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, 2015 at 19:50
  • Nope. How to learn it? Also, this happened with another PC as well...
    – ghostnote
    Jan 31, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 at 14:33

5 Answers 5


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.


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.


There’s an entire science to mixing a master. The low and high frequencies need to be separated so that the wave spectrum doesn’t inter-lap and cause competition or distortion.

The solution in the 90’s was to lower the volume of the aggressive or distorting channel so that the end mix sounded pleasant. This also is the reason why 90’s songs are low in volume (because they are lowering the channel volume to avoid distortion).

To do it properly, you need to analyze the spectrum of all channels or tracks and determine conflict. Then you need to choose keys, chords, or samples that don’t conflict with each other int the wave spectrum. For example, F and E chords sit at different levels.

Or to put it simply, two concurrent bass channels causes distortion.

It’s not something you could do without years and years of practice.

To answer your question, digital headphones use algorithms to separate or remove distortion or conflict. An analog speaker will not do that, which is why music sounds different on AirPods versus a studio monitor.


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, 2015 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, 2015 at 11:53

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