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Is Flat Bass or Harman Bass Better for Mixing on Headphones? (Professional Mixing Engineers Only)

Is Flat Bass or Harman Bass Better for Mixing on Headphones? (Professional Mixing Engineers Only)


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Sharur

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I felt that it was important to bring up this topic because we already know that on average, people prefer Harman bass, but what about the pros who make the mix? Votes will be displayed publicly so we'll know who is being honest.
 

abdo123

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you should not use a headphone to mix at all, unless you're making binaural recordings.

you should use a headphone to 'fine tune' a mix and see if it translates well to headphones and / or other rooms, for that you should use whatever amount of bass you think is neutral in your personal time with reference tracks. not necessarily the Harman target because it's not the 'reference' for 36-40% of people. Also, how much hair you have and whether you're wearing glasses or not and even how old the headphones are will change the bass response from whatever someone measured.

However, the best mix is not the one that sounds good to you at a particular moment or with certain gear or inside a specific room, it's the mix that sounds the best in different room and with varrying setups and gear, that should be the ultimate goal. So do what brings you closer to that.
 
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Sharur

Sharur

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you should not use a headphone to mix at all, unless you're making binaural recordings.

you should use a headphone to 'fine tune' a mix and see if it translates well to headphones and / or other rooms, for that you should use whatever amount of bass you think is neutral in your personal time with reference tracks. not necessarily the Harman target because it's not the 'reference' for 36-40% of people. Also, how much hair you have and whether you're wearing glasses or not and even how old the headphones are will change the bass response from whatever someone measured.

However, the best mix is not the one that sounds good to you at a particular moment or with certain gear or inside a specific room, it's the mix that sounds the best in different room and with varrying setups and gear, that should be the ultimate goal. So do what brings you closer to that.
This comment sparked this thread.
Screen Shot 2021-09-08 at 1.07.58 PM.png
 

DVDdoug

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I'm not a pro, but right... The pros will tell you not to mix on headphones. Bass is the "worst" because you normally feel low-bass in your body.

But I did read something by one mixing (or mastering?) engineer who uses headphones because he moves from studio-to-studio and he wants consistency. He says you don't need "perfect" or "great" headphones, you just need to learn how to make good mixes on your particular headphones.


This is from Recording Magazine:
As those of you who have followed this column for any length of time can attest, headphone mixing is one of the big no-no's around these parts. In our humble opinion, headphone mixes do not translate well in the real world, period, end of story. Other than checking for balance issues and the occasional hunting down of little details, they are tools best left for the tracking process.
 

virtua

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The conventional wisdom is that you want the FR to be as flat as possible throughout for best chances of translation to everything else. Sonarworks Reference 4 and Toneboosters Morphit are fairly popular for this in the headphone mixing space in terms of correcting measured EQ responses to a profile. However, headphones are rarely used for mixing, only really used for reference. Andrew Scheps is the only person I'm aware of who is a famous mix engineer who uses headphones extensively and he uses Sony MDR7506's. IIRC the main reason he uses them is because he is very used to the way they sound, which is more important than anything else in terms of getting your mixes to sound the way you expect them to sound. Realistically, if you know how a good mix is supposed to sound on a specific pair of monitors or headphones, then that's more important than strictly having a flat FR - though these aren't mutually exclusive. Obviously being as skilled as Andrew Scheps helps way more than anything else.

Interview with Andrew Scheps on Gearspace - might be of interest for you to read, interestingly enough he doesn't use any eq correction plugins or crosstalk plugins when mixing on headphones.

I haven't voted because I'm not a professional mixing engineer, just an amateur who has an interest in it through producing my own music.
 
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dfuller

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I'm inclined to say you need way less sub bass than Harman. That's just too much bottom end, mixes will come out thin on most sources. You do need some boost to approximate an accurate in-room curve, but nowhere near Harman 18 or even Harman 13.
 
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Sharur

Sharur

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Harman makes a target that supposedly replicates the "perceived" sound of flat speakers in a room and people start making excuses claiming all headphones are bad for mixing when they realize the Harman target is not usable for professional work?
 

stevenswall

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Not voting as it has been a while/wasn't professional but in college working in a couple of the studios it was always Sony MDR 7506 headphones and the bass was flat at the output for the headphones, just like the speakers (Focal Twin6 Be).

