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Mixing for laptop speakers / earbuds / low end gear

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I find that a number of my songs (especially ones with piano) - which sound fine when played on KRK Rokit 6s or a decent set of Sennheiser headphones - cause static/crackling/popping noises on cheap systems, particularly when the volume is turned up. I'm talking laptop speakers, earbuds, cheap Logitech speakers, etc.

None of the songs are clipping. I'm thinking it might be because the cheaper systems emphasize the highs, and when they do that with my songs there's too much and they can't handle them?

Another problem I've run into with a couple songs is near total loss of bass when played back through laptop speakers.

I'm thinking EQing might be the answer to these issues, but my concern then would be that EQing things so that the songs sound better on laptops/earbuds would hurt the mixes on high end equipment.

So basically, my question is first, what causes the crackling? And second, how do you handle making sure your songs translate well on cheap speakers without compromising overall mix quality?

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Yeah, the problem is most likely EQ. Your KRK Rokits are studio monitors, so the frequency response is going to be pretty flat. It's easy to overcompensate in these situations and mix the bass or treble at too hot a level.

If your high-end is crackling on laptop speakers (which has a very accentuated high-end), then it's probably much higher than it needs to be. Laptop speakers have very little bass response, though, so don't use those levels as an accurate representation. Instead, I would recommend bringing the mix into a car and listening on crappy car speakers (the crappier the better) with the "bass" knob turned all the way up. If it completely overpowers your mix, sounds muddy, then your bass level might be too hot as well.

The right approach would be to listen to professionally produced mixes on your Rokits and try to match their bass and treble level. You want something called "harmonic balance," which basically means your track is pretty even across the entire EQ spectrum. If it's balanced, then it will sound "good" on any system. As a cheat, in the mastering stage, you can use something like Har-Bal (http://www.har-bal.com/) to match a track's EQ levels to a professionally produced mix. I generally mix the mids myself, but use Har-Bal to double-check my high- and low-end.

Hope that helps!

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