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Please sell me on "ruler flat" near field monitors.

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Hi- My name is Noel and I am a former Columbia Records recording artist and member of Gearspace for years now. I have a guest room studio where I mostly record my own music and sometimes do stuff for film and television. I am currently using NS10 studio monitors vertically oriented with a consumer grade sub which I "tune by ear".
I am awaiting the ARC 3 system to measure my room, which is an irregular shaped bedroom roughly 11.5 by 12 x 13' with 9 foot ceilings. I have 4 GIK broadband panels in my room and queenside bed- and that is going to be it (per wife) as this is our guest room.
I've tried the Neumann KH 80's and I had Genelec 8010's with the Genelec sub at one point- I've also had Dynaudios as well.

For whatever reason, the NS10's make sense to me- and they are my only monitors. I cross check things in my car and on our HomePod.

I have been getting more ear-educated with Soundgym and I can't shake the notion that I might be able to make things easier on myself in terms of mix decisions if I was able to "correct" more or less, the nulls and other stuff that surely exist in the room.
I am running the NS10's with a Yamaha P2500 amp, and I have a passive switcher that I connect the Sony powered sub to and I add or subtract the sub when needed.

I would say I am rarely surprised out in the real world- but I know that I know the speakers and the room, so there is that.

When I had more "neutral" monitors- I found that my instinct was to try to feature everything in such a way that it sounded "good". That was true of the Dynaudios, Genelecs and Neumanns. In Nashville I had a properly treated room and have years of being in a good room vs what I have now.

I would do test mixes with the Dynaudios vs the NS10's and the NS10 mixes sounded more like a finished record to me and the clients.

Having said all of that- I was talking to a good friend of mine who does film and TV post pro work and is an accomplished engineer mix wise and he spoke about Neumann and Genelec with their respective room correction as something I should look at-

I can currently "choose" where the sub picks up frequency wise and the volume- but what is ACTUALLY happening I hope to find out when I test the room tomorrow.

Anyway- philosophically, has anyone transitioned from "character" monitors like Adams or NS10's to something more "scientifically neutral"- all other things equal, and gotten past the tendency to try to feature everything in a song? I am speaking about trading musicality for "fidelity"- leading to boring, but "pretty" mixes.

I respect the power of real science- science that is open minded and allows for learning even outside of existing constructs.

My mix position is about 36 inches from my monitors. I rarely listen over 70-75 Decibels. I need to listen at lower levels for a number of reasons and I don't need "throw" or loud volumes.

I am interested in the KH80's with the 750 sub, or maybe Genelec 8330's etc... but I can't shake the feeling that maybe some people are just meant to mix with monitors that push you in certain directions that just tend to end up being musical.

Can someone sell me on the ruler flat concept in terms of making more emotionally compelling mixes?
 

DVDdoug

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The main thing is that you can make good mixes that sound good on a good system, and that "translate" well everywhere else. That's most easily done with good monitors in a good room.

Accuracy is a good thing! ;) That's true for production and reproduction, but more important for production.

If you do upgrade, you'll have to learn what a good setup sounds like on your new monitors and that may take some time.

I am awaiting the ARC 3 system to measure my room
That should help, but note that you can't fix standing-wave nodes where the direct & reflected waves cancel with EQ because it takes "infinite" power and woofers/subwoofers to overcome the cancelation. Bass traps can help with both the nodes (dips) and anti-nodes (bumps).
 

kemmler3D

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Can someone sell me on the ruler flat concept in terms of making more emotionally compelling mixes?
Having done some amateur bedroom production and mixing myself (2 whole albums worth, lol) I would say the best tool is the one you know how to use.

If your mixes come out good using NS10s, "if it ain't broke"...

With ruler flat monitors, you won't have to wonder as much if a given aspect of a given mix is the mix or the monitor. But you will still need to put in the time training your ear on those monitors in your room, vs. the NS10s. It sounds like you were thinking harder about what the mix should sound like on the flat monitors, leading to a less natural sound. I think that would change with time.

All that said, either way, I think fixing the room modes with DSP is a no-brainer if you can do it. It's hard to imagine successfully mixing through nasty peaks/dips in the bass, I think that's why a lot of people check bass on headphones.

