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Mixing on Monitors versus Headphones Studio Monitors
Old 6 days ago
  #1
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Mixing on Monitors versus Headphones

Hi guys

My main Monitors are Focal CMS 40's, and I've been checking my mixes on Sennheiser HD 600's.

Without a doubt the Headphones sound "better", with lower lows and higher/sparkly highs.


My questions are:
1) Are the Monitors or Headphones closer to the "truth"?
2) Can any Monitors less than $1,000 a pair sound as "good" as the HD 600's?


Thanks,
Jerry
Old 6 days ago
  #2
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How do you find your mixes translate if you mix on your monitors vs headphones?

It's widely accepted that it's much easier to mix on monitors than headphones. Perhaps your room doesn't have appropriate acoustic treatment?
Old 6 days ago
  #3
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Thread Starter
Hi duriehill

But what are the answers to my two questions (I'm especially curious about question 2)?
Old 6 days ago
  #4
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1. Monitors
2. Yes
Old 6 days ago
  #5
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by unitymusic View Post
1. Monitors
2. Yes
And which Monitors under $1,000.00 a pair will sound as "good" as the HD 600's?
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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'sound as good' is your taste, so best to audition monitors in that price bracket. The Neumann kh120 are excellent for the money but may be at the top end of your budget.

Having said that it's really about getting to know and understand your monitors. How's the acoustic treatment in your room - this is a massive part of the picture.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duriehill View Post
'sound as good' is your taste, so best to audition monitors in that price bracket. The Neumann kh120 are excellent for the money but may be at the top end of your budget.

Having said that it's really about getting to know and understand your monitors. How's the acoustic treatment in your room - this is a massive part of the picture.
I don't listen by "taste", I listen with my ears

IMHO, of all the Monitors I've owned (including the KH 120's), none of them sounded as clear/had the lows/had the highs/etc. of the HD 600's.

Last edited by jerrydpi; 6 days ago at 12:14 AM..
Old 6 days ago
  #8
007
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My monitors: JBL LSR 305 MKI (approx. $400/pair)
My headphones: ATH M50X (approx. $150)

Difference in sound when checking back & forth: negligible.
Treated room: minimal yet efficient.
Translation: once learned the strengths and weakness of both, it is now near perfect.

How it got to this point: once learned the strengths and weakness of both, ______

It is seldom an immediate result, it takes time and effort, but it can be done.
Just stating what is working for me at this moment.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
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What is your acoustic treatment like? You haven't answered that. If all the monitors you've own all fall short of what you're after, it could be that. And you may prefer a sub.

I use the word taste as you like the sound of your sennheisers.
Old 6 days ago
  #10
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Always use your monitors for mixing.

You can use your headphones to check for noises and for low freq. information problems that your monitors may not show to you.
Old 6 days ago
  #11
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'Which sounds better' is something I would ask myself if I was purchasing something for recreational listening. For mixing, the question should be is which works better. Which delivers a better result?

In the end, what you are concerned with is translation. How do the mixes done in headphones sound everywhere else, vs how do the mixes done in speakers sound everywhere else. Some people say 'you can get used to it'.

But for me personally, it is no contest. It's not about the highs, lows or mids, it about really basic things like balances and blending and stuff that 'pokes' out and stuff that is getting 'lost'.

Quote:
with lower lows and higher/sparkly highs.
which might encourage you to believe your lows are "low enough" and your highs are "sparkly enough". To think your mix is finished, when perhaps it is not. Remember, any exaggeration on the part of your monitoring tool - however "pleasant" - tends to push your mix in the opposite direction.


It is also worth noting that while some people say they successfully mix in headphones, many of them do so because :
• speakers cost more per pair
• my room is not treated
• the baby is sleeping

and so on. If you read between the lines, you will often see an admission of compromise. Very few who have a totally free choice to mix on either will choose headphones over speakers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush
You can use your headphones to check for noises and for low freq. information problems that your monitors may not show to you.

That pretty much sums up my use of headphones in a mixing situation.
Old 6 days ago
  #12
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I used to have this debate when checking mixes in the cans or in the car or however then I got the Genelec 8330 pair, 7350A subwoofer, and GLM V2.0 loudspeaker management system (along with zero room treatment). That's $2,500 over your budget but problem solved.
Old 6 days ago
  #13
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
That pretty much sums up my use of headphones in a mixing situation.

