Improving Your Home Recording by Using Reference CDs
A reference CD can be any music that you like or that helps you to hear your music more clearly. For the most part, choose reference CDs that have a good balance between high and low frequencies and that sound good to your ear.
That said, some CDs are mixed really well, which can help you get to know your monitors and train your ears to hear the subtleties of a mix. A few CDs in a variety of music styles are in this list, but it is not comprehensive.
Steely Dan, Two Against Nature
Lyle Lovett, Joshua Judges Ruth
Norah Jones, Come Away with Me
Sting, Brand New Day
Ben Harper, Burn to Shine
Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs
Peter Gabriel, So
Sarah McLachlan, Surfacing
No Doubt, Return of Saturn
Los Lobos, Kiko
Marilyn Manson, Mechanical Animals
Depeche Mode, Ultra
Bonnie Raitt, Fundamental
Macy Gray, On How Life Is
Pearl Jam, Yield
Dr. Dre, 2001
All commercial CDs have been mastered. This is going to affect the sound of them a little — most importantly, they will be louder than your music. If you toggle back and forth between your mix and a reference CD, adjust the relative levels so that each sounds equally as loud coming through your speakers because the louder song always sounds better.
And remember: Don’t try to match the volume of your mix to a reference CD.