I have an arch nemesis.

(You do, too.)

He was a bigger threat when I was first starting out with recording, but he still rears his ugly head.

His name? My car. (If you must know, my car’s name is “Franc.”)

I hate the sound system in my car. Great mixes sound “okay” on it. Bad mixes sound awful. I bet you can relate, no?

So here’s the deal.

I finished up a mix last week. Throughout the entire mix process I only listened to the mix through my nice studio monitors and headphones.

You see, I came down with a small case of overconfidence.

Because the mix was “working” for me, I didn’t see a reason to listen to it elsewhere. Perhaps it’s arrogance. Or maybe stupidity?

Either way, I waited way too long to listen to the mix in my car.


It made me sad. 🙁

The balance between tracks was off. The lead vocal and snare drum were too loud, and there was a general harshness in the upper midrange.

So here’s what I did.

I went back to my studio, and fired up my “crappy speaker.” This is a single speaker I set up a few weeks ago. I use my mixer to send the mix in mono to this cheap little powered speaker I bought years ago.

What’s so awesome about this crappy speaker? It has a 3-inch woofer on it. It’s teeny tiny compared to most studio monitors. It doesn’t have much definition, especially in the low end, and it really emphasizes the mid-range of the audio passing through it.

In short, it sounds like a car stereo speaker, in all of it’s hideous glory.

And you know what? When I play some of my favorite albums through this speaker, they STILL sound great.

When I played my unfinished mix through it, the problems IMMEDIATELY jumped out. I mixed for a while through this crappy speaker until things were sounding good again.

Then I flipped back to my main studio monitors, and…

Yay! It sounded great.

No more mysterious trips to the car.

No more guessing what my mix sounds like in a crappy car stereo.

I brought the crappy car stereo INTO my studio.

And you know what?

I think it’s my favorite thing to mix on right now.

Who’da thunkit?

Regardless of how great or crappy your speakers are, you need to know how to manipulate your mix to sound top notch, and it all starts with a crazy little thing called EQ:


Joe Gilder