There is no such thing as the perfect mix. More specifically there is no such thing as the ideal mix. Because people have such a wide range of musical tastes, mixing becomes very subjective, very quickly. What I think sounds amazing may sound depressing to you, and vice versa.
Via Matthew Bellemare Flickr
What Is Your Standard?
Despite all of the subjectivity, you have to have some mixing standards. You need sonic benchmarks in order to gauge your progress as a mixer in general and on specific mixes in particular. For me, as a kid growing up in the 1990s, I cut my teeth musically on grunge and alternative rock. Sonically this means guitar driven riff rock with little to no reverb.
Consequently that is how I mix. I like certain sounds and tones that were popular then and that have evolved even to this day since current bands were influenced by the 90s rock scene. What this also means is that if you like 80s glam rock or disco, then you won’t like my mixes. You just might have a different standard.
Why Is This Important?
Understanding that everyone has their own idea of what a perfect mix sounds like is very important for two reasons. First it takes the pressure off. There is no global standard that you have to measure up to. There is so much freedom in this craft that you are open to experiment and create. Recording music is an artform way more than it is a science. Never forget that.
Secondly, it helps you learn from mixes that sound different than yours. If you can get over the fact that some people just are gonna crank the reverb and record tiny snare drums then you can instead focus on how they got a great balance with EQ and compression. You can appreciate the clarity and power in their mix, even if you would prefer some different style moves.
The Point Of Mixing
The point of mixing is to present your tracks and your song in the best possible light. Period. You want to use tools like EQ and compression to reveal the audio so it is clear, dynamic, and interesting to the average listener. This of course is harder than it sounds and is a life long learning process, but beyond that you are free to mix as you see fit.
Don’t get hung up on the myth of the perfect mix. Instead, try to perfect your mixing style each and every day.