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Monitoring, what do you use?

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Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:29 am

An old chestnut I know, but it’s interesting.
We all record in vastly differing circumstances, some of us have nicely treated spacious rooms, some of us have broom cupboards, and everything in between.
I’ve known people who've used PA speakers as monitors, a pair of speakers from a 1980’s ghetto blaster, and high end monitors off all sorts, these people made music for commercial release, some of them very successful, with chart topping records, and a big cult following. But there was no consistency in the type of speakers they thought were necessary, they just used what they liked, and what made their music sound good to them.
It was very enlightening for me to have some of our music played on the radio, we have CD's on a website too, people have bought them, and not once have we had any complaints about the technical quality of our recordings. I know there are faults sometimes, but they are all to do with compromises in the mic techniques used at the time, and slight balance issues, but not glaring faults that make the music unpleasant to listen to.
But given all these things, our music still sounds good across a lot of mediums, and I’m using a pair of 45 year old hi-finspeakers, and a pair of cheap Behringers.
There is going to come a time when these will need replacing, it’s not that I don’t want to spend money on monitors, up until now I just haven’t thought it was necessary, they’re not going to help me make better music, or sell any more of my CD's.
I’m not a particularly good engineer, but I’m still able to hear faults and produce recordings that sound fine on most mediums using the speakers I have now.
To buy a really good set of monitors you have to spend thousands, and if I did buy them my budget would start off at around £5,000 but that’s a lot of money, and I’m reluctant to do it, especially, baring in mind, that my room isn’t treated, and can’t be, so why bother?
I can’t see it happening right now, but it’s going to have to be addressed at some point.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:49 am

There is absolutely zero point to buying expensive monitors and putting them in an untreated room.

Here's a dodgy analogy...

You can drive from A to B in a clapped out old mini from the 1970s and arrive at your destination perfectly safely. Or you can do it in a modern RangeRover in far greater comfort and remain completely oblivious of the state of the road surface. Or you can travel in a TVR and be frighteningly aware of every subtle change of surface, every movement of the tyre on the road, every micro-change in the car's centre of gravity...

Monitor speakers are similar.

You don't have to be able to hear ever subtle nuance to mix a perfectly acceptable record. The general public, as we all know, is astonishngly oblivious of technical quality once the standard is above a certain base level.

You don't even need to have a genuinely full-range speaker to mix an acceptable record if you know what you're doing.

But for some being able to hear deeply into a recording or mix, to be able to hear precisely what 0.5dB of EQ is doing, really matters and makes the production process more involving, more enjoyable, and more rewarding.

You say people mix on all manner of different speakers, and for home studios that's very true... I've seen some astonishing things being used! But if you go into professional mastering suites around the world you'll find the professional's choice of genuine monitor speakers comes from a very much smaller and more predictable pool... and there's a very good reason for that! The same is broadly true of professional recording studios.

My advice is to stick with what you have and know. If it's working for you then that's absolutely fine.

The only reason to spend money on more expensive and capable monitors is when you become consiously aware of the limitations of the equipment you're currently using -- and that includes the room's acoustics, of course.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby The Elf » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:58 am

At the start you choose what seems to work for you. In the end you choose what *has* worked for you - and much of that comes down to familiarity.

If you can hear what you *need* to hear (and that's different from hearing everything), and you know what to expect from a mix that will work as a 'commercial average', then you can mix on pretty much anything. Familiarity is that part of monitoring that goes beyond what the monitors are actually sounding like, such that we see past the monitors and into the music.

As to what *I* use: 80% AKG K712, 20% AE22. Surround I have Tannoy 66 for L/R/C, Tannoy Reveal 5 (just swapped from 66s) Lr/Rr and Tannoy TS12 sub. Oh, and a pair of NS10s that are never used, but about which people make admiring comments before ignoring them.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Mar 09, 2020 11:11 am

That’s the thing Hugh, I think I’m hearing problems with the room more than anything, but saying that, someone was here the other night, he was standing just outside of our music room, and said "blimey! I thought it was you playing the piano, not a recording, it sounds really clear and transparent" those were his exact words.
But I’m aware of room colouration sometimes, and the temptation is to just throw money at it with a new pair of monitors, but I know that wouldn’t work.
I listen at quite low volumes, close up, to minimise these things, it’s just a matter of compromising as usual.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Mar 09, 2020 11:28 am

Arpangel wrote:But I’m aware of room colouration sometimes, and the temptation is to just throw money at it with a new pair of monitors, but I know that wouldn’t work.

