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This free plugin lets you do the car test without leaving the house

The car test is an age-old method for road-testing a final mixdown. Just leave the house, jump in the car and bump it through your vehicle's stereo system to get a sense of how it might sound when you've made it big and they're playing your hit single 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 on which to justify drastic alterations to your mix. However, there's certainly something to be said for listening to a mix on a different system that's closer to the way it might be enjoyed by the general public. Plenty of tracks will sound great on $10,000 Augspurger monitors in an acoustically treated studio, but if they hit different on a $30 car stereo, perhaps you're more likely to be on to something. 

The only problem is, we don't all own a car. And even if we do - well, gas is expensive these days. Furthermore, when you're deep into a mixing session, putting your shoes on, going outside and jumping in your Lexus is a little distracting. For those reasons and more, we're glad to see Rocket Powered Sound - makers of the Thickify (opens in new tab) saturation tool - have devised a workaround in the form of a new free plugin (opens in new tab)

Car Test does exactly what you'd expect, processing your mix in order to produce a simulation of how it'll sound coming out of a car stereo. All you need to do is load it up on your master 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. 

Though we're (ever so slightly) skeptical that this might deliver the exact same benefit as hearing your mix on an entirely different system in a space with different acoustics, we're mindful that it's a free plugin, and there's absolutely nothing to lose by giving it a spin. If it doesn't impress, you could always try using Car Test as a way to add a little lo-fi crunch to drums or vocal ad-libs. 

Visit Rocket Powered Sound's website to download the Car Test plugin. (opens in new tab)

Matt Mullen
Matt Mullen

I'm the Tech Features Editor for MusicRadar, working on everything from artist interviews to tech tutorials. I've been writing about (and making) electronic music for over a decade, and when I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard or a synthesizer. 

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