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Why is music on the radio mixed so poorly?
Old 12th January 2014
  #1
Why is music on the radio mixed so poorly?

Seriously, though, am I going about this all wrong? Do they take the "well, lets not make it too good" approach? If I'm ever in a rut when I'm mixing a song all I have to do is listen to a song or two on the radio and..well ya' know.

The majority of you, it seems, have been doing this longer than I've been alive; I'm interested to hear what you have to say about this. I've only been doing this for a relatively short time and I can do waaay better than these "professionals" are doing on the radio. (I'm not trying to toot my own horn)

If I can do better I can only imagine what some of you, that have been doing this forever, can do.
Old 12th January 2014
  #2
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cinealta's Avatar
 

It's not meant to sound good. The record labels have a mandate for the mix to "pop" or "jump out" from the first notes. They don't want it to sound good. It's meant to almost sound jarring or attention-getting. Just loud and obnoxious. I don't blame the mixers I blame the labels. If the mixers don't comply they lose the gig.
Old 12th January 2014 | Show parent
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by cinealta View Post
It's not meant to sound good. The record labels have a mandate for the mix to "pop" or "jump out" from the first notes. They don't want it to sound good. It's meant to almost sound jarring or attention-getting. Just loud and obnoxious. I don't blame the mixers I blame the labels. If the mixers don't comply they lose the gig.
Not meant to sound good? That is why we mix, right?

"Pop" or "jump out", right the loudness wars/compression, ect.

I'm just not understanding. I'm guessing it's such a big change that hearing a song that was mixed 1,2,3, 5 or 10 years ago would sound "horrible" compared to what people are able to do, realistically. If I were a betting man I would bet that 90% of the people that I've heard from on this site could do much better than the people making who knows how much money, on the radio.
Old 12th January 2014
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

most stations fxxk with the mix anyway regarding time and transients....its been done for years
Old 12th January 2014
  #5
^ transients which would be tamed by compression, as I stated. I'm really just not getting it. To me it seems as if the radio just needs a revolution. I don't know what that would mean for, literally, all the songs we know as played on the radio. Everything would need to be remixed... and, preferably by me .
Old 12th January 2014 | Show parent
  #6
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dougb415's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
^ transients which would be tamed by compression, as I stated.
Where did you state this? Not in this thread...
Old 12th January 2014 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Head
 
anodecathode's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOCTOR FIKX View Post
most stations fxxk with the mix anyway regarding time and transients....its been done for years
Yep. But this is what the masses want. Your average listener doesn't want dynamics if it means the radio ads are going to blast them out of the car. Hence driving the hideous broadcast compressors at 80:1
Radio is for people that enjoy music as wallpaper. There are a lot of other options out there.
Old 12th January 2014
  #8
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Unfortunately many people mix for what will jump out at the programming meeting without anybody touching a volume knob and not what will sound great over the air. Another problem is that a lot of stations today literally have their air-chain processing tweaked from a laptop in the program director's car. It's a sad fact that AM radio back in the '60s sounded better than most of today's FM.
Old 12th January 2014
  #9
Lives for gear
Are you listening to the actual OTA radio? Definitely not a good reference as it's been messed with so much.

Also it's worth noting that most of the especially cheaper *studio monitors* are WAAAAY too bright (and a lot of expensive ones). This leaves a lot of home engineers thinking that their mixes are nicely balanced and everything else in the world is harsh.

I know of a lot of weekend warriors who get incredibly defensive about their VERY dark mixes/masters, generally needing +10dB on the top end to get to the ballpark of other music in the same genre.

Generally even well mixed stuff from the 50s isn't that dark, so bucking the current trend of a couple more dB on top isn't applicable here IMO, talking about a much larger gap. I think people buy brighter monitors when A/Bing them at the store so they keep making them brighter and brighter (same prob with cymbals).

For better or worse, I have never had any success trying to convince the entire rest of the world that THEY are on the deserted island.
Old 12th January 2014
  #10
Lives for gear
 

radio songs are mixed to be loud

the radio station then compresses it again and speed the song up
Old 12th January 2014
  #11
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tehlord's Avatar
 

They're mixed to work on laptops, earbuds and phone speakers.

Yup, really.
Old 12th January 2014 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
Not meant to sound good? That is why we mix, right?

"Pop" or "jump out", right the loudness wars/compression, ect.

I'm just not understanding. I'm guessing it's such a big change that hearing a song that was mixed 1,2,3, 5 or 10 years ago would sound "horrible" compared to what people are able to do, realistically. If I were a betting man I would bet that 90% of the people that I've heard from on this site could do much better than the people making who knows how much money, on the radio.
Hemlines go up. Hemlines go down.

Those who don't stay 'current' often wonder why current fashions are so unfathomably lame/stupid/ugly.

It's just fashion.
Old 12th January 2014
  #13
Gear Addict
 
Maxadax's Avatar
 

They over compress the output of the station just to make everything the same volume.
Old 12th January 2014 | Show parent
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
Not meant to sound good? That is why we mix, right?

"Pop" or "jump out", right the loudness wars/compression, ect.

