In the latest podcast I did with Graham, one of our 5 mixing “hacks” was to mix at lower volumes.

Lower volumes. What’s the fun in that?

I’ll be honest. I’m not great at doing this, but there are a lot of good reasons to mix at lower volumes. Here are a few:

  • Less ear fatigue – Mix for longer periods of time without wearing out your cute little ears
  • Forces you to listen more carefully – When the speakers are blaring, it can actually become more difficult to hear everything. Turning ’em down makes you listen more carefully.
  • Makes your room less of an issue – Yes, you should acoustically treat your room, but mixing at lower volumes gives your room less of a chance to mess with the sound before it hits your ears. Blasting sound into your room will cause those room issues (and we all have them) to become more pronounced and exaggerated.
  • Nowhere to “hide” – Sometimes a mix sounds better simply when you play it louder. Forcing yourself to mix at lower volumes forces you to get a good-sounding mix BEFORE you crank the volume.
  • Flatter response – It’s a fact, louder music actually sounds more “hyped” to our ears. A loud mix seems to have more bass and more highs…even if that’s not really the case. A lower volume gives you a “flatter” response to work with…which is ideal.

“How loud should I mix?” you ask. Some folks like to get SPL meters and measure it out. I don’t. Graham made a great point in yesterday’s podcast. Mix at a level where you can still comfortable hold a conversation with someone next to you.

Hey, it’s worth a shot.

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  • Roger

    Yes. Our ears are definitely flatter on higher spl than on extremely low volume. Nevertheless, mixing at low volume is a great tip, and use it every time for vocals. While mixing vocals, I tend to ‘stick’ with the same levels used during the tracking stage. If I turn the whole volume down, I make the first adjustments so I can hear both the vocals and the instruments behind it.

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  • letzter geist

    i love doing this! for a couple of reasons. all the things you listed are of course true, but i like that i can almost mix anytime of the day, day or night, and not worry about waking up my wife or my daughter. my main mix times are between 10pm and 1am, when i can relax and focus on what i am doing. i never have complaints or wake people up 🙂
    i wish everyone would start doing this! loud is not always better! i love when a mix sounds big and punchy quiet. it’s also easier to get the vocal to music ratio just right.

    • Yes. Add “doesn’t wake the baby” to the list. As a fairly new daddy, I can certainly relate.

  • Preshan

    Great post, Joe.

    I’m pretty sure that we actually hear things flatter when we listen louder, i.e. as you said we hear less bass and treble when things are softer; less than is natural. The Fletcher-Munson curves are the most linear at around 85dB. Of course it’s all a relative thing… but strictly speaking the frequency response of our ears are more linear at louder levels.

    I’m definitely a fan of mixing at low levels though. If you can make the bass sound firm and punchy when the mix is soft, usually it’ll sound amazing when it’s turned up 🙂

    • Yeah. There’s definitely a flip-side, too. If you’re mixing at a lower volume, and you make the bass TOO loud (just so you can hear it really well), then the mix could be WAY to bass heavy at louder volumes.

      It should be noted that we should DEFINITELY check our mixes at all volumes, but spending the majority of your mixing time at a lower volume is a good idea.