I first learned about this awesome mixing trick reading "The Mixing Engineer's Handbook" by Bobby Owsinsky. The trick was invented by New York engineers in the disco to help fatten up the drums. Working with analog mixing desks, the would route the drums to a bus on which they would exaggerate certain characteristics (low mids on snares, bass on kick) using EQ, and they would SLAM the track with extreme compression settings. With this done, one would be left to adjust levels on both tracks, to their own taste.
A lot has changed these days. We all mix in the box. Is this trick still relevant with digital audio summing? I think so! Watch the following tutorial to understand the basics and quickly get to slamming your own drum tracks to spice things up a little.
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You don’t need anything. You can achieve incredible mixes on your white iPhone earbuds for all I care, given that you understand their frequency response (what they sound like at each crucial frequency bands). So my short answer to the question in the title is: headphones. Plain and simple. Oh… and here are 5 reasons why.