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Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

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Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:25 pm

After they were discussed in another post I took a read in the April 2012 review by Hugh Robjohns.. It seems they are sold with an optional subwoofer, which ".. transformed the little KH120As into a monstrous full-range system ...".

My confusion is with the last bit. If the bass response is accurate for the KH120As alone, surely adding a subwoofer doesn't make them more accurate? Or does it? And vice versa - if the subwoofer makes the entire system accurate, then wouldn't the bass response from the little KH120As alone be inadequate and inaccurate?

I know the answer to the above ?s must surely be "no", but any help in helping me understand how/why it can be the most accurate both ways would be much appreciated!

Thanks -
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:43 pm

The long and the short of it is that small nearfield monitors do not easily reproduce low frequencies. In an attempt to increase the amount of low end, ports are often employed in the design. If you add a sub, you can let the nearfields concentrate on the area they can cope with more easily while the sub provides the low frequencies. This certainly extends the frequencies that the system can reproduce. So while we might describe a nearfield as 'full range' there's always the question of how low it goes, how easily it does so, how accurately, with how much distortion/resonance etc. Equally a sub isn't always simple to employ...they can end up sounding quite strange and disconnected from the monitors, with wild swings in response depending on where you are in the room. Neither solution is as good as a big speaker in a well treated and designed room.

As to the accuracy of the description in the review...Well, a Ford Focus may not be as fast as a Ferrari, or as spacious as a Mercedes Estate. They're all still cars. A model of Focus with a bigger engine might well perform rather better, but it doesn't make the base model any less a car. If that makes sense.

FWIW, the fuss that's made about bass reproduction in studio monitors is IMO bewildering. A small closed box two way has relatively little low end, but the low end rolls off slowly, which means that you can hear it, you can get used to how much there is, and you're not being thrown off by the weird resonance and 'lag' that you get from most ports. This is evidenced by the thousands of engineers who mix on NS10's to great effect. In fact I'd go further and say that accurate reproduction in the sub frequencies is a disadvantage to a mixer. It's very useful to have a sub or big speaker that you can switch to from time to time to make sure that nothing weird is happening down there, but I don't subscibe to the idea that the most accurate picture is always the best. The best picture is the one that drives you to create the best mix, and lots of clear and powerful bass is often not an advantage. I realise that this is counter intuitive and that many fine minds will have a different opinion on this issue. But it's bourne out of years of experience, both mine and many other professional engineers and mixers.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:21 pm

alexis wrote:If the bass response is accurate for the KH120As alone, surely adding a subwoofer doesn't make them more accurate?

Not more accurate, but more extended. The bass extension of a small speaker is inherently restricted. In the case of the KH120, what it does at the bottom end is very good, clean and accurate as far as it goes for the size and cost... But adding a subwoofer enables significantly greater extension, filling in the bottom octave and a bit, and allows the whole system to deliver more SPL, too. But it is a very big and expensive subwoofer -- as all the good subwoofers are!

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:28 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:I don't subscibe to the idea that the most accurate picture is always the best.

I think that depends what you're trying to do. If you're mastering, then a full range system is essential because you absolutely must know what's going on in the bottom octave. But for mixing, that's not particularly critical -- the midrange is -- and a lot of wallowy bass can be very counterproductive indeed.

The best picture is the one that drives you to create the best mix, and lots of clear and powerful bass is often not an advantage. I realise that this is counter intuitive and that many fine minds will have a different opinion on this issue. But it's bourne out of years of experience, both mine and many other professional engineers and mixers.

I agree 100%.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:43 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Jack Ruston wrote:I don't subscibe to the idea that the most accurate picture is always the best.
I think that depends what you're trying to do ... But for mixing, that's not particularly critical ...
H
Thanks for your answers! Realizing I hadn't really spent much time thinking about subwoofers, I went and read this fine article http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr07/a ... oofers.htm by, hmm, Hugh Robjohns!

But it's the quotes I extracted (hopefully while preserving the original intended meaning) from the above posts that have rocked my almost newbie world. I had filed away in the "Sky is Blue, Grass is Green, and Things Fall Down/Not Up" drawer the fact that for best mixes, the most accurate monitoring system was necessary (in addition to the room being treated, etc.). Monitors that were "flattering", or "musical" were to be avoided if at all possible, simply for the fact that those terms implied a lack of accuracy in acoustic reproduction.

But here are two extremely well-respected and experienced engineers saying, I think, that accuracy in monitoring isn't all that necessary to best mixing practices and results. Where did I go wrong?
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Urthlupe » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:06 am

alexis wrote: ...here are two extremely well-respected and experienced engineers saying, I think, that accuracy in monitoring isn't all that necessary to best mixing practices and results. Where did I go wrong?

I don't think that's quite right Alexis. Accuracy is important, and particularly in the midrange. The suggestion is that even though very low frequency content may not be reproduced by your system (for instance below 50Hz), it is still possible to produce good mixes, and in some circumstances some engineers find that situation beneficial.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:12 am

Exactly. The question is, accurate in what way?
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:34 am

alexis wrote:But here are two extremely well-respected and experienced engineers saying, I think, that accuracy in monitoring isn't all that necessary to best mixing practices and results. Where did I go wrong?

