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Thread: What exactly are monitors?

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    I was wondering what exactly monitors are? how do they differ from other speakers and why does placing them in different parts of the room change the sound so much. i was thinking about getting those yamaha studio speakers, the "industry standard" ones. I was reading a review on sonic studio and the guy said they are not for everyday listening use. what does that mean. thanks for any help.

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    The simple explanation ...

    Okay ... time for another dissertation ...

    Part 1 ...

    Monitors (studio speakers) are designed to have a very flat frequency response. What this means is that if you playback a sine-wave sweep through the speakers and record the result (under ideal circumstances of course in an acoustically treated anechoic booth), the amplitude of the resultant recording should be VERY flat (literally a flat line on a graph) all the way from 20-20,000Hz. Of course, NO speaker in the world is COMPLETELY flat from 20-20Khz, but in general, studio reference monitors --especially near-field monitors, which are most common -- are designed to have a flat response (within +/-3.0dB) from around 80Hz (even lower with bigger monitors) right up to 20,000Hz (the highest audible frequency).

    What this means to you is that the speaker won't colour the sound in either a good or a bad way. Most home systems hype the bass or the treble to excess, and as a result, any mixes you do on this type of set-up will most likely sound like garbage on any other playback medium. Also, the shape and size of your mixing environment, as well as the proximity of the speakers to walls/doors/windows has a profound impact on frequency response.

    Bass frequencies mostly are affected by reflective surfaces, and you'll find that many studios are acoustically treated with "bass-traps" to compensate. This is why you'll find a lot of PA (club) sub-woofers in large sub-boxes, as this enhances the volume of the bass frequencies these speakers reproduce. In simple terms:

    Bass frequencies, having a longer wavelength than treble frequencies, are almost entirely imperceptible in any directional context to the human ear. (This is why you'll often find sub-woofers in the trunks of cars). As these frequencies bounce, they produce early-reflections and slap-back, as you're actually hearing both the bass from the cone, and the bass that bounced off of the enclosure. As a result, you're hearing the bass MUCH louder than you would if it was only coming from the cone. Understand? It's like an echo for low frequencies, but since we can't tell what direction things are coming from, it ends up sounding just ... well ... LOUDER.


    A general rule is that the further from a wall you place your speakers, the more accurate your bass response will be. If you place your speakers in a corner, the bass will be sound far louder than it actually is. Some monitors (like Genelecs and Mackies even) have a variable low-cut filter built in to the speaker to compensate, with different settings for "Against the Wall", "In A Corner", and "Normal", the last of which has no filtering at all, for when you have your speakers 6-8 feet from any adjacent walls.

    Part 2 ...

    Monitors are pricey because of the strict design and manufacturing requirements necessary to ensure an even response for EVERY single speaker that comes off of the production line. Often companies will ship speakers as "matched pairs", those being speakers that have been tested to have only minute variances in amplitude, so stereo image is exceptionally crisp and clear.

    NS-10's (the Yamaha monitors) are the industry standard because they DO have such a flat response, and engineers can go from studio to studio and listen to the same speakers, trusting that the resulting mix will sound decent on a large variety of speakers. Unfortunately, the NS-10's don't SOUND all that great to my ears. Sure, they're flat, but I find I get ear fatigue from mixing too long with them. Incidentally, you'll find that every engineer will have a favourite monitor set-up, just like everyone has a favourite colour.

    All well and good, you say, but what the hell has any of this got to do with me?

    Well, not that much, actually. You can mix on any system, and your mixes can sound good on any system, provided you know the inherent tone your speakers impart on your mix. I used to mix on a couple of computer speakers way back in the day, and my first mixes sounded awful. Over time, though, I learned what a GOOD mix sounded like on my system, and I was able to tailor my mixes to make up for the inadequacies of my monitors.

    This is why you will almost NEVER change your monitoring set-up once you find something you like. Otherwise, your mixes will sound different month to month, even if you use the exact same techniques. If you don't KNOW the sound of your speakers, your mixes won't be all that spectacular, regardless of how much experience in mixing you have.

    So what's the difference between the cheap monitors and the ridiculously expensive monitors? Well, manufacturing, components and frequency response are all factors. But the most important factor is: Do they sound good to YOU?

