Sub60hz mixing...

So, I’m well into my first project. Now, I’m seeing the advantages to having my own set of real (ie., flat) monitors and REALLY am starting to see how much a set of speakers can potentially color the sound. I can’t seem to gain the “oomph” in the <60hz range. One time it’s too hot and boomy, the next it’s too weak. My question is this: how DO you mix the lower end, even with flat monitors if they only extend to say 50k? Do I really have to spend the dough on something that goes down to 20k? I’ve run the mix thru my multiband, and I’m very happy with the overall sound on my pc speakers, but haven’t gotten two mixes in a row that I’m pleased with in the sub 60hz range, when played thru a car stereo, or something that can handle the lower end.


I roll everything off below 50Hz, which is fairly common. Below that its mostly low end rumble.

Quote (Mutley @ July 07 2005,06:12)
I roll everything off below 50Hz, which is fairly common. Below that its mostly low end rumble.

Me too. That is about the low E note on a bass guitar. So unless you are recording a Bosendorfer or some kind of uber rumble from a Krumhorn or something like that, you don't need it. I roll off at 20 db/octave below 50Hz.

So, maybe I’m not asking the right questions. What I’m hearing back from both of you is that near field monitors ARE the way to go and that you CAN hear the punch in the lower ranges (as opposed to using PC speakers) in a way which will more or less accurately translate to other speaker systems.

So, let’s go at it this way: If it has the title of “Near field” on it, are the monitors going to be VASTLY superior to computer speakers (in terms of their ability to convey an accurate, uncolored signal while mixing/mastering)by virtue that they are “near field” or are their other important considerations in purchasing reference monitors (Although looking at prices, maybe I should say ‘what ARE the other considerations’)? I’m thinking of “good” and not “professional” grade – the cheaper the better, unless there’s some compelling reason to consider shelling out the bigger bones.

I appreciate the responses.

Flat near field monitors are important but of equal importance are the acoustic properties of the room where the monitors are located. Most rooms are way less than optimal particularly in the sub 100 Hz region. Problems such as standing waves and room nodes are big issues. Some of the forum members have offered creative and inexpensive solutions in the past. So pay attention to the room acoustics and speaker placement in the room when you purchase your monitors. Otherwise you’ll be disappointed with the near field monitors too.

You’re not going to get any realistically usable speakers that give clean, accurate and un-coloured sub bass definition.

You can do it in The Albert Hall with loaded horns, but at home? Forget it.

The ones that’ll fit in your room and work down in that range use artificial resonances via reflex ports or whatever, or as weekendtracker says, using room resonances.

And any resonating system not only has the typical “single note” effect, but it also has a ring time which will smear the signal. (Which defeats the whole point of “near-field” monitoring).

So even if you do have a speaker system that goes down to 20Hz, your mix is gonna sound different on someone else’s system, or even with the same system at a different venue.

So just roll it off. 'Cos if you don’t, you’ll find that the needle in your CD player keeps jumping out of the grooves anyway. :D

As for the term “near field”; it’s not completely accurate, not from a pure engineer’s point of view anyway.

But what they intend it to mean is a speaker that is meant to be listened to up close, thereby minimising room reflections, room resonances, etc.

And it’s sort of implied that a near-field monitor is also a reference monitor, i.e., honest. (But, just because they call it “near-field” does not necessarily mean it is a reference monitor).

And it’s one of those terms that is starting to be abused, and will no doubt soon be applied to speakers for the sole purpose of putting an extra 50 quid on the price tag.

OK, this may sound crazy, and it’s just based on a few things I’ve picked up here and there on the 'net, but I’ve read that many current movie soundtracks use frequencies down to 20Hz. I’ve read that these sub-audible frequencies are sensed through the skin and are used to excite the audience. Honest! So if any of this is true, then if you are going to do movie soundtrack work (got the new surround capability in n-Track…hey, it could happen :) ), maybe there’s something of interest down in that low frequency range after all?

