Today I have a mixing tip. I learned it from Marc Mozart / Mixed by Mozart and it's even more useful than I ever thought. The idea is to buy the shittiest radio you can find with an Aux-In and use it as a monitor. I found my little beauty in a supermarket - one speaker, Aux-In, no good sound - in one word: perfect! My radio is connected to my Audio-Interface and from time to time I listen there to check my mix. Here is why...
There are three things which are very important when mixing, which can easily (or even better) be checked on a system like this:
►BALANCE! The leveling of your mix is so important, I can't emphasize it enough. If you ever wondered why some mixes might not sound too good, but still very professional I am pretty sure they are well balanced. Every good mix has a concerted approach to leveling. Check your levels on your new radio - it helps to get the balance right!
►VOCALS! The Vocals are the most important part in your mix (at least in 95% of your mixes). On a system like your little crap-radio you can hear things you might not hear on your big speakers. I'm not talking about details, I am talking about basic decisions: • How loud are my Vocals be compared to the music? • Do my vocals have enough Mids and Highs to be hearable even on a radio?
Check that from time to time on your radio!! It will change your way of mixing. Do it with reference mixes. Listen to them on your radio and then check yours (adjust volume!). Are your vocals loud enough? Are they standing out as well as in the good, professional mixes? Do they need a push of higher mids, more harmonics? More Top-End? Train that!
►MIDS! On your crap-radio you will not hear any lower or sub frequencies. And let's be honest.... all the laptops with their "super" sound systems ("Mega Bass", "Super Low" bla bla) sound like shit as well as smartphones. But these are the systems on which people will listen to your mix! And they better sound good there as well, right?
Imagine that: You added a super cool effect - in a little break of your DubStep track you have this awesome SubDrop Kick which totally kicks in your guts. Then you check it on your radio - nothing....
Think about that. Many cool things you have in your mix disappear when heard on a laptop or phone. But we can do something against it. Think about adding midrange to some sounds. Another idea is to work with distortion - add that to your kick (for example with Ohmicide by Ohmforce - amazing Plugin) without distorting the lows. You will realize (on your radio) that adding harmonics and bringing the mids out, all your sounds will be hearable.
So far... I hope that's understandable :) For me it is a super experience to use a little radio and I would totally recommend it. Super easy - super cheap - super results.