No, it wouldn't. But you could thrown some money at sorting out some acoustic treatment and that would make a massive difference...[/quote]
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby John Willett » Mon Mar 09, 2020 11:36 am

The important thing is, whenever you decide to upgrade your monitors, to get a loan and listen in your own space and get the ones which are best for you.

My own monitoring system is Geithain RL906 on location, Geithain RL934K back at base. I also use Sennheiser HD800 and HD25-1 headphones and a Grace m903 monitor controller (and a DragonFly Cobalt while on the move).

I also have K+H O110-D and Harbeth Monitor 30A (actives) (now for sale if anyone wants them).

As the RL934K are cardioid and I listen in my living room I don't get the normal bass end problems as the monitors do not radiate to the rear - BUT - I record classical and am only editing and not mixing as my recordings are normally only stereo 2-track or 4-track (IE: ORTF with omni outriggers).

Yes, spending good money on monitors *is* worth it - my wife immediately commented on how mush better the small monitos souned when I first got them.

But you should take your time and make the right decision for YOU - so, as I said, getting a short list and trying them out for yourself is essential.

Also essential is to do a "speech test" - just the spoken word - a good monitor really should reproduce speech naturally without any colouration. This is where the ear is most discerning and if a monotor cannot naturally reproduce speech, the music would also be coloured.

I hope this helps.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby jaminem » Mon Mar 09, 2020 11:57 am

When I moved to my new room I had some Focal CMS50 speakers. I put a lot of effort into getting the acoustic treatment right, and while I did do some good things, its was still not brilliant - there is a huge 60hz null at my listening position and windows/layout means its not symmetrical. I never felt that happy with the Focals and when I came into a little bit of money I got some Neumann KH310's. They were obviously better, but the problems were still there. The biggest change for me came after I got Sonarworks reference - it really helped and my mixes now translate better. I still use alternative monitoring though:

Neumanns - for composition and most mixes duties about 80%
Avantone single mix cube for mono, limited bandwidth checking and where I'm struggling to place things in a mix - especially vocals
Some Logitech desktop PC speakers for 'real world'
My iPhone speaker for more real world
Sennhieser HD25 II for that hyped bass cans experience
and very occasionally AKG K702

Would also say that the Dangerous D-Box monitoring controller I have is also an excellent tool for tying most of the stuff together. The DA is great, and the headphone amps are mental.

Its been a long road, but I no longer feel I need to upgrade kit. I frequently think about changing the room tho….
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Vox Gnus » Mon Mar 09, 2020 4:17 pm

To me, the answer is the same as for all meaningful questions: it depends. Given that your room is sub-optimal, and unlikely to dramatically improve, other factors come into play. What musical styles are being monitored? Is stereo placement a key issue? Thundering bass? Meeting broadcast standards?

Do you have clients in your room? What will impress them? What will scare them off? Some will see a white woofer as a sign of excellence, others as a sign of aged standards. Some will be impressed by Kii monitors, while others will just see a huge pile of money spent (from their pocket!).

Ignoring brands, I mostly work with voices and choirs, and do the majority of my work on headphones. I have some small monitors for when I need speakers, but they're set up for proper near-field listening, to minimize the impact of the room. Additional "monitoring" is done on the laptop, or with my phone blaring, or in the car: where the intended listeners might listen.

I would echo the above comments, to try speakers in your own space, and focus on voices (spoken and sung), as that's where your brain has the most experience, by far. Listen up close, turn the volume down, and try to ignore the noise in your head that's calling out for bigger speakers ;)

Free advice, and worth the price...
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Mar 11, 2020 9:52 am

Vox Gnus wrote:To me, the answer is the same as for all meaningful questions: it depends. Given that your room is sub-optimal, and unlikely to dramatically improve, other factors come into play. What musical styles are being monitored? Is stereo placement a key issue? Thundering bass? Meeting broadcast standards?

Do you have clients in your room? What will impress them? What will scare them off? Some will see a white woofer as a sign of excellence, others as a sign of aged standards. Some will be impressed by Kii monitors, while others will just see a huge pile of money spent (from their pocket!).

Ignoring brands, I mostly work with voices and choirs, and do the majority of my work on headphones. I have some small monitors for when I need speakers, but they're set up for proper near-field listening, to minimize the impact of the room. Additional "monitoring" is done on the laptop, or with my phone blaring, or in the car: where the intended listeners might listen.

I would echo the above comments, to try speakers in your own space, and focus on voices (spoken and sung), as that's where your brain has the most experience, by far. Listen up close, turn the volume down, and try to ignore the noise in your head that's calling out for bigger speakers ;)

Free advice, and worth the price...

