I've been doing studio sessions sporadically for over a year and am almost ready to send the tracks for mastering. We're in the mixing phase, but I find it very difficult to judge the mix when at the studio. I can think much more clearly when I'm at home, when the time pressure is off.

However, away from the studio I don't have the expensive studio monitors or headphones. I listen to the tracks using the various cheap headphones I have -each with their different characteristics -and try to judge the mix by taking the "average" of how they sound.

E.g. if the guitar sounds too loud on one pair of my headphones, but about right on the other pairs, then I won't ask the engineer to change the guitar volume when I go back the studio. If the drums sound too loud on all pairs, then I'll ask him to bring them down. He gives me the altered versions and then we repeat.

Is this a silly way of working -need I buy an expensive pair of open-back headphones such as Sennheiser's HD 650? But I can't plug them into my laptop I assume? (What I use to listen).

  • 3
    That’s not silly, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Listen to it on your smart phone speakers to make sure it sounds good there. Laptop speakers, TV, game console, everywhere you can. That’s how people who buy it will listen to it so you might as well make sure it will sound good for them. Really your mix engineer should be don’t this for you. They should be telling you that they adjusted it based on their listening tests and it should sound so good to you already that when they hear and fix a problem you can’t even tell the difference. Sep 6, 2018 at 21:37
  • 1
    A lot of people will swear by listening to mixes in the car on the way home. Maybe some people are used to how things sound in their car and for others it's a way of telling when something definitely isn't going to work (ex. too much bass) in a subpar environment. It's not the magic that some claim it is, but there's definitely a lot of value in listening back on some consumer-grade systems. I think earbuds are the new "car test" imo. In short, listen everywhere as a "real world" test, but trust the studio monitors most when making mix decisions.
    – user37496
    Sep 6, 2018 at 21:39
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox exactly. My sound tech professor told us this exact thing. You want to hear what the end user will hear.
    – Kevin H
    Sep 7, 2018 at 0:31

1 Answer 1


You are doing it just right. You think the average listener has expensive speakers/headphones? People are going to listen in the car, on their crappy iPhone ear buds, etc. If the mix doesn't sound good there then that's not good. You should also listen on studio speakers so you can judge the stuff you can't hear at home but make sure it sounds good for the average listener.

The "car test" has been a standard mixing test for many years and in fact studios (at least the one I worked at) had a small wattage radion station that broadcast to the parking lot with all the radio compression that a real station would use so you could easily test in the car (before CD burners or cassette tapes were popular).

Listen at low volumes, high volumes, stereo, mono, and anything else you can think of.

  • 2
    Especially listen in mono, there is a surprising amount of it out there still, and phase issues are sometimes only REALLY obvious in a mono downmix.
    – Dan Mills
    Sep 7, 2018 at 23:09
  • @Dan Mills I knew an engineer that would flip one side out of phase and listen to the mix to see what it would sound like to all those people that have one out of phase speaker in their living room. Just to make sure nothing went missing that was too important.
    – b3ko
    Sep 8, 2018 at 3:50
  • Oh right, I had no idea about listening in mono. For listening in mono I've enabled "Turn on mono audio" in Windows 10 Ease of Access settings, and listened on headphones. Is this sufficient or do I need an actual single-speaker device?
    – Dave C
    Sep 9, 2018 at 14:41
  • @DanMills Sorry what's a mono downmix? (Total newb here)
    – Dave C
    Sep 9, 2018 at 14:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.