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EQ and monitoring

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EQ and monitoring

Postby Chimera » Sat May 23, 2020 4:21 pm

Okay, I came late to recording and have spent many previous hours listening to pop music with the 80's obligatory smile EQ curve. Now I have a conundrum. I bought my monitors online without listening to them. I don't particularly like how they sound with flat EQ. They do have a good SOS review however. I try to listen to reference CDs with a flat EQ curve - but I don't really enjoy them until I dive into Totalmix and tweak the EQ on the main monitors. Apply a subtle smile EQ curve and I'm in audio heaven. Nothing too drastic, a 3 dB boost at 80 Hz and a 3 dB boost at 5 KHz. Now rightly or wrongly I feel terribly guilty about this and switch the EQ back to flat when I am recording and mixing. However I am generally unsatisfied with the music I produce when I listen to it on Soundcloud via my iPad. I wondered if I might produce music that sounds better if I left the EQ curve on? I feel there is the correct response - having Totalmix set with flat EQ but I struggle with the fact I prefer my reference tracks with EQ applied.

Any thoughts?
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby The Elf » Sat May 23, 2020 4:26 pm

I'd say get used to listening flat. From my early teens, listening to everything with bass and treble cranked up full, when I realised I needed to re-set my ears it took me a year or two to adapt to 'flat', but the effort has seen me in good stead for the rest of my life.

In fact, once I had acclimatised I realised that I'd been ruining my listening experience!

I have *everything* flat, from hi-fi and car stereo, to phone and TV. My 5.1 living room is equipped with 'monitors', rather then hi-fi speakers and my amp is flat, flat, flat. You get used to it - honestly! :D

Of course, if you can make decent mixes that translate to other systems with your EQ in place, then good luck to you, but I suspect you'll have a harder time of it.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby zenguitar » Sat May 23, 2020 5:06 pm

When I was first in London back in the early 80's I visited the family and my brother and I went out in his car. He was a bass player. And as soon as he pulled away he popped in a cassette and it started playing loud, seriously loud. And there was so much treble it was painful.

Because he was so used to listening to bass lines, he turned up the treble to make it sound right. Too his credit, as soon as I pointed out what he was doing and why, he set the EQ flat and learned to make the distinction between critical listening and just enjoying the music.

I always keep my hi-fi EQ flat. My reasoning is simple; the artist worked in a professional studio with a producer and engineer to get the sound they wanted. They then went to a professional mix engineer with high end desk and monitors in a properly treated room to mould those recordings into completed songs. Then they go to a mastering engineer with really high end tools in a properly treated room.

There's no way on earth that the basic EQ in cheap hi-fi is going to improve on that. And there are lots of ways that cheap EQ can make it worse.

Lose the smile EQ and listen to a lot of familiar material until you've recalibrated your listening.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Chimera » Sat May 23, 2020 5:36 pm

Ironically, with my original RME interface I did listen flat because FX and EQ weren't available for the Fireface UC. It was only on upgrading to the 802 that it became an option. I shall go back to listening flat again. Thanks for the advice.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby MOF » Sat May 23, 2020 5:38 pm

That ‘smile’ or ‘loudness button’ setting was really for low level listening to compensate for the way our ears work, but at loud levels it should be switched off.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat May 23, 2020 9:25 pm

Chimera wrote:Okay, I came late to recording and have spent many previous hours listening to pop music with the 80's obligatory smile EQ curve.

Back then I used EQ too and still do, to try and flatten the unflat speaker's response.

I used to work in hearing aids. Usually we weren't just making everything louder for the client but used EQ to only restore the frequencies the client could no longer hear as well as the other frequencies. Now hopefully they could actually understand speech again because it was closer to what they used to hear before their hearing became damaged. We were trying to restore, or partially restore the "flatness" in their hearing.

Having a flat speaker system (flat at our listening position) just allows us to hear the recording truly, as it was sent to the speakers. It doesn't mean our balances will be excellent. It doesn't mean our balances will sound great on any playback device.

We listen to reference music and voices so that our own work will sound balanced in relation to those references, and listeners wont have to constantly adjust their own system's EQ after each track.

Human speech is not a bad test of how balanced a recording is.
Here's a short example from a classic film soundtrack. FWIW my basic "EQ test" is: Does it sound like natural speech? Easy to listen to over a long period? Easy to understand?

Cheers,
Tim.

https://youtu.be/9GsrDe96HUE
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Chimera » Sun May 24, 2020 6:52 am

Interesting thoughts about speech Tim, thank you.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Chimera » Sun May 24, 2020 7:04 am

Had a think about this overnight and I wonder if I need to be more selective about reference tracks. I am perhaps referencing music that I like rather than music that sounds balanced. Just listened to Depeche Mode - World in My Eyes and it sounds perfect with a flat EQ. I think I need to do some reading on reference track selection.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Arpangel » Sun May 24, 2020 7:39 am