I'm just not understanding. I'm guessing it's such a big change that hearing a song that was mixed 1,2,3, 5 or 10 years ago would sound "horrible" compared to what people are able to do, realistically. If I were a betting man I would bet that 90% of the people that I've heard from on this site could do much better than the people making who knows how much money, on the radio.
"right the loudness wars/ compression, ect"
Old 12th January 2014
  #15
The way I mix is as if you were right on stage with whomever is performing the song. I don't aim to be on the radio, so it's not a problem, but is the completely different mixing style the wrong way to go? It's probably a bad idea to think I need to "dumb down" my mixing to get to the radios level, right?
Old 13th January 2014
  #16
Any examples? I frequently find tracks that sound GREAT on the radio, but disappointing when I'm listening on anything with reasonable fidelity.
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #17
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noiseflaw's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Any examples? I frequently find tracks that sound GREAT on the radio, but disappointing when I'm listening on anything with reasonable fidelity.
Yep. I can remember being considerably perplexed and disappointed when I discovered that a great sounding radio track just sounded squashed, lifeless and dull on my studio monitors. Then I got a bit mad when some jazz albums started to sound the same. I remember listening to Stanley Clarke's last Grammy winning album, really looking forward to more open dynamic sonics... Sorely dissapointed with an overly compressed album. Bass heavy (not in a positive expected way), thin drum and underwhelming rest of the band sound!
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Any examples? I frequently find tracks that sound GREAT on the radio, but disappointing when I'm listening on anything with reasonable fidelity.
Examples of my mixes or the mixes on the radio?
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
Examples of my mixes or the mixes on the radio?
Specifically of tracks that you think sound poor on the radio...although if you've got mixes in similar styles you think knock spots off them, I'd be really interested to hear (don't feel the need to "prove" anything though).

Out of interest have you ever heard your mixes played back on radio, or compared the non-radio compressed mixes to your own? that's a fairer comparison I suppose.
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Specifically of tracks that you think sound poor on the radio...although if you've got mixes in similar styles you think knock spots off them, I'd be really interested to hear (don't feel the need to "prove" anything though).

Out of interest have you ever heard your mixes played back on radio, or compared the non-radio compressed mixes to your own? that's a fairer comparison I suppose.
Yeah, I don't claim to be professional but it would be very unprofessional to complain about radio mixes and then post mine. "Look how much better i can do blah blah blah". There are plenty of good mix engineers, I don't mean to be the guy that takes away from them. Dave Pensado has been a big influence of mine, for example.
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
Yeah, I don't claim to be professional but it would be very unprofessional to complain about radio mixes and then post mine. "Look how much better i can do blah blah blah". There are plenty of good mix engineers, I don't mean to be the guy that takes away from them. Dave Pensado has been a big influence of mine, for example.
So - what song(s) specifically do you think sounds bad on radio - just a couple of examples?
Old 13th January 2014
  #22
But damn right when I make that first dollar I'll claim to be professional.
Old 13th January 2014
  #23
I don't mean to be that guy, but really most of them sound unfinished.
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
I don't mean to be that guy, but really most of them sound unfinished.
One specific example? We don't even know what style you're listening to....

And I think to make the claim that MOST records sound unfinished, you DO have to post an example of something you think sounds "good". Doesn't have to be YOUR work..but what's your reference point?
Old 13th January 2014
  #25
There are plenty of CD's that sound great. Maybe it's just what the radio is doing to them? I don't know, but I'm not gonna bash an individual artists work.

And I listen to everything but country. I don't know a whole lot about jazz, although I love jazz tunes.
Old 13th January 2014
  #26
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Ntk drummer's Avatar
 

What's the point of presenting a point of view if you're not even going to provide an example?
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
There are plenty of CD's that sound great. Maybe it's just what the radio is doing to them? I don't know, but I'm not gonna bash an individual artists work.

And I listen to everything but country. I don't know a whole lot about jazz, although I love jazz tunes.
"Listen to this guys work, it's horrible!" is not really my style.
Old 13th January 2014
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
There are plenty of CD's that sound great. Maybe it's just what the radio is doing to them? I don't know, but I'm not gonna bash an individual artists work.

And I listen to everything but country. I don't know a whole lot about jazz, although I love jazz tunes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ntk drummer View Post
What's the point of presenting a point of view if you're not even going to provide an example?
I have to say I agree with this!

You're not bashing work if you've got reason for thinking it sounds bad....but essentially you're just saying most mix engineers don't know what they're doing, because it all sounds unfinished to you...

"f I'm ever in a rut when I'm mixing a song all I have to do is listen to a song or two on the radio and..well ya' know.". It's much less offensive to say "well, I think this song sounds bad on radio" than "well, every song I hear on the radio sounds unfinished".

But - what do you think sounds GOOD? On radio or otherwise?

And - find an example of a song you think sounds bad on radio...then listen to a high-res version of it on a good playback system. Still think it sounds bad? if not...maybe you're just listening to a poor playback stream - are you listening to FM or DAB? most DAB is just a 128kbps MP3 stream or worse...
Old 13th January 2014 | Show parent
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty7 View Post
"Listen to this guys work, it's horrible!" is not really my style.
You've just said "everyone else's work is horrible - I make myself feel better about my mixing by listening to the radio and I'm much better than them".

But again - unless you've listened to the CD as well, and still deem it horrible, you're not comparing like with like. It doesn't sound like you've heard any of your own work on the radio, so how do you know what happens then?
Old 13th January 2014
  #30
I, in no way, meant to say that most mix engineers don't know what they're doing. My apologies if that's how I came off.

Since I said I don't want to bash an artists work ("point fingers") I'll just say the genre of modern pop music. Now, of course, there are exceptions.

And you're right, I haven't heard my stuff on the radio. Which is why I stated "maybe it's just what the radio is doing to them?"

I wasn't trying to offend anyone. Again, sorry if I did.
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