And welcome to ASR! This forum is mostly listener-oriented but there are a handful of pros floating around with some perspective on production. When it comes to playback, according to the prevailing philosophy here, there is one right frequency response, and that's flat, with a little bass boost if you prefer. When it comes to production, the only rule is that the mix has to come out good at the end. Whatever tools help you do that are the tools you should use.
 
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Having done some amateur bedroom production and mixing myself (2 whole albums worth, lol) I would say the best tool is the one you know how to use.

If your mixes come out good using NS10s, "if it ain't broke"...

With ruler flat monitors, you won't have to wonder as much if a given aspect of a given mix is the mix or the monitor. But you will still need to put in the time training your ear on those monitors in your room, vs. the NS10s. It sounds like you were thinking harder about what the mix should sound like on the flat monitors, leading to a less natural sound. I think that would change with time.

All that said, either way, I think fixing the room modes with DSP is a no-brainer if you can do it. It's hard to imagine successfully mixing through nasty peaks/dips in the bass, I think that's why a lot of people check bass on headphones.

And welcome to ASR! This forum is mostly listener-oriented but there are a handful of pros floating around with some perspective on production. When it comes to playback, according to the prevailing philosophy here, there is one right frequency response, and that's flat, with a little bass boost if you prefer. When it comes to production, the only rule is that the mix has to come out good at the end. Whatever tools help you do that are the tools you should use.
Thank you- this is really helpful! I would say I have "good ears" as a musician but using Soundgym has taught me how far I have to go in terms of eq, stereo field etc... DVDDoug mentioned the limitations of DSP correction and that was my other concern about the situation. I mean I spend a lot of money only to realize a potentially minor gain because it's physics! Anyway, If I am being honest, I didn't give myself enough time and wasn't open minded enough to learn the Generic's or the Neumanns. I think your observation about thinking what the mix should sound like and that tendency changing over time is likely spot on.

Anyway, thank you both for the responses!
 

kemmler3D

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I mean I spend a lot of money only to realize a potentially minor gain because it's physics!
This is mostly true for low frequencies, read up on "Schroeder frequency" - in every room there's a transition point, below that is where the room dominates the sound and you can use DSP to fix it. When it comes to mids and highs the speaker tends to be more in control, and of course those matter to the mix quite a bit.
 

radix

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Before buying speakers or correction or treatment, I'd invest in a decent measurement mic (e.g. a umik or earthworks, you might have one already) and learn to use REW then measure your current system. Get a baseline.

it might be the best thing to do is add room treatments to deaden the room some. Once you have reflections controlled, then EQ or DRC might be able to flatten what you have already. The Neumann and Genelec, apart from being very flat to begin with, can be EQ'd really well too to finish them off for a specific space.
 

YSC

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I would say all you need is adaption, accuracy is great as you can know in an accurate manner, what is there and what is broken, which could be masked by the "character speakers", now translation to other speakers is a adaption of your work with a more accurate new system vs the old one you are so used to, just say you adapted to a spekaer with a huge boost in treble, you will unconciously tend to tune highs down a lot to make it translate well, now you produce the same music with a speaker which is accurate, and bam you have a dull mix with muted highs.

To me the reluctance comes from your transition period of adaption, which I would say better be using both setups at the same time and cross checking in your room for both, but accurate setup also need to be at least EQed in room to not make it overwhelmed by the room modes, or else it's overall just one inaccurate system vs another
 

HarmonicTHD

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Hi- My name is Noel and I am a former Columbia Records recording artist and member of Gearspace for years now. I have a guest room studio where I mostly record my own music and sometimes do stuff for film and television. I am currently using NS10 studio monitors vertically oriented with a consumer grade sub which I "tune by ear".
I am awaiting the ARC 3 system to measure my room, which is an irregular shaped bedroom roughly 11.5 by 12 x 13' with 9 foot ceilings. I have 4 GIK broadband panels in my room and queenside bed- and that is going to be it (per wife) as this is our guest room.
I've tried the Neumann KH 80's and I had Genelec 8010's with the Genelec sub at one point- I've also had Dynaudios as well.

For whatever reason, the NS10's make sense to me- and they are my only monitors. I cross check things in my car and on our HomePod.

