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[Help!] Best studio monitors for recording, mixing and mastering?

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Hi everyone! :) I just discovered this forum and it seems to be lot of knowledgeable people here!

I'm Adrian and I would like to get a pair of monitors that can do basically everything related to music creation, from beginning to end, that means: composing, producing, recording, mixing and mastering.

Here is all the information I believe may be useful for you!

1. For the composing and production stage, I don't need monitors that make you "enjoy more the music" by having boosted lows or anything like that, I would like them to be reasonably enjoyable (as I won't only use them for creating music but also listening to music, watching series and films, etc), but mostly good for mixing and mastering (I think the right word is flat).

2. The budget is at total of $400 at most.

3. The room they'll be in is, I would say, medium sized. It's not a tiny bedroom but it's not a super big room either. It's probably around 5x5 meters (I can't measure it exactly now, sorry!).

4. I can position them wherever I want. I say this because I'll be designing the whole room, so in case some monitors sound x10 times better when on stands, I just want you to know that I could get those stands ;).

5. I will be treating the room but not in a super-measured, professional way. As far as I can get with a few accesories in the walls and the ground to prevent reflections and all those things (tell me in case I should be aware of anything else, I know for example there're "ringing frequencies" or something like that that need to be specifically treated depending on the room!).

6. I'll be composing (and the whole chain, bla bla bla) from EDM, to cinematic hybrid music, to hard hip-hop, to even k-pop.

I've listened to some of the monitors around the budget on stores, but nothing serious. I was surprised by the Adam Audio T5V's, as I thought I would need the 7" ones but then turned on the 5s and sounded great!

I also follow this dude, I don't know if he is loved or hated here, but he seems to really like the T5Vs :cool: ->

Other monitors I've heard about: Yamaha's HS series, KRK's Rokit (the Classic and the new G4s), JBL's 305Ps and 306Ps, Kali's LP6s and the IN series (which seem cool since they have a 3 way system).

Other brands I know by ear but don't know much about: Neumann, Focal, Mackie, IK, Presonus, Genelec, EVE, Swissonic, Dynaudio.

Looking forward to your answer and thank you a lot for helping me out! :D
 
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napilopez

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Welcome to the forum! $400 doesn't leave you with too many great options, and I'd personally recommend maybe spending a little more and saving money on room treatment.

I'll address some of your points:

1) Luckily the science suggests that speakers that are good for mixing and mastering are also good for enjoyability. There are three primary things you'll want in speakers: a flattish frequency response (including enough bass extension), smooth directivity(in other words, the FR changes smoothly in different directions), and enough volume for your needs.

4) As long as you can get the speakers ear height, you're good

5) Not everyone here will agree with me, but I think extensive room treatment is slightly overrated, especially for nearfield monitoring. I would personally consider treating your ceiling and the wall behind the speakers as most important. Treating the side walls is really a matter of preference. In general, I'm of the thought that room treatment that isn't carefully done can in some cases make things worse.

More important is measuring your speakers and equalizing the bass, so I'd spend some of the money you would've spent on treatment on a measurement microphone (Umik-1) or better speakers.

6) Luckily the criteria of flat frequency response and smooth directivity works for all genres, so no concern there. You'll just want enough bass, so eventually you should probably add a subwoofer.

At $400 a pair, (keep in mind most monitors are priced individually) you might have to settle for speakers with a bit of hiss. At that price range the top monitors are probably the JBL 306P and Kali LP-6.

The KRK Rokit Gen 4 is quite good too. Overall I'd say they're a bit worse than the JBL and Kali LP-6 in terms of tonal balance and soundstage accuracy, but they create a larger soundstage and appear to have significantly less hiss, if that's something you're sensitive to. Hope you're a fan of yellow though!

I'm a big fan of the iLoud Micro Monitors too but they are very limited in SPL so they are only intended to be heard at a distance of less than 2 feet.

Neumann and Genelec make some of the best stuff on the market but I believe all of their products are beyond your budget.
 

dfuller

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At $400/pr, I would say Kali LP-6s or LP-8s.
 
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gamersensual14
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Welcome to the forum!
Thank you Napi!

$400 doesn't leave you with too many great options, and I'd personally recommend maybe spending a little more and saving money on room treatment.
The money I'll invest on room treatment is not included in those $400, still, if I could save, lets say, 50 or $100 more, would you change your recomendations?

