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An Important Lesson About Monitors
Old 20th January 2013
  #1
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
An Important Lesson About Monitors

I learned what I would consider a very simple, obvious, but good lesson. I figured I'd share it on GS. As obvious as it is someone here still might get something out of it. I posted on this forum because I feel like this applies even more to synthesizers, drum machines, and the music making machines of this sort.

I'm not an engineer and not on the quest to be one. Not on a pro level anyway. It would take too much time away from writing and recording that I'm not willing to sacrifice. I have some basic skills that are good enough but to achieve a final mix I go to someone who has a lot more gear and has spent years cuttng their teeth on mixing as I have with my craft.

This is why I never really put a whole lot of weight in to my personal need for really good monitors. I have a low end pair of M-Audios I bought about 6 years ago for probably around $300 if I remember right. So yesterday I was playing with the Vermona DRM3. I was getting decent sounds but I kept tweaking and tweaking and couldn't quite get the sound I was wanting. Then I thought that maybe the DRM3 might not be capable of the sound I wanted. It was getting late and I figured I'd put on some headphones. I have a really expensive nice pair of headphones. After I put them on there it was. The sound I was looking for was almost there. And after two minutes I had it. At that point I realized the importance of good monitors. I went back and played the Prophet 5 that I had just been playing and it sounded different. There was a quality that was there that was completely absent on the M-Audios which I now call M-Adios.

It wasn't because the headphones/speakers were close to my ears. It wasn't because maybe it was louder. The sound quality was different. And much better.

I've been wanting some more modulars, synths... the usual stuff. But I will not drop another penny on anything until I get a really good pair of monitors. Period.
Old 20th January 2013
  #2
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grasspike's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
what type of acoustic treatment do you have in your mix room/studio? You can spend all the money you want on monitors but if the room is not tweaked it will not matter
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #3
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasspike ➑️
what type of acoustic treatment do you have in your mix room/studio? You can spend all the money you want on monitors but if the room is not tweaked it will not matter
I understand what you're saying but you mean to tell me if I put a really good pair of monitors on the same desk, in the same room, that my M-Audios sit that there will be no difference?
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #4
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seen-da-sizer's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
I understand what you're saying but you mean to tell me if I put a really good pair of monitors on the same desk, in the same room, that my M-Audios sit that there will be no difference?
That depends on how much money you are going to spend on the monitors. But ultimately better monitors will not offset a poorly treated or sounding room. I was a non believer too, until I installed acoustic treatment in my studio. IMO worth every penny, and the work I spent on. My, often despised here, Mackie 824 sound just loverly now. In your case, replacing those M-Audio may be a good start, but not the end of the story. I recommend reading the "Acoustics" board here. Even with some well planned placement of speaker and listener positions, you could improve on some of your monitoring experiences.

Old 20th January 2013
  #5
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Looks like a nice studio. But that won't and can't happen where I live. :-(
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #6
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seen-da-sizer's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
Looks like a nice studio. But that won't and can't happen where I live. :-(
I got lucky being able to make these improvements. I know not everyone has this kind of luxury. There are plenty of examples in the "Acoustics" board of home studio that are not permanent. Again, you can improve a lot in getting the best speaker/listener positions. And this does not cost any money. I don't know what kind of M-Audio you have, but I suspect you are correct in letting them go.
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #7
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golden beers's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by seen-da-sizer ➑️
That depends on how much money you are going to spend on the monitors. But ultimately better monitors will not offset a poorly treated or sounding room. I was a non believer too, until I installed acoustic treatment in my studio. IMO worth every penny, and the work I spent on. My, often despised here, Mackie 824 sound just loverly now. In your case, replacing those M-Audio may be a good start, but not the end of the story. I recommend reading the "Acoustics" board here. Even with some well planned placement of speaker and listener positions, you could improve on some of your monitoring experiences.

I too am a fan of those mackies. Very nice monitors IMO
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #8
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golden beers's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
OP. I agree. You need good monitors. And regarding acoustic treatment. You really don't have to spend allot to get a massive difference in sound, if you're prepared to make your own. I use rockwool wrapped in canvas.

