After over a month of waiting, I finally got them. I actually got them on Monday, but I didn’t have the proper cabling to get them set up, since I currently run mostly “active” gear. Luckily, one of my roommates works for a commercial audio/video installer that gets that kind of stuff for dirt cheap, so he picked me up some banana plugs and wire for pretty cheap, so we got them all set up last night. Man, what an experience.
If you don’t know anything about the Auratones, let me explain.
If you haven’t heard yet, “the magic is in the mid-range”. If you’re like me, I didn’t figure that out until 4–5 years into my career. I just happened to stumble upon a video by Colt Capperrune (producer/engineer out of Nashville) talking about an interview with JJP, where he made the discovery. Changed my life. Well, my mixes, to be more precise.
Well, the Auratones are sealed box, mid-range-only drivers. That’s right, they’re designed specifically to target the mid-range. For those of you who have heard of NS-10s, the concept is the same. NS-10s have a natural frequency bump and brilliant transient response in the mid-range, which made them an industry standard mixing tool. In most every studio I’ve seen, it’s either Auratones or NS-10s. I didn’t need the extended response, since I do most of the detail work on my Focals, so I opted for Auratones. And… not gonna lie, mostly because MixedByAli swears by them. I absolutely love his mixes, and if he thinks Auratones are the way, I believe him.
“Anyways, so what’s the big deal? If it’s just about mid-range, can’t I just put a filter on the master and work like that?”. Actually, to a certain extent, yeah. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past 6 months or so. It actually decently well and definitely made a noticeable improvement on my mixes. So why should I invest in Auratones?
Well, it’s kind of something you have to hear to understand. If you try the “filter on your master” method, you’ll notice how unnatural and unbalanced it sounds. You’ll be able to hear new things in the mid-range, but overall, it’s still hard to hear the effect your moves are having on the rest of the mix. So oftentimes, when I’d switch back to full-range, the mix would feel tremendously unbalanced and unnatural. It didn’t usually take long to fix, but having to go back and readjust your moves is a little frustrating.
The best way I can describe it is probably by telling you exactly what I did when I turned them on.
My roommate had been helping me wire up the speakers, since all the cable/plugs he had were all wholesale cable and needed to be assembled. I had just shown him the mix I was working on that day (on the Focals) before we set up the Auratones, so he knew what it sounded like in full-range. Since I had the session open, I decided to play it through and see what it sounded like.
Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. Sounded like I was playing the mix through any small Bluetooth speaker. Loss of fidelity (since there’s no high range) and lack of clarity on just about everything. Nothing super special.
So I pulled up the mix I knew everyone with Auratones loved to talk about. Only a few seconds into “Beat It” by Michael Jackson and I understood.
It was like I was listening to the song on Hi-Fi speakers (compared to my mix, at least). Michael’s voice was clear as day and had no noticeable loss in quality. Every piece of the mix was clear and present, and seemed to me that it was playing back at the same quality it had been recorded. It was eye-opening, to say the least. It wasn’t a small difference. Even my roommate, whose ears are untrained, could tell the massive difference between the two. It became very obvious that my mix still had lots of work that needed to be done.
I checked a few other mixes, too, and I was honestly shocked at how easily I could tell the difference between good ones and bad ones. I think the first one I checked was the Dillon Francis/TV Noise song “Bawdy”. Every instrument was clear and punchy, including the warped vocals. Next was “Booty Bust” by the same artists. Much less so. It was very obvious that not nearly as much time/energy had been put into the mix, and wasn’t nearly as clear or punchy as “Bawdy” was.
And if you’re wondering why I was checking Dillon Francis mixes instead of more famous mixes like most articles do, we’ll talk about that another day.
So, I spent the next 3–4 hours on the Auratones. I put my mix up against Skrillex’s “Purple Lamborghini” and got to work. 12 hours later (I finished the rough mix at like 11pm, lol) and I’m still impressed. The mix isn’t perfect, by any means, but it’s already translating much better than most of my other mixes do. The vocals were clear and present, which is always something I’ve had a hard time doing. And overall, the only major issues I had were a few percussion elements that ended up too present.
Will I be keeping the Auratones? Yes, most definitely. In fact, they’re probably going to become my primary mixing monitors. So far, after working on them yesterday, I understand why MixedByAli says he does 80% of the mix on them. As time goes on, I’ll let you know if that is still the case, but I expect it will be.
Anyways, that ended up being a lot longer than I originally planned, but I hope my experience helps someone. If you can, definitely borrow a pair and try them out for yourself. It shouldn’t take long to understand the hype.
As a sidenote, remember that the Behritone C50a and Avantone Mixcubes are not the same thing. I purchased the Auratone 5c Re-Issue bundle with the A2–30 amp from Sweetwater for about $700. I’ve never tried the Mixcubes, but I’ve heard they’re not even comparable to the Auratones, so be careful and do your research before buying anything.
As many of you know, these articles are written as part of a “brain dump” recommended by an article I read. I’ve found them very helpful, but they often contain incorrect, vague, and misleading info, since they’re written in a short period shortly after I wake up. I find them very therapeutic, but I openly admit there isn’t a ton of cognitive thought or editing going into them. Keep that in mind. And most of all, remember that there are no rules in music. These are my recommendations, but it’s your responsibility to review, ponder, act, and discover for yourself. Good luck, have fun.