Using Reference Monitors and Headphones for Mixing

Why should I use reference monitors? So you’ve just dropped what seems like a life savings worth on a new pair of studio monitors. And they sound GREAT. All the crispy highs and the powerful lows, they just blew your socks off. But a few weeks later, once the honeymoon effect wears off, you realize that although your mixes sound great on your monitors, they don’t sound nearly as good anywhere else. That’s because every other pair of speakers is inferior right? Well, hang on a sec… The staple of a great sounding mix is not to sound amazing on one set of speakers, but to sound great on ANY set of speakers. This is where using reference monitors come into play.

History of the Yamaha NS-10 monitor

Mackie Mixing on reference monitors

If you’ve ever been to a professional recording studio or watched a studio documentary for one of your favorite bands, there’s a chance you’ve seen one of these bad boys at one point or another. Part of the reason these monitors became so popular is their very unforgiving midrange characteristics. If you can get a mix to sound good on a pair of NS-10’s, it will sound good on almost any system.

The good news? You don’t need to have NS-10s to follow this model. These days most people listen to music on those little tiny earbuds that can barely reproduce anything other than midrange. Get into the habit of listening on earbuds, consumer headphones, reference monitors, and your mains during the mixing process. The more speakers you can hear your mix out of, the better off you’ll be.

Using a Monitor Controller To get the most out of your reference monitors, you’ll want to have some monitor management system. The Mackie Big Knob is the perfect example of a monitor controller that gives you everything you need to use reference monitors to the fullest potential. With multiple sources and multiple outputs, you can check your mix up against a commercial mix and on multiple different monitors with the press of a button.

In conclusion, it pays to have a great pair of accurate studio monitors so that you know that you hear every nuance of your mix, but it is also crucial to give it a listen through other speakers and in other typical environments to get a feel for how it will translate. Doing this for every mix will only make the end result even better, and give you more confidence in the final product.

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