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  • Speaking of Monitor Speakers...Does this Make Sense?

    I talk a lot with the Gibson Brands product specialists to get the pulse on what goes on in the real world of retail...fascinating stuff. Recently we were talking about the high and low frequency trims on monitor speakers. Aside from using them to compensate for acoustics, which is only marginally effective anyway, I always called them "client knobs" because you could boost the highs and lows on playback so clients could hear what music would sound like on today's hyped systems. However, what the guys in the field are saying is people are using them to adjust the sound to their liking when mixing.

    I don't get it...if you boost the highs and lows, then those frequencies are going to be under-represented in the mix because the speakers are changing the mix, not you. I suppose one justification would be if you're mixing at low volumes, you can emulate what response your ears would hear if the levels were up higher. But I prefer just to mix at low levels, and crank it up periodically as a reality check.

    So it at least seems to me that if the speakers are flat (and I've sure learned a lot about which are which aren't lately), those trims need to be left alone. Am I missing something?
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  • #2
    i agree.

    generally, i've thought of those knobs as an aid to compensate for room acoustics, or a deficiency in the speakers themselves, but all in the service of flatness, not to pervert it.

    i have this one pair of high end speakers that are painfully flat, but are not known for a big bass end that "Americans tend to like." so for a couple days I boosted low frequencies... but then thought, nah, that's just stupid, and put everything back to flat.

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    • #3
      Considering most people are listening to music on headphones, I no longer subscribe to the school of flat and honest monitors. I think its important to work on monitors that are pleasing to ones ear but also realize how those monitors are affecting the mix so the mixer can adjust.

      I use Equator D5s. They`re a bit bright in the mids but knowing that allows me to compensate. I also mix on them 40%, 40% on headphones (ATH-M50s), and the other 10% on Bose Soundlink minis...

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
        Considering most people are listening to music on headphones, I no longer subscribe to the school of flat and honest monitors. I think its important to work on monitors that are pleasing to ones ear but also realize how those monitors are affecting the mix so the mixer can adjust.
        I don't think very many people have the analysis equipment to know how monitors affect the mix. For example, a lot of monitors dip a bit at 1k to reduce "honk." If they like the sound of those speakers because they don't have honk, then they'll tend to mix 1k hotter than it should be unless they know how much to compensate.

        I use Equator D5s. They`re a bit bright in the mids but knowing that allows me to compensate.
        This is what I don't understand. If you like the bright sound. then it seems the way to compensate would be to boost the highs a little bit in the mix to compensate for playback over systems that aren't a bit bright in the mids...but then you're hearing something "double bright" when you mix. I guess it would make sense if that's what you want to hear, though.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Anderton View Post
          Recently we were talking about the high and low frequency trims on monitor speakers. Aside from using them to compensate for acoustics, which is only marginally effective anyway, I always called them "client knobs" because you could boost the highs and lows on playback so clients could hear what music would sound like on today's hyped systems. However, what the guys in the field are saying is people are using them to adjust the sound to their liking when mixing.
          I think that these days the manufacturers say that those controls are to adjust for room acoustics because that's what the customers expect - because that's what the manufacturers tell them. There's of a lot of hand waving, but people these days are setting up their control rooms differently than when we were kids. Used to be that in a reasonably sized room that just happened to have more than an average amout of absorption, like a living room with a couple of couches and heavy drapes on the windows, a little treble boost can shoot out a few more highs that the room will soak up. But in a small room where the speakers are necessarily placed close to walls, a high frequency boost can only make matters worse, as can a high cut - unless the speakers are really crummy and need that adjustment to flatten out the near field response - in which case you wonder why the manufacturer just didn't build them pre-corrected for problems with the drivers or crossover.

          There's some validity to a low frequency cut. Most speakers are calibrated for free field radiation. Since lows go in all directions and get reflected pretty much in phase when the spreakers are placed close to a wall, cutting the lows helps to compensate for that boost. It can work.

          I don't get it...if you boost the highs and lows, then those frequencies are going to be under-represented in the mix because the speakers are changing the mix, not you.
          Speakers are better than they were 20 years ago, even inexpensive ones. It would really be better if people who don't have anything but their own preferences to go on didn't muck with them, but just did what we used to do and get used to the sound of a speaker that we're using as a mixing reference. It takes some time and effort to learn. People didin't learn to mix on NS-10s or Auratones or 4311s overnight.

