The Practicalities of testing Mix Translation

Hi All,

Long term lurker first time poster…

I’ve had a bit of a search around for information on this subject and while there’s plenty of information on the why’s of testing your mix across a few systems (pretty obvious really) there’s not a lot on the practical side of it.

To explain myself a little more:

Back in the day my mix translation tests were fairly straightforward - burn mix to CD, try in car, hi-fi at friends and family etc. Pretty easy, if a little wasteful on CD’s, and I could be reasonably confident I was hearing issues with my mix - on that particular system. Nowadays, the obvious method (to me at least) is to mix to 44.1/16 dithered (from 96/32 or whatever) and put on a phone. Now with a headphone cable I can try on many more different types of system, as long as they have an ext jack. This broadened potential test systems to DAB radio speakers (great for testing in mono), to TV soundbars as well as the usual old standards. Ideally at least this should give me a rough idea of what a general consumer might hear.

However - my concern has become, what, if anything, is my phones OS (or playback app, or anything in between) doing to colour the sound. For example, when I got my Win 10 laptop, I noticed a distinct lack of low end out the headphone jack, which I have taken to Equalizer APO to ‘solve’ (for various values of ‘solve’ :laughing:). While I wouldn’t use my laptop output to test a mix (mainly for this reason), hopefully you can see the point I am making - now it’s not just about the mix and the system, there’s an added layer of software in there that may or may not be doing it’s own thing to the source material.

I’m currently using a Samsung Galaxy with Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) and VLC to play out my 44.1/16 file. Whilst I’m acutely aware there may still be problems with the mix itself, I’ve definitely found some anomalies that are difficult to describe but I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining.

So what do you do to ensure you are hearing the problems with your mix, and not any ‘colouration’ from in-built OS eq’s etc? I suppose somewhere along the way the audience IS going to be listening on something with forced crappy in built EQ anyway, but that doesn’t help when trying to make the best possible master.

Any advice/opinion and personal experience with this greatly appreciated.


  • Eddie.

I can’t answer for a Samsung Galaxy, but I do this with my iPhone now. I drop files into Dropbox and pull them up in the car and on stereos elsewhere, headphones of various sizes. What I ended up discovering, to my surprise, is that the iPhone has better converters than most audio interfaces I’ve used.

iTunes and those kind of music libraries do have EQ’s in them but they’re all typically set to have a default flat curve unless you turn it on. Otherwise the operating system isn’t going to be doing anything significant, if anything at all. It should just be piping the audio out of the headphone jack. The main concern is the converter but as I said, they seem to be really solid these days.

If I were you I’d maybe check out a mastering forum or the mastering section at Gearslutz to find an answer from mastering engineers. They’d likely know more about translation between systems.

My 2 cents though is that your’re not really necessarily fixing “problems” with your mix. If you have perfect speakers in a perfect room and you love your mix then the mix is perfect. If that perfect mix is played back in an environment where it now doesn’t really work then that’s not the mix’ fault, it’s the environment. So really what you’re doing if you find that your mix isn’t working when checking on a “poor” playback system is you’re trying to change the mix so that it does, if you think it’s worth it.

It’s a compromise.

On the other hand you could be in a situation where your listening environment isn’t just ‘not perfect’, but it may have some serious defects. In that case a second set of speakers or a different environment may show you problems with your ‘main’ mixing environment. You could for example have an acoustic problem with the low end (quite common) in your main mix room, and even though everything sounds fine in the room once you put on some really good ‘reference’ headphones you’ll hear the problem. And you might also experience that same problem on a cheaper system. On the ‘reference’ headphones the bass might pop out at a couple of lower frequencies, something you didn’t hear in your room, and on a small set of speakers like a laptop you might not hear the bass that much but the speakers will distort because of that extra low-end energy.

So that’s sort of the other side of it…