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Critical Listening
Old 6th March 2021
  #1
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XXXEsq's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Critical Listening

Jordan,

First, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience. I would like your take on a few issues related to listening environments and, tangentially, to follow up on something you mentioned earlier - ears.

Having been involved in music production for going on 55 years, it's always amazed me when people are all about gear (not that I don't suffer from terminal GAS!) but not their listening environment and ears. So...

A) Monitoring level? I regularly stood in front of Marshall stacks in my early years and, as a result, my ears certainly aren't what they could/should be. As a result, listening level has become a delicate balance for me, to quiet and I can't hear detail; too loud and the fatigue gets to me. Too loud for too long = (more) hearing damage. Do you have a preferred SPL you like to monitor at? What do you do so you can work for extended lengths of time and not loose your ability to listen critically or cause hearing loss?

Turning to gear, (you know I would...)

B) For those of us working in bedroom studios, what mid or near field monitors have you used that you felt gave a useful accurate balance at mid to low volume levels?

C) Do you find room correction software (like Sonorworks) useful?

D) Headphone mixing for small rooms or travel situations? Any suggestions?
Have you tried the Slate VSX headphone system? (No, I don't work for Slate) I noticed you have a VMS (I do too) and wonder if you've tried their virtual headphone set-up and, if so, what you thought of them. Thus far, I have been very impressed with them and think they outperform my monitors in my smallish partially treated room.

Thanks again for spreading your knowledge.

Al
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Old 8th March 2021
  #2
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djswivel's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXXEsq ➡️
Jordan,

First, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience. I would like your take on a few issues related to listening environments and, tangentially, to follow up on something you mentioned earlier - ears.

Having been involved in music production for going on 55 years, it's always amazed me when people are all about gear (not that I don't suffer from terminal GAS!) but not their listening environment and ears. So...

A) Monitoring level? I regularly stood in front of Marshall stacks in my early years and, as a result, my ears certainly aren't what they could/should be. As a result, listening level has become a delicate balance for me, to quiet and I can't hear detail; too loud and the fatigue gets to me. Too loud for too long = (more) hearing damage. Do you have a preferred SPL you like to monitor at? What do you do so you can work for extended lengths of time and not loose your ability to listen critically or cause hearing loss?

Turning to gear, (you know I would...)

B) For those of us working in bedroom studios, what mid or near field monitors have you used that you felt gave a useful accurate balance at mid to low volume levels?

C) Do you find room correction software (like Sonorworks) useful?

D) Headphone mixing for small rooms or travel situations? Any suggestions?
Have you tried the Slate VSX headphone system? (No, I don't work for Slate) I noticed you have a VMS (I do too) and wonder if you've tried their virtual headphone set-up and, if so, what you thought of them. Thus far, I have been very impressed with them and think they outperform my monitors in my smallish partially treated room.

Thanks again for spreading your knowledge.

Al
Thanks for the message Al! Let me try to address each question separately.

A) Hearing damage is definitely real and a lot of your producers seem to think they're invincible, so I have to stress, listening at a normal volume is very important. You clearly know this from your years on stage. That being said, I don't think about level too much. I let my body tell me when it's too much. Mixing hip hop, I often start mixes loud to get the drums/bass hitting right, but then once I got to vocals/instruments/delays/reverbs, I dial it back to a normal listening level that gives me the necessary clarity. Then at the end of a mix I'll turn it up loud again just to feel what the end result is, and might make some subtle tweaks. When I do listen loud, it's in short periods so as to avoid as much hearing damage as possible.

B) My answer here will tie into your C question. I use Genelec 8351a's, with a Genelec 7370A subwoofer. They sound great, but what really made them my speaker of choice is, when I first got them I was mixing in a living room in an apartment in Los Angeles, about 6 years ago. And the room was not treated at all, next to a noise refrigerator. Not an ideal setup by any means, and the Smart Active monitoring system Genelec has tuned the speakers for the awful room perfectly. The system has a microphone, and you set it up in your listening position and it calibrates your speakers perfectly. I still use them now even in my treated room. It's making less changes, much still helps get your room the last step of the way. 10/10 would recommend. They also have much cheaper speakers in their line which I would imagine do just as good of a job.

C) Haven't tried Sonarworks, but the Genelec system does work well. My guess is they use similar technology, so I'd assume Sonarworks does a pretty decent job too, but can't say for sure. I also prefer that my speakers tuning is stored on the speaker, so I don't need a 2nd software layer running in front.

D) Slate VSX is great. I was part of their Beta pool and Steven is a friend, so I have some bias. But when I first heard them I thought it was an impressively good attempt at bringing a studio environment to headphones. And I would image their software layer is only going to continue to improve, so I would highly recommend for anyone who may travel a lot. For me, since I mostly mix in my room, I don't use them for their intended purpose of mixing, but I do use them as a way of referencing my mix in other environments. Don't have a car? No worries, I load up the car preset and I get a good idea of how my mix is translating.

Best,
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