1) Luckily the science suggests that speakers that are good for mixing and mastering are also good for enjoyability. There are three primary things you'll want in speakers: a flattish frequency response (including enough bass extension), smooth directivity(in other words, the FR changes smoothly in different directions), and enough volume for your needs.

4) As long as you can get the speakers ear height, you're good

5) Not everyone here will agree with me, but I think extensive room treatment is slightly overrated, especially for nearfield monitoring. I would personally consider treating your ceiling and the wall behind the speakers as most important. Treating the side walls is really a matter of preference. In general, I'm of the thought that room treatment that isn't carefully done can in some cases make things worse.

More important is measuring your speakers and equalizing the bass, so I'd spend some of the money you would've spent on treatment on a measurement microphone (Umik-1) or better speakers.

6) Luckily the criteria of flat frequency response and smooth directivity works for all genres, so no concern there. You'll just want enough bass, so eventually you should probably add a subwoofer.
Noted! Great advice!

At $400 a pair, (keep in mind most monitors are priced individually) you might have to settle for speakers with a bit of hiss.
As long as they're not overwhelming I think I can stand it, although I'd obviously preffer some monitors that doesn't hiss.

The KRK Rokit Gen 4 is quite good too. Overall I'd say they're a bit worse than the JBL and Kali LP-6 in terms of tonal balance and soundstage accuracy, but they create a larger soundstage and appear to have significantly less hiss, if that's something you're sensitive to. Hope you're a fan of yellow though!
I've heard that KRKs are not recomended for neutral tonal balance, but for production and... that's it, because of the reasons you're saying.

At that price range the top monitors are probably the JBL 306P and Kali LP-6.
At $400/pr, I would say Kali LP-6s or LP-8s.
Okey so we have two options now, the JBL 306Ps and the Kali LP6s (I think comparing the LP8s with 6" JBLs is not that fair), I searched for the reviews of those by Z (this dude I sent in the first post, I really like him), and I found a very interesting statement he makes in this video (that he also makes in other reviews), the video will start automatically there as you play it ->

He says that the Adams go deeper, and the JBLs go wider, since I'll be mixing I'd like to have both of course, my goal is to have a clear and detailed soundstage, both deep and wide, but as he says and Napi pointed, that's out of the budget. What's your opinion about this statement?

I would love to know your thoughts, specially if anyone owns these monitors, or works as a mixing and/or mastering engineer.

Also he says that the Kalis are better in the living room and the JBLs for a desk, if you have them, where do you have them?

Thanks everyone! ;)
 

dfuller

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Thank you Napi!
Okey so we have two options now, the JBL 306Ps and the Kali LP6s (I think comparing the LP8s with 6" JBLs is not that fair), I searched for the reviews of those by Z (this dude I sent in the first post, I really like him), and I found a very interesting statement he makes in this video (that he also makes in other reviews), the video will start automatically there as you play it ->

He says that the Adams go deeper, and the JBLs go wider, since I'll be mixing I'd like to have both of course, my goal is to have a clear and detailed soundstage, both deep and wide, but as he says and Napi pointed, that's out of the budget. What's your opinion about this statement?

I would love to know your thoughts, specially if anyone owns these monitors, or works as a mixing and/or mastering engineer.

Also he says that the Kalis are better in the living room and the JBLs for a desk, if you have them, where do you have them?

Thanks everyone! ;)
That makes zero sense. I would take anything he says with a grain of salt. I would be checking out the reviews here that Amir has done, and the reviews that @hardisj has done on his site.
 

napilopez

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@napilopez why do you prefer the LP6 to T5V, out of interest? Assuming you do and prices quite close :)

Oh I just forgot the Adam =] never heard any of their stuff either. I do prefer the LP-6s measurements as the Adams are too bright, but shelving down the highs a by like 3 dB should promptly fix that. Or maybe just listen without any toe in. FYI @gamersensual14 . Seems they're pretty low hiss too.
 
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That makes zero sense. I would take anything he says with a grain of salt. I would be checking out the reviews here that Amir has done, and the reviews that @hardisj has done on his site.
Hey! I just checked Amir's reviews on every monitor I mentioned in my first post and he really likes the T5Vs, T8Vs, and then the LP6s, and 306Ps.

He didn't like that much either the Yamaha's or the KRK's.

So as Napi said in his first post we are really narrowing the options, which I like.

