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Sound Control during Home Recording Mixing

After you create a recording room that’s as isolated from the outside world as possible, you need to control your sound during mixing. The following information details the steps that can help you control the sound of your (probably less-than-perfect) room during mixing.

Get a good pair of near-field monitors

Near-field monitors are designed to be listened to up close (hence the near in their name) and can lessen the effects that the rest of the room has on your ability to accurately hear them and to get a good mix.

Mix at low volumes

Mixing at low volumes tends to take the fun out of it, right? Well, as fun as it may be to mix at high volumes, it rarely translates into a great mix. Great mixing engineers often listen to their mixers at very low levels. Yes, they occasionally use high levels, but only after the mixing is almost done and even then only for short periods of time.

Use panels to tame sound

The secret to getting a good mixing room is to tame the sound reflections coming out of your speakers. Dealing with high and midrange frequencies is pretty easy — just put up some foam panels or the absorptive side of the panels like those shown in the following illustration. Here’s a rundown on how to place absorption panels in your studio:

  • Start by hanging two panels on the wall behind you (or by putting them on a stand or table) at the level of your speakers.

  • Put one panel on each side wall, right where the speakers are pointed. This positioning, gets rid of the higher frequencies and eliminates much of the echo.

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  • You may need to put some type of panel on the ceiling right above your head. This is especially important if you have a low (8-feet-high or less) or textured ceiling (you know, one with that popcorny stuff sprayed on).

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  • You can also place a set of fiberglass panels in the corners of your room behind the speakers. Just hang the panels at the same height as your speakers so that they cut off the corner of the room.

Use bass traps to tame standing waves

You also need to consider standing waves when mixing. Standing waves are created when bass tones begin reflecting around your room and bounce into each other. Standing waves can either over-accentuate the bass from your speakers or cancel out some or all of the bass coming out of your speakers.

To find out whether you have a problem with standing waves in your studio, sit in front of your monitors and carefully listen to one of your favorite CDs. Okay, now lean forward and backward a bit. Does the amount of bass that you hear change as you move? Next, get up and walk around the room. Listen for places within the room where the bass seems to be louder or softer.

You may find places where the bass drops out almost completely. If either inspection proves to be true, you are the proud owner of standing waves. You can tame that standing-wave monster with a pair of bass traps.

Bass traps absorb the energy in the lower frequencies so that they don’t bounce all over your room and throw off your mixes. You can buy bass traps made of foam from some music stores or (yep, you guessed it) you can make your own out of wood and insulation. Check out the following for a look at some homemade bass traps.

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The most common placement for bass traps is in the corners behind you when you’re sitting at your mixer Placing a set of bass traps in the other corners of the room can help even more.

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After you place the bass traps, do the listening test again. If you notice areas where the bass seems to get louder or softer, try moving the bass traps around a little. With trial and error, you can find a place where they work best.

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