Personality - My Headphone Mix

Personality - My Headphone Mix


Like most here this is just about learning for me…

I’ve given it a fair go and what I was really going for here was ‘a reasonable balance’ for all the instruments nothing too flash but really just wanting to learn how to make things sit ‘well’.

By the way I should point out this is all a HEADPHONE mix…only option when you live in a small apartment, kids taken up all your space and the wife keeps buying new shoes…:weary::cry:

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Hey there Deevz :slight_smile:
it is hard to mix on headphones, the stereo imaging is way off, depth and amount of reverberation is almost impossible to dial in just right, their frequency response is nowhere near to linear, and the list goes on… However, the good thing about headphones is that there are no room modes, because basically you’re putting your room, with all of it’s deficiencies, out of the equation. I don’t know what brand of headphones you’re using, but head on over to Sonarworks site, and go to their headphone calibration software. If they have your brand and model of headphones in their list of calibrated headphones you’re in luck, download the plugin and try it out (it’s not free but you could try out a full functioning demo for 30 days). What it does is it turns your headphones into as close as it gets flat frequency response, so anything you hear through them will be that much more accurate. That is one suggestion I have for you in terms of improving your overall balancing (without the need of buying new monitors and spending time and money on room acoustics), just make sure to listen as much of reference tracks as possible through the plugin, to get your ears accustomed to it. Then you will be able to do more surgical balancing tasks, with that much more confidence that what you hear is what you get.
As for learning how to make things sit well in a mix, well, that’s a topic on it’s own, and to be honest, it is an never ending learning process, because as a mixing engineer you constantly receive different materials of different genres, that all need different mixing strategies, and the things you learned doing one mix, when applied to another could easily not work at all. So my advice is, get your hands on as much mixing tutorials you can, internet is flooding with them, just be sure to pick out the ones that really know what they are talking about, mixing books (Mixing secrets for the small studio by Mike Senior, Roey Izhaki’s Mixing Audio, and Michael Paul Stavrou - Mixing with your mind are my personal favorites), head over to grab as much multitracks as possible and start mixing, the best way to get a better mixer is just by doing it. And finally, join a community where you can ask anything audio related, where you will receive friendly and constructive advice, and help and…oh wait, you’ re already at the right place :wink:
Happy mixing and don’t give up :wink:


Agreed @VirtechStudios, very hard to mix with headphones due to the fact that they have so much coloration.

If you prefer going that way or it’s an not an option with for some reason, I would recommend some classic AKG K240’s. (get the older versions that are actually made in Australia, the newer are kind of week). They have a great stereo reference and have a very even frequency response and great detailed mids.

Being a headphone’s only mix, sounds pretty good indeed! Good luck :drums2:


Mate this is really really helpful commentary and I’ve already started on getting more learning materials. And I’ve checked out Sonarworks and my cans are listed which is great so will get on that.

I’m a singer in my band and just taking on recording/mixing so we can do some stuff on our own, but thanks so much. Cheers


Regarding “stereo imaging” I should mention my most recent studio experience when I was recording with my band, the engineer/producer had some amazing monitors in one of Sydney’s premier studios. But I soon realized each time he printed a mix for us to review the stereo imaging sounded way more closer particularly on drums and at one point I had to ask him to put some cans on to see what I meant and he was a little surprised just how close to the middle it all was.

My take is for better or worse we’re all listening to music off our mobile devices so it kinda made sense to me that a considerable amount of mix time should be done in cans…if that’s what the end listener will be using (mostly in ears now) which are even more sensitive to stereo imaging.

Is it right then to conclude that if it sounds good in the cans it’ll be good elsewhere…? Or that too simplistic a view :flushed:


That tends to happen a lot with studio monitors. Sometimes it’s placement, sometimes it’s the moniters themselves giving you a broader reference for mixing purposes. Usually the stereo opens up a lot in the Mastering process so if it sounds good in the monitors, it will sound better after Mastering. :beerbang:


Hey Deevz! I think you’ve done a very good job of the mix on headphones. I’ve certainly heard much, much, much worse mixes done on high quality monitors… and by saying that I am by no means implying your mix sounds bad, quite the opposite in fact!

Here’s a little secret I’ve learned in my time posting, critiquing and being critiqued on the internet: “No one needs to know how the sausage was made” :grinning: Music is all about listening, so I like to give listeners the best chance to do that… “Listen Without Prejudice” as they say.

All that said, here is what I’m hearing in the mix:

  • The overall frequency spread across the spectrum is very pleasing. Not too much low end or low mids, and the high and high mids sound very nice too. Low end is particularly difficult to judge on cans, and I think you’ve done a good job here. My subwoofer is behaving itself and everything sounds clear.

