• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

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

napilopez

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
2,143
Likes
8,683
Location
NYC
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.
I meant to type "getting decent" rather than implying everything is good now, but I'd be willing to bet the JBLs measure decent, just have no bass. Which again, is probably the case for many Bluetooth/smart speakers from companies that invest meaningful resources in audio at all.

The ankers I've seen have been a bit all over the place but not the end of the world bad.

I do think my point still stands that speakers are likely getting better overall and the circle of confusion is shrinking.
 
OP
B
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
10
Likes
19
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
EXCELLENT post and thank you so much. Really hits exactly at the heart of what I have been thinking. Very well said!
 
OP
B
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
10
Likes
19
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.
Thanks. I think we are in the realm of eq, and fidelity as opposed to things like movement or being compelling from an emotional standpoint. Now of course, there is place where fidelity and emotion juxtapose in terms of things like "groove" but I'm really referring to the process of mixing- how I, the mixer respond to the speakers- the decisions that I make while mixing. I've listened to many records as I'm sure you have, it turns out through monitors you can hear things that let you know, very few of the recordings that we love are perfect. They just feel right- of course, performance is a factor too.
What Chris G said about looking into the mix is such a great way to articulate the mechanism that affected me with higher "fidelity" monitors like Genelecs. My response to the NS 10's is to out work them- and that is their utility when making mix decisions- in addition to the benefits of a closed box and operating largely between 300hz and 3.5k
 
OP
B
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
10
Likes
19
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
I have purchased 1 refurbished KH80 to sum to mono- as a way to dip my toes in the Neumann ecosystem, and to compare with the NS10's- it should provide another reference that may be helpful.
 

terryforsythe

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 4, 2022
Messages
455
Likes
466
Thanks. I think we are in the realm of eq, and fidelity as opposed to things like movement or being compelling from an emotional standpoint.
I find well designed, neutral speakers to be more compelling from an emotional standpoint. I remember the first time I heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon on the Infinity IRS Beta speakers. That was very compelling and very emotional - blew me away. The same goes for the first time I heard Dire Strait's Brothers in Arms on neutral, full range speakers - it just floored me. Wow! I could listen to those albums on non-linear speakers (Cerwin Vegas were popular back in the day), and I just did not get the same emotional experience - night and day difference.

Speakers that have glaring issues, e.g., too much treble, weak bass, too much bass, poor midrange, etc., just don't do it, at least for me, and I lose emotional connection to the music.
 

Duke

Major Contributor
Audio Company
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 22, 2016
Messages
1,543
Likes
3,821
Location
Princeton, Texas
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...

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

I'm a small speaker manufacturer who occasionally pokes around trying to identify a market niche. One of the niches I looked into was passive mixing monitors.

I spent about a year visiting Gearslutz (now "Gearspace") daily, and reading relevant books and articles, in an effort to figure out "where the goal posts are" for a really good mixing monitor. Here's what I learned:

1. It is not at all clear which characteristics are most desirable for a mixing monitor that would make it easier to quickly produce really good mixes. This seems to be a situation where what matters is the skill of the man (or woman), and familiarity with one's tools (including room interaction) matters far more than what those tools are. About the only generalization I could make is, sealed mixing monitors have better pitch differentiation in the bass region than ported ones do.

2. Recording engineers benefit from being able to communicate with one another about what they are hearing, and using a monitor that others are also using enables this. Therefore, unfortunately for me, it does not make sense for anyone to mix on a monitor from a little bitty company that nobody else has ever even heard of.

I don't know if any of this is at all useful to you, but I'm not about to try to sell you on using a "ruler flat" speaker to mix on. My lame advice would be, use what you know to work well for YOU, develop YOUR skills, and listen to the advice of the best and most experienced engineers long before you listen to any of us home-audio-centric guys (including me in this post). The characteristics that matter to us are not necessarily what's going to help you make better and/or faster mixes.
 

kemmler3D

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
3,286
Likes
6,535
Location
San Francisco
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
Great point. Checking on different systems will always be useful I guess! I would add that it's probably a great idea to use references to mix to, before you get to the BT Speaker stage, whether you've got proper monitors or not.
 

