Car testing is an age-old method of road testing a final mix. Just leave the house, hop in the car, and play it through your vehicle’s stereo system to get a feel for what it might sound like when you’ve made it big and they play your hit on the radio.
The practice has its pros and cons – stereo systems vary from car to car, and it’s probably not a reliable basis for justifying drastic changes to your mix. However, there’s definitely something to be said for listening to a mix on a different system that’s closer to how it might be enjoyed by mainstream audiences. Many tracks will sound great on $10,000 Augspurger monitors in an acoustically treated studio, but if they hit differently on a $30 car stereo, you might be more likely onto something.
The only problem is that not all of us own a car. And even if we do – well, gas is expensive these days. Plus, when you’re deep in a mixing session, putting on your shoes, stepping out, and jumping into your Lexus is a little distracting. For these reasons and more, we’re happy to see Rocket Powered Sound – the creators of the Thickify (opens in a new tab) saturation tool – have devised a workaround in the form of a new free plugin (opens in a new tab).
Car Test does exactly what you’d expect, processing your mix to produce a simulation of how it will sound out of a car stereo. All you have to do is upload it to your main channel, hit the big green button, and you’re away. Check out the results in the video above – they sound pretty realistic to our ears.
While we’re (a little) skeptical that this could offer exactly the same benefit as hearing your mix on an entirely different system in a space with different acoustics, we realize that this is a a free plugin, and that there is absolutely nothing to lose by giving it a spin. If that doesn’t impress, you can always try using Car Test to add some lo-fi crunch to the drums or vocal ad-libs.
Visit the Rocket Powered Sound website to download the Car Test plugin. (opens in a new tab)