your Monitors To Your Room

After all we’ve done to ensure that our mix doesn’t overload our stereo buss and to ensure that we’re listening at the right levels, no matter what we listen on, you might think we’ve done all we can to give ourselves the best chance of turning out a creditable mix.  Sadly, that’s not the case.  There’s one huge issue we have to overcome – the acoustic imperfections of our listening environment.  We want to be sure that we’re listening to a true, uncoloured representation of our mix from out flat-response monitor speakers, yet the room we are working in has its own character that will flatter the bass and suck out the treble, meaning the killer mix we are hearing sounds thin and tinny on earbuds or car speakers, or sounds thuddy and dull.  In this video, I look at how I’ve tackled that in my small home studio, using the first of two separate plug-ins from different manufacturers, this time focused on correcting my monitors for the room I’m listening in.

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Beginner’s Guide: Interfaces & Connectors

ConnectorsBefore we dive into looking at what you might want to consider when buying an audio interface, it’s worth having a quick look at the type of connectors you might come across and what the differences are.

The type of connectors you’d find on audio cables intended to be attached to computers, MP3 players etc. are 3.5mm jack plugs.  These are usually stereo cables, such as you’d see on a set of headphones.  A mono cable will have a single insulating break around the jack, separating the tip from the sleeve, but a stereo cable will have a second insulating break,   creating what is referred to as a tip-ring-sleeve, (TRS),  jack.  The sleeve provides a common earth, (or ground), whilst the tip and ring carry the left and right channels.  The tip is dimpled to allow an internal sprung connection to take the signal and hold the plug in place at the same time.  Professional audio equipment, (anything that isn’t meant to be consumer hi-fi), very rarely features these connectors.

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Gain Staging: Plugin Creep

Plug-ins have become a de-facto part of modern mixing, regardless of whether they’re VST, RTAS, AAX or one of the less common flavours.  Watch any mixing video and I guarantee you’ll see someone using plug-ins, either the stock plug-ins that come with their DAW of choice or a selection from the bewildering array of third party items. (As an aside, is Cubase the only DAW you can mix in without plug-ins, due to its inbuilt Channel Strip – or is that just a mega plug-in?). However, plug-ins can have an unwanted impact on your mixes, as they can introduce extra level into the signal path and, if you’re not careful, you find that the plug-ins didn’t make your mix sound better, they just made it sound louder.

 

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Gain Staging: Setting Monitoring Levels, Part 2

In the last few videos, I’ve looked at the steps I’ve taken to try to ensure that the gain structure of my mixes is such that I have plenty of headroom when I’m mixing, without running the risk of clipping the master output buss all the time. That’s all well and good, but it’s easy to undermine all that good work when your single emerges into the real world and has to ride the Fletcher Munson curves.  Setting a predictable level in your studio so that you know what is too quiet and too loud is as important as not overdriving your output bus.  Equally important is knowing that what you’re hearing is the same volume whether it’s on different speakers or headphones, so that you don’t kid yourself into thinking your mix has improved when it’s just got louder.  With that in mind, (and a handy little app for your phone), here’s how I set up my studio.

 

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The Total Beginners Guide To Home Recording – Start Here

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This post is the first part of what will ultimately form an e-book available free to download from this blog, forming a Beginners Guide To Home Recording.

Recording music has never been easier.  Year by year, the scale of the equipment you need to record a piece of music gets smaller, no matter what genre of music you’re making. It’s now possible to have a compact, portable recording studio that would cost thousands of dollars to assemble in a traditional recording studio, at a fraction of the price, (and it’s a very small fraction).  Oh, and congratulations, you’ve probably already made the biggest decision you’ll face on your journey from beginner to becoming someone who records and produces music.

You’re looking at it.  You’re reading these words on it.  The decision?  PC or Mac.  There are those people who will tell you that you can only really produce music on a Mac, but I’m not one of them.  In fact, I’ve never used anything Apple at all – I graduated from my trusty old Atari ST1024 to recording on a Windows PC and I’ve never felt the need to consider an alternative.  You have a computer and you’re used to it.  You know how it works and how to read this article on it.  And you can make music on it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a PC or it’s a Mac.

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