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Looking to upgrade near-field studio monitors

unloren

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I’m hoping to get some suggestions on new monitors but this may also serve as an anecdotal review of several speakers for those who are interested.

I have a small “bedroom studio” that measures around 2 meters wide and 3 meters long with limited room treatment and can’t-annoy-the-neighbors-volume restrictions. I make electronic music but not necessarily bass-heavy club music. I’m fine with a 50hz cutoff because my Slate VSX headphones are very effective for mixing low frequencies

I’ve been using NS-10m Studio with a Behringer A800 amp and Genelec 8030a monitors. DAC is a Universal Audio Apollo 8p.

Basically what I’d like to do is switch out the Genelecs for something else. I know they measure well and are darlings of ASR, but I’ve had them for more than 10 years and I’ve never got on well with them. The treble is very fatiguing to my ears and the lower mids are somewhat concealed. I know that this could be addressed through better room treatment but to be honest I’d rather get a pair of monitors that play better in my room as it is.

I’ve auditioned the Amphion one15, the Geithain rl906, and the Eve SC305 in my room and I like them all.

I slightly prefer the rl906 because the small size, coaxial design, and top-facing ports make them very easy to place. To me they sound like a more pleasing version of the Neumann KH120, with that flat/dry frequency response for clinical editing tasks. But unlike the KH120 they are not “boring.” And I am able to work on them for long periods without fatigue. As a bonus, when I’m not mixing they serve as fantastic speakers for listening as well.

I liked the Amphions because they were somehow able to tell me the problem areas in my mix—I can’t explain why but they were easy to mix on and translation was great to other speakers. Also very good as listening speakers. However they are very expensive and seem prone to blowouts.

The Eves are a three-way design so lower mids were clear and bass sounded very upfront and easy to mix; on the other hand I wasn’t a fan of the ribbon tweeters as it was too easy to boost high frequencies that became piercing on less forgiving speakers. Another point against the Eves is the rear-facing port and horizontal placement. It was a bit of a challenge to fit them far away enough from the wall and around my computer monitor. They also suffer from the Neumann clinical sound, especially in the higher frequencies. Good for mixing, but not so much for listening.

Since I’ve started reading reviews on this site two things I’ve learned are that you can’t always trust your ears and that you definitely can’t trust manufacturers specs. None of the speakers I’ve auditioned have been reviewed on this site so what I’m hoping for is a second opinion on any of these monitors. I’d hate to put 4 grand into new monitors only to come back in a few months and see that they measure badly.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to any opinions or suggestions.
 
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alex-z

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Probably not what you want to hear, but how is your room treatment?

Also, have you measured the old and new speakers?

I ask because if the treble is fatiguing even on neutral speakers you likely have some decay time issues. It is entirely possible you only like the new speakers because they are new, not because they are better.

As a general rule, once you have a speaker with good directivity, you should be able to EQ them to suite your preference.

While not technically studio monitors, I would throw models like the KEF R3 and LS50 Meta into the ring. They have a neutral response, good directivity, and low distortion, all the requirements of studio monitors.
 

hege

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I’d hate to put 4 grand into new monitors only to come back in a few months and see that they measure badly.

Why would you care if they measure "badly" (there are many levels to this, even TOTL Genelec monsters measure "badly"), if you used and liked them for a while and got good results/translation? Mixing/mastering is different from pleasure listening, you are supposed to be the pro and listen and verify your results analytically no matter your gear. :)

But probably you should just invest in UMIK-1 and do some measurements first. Also some 10cm acoustics panels in correct spots cost next to nothing.
 
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LTig

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Have you tried the Neumann KH310? They can be used in near field due to tweeter and midwoofer being close distance.

Edit: regarding boring sound from monitors with flat FR: I'd say these boring recordings were mixed/mastered using non flat speakers. Or your hearing has adapted to non flat speakers (unlikely with Genelecs though).
 
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DjBonoBobo

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+1 for making measurements and dealing with the room first.
But if you really want something new and if you don´t have experience with EQ yet, an obvious alternative for such a small room would be the Neumann KH80 + MA1, of course. You can easily integrate an additional KH750, if necessary for more smooth upper bass.
 
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unloren

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Probably not what you want to hear, but how is your room treatment?

It's definitely not great. I have eight 10cm-thick Auralex foam squares at first reflection points on the walls and ceiling, but little treatment to deal with mid and low frequencies. The reality is that my room is a shared family space and it's already small so I can't reduce the size of the room even further with thick bass traps. This is why I'd like to get a speaker that's less fussy about placement and has front/top facing ports or passive radiators.

As a general rule, once you have a speaker with good directivity, you should be able to EQ them to suite your preference.

I've tried using the inbuilt EQ switches but they don't do much to tame the harshness for me. Could it be the material used to build the tweeter that's fatiguing? The ribbon tweeters on the Eves were very comfortable to listen to for hours and hours.

While not technically studio monitors, I would throw models like the KEF R3 and LS50 Meta into the ring.