I really like my monitors, and i'm not just saying that because they're what ive spent money on! Blue Sky Pro Desk

I would get new monitors first and then get room treatment..

edit. PS my monitors are not the best in the world by a long stretch.. they are a little hyped in the highs. and serious engineers don't like blue skys, but compared to Maudio, these are definitely in a different league. it would be a night and day difference for you i'm sure.. and way good enough for me.
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #9
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orpheus_'s Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
I understand what you're saying but you mean to tell me if I put a really good pair of monitors on the same desk, in the same room, that my M-Audios sit that there will be no difference?
Hey Gringo,

Yes replacing the M-Audio monitors will give you a different sound, but they won't necessarily give you the level of detail or accuracy you're getting from your headphones unless you're controlling the acoustics in the room to some degree. You will hear the room a lot more than you will think, possibly even more than the monitors.

You can get a great result without making permanent changes and pretty cheaply. I've used old black blankets hung on half the walls and 8 big cheap bags of roofing insulation in corners, and some sheets of acoustic foam I found cheap at Clarkes Rubber. This gives the room a great response, the room has an RT60 of 30ms (I'm not recording in it, just composing producing and mixing), and has a flat response except for -6dB at 230Hz and 430Hz, which as I understand is good for a small room (4.5m x 3m).

Here's my temporary studio, a bit messy but totally functional :

Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #10
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golden beers's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by orpheus_ ➑️
Hey Gringo,

Yes replacing the M-Audio monitors will give you a different sound, but they won't necessarily give you the level of detail or accuracy you're getting from your headphones unless you're controlling the acoustics in the room to some degree. You will hear the room a lot more than you will think, possibly even more than the monitors.

You can get a great result without making permanent changes and pretty cheaply. I've used old black blankets hung on half the walls and 8 big cheap bags of roofing insulation in corners, and some sheets of acoustic foam I found cheap at Clarkes Rubber. This gives the room a great response, the room has an RT60 of 30ms (I'm not recording in it, just composing producing and mixing), and has a flat response except for -6dB at 230Hz and 430Hz, which as I understand is good for a small room (4.5m x 3m).

Here's my temporary studio, a bit messy but totally functional :

youve got open rockwool there bro.. ouch! you know that stuff is carcinogenic ?.. ps neat set up.! pps.. you should isolate your monitors form the stand
Old 20th January 2013
  #11
msl
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and your surprised that your 3,000 dollar vintage synth doesn't sound good through 300 dollar maudios....

get the best monitors you afford, end of story.


.
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #12
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orpheus_'s Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers ➑️
youve got open rockwool there bro.. ouch! you know that stuff is carcinogenic ?.. ps neat set up.! pps.. you should isolate your monitors form the stand
Hey! Thank you for your concern, it's fibre glass not rock wool. Fibreglass is apparently not classified as carcinogenic any more but rock wool can be. I avoid inhaling fibreglass anyway! But this was set up as a sound test wearing gloves and mask while moving it. I'm building my proper studio now so time to get serious.

PPS Thanks! Yes - they were isolated from the stands using rubber feet. I've been experimenting with putting them on different surfaces, hence the wood planks. This was Stav's idea but I don't agree with it..

Thanks for the health warning!

orph
Old 20th January 2013
  #13
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kirkelein's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I always figured that acoustic treatment and monitors that were good enough would be upwards of 2000€, which is more than I was willing to spend. So instead I spent a little more on my headphones, and I use only them now. It's more fatiguing, yes, and I can't hope to really make a top mix without speakers, but it works for now, and all my synths sound sweet as hell.
Old 20th January 2013
  #14
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🎧 10 years
A decent pair of monitors in an untreated room is better than crap monitors in the same room. Yes room treatment helps but you don't need it to hear the difference in quality.
Old 20th January 2013
  #15
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Get something with room control EQ. It helps so much, and if you don't like it, you can switch it off temporarily. Also make sure your monitors are set 45 degrees and at the right height. If you get monitors with poor frequency response you will spend 5x longer mixing. I think its worth it to spend upwards $700 on stereo if you end up using them every day.
Old 20th January 2013 | Show parent
  #16
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tehlord's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by AJ Reynolds ➑️
A decent pair of monitors in an untreated room is better than crap monitors in the same room. Yes room treatment helps but you don't need it to hear the difference in quality.

Absolutely.

