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Studio monitor sound signature - Is it my room or the speakers?

square.

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Hello,

I am currently experiencing a minor annoyance with my Mackie MR624 studio monitors.
I have the RME ADI 2 FS as my dac/amp and I use balanced XLR to power my monitors. The analyzer is very useful on the dac for this scenario.

I am finding that 80% of kick-drums that peak at 1Khz sound way too forward. Is this a characteristic of studio monitors, or a room problem such as a peak?

The drivers (the front of the speaker) of my studio monitors are 70cm away from the rear wall and they are toed in. I would like them to be a bit further away from the wall, but this is as good as I can get them.

In terms of EQ, I have a -1db low shelf filter, Q 0.7 at 1.7kHz. (That goes all the way down to 20kHz)
I have tried changing this low shelf filter to start at 1kHz, but that made the 'kicks' of drums at 1kHz sound even more forward. Not sure why. (Resonance peak?)

I dont really like this particular forwardness to the kick sound, it sounds very unnatural to me in the mix. I listen to a lot of different electronic music and I am finding this forwardness problem to be mostly consistent no matter what song I pick across 20-30 different artists.

I've also tried -1dB peaking filter Q1.0 and Q1.4 and Q2.0 (just for the sake of it) directly at 1kHz but the kicks still sound too forward and its sort of driving me mental. Asides from this, I love the sound of my studio monitors. A lot.

Any tips or ideas as to how to fix this?

thanks ASR,
Square
 

HarmonicTHD

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Hello,

I am currently experiencing a minor annoyance with my Mackie MR624 studio monitors.
I have the RME ADI 2 FS as my dac/amp and I use balanced XLR to power my monitors. The analyzer is very useful on the dac for this scenario.

I am finding that 80% of kick-drums that peak at 1Khz sound way too forward. Is this a characteristic of studio monitors, or a room problem such as a peak?

The drivers (the front of the speaker) of my studio monitors are 70cm away from the rear wall and they are toed in. I would like them to be a bit further away from the wall, but this is as good as I can get them.

In terms of EQ, I have a -1db low shelf filter, Q 0.7 at 1.7kHz. (That goes all the way down to 20kHz)
I have tried changing this low shelf filter to start at 1kHz, but that made the 'kicks' of drums at 1kHz sound even more forward. Not sure why. (Resonance peak?)

I dont really like this particular forwardness to the kick sound, it sounds very unnatural to me in the mix. I listen to a lot of different electronic music and I am finding this forwardness problem to be mostly consistent no matter what song I pick across 20-30 different artists.

I've also tried -1dB peaking filter Q1.0 and Q1.4 and Q2.0 (just for the sake of it) directly at 1kHz but the kicks still sound too forward and its sort of driving me mental. Asides from this, I love the sound of my studio monitors. A lot.

Any tips or ideas as to how to fix this?

thanks ASR,
Square
I don’t know your speakers specs nor how they sound. But what you describe is not inherent to all studio monitors especially not the more expensive ones.

However only you can definitively answer your question by simply measuring. Get a UMIK1 mic and become familiar with REW (free). The results will tell you how to adjust your EQ exactly and if there is indeed this effect you are hearing in the frequency response. Good luck.
 
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Quick check ... turn off your shelving filter and see what happens...

Sometimes DSP and even EQ can have some very odd effects.
 
OP
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square.

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Get a UMIK1 mic and become familiar with REW (free). The results will tell you how to adjust your EQ exactly and if there is indeed this effect you are hearing in the frequency response. Good luck.
Do I need a microphone interface for the mic or can it work by plugging straight into the PC via usb or other connections? I will consider this.
Quick check ... turn off your shelving filter and see what happens...

Sometimes DSP and even EQ can have some very odd effects.
Sure, thats a good idea. I'll set a reminder on my phone and try this later
How treated is your room out of 10?
2/10, its just a bedroom. I have curtains on one of the side walls, covering both windows. Rear ported speakers are 70cm away from the rear wall (from driver to wall) which may cause some minor smearing of direct sound and reflective sound in the bass but this shouldn't impact mid-range forwardness.
The shape of the room itself is ideal, its a rectangle.

Thanks for the replies everyone
 

HarmonicTHD

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Do I need a microphone interface for the mic or can it work by plugging straight into the PC via usb or other connections? I will consider this.