          I suppose one justification would be if you're mixing at low volumes, you can emulate what response your ears would hear if the levels were up higher. But I prefer just to mix at low levels, and crank it up periodically as a reality check.
          That's the smart way to do it - assuming that the speaker is linear enough so that its response or radiating pattern doesn't change when it's cranked up. People didn't judge the bass level at high levels by listening to their NS-10s cranked up, they cranked 'em up, sure, but watched the woofer cones to see when they started doubling. And then they put tissue paper over the tweeters to correct for a phase shift issue that caused some high frequency harshness. It wasn't about reducing the tweeter level, so say those who made measurements.

          So it at least seems to me that if the speakers are flat (and I've sure learned a lot about which are which aren't lately), those trims need to be left alone. Am I missing something?
          No, you aren't missing anything. With the trend toward designing drivers, amplifiers, and DSP in between them and putting them all in one box, the manufacturer has an impressive amount of control to make a flat or twisted frequency response. Sure, they give you controls to fiddle with it a little, but if you don't like the sound, you should just buy a different speaker.

          Equator took an interesting approach, for better or worse. On the D8, and Ernest's D5s as well, they don't have low and high frequency adjustment knobs, they have a switch that's labeled "Boundary." That suggests the compensation for bass boost close to a boundary, but it's something different. They passed out speakers to a few trusted mixing engineers (who have remained namelss) along with the tools to make some adjustments and told them to tweak them so that mixes that they knew well sounded right. Then, they implemented the favored response curves with the switch. None of the settings are completely unprocessed though one is pretty close. It turns out that most people find that they like one or the other of the more tweaked settings.

          Michael Cooper has a pretty good analysis of these in his review of the Equator D8 in the December 2014 issue of Mix. Based on his findings, I don't think I'd like them as much as whet I've been using for the past 30 years, but then he was probably listening to different kinds of music than what I work with.

          Just my humble opinion, but with the paint job Gibson did on those monitors, I don't think anyone can listen to them objectively.

          By the way, did you hear the interview with Henry J on Marketplace recently? Did you coach him for it?
          http://www.marketplace.org/topics/bu...h-more-guitars
          --
          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Anderton View Post

            I don't think very many people have the analysis equipment to know how monitors affect the mix. For example, a lot of monitors dip a bit at 1k to reduce "honk." If they like the sound of those speakers because they don't have honk, then they'll tend to mix 1k hotter than it should be unless they know how much to compensate.
            If those are the kind of speakers that you can afford, then you just have to learn how to use them. That's the cheap way to make a bad speaker sound less objectinable. The better way is to use better drivers.

            You can learn how to mix on a $300 set of monitors, but it won't be what you want to hear when you kick back to enjoy the music. Or if you do enjoy it, your ears are probably shot from standing too close to the drummer for too many years.

            I don't think every studio needs $20,000 Wilsons (the audiophile speaker found in a lot of mastering suites that are worthy of being called "suites") but you can get good honesty and accuracy for a couple of grand. You pay that much for your guitar, why not the speakers that you record and mix it on?
            Last edited by MikeRivers; 12-27-2014, 04:01 PM.
            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
              By the way, did you hear the interview with Henry J on Marketplace recently? Did you coach him for it?
              http://www.marketplace.org/topics/bu...h-more-guitars
              Henry's the last guy who needs coaching, he's very effective in scenarios like interviews, panel discussions, etc. Unfortunately with many interviews, a lot of what he says gets left on the cutting room floor.

              The funniest interview he did was when Fox wanted to talk to him about the wood fiasco. So I sent them a bunch of background material, like how Gibson got most of the wood back eventually, which obviously no one read because the first question they asked him was how he felt about being targeted by the IRS. In the nicest way possible, he said "Well I never was targeted by the IRS,.the raid was by the Fish & Game Department." There was a very awkward silence when the hosts realized their whole agenda, which was to talk about abuse of power by the IRS, wasn't exactly going to pan out in a way that fit their agenda.
              CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Anderton View Post

                Henry's the last guy who needs coaching, he's very effective in scenarios like interviews, panel discussions, etc. Unfortunately with many interviews, a lot of what he says gets left on the cutting room floor.

                The funniest interview he did was when Fox wanted to talk to him about the wood fiasco. So I sent them a bunch of background material, like how Gibson got most of the wood back eventually, which obviously no one read because the first question they asked him was how he felt about being targeted by the IRS. In the nicest way possible, he said "Well I never was targeted by the IRS,.the raid was by the Fish & Game Department." There was a very awkward silence when the hosts realized their whole agenda, which was to talk about abuse of power by the IRS, wasn't exactly going to pan out in a way that fit their agenda.
                LOL
                ..................................................
                Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.