But this is the only reason I can think of for frequencies that low. I wouldn’t think you’d want to use them in music.

Oh well…just thought I’d throw that out there for the wolves to chew on… :D


Tony, if you stand in Salisbury Cathedral and listen to the organ, you’ll hear (and feel) those lows. Bottom C (C0) on a cathedral pipe organ is about 16 Hz.

So there is music down there, and electronic synths can go that low, and grand piano is down there too I think, but damm little else! :)

But as far as mixing it with a pair of near field monitors, forget it.

Our studio’s (BBC) had a pair of small Rogers for mixing, and a pair of massive Spendors for checking/reference, but those studios were very carefully, and very expensively, designed and built.

But for the average bedroom engineer, accurate mixing of the bottom octave (and possibly much of the second bottom octave) is probably more hopeful than honest.

Wow. Great discussion. This is good. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m going to try and spew back what I think I’ve heard and then try to redirect back to my real issue(s) (as related to this thread–my psychologist will handle the others).
1. 20hz and below is at best felt–not heard. Don’t worry about it, unless of course you’re George Lucas, in which case you’d be delegating the responsibility anyway :;):

2. Near field monitors need to be closely investigated to ensure that a.) they are TRUE near fields and not purple Barney-the-dinasaur-monitors-with-a-“near-field”-sticker on it and b.) consideration needs to be given as to placement within the context of the room.

3. There seems to be at least room for discussion as to where the rolloff should occur–somewhere between 50 and 100hz. Anyone want to start the great rolloff debate? :D

Now on to the redirection:

1. Anyone willing to give an opinion on the importance of the frequency response range for nearfields? Any particular brand that goes lower, or does a better job of minimizing the problems below that undetermined frequency range? Is there a premium to be paid for monitors that go to 40hz instead of 50?

2. Most importantly (to me, at least), how then, do I ensure that the bottom end is as punchy (I’m NOT talking the Roland 808 kick–just good solid “thump”–see Steely Dan’s ‘Gaslighting Abby’ for example or ‘Analog Kid’ by Rush) as I can get it without clouding up the mix, if I can’t actually hear what’s between the 20 and 50hz range? I’ve tried "de"compressing everything between 20 and 50hz (with a multiband) and don’t really care for the results–too whimpy. Seems like there’s something of value in that range, but when isolated, it’s the “uber-thunderstorm” described earlier in the thread. Obviously, a delicate bandwidth. Much thanks to all who’ve responded already. I really appreciate the advice.
hey y’all


Bill, even with rolling off the lows, you still need to pay attention to the acoutics of your environment as weekend pointed out. It is at least as important as your choice of speakers. You did not include this in your summary; I didn’t get how important it is for along time, and my mixes suffered. You must deal with the acoustics. Otherwise your mixes will probably suck at the low end, regardless of what you roll off.

Concerning “punchy” - well, start with the right sounds and the right orchestration tracked in a good room played by good musicians to begin with. :( Sorry, that’s the best answer…believe me, without that no amount of fiddling will get what you want.

Point taken. Any good links or articles to help me understand what it is that I’m to be paying attention to? You said I “still need to pay attention to the acoutics of your environment as weekend pointed out”, but I’m guessing that “pay attention” means more than just “observe”. I’ve already noticed that the room is very loud in terms of recording (it’s an open loft, so I do mostly closed recordings), but what does that mean for monitoring? I had thought, til now, :laugh: that mixing at a relatively low level with quality reference monitors would work. Is it more than just positioning of the monitors that I need to pay attention to? Should I worry about the windows on the other side of the room? I’m not only trying to make a really quality recording, I’m trying to be a student of this. Thanks again for the advice.

Quote (Sceptic Tank @ July 07 2005,19:37)
Tony, if you stand in Salisbury Cathedral and listen to the organ, you’ll hear (and feel) those lows. Bottom C (C0) on a cathedral pipe organ is about 16 Hz.