Sure, thats a good idea. I'll set a reminder on my phone and try this later

2/10, its just a bedroom. I have curtains on one of the side walls, covering both windows. Rear ported speakers are 70cm away from the rear wall (from driver to wall) which may cause some minor smearing of direct sound and reflective sound in the bass but this shouldn't impact mid-range forwardness.
The shape of the room itself is ideal, its a rectangle.

Thanks for the replies everyone
Plugs straight into your USB. No interface needed.
 

abdo123

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Do I need a microphone interface for the mic or can it work by plugging straight into the PC via usb or other connections? I will consider this.

Sure, thats a good idea. I'll set a reminder on my phone and try this later

2/10, its just a bedroom. I have curtains on one of the side walls, covering both windows. Rear ported speakers are 70cm away from the rear wall (from driver to wall) which may cause some minor smearing of direct sound and reflective sound in the bass but this shouldn't impact mid-range forwardness.
The shape of the room itself is ideal, its a rectangle.

Thanks for the replies everyone
Untreated small rooms often show a midrange boost and a lack in upper bass.
 

Geert

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I am finding that 80% of kick-drums that peak at 1Khz sound way too forward

The question is if this unbalance is caused by a peak in the mids (1 kHz), or a dip in the low or low-mids. Rooms the typical size of a bedroom are often subject to the latter, especially if room modes and side wall reflections coincide. You can calculate these effects based on room measurements and speaker position, but to start making a sound measurement at the listening position is easier. If you don't have the required equipment (yet) you could also experiment with changing the speaker and listening position. Start with moving everything to 20 cm of the front wall, and out of centre.
 

Berwhale

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Do I need a microphone interface for the mic or can it work by plugging straight into the PC via usb or other connections? I will consider this.

This will give you a good idea of what's involved...
 

tuga

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In terms of EQ, I have a -1db low shelf filter, Q 0.7 at 1.7kHz. (That goes all the way down to 20kHz)
I have tried changing this low shelf filter to start at 1kHz, but that made the 'kicks' of drums at 1kHz sound even more forward. Not sure why. (Resonance peak?)

Maybe the peak is not at 1kHz, have you measured the response of the speakers?
 

Inner Space

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I am finding that 80% of kick-drums that peak at 1Khz sound way too forward ... I listen to a lot of different electronic music and I am finding this forwardness problem to be mostly consistent no matter what song I pick across 20-30 different artists.
Depends exactly what you mean by "forward", and what kind of electronic music you listen to. If it's EDM, for instance, the kicks are probably sampled, boosted at about 80Hz, cut around 200Hz, and boosted again around 1k to supply a cut-through click for the beater on the skin.

If by "forward" you mean objectionably noticeable, it's probably input overload at that 1k boost frequency, or possibly the Mackies' amps clipping. To test the proposition, try cutting by way more than -1dB ... try at least -4 or -6 and see if the quality improves at those distinctly lower levels. If so, check the match between the pre output and the speaker input - possibly you have the gain staging set badly.
 
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square.

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Okay, I've tried people suggestions and I'll be replying to them with feedback below. In the meantime, could someone please give me a song that they find to have balanced mid-range with a drum kick such that I can see how it sounds on my speakers
Quick check ... turn off your shelving filter and see what happens...
This one was odd. I'm not sure what was better, having it at +0dB or -1dB. I really couldn't identify which was more beneficial, but as you'll see from my replies below this may not have been the problem
The question is if this unbalance is caused by a peak in the mids (1 kHz), or a dip in the low or low-mids.
Hard to say... I tried the following : Boosted 350Hz by 2dB Q1.4 and found a slightly positive impact. I do believe there is a lack of lower mid range now that I've heard what it sounds like boosted a bit. Without this boost, the upper frequencies of the mid range sounded a little shrill... But then low end felt like it had lost some energy with this (because I have a dip on EQ at 150Hz.) I also tried boosting 500Hz *instead of* 350Hz, but this negatively impacted the sound of the 1kHz kick drums (my analyzer lets me know if its definitely 1kHz kicks that im hearing) and made it sound worse.
Start with moving everything to 20 cm of the front wall, and out of centre.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'out of centre' or by 'front wall' , however I've tried at least 6 different positions for my speakers in the space I have available, and find the current angle and position to be most optimal with the positions they can actually be in.. (which is quite limited)
If by "forward" you mean objectionably noticeable, it's probably input overload at that 1k boost frequency, or possibly the Mackies' amps clipping. To test the proposition, try cutting by way more than -1dB ... try at least -4 or -6 and see if the quality improves at those distinctly lower levels.
If so, check the match between the pre output and the speaker input - possibly you have the gain staging set badly.
I wouldn't say the quality 'improved' due to the fact that -4db and -6dB on a peaking filter at 1kHz impacts surrounding frequencies quite a lot. It did help with the forwardness of the kicks - but didnt entirely remove it. This could be entirely due to what you said prior to the quote above - about how 1khz is boosted in certain EDM tracks.

