Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor…
I recently had the opportunity to play my track through a powerful PA in a club, and was a little disappointed with the results. The track had too much bass, and seemed to lack midrange punch. I am a little stumped because it sounded fine in my studio.
David Mellor responds…
Why is bass so popular anyway? Perhaps because we are denied it except for the occasional opportunity when we can be somewhere the bass can be turned up to intestine vibrating levels.
You certainly can't get it a home – your speakers are too small and, even if they weren't, your neighbors would complain. Very few people have the means at home to achieve real bass at club levels.
The primary problem is with small speakers. Small loudspeakers cannot produce high levels of bass. No matter what anyone tells you, even that clever Mr. Bose, small speakers simply cannot produce high levels of bass and probably never will.
So what do you do? Instinctively you turn the bass up as high as you can in your mix, without the speakers distorting of course. So as far as you are concerned, you have achieved as much bass as you can, even though it might not be all that you want.
Still, your mix sounds pretty good, so you take it to your local club and get the DJ to play it (always a good thing to do, if you take your recording seriously). And guess what? The bass is too loud and the mix seems to lack mid range punch.
The reason for this is that your small speakers couldn't tell you accurately how much bass you were putting on your track. They could not reproduce it. So to compensate, you put on far more bass than you needed to.
So on a system that can reproduce all that bass energy, naturally the mix sounds 'bottom heavy'. And because all the speakers' excursion (the distance the cones can move) is taken up with bass, mid range punch disappears. One thing naturally leads to another.
There are two possible remedies to this, other than getting bigger speakers. One is to use monitors that complain audibly when given too much bass. The distortion they produce will tell you to back off. Having small monitor speakers that can handle bass, if not reproduce it, is actually a bad thing because you won't know when to stop.
The other solution is probably better. Find a record that sounds great on the club PA, and take a copy back to your home studio. The amount of bass that you hear at home is the amount you should be putting on your own recordings.
A simple 'benchmarking' technique for getting pro sounds at home, and it works.
Just remember – there is such a thing as too much bass!