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sc1460
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Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor
      #1046835 - 06/05/13 06:02 PM
I'm intrigued by Hugh's comments in a number of monitor reviews that he can judge the quality of a speaker by the degree of coloration he can hear on standalone voice (I assume the spoken word). I would have thought the best monitor would make very complex mixes easier to hear, but I don't fully understand the correlation between spoken voice and how good a monitor would be at, say, handling a 60 tracks of audio in a mix down. Sure if the monitor mkes the voice sounds completely bass heavy, or mid- recess or phasing, but for today's £1000 monitors??? And anyway if you can hear it on the voice you can hear it on the band as well?

I don't work with narration or TV so can't comment on what producers want there, nor do i work with chorale or classical, but I do work with pop/rock mixes with a large number of tracks.

This leads me to Hugh's review of the KH120 - was it tested using a standard set of tracks? Should it have been? Does SOS need to move towards some standardisation of testing monitors, or should it stick with its current approach of a number of different reviewers testing monitors in a laissez faire approach? (Ok, I'll come clean, I wonder if on the kh120 's Hugh used solo voice, choral or classical music in the main rather than eg R&B, death metal or reggae)

Slap me down! ;-)


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damoore



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1046856 - 06/05/13 08:40 PM
Maybe we need a Hugh Robjohns sample for speaker testing! Recorded at several velocities, of course - it will be necessary to tie him to a long string and spin it round and round.

There was a brief period when SoS published some technical data on a few devices. In one case something that was totally unclear in the text was perfectly clear from one of the graphs. I wish they would publish more of them.

In the case of (PA) speakers, for example, the published specs rarely tell you much about the low frequency performance of the speaker and SoS could perform an invaluable service by filling this hole.

For example, the published spec will typically tell you the speaker is (perhaps) 3db down at 60Hz with 1W input, and that it can produce 128db (say) at rated input at 1000Hz, but the max SPL at 60Hz usually remains a complete mystery - there is no guarantee it can produce 125db and even if it can, the intermodulation distortion may be horrible. Yet this is exactly the sort of number you need to know when configuring a system.


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Bob Bickerton
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1046860 - 06/05/13 08:49 PM
To my mind, spoken word is one of the hardest things to record well and reproduce well, simply because we, as a species, are used to knowing how it 'should' sound. Therefore, whilst its not going to test the extremes of a speaker's frequency response, auditioning a spoken voice can give you a quick idea of what's going on in the critical voice range.

Obviously, further testing is required to test for full range material, but if the voice range is not sounding great, then you've got serious issues.

I take it that SOS reviewers are briefed with giving their 'personal' opinion on the gear being reviewed, normal standard review practice. It would be impossible to standardise reviews otherwise you'd end up with a duplicate set of specs which would tell you no more than the manufacturers stated specs.

It's to do with trusting or not the reviewer.

Bob

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Mike Stranks
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1046877 - 06/05/13 09:49 PM
Most of my recording work is spoken voice and any deficiencies anywhere in the recording and reproduction chain seem to leap out in a way that they don't always with music.

... and for live-sound set-up I always start with a good-quality non-eq'd, non reverbed, non-compreesed, spoken male voice recording when assessing 'room-sound'. Get that sounding good and you're well on your way to having the room sounding right for most things.

Well, it works for me...


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John Willett
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1046901 - 07/05/13 07:35 AM
As Bob and Mike said above.....

The human voice is very difficult to get right and is one of my tests of a good monitor - I won't get a monitor that won't pass the speech test.

My Geithain RL906 pass the test, as did also my old K+H O110 (and the new KH120 according to Hugh) and also the Harbeth range of M20, M30 and M40. All these make a human voice sound like listening to a human being and not a recording of a human being.

The small PMC DB1 failed my speech test when I tested them and I then bought the O110D at the time (a few years ago now).

--------------------
John - Sound-Link ProAudio
President - Federation Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons


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damoore



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: John Willett]
      #1046942 - 07/05/13 12:47 PM
That it is necessary is, I think, clear. (i.e. if a monitor does not work on voice, its not going to work well on anything)

But is it sufficient? I think that I would still want to hear some music I am familiar with as well. The Appassionata has long been one of my choices.