ChrisG

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2023
Messages
51
Likes
79
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.

While your concerns are valid, I think you've ignored the point of my post, which is this: excellent monitoring can allow poor mixing, because it's less obvious when something is too quiet: the engineer can hear it just fine because the system has excellent imaging, low distortion, etc etc.

It's about turning up the instrument that was too quiet to start with, resulting in a balanced mix which will sound excellent on a high-end system, while a Bluetooth speaker will still allow the listener to hear everything.

Loudness War stuff (over-use of compression/limiting to result in low dynamic range) isn't relevant. A mix can be balanced and still have a large dynamic range. Equally, a mix can be poorly balanced and have very little dynamic range.


Chris
 

Matt_Holland

Active Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2023
Messages
253
Likes
421
This is a great thread and I think more discussion like this that bridges the mixing/post production and playback communities, the better.

The comments about monitoring in mono are interesting. I’ve always thought that stereo playback somehow masks speaker inaccuracies by focussing attention on spatial and detail retrieval. Therefore I wonder if it is common practice when monitoring to check the mix summed to mono on just one of the main monitor speakers? By my logic this would be a good first step to give confidence in good translation and doesn’t require additional hardware.
 

goat76

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2021
Messages
1,307
Likes
1,457
The only things that matter are that you know your monitors well, you know your room well, and you listen to reference tracks now and then for reality checks during the mixing process.

No matter how flat-sounding or not your monitors are, you will acclimate fast to the tonal balance of the material you are working on even if it sounds fairly crooked to what you or anyone else would normally consider well-balanced tonality-wise, but unfortunately, that is not apparent when you have buried your head deep into adjusting small details of the mix. Even if the tonal balance sounds fine between the individual tracks in the mix, the overall tonal balance can easily end up way too bright, too dark, or have a strange balance in several other possible ways. That's when listening and making comparisons to well-known and tonally well-balanced reference tracks now and then during the mixing process comes in handy, this will re-calibrate your hearing to what can be considered a more general correct tonal balance of the full mix.

As said by others, the most important thing is what tools work best for YOU, and that is to reach a result that will translate well to the outside world. That tool can be the Yamaha NS-10s as well as it can be a pair of "ruler flat" Neumann monitors, but the ruler-flat monitors can as easily as the less flat measuring monitors be the wrong choice for you if you don't get along with the sound they reproduce.
 

Putter

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Sep 23, 2019
Messages
496
Likes
778
Location
Albany, NY USA
While your concerns are valid, I think you've ignored the point of my post, which is this: excellent monitoring can allow poor mixing, because it's less obvious when something is too quiet: the engineer can hear it just fine because the system has excellent imaging, low distortion, etc etc.

It's about turning up the instrument that was too quiet to start with, resulting in a balanced mix which will sound excellent on a high-end system, while a Bluetooth speaker will still allow the listener to hear everything.

Loudness War stuff (over-use of compression/limiting to result in low dynamic range) isn't relevant. A mix can be balanced and still have a large dynamic range. Equally, a mix can be poorly balanced and have very little dynamic range.


Chris
I'll admit it was a bit of a rant, but I've come across many 'remastered' recordings where it appeared that the primary work had been to bring up instruments buried in the mix to the point that all instruments were audible, but that all dynamic contrasts were lost. There's also a bit of fun discovering those hand claps on the 5th time you hear the song.

The problem as I see it, is that us audiophiles are not the primary purchasers of popular music. Instead it's younger people listening on Bluetooth speakers and cheap headphones. Dynamic contrast is minimal with those speakers and actually undesirable on headphone. You can't hear oncoming traffic and in any case it's all background music while working out at gym or waiting at the bus stop. Oops, I think I started ranting again.