Hi joeq, how's my buddy been?


I'm sure one of the reasons I like the HD 600's (actually any good headphones could do the same) is because I can hear the lows of the bass guitar, and the lows/thump of the kick drum better than I can on the CMS 40's.

I haven't yet figured out why EVERYTHING (my Mixes, Commercially Produced Songs, YouTube Videos) seems to ALWAYS sound better on headphone instead of speakers

The main reason I went with the CMS 40's is that, as with the Neumann KH-120's, they both reportedly excelled at what they did best (mids/highs), and any of their shortcomings (lows) would be corrected/heard on the HD 600's.

If what I just said is not true, my guitar player would like to buy my CMS 40's, and for what he'd graciously pay me (he's a successful Attorney with a heart ), I could buy some ALPHA 65's, and only be out about $200.00.

I have experience with the ALPHA 65's, and it goes without saying that they have that low end that the CMS 40's don't have.
Old 6 days ago
  #14
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ozraves View Post
I used to have this debate when checking mixes in the cans or in the car or however then I got the Genelec 8330 pair, 7350A subwoofer, and GLM V2.0 loudspeaker management system (along with zero room treatment). That's $2,500 over your budget but problem solved.
Crap, as I don't have the extra $2,500.00
Old 6 days ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
Crap, as I don't have the extra $2,500.00
Have you looked around for a used pair of APS Klasik?
Old 6 days ago
  #16
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ozraves View Post
Have you looked around for a used pair of APS Klasik?
How will they compare to the CMS 40's, the ALPHA 65's, the Neumann KH 120's, and the Genelec 8830's?
Old 6 days ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
Hi joeq, how's my buddy been?


I'm sure one of the reasons I like the HD 600's (actually any good headphones could do the same) is because I can hear the lows of the bass guitar, and the lows/thump of the kick drum better than I can on the CMS 40's.

I haven't yet figured out why EVERYTHING (my Mixes, Commercially Produced Songs, YouTube Videos) seems to ALWAYS sound better on headphone instead of speakers
Because it is easier to hear fine details when the sound source is directly on top of your eardrums than when the sound source is far away from your ears.

Your obersevation is why mixing on monitors is better than mixing on headphones. If the only reason you can hear certain elements in your mix is because the sound source is 1 millimeter away from your ear drums, and if all of your mixing and balancing is based on a skewed perspective caused by this “proximity effect,” then chances are anyone who is not listening to your mix on headphones will not be able to hear those details.

In other words, if you hear extra bass because you are mixing on headphones, then you will have a tendency to turn down the bass in the mix, thereby making the lack of bass on open air speakers even more problematic. If you hear extra high end because of your headphones, you will tend to turn down the high end in the mix, thereby making the mix sound dull to anyone not listening to it on headphones.

The same applies to other fine details in recordings. Everything from a singer’s breath, squeaks on guitar strings, panning and stereo effects, and reverb and other ambient effects are greatly exaggerated when you mix on headphones. If you heavily rely on those sorts of fine details to hold your mix together, they will tend to disappear for anyone not listening to your final mix on headphones.
Old 6 days ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
And which Monitors under $1,000.00 a pair will sound as "good" as the HD 600's?
Focal twins translate much better to me. My headphones are hd650's. Using sonarwork's on both.
Old 6 days ago
  #19
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Singlecutz View Post
Because it is easier to hear fine details when the sound source is directly on top of your eardrums than when the sound source is far away from your ears.

Your obersevation is why mixing on monitors is better than mixing on headphones. If the only reason you can hear certain elements in your mix is because the sound source is 1 millimeter away from your ear drums, and if all of your mixing and balancing is based on a skewed perspective caused by this “proximity effect,” then chances are anyone who is not listening to your mix on headphones will not be able to hear those details.

In other words, if you hear extra bass because you are mixing on headphones, then you will have a tendency to turn down the bass in the mix, thereby making the lack of bass on open air speakers even more problematic. If you hear extra high end because of your headphones, you will tend to turn down the high end in the mix, thereby making the mix sound dull to anyone not listening to it on headphones.

