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How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:18 pm
by TheDilla9000
When I play my recordings through my head phones it sounds great, all the volumes of each instrument blend well to my liking, but when I go to play the recording through speakers it's sounds terrible (and it's not a speakers problem) all the various instrument volume levels are off from what they sounded like through the headphones, the lower notes seem to fuzz out, and it just doesn't sound clear at all. I'm kinda new to recording and I hope its not something I'm doing wrong with how I have the program set up when I'm recording but I'm pretty sure that's not the case cause I've watched a couple YouTube videos on how to set it up. I'm assuming this has to do with mastering?
If someone could explain to me why this happens and point me in the right direction that would be very appreciated. Thanks! :D

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:16 am
by Ianpb
I experienced that issue when I tried mixing with my old Shure SRH440 headphones. As with you, the mix sounded great through the headphones, but when played through the monitors it was awful, with track levels and EQ all wrong.

The problem is with your headphones. Hifi headphones are just way too forgiving, and fail to allow for critical adjustments. It's the same problem that exists with hifi loudspeakers, which are also very forgiving, and designed to make music sound as good as possible, yet fail to accurately reproduce the mix itself. I was influenced by the claims of 'studio grade' when buying the Shure headphones, but realised that this is nothing but marketing hype. This claim is even made by the awful Beats for some of their headphone models!

Consequently, armed with my new-found knowledge, I did more research for a new set of more suitable headphones, and decided to go for the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro. I found them to be very detailed, so much so that I tend to do fine mixing adjustments on them because I trust them even more than my monitors. Mixes translate very well through both my Yamaha monitors and my old Logitech Z4 speaker system, which are both connected via a switch. The DT880 Pros are not cheap, but you get what you pay for, and they are the best headphones I've experienced, and incredibly comfortable too. Others will likely chip in with recommendations for the cheaper Sony MDR7506 and suchlike, but I've no experience of those.

I should add that when listening to 'Wish You Were Here' by Pink Floyd with my DT880 Pros, I could actually hear the studio engineer switch in David Gilmour's guitar microphone, and was able to hear him breathing as he was preparing to play. I'd never noticed that before on alternative hifi headphones or speakers, including my old Shures.

The only small drawback with the DT880 Pros is that, at 64 ohms, they have quite a high impedance, which means they're not particularly loud, and will therefore normally require a separate headphone amplifier. For this purpose I bought the inexpensive Behringer HA400 headphone amplifier which, with its very useful four outputs (including individual volume controls), is more than adequate.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:31 am
by aquataur
You asked the 1Million $$$ question :D

What are "good" headphones for mixing, as mentioned before, may sound sterile for listening to music. For those little mp3 players to sound good at pretty low power they have to fiddle with the frequency range. Usually an unnatural bass boost. Imagine a multiband compressor at work.

Those headphones and also average speakers with bass reflex openings are untrue, which is why you rarely see them in studios. Having that said, (for the reasons mentioned above) they make sure that a recording sounds good also on those systems.


Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:55 am
by chibear
If you mix and master with headphones they need to have as flat a response as possible. I haven't tried it but there is a plugin available that will supposedly flatten the output of your phones: ... eference-3. I mix and master with headphones (HD-280's) out of necessity and part of the mastering process for me is to produce a CD and play it on as many systems as I can. It's very interesting to hear the differences between the systems.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:50 am
by Rolling Estonian
I'm only a hobbyist but a couple of my first purchases were monitors, speakers and headphones. World of difference.


Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:05 pm
by ron-e-g
I'll second the Sennheisers HD280's. But of course dedicated monitors are best. Personally I use Bear ringer's
Truth83031A's These have a ribbon tweeter. But honestly..any good set will do. I don't recommend the cheap computer designs though. Trick is to use them, and use them a lot soon you will get a feel for what your listening for in a "good mix" by that I mean a mix you like, and sounds good to you on most any player you listen to it on. On the other hand (I believe) the same holds true with the phones. If you mix on them a lot you get a feel for what works after awhile. Just not as fast or quite as accurately as with monitors. Agree with poster, Flat is our friend! That is about the only constant we can count on in the world of sound. So most of us hug it close, and only push it away as we feel more'll know when. It's when you realise you have done it , and can't remember actually doing it! Wa- La.... your great!:D

I believe it's all about pushing air. Can's just don't do it the same. I realize the environment restraints of monitors..your room mates, or family whatever might not love your new hit as mush as you..and certainly don't want to hear the same passage 100 times! like you. And yes everything sure does sound good in the can's! In the end it's up to you and your personal situation. All I can do is tell you my experiences. I hope it helps.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:27 pm
by TheDilla9000
Thanks for the responses guys! Really helped a lot
All this time I thought I had decent headphones but I guess I really had no idea. Deffinetly will be purchasing a good pair now.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:49 pm
by Ianpb
What headphones are they?

