Audified MixChecker Plug-In
By Anderton |
Audified MixChecker Plug-In
Sure, the mix sounds good in your studio...but what happens when it hits cheapo earbuds?
by Craig Anderton
These days, you never know what’s going to happen to your mastered track when it plays back. It might play over cheap earbuds, desktop computer speakers, a tablet, smart phone, laptop speakers, or even—yes, it can happen—a system with reasonable fidelity. The days when studios would “fact-check” a mix by switching from the main monitors to a little set of Auratones, then playing a cassette over a car’s stereo system, are well behind us…but the need to have some idea of what your music will sound like “in the real world” remains.
Once during a seminar on mastering, I bemoaned the fact that no matter how much effort I spent mastering a piece of music, there would always be some systems over which it would sound terrible. I was somewhat consoled when someone in the audience pointed out that if the system was that bad, all other music would sound equally bad, so I didn’t need to worry about it. Still, back in the days of the big studios I was always a fan of doing “reality tests” on mixes—and now there’s a plug-in that takes this concept into the 21st century.
Audified’s MixChecker is a VST2/VST3/AU/AAX plug-in that simulates 12 different types of real-world playback devices. Note that MixChecker is not like Focusrite’s VRM box, whose goal is to emulate specific speakers and rooms. Instead, Audified measured multiple examples of each listening device, and took an average. This makes sense; for example, no two models of smart phone have exactly the same response, but they share particular characteristics.
The models include a typical monitor, Auraton-type monitor, on-ear headphones, smartphone, tablet, laptop speakers, car, television, micro hi-fi stereo system, radio, desktop speakers, and earbuds. These don’t just represent an average; to my ears, they sound more like a worst-case scenario, which actually is what you want. If your mix can survive all these different playback scenarios, it probably is a truly transportable mix, and the listener will at least hear an approximation of what you intended.
MixChecker is super-easy to use. First, you can compensate for your particular monitoring system—choose whether you’re monitoring over 5-inch speakers, 8-inch speakers, or quality headphones. With high-quality, accurate monitoring systems, you can turn off compensation.
Second, click through the various buttons to hear what your mix will sound like in the real world (check out a video I made to hear how these different options affect the sound). Again, it’s worth emphasizing that MixChecker doesn’t emulate a specific playback transducer, but instead creates an average response. So you may find, for example, that your headphones are way better than the emulated headphone sound because you have good taste in headphones…but not all consumers are as educated in their choices. Ditto the earbuds; I’ve heard good earbuds that are much more accurate than some high-priced headphones, and earbuds that are so bad they sound defective even though they’re not. MixChecker won’t provide all those variations, but remember that the goal is to give a reality check for different playback devices.
Audified posted an article, “MixChecker: Behind the Scenes,” in their blog that describes the process of creating MixChecker. The effort Audified put into creating the simulations makes for interesting reading, and also explains why something that seems like it should be simple costs $149.
Note that MixChecker uses iLok protection, but you don’t need the hardware dongle, just the License Manager software. (Personally, given the option these days I choose the hardware dongle because iLok 2 is way better than the original, and it makes life easy if I ever need to re-install an iLok-protected program.) Audified gives you two authorizations per purchase, so you can use MixChecker at the same time on two different computers—very considerate if you have a team working on a project, and want to do independent A/B comparisons.
If you’re intrigued, Audified offers a free 30-day trial so you can determine whether this is something that would be a useful to you. In any event, I sure prefer it to the “old school” approach of yesteryear where you needed one of each hardware device, and then had to build a mechanical switcher to switch among them. It’s a lot easier to insert MixChecker in the master bus, and click around—no soldering required, either.
MixChecker is currently available for $149 direct from Audified.
Here's a short video with sonic examples of how MixChecker alters the sound.
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.