When it comes to mixing audio, there are many variables for how the final product will turn out. How good are the recorded tracks? How accurate are your studio monitors? Is your room acoustically treated? How much experience do you have mixing? Etc. But one simple and effective tip I can suggest is simply to mix at a lower volume.
Via Mikelao26 Flickr
Everything Sounds Good Loud
To be honest we tend to like our mixes when we crank the volume. The drums are hitting hard, the bass seems huge, and the vocals and guitars just soar right out of the speakers. But the moment we turn the mix down in our cars or on our iPods it all falls apart. Things sound weak, flat, and boring. Why? What happens when we mix at higher volumes is we have an inaccurate picture of our mix. Certain frequencies can sound more apparent at higher volumes, and this tricks your ear. If you think the kick drum is coming through just fine then you may not EQ and compress it to actually cut through the mix at a normal listening level and thus it disappears for most listeners.
How Low Should You Go?
So my suggestion to you is this: turn your monitors down to a volume level low enough to allow for light conversation in the room. What ever volume you think wouldn’t overpower you hearing someone else comment on the mix. Use this as a starting point and mix from there. Your tendency will be to want to crank it up to rock out, but fight for as long as you can. Every once in a while you should turn it up just to make sure the bass is working (as it’s hard to get that right at low volumes alone). But for the most part, force yourself to make your mix pop and have punch at a lower volume.
Save Your Ears
The other main benefit to mixing at lower levels is you both protect your hearing and you slow down ear fatigue. This keeps your ears fresh and reliable so you can mix more accurately for longer periods of time. Kind of a no brainer if you ask me! So remember, almost anything sounds great when you crank it. So don’t short change yourself, instead turn your mix down while you work and get it to sound great.