I've just rendered a song and I hear clearly the sounds on monitor speakers but when I switch to a pair of normal/bad speakers I can't hear the low frequencies. It's a big problem, but on Synth I have difference problem (all sounds clearly).

Do I have to work on MIX steps or MASTERING steps? It's hard for me to discover the problem on monitor speakers because I can't hear the problem.


You can't hear the low frequencies in the second set of speakers because (one or a combination of these):

1) Bad low frequency response in the second set of speakers

The second (bad) set doesn't have a good low frequency response. This is very common, specially in cheap and/or small speakers. It is as if you filtered the low frequencies with a HPF, the speaker is just not able to play those low frequencies correctly, if at all.

2) Bad low frequency response in the first set of speakers

Your first set of speakers (the good monitor ones) are accentuating those low frequencies, so when you switch to another set those low frequencies are not accentuated anymore, which can be heard as a loss of amplitude in that band.

3) Acoustics

The room, your position, and the position of both speakers. Are both set of speakers in the same room? Different rooms color the sound differently, rooms have frequency response too. As the speakers, one room can accentuate the lows. Make sure you are listening to both sets in the same room.

Also, even if they are in the same room, orientation and position can drastically change the sound, so make sure both sets are correctly and similarly positioned. You can read more about that here, here, and here.

Do I have to work on MIX steps or MASTERING steps? It's hard for me to discover the problem on monitor speakers because I can't hear the problem.

This can be tweaked during mastering, but with limits. You can affect bands, but not individual instruments. Because of this, you want to carve the frequency dynamics and curve correctly during the mixing phase.

Suggestion 1

To get the speakers and room somewhat out of the equation, listen to the mix in the set of speakers (or headphones) you normally listen music with, in the room you normally listen music in (not applicable for headphones). You know that room, you know those speakers. They can't lie to you. Tweak the lows using that system as reference.

Suggestion 2

Use a reference track. Get a track that you like and is similar to yours, one that was mixed by a great mixing engineer, something commercial class 1 quality. Pay attention to the lows, and tweak the lows in your track to approximate the ones in the reference track.

You can also use a reference track for visual reference. Using a tool to visualize the frequency dynamics and curve of both the reference and your track, you can tweak yours to approximate the reference track's frequency curve. For this I normally use either Fab Filter's EQ or the Logic Pro EQ, both provide a visualization tool.

Suggestion 3

Get to know your pair of monitors and room, so you always have the certainty of what's going on frequency-wise.

About mixing and speakers

As you just noticed, not all speakers sound the same. Some speakers will not be able to play the lows correctly, or maybe the highs, or whatever band you can think of. This is normal. Some speakers will play your track with no lows, some speakers will play it with too much highs, it's inevitable.

You'll need to find a middle ground: a mix that sounds great in good speakers, but also acceptable on other speakers. Play your mix though many different speakers: headphones, earbuds, monitors, car system, etc. Tweak it until you like what you hear in all of them, having the limitations and characteristics of every set of speakers in mind.

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The reason you use monitor speakers, which have as flat a response as possible, is to hear that you have everything correct.

You then switch to a range of other speakers to check that the mix sounds good on all of them.

Don't think of it in terms of mix or mastering steps - think of it in terms of what you want the sound to be like through different speakers.

Is your target audience going to be mostly headphone wearing? Then place most of your effort into rendering for them - which will make the audio suboptimal for other speakers. If you are expecting the track to be played most in clubs, then make it sound good through PA.

In reality you'll need to take a listen to various outputs and tweak accordingly - in your case you might need to crank your low frequencies up a lot. Tweak it - retest on all output devices and repeat as necessary.

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It would seem your monitors frequence response isn't flat, rather that they are emphasising the bass frequencies. How does other recording sound on your monitors and reference speakers? It sounds like the problem might be the monitors.

This can be solved by purchasing another pair of monitors, or learn the ones you have. When you know intimately how they sound, you'll be able to compensate the frequencies the monitors emphasise/suppress and will get a better sound on wide range of equipment.

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If the 'normal/bad' speakers are what the sounds are generally listened to with, then try using them as your monitors. Proper monitors are there to give as flat,tonally, response as possible, with all eqs flat as well. Perhaps the 'normal/bad' speakers, or the amp that's driving them, is not colouring enough bass. Don't understand the synth problem.

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It sounds to me like you may want to consider a different synth patch with more mid/high-frequency content. It's not uncommon for a bass synth patch to only have that big bottom and no upper harmonics, which won't translate to small speakers... small speakers simply can't move enough air to reproduce the waveforms.

So in essence (if I understand your question correctly) your problem isn't one of mix or master, but of instrumentation choices.

One solution to consider would be doubling that bass sound in an upper register. Another option could be doubling the same line on a different track with another bass sound with more mid/high frequency content. This would provide the same big boomy bass sound that you liked in your original pass, but also actually allow your bassline to be heard when someone listens on their laptop or on their tiny piezo speakers in their phone.

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    +1 on doubling the bassline in a higher octave.. great trick for sub-optimal speakers. – Charles Sep 11 '14 at 18:35

This is exactly the reason why you need to always test your mix against a wide range of different speakers, not JUST monitor speakers.

Think about the artists who recorded back in the 60s or 70s. They didn't have reference monitors as advanced as today.. so how come their music sounded good on all speakers?

Because they tested it on a wide range of different speakers.

In my experience - having 5 different types of speakers in your house in terms of bass, treble, and mid seperated around them, and connecting them all together and balancing them in a way that you can hear how your music sounds on ALL of them simultaneously is WAY BETTER than using any type of reference speaker there is.

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