                ...Pericles

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                  Speaking of Monitor Speakers...Does this Make Sense?
                  I don't think you're missing anything; I think we just have fewer and fewer recodists that understand basic recording 101. People don't understand very simple concepts like the difference between tweaking the monitors and tweaking the mix. Everyone used to know this stuff. But today with everyone and their grandmothers trying a hand at recording very few people understand how crucial a flat monitoring system is to the outcome.

                  And it's still just important today (earbuds or not). It's impossible to create a mix that sounds "Right" on every listening device, so IMO mixing for hi-fi is still the way to go. Let the listener do some tweaking on his end. When listeners don't get the full impact of a well mixed song then that's their problem. But that's always been the case. For example AM radio was just a tease and we all knew we had to have a decent sound system to get the whole experience and to fully appreciate the work that went into mixing an album.

                  Crapy headphones, earbuds, and chintzy mono Bluetooth speakers are a passing fad. I won't mix for them. When high fidelity comes back into vogue anything mixed to compensate for crapy listening systems are going to sound like... well... crap on better systems.
                  Last edited by Beck; 12-28-2014, 01:59 AM.
                  <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

                  “Music is well said to be the speech of angels... nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine."

                  ~Thomas Carlyle

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                  • #10
                    couple of weeks ago, I was in a similar conversation over at another forum (which will remain nameless).
                    - lemee summarize many of the replys :
                    "why spend thousands on accurate big $ monitors when no on listens on decent loudspeakers?"
                    "I don't care if my mix is accurate, I only mix for ME"
                    "Most people listen on crappy iBuds or Beats; doesn't matter what I mix on"
                    etc

                    for me; I try to make my recordings sound pleasant on my Wharfedale 8.2a's AND my AT M50s AND my Shure earphones. The only formats I don't check are my Volkswagon and Club PAs :=)

                    peace
                    an expert on what it feels like to be me
                    & you are who you google
                    http://soundcloud.com/mrnatural-1

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                    • #11
                      For the same reason people mix on multiple speakers, to get a reality check for headphones I audition through four separate headphones:

                      ATH-M50 - nice balance overall, but somewhat shy of upper mids and highs
                      Beatz - great for finding out what's happening with the low end
                      Ultrasone - really bright, let you know if the highs are out of control
                      KRK KNS-8400 - a little crispy in the upper mids, but otherwise accurate. They're what I use when I listen to each track in a song to check for glitches or gotchas, as well as listening for pleasure

                      I've found that mixing over really flat speakers gives the best "compromise" result on all the different headphones.
                      CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                        I don't think very many people have the analysis equipment to know how monitors affect the mix. For example, a lot of monitors dip a bit at 1k to reduce "honk." If they like the sound of those speakers because they don't have honk, then they'll tend to mix 1k hotter than it should be unless they know how much to compensate.

                        I had my room measured several years ago so I`m aware of the dips and valleys but I also mix at very low levels so the room does not play around much with the mix. I also use phones…. and a Bose Soundlink mini…

                        Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                        This is what I don't understand. If you like the bright sound. then it seems the way to compensate would be to boost the highs a little bit in the mix to compensate for playback over systems that aren't a bit bright in the mids...but then you're hearing something "double bright" when you mix. I guess it would make sense if that's what you want to hear, though.
                        When I say compensate, it does not mean to add. Most of the time when I`m mixing, I`m taking stuff out of the overall mix to give everything room.

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                        • #13
                          There's a transition you have to make from listening for pleasure and listening for mixing. The market for monitors is being driven by large numbers of younger people getting into the game and that crowd is spread out along that transition line. "Flatter" or "flat" - if you know what I mean.

                          I was the same way - my first studio monitors, the big deal for me was simply "wow! they sound great - I love listening to these things!" as if they were just an upgrade in a home hifi system for the living room.

                          Had I been more educated in mixing, I would have run the monitors through their paces using reference CDs, white/pink noise tests, tweaked the room and the speaker positioning, identified any port resonance points, all that stuff, and then, if they still passed muster for mixing, say, "and hey, they just sound good, too!" as a bonus.

                          nat whilk ii

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                          • #14
                            I remember setting up my friend's new Genelecs, about 10 years ago (8020's maybe), and we came across the frequency controls on the rear panel. The conversation went, "well, we won't be touching those anyway." "Ya." End of. That said, I know people who absolutely swear by the room correction software that comes with the newer JBL's. So I suppose you've gotta use whatever method works for you. Having basic tone controls on monitors, as outlined in the OP, seems to be something aimed at hobbyists though. Ymmv
                            flip the phase

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                            • #15
                              I always go to the car.

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