Okay, last question about monitors I promise!

Is there any reason against using a good set of powered computer speakers as reference monitors for mixing?

Yes, the Koss sound boxy and not too transparent … but I’ve given the Logitech X-230 2.1 a listen at the store and I must say I’m impressed …

I’m not expecting this to rival a good set of KEF or JBL reference monitors - thing is I don’t have the budget or space (1 bedroom apartment) for the big expensive monitors (which would be overkill anyway since I record at home for my own pleasure).

Has anyone tried the Logitech speakers? ???

I don’t have a specific recommendation for low-cost monitors but I would suggest that you can probably get more accuracy from a good set of headphones for much less cost than speakers with comparable performance. There are some aspects of mixing that require loudspeakers (final adjustments of bass, pan, or other spatial effects) but most of it can be done on headphones. I have commented on this at length elsewhere and a search may bring it up, but you will need headphones for overdubbing anyway and a set of Etymotic ER6s or Shure E2cs will cost $100-$130 USD and have much better performance than inexpensive computer speakers. Even if the speakers are pretty good, their interaction with your room acoustics can make a significant (and unknown without measurement) difference, especially in the low-frequencies.

One solution for the final adjustments is to take a preliminary mixdown around to friend’s houses, listen in the car, on a boom-box, and other systems you have access to, to get a sense of what you need to do for the final adjustments. By getting impressions on a variety of systems you can makje a portable mix without having to invest a lot in speakers. That said, I would argue that a good monitoring system is the single most important aspect of mixing. All the expensive mics, preamps, A/D converters and the like cannot make up for bad decisions in mixdown and those decisions depend on your ability to hear what you arte doing.

Anyway, all speakers or headphones have some coloration so you need to listen to lots of familiar music to understand how they affect the sound and learn to compensate. What doesn’t work are speakers or headphones that have large dips in their response. If the transducer has no output at a given frequency you will not be able to compensate for that, either mentally or with an equalizer. A speaker with too much emphasis for some frequencies can be equalized or you can just allow your mix to reflect that emphasis and everything will be fine on better speakers. If the speakers have no bass, you will have no idea what your mix is doing. The bass might be high or low. The same applies to any other notches in the response.

In general, if you don’t trust your monitors, use EQ as little as possible and try to adjust levels by listening to the frequencies where instruments overlap and try to estimate the relative loudness that way.


“Good” powered speakers would be fine - although “good” here is the operative word. Re: jimbob’s comment, I’ve never found it helpful to mix on headphones as the primary monitor, and my impression is that 98% of the serious folks out there would not recommend that route, although everyone says (and I totally find this useful) that listening to mixes on as many different systems is very, very helpful. Limey used to recommend the little optimus speakers from radio shack - anyway, why not just use a good home stereo setup if the cost is a problem? I picked up a harman kardon home stereo amp at a garage sale for 25 dollars, and some big old magnaplanar speakers for just a bit more. Not exactly pro, but I cna hear how bad I am quite well. :)

phoo had a great post on this topic a while back didn’t he? (Was it you phoo? somethign to the effect that the main thing is to learn how what you have transfers to other systems & environments?)

I’ll be the sole dissenter. Logitech makes some pretty good speakers despite what you would think of them by the name. Their THX certified stuff gives many low end monitors a real run for the money. One note, be careful when using a sub woofer. Something that sounds slammin’ with your sub can sound like whimpy poo on other systems. Therefore it is important that if/when you use a sub woofer, it is calibrated well so it isn’t making you think there is more or less bass than is actually there.

Interesting option, cheap enough to give them a try! I don’t have great monitors, Behringer Think it would be interesting to compare. One question, how would you hook them up to a 24/96 sound card? Has RCA outs.

Quote (hogfingers @ May 19 2006,23:27)
Interesting option, cheap enough to give them a try! I don’t have great monitors, Behringer Think it would be interesting to compare. One question, how would you hook them up to a 24/96 sound card? Has RCA outs.

Well, the Logitech X-230 2.1 comes with a 1/8" to RCA stereo adaptor.

As far as calibrating the subwoofer - point well taken. Which is why I also use AKG K-240 Monitor headphones for a different perspective.

And one thing I don’t do but really should is to record a track from one of my favorite CD’s and use that as a reference. I was given that tip ages ago but hardly ever do it.

Using say a track from Dark Side of the Moon or another fave “The Rain Song” by Zepplin and play that for reference.

If my own song sounds too hot or too quiet; too muddy, shrill or boomy - I have something to compare it to which was properly mixed and produced, playing through the same speaker system!

With regards to pros not using headphones to mix, that is almost certainly true (although some have been known to use AKG K1000s on occasion). However pros don’t worry about getting a decent monitor for a few hundred bucks, they pay to have their control room acoustically treated and don’t ever have to worry about disturbing family or neighbors.

In order to get monitors with equivalent quality to the Etymotic ER6 you would have to spend in excess of $1000 (and I wouldn’t know what to recommend even then unless you had $2500 to spend) and they still would not be flat to below 10 Hz. like the ER6 is when properly worn. Good headphones give consistent response regardless of the room acoustics and can be used to get a mix up to about 90% finished, leaving just a little more to be done on speakers.


Well, I know from experience that the things I have mixed with headphones have sucked. Maybe it was a case of “garbage in…” :) Anyway, those are good points.