If you know what flat bass sounds like in your headphones and master it knowing about how bass sounds on other systems vs your headphones it should be fine. EX: I know on my Audio Technical AD900 that is the bass is a touch above audibility it's probably normal and somewhat impactful on other playback systems.
 

revoc

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It doesn't matter how much bass a headphone has. As long as you're familiar with how all of the music you know sounds on it then you should be fine when mixing.
 

Sombreuil

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The idea that one shouldn’t mix on headphones is somewhat outdated.

Thanks, I didn't want to be the one saying it. It's funny to note that people who are mocking subjectivits are also the ones saying things that are completely outdated and false by today's standards.
 

MikeJ

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I personally mix / master with my trusted Neumann KH420s and I receive lot of mixes for mastering that are bedroom productions, of which almost 90% are done purely on headphones. Therefore I'm really interested in headphones world because when I know what works better for studio work, I can recommend serious headphones for my clients to become more effective / precise in what they do. But the truth nowadays is - budgets are getting tighter and tighter, talented producers unfortunately cannot afford solid monitors with proper room treatment, Covid is mostly preventing them to attend live sessions in real studios, so they are naturaly forced to mix with what is available on the market, in their bedrooms - often with headphones. Then of course, there are headphones and headphones. When I compare the quality of headphones made 10 years ago versus what's available now, it's a big step up in quality and sound reproduction overall, and no, I don't believe that headphones are not suitable for mixing - the world has shifted already in this sense and maybe some old school guys still can't admit it. However one thing I can say for sure - mixes I receive which were done on bass heavy headphones (be it Harman's bass boosted curve or something else), they just sound thin. Something in the low end is just missing there... Therefore I am more and more wondering what would Harman come up with if they performed this study / research amongst audio professionals.
 
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Sharur

Sharur

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\When I compare the quality of headphones made 10 years ago versus what's available now, it's a big step up in quality and sound reproduction overall
You should have listened to ER4S 30 years ago.
 

ziddy76

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I personally mix / master with my trusted Neumann KH420s and I receive lot of mixes for mastering that are bedroom productions, of which almost 90% are done purely on headphones.

I very much doubt this, home studio is so affordable with offerings from Kali LP6/JBL LSR305 and the like and doubt anyone is mixing music at such volume it would be an issue in a bedroom or apartment or whatever.

With what is available now, I don't see why mastering on headphones should be encouraged. No reason for it when you can buy a good pair of monitors for same price as a good headphone now. And frankly the LP6 sound better than any headphones I've ever heard.
 

ziddy76

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I felt that it was important to bring up this topic because we already know that on average, people prefer Harman bass, but what about the pros who make the mix? Votes will be displayed publicly so we'll know who is being honest.

I think the right answer is no to both, as in just get a pair of studio monitors.

But for some weird reason can't, then it doesn't matter. As someone mentioned, if you know the sound of your headphones well enough you understand and know how that sound translates to speakers, car audio, other headphones etc, and you can mix/master with whatever.

If some dude for some absurd reason other than he's just had the 7506 for 30 years and uses them to master... tells you all, cause I can't think of a worse headphone to master with. Others use HD650, some use M50x, etc. Can you imagine a more different comparison than say an AKG K702 and Shure 1540? Yet those both get great reviews from pro audio forums. There is such a variety of headphones some use to mix/master with, tells you it's just about knowing your headphone and how that sound translates.

But one thing that is steady and unanimous by the pros, use the headphones to check something. Should be using studio monitors not headphones.
 
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Sharur

Sharur

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I think the right answer is no to both, as in just get a pair of studio monitors.

But for some weird reason can't, then it doesn't matter. As someone mentioned, if you know the sound of your headphones well enough you understand and know how that sound translates to speakers, car audio, other headphones etc, and you can mix/master with whatever.
Did you watch the Andrew Scheps video? Have you mixed for Adele?
 

ziddy76

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Did you watch the Andrew Scheps video? Have you mixed for Adele?

I hate Adele and I hate the mastering on it, and no did not watch it, don't really care what one person does when the entire industry says different. Adele's music has WAY TOO MUCH boosted bass and the treble roll off is ridiculous IMO. Almost as if they were mixed and made to be listened to a V shaped DJ headphone call the 7506... Coincidence? I think not.

Armin Van Burren said he mastered/mixed his first album with headphone exclusively as well, but that doesn't mean it's right since I guarantee he doesn't any more.
 
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