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Looking for advice on the smart monitor speaker to get

andrew00

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Aug 16, 2023
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Heya, I'm not new to play music, but I am new to recording music. I've been trying to read a lot on here, do my research, but I've gotten a bit overwhelmed and would appreciate some advice.

I just moved into a new apartment and want to make a spare room - approx 10.2ft x 8.6ft with 7 feet ceilings into a home studio. My new apartment is in an old London terrace building so volume is an issue. My desk, which the speakers will be on or standing near is 140cm.

I will do some treatment to the room, but realistically my options are limited as it is a small room and I can't massively overhaul it or my partner wouldn't be too happy with me.

I'd love some speakers that are good quality, flat response, for accurate recording and mixing etc. I play lots of instruments, guitar, bass, record synths etc, and am using virtual instruments a lot too. Put simply, I want to be able to plug things direct in (via my pedalboard) and record that way.

Initially I was thinking of some inexpensive speakers like the JBL 305's or Yamaha HS7's. I am also weighing up if to 'cry once' and go big on some very nice monitors like Genelec 8330's or Neumann KH 120 II's, and use their respective room correction software to help make up for my poor room acoustics.

I should also say, I'm not looking to get a separate sub if I can help it as my neighbours are already proving a careful navigation, so if the monitors can handle my bass guitar without a sub that'd be great.

What I'm confused by is which option to go with, hence the advice request. Some things I've suggested is that whilst my room remains poor, I'd be wasting money on fancy monitors and so should go with one of the cheaper options and do what I can do the room and see where that leaves me. Another set of suggestions I've read has been saying how good the room correction software is now it to a large degree can help with the poorness of my room, and so perhaps might be worth doing for that.

Put simply, I'm confused and would love some advice from anyone who can help nudge me in the wise direction. As mentioned, I'm happy to 'cry once' and spend more if that's the smart call, but if I'm not going to get the benefit, then why not save my money. Please let me know what you think!

Last thing I should say is that I am also planning on getting some Sennheiser HD600's for headphone mixing, so I will have that as a dual option.
 
I just moved into a new apartment and want to make a spare room - approx 10.2ft x 8.6ft with 7 feet ceilings into a home studio
[...]
I will do some treatment to the room, but realistically my options are limited as it is a small room and I can't massively overhaul it or my partner wouldn't be too happy with me.
So is it a "spare room" or is it not? A studio space tends to require a decent amount of acoustic treatment, so you will have to make up your mind on what your priorities are.

If the room happens to border the neighbours, a false wall stuffed with insulation may not be the worst idea.

Now it seems that your instruments generally are the kind recorded electronically, and you didn't say anything about vocals? That would make things a good bit less demanding on the recording side at least. For a playback space, absorption that is even across the audible spectrum tends to be more important than getting it as high as possible (although a certain minimum is obviously required). A very absorptive space is sucking a lot of audio power, upping the requirements on your monitors.
Initially I was thinking of some inexpensive speakers like the JBL 305's or Yamaha HS7's. I am also weighing up if to 'cry once' and go big on some very nice monitors like Genelec 8330's or Neumann KH 120 II's, and use their respective room correction software to help make up for my poor room acoustics.
The answer may be somewhere in the middle. I say if you can fire up the signal generator with a sine at 440 Hz and spot the 3rd harmonic in the woofer right away, there's probably room for improvement. On the other hand there is little point in going way overboard with the level handling capabilities either.

What sort of listening distance are you aiming for?

Have you considered integrating Sonarworks with your DAW as another option? Also, as a general rule, focus on EQing below about 500 Hz or thereabouts where room effects are most prominent, and only correct what gated measurements suggest to be defiiciencies that would show up anechoically as well.
I should also say, I'm not looking to get a separate sub if I can help it as my neighbours are already proving a careful navigation, so if the monitors can handle my bass guitar without a sub that'd be great.
Now while the fundamentals go quite low, I don't actually think many people care about what goes on way down there. Otherwise, at a minimum of 41.2 Hz for the fundamental, you would want some Kali LP6s at least. (Or some of their higher-end models like the IN-5.) Thankfully the bass tends to provide sufficient harmonic content above 100 Hz.
 
