How to make a big sound on small speakers

How to make a big sound on small speakersIt is pretty easy to make a great mix/master on big, studio grade speakers. But the end user isn’t using these speakers. Making a great sound on small speakers is where things get really interesting. Therefore I wrote this “how to make a big sound on small speakers” post

Its about the story!

Before we get into this, we first need to understand that there are a lot of different grades of speakers. So much, that it is impossible to get the same sound on every system. A mobile phone is a great example. Basic physics just won’t allow the small speaker on a mobile phone to produce low frequencies. That is why you will always miss the bass part of your track on a mobile phone. What the real trick into how to make a big sound on small speakers really is about, is not trying to make every speaker sound the same, but telling the same story on every speaker.

The sound character of a loudspeaker is most of the time chosen by the person that listens to it. He enjoys the character of the speakers and we don’t want to disturb the listener with a completely different sound. It is more important to engineer a track so the sound is equal to what people are used to hear. Keeping this in mind, we can get into the trick of mixing on multiple speakers.

The setup

I personally use 2 sets of speakers: BIG, and SMALL. The big ones are studio-grade high-end custom build speakers, while the small ones are absolutely not. The small ones are the worst speakers you can design, there only is coming some mid-frequency shit out of these. I use the big speakers to make the sound and the small ones to check if the story is also being translated.

An important thing to keep in mind is to ALWAYS use speakers that you know and on which you have listened to a lot of music. NEVER, EVER check your sound on someone else’s speakers, as you don’t know what sound character to expect.

What to do with the sub- frequency’s?

If the bassline is an important piece of your track, you certainly want to translate this to small speakers. There are a few ways to do this.

The first one is my favorite: distortion. By using harmonic (linear) distortion, you’ll make the bassline audible in the higher frequency’s part of the track. The other way is by layering, for instance, a layer with the same sound just one octave higher, or by a different more audible sound. This doesn’t only make the sound bigger on small speakers, but will also make the bassline much more massive on big speakers.