I have been getting more ear-educated with Soundgym and I can't shake the notion that I might be able to make things easier on myself in terms of mix decisions if I was able to "correct" more or less, the nulls and other stuff that surely exist in the room.
I am running the NS10's with a Yamaha P2500 amp, and I have a passive switcher that I connect the Sony powered sub to and I add or subtract the sub when needed.

I would say I am rarely surprised out in the real world- but I know that I know the speakers and the room, so there is that.

When I had more "neutral" monitors- I found that my instinct was to try to feature everything in such a way that it sounded "good". That was true of the Dynaudios, Genelecs and Neumanns. In Nashville I had a properly treated room and have years of being in a good room vs what I have now.

I would do test mixes with the Dynaudios vs the NS10's and the NS10 mixes sounded more like a finished record to me and the clients.

Having said all of that- I was talking to a good friend of mine who does film and TV post pro work and is an accomplished engineer mix wise and he spoke about Neumann and Genelec with their respective room correction as something I should look at-

I can currently "choose" where the sub picks up frequency wise and the volume- but what is ACTUALLY happening I hope to find out when I test the room tomorrow.

Anyway- philosophically, has anyone transitioned from "character" monitors like Adams or NS10's to something more "scientifically neutral"- all other things equal, and gotten past the tendency to try to feature everything in a song? I am speaking about trading musicality for "fidelity"- leading to boring, but "pretty" mixes.

I respect the power of real science- science that is open minded and allows for learning even outside of existing constructs.

My mix position is about 36 inches from my monitors. I rarely listen over 70-75 Decibels. I need to listen at lower levels for a number of reasons and I don't need "throw" or loud volumes.

I am interested in the KH80's with the 750 sub, or maybe Genelec 8330's etc... but I can't shake the feeling that maybe some people are just meant to mix with monitors that push you in certain directions that just tend to end up being musical.

Can someone sell me on the ruler flat concept in terms of making more emotionally compelling mixes?
No one can advise you on your (working) preferences. And therefore asking others or reading subjective reviews about how something sounds is futile, because they will describe their preferences in their room with their biases etc. which for sure is totally different from what you prefer (except by accident).

I have KH80/750/MA1 and HD560 and both have quite a different FR compared to the respective Harman curves. Yet if you are used to each you can mix with both, because you know what to compensate for.

Is this Ideal? No, because it adds to the “circle of confusion” (see Floyd Toole), but unless industry standards exist for monitoring gear, buy what you prefer and can work with.

And btw. I ordered both 8030 and KH80 from Thomann and listened at my office and kept the one I preferred. This is much more reliable for you to find what you like, than the internet.

Edit. Typo. Sorry Mr Toole
 
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napilopez

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One point I'd like to make is that I actually think the circle of confusion* is shrinking and will continue to do so. I have no hard evidence for this, but the dramatic increase in high quality measurement availability in the last few years, especially among independent reviewers, is shifting the market toward more linear, better directivity speakers.

Enthusiasts have data they can rely on, and even if many audiophiles still prefer the "goldenears" approach, there's no doubt a big chunk of them now base their purchasing decisions at least partially on data -- and certainly with more reliability.

Klipsch and Polk seem to be getting more linear. We see many more speakers with waveguides. KEF outperforms many studio monitors these days. People on ASR can be the harshest critics, but I feel many of the speakers rate as "fine" in reviews here would have been considered great 10 years ago.

Even many mass-market speakers like products from Google, Apple, and Sonos tend to follow a more neutral acoustic design.

I genuinely believe this means in the coming years, there will be a more direct translation from the studio to the living room. Never perfect, but much better than before.

Long story short, there's never been a better time to have neutral-ish speakers, whether as a listener or recording artist.

*For those who don't know, the circle of confusion is basically the impact of having recording gear, speakers, and rooms that all sound different for both musicians and listeners.

Edit: While I can't speak to speak to mixing for emotion, I personally believe audio should start behaving a bit more like video -- you want your tv to match what the color graders see on a perfectly calibrated screen, not be enhanced by turning up the saturation and contrast and hue sliders out of the factory. You can always tweak things to your liking later on.
 