Everyone on this site accentuates the importance of “listening window”, “dispersion” etc but I’m not sure those apply to your scenario here. Good ol’ 1970s wisdom was to go direct sound >> first reflections and then kill the slowly decaying room resonances somehow (absorption & diffusion). Finally discipline as a producer - attenuate whatever you cannot monitor.

You surely cannot have enough absorption to fill the room with direct sound, but you don’t have to sit at the back of the room either. Going in this direction, Genelec’s recommendation is as such:
- Speaker & listener in the front 1/3 half of room (such that back wall reflections need >3x time to reach you than direct, and lower in level)
- Speaker no further than 2 ft. from front wall (or comb filtering into bass region, but you can’t absorb so deep to cure it).
- Speaker and listener form equilateral triangle of ~3 ft, and speaker no less than 2 ft. to side walls (such that first reflection from side walls were fired nearly 90 deg. off speaker axis, and delayed a lot). Strive for left-right symmetry.

So, yes, to fulfill all these rules you’d be staring at the 8.6 ft. shorter side, with your back towards the empty 2/3 room. Then speaker dispersion won’t matter much (off axis response colors reflections, not direct sound), and even the Edifier MR-4 is sufficiently flat on axis… The link from above post also gives nice instructions wrt absorption designs. The first figure demonstrates the floor plan nicely.

I envy you for having a spare room to go down that obviously correct path, as that placement is most idiosyncratic and cannot exit outside of a dedicated room which I do not have.

As a headphone convert, I recommend against the HD650, simply because listening nearfield is like a pair of cans, but with correct imaging. Centered instruments still sound centered, and off-center sources have that textbook “image spread from 12:30-1:30” feel, instead of “off to the right somewhat, but in my head always”. It’s also much easier to achieve a flat FR with a speaker, and really cheap to measure that too.
 
I am also weighing up if to 'cry once' and go big...I'm not looking to get a separate sub if I can help it as my neighbours are already proving a careful navigation, so if the monitors can handle my bass guitar without a sub that'd be great.
You're mixing up a couple of things. Bass SPL won't matter if it comes from a sub or a main speaker, it just travels through structures. It's all about how loud you're playing, not what you are playing it through. In your shoes, I would want like an 8" + waveguide/horn monitor which could handle the bass, eventually you likely move, maybe you take the monitors someplace to play.
- YES you should "cry once and go big" you will be much more satisfied and the speakers will be useful for a much longer time-which is great because if not abused speakers last for decades.
I am not an expert as to what is available in this area. I'm a longtime Genelec fan but the big ones are pricey so this
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MR824--mackie-mr824-8-inch-powered-studio-monitor
looks like a nice alternative.
 
Thanks for all the replies, very interesting stuff. I'm a bit of a noob to the audio science of this stuff so interesting to read, and more to research.

I think I'm leaning towards picking up a pair of Yamaha HS8's, at least to try for a month and see how I get on with them. I think I am a bit conscious of going too big too big at a point where my knowledge is sub par. And from there learning about room improvements and perhaps then upgrading to nicer monitors.

I am still mindful of room correction through, still a bit plus of the Neumann/Genelec series.
 
Soundproofing is difficult and expensive and it requires "construction". There may be no way of getting "realistic" bass without bothering your neighbors. :(

Simple sound absorption & diffusion can be inexpensive. Bass traps aren't "cheap" but not as costly as soundproofing, and they just help to smooth-out the bass in the room... they won't help with the neighbors.
Initially I was thinking of some inexpensive speakers like the JBL 305's or Yamaha HS7's

Normally, Id say you need a subwoofer. I assume you have an amp/cabinet for your bass and I'm sure it's got something bigger than a 5-inch woofer! :p But... The neighbor issue...

