Bass, bass, bass

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by joshbaezmusic, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    Hey guys,
    So I'm using my downstairs as a home studio, but whenever I listen to my tracks, the bass is never as loud as it is if I take it to a friend's house. When I listen to it over there, or anywhere else, my mixes are ALWAYS bass heavy. What can I do to fix this problem? I use a pair of Rokit KRK 5's. Should I get a subwoofer? Maybe a larger pair of monitors? Please help!

    Thanks!

    -j.
     
  2. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    That's probably the most common mixing problem for folks just starting out. Are your speakers maybe very close to the wall? Do you have any room treatment (particularly bass traps) set up?
     
  3. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    They're about 3 inches from the wall. How far should they be? And what are "bass traps?" Sorry, you were right- I'm new to all of this!
     
  4. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    There's a whole science to it. The smart thing to do is to budget 1-2 years and learn it. But, if you don't have that much time, then read a book maybe? Rod Gervais' is a relatively new classic one - http://www.amazon.com/Home-Recordin...=UTF8&coliid=IE8LPTPMD832P&colid=F2K4AZIWZWG2

    If not that, read up on the web about how to setup a mixing room. When you have speakers that close to a solid surface, you get what are called "standing waves". When you have a poorly setup room, you also have frequency cancellation and room modes at play. This results in the sound you hear at the mixing position (i.e. your desk) being inaccurate.

    Read up on "room modes", "standing waves", and "how to measure a room for acoustics". I'm not trying to give you a snide answer; it's really a HUGE subject that a few paragraphs will barely gloss over.

    The short answer is, of course, "Add less bass when mixing". It's actually a valid answer. At your mix position, are hearing a collision of bass frequencies (and other problems) that results in a different-from-actual sound. If you know already that your mix position is "light on the bass", then you just don't reach for the EQ to boost the bass. You tell yourself, "If my mix sounds good on my system, then that means it sounds muddy and bassy everywhere else. If my mix sounds thin on my system, then that means it sounds clear and punchy everywhere else."

    It's called "learning your room". And I'm not putting quotes around all this stuff just to be a jerk; that's really what it's called haha. And you need to know those terms so you can read up more (or that's what I think).
     
  5. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    Thanks man! That actually helps out a lot!
     
  6. Echo

    Echo Member

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    When you finish a mix, export it and play it on as many different speaker systems as you can.

    I always do a car check, a iPod check, a living room check, a clock radio check, etc.

    Then take what you've learned from all of those tests, adjust, and try again.
     
  7. scottlr

    scottlr Member

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    What Scott said.

    One thing you can do on a budget is to compare to a CD you like with your speakers. You MUST get to know your speakers AND your room. I am working on a project with another TGPer right now, and I suspect we are very bass heavy, although we have the same monitors. Hopefully mastering will take care of that.
     
  8. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    Luckily I intern at a studio and the guy there let's me use the room to check my mixes! But I want to be able to do it at home too. thanks for all the info!
     
  9. TimmyP

    TimmyP Member

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    There will be a notch in the frequency response that is based on their distance from a room boundary (floor, ceiling, wall). So if for instance they are three feet from the side walls, there will be a notch about 95Hz. The trick is to have the distance from a boundary 1/2 the distance between two boundaries, so that the notches will match the modes/nodes. For instance if the room has an 8' ceiling, put the speakers 4' from boundaries.
     
  10. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    What you're experiencing is that in your room, there are phase cancellations from room modes; as the bass bounces off the walls, ceiling, and floor, some of it's arriving at your mix position out of phase, thereby canceling the signal.

    And/or it's possible that your speakers are bass shy (though from your description of hearing it at friends' places, I suspect the room is the problem).

    So you're turning up the bass to compensate for what you're hearing, and as a result, you go to someone else's room, and suddenly you realize you mixed everything with too much bass.

    Bass traps are simply things that absorb some of the excess low end bouncing around your room so that you can hear your speakers and are affected less by the room modes. They're worth looking into.

    Another thing that you can do easily and inexpensively is double check mix balances with a good set of headphones; headphones will eliminate the room as a variable. No, you don't want to mix on them, but I'm suggesting that you use them as a double-check. In fact, if you listen to commercial mixes on them, you'll get an idea of what they sound like, and can then reference your own mixes with them. Listen back and forth to known good sounding recordings, and try to match the balances or at least get in the ballpark.
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    These are very general rules. The problem is that most rooms don't fit neatly into these formulas.

    For example, some walls act like membranes; others are far more solid. Some ceilings behave differently than other ceilings. An opening in the room, such as a door or closet changes things.

    And your formula needs to account for the wall behind the speakers, whose reflections are extremely important.
     
  12. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Actually, if mastering has to account for a very bass heavy mix, then the low end will need lots of broad-spectrum EQ. This may affect the rest of the instruments and even the vocal balance.

