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Before every mix I align the speakers (as told by my teachers) with a C-weighted SPL meter for 85dB SPL pink noise. Today for the first time I am supposed to mix a 4 min trailer for a documentary in my Sennheiser HD201 headphones (that's all I can use). I am concerned about the levels at which I should monitor.

Does anyone have any tips or comments?

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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The basic rule about mixing with headphones is DON'T. There's an old saying the "Headphones will break your heart". There can be issues with levels, reverb and panning when mixing on headphones and then listening back on speakers. However if that's all you have, that's all you have. There's no way to calibrate phones easily, unlike speakers. But, to start, get this: http://www.atsc.org/refs/a85/Speech_sample.wav

That is a sample of speech that has been carefully chosen and measured to read -24LFKS. Adjust your headphone volume until the Dialog feels "comfortable" or "right". This is then your "reference" level. Not perfect but will get you in the ballpark. Be sure before you actually deliver you do take the mix SOMEWHERE to listen to it on speakers. And be prepared to make some changes...

I'll also point you here : http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan07/articles/mixingheadphones.htm#7

A good article on various plug-ins that help alleviate some of the issues when mixing on phones. Again not perfect, but will help.

Good luck!

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Thanx man...... –  chrisnanny Jan 30 '11 at 7:55
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+1 to everything stated above. Headphones definitely have their place, I get a long of meticulous design work and recording done with them. But for an actual mix, there's just no solid way to accurately represent a mix as it travels and hangs around in mid air. Monitor speakers are a must for that, in my opinion. I've tried the gimmicky simulator plugins and own a pair of rather expensive headphones but haven't come across anything I'd rely on.

Reverb and bass tend to be the two main things that mixing with cans on can screw up the most, for me anyway. All that said, it's not impossible. A big part of using monitors is "getting to know them" and adjusting to what they are doing to your sound on any level. I suppose quality mixes could be achieved with some frequency analysis and a very intimate relationship with a good pair, but I personally haven't had the time or luck to get very far with that. I use them for what they do gracefully and use monitors for what they do best.

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The 201-s will hide a lot of sound (especially bass) from your ears so keep a spectrum analyser plugin very close. As with all headphone mixing, you will have to trust a combination of what you hear plus what you see on the best meters you have, as well as compare that to pre-existing reference material. If you're mixing in Pro Tools, Massey's HR Meter is great and so is the Phasescope plugin. The rest is in your other question thread.

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Thanx for your comments. I will be definitely hear the final output in domestic level and professional level speakers.Am also concerned about the re-verb and delay which i will be giving.I think this will be a nice exercise for me.

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I think that you have been set this task so that you understand the differences between listening through headphones and loudspeakers.

As has been mentioned above, you will have issues with bass, reverb and panning. You will also be able to hear it all much clearer as there are no poor room acoustics to smudge the sound. This clarity can tempt you to mix dialogue too low, when you think that it is perfect try adding at least 2-3 dB to the dialogue and you should be fine.

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