  • The vocals are “sitting on top of” the mix, rather than integrating into it. This is often an issue of what I like to call “proportion”. It’s a combination of frequency “height” and “depth” along with dynamics. When a sound is very full range, with a lot of highs and lows, as well as a fairly substantial dynamic range, we perceive it to be “large”.

For example, when you hear an old Frank Sinatra recording, his vocals sound HUGE - lots of low end, lots of dynamic range. Whereas the orchestra/band often sounds “small” & “polite” by comparison - just an accompaniment to the “main show”, the vocal.

In rock music, the band needs to be powerful and “big”, so the vocal needs to be more proportionate - another “element” in the band mix. Removing low end from the vocal will help the low end of the guitars, bass, kick and snare sound “bigger” by comparison.

Reducing the dynamic range of the vocal via compression and/or automation will enable the vocal to “step back” into the melange of the band sound, yet still speak consistently to be heard over the (by nature) very compressed sound of distorted guitar amps.

  • The snare sound has an unusual amount of (what sounds like) under-snare “buzz”, along with some boxiness in the 400hz range. While the extended under-snare sound lends some sustain to the drum, it cuts off rather abruptly and unnaturally, so possibly some more work with the release times of your gates might have been in order there. The prominence of the “buzz” also tends to overshadow any shell sound of the drum, which suggests that the drum is being played rather softly, since harder hit drums tend to excite the shell tone. Getting that shell tone to speak loudly gives the impression that the drum is being hit hard, which is really appropriate for a rock song like this, particularly in the choruses.

  • The guitars are a little “polite” in the mix. This may well be symptomatic of the way things are heard on headphones, as the sounds out wide tend to be overemphasised on cans, so it would stand to reason that we might turn the guitars down in response to that. But that again, tends to make them subjectively “smaller” in context with the vocals and drums. As @VirtechStudios says above, referencing can really help out in these situations. For example, check out the powerful guitars in this Eric Valentine mix of Slash/Ian Astbury:

Overall though, I think you’ve done a pretty good job here. It’s a fallacy that people can’t mix on headphones. Listening to episodes of the “Working Class Audio” podcast where they often interview top ranking pro mixers, more and more are having to work on cans, and they manage to do an awesome job of it - so it can be done. Nice work - keep it up!


Thanks @ColdRoomStudio such incredible advice and very in depth, I now realize also what you mean after listening to the Slash/Ian Astbury track how my guitars don’t pack that ‘punch’… I think I was chasing the clarity and balance with everything too much I stopped paying attention to ‘feeling the genre’ which does demand power in guitars.

The snare you’re spot on as well… I committed the top and bottom tracks too soon to one track attempting to save on CPU and by the time I started getting really annoyed with the snare I was too far gone:astonished:.

I really appreciate the review and will also work on doing better with vox especially the low end which is a constant issue for me… thanks a tonne for feedback, cheers.


Thats great to hear Deevs, glad you joined in on this journey and I know you will have fun. Just stick with it hard, there will be times when your mixes will just suck, and nothing will make sense, and you will be about to quit and throw in the towel, but just remember, we all went through this (and still are), your mixes will improve in time, and you will become a better mixing engineer with each and every new song you mix.
As for the headphone mixing, you definitely should check your mixes on various types of equipment, headphones included. There is no way to make it sound great on all of them, but the point is to make a best of trade off, so your mixes won’t sound way off on different sets of speakers. I do my mixing on my monitors, and I regularly check on my headphones, and small computer speakers, also in mono (try mixing in mono for start, and make a habit out of it, that way you won’t be relaying so much to panning to avoid masking, you will be pushed hard to make room for different instruments in the frequency spectrum using EQ and compression). Just try hard and you will get the hang of it eventually :slight_smile:

Happy mixing,



Hey the mix works pretty well, I’m terrible with headphones and I couldn’t have mixed this well with them, good job.
While i do think that there are some frquencies that need addressing and it can be difficult with headphones, the main thing that could kick you mix up a notch is by working on your use of compression. I thinks there’s a little too much compression on the drums which overpowers the mix, I think working on that alone will do wonders for your mix.

Great job.


[quote=“Deevz, post:5, topic:893”]
Is it right then to conclude that if it sounds good in the cans it’ll be good elsewhere…?
[/quote] that was the whole point of Auratones and Yamaha NS10’s right?
Makes sense that still holds very true. Now we just need to be told which set of EarBuds some famous producer uses so we can go buy them.

I think the mix sounds great but I havent heard the pro version.

Deevz are you using the crossfeed plugs and all that type speaker-sim "both ears hear both speakers " like when using real speakers?


I would say you have achieved what you were shooting for: nice balance, good movement and energy. I find that the vocals are a little wet for my taste but that is a taste issue. I do think the treatment on the vocals does overpower the subtle of the guitars in all of the sections that you have not accentuated the guitars. Not too bad but i think maybe some judicial eq on the reverb would allow those to come through without having to touch the faders.