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:00 pm
by Rolling Estonian
Remember, studio headphones, not just headphones. Here's an article about them with reviews, links etc. (All of the chapters in the article is helpful for beginners.) He recommends the Sony MDR-7506, a lot of folks are happy with these, I know I am! ... eadphones/


Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:12 am
by Torton5
Another thing to think about is room reverb.

If you have some decent flat headphones and monitors, you can play your mix through your headphones and get something that sounds good, then, if you transfer that same mix to your monitors that have been set up in a treated room, the sonic quality of the sound should be similar. However, if you are playing that same mix back through monitors that are not set up properly in an untreated room, the sound will be totally different to your headphone sound because of the effect that the room has on monitors, even near field monitors.

This gets even worse if you are recording from acoustic sources in a bad room, because you record the room reverb once on the voice or instrument and then it is doubled again when you play it back through the monitors......horrid!

The stereo placement will never be the same though, regardless of what you do because of the difference how headphones work.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:04 pm
by Mark Bliss
I am going to agree and disagree with the suggestions thus far, both at once..... :lol:

I have always hated being told you need professional studio grade headphones, ($100, 150, 300+) Good monitors ($150, 300, 1000+) a treated room ($500, 1500+) to get a good mix. Hate it. And must by my very nature challenge that assertion.
(And FWIW, I would suggest that as far as mixing purposes go, many so called "treated rooms" aren't really done right, and aren't really helping as much as one might think!)

First off, yes for truly professional results. Not questioning that so much. But, not everyone wants or needs that level of result. Many are hobbyists just doing this for fun and I would suggest that with a little effort and technique, you can get great results with pretty low grade headphones, compromised monitoring and certainly- no treated room. That doesn't mean trying to mix on toy quality headphones, computer speakers etc. but having fun and getting reasonable results on economical gear? yeah! I think so and in fact, I do!
Worse yet, I have spent quite a bit on monitoring gear I barely use..... :roll:

First important step. Know your gear. That means first and foremost, listen to a bunch of commercially mixed reference material on your gear, whatever it is.
Headphones typically exaggerate the stereo field, exaggerate bass, exaggerate reverb, etc. Being very familiar with that, and just how much, you get an idea of how your mix should sound on that set of headphones. This is true if you are using $40 consumer grade headphones or $500 studio grade phones.
Some people say you cant mix on headphones. Some of the people saying you cant, often do mix on headphones I am betting.

Next, reference. Frequently. On other gear you are familiar with.
Make a copy of your rough mix. Play it in your car. You know what your car stereo sounds like right? Play it on your home stereo, your iPod, whatever you normally use regularly and are familiar with. Take notes. Go back to the mix project and make changes. Repeat again and again. Keep refining and learning. Study. Take breaks. Reference more commercial mixes. Guess what? Even if you have great studio monitors and a treated room, this is an absolutely mandatory step.
With practice and experience, you get better at this. It takes less time. And you get a better idea of what you really need if and when you decide to upgrade.
And don't hesitate to check your mixes on the worst possible lowest common denominator listening situation. Always plenty to learn from that. I learned bits about mixing listening to my work via Soundcloud on a "smart" TV's built in speakers. Sounded like crap, and I learned from even that!

Specifically to the OP's question: Recommend better headphones? Yeah, maybe. But without the above, it wont help much honestly.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:21 pm
by Torton5
I sort of agree Mark, it seems like a pain to do all these things. I used to work in so called professional studios, mainly for video editing but I also used audio facilities quite a lot. These days, I don't do anything professionally, more of a hobbyist and am fascinated by so called "in the box" audio and video editing. That means no outboard gear like reverbs, compressors, mixers etc, basically a computer, audio interface and some speakers, using all software instruments and plugins etc that's it.