The same applies to other fine details in recordings. Everything from a singer’s breath, squeaks on guitar strings, panning and stereo effects, and reverb and other ambient effects are greatly exaggerated when you mix on headphones. If you heavily rely on those sorts of fine details to hold your mix together, they will tend to disappear for anyone not listening to your final mix on headphones.
Sorry for asking the next question , but why do so many members say they always cross check their Mixes on headphones if they don't represent the "real world"?
Old 6 days ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
Sorry for asking the next question , but why do so many members say they always cross check their Mixes on headphones if they don't represent the "real world"?
Because the end goal of a mixer is to make a mix that translates reasonably well on ANY playback system, including headphone systems and non-headphone systems. You usually don’t mix just for a headphone only audience or a only non-headphone audience. Central to this goal is the concept of compromise... 1 mix will never be perfect on every possible system or listening environment.

It is easier to do a mix on monitors and do a quick check and minor adjustments on headphones than to do it the other way around. If you can hear details reasonably well on open air speakers that aren’t literally strapped to your head, then chances are you will still be able to hear them on headphones.
Old 6 days ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singlecutz View Post
Because the end goal of a mixer is to make a mix that translates reasonably well on ANY playback system, including headphone systems and non-headphone systems. You usually don’t mix just for a headphone only audience or a only non-headphone audience. Central to this goal is the concept of compromise... 1 mix will never be perfect on every possible system or listening environment.

It is easier to do a mix on monitors and do a quick check and minor adjustments on headphones than to do it the other way around. If you can hear details reasonably well on open air speakers that aren’t literally strapped to your head, then chances are you will still be able to hear them on headphones.
Yep ..a good mix should sound good on both.
Old 6 days ago
  #22
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Thread Starter
So if I only use the HD 600's for checking my Mixes in conjunction with the CMS 40's, that means that if the Mix sounds fine on the HD 600's, it might not necessarily sound good on earbuds/other headphones/etc)?

It sounds like I need to get the best Monitors I can afford, and don't rely so much on the HD 600's to hear low details I can't hear on the CMS 40's.

Crap...............................................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need to decide if I should "upgrade" to the ALPHA 65's, or possibly the APS Klasik's (which would be the most I could afford right now), and not rely so much on the HD 600's.

If relevant, my new room is 18 x 14 x 9, not treated, but with loads of floor to ceiling curtains.

I am about 6 1/2 feet from the front wall, my Monitors (front ports) are about 42" from the front wall, and my ears are about 42" from each Monitor.
Old 6 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
So if I only use the HD 600's for checking my Mixes in conjunction with the CMS 40's, that means that if the Mix sounds fine on the HD 600's, it might not necessarily sound good on earbuds/other headphones/etc)?

It sounds like I need to get the best Monitors I can afford, and don't rely so much on the HD 600's to hear low details I can't hear on the CMS 40's.

Crap...............................................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need to decide if I should "upgrade" to the ALPHA 65's, or possibly the APS Klasik's (which would be the most I could afford right now), and not rely so much on the HD 600's.

If relevant, my new room is 18 x 14 x 9, not treated, but with loads of floor to ceiling curtains.

I am about 6 1/2 feet from the front wall, my Monitors (front ports) are about 42" from the front wall, and my ears are about 42" from each Monitor.
Grab a measurement mic like the cheap Behringer and download Room Eq Wizard. Send your results to GIK and buy the traps they recommend. THEN think about upgrading monitors.
Old 6 days ago
  #24
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Man, I just remodeled my studio and couldn`t be happier with the acoustic treatment. A lot of it was re-purposed, but I added a lot too. Probably my favorite feature-3 7-1/2" clouds of Rockwool suspended about 4 inches away from the ceiling on chains. Re-done the corners with 9" Safe and Sound. The ceiling corners are the best-I got them out from an old theater they were just going to throw away. It`s a 2" 705-like material and I have that running roughly 45 degrees at the wall/ceiling joint all the way around. The sides are like 8` one piece, these were long panels. That`s not even half of what I`ve done to this room. I`ll have post some pictures, its pretty cool.
Old 6 days ago
  #25
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I hate to be one of those people, because it seems very often on here that everyone just assumes you don’t have room treatment! But now that you’ve admitted to not having room treatment I will say it’s something you should look into! We spent insane amounts of time treating both of our rooms and even used the CMS40’s for a while in Studio B and I personally think they sound great! Especially for their size! If you are in a smaller room and those speakers sound bad, then so will every other speaker you buy most likely. Room treatment is the one thing no one wants to hear they need, but it is the most important part of your mixing space!
Old 6 days ago
  #26
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I had a similar experience. My room is a large finished basement with higher (for a basement) open ceiling. The walls are drywal (yea really wish i didnt do that when building) but I do have about 12 2'x4' OC 703 panels on the walls. A couple moving blankets here and there and natural acoustic diffusers, like a wall of records in the middle of the room. The acoustic treatment is pretty decent. I'm still using my Event PS8 monitors that are going on about 15 years now lol. I have to say, they translate pretty nice. I am looking at some Focal or Adam monitor upgrades (make the Events alt monitors) soon but thats another story.