As for specs, its the specs that the manufacturers don't publish that would be most useful. There is little point in trying to duplicate published specs based on the one or perhaps two samples you have to review.


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ef37a



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1046949 - 07/05/13 01:16 PM
This all takes me back to the "good old days" of Studio Sound and Hi-Fi News (before they went mad) Almost no imported speakers could pass a speech repro test although many were pleasant and impressive on music.

IIRC S,Sound did have a sort of standard test? Speech then keys jangling, musical box then some standard tapes of various musical extracts but I can quite understand that the SoS thru'put of kit must now be so massive (compared the hallowed journals I mentioned) that such in depth listening test are impractical?

One test I DO wish would be standard for powered speakers. An SPL meter at 1mtr checking self noise*! I see quite a few questions about hissy, hummy monitors on forums and they ain't ALL grounding issues!

*Very rarely seen in maker's specifications but then to paraphrase...."Lies, dammned lies and Specifications"!
Dave.


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John Willett
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: damoore]
      #1046988 - 07/05/13 04:21 PM
Quote damoore:

That it is necessary is, I think, clear. (i.e. if a monitor does not work on voice, its not going to work well on anything)

But is it sufficient? I think that I would still want to hear some music I am familiar with as well. The Appassionata has long been one of my choices.

As for specs, its the specs that the manufacturers don't publish that would be most useful. There is little point in trying to duplicate published specs based on the one or perhaps two samples you have to review.




Of course - speech is not the only test.

But, as you said, if a monitor will not do speech well I would not trust it on other things.

But, after it has passed the speech test, I would use music I am very familiar with - preferably stuff I have recorded myself and am intimate with.

--------------------
John - Sound-Link ProAudio
President - Federation Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1047074 - 08/05/13 09:12 AM
Sorry for the late response here, I've been on my travels...

Quote sc1460:

I'm intrigued by Hugh's comments in a number of monitor reviews that he can judge the quality of a speaker by the degree of coloration he can hear on standalone voice (I assume the spoken word).




It's more a case of 'I can judge the level of colouration from a monitor best with a spoken voice' -- it's extremely hard to spot subtle colourations with music, but remarkably easy and obvious with a good spoken voice recording!

Quote:

I would have thought the best monitor would make very complex mixes easier to hear




That is true, and for that reason I listen to a wide variety of 'mastered' material as well as using the monitors in earnest to mix a range of my own multitracks. The latter is about judging how easy (or otherwise) it is to hear small mixing tweaks --balance changes, EQ and dynamics changes, etc.

Quote:

I don't fully understand the correlation between spoken voice and how good a monitor would be at, say, handling a 60 tracks of audio in a mix down.




There is no direct correlation -- they are testing entirely different aspects.

Quote:

And anyway if you can hear it on the voice you can hear it on the band as well?




Usually, no -- and that's the whole point!

Quote:

This leads me to Hugh's review of the KH120 - was it tested using a standard set of tracks?




Yes.

Quote:

Should it have been?




Yes... If it wasn't, they wouldn't have been 'standard'

Quote:

Does SOS need to move towards some standardisation of testing monitors, or should it stick with its current approach of a number of different reviewers testing monitors in a laissez faire approach?




The practicalities of magazine production deadlines and different reviewer experience mean that it is necessary to use several different reviewers for speaker reviews... but it isn't entirely a 'laissez faire' approach -- certainly PW and I review monitors in very similar ways and we frequently compare notes on different models to ensure as much consistency as possible.

Quote:

I wonder if on the kh120 's Hugh used solo voice, choral or classical music in the main rather than eg R&B, death metal or reggae)




One of my pet hates is 'monitors' that only seem to work with a particular musical genre. To me, such a beast can't call itself a proper 'monitor' at all... So, while I certainly did listen to voice, choral and classical music on the KH120s (and every other monitor I've ever reviewed), I also auditioned jazz, R&B, electro, reggae, heavy metal and many other musical genres. I have a pretty expansive and eclectic music library (well over 2000 CDs, with another 1500 vinyls and about 800 SACD/DVD-A surround albums), plus a fairly wide range of my own recordings, and access to many more.

Quote:

Slap me down! ;-)




Consider yourself red-cheeked!

