Mixing with Earplugs

One of the questions I seemed to get asked regularly when I lecture is what kind of hearing protection I use when I mix. It’s a question that worries me deeply. If I needed to wear hearing protection then surely it would be too loud for everybody, not just me? This is not to say that I don’t use hearing protection. It is a subject I take very seriously although one I wish I had been educated about earlier in my career.
I work with some very loud bands but I am very conscious of the fact that loud is not actually that exciting unless you have something to compare it with. For me the most exciting thing is dynamics, the contrasts between loud and quiet. Without the quiet bits you just have, well, loud! This soon gets boring as your ear closes up and you lose perspective.
I think powerful is a better goal. By powerful I mean a full range sound that adapts between quiet and loud and retains the dynamics of the music. For me the best engineers retain this ability to mix quietly and when needed push everything so it is a huge sound, but is then brought back down again. This is exciting. This is interesting. It is also difficult to do!
Do I achieve that in my mix? Sometimes, on a good day… Do I wear hearing protection? Yes. When I’m at festivals or shows and not mixing I wear industrial protection, over-ear muffs from Peltor. They are the best £20 I have ever spent. When I wear them it all goes quiet and I can concentrate, also rest my ears before I need them to work.
If it is too loud for you to listen to your mix don’t wear plugs, think of everybody else and turn it down.

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