I do prefer the LP-6s measurements as the Adams are too bright, but shelving down the highs a by like 3 dB should promptly fix that. Or maybe just listen without any toe in. FYI @gamersensual14 . Seems they're pretty low hiss too.
As you say, it seems that that high freq boost can be easily fixed just by lowering the HF knob 2 dB on the monitor (although I don't know where that High Freq starts, 5K? 10K?...). Also the low hiss is an extra point to the T5Vs.

What about the size? Would you say that I don't necessarily need the T7Vs over the T5Vs, for example (because of my room size)?
 

napilopez

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Hey! I just checked Amir's reviews on every monitor I mentioned in my first post and he really likes the T5Vs, T8Vs, and then the LP6s, and 306Ps.

He didn't like that much either the Yamaha's or the KRK's.

So as Napi said in his first post we are really narrowing the options, which I like.


As you say, it seems that that high freq boost can be easily fixed just by lowering the HF knob 2 dB on the monitor (although I don't know where that High Freq starts, 5K? 10K?...). Also the low hiss is an extra point to the T5Vs.

What about the size? Would you say that I don't necessarily need the T7Vs over the T5Vs, for example (because of my room size)?

In amir's review the 2dB didn't seem to do enough, so you'd have to apply EQ through your computer or elsewhere. Also it seemed to me that Amir did like the KRKs?

Anyway, good luck!
 

AnalogSteph

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What about the size? Would you say that I don't necessarily need the T7Vs over the T5Vs, for example (because of my room size)?
What is your actual listening distance going to be like? That is going to have a major influence on your level needs (as well as room treatment needs). For example, I have a room almost as big as yours (and that's no longer "medium size" in my book), but I generally listen at my desk of a distance of about 0.4 m (triangle side length). I don't need super high levels, but hiss and hum becomes a major concern. You may have the room for classic hi-fi distances of 2.5-3 m - but then you'll be blowing your budget in no time, as you should be looking at something in the 8" class by that point, and those pretty much start around $400 the pair (e.g. Kali LP-8 or the classic Behringer B2031A). Spending 50% more or even up to twice that e.g. on some Kali IN-8 v2s is still very much justifiable. We are talking US prices, right? There's some variation across the globe.

My rule of thumb would be roughly -
<1 m - 5"
1-1.5 m - 6.5"
1.5-2.5 m - 8"
Actual driver quality still has a big influence as well though - the 5" class drivers in a Neumann KH120 or Genelec 8030C are a far cry from those in a cheapie. There is also some variation when it comes to minimum usable distance before woofer-tweeter integration falls apart, you can use their midpoint distance as a rough guide (3-way or coaxials obviously have an advantage here). Also, shallower and smaller tweeter waveguides signify broader radiation, giving more flexibility to user position in nearfield - while at the same time not being able to match woofers as large for directivity at crossover and having lower tweeter level handling. How KRK manages to make the RP8 G4 work, for example, I'm not sure - an 8"/1" combo with barely any waveguide is almost invariably going to have some issues off-axis. The 5" model will be substantially less problematic in this regard.
 
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Inner Space

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Welcome aboard, Adrian. With huge respect to those who have chipped in so far, I'm going to offer a different suggestion. But first let me check we're on the same page. I'm assuming this is not also a live room, where you're recording actual people singing and playing instruments. I'm inferring a post-production suite, in which you'll compose and eventually perform on synths and samples and so on, and then mix and master.

In which case, room treatment is paramount. Imagine you're mixing a number, and you want to fade a synth bleep way back into the distance. You need perfect reverb, which is going to change every step of the way. You need to know it's 100% in the file, not perhaps 50% in the file, and 50% generated by your room. Or some different proportion. You need us to trust your masters. Therefore you need to hear nothing from your room, because you need to be confident you're giving us 100% of what you heard.

So, lots of absorption, as thick as you can go - you don't need 5m x 5m for a post room. You could pack out the walls pretty deep.

The bad news is - $400 isn't enough for monitors. Hiss alone disqualifies everything there. In a way they're miraculous, but ultimately they're wannabe toys. Seriously, genuinely, and I've seen it done by some serious people, if $400 bucks is all you want to spend, go the second- or third-hand hi-fi route. At least for the first couple of years, until your tax lawyer says you need to change them out for something in the ten-times-as-much $4000-ish category, which is about where the necessary quality starts.
 

echopraxia

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The bad news is - $400 isn't enough for monitors. Hiss alone disqualifies everything there. In a way they're miraculous, but ultimately they're wannabe toys. Seriously, genuinely, and I've seen it done by some serious people, if $400 bucks is all you want to spend, go the second- or third-hand hi-fi route. At least for the first couple of years, until your tax lawyer says you need to change them out for something in the ten-times-as-much $4000-ish category, which is about where the necessary quality starts.
I agree that OP is asking for too much (“basically everything related to music creation”) for a budget of only $400, however, I don’t think $4000 is the bare minimum to get there. I think $1k - $2k is reasonably possible, with some acceptable compromises.

