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Q. Should I replace my broken speakers or get better headphones?

If your monitoring budget is limited, and your acoustic treatment less than ideal, you might find that you get more mileage from a  decent set of headphones and one small single–point source speaker such as the Avantone MixCube (pictured) than from a  pair of monitors for the same budget.If your monitoring budget is limited, and your acoustic treatment less than ideal, you might find that you get more mileage from a decent set of headphones and one small single–point source speaker such as the Avantone MixCube (pictured) than from a pair of monitors for the same budget.

I managed to knock over a monitor stand while doing a spot of hoovering and killed one of my old KRK nearfield monitors. Bearing in mind my room is untreated and I do the bulk of my mixing on headphones, is there any point in replacing them with anything particularly expensive? I was thinking of maybe £300$500 — can you offer any recommendations for that price range?

SOS Forum post

Mike Senior replies: In an untreated room, I don’t think you’ll get enough extra mixing power out of a pair of £300$500 nearfield monitors (whether active or passive) to really justify the outlay. Personally, I’d first drop a chunk of that budget on a class–leading pair of studio monitor headphones if you’re still only using mid–market models at the moment — something like the Sennheiser HD650, Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro, AKG K712, or even (if you can stretch the budget a little) Shure’s SRH1840.

If you’re already sorted on the headphone front, I think you’ll get best bang for your buck by investing in some supplementary monitoring hardware instead. Top of the list, in my view, should be a single–driver mid–range monitor — just the one, in other words operating in mono. This will tell you masses of extra information about your mix, especially where critical central, mid-range sounds are concerned, and as a bandwidth–restricted single–point sound source it will be much less disadvantaged by your room problems than a pair of comparatively full–range dual–driver nearfields.

There are now quite a few options available for single–driver mid–range monitoring, from the Behringer C50A and various DIY projects at the low–budget end, to Avantone’s Mixcube and the newly reissued Auratone 5C further up the scale. In addition, I’d get yourself a pair of little multimedia speakers. Not only will these give you an idea of how your mix will translate onto cheap mass–market systems, but it’ll also give you some idea of the stereo imaging and the balance of background effects, both of which are often misjudged in headphones–only mixes.

Published April 2016