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solderdude

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I am interested in the KH80's with the 750 sub, or maybe Genelec 8330's etc... but I can't shake the feeling that maybe some people are just meant to mix with monitors that push you in certain directions that just tend to end up being musical.
You can start using 'flat' monitors and ensure they also measure/perform correctly in your studio but ... it will take a learning curve to get well balanced recordings as your brain is totally calibrated to your NS10's. You use them as a tool and then check on car and homepod.

When you do invest simply use the NS10's alongside the new monitors or just use the new monitors to check what you did on the NS10's.

I am sure, eventually, you'll figure out how a good final product should sound to you on your new monitors in your room and won't need the NS10's after a while and will appreciate what the new monitors will do 'extra'.
 

thewas

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One point I'd like to make is that I actually think the circle of confusion* is shrinking and will continue to do so. I have no hard evidence for this, but the dramatic increase in high quality measurement availability in the last few years, especially among independent reviewers, is shifting the market toward more linear, better directivity speakers.

Enthusiasts have data they can rely on, and even if many audiophiles still prefer the "goldenears" approach, there's no doubt a big chunk of them now base their purchasing decisions at least partially on data -- and certainly with more reliability.

Klipsch and Polk seem to be getting more linear. We see many more speakers with waveguides. KEF outperforms many studio monitors these days. People on ASR can be the harshest critics, but I feel many of the speakers rate as "fine" in reviews here would have been considered great 10 years ago.

Even many mass-market speakers like products from Google, Apple, and Sonos tend to follow a more neutral acoustic design.

I genuinely believe this means in the coming years, there will be a more direct translation from the studio to the living room. Never perfect, but much better than before.

Long story short, there's never been a better time to have neutral-ish speakers, whether as a listener or recording artist.

*For those who don't know, the circle of confusion is basically the impact of having recording gear, speakers, and rooms that all sound different for both musicians and listeners.

Edit: While I can't speak to speak to mixing for emotion, I personally believe audio should start behaving a bit more like video -- you want your tv to match what the color graders see on a perfectly calibrated screen, not be enhanced by turning up the saturation and contrast and hue sliders out of the factory. You can always tweak things to your liking later on.
Great post, thank you, I agree that we are living at least from audio POV some great times and the future looks even more promising.
The weird "high end" of course will still exist in parallel and have its dedicated tiny, but due to the growth of newrich population, even rising market.
 

MAB

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One point I'd like to make is that I actually think the circle of confusion* is shrinking and will continue to do so. I have no hard evidence for this, but the dramatic increase in high quality measurement availability in the last few years, especially among independent reviewers, is shifting the market toward more linear, better directivity speakers.

Enthusiasts have data they can rely on, and even if many audiophiles still prefer the "goldenears" approach, there's no doubt a big chunk of them now base their purchasing decisions at least partially on data -- and certainly with more reliability.

Klipsch and Polk seem to be getting more linear. We see many more speakers with waveguides. KEF outperforms many studio monitors these days. People on ASR can be the harshest critics, but I feel many of the speakers rate as "fine" in reviews here would have been considered great 10 years ago.

Even many mass-market speakers like products from Google, Apple, and Sonos tend to follow a more neutral acoustic design.

I genuinely believe this means in the coming years, there will be a more direct translation from the studio to the living room. Never perfect, but much better than before.

Long story short, there's never been a better time to have neutral-ish speakers, whether as a listener or recording artist.

*For those who don't know, the circle of confusion is basically the impact of having recording gear, speakers, and rooms that all sound different for both musicians and listeners.

Edit: While I can't speak to speak to mixing for emotion, I personally believe audio should start behaving a bit more like video -- you want your tv to match what the color graders see on a perfectly calibrated screen, not be enhanced by turning up the saturation and contrast and hue sliders out of the factory. You can always tweak things to your liking later on.
I think so too.
Your excellent tutorial is part of that shrinking circle. And tools like REW, VituixCAD, cheap decent measurement mics.
The Pioneer and Bryston active crossovers I used back in the day gave way to filters motivated by Linkwitz' website, then DSP replaced those. Filters are becoming trivial to implement.
Room acoustics is discussed openly now, even if it often ends up a food fight!;)
And yes, there are so many great sounding speakers these days.
 