When I started using my HD600's I was pretty blown away tbh. Very reveling in many ways and of course, amazing for panning and various mixing/position choices. But after a while I did come to realize that the larger near fields were still better for low end eq decisions. Really, utilizing both is best bet of course.

As mentioned above, I also have the AT's, which I use for tracking. Not bad at all but the open back 600's sound miles beyond those for mixing.

I recently picked up 1 Avantone mix cube for mono and midrange checking. I'd recommend looking into something like that too.

But yea, 1st thing 1st, definitely get some acoustic treatment happening. The OC panels can be a cheap DIY if your into that. I framed mine in wood and covered with burlap. for 12 i maybe spent 200-250?
Old 5 days ago
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singlecutz View Post
Because it is easier to hear fine details when the sound source is directly on top of your eardrums than when the sound source is far away from your ears.

Your obersevation is why mixing on monitors is better than mixing on headphones. If the only reason you can hear certain elements in your mix is because the sound source is 1 millimeter away from your ear drums, and if all of your mixing and balancing is based on a skewed perspective caused by this “proximity effect,” then chances are anyone who is not listening to your mix on headphones will not be able to hear those details.

In other words, if you hear extra bass because you are mixing on headphones, then you will have a tendency to turn down the bass in the mix, thereby making the lack of bass on open air speakers even more problematic. If you hear extra high end because of your headphones, you will tend to turn down the high end in the mix, thereby making the mix sound dull to anyone not listening to it on headphones.

The same applies to other fine details in recordings. Everything from a singer’s breath, squeaks on guitar strings, panning and stereo effects, and reverb and other ambient effects are greatly exaggerated when you mix on headphones. If you heavily rely on those sorts of fine details to hold your mix together, they will tend to disappear for anyone not listening to your final mix on headphones.
This answer is spot on. You can also view it this way.

The monitors provide an optimal Flat response which is the baseline for mixing. If the headphones happen to Hype the mix to sound better you should take that into consideration when mixing. Many headphones boost the top and bottom ends and scoop the mids. What does that equate to?
Hyped sound = Unreliable for mixing purposes.

If you mix on headphones and the mix sounds like crap on the monitors I'd suggest you find a different set of headphones. Ideally you want NO difference between the two. Of course that's impossible for a number of reasons. but some can be close enough to where the jump is less drastic.

Your monitors are your Baseline. The test instrument you compare everything else to. If the headphones sound better its just as bad as them sounding worse then the monitors Unreliable means unreliable.

The reason you use monitors mixing is "not" to make the music sound good. If you're still thinking that then you obviously haven't been mixing long enough to understand the tools of the trade.

Good monitors do just the opposite - they enhance all the flaws in the mix and make them obvious as hell. You then mix until the recording sounds good on the monitors. Once you've eliminated all the flaws you hear it should kick ass on any commercial playback system or headphones.

You don't work this method backwards. It winds up being disastrous every time its tried. Commercial speakers are designed to hide flaws, not make them stand out to be fixed. If you try and mix on Hi Fi speakers for example, their designed to have Hyped highs and lows so they sound bigger then they actually are. The results mixing on them will be a thin sounding mix loaded with flaws because your ears didn't hear those flaws when mixing so they were never removed.

Same thing happens with headphones. They aren't calibrated to a scientific standard. They were tweaked to get a single driver to sound as good as it can be made to sound. Monitors typically have woofers and tweeters and balancing the two is far easier. Headphones builders "attempt" to make headphones sound flat but given how close the ears are its dam near impossible to do that given the huge differences in how our ears sensitivity changes with frequency.