    The best thing is to give a mix to the mastering engineer that's as close to a balanced mix as possible, so that he or she can address the problems over a small notched frequency range, as opposed to having to broadly EQ an unbalanced low end, where the whole recording will be affected.

    You can think you know your room and speakers and still be wrong, even if they are VERY good speakers. Dips of as much as 20 db over certain bass notes caused by room modes are not uncommon!

    It's worth it to reference your mix at other places, and seriously consider getting a good pair of accurate headphones just to make sure your balances are right.
     
  13. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    This is likely a "worst case vs. best case" scenario which, I would think, will help you learn about "translation" super fast. You are mixing in a worst-case scenario room - no acoustic treatment whatever and no consideration for room modes and other issues. You are then referencing your mix in what I assume to be a best-case environment - a studio with enough clients/work that they need an intern. So I'm assuming there was a lot of time and money put into acoustic treatment and eliminating/minimizing the problems room modes can cause.

    This should be a great (and fast) learning experience - in that studio, you'll hear the nuance of change +/- 0.5db of EQ in the 200hz range, for example. In your home studio, you might find you don't notice that change until you do +/- 2.0db at that range.

    Here's a good idea -

    1) Invest $28 in a little portable SPL meter (like this one).

    2) Go download the test tones from the Real Traps site: http://www.realtraps.com/test-cd.htm. Michael Knowles makes some available too and you can, if you know how, use the tone generator in your DAW

    3) Budget an hour to do the tests (first time takes an hour but then you eventually get to where you can do this in 10 minutes with enough practice)

    4) Sit in your mix position

    5) With your SPL in hand, start playing the test tones. These files have been created all at the same volume. What you'll notice is that some frequencies seem louder, softer, or warbly - write these down!!!! These are your problems - if you notice that "200hz reads at 65db whereas everything else is at 85db", then you know that you have problems in that frequency. This would naturally lead you to boost that in the EQ during mixing (after all, at your mix position, you can't really hear that freq).

    6) Move your mix position and repeat the tests using the problem frequencies. Are they better? Worse?

    7) Go back to your normal mix position but this time, align/change your speakers differently - repeat tests for problem frequencies. The point of this is to show you just how drastic moving 10-12 inches can be in terms of how the room affects sound.

    8) Ask your friend if you can repeat the test in his studio. Note the differences. His room probably won't be perfect but I'm guessing it would have fewer problems. Make a game of finding the problem areas if you like.

    While you are listing, listen and watch for two things:

    • The SPL meter to change - if all files thus far have been reading "85db" but all of sudden it now says "92db", then you know there's an issue with that frequency. You'd want to be careful about boosting/cutting at that frequency during your mixing.
    • When it sounds really different (louder, software, warbly)
     
  14. batsbrew

    batsbrew Member

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    you must fix your room, before you mess with anything else.
     
  15. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    How much does mixing volume have to do with it?
     
  16. Nelson89

    Nelson89 Member

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    Everything. The louder you mix, the more bass you hear, but at the same time, the more pronounced room nodes come into play...

    The secret is to treat your room, mix with plenty of reference tracks and take your mixes to multiple systems with those reference tracks to check over it. I just finished mixing a demo for my band, and there were about 7 revisions on the mix JUST to mix the bass and low mids after taking it to several stereo's, car stereo's, headphones, computers...that's where the reference tracks come into play, you pick stuff you want to sound along the lines of, and use that as a target to shoot for as opposed to thinking "oh this sounds cool, i'm gonna boost here".
     
  17. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    All the above is true, but the monitors are in play too. Watch your frequencies below 55hz. The KRKs 5" speakers don't really play that low. So often sounds that you're barely hearing on them are thuddy boom on other speakers.

    I should know, I use them for mixing too. I use my headphones and go back and forth when I'm working on the low end and that tends to help me have a better idea (still not an ideal solution though).
     
  18. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    Would a bigger set of speakers fix this? Like 8s?
     
  19. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    Well, you always want to buy monitors whose frequency range match your music. For example, if you record "acoustic guitar singer/songwriter duo" stuff, then you just really need to hear something in the 80hz - 16khz range (and that's almost every set of monitors' coverage). If you're doing dubstep though, you're likely dealing with some deep bass sounds - maybe in the 40hz or lower range. You aren't going to find monitors that go that low so that's when you'd add a sub.

    But do you need to buy 8" monitors? No, that's not going to help you in this specific situation in the least. You could go buy $30,000 worth of monitors and it will only help marginally - because you're placing them right up next to the wall and your room isn't treated.

    This is a complex topic. If the answer was just "Buy bigger drivers", we would've said that early on and been done with it haha :p
     
  20. joshbaezmusic

    joshbaezmusic Member

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    haha, very true. Well how about this.. what studio headphones do you use to mix with? Currently I'm using a pair of Sennheiser HD280, but they don't really give me a good representation of the sound that's coming out. What headphones do you use?
     

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