Mixing – an art which takes years to learn and a lifetime to refine – can be a frustrating experience, in particular when there are many tracks to deal with. The most infuriating thing about it is that our mixes sound completely different through different sound systems, and often not in a good way.
Beside poor recording and mixing techniques, what causes these dramatic differences is often due to the fact that, in these times of home recording madness, most musicians mix their songs in environments that are somewhat flawed, and with equipment either cheap or badly set up – or both.A big component of the art of mixing is balancing audio frequencies, and to properly do that the engineer should be able to hear the budding mix in a completely neutral way (what audio nerds call “flat response environment”). This is something that is absolutely impossible to achieve in any generic space without investing tens of thousands of dollars. Yes because parallel walls in any room create “standing sound waves” (go-ogle it) which heavily affect how the low end is perceived in that particular space. This distorts our perception of specific low frequencies – which we will be inclined to wrongly cut or boost in the mix to compensate.
This is why having a frequency spectrum analyzer plug in on the master insert of your mix can be very helpful. The analyzer can’t be your only reference for mixing of course, but when in doubt it provides an impartial, “live” visual representation of the frequencies in your mix. Looking at the frequency spectra of other professionally recorded songs similar to the one you are working on, and A/B-ing their sound/”look” with yours can be literally an ear and eye opening experience.