The point is that the main audience for popular music appears to be youth rather than middle aged audiophiles and therefore music is mixed primarily for this audience.
 

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
647
Likes
705
The point is that the main audience for popular music appears to be youth rather than middle aged audiophiles and therefore music is mixed primarily for this audience.

I do not consider myself an audiophile (i see it as an insult), but music has been aimed at the young for a long long time.
 

Putter

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Sep 23, 2019
Messages
496
Likes
778
Location
Albany, NY USA
I do not consider myself an audiophile (i see it as an insult), but music has been aimed at the young for a long long time.
I understand your point in re audiophile, but to continue this OT discussion, what would be a better one word description of people who have systems that cost more than bare bones and have a science based understanding of music reproduction?
 

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
647
Likes
705
I understand your point in re audiophile, but to continue this OT discussion, what would be a better one word description of people who have systems that cost more than bare bones and have a science based understanding of music reproduction?

I don't know about one word, but the first thing that comes to mind is audio enthusiast.

enthusiast - a person who is very interested in and involved with a particular subject or activity

Cost is almost irrelevant imo (its also relative). I've seen cheap systems that sound like crap and cheap systems that sound amazing. I've seen the same thing with expensive systems, they can sound like crap or very good.
 

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
647
Likes
705
Why you would want "ruler flat" near field monitors is basically the same reason why you want a highly accurate monitor for color grading video footage. You need a reliable and accurate standard. You master/grade to a known standard. Then you come back and make alterations/tweaks for different target audiences and platforms as needed.
 
Last edited:

Hexspa

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2022
Messages
316
Likes
210
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.
Schroeder frequency is the lowest frequency at which sound is diffuse, not the transition frequency from dominant modal behavior. Given that small rooms don’t have a diffuse field, neither RT60 nor Schroeder frequency apply to them (can’t have one without the other).

This term is commonly misused, like RT60 but maybe one day we’ll all get in the same page. Link one shows SF formula, link two goes into sound behavior zones:



Regarding flat speakers, the argument is simple: create in a neutral environment so that any deviation from linear is not compounded. For example, if you have a 70Hz resonance as most rooms with 8’ ceilings do then you will negatively compensate by reducing this frequency. But then if a listener is sitting in a 70Hz partial null, the bass there will sound absent. It’s like 0 - 3 is -3 but -3 - 3 is -6. Better to start from zero.

Also flat speakers have better transient response due to minimum phase. The more linear a response, the less ringing. This is related to neutrality above.

Where things get complicated is with with engineer themselves. Besides being susceptible to marketing and other’s opinions (cognitive bias) we may have to account for outlier preference (you actually prefer non-flat despite most people preferring flat) and/or hearing damage (monitor compensates for your deficiencies) and skill level, age and sex (untrained listeners aren’t good evaluators, older people prefer less bass and young (Canadian) males prefer more).
 

Hexspa

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2022
Messages
316
Likes
210
While your concerns are valid, I think you've ignored the point of my post, which is this: excellent monitoring can allow poor mixing, because it's less obvious when something is too quiet: the engineer can hear it just fine because the system has excellent imaging, low distortion, etc etc.

It's about turning up the instrument that was too quiet to start with, resulting in a balanced mix which will sound excellent on a high-end system, while a Bluetooth speaker will still allow the listener to hear everything.

Loudness War stuff (over-use of compression/limiting to result in low dynamic range) isn't relevant. A mix can be balanced and still have a large dynamic range. Equally, a mix can be poorly balanced and have very little dynamic range.


Chris
I disagree with your premise but sort of agree with your conclusion.

It’s not the problem of the fidelity of the stereo system per se. It’s that listening in stereo is not necessarily sufficient to ensure translation. It is if you know how to compensate for stereo’s faults (elevated bass, uncorrelated signals, pan law effects) but checking on a band-limited mono speaker is the direct shortcut to help. In the first place, one speaker is already band limited relative to two so one need not buy a separate speaker, much less a “grot box” which is simply adding more unknown variables. Just sum your mix to one speaker and apply filtering if you desire. I’ve been doing this for the past year and have since discontinued use of my dedicated mono grot box speaker without negative consequence outside of the brief adjustment period.
 