My room is appalling, and I can hear a clear and distinct difference between monitors.
Old 31st October 2016
  #17
Gear Head
 
thats the advice i was looking for
Old 31st October 2016
  #18
TJT
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Yeah, I say the bump in monitors will be huge. The acoustic treatment, well, do what you can afford. I have treated my room a little, including some bass traps in the corners. But, the difference in clarity should be ridiculously obvious from those cheaper M Audios in a semi-treated room. Especially when you are near monitoring.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #19
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
I understand what you're saying but you mean to tell me if I put a really good pair of monitors on the same desk, in the same room, that my M-Audios sit that there will be no difference?
I'm in agreement with Seen-da-sizer, treatment is the next step, in my humble opinion. That is, in terms of bang for buck, if your room is bad. If you do DIY treatment (not that hard), a couple of hundred dollars on some bass traps will get you miles ahead. That said, yeah, good monitors also make a difference, so its a tough call.

In the mean time. . . if you understand the deficiencies of your existing setup, you're actually better off than someone with a nicer setup who hasn't got those ears. Because it is possible to compensate. Trial mixes on your headphones and compare with the monitors, then take a drive and play the mix in the car, and then test them on a big PA somewhere. This is in fact a foolproof way of getting your mixes better. Better monitors in a good room really only mean you can cut down on all this mucking around, because they give more reliable results.
Old 31st October 2016
  #20
Deleted b598644
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everyone on this planet listens to music differently, with different media-sources, different headphones, different earplugs or different speakers.
spending a lot of money on monitors, amplifiers and acoustic room treatments is just marketing, they all promise the best and most neutral (what is neutral) sound whilst no consumer listens to music the same way.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #21
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zerocrossing's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BassX ➑️
everyone on this planet listens to music differently, with different media-sources, different headphones, different earplugs or different speakers.
spending a lot of money on monitors, amplifiers and acoustic room treatments is just marketing, they all promise the best and most neutral (what is neutral) sound whilst no consumer listens to music the same way.
That's not entirely true. A good monitor is going to try and give you as flat a response as possible with a lot of detail and a room treatment is just for not screwing that up. It's nothing more than a good baseline from where to start. But, they're just one tool you'll need to get a good mix. It's important to compare the studio mix on several different systems to make sure your mix will work in a wide variety of settings. Sometimes consumer set ups have ridiculous bumps in the bass and high frequencies. If you mix only for those it an be easy to EQ out content that you want in there.

But, if you're doing this for yourself, I say just get the best sounding monitors that you can afford. Even a high end stereo system is fine for most things and in some ways better if you're like me and you move around the room a lot to access different instruments.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #22
Deleted b598644
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing ➑️
Sometimes consumer set ups have ridiculous bumps in the bass and high frequencies. If you mix only for those it an be easy to EQ out content that you want in there.
thats the whole point, you never mix for only 1 place.
no mix whatsoever will sound the same anywhere even with the most expensive monitors or room treatment.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #23
TJT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BassX ➑️
everyone on this planet listens to music differently, with different media-sources, different headphones, different earplugs or different speakers.
spending a lot of money on monitors, amplifiers and acoustic room treatments is just marketing, they all promise the best and most neutral (what is neutral) sound whilst no consumer listens to music the same way.
I used to think that, back in the day. I started producing about 20 years ago. Started on really bad monitors. Basically just nice sounding loud speakers. My mixes always came out way too tinny. No mid range, no lower mids, very undefined bass. I always tested them in the car and living room, and I would have to endlessly tweak to get them to sound decent. I thought it was just that I was learning how to mix. But, as soon as I bought a pair of ok monitors (I started with Alexis M1 actives), it saved me hours and hours of work. I mixed in the same room, totally untreated, but when I went to the car to listen, it sounded about 1000 times better.

It's just not as easily explained on a message board as it is in practice. Monitors are probably the #1 most important aspect to the whole setup, aside your own skills and talent. I guess I kinda agree with the whole "don't spend thousands" on it. But, don't spend a couple hundred bucks on them either...
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #24
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lestermagneto's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJT ➑️
I used to think that, back in the day. I started producing about 20 years ago. Started on really bad monitors. Basically just nice sounding loud speakers. My mixes always came out way too tinny. No mid range, no lower mids, very undefined bass. I always tested them in the car and living room, and I would have to endlessly tweak to get them to sound decent. I thought it was just that I was learning how to mix. But, as soon as I bought a pair of ok monitors (I started with Alexis M1 actives), it saved me hours and hours of work. I mixed in the same room, totally untreated, but when I went to the car to listen, it sounded about 1000 times better.

