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  • Monitor Speakers for Classical Music

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    A few months ago I bought a pair of monitor speakers, and even though they sound great, I am not sure they are what I need for mixing. πŸ˜” One of the things that frustrates me when I mix, is the higher end frequencies. For example, I have all these harmonic distortion plugins, and when I apply them, I honestly don't hear any difference. Nothing...  I'm wondering if monitor speakers that provide better clarity for the higher end would make a difference. What do you use or recommend for monitors? Also, I want my monitors to be positioned near me, and my budget is below $1000 for each speaker.

    From this list: 

    http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-studio-monitors/ 

    I like # 7.

    Also, FYI, when it comes to the lower end, I am satisfied with my subwoofer.

    Thanks!

    Cheers,

    Nektarios


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    First off: what monitors are you using right now?

    This is a multi-layered matter with many variables; I wouldn't categorically blame the monitors just yet. Harmonic distortion can mean a lot of things. What are you expecting to hear from it? What settings are you using? Is it a "reel to reel" type tape saturation? Is it a preset that only distorts a certain frequency range? Only the very top end? The 2-4 kHz range? Only the low end?

    The effects can be quite different. Harmonic distortion can add warmth in the higher mid range, additional body, top end sizzle ... it can also lop off a bit of the high end sharpness, or actually alter the stereo image or reduce the perceived loudness. You should be aware of what you're actually trying to listen to. Things are sometimes easy to "unhear" if one doesn't know what they're supposed to hear.

    Have you ever had your hearing checked? Perhaps you could try out one of those frequency hearing tests that can be found online. Those of course aren't exact and by no means scientific or medicinal tests, but can give you an idea of your actual hearing range. Depending on your age, you might find out that you actually aren't really able to consciously hear anything above 12 or 14 kHz ... it's very normal. Perhaps you're expecting a way too drastic effect from a subtle 18 kHz upwards saturated shelf?

    Perhaps there's an issue in your gain staging. Maybe you're not hitting the plugins hot enough, maybe the input level of the signal that's fed into the plugin is way too low for the plugin to add anything perceivable or interesting.

    There are of course differences between monitors and I think it's one of the areas where you do get what you pay for - but on the other hand, it's still all just sound, if you know what I mean, and I'm not fully convinced that you would be able to suddenly hear this unsuspected dimension of sound if you had monitors that cost much more than your current ones. It could also end up being a disappointment because while the new monitors are indeed better, you don't really hear what makes them that because your hearing (or "listening behavior") is still the same. 😊


  • Thank you Jimmy. Really appreciate your thorough and clear answer.

    The monitors I use are: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/819559-REG/Audioengine_A5_B_A5_Plus_Speaker_System.html

    (I also got their subwoofer).

    What you say I have thought of... I have plugins for tape saturation, tube saturation -- you name it. And ones where I control the odd/even harmonics. I even have the Vienna Suite Pro exciter, which btw, is the only plugin where I can hear a difference more so than other plugins. Bottom line, when I apply these harmonic distortion plugins what I hear sounds negligible.

    For a long time I suspected that it may be my hearing. I am 40, and 10 years ago I had my hearing checked where one ear showed a small dip in the mid high frequency (back then, I was going clubing every weekend). In general though, I don't feel I have any hearing difficulties. Anyway, I will try out using the online tools you mentioned. Curious of the result... 

    Going back to the monitor speakers, I hear some great things of those having "ribbon tweeters" for the high end range...


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    Damn... I downloaded this app to test my hearing... Not good... My left ear has a dip at 1k... πŸ˜”


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    I wasn't trying to imply that there's something wrong with your hearing. 😊 It was more to illustrate that our hearing range starts to deteriorate in our 20ies. It's quite normal for people in the age of 30+ to not be able to hear very high frequencies any more. In my case, there's not a lot happening any more the higher it goes above 16 kHz ... for some people I know, 12 kHz is the limit!

    What I was trying to say is that if you're applying something rather subtle and only way on top, like 18 kHz upwards, the effect might not really strike you all that much.  Try something in the range that's naturally the most important for us anyway - like distorting only 1 - 4 kHz. Are you still not noticing any effect? You should be able to notice a clear difference.

