Spectrum Analysers

Are spectrum analysers a useful tool or a distracting diversion?

It’s been written in many words and at many places that spectrum analysers are a Good Thing(tm). They let you see what you can’t hear, help you overcome deficiencies in your monitoring environment, and help pinpoint problem areas.

Having said that, I don’t use spectrum analysers, and I’ve advised others not to use them. The justification I usually provide is that it’s better to mix with your ears instead of your eyes, and even if you’re not very experienced, it’s better to train your ears as much as you can instead of learning to rely on visual aids. After all, this is music, right? Audio? Your listeners aren’t listening with their eyes…

But am I right?

Does using frequency analysers really result in poorer mixes? Do they really slow down ear training?

This is my opinion, but it’s an only an opinion. A good friend once told me “An opinion is what you have when you don’t have all the facts. When you have all the facts, you don’t need an opinion.” I’ll admit it: I don’t have the facts to support these assertions, and I don’t think I ever will. All I have is based on my own style of working, and my own beliefs and values.

I still maintain that spectrum analysers are to be avoided, but I don’t have any supporting evidence to show you. You have to try them out and make up your own mind.


  1. As you said in the first chapter:
    “They let you see what you can’t hear, help you overcome deficiencies in your monitoring environment, and help pinpoint problem areas.”

    In my opinion it’s as important and good to know how to read the analyzers as to know the theory that there is in mixing and mastering. Because if you know the theory, you know you need more than your ears? Am I right? I’m just a newbie my self and don’t use any of those either.

  2. For example the low frequencies.
    If you have cheap and poor monitors or headphones you may not even notice that your low frequencies are “porridge” (as we say here in Finland)
    I think it’s still best to try to listen your song on as many different monitors and headphones as possible and compare it to other good mixes and find your own middle road.

  3. You’re not wrong – spectrum analysers can be used to compensate for weaknesses in your monitoring environment (speakers and room). I think though, that while they might be useful while you’re getting to know your environment, you should strive to eventually be able to judge sound using your ears only.

    If your speakers or headphones CANNOT produce bass sounds (and if your style of music requires you to mix with precision down there) then you might not have much choice. If you take music seriously though, you will want to have a more appropriate monitoring environment eventually. ;-)


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