Soniclife

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My mix position is about 36 inches from my monitors. I rarely listen over 70-75 Decibels.
At that slightly low volume you won't want completely flat, but a bit more bass and treble, it's possible you're getting some of that with bright speakers and a sub adjusted to taste.
 

ZolaIII

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Ruler flat doesn't exist. I hope that you have NS10M variant and if you do pair them with two sealed 10" sub's (in 2.2 stereo setup) and EQ them.
They are so much hated hire even the broken CLA 10 score good (predicted score with perfect sub's) EQed. Thing is you won't find close enclosure speakers this day's and plugging the ports ain't the same thing. Every room is a story of it's own. My approach is make less problems so that you have to deal with less problems and closed enclosure and slow roll of helps hire along with less ringing and better back to front refractions rate. There are phase correction tools and PEQ's and together do a lot. ARC only works with their equipment so conceal that and get UMIK-1 instead. Arc mic will work with REW but without calibration (it's cal only works with it's software) and you will have to use separate SPL meter for calibration.
 

ChrisG

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Can someone sell me on the ruler flat concept in terms of making more emotionally compelling mixes?

Noel,

Something I've found is this: when mixing on a system with lots of headroom, large stereo image, and wide frequency response, it's very easy to fall into the trap of mixing badly. The reason for this seems to be that such a system will allow you to hear "into" the mix very easily, so that instruments which are -10dB from where they should be, are still perfectly audible and easy to follow.


The best solution I have found is this: a Bluetooth speaker. In general, they're mono, limited on bass, and have plenty of harmonic distortion.
- Mono is useful because stereo imaging helps us to pinpoint something, even if it's quieter than everything else going on. Collapsing to mono gives us a level check, without the stereo aid.
- Limited bass can be useful to check translation. You bass drum might be entirely sub-bass, which sounds really cool, but only on the 1% of systems that can play it.
- Harmonic distortion will mask things that are too quiet, rendering them basically inaudible.


When mixing for release, my aim is to be able to present a beautiful stereo image on a good system, but it's vital that the Bluetooth speaker satisfies my basic requirements for every mix:
- That you can hear everything
- That attention/focus is on the right thing.

Chris
 

kemmler3D

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One point I'd like to make is that I actually think the circle of confusion* is shrinking and will continue to do so. I have no hard evidence for this, but the dramatic increase in high quality measurement availability in the last few years, especially among independent reviewers, is shifting the market toward more linear, better directivity speakers.

Enthusiasts have data they can rely on, and even if many audiophiles still prefer the "goldenears" approach, there's no doubt a big chunk of them now base their purchasing decisions at least partially on data -- and certainly with more reliability.

Klipsch and Polk seem to be getting more linear. We see many more speakers with waveguides. KEF outperforms many studio monitors these days. People on ASR can be the harshest critics, but I feel many of the speakers rate as "fine" in reviews here would have been considered great 10 years ago.

Even many mass-market speakers like products from Google, Apple, and Sonos tend to follow a more neutral acoustic design.

I genuinely believe this means in the coming years, there will be a more direct translation from the studio to the living room. Never perfect, but much better than before.

Long story short, there's never been a better time to have neutral-ish speakers, whether as a listener or recording artist.

*For those who don't know, the circle of confusion is basically the impact of having recording gear, speakers, and rooms that all sound different for both musicians and listeners.

Edit: While I can't speak to speak to mixing for emotion, I personally believe audio should start behaving a bit more like video -- you want your tv to match what the color graders see on a perfectly calibrated screen, not be enhanced by turning up the saturation and contrast and hue sliders out of the factory. You can always tweak things to your liking later on.
Great point. We have harman-tuned IEMs coming out at $25 seemingly every month, and the recent iteration of the Sonos 5 (which is about as mainstream hi-fi as mainstream hi-fi gets) measures pretty flat, despite some flaws.
 

Putter

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Noel,

Something I've found is this: when mixing on a system with lots of headroom, large stereo image, and wide frequency response, it's very easy to fall into the trap of mixing badly. The reason for this seems to be that such a system will allow you to hear "into" the mix very easily, so that instruments which are -10dB from where they should be, are still perfectly audible and easy to follow.