I'm completely open to go the hifi route. The KEF R3 looks amazing. Thanks for the recommendation. Do you think my humble Behringer A800 would sound good with them or would an amp upgrade be in order as well?
 
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unloren

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Have you tried the Neumann KH310?

For sure. These were really my dream monitors. I had a couple reservations about how well they would place in my room and if they would also be enjoyable for listening, but I was actually in the process of saving up for a pair when Neumann raised the price from $4,000 to $5,700 (in my country). So they were my first choice but unfortunately they're out of my price range now.

Regarding boring sound from monitors with flat FR: I'd say these boring recordings were mixed/mastered using non flat speakers.

This is an interesting topic and could be a thread of its own, but I've compared a lot of monitors over the last couple of years and to me there do seem to be some monitors that sound more clinical than others. For example I listened to Metric on the Geithains, Genelecs, NS10s, and Amphions and it sounds punchy, dynamic, alive, etc., but when listening on the Neumanns and Eves the punch is gone. Is it the ultra flat FR (such as plus/minus 2db) or class D amps? Could is be DSP crossovers as opposed to active crossovers (in the case of Eve)? Anyway, I'm sure these would be the best option for purely mixing, but I'm after a compromise between mixing tool and listening experience. I'm happy using the Slate headphones for the more clinical decisions and using the monitors to check the balance of the mix as a whole. Also since I'm spending so much money I'd like to get something that I can enjoy listening to music on as well.
 

q3cpma

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Do you use high quality digital room correction? Because if you don't, you're wrong on all counts (current opinion and potential replacements).
 
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unloren

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Do you use high quality digital room correction? Because if you don't, you're wrong on all counts (current opinion and potential replacements).

High quality meaning like a Trinnov system?
 
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unloren

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I'd say anything automated by a company that knows what it's doing (GLM, MA-1, Dirac, Trinnov, etc...). Fixing the room by changing the speakers is definitely not a good idea.

I don’t disagree with you, but having a few different pairs in my room already has shown me that I can do better by changing the speakers. Not perfect, but better. The room isn't great, but I feel like I can get a decent and reliable sound by selecting a complimentary speaker type, such as coaxial or sealed(ish) cabinet.

Just to be clear, I think the 8030a sounds quite good for listening, but when you’ve got an 8 bar hi-hat loop playing for 5 minutes one meter from your ears and you’re raising 10khz by 15db to search for resonances… that’s when it becomes a problem. I didn’t really have similar problems with the Geithains.

edited so as not to sound like I'm shrugging off helpful and good advice. ;)
 
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unloren

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+1 for making measurements and dealing with the room first.
But if you really want something new and if you don´t have experience with EQ yet, an obvious alternative for such a small room would be the Neumann KH80 + MA1, of course. You can easily integrate an additional KH750, if necessary for more smooth upper bass.

I put the KH80 up against the rl906 in the listening room at a local dealer and they sounded surprisingly similar. The only thing is that I did miss that extra 5 to 10 hz on the bottom end and they were a bit less engaging and slightly compressed sounding (subjective, I know). But certainly the KH80 is a great speaker. The KH80 plus KH750 would be about $3,250 total over here. That's a good option.

Now that I think about it, maybe I could just go the Neumann route and use the leftover $1,000 I would have used on the Geithains to buy a pair of non-critical listening hifi enjoyment speakers. :D
 
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DjBonoBobo

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FeddyLost

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I have eight 10cm-thick Auralex foam squares at first reflection points on the walls and ceiling, but little treatment to deal with mid and low frequencies. The reality is that my room is a shared family space and it's already small so I can't reduce the size of the room even further with thick bass traps. This is why I'd like to get a speaker that's less fussy about placement and has front/top facing ports or passive radiators.
In such case there are few options
1) as I recommend usually - just for opening the mind - check out PSI monitors if you can. they are not very beneficial for electronic music, but they are slightly clinical, but not fatiguing and have front faced ports.
2) get a measurement mic and learn how to measure and evaluate sound at LP ... REW is free, and you already have interface with mic in and phantom power. this must help much more than just exchanging speakers without knowing what is changed
3) find out a way to treat your room as much as you can without compromising living space. there are lot of solutions, but usually ceiling can be lowered without big trouble. you can even install bass traps in all wall-to-ceiling corners of your room, maybe even tuned ones. with small room you need little less space for trapping.
Also, check out some structures like Heradesign with acoustic lining. Maybe they will perform better than your Auralex, while 4" foam usually already work well down to low mids.
4) regarding some short working solution after all these points i'd try out Neumanns 80/120 with 750 DSP sub ... they will be boring, but for creativity you can apply some "fun EQ" and still have some dull clinical sound for polishing your mixes.
Otherwise you can assembly any speaker + sub set and apply any DRC, but I'd think about another amplifier if you decide to go with passive speakers. With extreme nearfield and low SPL you need amp that work well at very low power, and I'm not sure that A800 will be very good in that department.
 