There are no clients, this isn’t a commercial studio.
I’m recording acoustic piano and marimba.
The natural sound from the instruments is mainly good, when recording, but there is a low-mid hump in this room, and the lowerregisters of the marimba really emphasise it sometimes.
I’m probably going to move the studio to another room that I can add treatment to if necessary, but it depends on all sorts of decisions about our house.
My monitors aren’t perfect I know that, but I’m used to them, and I just have to work with them,
I have a pair of Behringer 3031's in the basement studio, and they are better in some respects to my recording room monitors, I always check things on both systems, and so far, our music seems to sound "OK"
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed Mar 11, 2020 10:09 pm

Mostly covered above. Yes, acoustic treatment would make all the difference, but if you can't do that, so be it. Also the point about using what you're used to, provided it is giving you sufficient information, is valid.

I actually found a number of monitoring solutions a little too clinical and many years ago went down the PMC route. They gave me sufficient information, I liked the family sound, especially for acoustic music and they have an ability to be run at low levels without losing bottom end.

Having said that, these days, and because I work with mainly classical and folk music, I really am not too concerned about making stuff sound OK on crap speakers - I would not want to compromise the experience for critical listeners who have reasonable systems. (Yes, I know this is a can of worms).

Currently have the PMC Result6 which I use in a near field situation.

Best to try before you buy.

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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Mar 12, 2020 9:00 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:Mostly covered above. Yes, acoustic treatment would make all the difference, but if you can't do that, so be it. Also the point about using what you're used to, provided it is giving you sufficient information, is valid.

I actually found a number of monitoring solutions a little too clinical and many years ago went down the PMC route. They gave me sufficient information, I liked the family sound, especially for acoustic music and they have an ability to be run at low levels without losing bottom end.

Having said that, these days, and because I work with mainly classical and folk music, I really am not too concerned about making stuff sound OK on crap speakers - I would not want to compromise the experience for critical listeners who have reasonable systems. (Yes, I know this is a can of worms).

Currently have the PMC Result6 which I use in a near field situation.

Best to try before you buy.

Bob

Hi Bob, I’m short-listing PMC's, I’m a big fan of ATC's, but a few people here, I think Hugh as well, have mentioned PMC's in a good light, trouble is, which ones?
I’m also interested in trying out the Geithain range, as John Willett has offered me a home demo, and unless I can do that with any monitor I buy, I’m really not interested.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Mar 12, 2020 9:26 am

Elf mentioned headphones for monitoring. I've used them a lot since I first bought Sennheiser HD 414's in the early 70's. Headphones all but remove the room from the equation. They're also a lot cheaper than comparable quality speakers.

My speaker and desk setup makes for a peak around 100Hz. For any serious listening on the low end it's turn off the speakers and put on the cans.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Mar 12, 2020 12:33 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:Elf mentioned headphones for monitoring. I've used them a lot since I first bought Sennheiser HD 414's in the early 70's. Headphones all but remove the room from the equation. They're also a lot cheaper than comparable quality speakers.

My speaker and desk setup makes for a peak around 100Hz. For any serious listening on the low end it's turn off the speakers and put on the cans.

I never use headphones, only for field recordings, which isn’t very often.
My hearing is a bit dodgy, my right ear is a few dB's down, and phones only emphasise that problem, it’s far more confusing than listening on speakers.
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby John Willett » Thu Mar 12, 2020 5:33 pm

Arpangel wrote: I’m short-listing PMC's, I’m a big fan of ATC's, but a few people here, I think Hugh as well, have mentioned PMC's in a good light, trouble is, which ones?
I’m also interested in trying out the Geithain range, as John Willett has offered me a home demo, and unless I can do that with any monitor I buy, I’m really not interested.

PMC can also arrange home demos - at least they used to. :thumbup:

Taking my Geithain hat off, I always listed ATC, ME-Geithain, Neumann/K+H, PMC and Harbeth as my list of trustworthy monitors.

Yes - you always really need to try properly for yorself so you can be sure that what you buy is best for you - but listen properly and beware the ones that sound too "impressive" and make sure the speech test works.

(PS - I am selling my old Harbeth Monitor 30A and am very happy to let you hear these as well if you wish.)
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Re: Monitoring, what do you use?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:25 am

I'm not playing in the same league as the likes of John or Hugh obviously (across any criteria!) But what i noticed when trying (abd subsequently buying) my Neumann KH80s was that the first impression was underwhelming. There were other monitors that appeared to offer more detail at first listen.
Listen a little longer however and it was clear that some of these others just weren't giving you an honest response. With the Neumanns it feels as if you can just 'lean in' to the mix and that extra level of detail is all there, but it's not thrust forward by an artificial presence boost.

So, er, yeah, basically what John said, make sure you listen properly.
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