Anyone who studies the Fletcher Munson curve and actually understands what that chart means is going to realize the difficulty in making a speaker element sound flat to the ears.

Its easy to build an speaker that puts out a flat 80dB all the way from 20 to 20KHz. That's NOT what our ears perceive as being flat.

What our hears hear as flat is shown in this chart below. When the frequencies at 2K are 20dB, the Frequencies at the bottom end need to be 90dB and 30dB at 10K sound flat.



Then if you study the chart even more, you'll see the line begins to flatten out at around 80dB which just happens to correspond to the standard mixing level of 85dB.

When you use headphones you have no idea of how loud the sound really is on your ears. Your mixes wind up having frequencies which are highly inconsistent because ear fatigue is constantly changing the ears sensitivity.

As far as I know there is no Headphone DB meter which is reliable. Your hand held type used for speakers in the open air wont read headphones properly because the meter isn't sealed like your ears are and therefore the compression levels on a meters mic wont even be in the ball park. The best you can do is set your studio monitor levels the A/B compare the levels of the headphones to the speakers.
Old 5 days ago
  #28
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioGold View Post
I hate to be one of those people, because it seems very often on here that everyone just assumes you don’t have room treatment! But now that you’ve admitted to not having room treatment I will say it’s something you should look into! We spent insane amounts of time treating both of our rooms and even used the CMS40’s for a while in Studio B and I personally think they sound great! Especially for their size! If you are in a smaller room and those speakers sound bad, then so will every other speaker you buy most likely. Room treatment is the one thing no one wants to hear they need, but it is the most important part of your mixing space!


Hi AudioGold

What I can't figure out about myself, and admittedly it's a problem I have to address, is as to WHY I have NEVER treated my room

I've had the JBL LSR308/305/305P/306P, Yamaha NS-10M, Dynaudio BM5a, Neumann KH-120, ADAM F5, Yamaha MSP7, Focal ALPHA 50/65, Genelec M030.

At this point I will disclose that I'm in the Retail Music Industry, so I bought all of them at cost, and perhaps had I paid what most consumers pay for them, I would not have been so liberal with my money


Regardless..................................................


My point is that I had the money for expensive Monitors, so back to my statement that I obviously have a problem (well, a LOT of problems, but that's not important now ).


As Disco1Disco2 advised, I will buy the aforementioned Behringer Measurement Mic, Room EQ Wizard, and will send the results to GIK and buy the traps they recommend.

I will also mention that when I placed the Monitors closer to me (about arms length/38", they sounded "better" than the did compared to when I had them about 60" from me.


One question to your reply.

You mentioned the CMS 40's worked for you in a small room.

My new room is 18 x 12 x 9.

Is that what you would consider a small room?


Thanks!
Jerry
Old 5 days ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
Sorry for asking the next question , but why do so many members say they always cross check their Mixes on headphones if they don't represent the "real world"?
As Singlecutz said, headphones are part of the real world that your mixes must work in.

But as tools to create those mixes, they leave a lot to be desired, IMHO. I have experimented with starting a mix on headphones and when I throw them on the speakers, it is almost always a nasty shock. What the hell happened. The other way around it works much better, a mix that sounds good to me on speakers rarely has major surprises when I switch to headphones. But the the headphones may show a few tweaks that are needed.

Another thing headphones are good for is their "microscope" function. Tiny little tics on an edit. Fadeouts that need to be hustled down a little faster because some noise is on the track after the solo. Little tiny things get magnified making them easier to spot. But that magnification also throws off your sense of proportion.

And for me - and many others like me - proportion is one of my primary goals in getting a good mix. The same "zooming" qualities that let you hear that breath or tic or faint truck rumble also fool you into thinking your backing vocals are plenty loud enough when maybe they really are not.
Old 5 days ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrydpi View Post
Hi AudioGold

What I can't figure out about myself, and admittedly it's a problem I have to address, is as to WHY I have NEVER treated my room
if you think you are puzzled now, wait until you have treated your room. Then you will really ask yourself: "why didn't I do this sooner"?

Gear that has knobs you can turn and little blinky lights is sexy. Stuff that just hangs on your walls is not very sexy. I think that's a big chunk of it for a lot of people. But bang-for-the buck, it is some of the best money I ever spent.
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