Music Production: Update on the Auratones!

Well, it’s been a little less than a week since I finally got the Auratones and wanted to give a quick update.

I wish I had bought them sooner.

The first mix I did on them was a hip hop/hybrid trap kind of piece. Not too complicated of a track… mostly kick, hats, vocals, and bass except for in the chorus. Took me about 5 hours from start until I finished the first draft.

I mentioned all this in my previous article, but I finally got around to testing translation on a few different systems over the weekend.

I’m impressed, to say the least.

My tracks usually translate passably well to the car. Nothing special, but I’m not usually particularly happy with them. First car test, I was blown away. The vocal was upfront and clear. Every element was clear and present. The mid-range balance was perfect. I mean it. I was blown away. Everything in the mid-range seemed to be balanced perfectly, no matter what system I played it back on. That’s something I’ve never done before, so I’m pretty happy.

So what are the drawbacks? Well, about what you’d expect.

Most noticeable was low end. I have a 12” single subwoofer in my car, so it’s usually pretty decent for checking how a consumer subwoofer system will react to the mix. Well, it became clear very quickly that I didn’t have nearly enough low end and way too many low-mids. Makes sense, though. If you can’t hear any low end on the Auratones, you’ll boost the low-mids to try and get the bass more present. So even though the bass was present and clear on the Auratones, it didn’t have nearly enough low end when translated to a full-range system.

The second problem was mostly my fault, lol. I had decided I wanted to do as much as I could exclusively on the Auratones, so I didn’t spend a lot of time actually checking the vocal track quality before mixing it.

There were two different voices on the track. The primary voice was excellent. Compressed easily, not too dynamic, and still had lots of character. Needed a slight bit of editing, but mostly just compression, EQ, and saturation. But the second vocalist had a bit of harshness in the voice that I couldn’t hear very clearly on the Auratones and only became present after it was compressed. It was mostly in the vocal performance, but it was something I should’ve approached before I started the mix. It’s a short section, luckily, but it would’ve been nice to have the vocalist re-track before I had tuned and processed the vocal.

Needless to say, in the future, I’ll be checking the stems on a full-range systems with a bit of compression before switching to the Auratones.

So, how much did I actually use them and was it worth the $700 or whatever?

Honestly, I spent probably 90% of the mix on them. I didn’t have that much editing to do, since it was a professionally produced track and was pretty clean before I started mixing. There wasn’t anything I needed to check on a full-range system before processing, so I basically started right from the Auratones.

And for the most part, other than the issues I mentioned, I was able to tackle pretty much everything in the mix with just the Auratones. A few minor high end/low end tweaks I needed to tackle after checking translation, but pretty much perfect otherwise. Needless to say, I’ll be holding onto them and utilizing them as much as I can.

The other thing I wanted to mention was… I tried producing on them exclusively. I had a track I got from a client last week that he gave me a lot of flexibility on, so I figured it’d be a good chance to try out my creative process entirely on the Auratones.

Honestly, it was really fun. The Auratones force you to focus on only the bare essentials. I didn’t layer nearly as much and only added what clearly made an audible difference. You focus more on the arrangement and focused instrumentation, which is very different than how I typically work. Overall, it was a lot of fun, but I didn’t find it game-changing or anything. I noticed the production naturally lacked a lot of the fullness my other productions usually do, which I’m sure had to do with me not layering enough, picking weaker samples, and not being able to hear the little high end detail stuff. I’ll probably do it spontaneously in the future and/or switch back and forth between monitors throughout the process, but I doubt working exclusively on Auratones while producing is going to make any major differences in your production quality.

So, in conclusion, get yourself a pair. They’re awesome and I love them. Expensive, but worth every dollar for my purposes. Mixing is hard, but they make it easier and more rewarding. 100% would buy again.

Would I have bought them 3–4 years ago when I was less experienced? Probably not, actually. Your ears and skills need to be at a certain level before you can really use them effectively. A great tool, but probably not very useful if you’re just getting started and don’t know what you’re doing.

Otherwise, I’m sure I’ll be holding on to these units for a long time. Even after a week they’ve become invaluable. I’ll report back in 3–6 months with an update.

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.

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Danny Demosi

Music producer, mix engineer, and songwriter from Salt Lake City, Utah.