Bass traps, headphone mixing and monitoring

The vexed question of bass trapping in my mixing room has been my quest this new year.  Some acoustic treatment of your mixing space is unavoidable, although home recordists necessarily do not want to get to bogged down in the subject.  The best mixing room is one designed specifically for purpose but as studios go down like ninepins this is becoming an unaffordable luxury.  Noted producer John Leckie is a dissident on the subject saying people don’t listen to music in acoustically tuned rooms, but even he would want to be free of standing echoes, comb filtering etc.

So where to start?  Firstly, you can mix on headphones, regardless of what anyone says.  In fact you can make more accurate mix decisions on them as the room is eliminated, and mix transparency is improved.  The proviso is that they must be a good quality pair with a balanced response on your main 20Hz-20khz range.  Then you must check the mix on monitors and in mono to gauge its effectiveness.  Check out also Toneboosters very affordable Isone plugin.  This simulates your mix on various speaker and room combinations.  It won’t make you a brilliant mix but it may reveal a flawed one.

Acoustically, the minimum you want in your room is bass trapping, as the low frequencies are the most potentially problematic.  Reflection point treatment and some diffusion are nice but not essential.  Many square rooms like mine have a standing wave (60Hz was mine) so I got to work on capturing that errant low end crap.  The clutter of equipment meant the traps had to go where they could behind my scientifically chosen mix position, attaching them to the floor/ceiling junctions was out and they had to be light enough to move out the way.  After a trip to Homebase I had a pair of these bad boys –

Bass Trap

Underneath the tough garden sack (to protect against lung cancer) is a Space Blanket.  No, not what Ziggy sleeps under but a roll of dense fibreglass insulation which will absorb those excess bass waves and tighten up the low end image.  There are lots of commercially available bass traps costing a lot more than £20 but they all do the same thing more or less.  Bass trapping for mixing is less demanding than for recording space as you don’t go above 85 db on the nearfield monitors do you?  And you sit closer to them meaning more direct sound and less reflected.  Open doors and glass windows are also natural bass traps (or escapes).  Together with the shelving and general clutter I have in my mix room, sound waves that don’t reach my ears straight away are either marmalised (tech term) or absorbed.  You heard it here first.

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