Must do this sometime before I die. I can almost hear/feel it already. :)
Quote (Sceptic Tank @ July 07 2005,19:37)
So there is music down there…But as far as mixing it with a pair of near field monitors, forget it.

Ah…I see your point (finally!) :D


A helpful rule of thumb comes from Limey’s mix pyramid, with the lead vocal the loudest part, and just below it the kick and bass.

Mixing at very low levels is helpful to dial in these relative levels.

Acoustics - well, there are others here who know a whole lot more about it that I do. It’s a topic that can do serious brain damage. :)

Lessee, basically you need to study your room and figure out what can be done to it to get rid of unevenness in it - there are places in your room where certain bass frequencies, for example will be louder, sometimes like 12 db louder, due to room resonances. Other places it’ll be down as much. Put your speakers in the wrong place, and boom - the bottom end is totally unmanagable. Generally, parallel walls are to be avoided, treatment should be done using both absorbtion and diffusion to achieve an even environment, not necessarily a dead one. Most things beginners like me do are wrong, e.g., egg cartons, or carpet, or trying to make the room as dead as possible, that sort of thing.

I have a DVD called “secrets of the pros” ( that has a largish intro to the topic (“The Big Secret” stuff on track 14 by the way :) ). The DVD is great for really beginning beginners, might one the whole be too simple for you except for that one section. Maybe your local library has it. or if you live near me you can borrow my copy. :)

Other than that there are lots of web pages, good books on acoustics, my experience is that a good college text on it is the way to go, really.

Hey clava or Skeptic or one of you others who really knows about this stuff, jump in and help me. :)

Try this:…um&f=34

or this:

That Ethan Winer link is a good one. Ethan knows his bidness.

A book everyone who is trying this recording thing should own and refer to often is the Master Handbook of Acoustics by a guy named F. Alton Everest. This volume will attempt to teach you about room nodes and how they’re calculated, how sound actually propagates in a space, and what kind of devices are used to control that propagation to best advantage. We’re trying to manipulate sound and that means far more than buying “flat” monitors, or hanging some foam on your walls.

You want a good bass response, Billthecat? How is the bass response at your mix position when listening to professional recordings that you know very well through you monitors? How does it compare to the bass response of those same recordings heard in other environments? The room is an enormous part of the equation as others have said. I guarantee that the recordings I do at home pale in comparison to the stuff I do in the studio with the same mics, amps, machines, etc. The difference is the space. I’m blessed with a great sounding space (which was enormous work and heatache to build but totally worth it…) that makes capturing music easier than it is in a square bedroom.

Knowing how that space responds is huge too, and that takes time and experience. The first thing every freelancer that works in our place does is load up some music they know in the control room so they can sit and listen. Our control room has some sonic deficiencies (like most do) and if good mixes are going to leave it, the person twiddling the knobs needs to find out what they are before the serious knob twiddling happens. Different sets of monitors helps too. I find if a mix sounds good on the Mackies and the Dynaudios in control, it’ll probably sound good on the crappy Magnavox things in the office. In order to accomplish that, I need to know that the Mackies are bass heavy and crispy on top, and the Dynaudios are tighter in the lowmids and smoother on top. I know that from hours sitting in front of them. It’s no different from the hours it takes to really find out what a particular microphone or preamp or compressor “sounds” like, and how that sound can best represent the sound made by some instrument.

Practice. Listen. Do it again. Do it some more. No, really. You’ll get there, and it’ll be a fun journey, but it sure won’t happen in the next month. Good luck…

And get that book I mentioned 'cause it will help.


This volume will attempt to teach you about room nodes and how they’re calculated, how sound actually propagates in a space

Sound propagates in space? I always thought it needed a medium, (like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost for example). :D

Ali :p

chuckle chuckle …

First, YES, half-decent nearfield monitors should work tons better than PC speakers. Even a pair of shielded Radio Shack “minimouses” (if they still sell 'em) with an old stereo amp should work better than most PC speakers (95% of which are pretty much crap for serious music, but fine for their intended purpose).