~$1000 for a Neumann KH80 or KH120 (or comparable Genelec’s if you’re in a country in which they are priced well, i.e. not the USA) plus a $500 subwoofer should be quite sufficient in sound quality and accuracy, as long as you don’t need to go too loud. The only thing out there that’s notably superior to these in sound quality and accuracy, is Genelec’s “The Ones” coaxial series, and while IMO everyone who can afford them should seriously consider them, they’re definitely not strictly necessary to make good music.

Even the compromised speakers that are inevitable in the $400 price range will still allow you to make pretty good music, but I do hope OP realizes that you’re either going to be unable to hear content in the 20-50hz range, or you’ll have to get even cheaper $200 speakers + $200 subwoofer which may cover the 20-20khz spectrum but will most likely have terrible sound quality and insufficient accuracy (unless there are some amazing budget options I’m not aware of) due to even less budget to go around to cover the full frequency spectrum.

In other words, serious compromises must be made in this price range, and that simply must be accepted. The question is then which compromises are more tolerable over others.
 
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gamersensual14
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In amir's review the 2dB didn't seem to do enough, so you'd have to apply EQ through your computer or elsewhere. Also it seemed to me that Amir did like the KRKs?
I see. With the KRKs I meant that he didn't like them as much as the Adams, Kali, or JBL.

Anyway, good luck!
Thanks! ^^

What is your actual listening distance going to be like? That is going to have a major influence on your level needs (as well as room treatment needs). For example, I have a room almost as big as yours (and that's no longer "medium size" in my book), but I generally listen at my desk of a distance of about 0.4 m (triangle side length). I don't need super high levels, but hiss and hum becomes a major concern. You may have the room for classic hi-fi distances of 2.5-3 m - but then you'll be blowing your budget in no time, as you should be looking at something in the 8" class by that point, and those pretty much start around $400 the pair (e.g. Kali LP-8 or the classic Behringer B2031A). Spending 50% more or even up to twice that e.g. on some Kali IN-8 v2s is still very much justifiable. We are talking US prices, right? There's some variation across the globe.

My rule of thumb would be roughly -
<1 m - 5"
1-1.5 m - 6.5"
1.5-2.5 m - 8"
Hey Analog! This is very interesting! As I said, I can position my monitors wherever I want, so I can't give an exact distance. Still, I can almost 100% guarantee I won't be listening at <1m. I'll probably position them between 1. something meters and 2m. But in the end I'll just put them wherever they sound best.

Following your rule of thumb I think I'm interested in the 6-7" range, these are the Adam T7Vs, Kali LP-6s (which have 6.5" woofer), and JBL 306Ps.

Also, shallower and smaller tweeter waveguides signify broader radiation, giving more flexibility to user position in nearfield - while at the same time not being able to match woofers as large for directivity at crossover and having lower tweeter level handling.
This is also nice to know!

Welcome aboard, Adrian. With huge respect to those who have chipped in so far, I'm going to offer a different suggestion. But first let me check we're on the same page. I'm assuming this is not also a live room, where you're recording actual people singing and playing instruments. I'm inferring a post-production suite, in which you'll compose and eventually perform on synths and samples and so on, and then mix and master.
We will actually record people singing and playing instruments hahaha! Still, we have another room next to the one I've talked about, which is probably around the same dimensions but in a rectangle shape, not square. Would you change the distribution? I mean would you put the monitors and everything on the rectangular one and the microphones to record the singers in the other?

We could separate the studio setup from the recording rooms, as I just noted, or we could also just put it all together in the same room. How does it matter when picking the monitors?

In which case, room treatment is paramount. Imagine you're mixing a number, and you want to fade a synth bleep way back into the distance. You need perfect reverb, which is going to change every step of the way. You need to know it's 100% in the file, not perhaps 50% in the file, and 50% generated by your room. Or some different proportion. You need us to trust your masters. Therefore you need to hear nothing from your room, because you need to be confident you're giving us 100% of what you heard.