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unloren

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try out Neumanns 80/120 with 750 DSP sub ... they will be boring, but for creativity you can apply some "fun EQ" and still have some dull clinical sound for polishing your mixes.

For anyone who has experience with this setup, how cohesive do the KH80 and KH750 sound together? Does it sound like everything is coming from the same place (I’m thinking the 40 - 80 range that the sub would take over from the near fields) or is it obvious those lower frequencies are coming from the sub on the floor?

(Edit: it just occurred to me that, obviously, anything covered by the sub will be mono. I guess I’ve never thought about it before, but it seems strange not being able to hear 50 or 60 hz on both channels.)

Also, how long does the calibration/correction usually take? I’m often moving synths and the desk around so I might need to calibrate for each session.


Thanks again.
 
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DjBonoBobo

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For anyone who has experience with this setup, how cohesive do the KH80 and KH750 sound together? Does it sound like everything is coming from the same place (I’m thinking the 40 - 80 range that the sub would take over from the near fields) or is it obvious those lower frequencies are coming from the sub on the floor?

(Edit: it just occurred to me that, obviously, anything covered by the sub will be mono. I guess I’ve never thought about it before, but it seems strange not being able to hear 50 or 60 hz on both channels.)

Also, how long does the calibration/correction usually take? I’m often moving synths and the desk around so I might need to calibrate for each session.


Thanks again.

Here is a post by @PaulieDC who tried the 80/750/MA1 combination: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...itor-measurements-3.14637/page-26#post-853140

The calibration itself doesnt take too long (7× 3 short sweeps), but finding the correct positions for the mic can take a while. If you use fixed micstand and markers on the floor i guess maybe 10 minutes as a good case scenario. It usually takes me around half an hour without using markers and so on.
 
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unloren

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A quick update, I stopped by the audio shop for a couple hours and was able to audition the RL906 and the KH80 side by side.

KH80 is definitely a capable monitor for its size with great stereo imaging for sure. One thing I noticed though is that it has a very compressed sound, as if every element in the mix sounds like it's playing at the same level. I didn't feel it had a lot of depth because of this. I assume this is because of the ultra linear frequency response, but I don't know enough about speaker engineering to assume anything else. Perhaps this makes it a good mixing monitor because you're forced to make every element in the mix "live together" in the same space, but for listening I can't say it's engaging in any way for me. Definitely a tool to achieve a task.

Another problem is the 4" woofer. Everything in the mix approaching the 60hz range took on a "papery" quality, whereas the RL906 tended to roll off more naturally.

However, the more I think about room correction and getting an accurate sound the more I'm attracted to the Neumann system. There's a linearity to the sound that meant even at lower listening volumes you're getting all the information you need within its frequency range. Adding the KH750 would certainly provide everything I need and then some. The only problem here is that using sub that reaches down to 20Hz in my apartment is 100% going to get me evicted, no matter what time of day or at what volume I use it at. :D According to the engineer at the shop it's not possible to use the room correction while also applying a HPF to cut the sub off at say 50Hz, which would be the ideal solution. It’s also not possible to mute or disengage the sub without redoing the room calibration as the calibration is done as a set, is that right?

Can any Neumann users here confirm that it's not possible to set a HPF curve on the sub? Or are there any clever workarounds that would achieve this without compromising the accuracy of the frequency response?

If not perhaps the best option is to wait for the KH120 DSP with room correction.
 
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DjBonoBobo

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Can any Neumann users here confirm that it's not possible to set a HPF curve on the sub? Or are there any clever workarounds that would achieve this without compromising the accuracy of the frequency response?

Yes, you can edit the target curve in the MA1 software and add a low shelf and/or a bell filter. With this you can build your own cut-off. It may be that you are limited to -20 dB, I am not entirely sure. However, you can only set this once directly after calibration and cannot change it later (only after recalibration).

An alternative would be to not use the MA1 software for the time being, but instead use the Neumann.control iPad app. This allows you to save and call up different EQ settings and filters. Unfortunately, this does not yet work with the MA1 software, which would then be without automatic calibration and you would have to measure and create correction filters yourself. Hopefully Neumann will improve the software eventually so that you can use all the possibilities together. Unfortunately, they are very slow with software development.
 

audafreak

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I don't believe there will be KH120DSP.

When using MA1 calibration, part of last step is possibility to compare before/after and possibility to change default target curve with parametric eq with low and high shelf filters + 8 parametric EQ filters, so you can change the sound according your requirements and taste. You can limit output of any frequency. During this process you can play your set of music and change EQ before final saving to monitors.

Because of this for me the whole calibration takes more than 2 hours, preparing, calibration, changes, listening, finishing.

Sound of combination of KH8+KH750 is coherent to ears of mine and my friends. Sound is really very different when you add SW to KH80. Do not judge KH80 alone.

Theoretical disadvantage of Neumann DSP is SR 48kHz. 192kHz would be much better. Question is if you can hear it.
 
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