Monitors (for production) don't have to be "perfect" or "great". They should have reasonably flat-smooth frequency response with no major defects/weaknesses. Then it's a matter of learning how to make a good sounding mix/production on your monitors (and in your room). And after you've "learned your monitors" you probably don't want to "upgrade" because then you'll have to learn your new monitors.

Most pros advise against using headphones as your main monitors. But I read a story about one engineer who uses headphones because he moves from studio-to-studio and with his headphones he gets consistency. He made the same point that I mentioned about monitors - They don't have be "perfect" but you have to learn what a good mix sounds like on your particular headphones.

It may be more important for your headphones to be comfortable for you. And if you use the same headphones to monitor a backing track while singing, etc., of course you'll want closed-back headphones.
 
I think I'm leaning towards picking up a pair of Yamaha HS8's
Please, do not buy Yamaha. Although, they will probably impress you first time(AFAIK, they have some mid emphasis + quite a few mix engineers stated that they have "slow" bass), this is not what I'd consider as a good pair of monitors.
Take a look at Adams, KRKs (I own a pair of RP7G4s, they're awesome, except amps noise floor). I'd also suggest listening to Behringers, like 2030 model, it measures pretty darn good and costs next to nothing compared to something like Genelec 8030. If you're okay with second hand products, Genelec's old M line or 10XX are quite a good choice, IMHO
 
Heya, I'm not new to play music, but I am new to recording music. I've been trying to read a lot on here, do my research, but I've gotten a bit overwhelmed and would appreciate some advice.

I just moved into a new apartment and want to make a spare room - approx 10.2ft x 8.6ft with 7 feet ceilings into a home studio. My new apartment is in an old London terrace building so volume is an issue. My desk, which the speakers will be on or standing near is 140cm.

I will do some treatment to the room, but realistically my options are limited as it is a small room and I can't massively overhaul it or my partner wouldn't be too happy with me.

I'd love some speakers that are good quality, flat response, for accurate recording and mixing etc. I play lots of instruments, guitar, bass, record synths etc, and am using virtual instruments a lot too. Put simply, I want to be able to plug things direct in (via my pedalboard) and record that way.

Initially I was thinking of some inexpensive speakers like the JBL 305's or Yamaha HS7's. I am also weighing up if to 'cry once' and go big on some very nice monitors like Genelec 8330's or Neumann KH 120 II's, and use their respective room correction software to help make up for my poor room acoustics.

I should also say, I'm not looking to get a separate sub if I can help it as my neighbours are already proving a careful navigation, so if the monitors can handle my bass guitar without a sub that'd be great.

What I'm confused by is which option to go with, hence the advice request. Some things I've suggested is that whilst my room remains poor, I'd be wasting money on fancy monitors and so should go with one of the cheaper options and do what I can do the room and see where that leaves me. Another set of suggestions I've read has been saying how good the room correction software is now it to a large degree can help with the poorness of my room, and so perhaps might be worth doing for that.

Put simply, I'm confused and would love some advice from anyone who can help nudge me in the wise direction. As mentioned, I'm happy to 'cry once' and spend more if that's the smart call, but if I'm not going to get the benefit, then why not save my money. Please let me know what you think!

Last thing I should say is that I am also planning on getting some Sennheiser HD600's for headphone mixing, so I will have that as a dual option.
In my opinion, room EQ + subwoofer(s) are really critical for best audio quality. If you're not interested in going the manual/DIY route for sub integration and room EQ (with the associated learning curve), Neumann and Genelec indeed seem to have the best pre-integrated and automated solutions on the pro market.

Given that you plan to have a desktop nearfield audio system in an apartment building (so not a lot of SPL required nor desired), have you perhaps considered the smaller Neumann KH 80 + MA1 / Genelec 8320 + GLM? Benefit of smaller drivers is (even) better directivity, they are better suited for ultra-nearfield, take less space and are cheaper.
You could add a matching sub later and have a small, but top quality full-range desktop audio system.