H

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Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: damoore]
      #1047077 - 08/05/13 09:20 AM
Quote damoore:

There was a brief period when SoS published some technical data on a few devices. In one case something that was totally unclear in the text was perfectly clear from one of the graphs. I wish they would publish more of them.




We still do -- at least in all of my reviews where such technical data provides something useful or worthy of note. Everything that passes across my reviewing table is routinely hooked up to an Audio Precision test set and I automatically verify the manufacturer's published specs. If everything checks out within normal tolerances then there's little point in commenting further or re-publishing the manufacturers specs in detail, but if I discover any anomalies then that does get reported, with test plots (or whatever) included in the review as necessary.

However, often the fixed page count of the paper magazine makes it difficult to include the test plots which have to be printed fairly large to be meaningful, and so those are generally published as 'added value' content on the website and in the iPad editions -- with the web page link included in the paper magazine articles as appropriate.

Quote:

In the case of (PA) speakers, for example, the published specs rarely tell you much about the low frequency performance of the speaker and SoS could perform an invaluable service by filling this hole.




Measuring loudspeakers -- and especially large and powerful PA speakers -- is quite a challenge that requires very specialised facilities to which we have no access, sadly, so providing measured data just isn't something we can do. However, when it comes to practical evaluation of things like the LF peak SPL capability of a speaker our experienced reviewers know what a system should be capable of and comment accoprdingly. So if there was obvious intermodulation when driving strong bass lines, for example, I would expect that would be picked up and commented upon within the review.

H

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: damoore]
      #1047081 - 08/05/13 09:28 AM
Quote damoore:

That it is necessary is, I think, clear. (i.e. if a monitor does not work on voice, its not going to work well on anything) ... But is it sufficient?




No, obviously not.,.. and no one ever said it was! I don't quite know where this presumption came from, but it wasn't me! I think the spoken voice test is a vital and extremely informative one that few people seem to use when evaluating potential new speaker purchases. I always use it as the first step... because if a speaker can't reproduce voice well it's a non-starter as a high-quality monitor.

If it passes that test then the serious music auditioning starts, the choices often being guided by the need to examine particular strengths or weaknesses identified as the testing progresses. The music balancing tests usually come last in my case... others may work differently. A thorough speaker evaluation for me for SOS typically takes about a week, sometimes longer. It is possible to form an impression much quicker than that, obviously, but to really recognise the strengths and weaknesses of a design takes time -- two days is the quickest I've ever reviewed a speaker with confidence that I had really assessed it properly.

H

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Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: ef37a]
      #1047082 - 08/05/13 09:33 AM
Quote ef37a:

One test I DO wish would be standard for powered speakers. An SPL meter at 1mtr checking self noise*!




Self-noise is a quoted spec in the more technically adept montior manufacturers (usually those from Germany). I don't bother to measure self-noise with an SPL meter (there's rarely any real point) but I certainly do listen both for the quality and quantity. In my experience most speakers are absolutely fine in this respect, but there are a few bad 'uns.. and at the risk of more broad generalisations, most of those seem to come from the other side of the Atlantic!

Obviously, the closer the listener sits to a speaker, the more signsificant the self-noise performance becomes, so it is important to review speakers when placed in the typical and intended dimensions...

H

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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fay spook



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1047207 - 08/05/13 08:42 PM
I mentioned using speech for testing on another thread. There's nothing new in the world!!

We are all so used to the human voice. We recognise excessive sibilance, chestiness (that's you BBC) or that horrible "hear every breath" compression etc etc. We can pick up on phasiness as we move our heads around the front of a speaker. We can hear if there are problems in the crossover region as speech is right in the middle of a normal 2-ways crossover frequency. This is why I like electrostatics, single driver speakers and the new BMRs are sounding promising too.

Speech shouldn't be used exclusively but it is very handy.

--------------------
http://soundcloud.com/for-mash-get-ash


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: fay spook]
      #1047236 - 09/05/13 08:12 AM
Quote fay spook:

I mentioned using speech for testing on another thread. There's nothing new in the world!!




Absolutely! Lest anyone should think otherwise, I've never claimed speech testing as my idea. It was a technique taught to me during my initial training at the BBC at the start of the 1980s and I've seen/heard it used by many speaker designers and other reviewers ever since.

