Room interference

Mixing/Master conditions

So. I’m mixing, mastering, burning, listening in all the different environments I can find, and I come to the conclusion that my room is at fault. I mix on Studiophile Bx5a monitors, which in the store seemed a little on the bright side. No matter. I can adjust. However, when I get the CD to the car, it’s too bright and the frequencies are really those really harsh ones around 2 to 5k (that’s a ballpark/guess). Same goes in most other venues.

Then, last night, I figured it out when I cupped my hands to my ears --VOILA! I now hear the exact frequencies that were so heavy in the car! My hands next to my ears provided the identical frequencies that I wasn’t hearing thru the monitors. I mixed a couple of tracks with my newly found wisdom, and the problem goes away. The room is now suspect. So, my question. What can be done to keep the mid-highs from getting soaked up by the room, without spending cash? I don’t want to get into the acoustical physics of the house, but I’m in a loft on the 2nd story, so for the most part the sound just spills over and into about 1000 square feet. Call it a large room. I don’t seem to have trouble acurately producing the bass, just the mid-highs.

Thoughts?

What that shows is that it’s probably a little hole in the frequency response of the monitors. The frequency is high enough that the room won’t make a huge difference once your ears get use to them. Of course room acoustics will make a huge difference, but it’s not likely to absorb a very narrow band up in that range - the absorption will be more wide band and will extend on up. This is speculation without have seen the room so I could be way off.

You said the monitors are bright, yet the mixes are coming out too bright in other locations. That’s the reason I made that spot judgment.

There are things to try that are EASY to see what the difference is in the mix.

Hang a towel over the monitors. It will absorb the highs some and diffuse them as well. I found that one one set of my speakers that makes the upper mids (the range you are having trouble with) to jump out. That seems totally illogical but that’s what my ears hear. It’s not unlike what you hear when you cup your hands around your ears. Use multiple layers and listen to the differences. I use three layers of terry cloth on those particular speakers, hung so it’s about an inch in front of the tweeters only. That makes them mid rangey has heck, but I can really hear stuff in them.

HA!! Cup your hands around your ears when you mix as an A-B. I do it regularly when listing on the laptop speakers and many times on other speakers as well. I can hear some REAL high end junk when I do that. Put your fingers IN your ears and block them as well. Listen close when doing that. It’s amazing what you can hear when little things are done to change what your ears are used to hearing.

Some of your problems can also be attributed to ear fatigue. When mixing your ears get so use to hearing the peaks that they sound normal and flat even when they are there and big. Taking the sound to another atmosphere makes them very audible again.

Listen a long time on other speakers in a different room, then immediately listen on the studio monitors while your ears are adjusted to the car or whatever. That might help expose the oddities in your studio, not that they are major or anything. A least you’ll get an idea of the coloration that is there compared to the other systems, even if it’s slight.

phoo’s right on his recommendations.

my first thought went to phase cancellation. your monitoring position and speaker placement COULD be causing phase cancellation in the freq range you noticed. the cupping of your ears to reveal the freq’s is what leads me to this theory.

don’t know what your options are in your monitoring space, but try relocating your monitoring position, or creating some non-reflective, non-parallell surfaces to each side of your listening field. this could perhaps help you hear the offending freq’s before they cancel each other out and go unheard.

that is IF phase cancellation is your trouble.

just a thought.

later…

I agree with Phoo that room dimensions & distances are unlikely to be the issues at frequencies at 2K and above, since the wavelength for 2K is about 6 inches. If moving your head (or the speakers) about 3 inches on any of the 3 axes makes a big difference in the sound in that frequency range, then I’m wrong. If moving half the wavelength doesn’t affect the sound, it’s not a phase cancellation & reinforcement problem.

It could be that your walls are absorbing these frequencies too much, though. But that would likely be the case only if you’re mixing WAY too loud. The whole idea of near-field monitoring is to eliminate the room as much as possible, and mixing at high levels defeats that – the room will be ringing!

Note well: the stuff you CAN’T hear in your studio is the stuff that tends to be too loud when comparison monitoring. This reinforces what Phoo says about maybe your speakers having holes in that range.

Be sure to try places other than just your car, and be sure to listen to commercial music in a similar genre just before checking yours, to calibrate your ears.

You can calibrate your system to your room. We should probably try doing a Wiki on this, but briefly, here’s what you do.

FIRST, though: pull those speakers AWAY FROM THE WALLS. If your speakers are near the walls, you’re defeating near-field monitoring. They should be closer to your ears than to the walls, but even pulling them out a foot or two makes a HUGE difference. Note that this isn’t likely to be an issue in the range you’re talking about – more in the low frequencies. OK, back to calibration.

Get a calibration mike. I suggest just getting a cheap analog SPL meter from Radio Shack for about $35 (I prefer the analog to the slightly more expensive digital meter – you can READ a bouncing analog meter!) and use the RCA output on that. Put it where your head goes. (Ideally, atop a dummy that’s about the size, shape, density, and reflectivity of your body, but never mind.) Set the meter to “C” weighting mode (for music), in the 80 dB range.

Using a test tone generator, generate a white noise wave file and play it from n-Track.

Enable LIVE mode in n-Track.

Enable recording on an audio track (though no need to actually record). Open the EQ and watch the frequency response display for that track. If you’re interested in the low frequency range too, right-click on the display and double or quadruple the Window Size – watch the low end to see what this does. Note that this eats CPU, so set it back to default later.