So, lots of absorption, as thick as you can go - you don't need 5m x 5m for a post room. You could pack out the walls pretty deep.
Noted! I won't hesitate on room treatment!

The bad news is - $400 isn't enough for monitors. Hiss alone disqualifies everything there. In a way they're miraculous, but ultimately they're wannabe toys. Seriously, genuinely, and I've seen it done by some serious people, if $400 bucks is all you want to spend, go the second- or third-hand hi-fi route.
I've been told the Adams don't hiss practically anything. Still, I get what you're saying. I'll also look in the second hand market. I believe that people would sell used monitors (in very good conditions) for around 66% of the price, so I'll be looking at pairs around $600, or at best $800. In that budget, what would be your recomendations? Or is that still not enough money?

I agree that OP is asking for too much (“basically everything related to music creation”) for a budget of only $400, however, I don’t think $4000 is the bare minimum to get there. I think $1k - $2k is reasonably possible, with some acceptable compromises.
Hi echo! Keep in mind that I want good monitors but don't need the absolute state of the art.

~$1000 for a Neumann KH80 or KH120 (or comparable Genelec’s if you’re in a country in which they are priced well, i.e. not the USA) plus a $500 subwoofer should be quite sufficient in sound quality and accuracy, as long as you don’t need to go too loud. The only thing out there that’s notably superior to these in sound quality and accuracy, is Genelec’s “The Ones” coaxial series, and while IMO everyone who can afford them should seriously consider them, they’re definitely not strictly necessary to make good music.
Following what Inner said, would you recomend looking in the used market for a pair of those Genelec or Neumann?

Even the compromised speakers that are inevitable in the $400 price range will still allow you to make pretty good music, but I do hope OP realizes that you’re either going to be unable to hear content in the 20-50hz range, or you’ll have to get even cheaper $200 speakers + $200 subwoofer which may cover the 20-20khz spectrum but will most likely have terrible sound quality and insufficient accuracy (unless there are some amazing budget options I’m not aware of) due to even less budget to go around to cover the full frequency spectrum.
Yes, I know that don't worry! As you said here:
In other words, serious compromises must be made in this price range, and that simply must be accepted. The question is then which compromises are more tolerable over others.
I want the cheapest monitors that will allow me to craft good mixes and masters on them while not having the pluses of more expensive monitors. I know they won't be perfect, but hopefully those compromises will not have a big impact on what I'll be doing.

For those very low frequencies I'll be using both my Audio Technica ATH M40X and Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohm.

And to clarify a little bit more, I'll write down now a couple things that are the most important to me, and some that are not important at all, so we narrow more the recomendations:

Really important (not "must-haves", but "would-like-haves", if that makes any sense :)):
1. Flat sound / tonal balance, or a sound that can be easily flatenned.
2. Very good imaging (I believe this is the right word). I would like to be able to hear the sounds separated from each other, the reverbs, etc.
3. Don't have super loud hiss or distortion (also just in case I note that I won't be pushing the monitors at 100dB, I'll listen at a normal-high volume 99% of the time).

Not that important:
1. Looks or aesthetics.
2. Very wide frequency range (as I'll also be using headphones).
3. Brand.
4. Loudness, as I said I don't need to create an earthquake to enjoy music.

Also, do you know if any company makes discounts for young people / students? This may seem like an strange question but most plugin developers do, and big discounts around 20-30%!

Looking forward to your answer,
Thanks everyone!
 

dominikz

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Until recently I used JBL LSR305 (1st gen) for nearfield listening and music creation and recently upgraded to Neumann KH 120A. This may be a controversial thing to say but IMHO both sets can be used with similar results and I didn't really feel any "night and day" difference after upgrading (though they do sound different when A/B-ed). Objectively the Neumanns are definitely an upgrade in many ways (and I'm happy to have upgraded), but I really can't see why someone couldn't make good mixes on cheap (but reasonably neutral) monitors such as e.g. the JBL 30x series, Kali LP6, Adam T5V or similar.
As long as the selected loudspeakers are flattish with relatively good directivity, IMO there is much more SQ upgrade to be had in e.g. optimizing the loudspeaker positions, adding a subwoofer and doing some corrective room EQ (below 300Hz or so) than by upgrading to more expensive speakers.
Just my 2¢
 
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gamersensual14
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I guess that then, for me, the finalists are: Adam T5Vs and Kali LP-6s!

I'll probably buy both in the future and keep the one I like the most. Thank you everyone! :D
 
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