Playback System, speakers etc.

My frontend is pretty basic. I run the PC audio signal into my home stereo poweramp (JVC-AX11 40w) to a pair of 20w Mission speakers which I bought about a year ago. I sold my EQ which I regret now. Listening to CD’s, Mp3’s, streaming audio or my tape deck everything sounds like a home stereo should all things considered. When I listen to stuff I made on NTrack, either mixed or before mix it sounds hollow and not very dynamic?.

The bass rumbles on, drums sound hollow and thin, guitars sound thin and weak. Vocals seem to hold thier own.
When I listen to other peoples’ mixdowns from NTrack they sound so much better than mine on this same stereo.

When I listen to my tracks and mixes through my headphones which are plugged into the JVC they sound like I think they should, which is pretty good. When I unplug the headphones and listen through my stereo speakers it sounds like the life it taken out of the NTrack signal.

I take a great deal of care when recording, trying to achieve a consistent recording signal with guitar, bass and vocals and all my external equiptment is of good quality and my PC can handle the workload. My soundcard is a Audigy2 Platinum. I also take care when working within NTrack, keeping levels consistent without distorting them, not overplaying the fx etc.

Why is there such a big difference here? Is it a case of having to small of speakers, lack of a external eq or is something else going on that I’m missing?

I’m interested if any other people have this sound quality problem and what they did to overcome it.



With what are you monitoring when you mix. I suspect you use headphones because you said everything “sound like they should” when listening with them.

Basically, you make different decisions if you mix with headphones. You pan differently since there’s no feed from another ear like you would have from another speaker for example. You eq differently, you set the levels differently…

Here’s an article that explains it quite well

If you use something else for monitoring, there’s something wrong with the monitoring if the mixes won’t translate to other systems. Bad monitors, bad room, bad positioning of monitors…

Here’s a few thoughts based on my own experience.

A couple of years ago I mixed an album (in N-track) which had some songs on it with all the tracks recorded in a “proper” studio. (Others had some N-track recorded tracks too). The point being they were good/well recorded tracks - ie a good starting point for mixing.

At first, I tried mixing on my stereo. I found that I could make mixes sound quite good, but when I took them elsewhere they sounded rubbish. Eventually I put this down to my low end stereo hyping certain frequencies to make things sound “better”.

I then had a go on an old “high end” hi-fi circa 1985. I spent ages listening to “real” music first. These speaker sounded sooo flat (dull) compared to modern stereos, but I found that when I mixed on them, the mixes translated quite well to other systems. ie a good mix on this system sounded great elsewhere.

Ignoring the room effects, tired ears, psycho-acoustic effects, the problem is that speakers don’t faithful reproduce what is thrown at them. They emphasise some frequencies and leave others out. We can train our ears to cope with the over emphasised frequencies but the problem lies with the ones that are left out. How can I tell that the guitar has an annoying honk at 800Hz if my speakers don’t reproduce it well?

Limey used to talk about trying your mixes on as many different systems as possible. This is great advice. It’s no good having a great song that sounds great on your stereo, but when your friend plays it on his walkman it sounds rubbish.

This might mean making certain sacrifices/compromises to make the song sound good. Too much bass on one system but OK on another? Well you may have to split the difference. You can only tell this by trying mixes on other systems.

Remember also that commercial music has been mastered.

The album I referred to earlier was mastered professionally and the tracks, which were pretty good to start with, just got that extra bit of sheen.

I’ve now got a set of cheap nearfields, and the difference with my hi-fi monitoring system is huge. I can hear things in my old mixes that I didn’t know were there.

Anyway, that’s far too much of me…

Hope some of it helps.


Hi VatRat. Do you work for the tax authorities? Anyway, I had a similar problem; I used to mix on mid-price headphones and I got a satisfying sound, but when I listened to my stuff on the home hi fi, in the car or on other peoples systems it sounded much worse, thin and lifeless. After much reading and thinking I chose to try some pro quality headphones. Mainly because I can’t use loudspeakers to mix, it would drive my wife nuts. Now my mixes sound OK on other systems. The headphones I use are Sennheiser HD270, closed so that other sounds in the house don’t bother me, and so I can’t hear the TV etc. I believe it is best to mix using good near field monitor loudspeakers but I can’t. My compromise is acceptable to me. It can take a lot of experimentation, rather like getting a colour printer to give the same result as a PC monitor. Patience and effort will, I am sure, yield a solution for you.

de acid test o’ a mix is yer playbak thry a pair o’ minibud eadphones, a clok radio n a mono old tv spkr’’’‘reason bein matey vatrat cos i seen lotsa gonzo mixes go down da khyber pass’’‘i seen mixes go bad dat wos don on wot mac used ta say were 5k monkey caskets’’’‘its yer best test matey’’‘none better in ole limeys opinyun’’‘sure di yer mixin on yer fancy schmancy nearfields or soffit monsters’’’‘but yer gotta make sur it passes de acid test’’‘cos a lotta da punters only got crummy spkrs ta lissen to’’’’’ :D :D