Because I travel a bit, I like the idea of simple gear but still want a great sound for the projects that I do. Can you get a decent sound or broadcast quality sound like this? well, it gets better and better each year. If you are not recording audio sources, just creating sounds on the computer, providing you have good quality samples, then you can now create very high quality audio. But it does depend on what type of audio production you want to do, the minute you start recording audio like vocals or guitars etc, then other things become more important.

As far as the op's question is concerned, with headphones you can use the Sennheiser HD280 or 380 pro's or similar for tracking, both are pretty cheap and popular, readily available on ebay for even cheaper. For mixing headphones, you can use the Sony MDR-7506 or something similar, again, pretty cheap. For monitors, anything preferably with a 6 inch speaker, silk dome tweeters, front facing ports and a bass adjustment will be good enough for the average bedroom, lots of options here from cheap to super expensive. A set of cheap one's can suffice. You have to set them up in the way they are supposed to be set up, at least to begin with, which is usually something like a 3 foot triangle between your head and the speakers.

With room treatment, there are only 3 things to think about: Noise, reverb and frequencies.

A professional studio will be both soundproofed and acoustically treated to address both reverb and frequencies, it has to be this way so professional studio's can make money from it anytime. Hobbyists don't need to go this far. Addressing external noise can be as simple as recording audio at a time when all is quiet around you. Reverb has to be addressed to get a good recorded sound and this depends on the room your in. An average size bedroom that is carpeted with a queen size bed with duna, wardrobe and decent curtains over any windows is a good start. You can throw up a duna hung over a photographers back drop stand 6 inches from a hard wall and then your done. Don't need to cover every wall.

The enemies are hard surfaces like walls and glass a bit of this is ok. With microphones, if you are doing vocals, it is the wall behind you (in front of the mic) that is important, not the wall in front of you. If you have both a mic screen and a duna thrown over a wardrobe behind you, that will suffice. What does that cost? not much. Duna's are readily available and photography backdrop stands are like $50.00 or something on ebay.

Frequencies are a bit more difficult to deal with and can get quite complex but by doing the above, you will have already killed off the harsh high frequencies that bounce off hard surfaces that are the number cause of horrid recorded sound from bedrooms. If you get a problem with bass frequencies move stuff into the corners of your bedroom. Boxes and clothes whatever.

You can do simple things that don't cost much to get a good recorded sound. Some bedrooms can sound better than some professional recording studio booths which can be too dead for recording some instruments like acoustic guitar for example.
A booth that might be good for vocals might be terrible for live instruments etc. So you want a bedroom that is reasonable for everything.

The idea is not to get too carried away with worrying about all of this. As long as you kill off the room reverb from harsh solid walls a bit, it will work.

Then as you say Mark, it is a matter of "tuning" your system by using reference material. I use 3 songs from Michael Jackson, Vince Jones and Seal. I play these songs on different systems, but I know how they are supposed to sound now, then I play them on the bedroom system and can tell how close they all are. You can then do the same thing with your own material, getting a good sound on your monitors, recording that and then playing it on as many different sound systems as you can to see how well it translates. It should do pretty well just from using the above strategies.

The bass can be managed by putting a shelf on the material to cut anything below a certain frequency which might be different for different types of music. If you want to get more involved about mastering there's plenty of information out there.

It may sound great on your monitors but when you play it on the car stereo or hi fi, it is too thin sounding, so you may need to reduce the bass on your monitors a bit by pluging a port or turning down bass on the monitor or stuffing some things in a corner of the room. Eventually, after playing the material on numerous different sources, you will start to understand what is happening and you will be able to tune your monitors and bedroom sound so you can get predictable results on different systems.

The only way you will ever develop an ear for music is through evaluative and critical listening. Chances are, no mater how good your sound gets, you will always be looking for a better sound anyway and will learn best from experience, that is the nature of music.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 6:56 am
by NewbeeNo99
I use a couple of cheap Koss PortaPro. Lol :lol:

They do sound very flat. I use to check my own songs in the car and in the living room where I have a pair of Bowers & Wilkins. Since the head phones suffer on the low tones, my projects usually start out with way too much bass.

But this was really in the beginning. It's better now than in the start. But I'm still not satiesfied

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:38 pm
by kr236rk
Think it was Brian Wilson who was only happy with a studio recording after he had heard it through the equivalent of a tinny mono car radio speaker - because if it sounded good low-fi it was going to sound good anywhere.

Re: How do I make my recordings sound good through speakers?

Posted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:53 pm
by RobertAllan