Author: Kallie Marie
Recently I found myself struggling with one of my mixes, and after having moved during the pandemic this last year, my ears are still adjusting to my new room. I found myself questioning a lot of my choices as I worked. I typically monitor out of my vintage Yamaha NS-10M’s but was struggling with a final set of revisions. I was working on my latest EP, 'Should Your Sun Set Before Mine'; an instrumental trio about diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The final piece, 'On the Road Back', had me ripping my hair out.
I had sent some provisional mixes to trusted friend and colleague Chuck Zwicky to review. The feedback was that my mixes lacked a central focus. Often I find it a challenge in an instrumental mix of my own music, to keep a focused element. Mixing my own work isn't something I prefer to do. I find it challenging, as usually a vocal would be the obvious focus and center of the mix. Despite not having used any widening plugins, I find these days, with so many plugins to “help” one achieve ultra wide mixes, that things can go too far, and in doing so, invariably lose the focus of your mix. So after Chuck's feedback, I was back to the drawing board scratching my head and really relying on my Ollo's to help me find that center and give my mixes more focus. 'On the Road Back' was particularly challenging because the focus shifts, as different instruments come in and out of the arrangement, but also because the piece is about movement, and taking a journey. I wanted to maintain a sense of space, and movement, without losing center. I was trying to make sure that sonically, I was able to convey a sense of climbing, whatever it is that one's journey may ask them to climb, and a sense of arrival, of things opening up, that sense of hope, but also that sense of plateau, and having to keep pushing on. No small feat for an implied narrative without lyrics, or picture, and making sure that the mix both technically and emotionally translated properly.
I have had my Ollo S4X Reference headphones for about a year now, and they've become a trusted part of the process for my referencing.
Sometimes I need to take the room out of the equation and having these headphones at hand has given me the ability to quickly dip in and out of my room and get a very linear reference that pairs well with my NS-10s. It is really important that the monitors and headphones that you are referencing in are complimentary. This way your mixes translate similarly while you are working, with the flattest response possible. Knowing that my NS-10’s and my S4X’s complement each other so well, has helped me trust the translation that I hear when shifting back and forth between them, giving me the ability to reference things in closer detail and make more accurate choices in my mixing.
I was able to quickly duck in and out of my mix, noting areas where I needed to tighten the bass up, create more focus and centrality in my mix, all while giving me a unique window into where my phantom center image was underdeveloped. I was careful to check my mix in and out of mono as well, and again, used my Ollo's to test this without the room being part of my listening experience when I needed.
"It is really important that the monitors and headphones that you are referencing in are complimentary. This way your mixes translate similarly while you are working, with the flattest response possible."
This process is something I often find stressful and fatiguing because it seems like every adjustment could be a make or break decision, and I am often frustrated and distracted by how a pair of headphones fit. I am a smaller person, so quite often I find myself wondering if headphone manufacturers think I have gills on my neck that I hear through, because the headphones sit so low. I have to hold on to them, to get them to stay in the correct place, which would be on my ears! Making adjustments to the mix while holding the headphones in place would require more arms than I have, so I really relish my Ollo's as they both fit correctly, and comfortably. Some headphones, made of cheaper plastics tend to creak as I turn my head or move, and the Ollo's are like a silent cradle, wrapping my senses in an accurate nest of sound.
Lastly, I should suspect that most know this, but having open backed headphones instead of closed during your mix process is crucial. The push of the air and the drivers needs that open back design, and knowing that I don't have to worry about comb filtering occurring while I am working is also a weight off my mind, at a time when I am deeply focused on so many other nuances of the sound I am creating.
It has been incredibly valuable to have the Ollo S4X Reference Headphones as part of my studio arsenal, especially during the pandemic, when I couldn't take my mix somewhere else to listen. Having them at hand gave me the tools to keep working and trust what I was hearing.
Kallie Marie | OLLO Audio endorser
Recording Engineer, Producer, and Composer