5. Cheat the perception of lows with harmonic distortion
A lot of lovable low-end content can suddenly disappear from cheap earbuds or computer laptops. So, if you’ve ever put your mix up against a famous, commercial reference on a laptop speaker and wondered why the bass is lacking in your mix, try the following trick:
Bus your bass, kick, or low-end element to a separate aux channel. Examine, with a frequency analyzer, where the fundamental frequency range is—where you see a spike in frequency response. If it’s in the 60–120 Hz range, you might not be able to hear this on a laptop. But you will be able to hear its overtones, which help carry the illusion of bass across narrow-frequency listening systems. An octave up should do the trick, so if your bass is hitting at 80 Hz, juice the corresponding aux track to give off more 160 Hz. Here’s the thing: we’re not going to do this with EQ; instead, we’ll harmonic distortion.
Something like Neutron 2’s Exciter can easily do the trick with its various settings. Select a distortion that fits the mix, and apply just enough so that you see more activity at the desired octave (160 for 80 Hz, for example). You don’t want to hear amp-like, lead guitar distortion, but rather, a pleasant, rounded, solid sound. Do this across the entire frequency spectrum rather than in Multiband mode.
Depending on the result, you may want to apply some high and/or low pass filtering to further isolate the distorted, octavized sound. Whatever you decide, when you’ve got the right tone, dial the aux track back to where it’s not all that noticeable in your mix, but lends a little subliminal character. You may have to audition the mix through a high-pass filter that broadly mimics the response of a laptop as you play with the right levels. Just make sure to take off the filter before you print the mix!
When you get it right, you won’t have clouded up the low-mid range, and yet, the low-end will “feel” more noticeable on laptop speakers.