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Kevin wrote:
I use headphone to play most times
>and the resultant recordings always sound claustrophobic and way too 

Why this happens is because we experience what recording engineers call "cross talk" when we are listening
to reverberation (or anything, really) in a stereo mix.

In other words, your left ear hears a bit of the reverb from the right channel that crosses your face and
vice versa.    This amplifies the effect of reverbs a bit.

When you listen on headphones, you get none of that 'cross talk' and consequently, you do not get an
accurate understanding of what your recording sounds like.

For me a good rule of thumb is that I like to track with phones...........I like to solo instruments with phones to listen, carefully to their 'timbre' in the mix and I especially like to check in on the volume of subsonic sounds using accurate professional headphones that go down to the very bottom of human hearing (which many near and mid-field recording speakers don't do) but I ALWAYS do final mixes with good near field monitors (which, wonderfully have become cheaper and cheaper for home studio owners). Personally, I never use subwoofers in mixing because I find that most of them tend to over exaggerate and, thus give an inaccurate picture of the saturation of the lowest frequencies. A lot of dance producers would probably highly disagree with me here, but I hear a ton of dance mixes in clubs that are very poorly mixed for the environment because the club owners have no understanding of just how loud and deep their subs should be

Then, at the end of the process, I try to find several diverse listening environments from good to bad home stereos to good to bad boomboxes to good to bad car stereos. After doing this a lot, I've learned to just know what a mix on my own near field monitors will sound like on several systems and try to get a good cross section of mixes that will sound the best on the most systems.

Finally, at the end, you can always play this game I learned from Brian Eno when you think your mix is too dense and claustrophobic. Take out a single element in the mix..........and then another........see how far you can go before it doesn't start sounding like music. Then, and only then, do you gently add things back in , one by one. Most mud comes from overwriting, from my experience
working with pop bands as a producer.

Lastly be aware of Rhythmic, Timbral, Harmonic or Dynamic Masking in your arrangements.

Rick Walker