OP
B
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
10
Likes
19
This is a great thread and I think more discussion like this that bridges the mixing/post production and playback communities, the better.

The comments about monitoring in mono are interesting. I’ve always thought that stereo playback somehow masks speaker inaccuracies by focussing attention on spatial and detail retrieval. Therefore I wonder if it is common practice when monitoring to check the mix summed to mono on just one of the main monitor speakers? By my logic this would be a good first step to give confidence in good translation and doesn’t require additional hardware.
UPDATE: I just used the ARC 3 system to measure my room- with and without my sub. It is extremely revealing!
 

Attachments

  • Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 7.36.57 PM.png
    Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 7.36.57 PM.png
    543.5 KB · Views: 77
  • Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 7.45.26 PM.png
    Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 7.45.26 PM.png
    547.3 KB · Views: 83
OP
B
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
10
Likes
19
I have learned the best thing to do in any situation of uncertainty is to first measure what you have. These measurements help me understand many things- one of which is that I don't have a lot of information in the treble frequencies- It helps me to understand why I have struggled to understand my acoustic guitar recordings.
The correction sounds much more like a complete recording- I am using a testing recording I did with vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitars. The correction makes the monitors sound more hi-fi but not wildly so. It kind of shows that I am missing some information both in the highs and lows.
Again- and this can't be overstated- it's really about what the monitors "cause" me to do in mix decisions. This is a different discussion than the end user listening to the final product. It's paradoxical to say that a pair of speakers (NS10's) are limited in such a way as I tend to make decisions that make my mixes "feel" more like real records- but that has been my experience. Having said that- I am missing information that should help me make better mixes in every sense of the word.
I once thought people who measured speaker responses were nerds who did not have musical talent but wanted to talk as if they had some sort of mastery-
I don't believe that as much anymore- I think both parties bring helpful ideas to the table.

For example- I have been in rooms with famous mix engineers and producers and observed them being able to tell the difference between DAWS- now, before you flame me, real science says first "that shouldn't be, but if they can tell some difference why?" Things like pan laws and other concepts helped me understand the differences- there is visual component to it as well- but my point is- there are always reasons for things- and even if the current measuring instruments you have can't measure something, it doesn't make an repeatedly observed phenomenon untrue.
I do think in blind testing, things like EQ can approximate higher end gear to "fool" listeners- but working with gear over time tends to reveal other things that I observe can be counted on- but as you guys are saying- humans adapt- and people with a natural inclination toward music can overcome lots of obstacles
 

ZolaIII

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
Messages
4,143
Likes
2,443
@babydaddymusic seams you have over dumped room. Highs are on the school example of on target (+1 dB or so up @ 10 KHz actually) so you might check your hearing instead if you still claim you didn't hear something there on target. By the way they called not M NS10's bright as a sun. So it turns out you need better sub's (not mains) to get you more extension then what you are getting now (in 2.2 crossed 100 Hz or more and let them sum up on their own under 70~60 Hz but probably not on the system that doesn't have real two chenel output for subwoofer's) and to optimise placement so that you address midrange hole you have (and on midrange centric speakers). Giving all in consideration it's hard to imagine how bad would good rated speakers sound in your room.

Had a strangest thing happened to me recently. Bought a new sound card as I wanted to have optical input. So I did a room correction from beginning and put a lot of effort to it. Had a phase shift for main bass requiring to flip it on sub's which I didn't like. All do all measurements where good with correction it sounded horrible. I catch cold and tinnitus got active so I had to wait till my helt improved to really hear what's happening. After lot of pocking around and head scratching I couth what is happening. The delay I put in for mains somehow caused add harmonics with sub's which whose there only in real materials so I changed it for 1 ms and problems solved no more add harmonics or phase shift.
 
Top Bottom