It is a very useful tool in the box of audio assessment techniques, but it must be used in concert with many other techniques...

H

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SafeandSound Masteri...



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1047246 - 09/05/13 08:40 AM
I always take a known speech recording (of a presenter I used to record) I knew the voice so well that it was a great source to monitor with. As mentioned the ear is very well attuned to human voice. I also take electronic track with known sub bass qualities and some acoustic/instrumental music to cover all bases.

Having worked in broadcast I have the burden of hearing every lipsmack, slightly wrong vox edit, sibilance and breath in sung vocals in music. Well..... it's an asset really.

It is also with great regularity that distortion is first heard in the voice compared with other synthetic sound sources, this is another reason why it's a good source for auditioning speakers/headphones IMO.

cheers

SafeandSound Mastering
mastered for iTunes


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fay spook



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1047279 - 09/05/13 11:15 AM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote fay spook:

I mentioned using speech for testing on another thread. There's nothing new in the world!!




Absolutely! Lest anyone should think otherwise, I've never claimed speech testing as my idea. It was a technique taught to me during my initial training at the BBC at the start of the 1980s and I've seen/heard it used by many speaker designers and other reviewers ever since.

It is a very useful tool in the box of audio assessment techniques, but it must be used in concert with many other techniques...

H




It wasnt a reference to you Hugh,I was mentioning it as it has already been covered here and elsewhere.

Talking to a coder the other day and they were talking about people who say things like "this is a paradigm shift in......". His reply was "you havent done enough research yet, its all been done before". I do understand there is still true innovation but.......

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sc1460
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1048885 - 18/05/13 05:24 PM
Great responses. Now I decided to put it to a test and went to a london store with a treated speaker room to listen to the Nuemann 120 and the Focal CMS6. Boy I listened to all sorts of familiar tracks. Frankly they were both very good but I still couldn't make my mind up. The differences between them were tiny and subjective to the point that I felt that simply the mood I was in or whatever was exciting me musically that day would have made me subjectively choose one over the other. For fun I compared it to some event opals and I still couldn't hand on heart go "yes objectively these will result in BETTER mixes consistently". Diminishing returns I guess. However when I listened to some £500 KRKs I DEFINITELY could hear the difference and it was poorer - not as detailed in mid-range, poorer stereo imaging, looser bass etc etc !! But I am sure at the £500 price-point that would apply to any brand.

They kindly offered to play me through a set of their most expensive monitors but I couldn't take any more aural assault ;-)

I recall Mike Seniors advice: Pay 1500+ for some nearfields, whatever brand they are, get yourself a grotbox you like and bloody well get on and get some work done :-)

I wont reveal what I finally purchased as I now realise it would be of no value to someone reading up. Just follow Mike's advice is what I would say.

Quote:

Does SOS need to move towards some standardisation of testing monitors, or should it stick with its current approach of a number of different reviewers testing monitors in a laissez faire approach?



The practicalities of magazine production deadlines and different reviewer experience mean that it is necessary to use several different reviewers for speaker reviews... but it isn't entirely a 'laissez faire' approach -- certainly PW and I review monitors in very similar ways and we frequently compare notes on different models to ensure as much consistency as possible.

Quote:

I wonder if on the kh120 's Hugh used solo voice, choral or classical music in the main rather than eg R&B, death metal or reggae)



One of my pet hates is 'monitors' that only seem to work with a particular musical genre. To me, such a beast can't call itself a proper 'monitor' at all... So, while I certainly did listen to voice, choral and classical music on the KH120s (and every other monitor I've ever reviewed), I also auditioned jazz, R&B, electro, reggae, heavy metal and many other musical genres. I have a pretty expansive and eclectic music library (well over 2000 CDs, with another 1500 vinyls and about 800 SACD/DVD-A surround albums), plus a fairly wide range of my own recordings, and access to many more.


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fay spook



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1049006 - 19/05/13 05:29 PM
Quote sc1460:

For fun I compared it to some event opals and I still couldn't hand on heart go "yes objectively these will result in BETTER mixes consistently". Diminishing returns I guess. However when I listened to some £500 KRKs I DEFINITELY could hear the difference and it was poorer - not as detailed in mid-range, poorer stereo imaging, looser bass etc etc !! But I am sure at the £500 price-point that would apply to any brand.




