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I produce EDM (Electronic Dance Music), mainly house. I have this problem with basslines. On my studio monitors, and my headphones, the bass sounds punchy in the mix. I can get it to the point where it sits nicely and sounds great.

But as soon as I listen through my laptop speakers (Macbook Pro) I can't even hear the bass at all. The track just sounds flat.

Yet, if I listen to the music from other artists who produce in the same genre, their tracks have an audible bassline on the laptop speakers.

I know to some extent the laptop is going to cut a lot of the low frequencies.

Any idea how to improve this? I usually use the laptop speaker as a reference. A lot of people listen to music through laptop speakers, and phones, and I'd like my music to sound as best as it can through those devices.

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    Interesting problem isn't it? Makes me wonder if at some stage media players will auto-detect hardware and compensate by adjusting the mix at playback. I bet someone's working on it. – Mark Durham Jan 14 '14 at 11:04
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    Maybe you should tell us how you made your bass line, in terms of sound design. How you set up your synth, what bass instrument you use etc. What effects you use afterward. All that helps in finding a solution, since every mix scenario and arrangement calls for a different approach in making the baseline audible in bad speakers. For Eg. In rock there are often Powerchords played on guitars that follow the bass line or in orchestral music you have a fellow imitating that double bass, in dub step you have a midrange noise following the sub bass notes... – Tobias Schmidt Jan 14 '14 at 11:58
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    This is a great question. Could you post a link to one of the reference tracks you're using? And maybe a SoundCloud link to a clip of one your tracks? – datageist Jan 29 '14 at 3:39
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You're likely to find that artists that have basslines that stick out well on both proper studio monitors as well as crappy laptop speakers are utilizing a bunch of layering of sounds to create a cohesive bass sound that spans various frequencies (besides the low ones you'd expect). Even when I'm using a bass sound that is essentially a sub (sine wave) bass, I'll look for ways to embellish the harmonics of the sound (with distortion or layering) so as not to limit the notes the bass is playing strictly to the sub frequencies. Listen to some dubstep basslines and you'll hear sub tones with more harmonically complex sounds on top (wobbles using a saw oscillator for example). There is a certain art to making a good bass sound and it's hard to explain it in a paragraph, but experiment with layers and start thinking of the bass as a sound that is important on more frequencies than just the low ones. Hopefully this helps

  • Harmonics are key. Your studio monitors might go down to 20Hz before really bottoming out, especially if you have a sub, so if you're enjoying that nice, deep thump without thinking about drivers that have trouble below 250Hz, like laptop speakers, ear buds and even the average car stereo, your mix is going to sound thin on the bottom when you take it out to the real world. – KeithS Jan 24 '14 at 23:19
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To get the Kickdrum out of Laptopspeakers -> Layer a small click sound, rimshot, hi hat, etc.

To get the Bass out -> layer it with saws or use parallel distortion or fm to get some higher harmonics out

edit: also the right amount of white and pink noise can give the impression of a burst -> helps with those edm genres to give a big bass drop on small speakers. just trigger filtered and reverberated white/pink noise on the sub bass notes or kick.

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You can use something like Waves MaxxBass or RBass to create upper harmonics that can be heard on smaller speakers. You could also saturate or distort the mid to high end on a separate track and blend it in with the original.

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I found boosting the basslines in the 800hz area helps on laptops and only gives a little more clarity on other systems without making it overpowering.

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Much of what you hear in a low end signal is in fact mid-range frequencies. Listen to old recordings from the 50-60's. Back then, common speaker systems were fairly horrible in their bass frequency reproduction.

A way to combat this is to either boost the mid-range, or reduce the sub 300 hz range. Some common bass or kick drum EQ settings are to remove 300hz with a narrow Q, but too much of this will make the bass sound very modern and it can then disappear on small speakers.

Try this: use a broad Q on a parametric EQ and boost 800-2000hz by a few db, or until the bass becomes audible on small speakers. Then apply a brick wall (12db slope) high pass filter at 30-40hz to clean up the sub frequencies. Also, if you are not compressing the bass track, do so, this can also go a long way in preventing note drop outs on small speakers.

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In GarageBand, add a Master track plug-in Specialized/Exciter and crank it up a bit to like 150% (with 1000Hz). This add overtones to the low frequencies so they can be heard on crappy speakers.

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Bass lines working on laptop speakers need overtones since their fundamental will not make it out. Basically the worst you can use here are wooden organ pipes since they are almost only fundamental. I am not assuming that this is what you actually use, though.

Don't use a clean bass guitar. Use a funky and/or distorted bass guitar sound: those have significant overtones.

Are you using a synth? Don't use sine waves or similar in the bass. Sawtooth is good. Using simulated instruments? A bowed bass is at least sawtooth-like. A plucked acoustic double bass has a strong plucking sound. Reed and brass instruments (bassoon, tuba) have "pulse train" oscillators which are reasonably rich in overtones.

"Don't listen on laptop speakers" is at best an incomplete answer since one of the functions of a bass is to provide a harmonic foundation, and without overtones it skips out on most of that job.

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