    It would make sense to look into another set of monitors either way. The ones you are using probably do sound quite nice, but they're not really marketed as studio monitors for music production, but more towards a high quality music listening experience. I'm not familiar with that particular product, but it's quite possible that their frequency response isn't quite flat, but that they feature some kind of sculpted EQ curve to make the music sound more exciting. Which isn't really what you want when you're mixing music - you want to hear things as they "really" are to be able to make senseful mixing decisions.

    It's still great to have them - even if you end up getting a second, more studio-oriented pair. It's a good idea to always listen to your mixes in different, more "consumer-oriented" environments, like multimedia speakers, car radio etc., to check if your mixes translate to the "normal" world.


  • Thanks Jimmy.

    Even though the app says my hearing is normal, there is a consistent dip at 1khz on my left ear. On the other hand, my right ear has more of a flat curve.

    I think you are right, I can use the ones I have now as my main general speakers, and buy better studio ones for my studio work.

    I am looking at these: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/688848-REG/Adam_Professional_Audio_A7X_A7X_7_150W_Active.html


  • I have the previous version of Adam A7. They are excellent speakers for mixing. Best, Mika

  • Adam is without doubt among the top-brands for studio monitors.


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
  • Thank you Dietz and Mika!

    I am just curious, why does a ribbon tweeter not cause ear fatique -- for studio monitors that have them? And btw, I don't understand what this ear fatique is really, as I never experienced it...


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    Dietz,

    May I borrow your ears for a second? πŸ˜•  I would like to ask your impression on the difference between 2-way speakers such as the Adam A7 (or Dynaudio BM5/6) and The Neumann KH310 3-ways? (recently seen in the new studio).  Is the difference with orchestral sounds drastic or just slightly better?  What do you notice the most?

    In terms of cost, I would assume its not a linear scale, and to achieve a slightly better sound you'd have to pay quite a bit more (including a sub).

    Thanks,


  • Hi Greg,

    I would gladly give you ind-depth advice - but the truth is that the best speakers are the ones that fit your room, your ears and your budget. 

    Although it might seem logical that a 3-way speaker is "better" than a 2-way system, the opposite could happen in a room that's too small or has problems in the bass range (which wouldn't be audible without the bass extensions). Personally I often prefer to work with smaller monitors that don't tend to overpower me with information, but OTOH it's always good to hear "everything" from time to time ... so all I can tell you is: "It depends!".

    Ideally you will find the opportunity to listen to all the options in the intended environment, and take it from there.

    Kind regards,


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
  • Thank you Dietz, and I do understand what you mean.  Our ears also tend to adjust well to different speakers so  the effect of the quality/accuracy has less impact than we realize.  In other words, a great performance can even sound good on cheap speakers.

    Nevertheless, I thought you might have had a chance to hear the Neumann KH310 in the new VSL Synchron Studio and might have an opinion on how they sound in "that" room as compared with other speakers in there.



    Best,


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    @nektarios said:

    Thank you Dietz and Mika!

    I am just curious, why does a ribbon tweeter not cause ear fatique -- for studio monitors that have them? And btw, I don't understand what this ear fatique is really, as I never experienced it...

    I guess ear fatigue depends on the ears but, for my ears, it's when I'm having difficulty hearing subtle changes in effects that I've applied to an audio signal.  Also, I tend to be more tolerant of derogatory frequencies in the signal.  Later I'll come back, listen to the signal and immediately cringe saying, "who the hell mixed this muffled mess?" πŸ€’  "Oh... I mixed it 😳.

    It's like walking into a room that has a foul oder but, for whatever reason, you have to remain in the room for a while.  So you build a tolerance for the oder.  You get used to it.  Then, somebody else walks into the room and it hits them like a brickwall.  They hold their nose and declare, "Good God, who died in here?"  


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    Thanks jasensmith!

    Now I see! I liked your smell example... πŸ˜ƒ

    The other question I always have is, why is it that so many times I will make a mix that sounds great on my monitors but awful on regular speakers. Why does this happen and what goes on technically here?

    @nektarios said:

    Thank you Dietz and Mika!