    Get speakers that sound good to you and fit your budget, then LEARN to mix on them. You'll have to learn to mix on the more expensive speakers anyway, so why not save some money when you first start out? Get a couple of CDs that you're familiar with (and like the sound of) and take them down to your local music shop and play them through a couple of sets of monitors (if possible).

    Good luck, and happy mixing!

    -=(stu.macQ)=-

    P.S. The Yamaha NS-10's are no longer available, as they can't get the supply of wood pulp they made the drivers out of anymore. You'll have to find them second-hand, first-hand only if you're lucky.

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    WOAH stu.macQ this is a sweet post!

    welsome to FutureProducers man. If you feel like writing articles (and getting full credits + a hugelot of exposure) let me know directly.

    take care
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    Talking

    Yea thanks alot. That has really helped me out.

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    just another question. when you say that you discovered what a good mix sounded like on you system, would this mix also sound good on other monitors? are you saying the better the monitors you have, the easier it is to make your mix sound good?

    I got some sony studio monitor headphones, the ones that i see everyone wear in teh studios. Do these provide the same quality as monitor speakers.
    Last edited by stogie21; 07-19-2001 at 11:38 AM.

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    Talking monitirs

    a monitor is A = a big type of lizard
    b:a person who watches the class or hall way while teacher is gone ...

  7. #7
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    First of all, I take my hat off 2 Mano.one!!! Mano,THIS A SUPER SITE and Obviously was a much needed site for people like myself and abroad(who loves music,love making music and have question!! Secondly, Thanks Stu-macQ for the break down about monitors speakers!! The way you have explain it makes more sense 2 me then any of the so call musician/engineers that I have encounter at my local music store and in local recording studio!! Mano , I have gain more knowledge from your site with the help of Robin H,KasioRok, and new tutor Stu-macQ about recording,equipment & music theory then what i got out off 4 week (very pricey) music class from local music teacher, and recording engineers hosted at my area well known recording studio!! Last but not least thanks 2 stogie for asking a very good question that alot of newbies has ponder!! A+++ post session. PEACE...Diversifeidbeats

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    Talking

    I have gain more knowledge from your site with the help of Robin H,KasioRok, and new tutor Stu-macQ


    Diversifiedbeat, thankyou, I'm genuinely flattered. I know me & RobinH tend to go off on one at times (Bhuddism!!) so I'm glad I've helped someone out in a useful way.

    Stogie21, the simple answer is ..... ummmmm, maybe. For instance, the NS10ís that Stu-MacQ mentions are renowned for sounding harsh, but everyone (alright loads of people) use them, because they donít flatter your mix, which your home hi-fi speakers do (by boosting the bass and probably the top as well because human ears are tuned to be more sensitive to mid-range stuff, especially at low to middle volumes). If you ever come to mix using NS10ís, your first mix will probably sound like you went mental at mixdown and just banged up the low end. NS10ís donít give a great bass response so the tendency is to put more bass on, then when you listen back on a different system the only thing there is bass.
    I learned what a GOOD mix sounded like on my system, and I was able to tailor my mixes to make up for the inadequacies of my monitors.
    This is absolutely vital, once you learn to hear how a good mix - i.e. a tune you like - sounds on your system you can begin to try to make your tunes sound like that. This is the reason Iím banging on about NS10ís, they sound horrible, but, they are the same the world over, which means that, by default, every engineer knows what their stuff will sound like on them. Iíll put this site up again because it has so much good stuff. Iíve directed you straight to monitoring, but check the rest because itís all good! I don't want to give the impression that decent monitoring isn't worth it, because it is, but even if you pay top dollar you're still going to have to learn how they sound.

    Two final points: monitoring on headphones only is really hard, I still find that with my headphones, which I love, Iím putting too much bass on. They are only small so getting bass out of them is really hard, you just have to jack it up. Secondly, keep checking your mixes on different systems, Ďcos thatís the only way to learn how your set-up is colouring the sound.

    KasioRoks.
    Last edited by KasioRoks; 07-21-2001 at 12:17 AM.

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    yayy





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  10. #10
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    thanks for all your help. i think i am going to be getting those k-rok monitors. they seem the have the most bang for your buck.

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