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Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

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Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Heavy Metal » Sat Mar 06, 2021 3:44 pm

Hi

I am set up in my living room which has 6 large and 2 smaller windows. There are no curtains. The room is rectangularish with a wee alcove with stairs heading up a floor. Its the only practical room to use at the moment.

I have KRK KNS 8400 headphones. From a bit of reading it seems like headphones have their limitations and that monitors might be needed. But after reading a reply by Mike Senior to someone about monitoring in an untreated room I'm wondering if its worth getting monitors? I have about £1000 to spend. Better to spend on better headphones?

Re the whole monitoring situation - why can we not just mix on a pair of mass market hi-fi speakers in an untreated room as that is what 99.9% of folk will be listening on?

Any advice gratefully received :headbang:
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Mar 06, 2021 3:59 pm

Every room, treated or otherwise, is different but a well treated room will affect the sound you hear from your speakers less than a poorly treated or un-treated room*. The generally accepted knowledge is that there is little point in spending significant money on monitors if you are not going to spend something on acoustic treatment. Spending half your budget on treatment and half on speakers will almost certainly give better results than spending the whole on speakers and doing no treatment. It's perfectly possible to mix on headphones and a decent pair of open back cans are all you need (I have AKG K702) but I prefer to use speakers and am fortunate enough to have a moderately well treated room.

So, if you want to mix on speakers is acoustic treatment possible in you living room (top tip, call it a home cinema to explain the nice looking but quite large panels on the walls an ceiling). If so three or four panels ar the mirror points could get you 70% of the way there and make mixing on monitors viable.

* In a perfectly designed and treated mixing or mastering studio you would only hear the sound from the monitors with no colouration from the room, obviously such a room doesn't exist but good studio control rooms are pretty close. Also good monitors in a good room let you hear further 'into' the mix (i.e. hear detail that HiFi speakers or cheap monitors can't reproduce).
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:04 pm

Heavy Metal wrote:I have about £1000 to spend. Better to spend on better headphones?

If the room is untreated, and you're unable or unwilling to invest in reasonable acoustic treatment in the near future, then I'd invest in better headphones as the priority.

...why can we not just mix on a pair of mass market hi-fi speakers in an untreated room as that is what 99.9% of folk will be listening on?

You can... but you'll find it much more difficult to hear what you're doing, and the results will be inconsistent -- as in your mixes will tend to sound different (unpredictably unbalanced) on different systems.

Some people when they're cooking just guess at the quantities of ingredients. And usually, the results are edible... But a professional chef uses scales to measure the ingredients so that every dish turns out just right with no surprises. It's kind of the same with monitor speakers... ;)
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:11 pm

I use the analogy of an artist trying to paint in a studio with strongly coloured artificial lighting (such as a street light). They may try to get the colours to look ok in the room but, when viewed elsewhere, it will look very strange. What they aim for is a room with strong natural light (our equivalent would be a well treated room). They still have no control as to the lighting in the room where the picture will be viewed but creating it this way will give it its best chance under all conditions.

Just imagine, if you have a significant dip in your room at 125 Hz you may over compensate in the mix. If the listener then has a hump at the same frequency in their room there will be a huge ‘boom’.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Murray B » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:11 pm

I'm in a similar position as and have an unsuitable room to work in. I use IK Iloud micro monitors at a fairly low volume about 60 cm from my head in combination with flipping to a decent set of headphones (AKG 702's.)

I didn't see any point in investing in more expensive monitors as they would always be compromised by the room and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the iLoud's turned out.

You could of course mix in on Hi Fi speakers in your unique sounding space but the trouble is that the only place where your mix might sound good is through your hi fi speakers in that room. Hence all the effort to try to create a balanced listening environment so that you can make music that will hopefully sound good on all systems.

Headphones are the best solution to a bad room. Lots of people can mix very effectively on them so it must be possible to learn to do this - I'm still learning myself and find that using lots of reference material so that I can compare what I'm doing with what I'm trying to achieve helps - although it doesn't mean that I always know how to get there :headbang:

Lots of other folks beat me to it. :-)
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Arpangel » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:12 pm

Heavy Metal wrote:
Re the whole monitoring situation - why can we not just mix on a pair of mass market hi-fi speakers in an untreated room as that is what 99.9% of folk will be listening on?

Any advice gratefully received :headbang:

There’s nothing stopping you from doing that, good high end hi-fi speakers are on a par with the best studio monitors these days, that is, lots of detail, very transparent sound, although, I suppose, you’ll get more for your money if you go for a studio monitor, with your type of budget.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:16 pm

Music Wolf wrote:I use the analogy of an artist trying to paint in a studio with strongly coloured artificial lighting...

I like that analogy. :clap: :thumbup:
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:46 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Music Wolf wrote:I use the analogy of an artist trying to paint in a studio with strongly coloured artificial lighting...

I like that analogy. :clap: :thumbup:

Me too, I've opened the curtains, everything sounds much better.