It depends on your definition of accuracy! You're thinking that 'accuracy' means being able to hear everything from DC to daylight -- the 'full range' system -- and that is certainly one definition.

However, it's not what Jack or I mean. When mixing the critical aspect is the midrange, by far, and all speakers can deliver that, while only the largest can do the low bass thing properly.

Few rooms can accommodate properly large speakers, and even fewer are sufficiently treated to let them work well. But in mixing hearing that bottom octave doesn't usually matter that much. What is critically important is hearing the midrange accurately, and that's what a quality loudspeaker can give you. A poor loudspeaker will suffer so much bass distortion that the harmonics will cloud or veil the midrange and make it much harder to hear what's really going on.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:44 am

Thank you gentleman, that was very helpful!

I've read that one of the challenges of mixing with headphones, even quality ones where the midrange and upper ranges are accurately reproduced, is that the lack of significant lows in the phones can result in the mixes sounding "bass-heavy" when transported to other systems (a problem addressed by experience and good use of reference material).

Is the opposite situation true when using a sub-woofer - that effort must be made to be sure they don't turn out "bass-light" when played on other systems?

Thanks!
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:22 pm

alexis wrote:I've read that one of the challenges of mixing with headphones, even quality ones where the midrange and upper ranges are accurately reproduced, is that the lack of significant lows in the phones can result in the mixes sounding "bass-heavy" when transported to other systems (a problem addressed by experience and good use of reference material).

Decent headphones don't lack the low end at all -- most can deliver lower frequencies than modest speakers can. The issue is that you don't 'feel' that bass in the chest like you do with speakers, and the inexperienced over-compensate for that.

Is the opposite situation true when using a sub-woofer - that effort must be made to be sure they don't turn out "bass-light" when played on other systems?

If the sub is set up correctly is isn't an issue -- you just have a well balanced 'full-range' monitoring systems. However, probably 80% of every home studio (and some pro studios) I've visited have had the subwoofer turned up way too loud, with the inevitable result that mixes often end up sounding bass light elsewhere.

As always, constant referencing to known 'good' commercial music helps to assess whether the speakers in front of you (or headphones) are being misleading in any significant way.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:32 pm

Thank you, Hugh!
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:40 pm

Yep, if you're setting up a sub, when you switch it in the bass should extend 'down' towards your feet, but not get 'bigger' or louder. It's subtle.
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Wiseau » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:08 pm

That is the dumbest question I've ever read.
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:55 pm

Not been to gearslutz lately then?

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:32 am

Wiseau wrote:That is the dumbest question I've ever read.

Deadly combination - newbie bedroom recordist, and not so smart to begin with. Sorry about that, Wiseau!
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby James Perrett » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:36 am

alexis wrote:
Deadly combination - newbie bedroom recordist, and not so smart to begin with. Sorry about that, Wiseau!

No need to apologise - as Hugh says, very few people seem to know how to set up subs properly and the more people that get the message that subs aren't just there to add lots of wooly oomph the better. At least you are smart enough to think about the issue.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:39 am

Absolutely. There are really only two dumb things in this context.

The first is not to ask the question at all, and the second is not to listen to the answer!

There's an awful lot of people on GS who don't or wont do the second.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby alexis » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:58 pm

Thank you, gentlemen! Though I'm trying to learn all this as much as I can (I'm addicted to the idea of getting my songs out on "tape" with at least a little more quality than using a Mr. Microphone and a cell phone), the hours in front of the DAW aren't nearly enough for me. As a result, though the articles and help are invaluable (especially on this forum ), I sometimes feel like that blind man trying to learn what an elephant looks like by feeling his way around it.

Thanks much!
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Wiseau » Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:06 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Not been to gearslutz lately then?

H

Ah Gearslutz, I could paste anwsers to their questions on here all day. Don't forget, track to 'tape' - which is adding compression and distortion apparently. Sorry to hijack your thread Alexis but this guy needs anwsers -

What would your reach for to place something higher in the mix? What I mean is to have the element seem to come from a higher vertical point in the speaker. I know that frequency places things higher, panning gives you l/r and verbs/delays give you front/back when you manipulate early reflections, but if you wanted to make something have the perception of coming from a higher point and you didn't want use a low cut/high pass filter to the point of making the part sound unnatural, what would you do?

Oh, never mind, someone has got there first -

Most likely eq
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:13 pm

You're completely right...It's hard...I started out as a guitar player in a band. I was lucky enough to record in some amazing studios, and I decided to start recording myself at home. After those great experiences in studios, where I was more concerned with performing that having any urge to learn about the engineering process, I was completely on my own. I wasn't assisting some amazing engineer every day, and I found myself working in a vacuum. I certainly benefitted a lot from this forum amoungst others. Ultimately the real breakthroughs came from working with other producers and engineers, and I totally understand what you're saying...however good the advice you get online is, it's not the same as someone better than you saying 'hear that? that's what you're looking for'.

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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Wiseau » Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:20 pm

alexis wrote:I sometimes feel like that blind man trying to learn what an elephant looks like by feeling his way around it.


I wouldn't choose an elephant, that might not be the trunk.
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Re: Dumb Question About the Neuman KH120s and subwoofers

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:59 pm

Haha
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