Anyway that's just my 2c. Good luck! :)
 
Thanks for all the replies! I did a bit of a test yesterday, a friend brought some Yamaha HS8's round to test. Long story short, they sounded good, although as one might expect the bass was ott at close distance without turning it down a little, especially in my currently untreated room, and at volumes of around 70 decibels. They were also comically massive on my desk, so I appreciated that they allowed me to consider size as a key consideration.

Given this, I've decided to refocus (some may say become realistic) a little and instead aim for a good point of bang for my buck combo, but without going too big, and with room correction. This has led me to one of the Genelec 8320 / 8330 or the Neumann KH 80 or 120 II's, both seem compact, flat, and generally good.

I'm then into the size vs quality decision. In a perfect world, I'd go with the smaller combo and they would be sufficient to representing reasonable frequencies at my distance and home recording use. Practically, I am expecting the larger option (8330/KH120ii) to be needed as a sweet spot of quality and performance.

Can anyone please offer thoughts on this related to the size vs performance question, and also if you have any brand thoughts given the above? Thanks so much!
 
I'm then into the size vs quality decision. In a perfect world, I'd go with the smaller combo and they would be sufficient to representing reasonable frequencies at my distance and home recording use. Practically, I am expecting the larger option (8330/KH120ii) to be needed as a sweet spot of quality and performance.

Can anyone please offer thoughts on this related to the size vs performance question, and also if you have any brand thoughts given the above? Thanks so much!
The -6dB points of each of the 4 monitors are [from manufacturer specs]:
  • Neumann KH 120 II: 41Hz (approximately E1)
  • Genelec 8330A: 45Hz (approximately F1)
  • Neumann KH 80 DSP: 53Hz (approximately G#1/Ab1)
  • Genelec 8320A: 55Hz (approximately A1)
As you can see, from the music scale perspective the total difference is approx. 6 semitones (or 1/2 octave) [source].

Note that adding a subwoofer to any of the above would probably give you an extra 1/2 octave (~30s Hz), and possibly even a full octave (~20Hz), depending on the size and model subwoofer you select, while also offloading the difficult to reproduce <80Hz content from the monitors. Subwoofers should also reduce intermodulation distortion and can help combat SBIR dips (bass suckout) - perhaps you might find my thread on the topic interesting (note that this was with a really tiny sub).
Though it is true that integrating a sub and doing EQ correction is not necessarily trivial and definitely requires time and effort so I completely understand why people are reluctant to go there (but I wouldn't go back :D). Yes, I've become a subwoofer fan - I admit it. :p

Regarding Neumann vs Genelec, both seem to provide top audio performance so I'd personally base my decision on non-audio factors: SW UI/UX and stability, introduced latency (due to on-board DSP), availability of local support, warranty, price, cosmetics, etc...
 
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Heya, thanks for your reply. If I'm understanding what you're saying and the links you posted, then my bass guitar, which I tune to D Standard, goes to 36.71 Hz, so ideally I should have a speaker (system) that goes that far down in order to full represent it? Hence where the sub concept comes in which I know I'm trying to avoid lol, as any of the speakers I listed won't actually get low enough for the full bass response.
 
If I'm understanding what you're saying and the links you posted, then my bass guitar, which I tune to D Standard, goes to 36.71 Hz, so ideally I should have a speaker (system) that goes that far down in order to full represent it?
That's right - none of the speakers you're looking at would be able to reproduce the D1 fundamental appropriately compared to higher frequency content (i.e. the D1 fundamental level would be quieter than it should be).

E.g. the Genelec 8320A anechoic response is down approx. -31dB at 36Hz (that would be very faint compared to higher frequency content), and even the KH 120 II is down approx. -11dB (which is perceptually roughly half as loud as reference).