There was a recent thread about monitor placement which prompted me to move my monitors about 20cm each to improve my listening position. The result was remarkable but made some of the room issues much more apparent.

D'you know, I reckon there's some kind of science behind this.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby James Perrett » Sat Mar 06, 2021 5:22 pm

Heavy Metal wrote:Re the whole monitoring situation - why can we not just mix on a pair of mass market hi-fi speakers in an untreated room as that is what 99.9% of folk will be listening on?

I tried that a few months ago in my living room setup (though I have some treatment in the room). I went from NS10's, to some KEF hifi speakers but neither of them gave me the detail and insight into a mix that you get from decent monitors. I'm now using LS3/5a's which give far more depth and detail which makes mixing far easier. These days you can do better than the LS3/5a's for not that much money but a decent sounding room makes life so much easier.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby george_vel » Sat Mar 06, 2021 5:33 pm

What exactly means “at mirror points”?

From what I’ve seen so far, the minimum goes like this: panel(s) behind the monitors; panels left and right side somewhere between monitors and listener’s position; panel(s) on the opposite side of monitors (back side of the listener); and some care on the desk surface as well. Is this at mirror points?

Ceiling panels and bass traps could drive the budget up pretty fast.

And what to do when there are lots of windows, as it is the case of OP?
Can Sonarworks measurement and building a profile help in such situation?
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Mar 06, 2021 5:38 pm

Mirror points https://www.soundonsound.com/glossary/mirror-points so yes, much as you say but the ceiling is at least as important as the walls, I'd add a ceiling panel before the one behind the speakers.

Personally I think that measuring a typical home studio is unlikely to help and just listening and doing the logical stuff will probably get you as far as you are likely to have the budget to go but others will probably disagree.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Mar 06, 2021 5:44 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Music Wolf wrote:I use the analogy of an artist trying to paint in a studio with strongly coloured artificial lighting...

I like that analogy. :clap: :thumbup:

Thank you. Feel free to use it in order to spread the word.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby CS70 » Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:42 pm

Heavy Metal wrote:Hi

I have KRK KNS 8400 headphones. From a bit of reading it seems like headphones have their limitations and that monitors might be needed. But after reading a reply by Mike Senior to someone about monitoring in an untreated room I'm wondering if its worth getting monitors? I have about £1000 to spend. Better to spend on better headphones?


As other have said, spend £500 in room treatment. Doesn't need to be conspicuous or ugly - I have white panels in my living room and actually people think it's a design thing.

If don't want to, Murray said it: spend the £950 in good headphones and get yourself any monitors to check stereo image, general reverb levels and vox balance (not timbre). That is where it's harder to get stuff right on headphones but you don't need accurate monitors to check them - it's not uncommon to use a car music system for these.

It just takes more time.

For the rest, good headphones are fine. Emphasis on good. £1000 gets you in the ballpark easily enough.

Re the whole monitoring situation - why can we not just mix on a pair of mass market hi-fi speakers in an untreated room as that is what 99.9% of folk will be listening on?

Re the analogy with colors, is the fact that people can have lightbulbs of any color in their room matters, if what you have to decide is whether the color you are looking at is pink or not?

Of course it doesn't.

You want your image to be as you think it should be. How it will be seen in different lighting, it's a different matter and you can't do much about it.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby Luke W » Sat Mar 06, 2021 8:13 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Personally I think that measuring a typical home studio is unlikely to help and just listening and doing the logical stuff will probably get you as far as you are likely to have the budget to go but others will probably disagree.

I think that's fair to say for a lot of cases. It's more involved than a lot of people realise as well. Measurements need to be done properly to get accurate results, and then interpreting and using them to build something that's genuinely more useful than some broadband panels and bass traps fitted in sensible places is no simple task.

If there's any reason to not treat the room, my vote would be for some decent headphones as well. Also, if and when situations change and you do end up with monitors/treatment, then you've still got a nice pair of headphones as another reference tool.
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Re: Monitoring in a Probably Very Unsuitable Room

Postby The Elf » Sat Mar 06, 2021 8:18 pm

It's a frequently voiced misunderstanding that it might be a good idea to mix on a speaker system such as an end-user might have.

You have no control over what your audience will be listening on - ear buds, laptop speakers, multi-thousand pound living room hi-fi system, sports stadium PA, smart speakers...

Your job is to produce a 'commercially average' audio product that will give of its best on *all* these systems, and any other. To do that you need to know *exactly* what is in your mix - and monitoring through something that is not telling you the raw truth is a recipe for disaster.

Let's imagine, for instance, that the 'hi-fi' system you are using for monitoring is bass-shy. You will likely crank up the bass to compensate. The result? A bass-heavy mix that will sound dire on other playback systems. If the monitoring system you use is bass-heavy - the opposite scenario will result, with a bass-light end-product. Most 'hi-fi' systems are designed to impress, not tell the truth.

And don't forget that you will need to check your mix for mono playback systems. This is often overlooked by beginners who forget that there are many mono systems out there, and with smart speakers continuing to sell, are increasing in number every day.
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