IMO theres nothing wrong in what you’re doing, if you like the sound of a smiley curve and you like referencing tracks that you like, then continue to do so, it’s obviously the sound of a particular type of music and era that you are attracted to, and if you’re music is in that genre then fine. Up until now you’ve been happy, don’t make yourself unhappy by changing anything.
There used to be different camps, regarding monitoring that were quite strong in the 70’s and 80's, the JBL versus Tannoy camp for example, and it was normally JBL for rock, and Tannoy for classical, simply because those leakers were considered by some to be suited to those genres. Maybe you’d be better off waiting and .having a listen to some speakers that suite your music, instead of just accepting anything and listing to them flat and not enjoying what you’re hearing.
Back in the day EQ was often used in the monitoring chain with racks of graphic EQ's, and nothing was considered wrong with that, albeit sometimes mostly it was for room correction, but often it was just for personal taste, this trend for listening completely flat and having everything neutral hasn’t always been the norm.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun May 24, 2020 11:19 am

Arpangel wrote:There used to be different camps, regarding monitoring that were quite strong in the 70’s and 80's, the JBL versus Tannoy camp for example, and it was normally JBL for rock, and Tannoy for classical, simply because those leakers were considered by some to be suited to those genres.

But that was ignorant, woolly-headed thinking! A speaker -- and especially a professional monitor speaker -- is supposed to reproduce exactly what you feed into it with accuracy and precision. Musical genre should make no difference! If it does, you're not listening to a proper monitor speaker!

Sure, a speaker with over-emphasised, under-controlled bass and a fizzy top might sound really exciting on rock music. And a warm but dull speaker might make orchestral music sound extra smooth and inviting... But while that might be enjoyable, it's not very helpful when it comes to serving a role as a reliable analytical production tool.

Back in the day EQ was often used in the monitoring chain with racks of graphic EQ's, and nothing was considered wrong with that...

But thankfully some people are more educated about such matters today... :lol:

I'm not saying monitor EQ is wrong per-se. There are perfectly valid reasons for using forms of equalisation such as for correcting boundary effects, speaker and driver deficiencies, room mode issues and so on. But a graphic EQ is most definitely not the right way to do it... and applying a smiley-curve EQ to everything risks causing mix translation problems.

But the OP is quite right in that a lot depends on the choice of reference tracks. It is depressing how much commercial music out there just sounds poor or even terrible, and particularly in terms of the low-end balance.

Whether that's because it was mixed on bass-heavy speakers (but they're great for rock music!), or mastered that way to allow a louder cut onto vinyl, I couldn't say.... but choose carefully and wisely!

If you play a track and find it sounds weedy and unexciting it might not be the speaker that is at fault! Maybe it's telling you what the mix is really like... Don't repeat and propogate the same old errors in your own mixes!
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby desmond » Sun May 24, 2020 12:14 pm

The Elf wrote:I'd say get used to listening flat.

This.

Like many, when I was young, we had crappy gear, recorded on tape and so on - you'd tend to abuse your (limited) EQ's just to try and rescue the high end, and when I listen to those early recordings, or course they are pretty harsh and nasty.

It's not that you *can't* do it the way you are doing - after all, if you're used to listening to music with hyped lows and highs, and you mix your stuff to match accordingly, you're still going to be in the ballpark of where you want to be.

But it's really better to readjust so you can really hear what is there, rather than the results of changing it to something else. It's like dropping sugar from tea - at first it tastes dreadful as you're so used to sugar, but eventually you get used to it and normalise for it. Then, when someone mistakenly puts a tea spoon of sugar in your tea, you can't believe you used to drink it like this (it's like eating a bag of sugar!)... ugh
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Chimera » Sun May 24, 2020 12:23 pm

Interesting stuff guys. I held off asking this question for a number of months because I felt I already knew what the answer was (keep it flat) but the issue kept bugging me. I think the tell tale sign something is not right is that I don't like my mixes when I play them back via Soundcloud on my iPad. The sound lacks low end in particular.
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby The Elf » Sun May 24, 2020 12:36 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:There used to be different camps, regarding monitoring that were quite strong in the 70’s and 80's, the JBL versus Tannoy camp for example, and it was normally JBL for rock, and Tannoy for classical, simply because those leakers were considered by some to be suited to those genres.
But that was ignorant, woolly-headed thinking! A speaker -- and especially a professional monitor speaker -- is supposed to reproduce exactly what you feed into it with accuracy and precision. Musical genre should make no difference! If it does, you're not listening to a proper monitor speaker!
To be fair there were a few people who pointed out the foolishness of these things back then. It took a while for the penny to drop, but drop it did and we all eventually saw sense.

And it is for all of this reason that I balk at anything that sits between my audio and my monitoring.

There's nothing more guaranteed to raise my ire than 'helpful' musical genre hi-fi EQ presets!! :madas: :headbang:

There remains one studio where I always have to bypass the owner's smiling graphic EQ...
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun May 24, 2020 12:40 pm

iPad speakers or via ear buds? iPad speakers don't reproduce bass at all.....
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Re: EQ and monitoring

Postby The Elf » Sun May 24, 2020 12:43 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:iPad speakers or via ear buds? iPad speakers don't reproduce bass at all.....
Then accept it like that. No point boosting bass on a system that can't reproduce bass! :headbang:
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