However do note that when you play the low D string on your bass guitar it is comprised of more than just the fundamental - the higher frequency content in its spectrum would still be very much audible, and reproduced with sufficient energy - so you might not miss the fundamental that much really. :) I suggest you try it out on some speakers with similar bass extension and see how you feel about it.

However, another problem that often occurs with bass is due to SBIR (Speaker Boundary Interference Response) - i.e. due to cancellations (suckout) in the in-room frequency response that happen due to where the loudspeakers are positioned in space compared to walls, floor and ceiling. With the common monitor position these dips often happen in the 70-100Hz range, which results in a lot of bass-guitar-spectrum energy being sucked-out when listening to audio content.
Integrating monitors with a subwoofer can help combat this, because you can place the subwoofer differently than the monitors, such that you avoid the strongest SBIR dips in the summed response.

Have a look at Genelec guidelines to placement of monitors (without sub) and monitors+sub configurations for some quick tips/guidelines. Unfortunately a lot of these effects will be specific to your room, so would probably require some measurement plus trial and error to tune for best results. Hope this helps!
 
Any thoughts about headphone?
...
 
My two cents: If the plan now is to add a sub, you might want to check out the Vanatoo Transparent Zero+. I believe their bass performance is comparable to other active monitors you are considering, and they are pretty damn accurate. Also, they are TINY. Added bonus: they come with a stand/handle hybrid (standle!) which means they can be placed either with the front baffle angled up (pointing at your ears) for near-field listening, or flipped over to have the front baffle perpendicular to the desk for listening from, say 2-3 meters away.
 
That's for the explanation about the bass response, very interesting, and I'd def not considered the in room response as well. It definitely sounds like this will be more an evolving process versus trying to be one and done.

I think my next step is as you suggest and go take a listen at a store and make my next move, thank you for your information!

@Salt yes I've looked into the Sennheiser HD 600 and maybe the Beyerdynamic DT 880's as headphones to compliment. The Sennheiser's seem more favoured, however I have the Beyer DT 770's which I like so might also try the 880's, even though I have read they can be a bit ott in the treble.
 
I've not heard of the Vanatoo's before but will definitely check them out, that's for the suggestion. Tiny is definitely good lol. What sort of sub would you suggest with them?
 
I've not heard of the Vanatoo's before but will definitely check them out, that's for the suggestion. Tiny is definitely good lol. What sort of sub would you suggest with them?
I use mine without a sub, but it is not my main system. Vanatoo is a small company; you could probably email them with your specific use case, and they might give you some suggestions. This kind of question definitely depends on room size, distance from speakers, BUDGET, etc. The SVS Micro 3000 is a great little sub, but not the cheapest. SVS in general make good products for fair prices, but many people here are far more knowledgeable about good, relatively affordable subwoofers than I am.
 
@andrew00 If you're looking at other speaker brands as well, may I suggest to have a look at the amazing web resource spinorama.org by @pierre?
It is a consolidated database of spinorama measurements from various sources that allows you to filter, sort and compare measurements of various loudspeakers. Personally I'd only buy loudspeakers where extensive anechoic measurements are available (including, but not limited to, the spinorama).

Regarding headphones - while it might be counterintuitive, IME it was initially actually easier to get a good frequency balance with a pair of loudspeakers+subwoofer+room EQ than it was with headphones.
This is because loudspeaker measurements are quite repeatable and well understood, whereas headphone measurements are much more open to interpretation and less consistent. E.g. it is usually not possible to directly compare headphone measurements made by different methods/systems, and even with the same method/system it can be challenging to get consistent results on subsequent measurement attempts.

For me an issue was that for a long time I didn't really know what kind of sound to aim for in headphones. After I tuned my loudspeaker-based systems I finally had a good reference and could see how close my headphones were (spoiler: they needed corrective EQ). In any case I prefer to listen and mix on loudspeakers, and I only use headphones when that is not possible (or for things like editing).
 
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