Ohhh boy. The ever pervasive problem of “Man, my bass sounds great in the car, but I can’t even hear it on my phone!” I’ll tell you why, and it’s a really simple, obvious reason. Your phone, having as small speakers as it does, can only create a low frequency of about 100-120hz, and, depending on which model phone you have, is probably only one speaker, meaning you’re listening in mono.
So what does this mean from a mix perspective? Well, whatever signal you’ve got from the kick and bass that’s slipping off to the side channel is getting lost. Literally, just doesn’t exist. So make sure your bass, kick, and anything else you really want to smack (like main vocals) is 100% mono!
Okay, you’ve got mono kick and bass, but your track’s still not popping on the phone! Well let’s go bac to the physical makeup of the phone. When you think of the overall sound of the phone speakers, the meat of what you’re hearing is in that 1-8khz range, meaning anything that isn’t in that range, is pretty much getting drowned out. So how do we fix that problem? Saturation, baby.
If you’ve got a bass that’s sitting in the subby, 100hz area, we want to replicate those frequencies in higher registers with what are called harmonics, which is the foundation of saturation. It’s essentially taking frequency of the bass, and finding all the frequencies in the higher ranges that share harmonic structure, creates new, previously non-existent information from the source. That’s really useful, because now we can get the information from the sub regions, and bring them to the hearable frequency range that’s coming out of the phone. If you don’t have a go-to saturator, check out these freebies!
Me and my buddies use the TS808 Modeler on a recommendation from Jaycen Joshua.
Some problem areas I have found when saturating my bass tracks have been 400hz, that boxy, nasal-sounding area of the mix where nothing really sounds good, 6-8khz, where the bass really shouldn’t be sitting, and the sub 100hz frequencies. To avoid the sub information getting messed up, I’ll often times parallel my saturation to a different track, and then high-pass 200hz, and low-pass 4khz. This ensures my sub information remains untouched by the saturator, and that my bass doesn’t intrude into other parts of the mix.
After I get the saturation tone right, I pull the fader down all the way, and fade it in from nothingness, until I can hear the bass cut nicely through my worst pair of speakers. That’s pretty much it! A/B your track, and enjoy your aggressive, clear, punchy bass. If you’re having trouble with dynamics after saturating, try using a compressor before the saturation to even out any peaks in the signal that might be tripping up the saturator.
If you’re working in Ableton like a champion, check out the stock Saturator effect. Use a medium or hard curve, and bask in the immediate crunchy bass. Fade with wet/dry. Use after Rbass.
Make sure you hit me up on Twitter @mastrprod and let me hear your punchy bass! Also check out my IG @mastr.productions and watch me live-stream right from the lab!