Second, note that speakers that sound great for music aren’t necessarily good for mixing. A great example is the little Bose speakers, which many folks like the sound of, but which are designed to make everything sound good, rather than being accurate. (And let’s not get into a rant about how terrible and/or overpriced Bose may be, it’s just a good example of speakers that many people like, but make terrible mixing monitors.) What we need for mixing monitors is relatively flat and good transient response. No easy feat, but a lot easier in a relatively small package for listening up close than for speakers made to fill a big room at ear-splitting levels with a 50-watt amp.

Third – and perhaps most important – DON’T PUT 'EM ANYWHERE NEAR THE WALLS! Nearfield monitoring meand not only being close to the speakers, but also being closer to the speakers than anything else. Even the mixing desk can cloud things, so put 'em up on stands to sit a foot or two above the desk to help minimize those reflections.

Most folks don’t have the room to put their mixing desk in the middle of the room, but it makes a huge difference. Well, if you can’t do that, at least get ‘em 2 feet away from the walls behind them and on both sides. Also, try to have the same distance to walls on left and right, or else you’ll tend to mix bass-heavy on one side and light on the other.

Keeping the nearfields well away from the walls helps to minimize the effect of the room. But it certainly doesn’t eliminate it. Unfortunately, room treatments to minimize bass nodes are questionable – most methods don’t really work. Folks talk about bass traps, but the size you really need to make a serious difference is way bigger than anything but a bigbux studio could afford it. Placement of “gobos” (padded movable barriers) can help a lot to help diminish the standing waves, especially the fundamentals in the room’s two directions. But there’ll still be nodes at harmonics of those frequencies.

Here’s what most of us do – lots of comparison monitoring. You have to do this anyway! Of course, first do what you can to be able to hear what you’re mixing well and get close. Burn a CD and start making the rounds to your friends’ houses, with beers in hand. Pick a variety of friends, some with killer stereos and others with wimpy old setups and crappy speakers stuck in the wrong places (like most homes). While your friends are drinking beers and (if they’re nice) telling you how great the tunes are, you’re taking notes about what to fix in the mix. The low end is the first thing, but you’ll also find that there are important musical parts that get lost in a lot of stereos that you need to punch up a bit somehow, and parts that grate annoyingly due to being too prominent in the mix even though they sounded right in your studio.

And of course, don’t forget your home stereo and car stereo. The car is where many of us do our first comp monitor, something to do during rush hour!

Believe me – we all wish there was an easy fix! Getting decent nearfields and putting them as far from the walls as your decorator will allow are two pretty easy steps with a big payback. After that, it’s quite a bit more time, expense, and with diminishing returns. (Well, you can make cheap gobos, and with a bit of fiddling they could help a lot, depending on the particular situation. My guess is they would help the most when the two room directions have a common mode frequency, like a square room or one where the width is 1/2 or 2/3 of the length.)

Just out of curiosity, why is no one mentioning subwoofers? I’m pretty inexperienced, so maybe there’s a good reason to leave them out. But, it sounds like what this guy is looking for is the “oomph” you get from the frequencies below 100Hz, like the thumps you get in movies; i.e., the kind of frequencies that subwoofers are made for. Why is it that mixing doesn’t seem to include subwoofers? After all, they’re common in cars and computers now – shouldn’t we be keeping a close eye on our sub frequencies as well as everything else?

I recently helped a friend with an electronic project and we frequently had to go out to his girlfriend’s car because neither one of us has a sub. We added a bunch of 30hz to the bassdrum because we could barely hear it on our admittedly home-stereo speakers, but it was overwhelming when we got to the car. After we turned it down to a reasonable level, of course, it felt awesome on a stereo that can reproduce it.

I don’t know, do pro-grade monitors go that low?