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Mixing: How to conjure up fat bass on small speakers

A fat bass that also presses on small speakers in the laptop or kitchen radio and sounds full - is that possible? Sure, of course! We'll tell you how you can get a fat bass sound too.

By Carlos San Segundo

Mixing: How to conjure up fat bass on small speakers

Some styles of music are more dependent on bass than others, but in all recordings and productions, lower frequencies carry most of the energy. What contributes to a warm, cozy feeling in the stomach area on large sound systems (PAs) or studio monitors cannot be reproduced by many small speakers and leads to productions that previously sounded fat suddenly sound weak and thin.

equal distribution

We can view the entire frequency spectrum as a container for our music. If we want to create a clear, transparent mix, then we have to use all of the available space in the container. As mentioned above, low frequencies need a lot of energy, so figuratively speaking they take up a lot of space in the container. The more space we allow the bass, the less we have for the rest of the tracks.

A low A at 55 Hz sounds extremely filling on a good monitor in the recording studio, but is simply not reproduced by the kitchen radio. In fact, many of the bouillon cubes only begin to reproduce something meaningful from 180 to 200 Hz.

Also read: Simple bass songs

Overtones in the bass

Of course the subject is Bass on small speakers not finished yet. In addition to the fundamental frequency, every tone brings with it a series of overtones that can be heard in multiples of the fundamental frequency. For our low A at 55 Hz, we can hear overtones at 110 Hz, 220 Hz, 440 Hz and so on. The frequencies below 200 Hz may no longer be audible on the kitchen radio, but not the overtones above.

And this is exactly where our chance lies to conjure up fat bass on small speakers. When mixing a song, we just have to make sure that the bass sound has enough overtones, or make sure that it has enough overtones. Usually the instruments have enough overtones - however, the volume of the same varies greatly from case to case.

Make the bass more audible

It becomes difficult, especially with very pure sounds from synthesizers, as they often only have a few overtones (with sine = 0), so you have to help a bit when mixing a song. There are a number of plugins that can add overtones to sounds. My personal favorite for this was always the DSPFX Harmonizer, with which even and odd overtones could be processed separately - but the plugin was no longer developed at some point. Of course there is also the BBE Sonic Maximiser, the Waves MaxxBass or the free Baxxpander.

The aforementioned plugins all generate audible overtones and can also reduce the fundamental tone without the listener noticing. The latter is achieved through psychoacoustic modeling and has two advantages:

  1. the bass sound will prevail better on small speakers thanks to the overtones
  2. more space for the other tracks and higher frequencies in the mix (remember the analogy with the mix as a container).

More tricks for mixing bass

Of course, not everyone has such an exciter at hand, so here are a few tricks for mixing bass. Using distortion on a track has a very similar effect on the sound. Here, too, overtones are generated. This is at the expense of a certain sound coloration, but this can of course also be desired. If you overdo it with the distortion of the sound, this is at the expense of transparency, so careful dosing is required here for the best results. Nonetheless, this trick can help you hear the bass better on small speakers.

The following applies not only to mixing bass: Listening to different stereos and speakers is a must. If you want to know what your mix sounds like over a cheap kitchen radio, it is best to try it out in the kitchen. If you don't have one at hand, you can use the following trick.

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The stereo sum of the song is sent through an equalizer with a steep high-pass filter at 200 Hz and an equally steep low-pass filter at around 2 kHz. If all of the key elements of your mix are still easy to hear and sit well, then the recording should sound good on most monitorings.

As a good example of a top-mixed bass, I would like to recommend the song "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson (from the album Thriller) to you.