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The car stereo mix test: Myth or fact?
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bossman
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15th July 2010
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The car stereo mix test: Myth or fact?

I've heard this one for ages and I actually use it. I always test my final mix in the car and if it sounds good there, I find it sounds good everywhere. It's become so much of a ritual that I was thinking of building a booth in my studio that simulates the car stereo! Laziness personified!

Of course, I've heard the other side of the argument: it depends on the radio, the car and the EQ settings, as each could be different. So what are your professional opinions? Is it worth putting so much stock into how it sounds in the car?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iNYC View Post
I've heard this one for ages and I actually use it. I always test my final mix in the car and if it sounds good there, I find it sounds good everywhere. It's become so much of a ritual that I was thinking of building a booth in my studio that simulates the car stereo! Laziness personified!

Of course, I've heard the other side of the argument: it depends on the radio, the car and the EQ settings, as each could be different. So what are your professional opinions? Is it worth putting so much stock into how it sounds in the car?
I listen in some odd ways, but I don't put much stock in how it sounds in the car for my own purposes - you answered your own question in a way: it may sound great in a Lexus with Mark Levinson sound system and not at all so hot in a Fiat 500 with the stock CD player. My own Subaru off-roader is not known for its acoustic excellence either.

That said, a number of my clients have rung me when they got home from an attended session here to say how great it sounded in the car on the way back.

Cheers,

Eric
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Faith in a car stereo reference is a mistake ime.

A "shortcut" that can leave one chasing his tail.

JT
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I find that the best test is to listen back on as many different systems as possible. I have been doing a lot of reference mastering lately using recordings that I really like the sonic quality of. Using my ears, I try to match frequencies between my master and that of the reference. Frequency meters can be totally misleading in this scenario. Anyways, doing the reference mastering has translated well on many different systems.
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Myth

A urban Myth for sure.

I have heard several CDs at the Corola of a friend of mine and everything sounds boomy towards 130 Hz.

How can you properly listen to the stereo image when you can not sit at the middle? Unless you wanna sit at the ....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alécio Costa View Post
A urban Myth for sure.

I have heard several CDs at the Corola of a friend of mine and everything sounds boomy towards 130 Hz.

How can you properly listen to the stereo image when you can not sit at the middle? Unless you wanna sit at the ....
lol

not to mention when our dearest friends have 3 subwoofers installed to have "da bass"!
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I'd say for a mix purpose - yeah,
car listening works, but it's not a YES or NO question, just a good (bad actually) conditions where you can listen to your mix
I use to go to the next room and listen from there too

mastering wise - absolutely NO,
I trust my room and system,
doesn't trick me for sure
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I think it comes from the fact that the car is often the one place where people do a lot of listening to a wide variety of mixes from sources other than their own studio - so sometimes they have a better familiarity with how most things sound there than they do in their own project studio monitors (which they often only work on their own mixes on.)

Best regards,
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I think any system works as long as you are extremely familiar with it. If yu do a ton of listening in your car it's definitely worthwhile to check your mixes in said car and see how your mix stacks up.

If the car/system belongs to a friend and you listen to music very rarely on it I think it would be dumb to make any mix decisions based on what you heard from it.
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It's more about getting the client out of the control room -- a listening environment with which they are presumably not very familiar -- and into an environment in which they listen to music frequently (in this case, their car).

There's also something to be said for the low end in a car. Something about the lack of any real walls seems to present a relatively "real-world" yet neutral sound to the bottom. Of course, this is dependent on the stereo itself, as well.

I don't live by the car check rule (which is fortunate, as I don't have a car), but I do like getting out of the CR and into a place where the client is more aware of the sonics.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iNYC View Post
I've heard this one for ages and I actually use it. I always test my final mix in the car and if it sounds good there, I find it sounds good everywhere. It's become so much of a ritual that I was thinking of building a booth in my studio that simulates the car stereo! Laziness personified!

Of course, I've heard the other side of the argument: it depends on the radio, the car and the EQ settings, as each could be different. So what are your professional opinions? Is it worth putting so much stock into how it sounds in the car?
The first time i was exposed to the car test, i was told that it needed to be a fairly shitty car stereo..... My .02 Cents....
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The car stereo mix test: Myth or fact?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto
It's more about getting the client out of the control room -- a listening environment with which they are presumably not very familiar -- and into an environment in which they listen to music frequently (in this case, their car).

There's also something to be said for the low end in a car. Something about the lack of any real walls seems to present a relatively "real-world" yet neutral sound to the bottom. Of course, this is dependent on the stereo itself, as well.

I don't live by the car check rule (which is fortunate, as I don't have a car), but I do like getting out of the CR and into a place where the client is more aware of the sonics.
I always take stuff home that I like for a car check.

