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Mix Sounds Good on ATH-M50x, Horrible Everywhere Else

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Hey Gais,

 

I'm mixing something on my ATH M50x's and it sounds great. The problem is, when I listen on my Bose PC Speakers or my earbuds, the mix sounds terrible. What does this mean, and how do I take steps to avoid this from happening?

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Post the mix and let's take a look. :)

 

That aside, it could just be that some issues that aren't that noticeable on your ATH M50's are more accentuated on your speakers or earbuds due to their frequency responses. That happens for me sometimes too---whenever I mix lead electric guitar, even when it sounds good on my Beyerdynamic DT-880's, on my (albeit rather average) speakers, I usually find a piercing thin midrange resonance that I didn't detect on my headphones, but is much more noticeable on the speakers when listening at a comparable volume. After I use my speakers to help me find the resonance and fix it with a notch filter, I listen to a before-and-after to check that it doesn't sound much different on the headphones after the adjustment.

 

So, listen to your track on as many different audio systems as possible, make small changes until you find a good middle ground between the system that makes the track sound bad and your ATH M50's. That's what I do, anyway. It would also help to learn (if you haven't already) how to make fine-tune edits in your DAW, such as rolling the mouse wheel while holding Alt in FL Studio on a Parametric EQ 2 EQ band.

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I own the ATH-M40's and one problem I've noticed is that I often don't hear velocity issues in my music. Something about them make it difficult for me to pinpoint when a instrument is striking to hard. I don't know how different the 40s are from the 50s. To surmise I have a detail issue with my headphones. How does you mix sound on your earbuds and speakers? We might be able to pinpoint the problem if we get more details.

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Use reference mixes when you're doing your final effects on your track.  Find a song that has a similar sound that you're looking for that's been done by professionals and compare it to your mix, see what's different and make the appropriate adjustments.

 

 

Dave Pensado talks a bit more about it here if you'd like a visual explanation.

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I use the M50s as well for metal production and they've been troubling me greatly recently. I've found problems all over the frequency spectrum:

 

  • Bass (< 250 Hz): The bass response on the M50s, both in terms of velocity and linearity of frequency emphasis, is sub-par in my opinion. I'm heaving a hard time actually hearing what's going on in this region, let alone EQing there. Most of the time, it's pure guesswork. I frequently mix the bass region way too loud so I can actually hear it on the M50's and it will sound completely out of proportion on other monitors.
     
  • Low-mids (250-800 Hz): Completely underemphasized and this is a huge issue for me. In a metal context, guitars, bass, and toms as well have vast amounts of content in this region and it gets cluttered and muddy very easily. I rarely notice it until I go to another listening system. This region literally gives me headaches.
     
  • High-mids are okay imo.
     
  • Highs (> 4000 Hz): I don't know how old your M50's are, but for the first half a year, mine were much too bright until the membranes (and the sound) became a little softer. Still, they're fairly bright in comparison to other monitoring systems in my opinion. That frequently resulted in me filtering out too many high frequencies, especially in guitars, because it sounded abrasive on headphones. On other systems, the mix would then sound dull and would lack brilliance in comparison to commercial mixes.

 

Let me know if some of these problems sound familiar. I recommend getting a frequency generator and sweeping through the whole range, to get a sense of how strong the headphones will pronounce certain frequencies.

 

 

EDIT: Darangen says something very important. I load up 3 references before I even start mixing. Also, concider using a frequency analyser: some of these (the Waves one for example) are able to "learn" the frequency distribution of one track and apply corresponding EQ to another track to make it sound similar. This can be helpful at the beginning of a mix, since you will get an immediate visual feedback on what regions of your mix need attenuating or more emphasis.

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Learn the limitations of both systems, which requires a lot of extended listening.  There's something to be said for monitoring which lets you create mixes that reproduce well from the start, but no one system can tell you everything.  So you always have to tweak a little.

 

I'm really not that big on reference mixes because the choices made from their staff are rather subjective.  You can spin a mix from good source material many different ways and still have it sound right.  I guess it helps with overall frequency skew.

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I've had experiments where I wanted to share a track with *Designed for ATH-M50* in the title. Because if you mix specifically for the headphones you can get some absolutely crazy bass sounds.

 

Sounds garbage anywhere else. Like nuclear apocalypse garbage.

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Neblix - This isn't what you're going to want to hear, but in the studio I only use my M50x's for one reason:  To hear what my stuff sounds like for people who exclusively use them.  I have found them to be too heavy on certain elements to produce a reliable mix because like Modus said, what sounds great on M50's may not translate well to other devices.  However, they are one of my top headphones for recreational listening because the low impedance means a headphone amp isn't really necessary, and closed back design ensures you won't bother people in public places with a loud volume.

 

My personal preference on headphones for mixing is the DT880's, but they're still not ideal for a final mix.  If you have the money to spare, a nice pair of studio monitors with the proper placement and room treatment is really the way to go.  I'm more than happy to give you some gear recommendations if you want to message me.

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