I'm using reference headphones to mix my tracks, which I know isn't the best way and I'm sure monitors offer better results. My concern has to do with something else though. I don't have decent and the best sound equipment, I'm trying to do my best with what I have. Ok, so, I'm using a focusrite scarlett 2i2 interface, and a shure srh240a headphone. I'm mixing my tracks on ableton live with this equipment. When I listen to the exported wav track on my laptop with these headphones, it sounds ok. But when I listen to this on a desktop computer, the sound SUCKS! my beats sound like a bouncing ball. Am I doing something wrong with some technical setting before exporting?

I know that mix sounds different on each device. One should achieve the best one that sounds quite similar in each environment and the reference headphones might not help achieve this. But why does it sound ok when I listen to the track with my laptop then?

  • Do you know what the frequency response of your PC speakers is? Jan 31 '15 at 19:50
  • Nope. How to learn it? Also, this happened with another PC as well...
    – ghostnote
    Jan 31 '15 at 22:14
  • Generally you can get an idea by sweeping a sine wave from 20Hz to 20,000Hz and taking note of where the sound drops off. Ultimately, you want to have a variety of playback options. They don't have to be high quality but they have to represent the variety of playback systems your intended audience will be using. Jan 31 '15 at 22:34
  • 3
    I wouldn't call those headphones 'reference' by a long way, tbh. I haven't tried them myself, but my instinctive guess would be they are designed to make everything sound 'nice' rather than 'accurate'. Without good reference monitors, the only practical way to test a mix is by listening to it on as many different systems as you can, from laptop to car stereo. On each one, make notes as to what sounds 'wrong' then go back & remix to those notes; rinse & repeat until it sounds OK on them all.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 1 '15 at 9:26
  • Are you saying that an exported version sounds fine, no matter where you listen to it? And, when you're listening on your desktop, are you listening to an exported version? or are you just hitting play and 'monitoring' the sound? The "bouncing ball" bit makes me think you've got a monitoring issue.
    – JoshP
    Feb 2 '15 at 14:33

If you want to do good mastering you at least need to buy monitor speakers.

That's my answer and will solve your problem.

The following are just for discussion and will not solve your problem:

Also you say

But when I listen to this on a desktop computer, the sound SUCKS!

You mean using the same headphones on the desktop computer, or do you mean you listening from that computers speakers?

Using the same headphones on different devices, should have not noticeable difference; You can play your music on a cheap mobile mp3 player and on a hi-fi stereo and: if at both circumstances there is

  • NO processing by the device


  • you hear it via the same headphones

the only difference should be a bit of static noise or something, depending on the quality of the electronic circuits.

In any other case, if you use the same headphones on two devices and the result is noticeably different, a real time processing is being applied on playback by the device (like an equalizer preset or a bass expander or something).

p.s. Long shot, but also be sure your headphones don't do any processing too, i know a couple of fancy dj headphones which do compressing and filtering.

  • Gear wont solve the problem. A proper understanding of mix fundamentals and trial and error solve the problem. While it is typical to mix with studio monitors... Great results can be had without the highest quality gear. THE BIGGEST KEY IS THE PROPER FUNDAMENTALS!!!!!
    – skids89
    Feb 3 '15 at 0:29
  • @skids89 this is an answer to that particular user's question. i have no knowledge of op's knowledge/experience/understanding on mastering and such. The only thing i know is that someone tries to do mastering without monitor speakers. This is as "fundamental" can it gets. Also your "Great results can be had without the highest quality gear." is deceiving. Please change it to "Great results can RARELY be had without the highest quality gear." (if our definition of "great results" is the same)
    – Sharky
    Feb 3 '15 at 6:55
  • Any pro can put together an award winning mix with garage band and a decent set of headphones. While I agree that speakers/headphones are the most important place to invest money (if you have it) for better mixes, it is far from necessary to get good results. Pros are that way because of HOW they use the equipment. I know of several grammy winning engineers who used solid fundamentals with solid prosumer level gear, and primarily stock plugins to mix those grammy winning albums/songs. So I guess my definition of "Great results" is a grammy or two.
    – skids89
    Feb 7 '15 at 5:12
  • @skids89 won't argue with that, have to admit though, im curious to know which grammy winners and works you are reffering to?
    – Sharky
    Feb 7 '15 at 16:08
  • Not Chris but the other LordAlge (Chris's Brother) and I am spacing on the other. They used Pro Tools and its stock plugins if I remember correctly, though any functional DAW should be able to get results.
    – skids89
    Feb 10 '15 at 3:25

The problem is not gear... Several grammy winning mixers use the standard plugins that come with their DAW. Most likely the natural EQ built into the headphones has a boost in the low/low mid range that artificially tells you the mix has enough of that frequency range. Use several pairs of headphones to sample how the mix sounds on each, as well as testing it on laptop speakers, car stereos, etc. While studio monitors can help this issue they aren't the solution, proper use of the tools you have IS

If the computer speakers don't sound as good it is typically due to poor bass. Most computer speakers cant produce bass under around 250hz. Play with the bottom end until it sounds good on as many devices as possible. Another trick is to load a big name band's song (of the same genre) into your DAW and listen to how it sounds on your headphones... Compare that to your mix. Does the big name band's song sound louder, more bassy, more trebly, are the guitars louder/quieter than your mix? Adjust your mix to get closer to the sound that works.


My opinion on this, there's no such thing as a monitor that fits everyones need. There's a reason for all those brands coming up with different speakers and headphones. The room the speakers are in is one thing, a untreated room can have a lot of elements effecting the overall frequencies. Some frequencies might get boosted, other's disappear. Headphones take this room part out (at least closed ones do) but introduce other issues.

Also Something I always wonder about and a thing almost nobody ever mentions. Everybody has a different outer ear shell and so even this will affect the way frequencies eventually get to our "hearing". Finding the perfect environment with the perfect equipment for an individual can be quite challenging therefor. Some eq measurement tools can be a good start!


Check the output level (volume control) of your desktop computer, you can find it inside the sound controlpanel of Windows. Also check the output level of your playback program (Winamp, iTunes etc..). If you have set a to low master output level in Windows and a to high output level inside for example iTunes, the chances are your mix get limited/compressed at the Windows output to prevent distortion at the D/A.

I dont know for a fact that Windows utilizes a built in limiter or such, but i do know that i have experienced the same issue while playing Spotify at 100% out "into" Windows with the volume control there set to 100% or less.

Hope this works.

  • There are times when i felt that the level was bouncing like if there was a compressor at my soundcard. Those times when this happened, i got rid of the problem by doing what i wrote above. My guess is that 100% volume on Spotify and 100% volume on the windows mixer makes hot signals become limited/compressed inside the windowsmixer or interface/soundcard. Mar 2 '15 at 11:53
  • I wish for you to atleast try it out. I mean it works on your laptop right? So why could it not be a problem set in your desktop computer that create this problem? I would set the volume of the Windows mixer to 97% and music player software to around 80% to see if it makes any difference. Or have i understood the question wrong? Mar 2 '15 at 11:53

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