For more than a year I used a set of Altec-Lansing powered PC desktop speakers (sub + two satellites) as my main monitors. They were OK for mixing, but they lacked the punch and transparency I need when laying down tracks. Now, I use a pair of powered ESI NeAR 05’s (connected by balanced cables to the soundcard), and they suit me well for both tracking and mixing.

Nowadays, the Altec-Lansings make a great PA system for the tiny gigs we do from time to time. They sound great, and they take up no space at all…

regards, Nils

You would be suprised what you can do with a pair of very high end headphones like Sennheiser HD 600’s. They use to go for $ 600 a pair. Now you can buy them refurbished from Sennheiser on Amazon for $ 200 with a warranty. These headphones are used buy Professional mastering studios such as DRT mastering who has done a lot of work for Sony and Warner Brothers.
I use to agree with everyone else when they said that headphones are not the way to go when mixing, but I have changed my mind completely now that i have a pair of these phones.


You know all over the different forums if you say you mix with headphones they really scoff, but I have monitors, and do a lot of the process witht the headphones. If I had a perfect room, which I cannot afford! the monitors no doubt would work better. But if I could afford better room treatment I could afford high end pres and compressors, then maybe I would not be talking about mixing with headphones. And If my golf swing was a lot better I might break par. BUT IT AINT!
But I love golf … and I love my little home studio and recording!
But I find I just have to do lot of comparisons, boom box, Car, Mp3 player to make a finsished mix. But the headphones sure do help. And without a much better room my monitors do not do for me nearly what I thought they would.

Amen to that hogfingers :)

Sennheiser HD600s are excellent headphones but usually somewhat more money (especially new) than the two insert style headphones I described. Inserts are not for everyone and the HD600s would be my second choice of the headphones I am familiar with (I didn’t mention them before because I was assuming they would need to be purchased new). The Koss PortaPro headset and its derivitives are actually very good for very little money giving near Sennheiser performance (in frequency response) for around US$40 although the maximum undistorted output is lower and there are some more subtle differences.

Insert headphones are a different “beast” than circumaurals like the Sennheisers or supra-aurals such as the Koss. The physics of their operation are somewhat different due to the fact that they seal to the ear-canal, the sound pressure responding to diaphragm displacement rather than diaphragm accelleration. This allows bass to extend to DC but requires that a good seal if the user is to get any low-frequency response at all. Even if the user inserts the headphones sufficiently to get good “objective” response (if you can hear backround noise clearly with no signal, you need a better seal), the user may initially perceive the headphones as lacking bass. This is due partly to the same problem all headphones have, you are only listening with your ears. In loudspeaker operation there is physical response to bass all over the body which is absent in headphone reproduction. Once you learn to listen with your ears only, the bass will seem very natural and extended. Different inserts may have subtle differences as well due to variations in frequency response. The Shure E2c has a bit more elevated bass than the Etymotic ER6, which is flatter overall but typically could benefit from about a 3dB reduction in high frequencies above 1 kHz. (HF shelf). The ipod version of the Ety’s has a bit more bass to start with. I find that it takes about 2-5 minutes for the seal to get tight and possibly up to a few hours to first get used to the sound. Once you have gotten used to the sound once, it takes much less time to adapt subsequently.

The primary question with inserts is whether you will be comfortable with that style, worn as required to get adequate bass (sealed to the ear). If you find it acceptable, the low-end headsets from either Shure or Etymotic will provide better sound that anything you can find for anywhere near the money.

I would repeat that any monitoring system needs to be lived with for a while before you will understand how it should “sound” when your mix is correct. You do not need to rip familiar CDs and import them to N-track to evaluate this however. Just playing those CDs in media player or any CD player without EQ or “features” such as “mega-bass” turned on will work. It takes hours of listening and you may need a “refresher” every now and then.


excellent and thorough response jimbob :)


My concern with monitoring/mixing with headphones has more to do with pan than frequency response. The fact that the headphones are specificly sending precise amounts of pan material to each ear is far different than what a person might hear when sitting in a room listening to a stereo set of monitor speakers.

That said, I do much of my audio editing with headphones. Of course, I am editing simple live digital recordings of orchestras and choirs so panning is not an issue. Also, my job in such a situation is to try to leave the recording a natural as possible without adding or subtracting any frequency material. When it comes to multi-tracking, I generally leave the final mix to the monitors. I also think what TomS said is a very good idea. Pick up a cheap receiver and a decent set of home speakers from a yard sale… this is much better than most computer “powered speakers”.

I just looked over here and thught I’d share my 2c. I’ve got myself a pair of Yorkville YSm1 's bought used on eBay for $100. They’re powered with a great solid Kenwood amp from the 70’s bought on eBay for $50. Very happy with the results.

I use an old 4 channel Sansui QXR-5500 Stereo and 2 rather large Optimus speaker cab’s that I got on sale when I worked for RS. I think the thing to do is compare what you’re mixing to something that you like that has been done professionally, and see where you stand on that basis.

I used to have to crank my stereo way up in order to get a decent volume out of my recordings. Now that I’ve made the comparison, I could see that I wasn’t putting in enough signal, and needed to use some mastering techniques.

I’ve been working with N for about 4 years and have yet to post any music; maybe I need to.