It's just not as easily explained on a message board as it is in practice. Monitors are probably the #1 most important aspect to the whole setup, aside your own skills and talent. I guess I kinda agree with the whole "don't spend thousands" on it. But, don't spend a couple hundred bucks on them either...
agreed 1000%. Of course the music we make (hopefully) is going to be listened to in so many different scenarios, from decent home systems, to the lowest of the low earbuds, to different laptop speakers, to mono club speakers, to quality studio monitors etc...

the importance of having decent monitors to work on and make decisions (in addition to treating your room as best as you can afford or whatnot), is that you will have a better idea of what YOU are doing frequency wise, and what YOU are hearing in the most honest state.

I don't think you need to spend thousands on speakers to get a decent representation of what things will sound like elsewhere etc... But you DO need to spend a little... I usually use KRK VXT 8's (love them a lot, but having some bad RFI issues of late due to the proliferation of cell towers going up in my area probably..ug). They are not crazy expensive, and they are not ADAMS or Barefoots etc... (which I think are great!), but are a good sweet spot for me in both price and performance in that when I mix on them in different locations, I pretty much can trust that when other people play them back on the variety of mediums in which they will, they will basically hear my intent, and I haven't been surprised by things that I didn't expect.

I often check on my laptop, or auratones, or cheapie iPod docks, or pa's etc.. or earbuds etc...

Without breaking the bank, I am able to make informed decisions as to what I am doing, where I am placing things, what the low end is going to be like, etc etc... which helps a great deal. I hear detail where I want to, and having learned them (and all speakers must be "learned" to some degree to know where they may be exaggerating or underwhelming things...)

You don't have to spend 5k to get a decent set of speakers.. But I wouldn't just say that any old thing will work. There are those out there WAY more talented then I in this degree without question, and probably could mix on apple earbuds if they knew what their response was etc...

I really personally just like the comfort of mixing something on monitors I trust, and when I play them back on "sound bars" or tv's or boom boxes, sure, they are going to sound a bit different, but basically what I intended to get across!
Old 31st October 2016
  #25
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slaughtrhaus's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
But I will not drop another penny on anything until I get a really good pair of monitors. Period.
As someone who upgraded from M-Adios to Focals (CMS40's), I think you are on the right track. The day I brought my new monitors home I discovered one side of my mixer's master channel was dull and crappy. I had suspected something was wrong but couldn't isolate it until the new monitors revealed the issue plain as day.

Yes treatment is important of course and hardly an afterthought, but it is better done after deciding what monitors you are going to invest in and getting a vibe for your room with those. Unless the room itself is just horrible, like a 6x6 concrete square, new monitors should be a massive improvement right off the bat.

Any idea what you want? Size? Budget?
Old 31st October 2016
  #26
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🎧 10 years
Wow! Old thread! So... I treated my room with GIK Bass Traps everywhere and immediately there was a huge difference even with my M-Audios. Recently got a pair of Amphion One18's and I couldn't be happier. I am set for my needs.

But yes now I see why treatment comes first. No question.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #27
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr ➑️
But yes now I see why treatment comes first. No question.
What people are not mentioning is that it really depends on how bad your room is to begin with.

If you're mixing in a small boxy space, then treatment could make a huge difference.

If it's a more open room without so many right angles and plenty of stuff around to break up the reflections, then it might not make nearly as much of a difference as upgrading your monitoring system.

It's certainly worth taking some measurements to see how much of a mess the space is.
Old 31st October 2016 | Show parent
  #28
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7 Hz's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluegreengold ➑️
What people are not mentioning is that it really depends on how bad your room is to begin with.
This x100!

No two rooms are the same. You can't generalize on needing treatment. A 12' by 12' by 12' bare concrete room is going to be an utter nightmare, a 10' by 13' by 19' well furnished room with book cases, some curtains etc is going to be fairly reasonable as a starting point.
Old 31st October 2016
  #29
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
My room was terrible. I would sit in front of my speakers and hear the bass at a moderate level. I would go to the bathroom that shares the side wall with my studio room and the bass would be MASSIVELY loud and boomy and that was through the wall. Anywhere I moved in my room the mix, especially the bass, would sound a lot different. Now I can stand in different places in my room and it's almost identical to the previous spot.
Old 31st October 2016
  #30
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swiller's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Also remember to get you ears syringed regularly. This will clean out all the wax in your ears and retain your hearing to a near perfect as possible.
Simply not possible with cotton buds and a true revelation for accurately representing space, highs and accurate bass in ewer mixes
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