Glad to see that you have actually gone out there and auditioned yourself. Happy to see you have enjoyed the auditioning. I do advise taking your time as you have found out the differences that were between the Focals and KHs appeared tiny on the day. Once you have lived with your choice for a while if you went back and tried the other pair I am sure you would notice more differences. Same with the Opals.

Spend some time setting the monitors up. Use the set up controls. Adjust toe-in, listening height, stand, stand interface etc. I am sure others will talk about getting some acoustic treatment to suit. Dont be afraid to experiment.

How about posting some mixes you did before and after getting the monitors?

--------------------
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John Willett
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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1049109 - 20/05/13 12:20 PM
Quote sc1460:

I recall Mike Seniors advice: Pay 1500+ for some nearfields, whatever brand they are, get yourself a grotbox you like and bloody well get on and get some work done :-)




I agree with this - my nearfields are £2k+ (reviewed by Hugh in the November SOS).



Quote sc1460:

Does SOS need to move towards some standardisation of testing monitors, or should it stick with its current approach of a number of different reviewers testing monitors in a laissez faire approach?




I think the higher end stuff all goes to Hugh for review. He is the one reviewer I trust to really do a proper and thorough job of the review. As a reader: it's a review I trust - as a distributor: I know he will do an honest and proper job through a proper understanding of what the equipment is designed to do.



Quote sc1460:

I wonder if on the kh120 's Hugh used solo voice, choral or classical music in the main rather than eg R&B, death metal or reggae)




I think Hugh uses all of the above and tests under all musical types as well as speech.

--------------------
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President - Federation Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons


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theover



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Re: Hugh Robjohns: voice is best test for monitor new [Re: sc1460]
      #1049171 - 20/05/13 04:04 PM
I've been active with my self-made monitoring system(s) for a decade or so, and my impression is that there is a little over-exposure of the "small two way" systems. What I mean is: it's predictable there'll be uncircumventable trouble coming from the size of the woofer in such system: not enough low (not even if you'd put a 100+ Watts on it will you get even 80 dB "Loudness curve" 1000Hz equivalent of 30Hz out of normally small woofers (which isn't even tat extreme yet), unless you completely design the room to resonate those waves), and the mid high will either be directed and/or distorted (because the cone size is too big for say 6 kHz, and the tweeter, if it is a decent small size for 20kHz, is too small to produce serious power here).

Also, near-field monitoring is understandable, but shouldn't be the main monitoring IMO. And good (not modern hyped ones) headphones can do that job of "neutrality mirror" much better.


I agree it's a good idea to test a human speech signal on (any type of) monitoring for getting an impression of it's naturalness, but if you'd take a good Neumann mic (with nice neutral freq spectrum and low distortion, and not too much proximity effect), record it say at 192/24 with a very neutral ( not a very "popular sounding", mind you ) pre-amp and AD converter quality, and play that back properly on a neutral speaker (say a 4 way Quested or other serious, low distortion full range systems) or headphones system (I use AKG K271 mkIIs with my own extremely low distortion preamp myself), it's:

a) going to sound a touch dull (I mean in the sense of boring, of course depending on the voice show being put on)
b) going to sound significantly different on any 2 way monitoring system
c) if the system is able to record itself (in the control room for instance) and play the self-recording back, it is then that the real quality becomes clear (my 4 way +sub main system to a fair extend can at least pass such a test)

Of course sampling errors in a listening test, and nice or un-nice sounding mix rooms play a role, but I mean it would be interesting to indeed look at the more "hidden" problems of monitors, such as:

a) hyped frequency responses (by coloured waves in the low, c.q. spectral blurring in the mid)
b) waterfall-type of response (i.e. complexity, type and length of a sort of noise -simulated impulse response)
c) Actual distortion like an EE would (in modern days "should learn to") measure, preferably by taking a *non* FFT-based (this is what Audio Precision doesn't offer) spectrum measurement and a low distortion sine wave or band noise signal as input signal
d) inter-modulation and transient inter-modulation distortion (alluded to by someone speaking of the loud low frequency distortion

Greetings,

Theo V.


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