The best solution I have found is this: a Bluetooth speaker. In general, they're mono, limited on bass, and have plenty of harmonic distortion.
- Mono is useful because stereo imaging helps us to pinpoint something, even if it's quieter than everything else going on. Collapsing to mono gives us a level check, without the stereo aid.
- Limited bass can be useful to check translation. You bass drum might be entirely sub-bass, which sounds really cool, but only on the 1% of systems that can play it.
- Harmonic distortion will mask things that are too quiet, rendering them basically inaudible.


When mixing for release, my aim is to be able to present a beautiful stereo image on a good system, but it's vital that the Bluetooth speaker satisfies my basic requirements for every mix:
- That you can hear everything
- That attention/focus is on the right thing.

Chris
Or you bring up the volume of EVERY instrument and voila you have a new and improved mix that will sound great on your Bluetooth speaker and horrible on your high end system. That IMO is why the loudness wars continue. Apologies for OT comment.
 

napilopez

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Great point. We have harman-tuned IEMs coming out at $25 seemingly every month, and the recent iteration of the Sonos 5 (which is about as mainstream hi-fi as mainstream hi-fi gets) measures pretty flat, despite some flaws.
Yep. Not to mention Samsung, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, owns Harman.
Noel,

Something I've found is this: when mixing on a system with lots of headroom, large stereo image, and wide frequency response, it's very easy to fall into the trap of mixing badly. The reason for this seems to be that such a system will allow you to hear "into" the mix very easily, so that instruments which are -10dB from where they should be, are still perfectly audible and easy to follow.


The best solution I have found is this: a Bluetooth speaker. In general, they're mono, limited on bass, and have plenty of harmonic distortion.
- Mono is useful because stereo imaging helps us to pinpoint something, even if it's quieter than everything else going on. Collapsing to mono gives us a level check, without the stereo aid.
- Limited bass can be useful to check translation. You bass drum might be entirely sub-bass, which sounds really cool, but only on the 1% of systems that can play it.
- Harmonic distortion will mask things that are too quiet, rendering them basically inaudible.


When mixing for release, my aim is to be able to present a beautiful stereo image on a good system, but it's vital that the Bluetooth speaker satisfies my basic requirements for every mix:
- That you can hear everything
- That attention/focus is on the right thing.

Chris
Or you bring up the volume of EVERY instrument and voila you have a new and improved mix that will sound great on your Bluetooth speaker and horrible on your high end system. That IMO is why the loudness wars continue. Apologies for OT comment.

But that's the thing: even the small bluetooth and smart speakers are decent these days.

Sonos Roam at 60% volume:
index.php


Google Nest Audio:
index.php


Apple homepod (not great but far from terrible):
index.php


I'd argue that, increasingly, the issue is less about overall neutrality and tonal balance on mainstream speakers vs hifi speakers, but more about:

a) overall bass quantity
b) bass quality (basically room effects)
c) dynamic compression/volume capability (which is also also largely a bass issue)

Not to say bass isn't a huge component of sound quality, because it is. But it's a differnent issue than dealing with a speaker that have a 5 dB dip at 3khz, for example
 

terryforsythe

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Can someone sell me on the ruler flat concept in terms of making more emotionally compelling mixes?
Here are a couple of examples that come to my mind as to why.

1. Let's assume the monitors you are using have a dip between 5 kHz - 10 kHz, and you mix for the best sound on those monitors. Now, if somebody has speakers that are flat in that frequency range, your mix will sound sibilant. If somebody has speakers that have a bump in output in that frequency range, now your mix will sound very sibilant.

2. Let's assume the system you use for mixing has a bass boost of 6 dB, and you mix for the best sound on that system. The bass then will sound weak on any system that does not also have at least a 6 dB bass boost.

There are countless different audio systems on which the music you mix may be played. At best, your mix will not enhance sound reproduction imperfections in those systems.
 

kemmler3D

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the small bluetooth and smart speakers are decent these days.
Show me a spin of the $21 Anker Soundcore speaker (most popular on Amazon) or JBL Go looking like that and I will say we've entered the promised land. Until then, mixing engineers still need to account for ... however that thing sounds. Which is probably surprisingly good, but... you know. Apple and Google products are at least one cut above the true lowest common denominator.
 
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