Ideally, the FFT display would be a flat line, and as you increase or decrease the volume of your monitors, the level would go up or down but stay flat. More likely, it’s wavy, and the waves increase and change as you increase the volume.

Looking at the meter, set the volume so the meter reads 86 dB, more or less. This is the ideal level for calibration due to Fletcher Munson. Alternatively, set it to a good mixing level, which IMHO is a good bit lower, say 70 to 75 dB.

Now, adjust the EQ on the white noise track (NOT the track you’re record-monitoring) and make as simple adjustments as possible to get the frequency response relatively flat.

Save this EQ adjustment and use it on the Master Channel for mixing, but BE SURE to disable it when doing mixdowns.

Capisce?

So there are two things that I think I should document, just so I’ve said thank you to all for the replies.

1. I’ve been recording vocals WAY to close to the mike out of fear that jacking the gain up would get too much of the room. Part of the issue was the Muchinsenton-Leche curve (or who ever it is). I was rolling off the lows, but the highs were still poking thru. Lesson one.

2. The speakers were above my ears. I have a computer desk which doesn’t allow me to put the speakers at ear level. So, I dropped them down next to the keyboard, and now, I get the same results when I A/B with-the-hands-cupped-around-my-ear-trick. No change.

I still think I’ll look into the calibration that Jeff talked about, but I really want to get this project out of the way, and right now, I’ve made such improvements that I need to re-record about 20 vocal tracks. .

So, thanks for the advice.

Try Har-Bal.

It won’t give as good results as “golden ears”, but if you’re like me and have neither golden ears nor a good monitoring environment, it gets you in the ballpark.

Try the demo anyway, I think you’ll find it’s worth your time. :)

here

and the Har-bal mastering tutorial:

here

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Har-Bal has caused a paradigm shift in the recording industry and is an award winning outstanding technical achievement.

This superior method of EQ’ing and harmonic balancing gives Har-Bal it’s distinction as the premiere spectrum analyzer for the most important step in the CD mastering process. It truly separates an amateur recording from a professional recording and removes the need to test your CD’s on different systems and environments.

In addition, unlike a typical digital equalizer, Har-Bal leaves the initial volume level unchanged even after performing spectral correction thanks to its “loudness compensation” technology.

Har-Bal allows you to easily tidy up the sound quality of mastered or un-mastered recordings while preserving the original intent of the producer and/or recording engineer. Our newly created algorithm named IntuitQ in the forthcoming version 2.0 will allow Har-Bal to predict Optimal EQ without using any reference files. It will analyze your track and design a harbalized filter that is near perfect.

Calibration is fun if you’re a nerd, but the most important thing to calibrate is your EARS! Listen to a lot of good music in your genre using your setup, and at volume levels similar to how you mix (hopefully, not very loud!) This calibrates your ears pretty well. The rest is far less critical, assuming your speakers are where they should be!

Are you saying I’m a nerd Jeff? :D

Ali (sitting poised and waiting to be told how to calibrate the listening environment of a 20 year old motor home, and ears that are more than 3 times that age! :p).

PS. Anyway, Har-Bal ain’t about calibration.

It gives a visual display of your spectrum, and, it allows you to hear EQ changes without an alteration of loudness, (and you know what effect loudness changes have on perceived EQ Jeff).

Har-Bal + Waves + Ozone = Mastering Heaven for deaf old farts like me! :laugh:

Hey, if the shoe fits … ???

Right – Har-bal isn’t about calib. I was referring to earlier posts.

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Hey, if the shoe fits …


Charmed I’m sure LearJeff.

But as always, you know best, so who am I to comment?

Ali

Lots of good information in this thread. Here’s a site you might want to check out also.

http://www.acoustics101.com/default.asp


I know you said you’re not looking to go through a lot of expensive acoustic treatment, but here’s something that I use that works well.

For sound baffles, to stop reflections therefore causing frequency cancellations:
Buy some inexpensive 2"x2" wood. Build a rectangular frame of about 2 ft. x 6 ft. Staple insulation to the inside of the frame, typical pink panther stuff, also inexpensive. Goto a fabric material crafts kind of store. Buy some burlap type of material that matches the decor of your room. Rap this material around the outside of the frame and staple it. Now with these you’ve eccentially created some inexpensive baffles, that you can hang up on the walls and depending ony the design of the fabric you chose it can actually be pleasing to the eye and hang it on the walls like it was a picture. These should be hung on the wall directly across from the direction your speakers are pointed and also on the wall behind your speakers. You can also make floor standing versions by making some kind of wooden base. This is a very inexpensive and very effective accoustical treatment option.

Also look into getting some Mopads or something equivalent to set your speakers on. These can do wonders for sound problems. The above link I posted gives a Radio Shack equivalent in Chapter 5 and a lot more information regarding these.

http://www.auralex.com/sound_isolation_mopad/sound_isolation_mopad.asp

I think you’ve already made the biggest step by putting the speakers at ear level. Read the information on the accoustics 101 website and you’ll probably also find other areas that you can improve on also.

Also to add to Jeff’s good advice try adding a small delay to one of your speakers. For phase problems, adding EQ where frequencies dip can actually be more of a problem, because if it’s phase cancelling at a certain frequency and you boost that frequency in both speakers it just causes more cancellation at that frequency. Adding a small delay las small as .3ms can allow you to hear drastic changes in sound quality. This should just be used for trouble shooting techniques though to hear if you do have a phase cancellation problem. You don’t want to mix like this, you just want to hear if you do have a phase problem due to the room.

Well, all I can say with authority is I like calibrating, and I’m a nerd! :;):