Producing and mixing world-class music with Neumann and Sennheiser

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Producing and mixing world-class music with Neumann and Sennheiser

Neumann Sennheiser
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

A modest, though functional, mixing setup is something that eludes both budding producers and professional mixers alike.

Music making has historically been done in a custom-built space that’s been treated for great sound, sometimes with a console at its heart and tape machines or, more recently, racks of converters to send and receive audio around the studio. A studio filled with pro-level hear from the likes of Neumann and Sennheiser isn’t so inaccessible!

More recently, portable computers and digital audio workstations (DAWs) have made music more portable than ever. Engineers and producers can hire big studios to record for a day, then mix in the comfort and convenience of home. An awesome idea in theory, but our spare bedroom or lounge room doesn’t always offer the best environment for the critical listening required for mixing, especially when it comes to low end control. Even with good equipment, we’re still at the mercy of plasterboard walls, windows and high ceilings—beautiful aesthetically but diabolical for your first reflections and RT60!

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Thanks to some forward-thinking manufacturers, there’s a few solutions to mixing at home or even on the road, in hotel rooms or even in transit! Neumann’s MT 48 audio interface has been a hit world-wide, offering world-class conversion and the routing options usually reserved for a larger rig. Couple this with some great headphones, say the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO or HD 490 PRO Plus and the secret weapon included with them: dearVR MIX-SE.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO

The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are a pro-level headphone with superior isolation, powerful drivers and a balanced, reference-quality response. Comfort is an essential part of headphone design, and the HD 490 PROs feature a particularly robust though flexible headband to ensure good isolation from the speaker cups without applying too much pressure to your head. What really sets these headphones apart is the swappable ear pads, both washable and replaceable, but with different materials offering their own sound signature, one set intended for producing and another intended for mixing. The changeable nature reduces ear fatigue and helps to pinpoint potential problem frequencies.

The HD490 PRO headphones provide a wide soundstage, with great localisation and clear depth of field, that allow you to undertake critical mixing decisions, even before running them through the dearVR MIX-SE software. Augmented with the software, you can place yourself virtually into different environments to check your mix, while also allowing you to monitor recordings if that’s what the gig calls for!

Dear Reality dearVR MIX-SE

Bundled in the box with a new pair of Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones is a licence to Dear Reality’s dearVR MIX-SE software. Yes, you’re correct; the ‘VR’ stands for ‘virtual reality’ and Dear Reality do a stellar job of emulating different environments virtually for you to mix in using headphones.

dearVR MIX-SE contains multiple listening environments, some typical reference points like a car, a kitchen or living room, as well as places that not all of us have access to like a nightclub and stadium. Possibly most helpful of all, it includes multiple mixing environments with two control rooms, as well as an ‘Analytical Dry’ for the most clinical environment! Another feature of the dearVR MIX-SE software is that they have Headphone Compensation available for multiple models of headphones, allowing the software to work its magic from a flat and balanced starting point. While dearVR are adding more models to that list all the time, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are already included!

MT 48

Recording in 2024 requires an audio interface, and while there’s a lot of portable options available, they’re not all as high-quality as the Neumann MT 48. Having already taken the world by storm, the MT 48 is a 4-in, 8-out audio interface with a multitude of routing options available via the user-interface; it can be as involved or simple as you need it to be!

For the purposes of mixing on the go, the Neumann MT 48 provides world-class A/D-D/A, while being powered via USB, so wherever your computer is, the MT 48 will work! Located on the front of the unit are two headphone outputs, which can be controlled independently if needed, with the touch screen that serves as both a tactile surface and a colourful way to monitor and keep track of your signal while mixing.

Neumann MT48

In Use

All of this is to say that mixing on the go is a much more possible way of working thanks to products from Sennheiser and Neumann. Picture this: you’re on the go, moving between studios and an artist sends through a revision to a mix, and they’re focused on the bass.

While these kind of decisions can’t usually be made in environments where you can’t hear and feel accurate low end, the combination of world-class conversion, balanced and deep sound from your headphones, as well as Dear Reality’s virtual mix environment have you confidently sending back a revised mix (and an invoice with it!)

Alternatively, dearVR MIX-SE also provides a controlled environment that never changes. In physical environments, furniture moves, bodies come and go from the room depending how you’re working, or you might need a fan, air conditioning or heating on one day and not the next. All of this, while subtle, affects the acoustic energy in a room, and how it’s lost or gained in varying ways. A virtual mixing room offers a controlled environment that never changes, so you can trust it.

Travelling with the pocket-sized Neumann MT 48 and the HD 490 PRO headphones has never been easier, with the Dear Reality dearVR MIX-SE software obviously taking up no physical space. A controlled environment allows us to have a point of reference, and being able to carry this with you wherever you’re working is a huge step forward in the increasingly fluid nature of making music. Confidence is key when mixing, producing and making, and a combination of these products instil that!

For local Sennheiser enquiries, visit them here.