Dave
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No...I don't listen to my mixes/masters on my car stereo everytime. But...I HAVE trained my ears to make mixes and masters the way they sound good on a car stereo. Lots of program material WILL sound good on a $90k playback system. The acid test is to make it sound good on crap. I'm constantly ask myself if the mix/master I'm working on sounds like the stuff I hear in my car...which I'm in on a daily basis. You've got to remember that the very first thing most people are gonna' do to your mix/master is throw it on a cheap car stereo and yank up the bass and treble. Nothing like an old smiley face EQ curve to start your day! And that's not even mentioning all the other processing like "Bass Boost" they're gonna' add to your masterpiece. I bring this up because adding too much bass or treble in a mix/master is tempting. But doing so is suicide considering the way most folks will listen in on your material. It's like putting BBQ sauce on food that's already had gobs of BBQ sauce put on it. I don't mix bass/treble thin either...top end is gonna' get lost once it's dumbed down to 44.1k 16 bit consumer CD. Then, with any luck, the material will played on club playback systems...where bass rules the night. It's a real fine line. A trick I use is to not spoil myself by only listening to hi-fi. I listen to more car/boomboxes than anything...so I have a good sense of what separates their fidelity traits from my hi-fi rig. A good start is by listening to the radio with your radio flat...no bass/mid/treble boost. If anything cut the highs a bit...a car is a very reflective listening environment with all it's glass and plastic. Only then are you hearing the mixes the way the artists intended you to....unbastardized by EQ bumps in a Pontiac. If they wanted the tune to have more bass...they would have added it in themselves. Once you get accustomed to the tonality of pop radio mixes/masters you can duplicate that in the studio. Then, consumers will hopfully be bastardizing your material someday!
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Guys, do not forget Bass in the car is very Pure because side doors can not stop the bass, so you are listening sort of "natural outside acoustics" where bass at around less than 90Hz is not very distorted like many control rooms. [even mastering control rooms are not as flat either]
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It's not something I do, but I often hear about it from clients. I think listening in the car is just another test of translation. If I've done my job it should sound good in there, just like everywhere else.

I have heard from hip-hop clients that the reason they're always running to the car to check the sound is because the low end sounds like that of a "club system". This obviously differs depending on the club and the car, but I've heard that opinion more than once.
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Any system can be a reference. People spend a lot of time in their cars.

Certainly no myth.


DC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Any system can be a reference. People spend a lot of time in their cars.

Certainly no myth.


DC
Agree with that! When I finish some Mastering like hiphop and punk or rock, I always go in my car to listen to it and you know what... For me, it's a good reference that I can trust to give me the feeling that the listenner will have sitting in his car.
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i sometimes check on the stock stereo in my '99 Honda Accord. sounds more or less like NS10's.

more and more though as i get older i just depend on my main pair of studio monitors. maybe a quick check on other monitors or phones or in the car, but not always.

i can't stand anything i've heard from any modern car stereo in the past 6 or 7 years. tons of excessive and muddy bass. no mids. weird highs. absolutely useless.
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I always advise clients that want to give the master a listen in the car before signing it off to start the engine and actually drive around, as it changes bass perception considerably. As I found out before I started doing that, people do not know what their car stereo sounds like when playing music loudly, while parked.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iNYC View Post
I've heard this one for ages and I actually use it. I always test my final mix in the car and if it sounds good there, I find it sounds good everywhere. It's become so much of a ritual that I was thinking of building a booth in my studio that simulates the car stereo! Laziness personified!

Of course, I've heard the other side of the argument: it depends on the radio, the car and the EQ settings, as each could be different. So what are your professional opinions? Is it worth putting so much stock into how it sounds in the car?
If you need to check your work, going to your car is one of many places to check. But its not the end all for checking.
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Not only the car and the system there itself, but I'm also checking how my beloved woman is reacting to the music while cruising. If she sings along and repeat-play tunes I know things are fine.

The car test includes running the fan at every speed.


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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alécio Costa View Post
How can you properly listen to the stereo image when you can not sit at the middle? Unless you wanna sit at the ....
The real question is:

How can you properly check that the stereo image won't end up being a complete drama when leaving your studio.


Regards
Patrik
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I would listen my production through earbuds, headphones, the hifi installation, the crappy laptop speaker, and the car. I think I will get a good view how the average person will perceive the track
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The car stereo mix test

The car stereo mix test #¤%

Most cars don't like dynamic recordings - I think the loudness race started when this idea was born stike

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If we're talking bass, the cabin is way too small to have much in the way of deep bass room modes and to SOME extent it will contain the lows, plus the car's trunk is a pretty large subwoofer cabinet and the trunk will contain sound less than the cabin, so the subwoofer cabinet acts larger than it is.

If we're talking crappy car stereo, you might well be looking at single driver speakers, and that'll tell you things about midrange.

Not mythical, neither is it magical- just a number of differences in the situation relative to a control room. Both of these things show qualities that are easily worked on with good mastering reference- real monitoring should have at least as good midrange cohesiveness as cheap single-driver speakers, for example.
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Many people do most of their (leisure) listening in their car. So they'll know how to judge something that's played on that system.
But it's about THEIR car, not just a car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by iNYC View Post
It's become so much of a ritual that I was thinking of building a booth in my studio that simulates the car stereo! Laziness personified!
If you do, don't forget to add the aprox 85 dB of tyre/road/wind/engine noise.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung View Post
The car stereo mix test #¤%

Most cars don't like dynamic recordings - I think the loudness race started when this idea was born stike

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Mads
Yup, makes complete sense to me
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Jeez you guys are funny! Of course it should sound good in a car. Or smooshed on the radio. Or on your TV. And even on your home stereo.

The whole point of mixing is just that and understanding what it will go thru.

Your mix will go thru A Lot. Check it on youtube. Check it as mp3. And yeah I tested my mixes on car stereos in the 80's and still do.

Check the target audience and tailor it to that.

I would elaborate but would be bad if I did.

John
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We had a little FM transmitter an A&M and some pretend radio processing that allowed you to tie-line from the studios and drive around the block. Or to Shelly's '57 Chevy parked in the back.

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I forget who it was, but the question came up "Where do you pan the guitar solo?" and the answer was "to the left, because that's where the guitar player will be sitting."

In countries that drive on the correct side of the road, that is.


DC
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