    I am just curious, why does a ribbon tweeter not cause ear fatique -- for studio monitors that have them? And btw, I don't understand what this ear fatique is really, as I never experienced it...

    I guess ear fatigue depends on the ears but, for my ears, it's when I'm having difficulty hearing subtle changes in effects that I've applied to an audio signal.  Also, I tend to be more tolerant of derogatory frequencies in the signal.  Later I'll come back, listen to the signal and immediately cringe saying, "who the hell mixed this muffled mess?" πŸ€’  "Oh... I mixed it 😳.

    It's like walking into a room that has a foul oder but, for whatever reason, you have to remain in the room for a while.  So you build a tolerance for the oder.  You get used to it.  Then, somebody else walks into the room and it hits them like a brickwall.  They hold their nose and declare, "Good God, who died in here?"  


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    @nektarios said:

    Why does this happen and what goes on technically here?

    This is an answer which you won't like to read, most likely: There is no actual technical reason but the merciless fact that owning a racing car does't make us a Formula 1 driver all by itself. 8-)

    Similar to most (if not all) other art forms, mixing is something you get better in mostly by experience and practice, and a bit of talent helps a lot, of course. Proper tools are a supportive element, but with enough experience and a valid artistic vision you can achieve great results with seemingly humble equipment, too.

    ... like a well-known colleague of mine once put it: "Only the first ten thousend mixes are difficult." πŸ˜‰ So don't despair when you don't like your own work right now. It's a good sign and an indication that you're developing discerning hearing abilities. The next mix will be better already. 😊

    All the best,


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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    @Another User said:

    In terms of cost, I would assume its not a linear scale, and to achieve a slightly better sound you'd have to pay quite a bit more (including a sub).

    Thanks,

    That's true and something you will find in many other areas nowadays, too: It's quite cheap to get 80% of quality, but it will cost you exponentially more money to get the final 20%. πŸ˜›

    Kind regards,


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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    Thank you Dietz! I will agree on that! 😊

    When it comes to classical music, I've been mixing around 2 years, but on the other hand, when it comes electronic music about 10+ years.

    During my electronic dance music years, mixing on my monitors would always yield bad mixes, but on the other hand, my mixes were faar better when I mixed them on my cheap computer speakers!


  • I would use a few options when mixing and cross checking on all those speakers. So I would have a pair of desktop computer speakers of about 100 bucks. A good pair of monitors like the Adams or similar and a great openback headphone. It's true if it sounds good on crappy speakers, it will usually sound good on your monitors. Although monitors can help you find the detailed problems better.

    If your looking for good monitors you can check this link, it's a pretty good guide too:http://getinstrumental.com/best-studio-monitor-speakers/

    Hope that helps...


  • Hey, I'm late to the party.

    How big is the dip in your hearing at 1k? I wouldn't automatically worry about that just becaue you see it in a test.

    For one, your brain is compensating for it. But mainly, it's normal for your ears not to be totally flat and not identical.

    Everyone over, I dunno, 40 is going to have some loss between 4-8kHz. And I'm going to guess that your hearing above 8kHz isn't linear, even though standard hearing tests don't go that high. Last time I checked, I could hear a 20kHz sine wave (if it's loud enough), but I can't hear 14kHz.


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    There is a 15% (maybe a bit more) dip at 1k. No matter how many times I take the self hearing test it registers, but not on the other ear. I have no problem hearing people talk, etc. but I always wondered how this dip can affect my mixing... I can clearly notice the difference in "EQ" in each of my ear if I cover them... πŸ˜•

    @Nick Batzdorf said:

    Hey, I'm late to the party.

    How big is the dip in your hearing at 1k? I wouldn't automatically worry about that just becaue you see it in a test.

    For one, your brain is compensating for it. But mainly, it's normal for your ears not to be totally flat and not identical.

    Everyone over, I dunno, 40 is going to have some loss between 4-8kHz. And I'm going to guess that your hearing above 8kHz isn't linear, even though standard hearing tests don't go that high. Last time I checked, I could hear a 20kHz sine wave (if it's loud enough), but I can't hear 14kHz.