The Cheap Speaker Test
So why are these so useful?
Speakers like the ones pictured don’t tend to be very flattering and also tend to over-emphasise the mid range so they will really highlight any problems or deficiencies on your mix. These speakers also don’t tend to go very loud so you will have to work hard to get the details across on them, making you work harder on your mix, and that’s a good thing right?
And don’t just take my word for it – many top mix engineers take the same approach:
Most of my mixing is done listening to my little Sony boombox. Because the speakers of the boombox are relatively close to each other, I essentially listen in mono. The Sony is like a magnifying glass, it tells me whether my mix sucks or not.
I use a Fostex 6301b for my mixing duties and prefer this over a set of smaller PC speakers for a couple of reasons.
Firstly the speaker is mono so it is a point-source which helps generally when mixing and also the speaker can go fairly loud which helps me with checking for phase when tracking drums. I love to mix on this thing as it becomes really obvious if something is too loud or quiet. It makes setting FX levels a cinch too.
Also if the mix is sounding sweet when played back through a 4″ speaker cone in mono when the band come in for playback, they’re usually even more impressed when I turn up the mains!
I then tend to check my mixes in the studio lounge over a pair of JBL Control monitors which are the ones found in just about every restaurant in the world! This gives me an accurate idea as to how the mixes will translate in a “real-world” situation. The speakers are also mounted on the wall so will highlight any problems with the bass frequencies.
So do yourself a huge favour and plug some cheap PC speakers – mono if possible – into your monitoring chain and hear the difference for yourself. Not possible? Bounce an mp3 and check it on a laptop – remember: that’s how most music is listened to nowadays…