I'm not sure what that 2nd quote entirely means - but all I can tell you is the following: My speakers amps are at +5db (dBu maybe) due to the fact I am running them balanced through XLR cables. By default, my pre-amp on my dac is at -5dbU, and adjusting to +1dbU and +7dbU didn't make a difference to this *perceived* 1kHz peak. I think it made a difference to the sound quality once I changed from -5dBu to +1dBu (MAKING SURE I was playing at the same volume +/- 0.5dB due to human error), but I didnt listen to the differences extensively. Would +1dBu be more optimal for my setup? I have no idea.


I'm really stuck deciding if my speakers need a low-mid boost or a dip at 1khz or something else entirely. I conducted all listening with my -1db low-shelf filter at 1.4Khz both on and off (at +0db), so that I could try figure out if that low shelf was impacting the 'forwardness' i describe or if it isnt impacting it. I am inconclusive.
 

Geert

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I tried the following : Boosted 350Hz by 2dB Q1.4 and found a slightly positive impact. I do believe there is a lack of lower mid range now that I've heard what it sounds like boosted a bit.

If a dip exists because of room modes or reflections it's as good as impossible to fix this by boosting that frequency range, because the more you boost, the stronger the reflections become and everything will cancel out again.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'out of centre' or by 'front wall'

The front wall is the wall behind your speakers, so move the speakers and your listening position towards that wall. That should make a change in the low end (bass) and to lesser extend to the low mids (altough that might be difficult to hear).

With out of center I mean to shift the whole setup to the left or right so you don't sit in the middel of the chamber. Just to see what the effect is, it's not meant to be a permanent fix. The reason for this is moving everything towards the front wall won't make much of a change if the problem is caused by side wall reflections.

How wide is the room approximately, and how far are the speakers from the side walls?
 

dfuller

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If a dip exists because of room modes or reflections it's as good as impossible to fix this by boosting that frequency range, because the more you boost, the stronger the reflections become and everything will cancel out again.
Correct. Peaks can be fixed by EQ. Troughs cannot and must be fixed with acoustic treatment.
 
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square.

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If a dip exists because of room modes or reflections it's as good as impossible to fix this by boosting that frequency range, because the more you boost, the stronger the reflections become and everything will cancel out again.
Yeah I forgot about that. Thanks
The front wall is the wall behind your speakers, so move the speakers and your listening position towards that wall. That should make a change in the low end (bass) and to lesser extend to the low mids (altough that might be difficult to hear).
Yes, I've seen a video on this before. Basically two things happen when I move them closer to the rear wall : 1. My "null" in the lower mids will shift further into the low end (i.e if I move them 30cm closer to the rear wall, the null will move from around 400Hz to around 200Hz) and 2. The 145Hz bass peak will increase, which I can just EQ since its a peak and not a dip.
Correct me if I'm wrong ^^^
With out of center I mean to shift the whole setup to the left or right so you don't sit in the middel of the chamber. Just to see what the effect is, it's not meant to be a permanent fix. The reason for this is moving everything towards the front wall won't make much of a change if the problem is caused by side wall reflections.
I did sometimes listen to a single speaker - because I have to move my head closer to my dac to change the EQ and I still found the same issue with forwardness in the upper mid-range.

Final thoughts : In regards to this issue, I'd really want to avoid going closer to the wall. I LOVE and NEED good bass response for my techno enthusiasm and I desperately don't want a null anywhere under 300Hz as I'd notice it right away especially in the sub-bass. Furthermore, I am now starting to believe it was potentially just specific tracks that I listen to in my techno playlists that have boosted 1kHz regions. I'm not sure.
I am finding that 80% of kick-drums that peak at 1Khz sound way too forward.
I feel like me saying this was a miscalculation or exaggeration. Perhaps I was just happening to listen to certain tracks back to back that had really forward upper-mids.
How wide is the room approximately, and how far are the speakers from the side walls?
Speakers are 92cm from side walls to middle-of-tweeter and room is approximately 340cm wide. Ideally, the speakers would be better if they were moved inwards to centre more, say, 115cm from side walls. But... This isn't possible. Please refer to my crudely drawn paint image of my room. See the following : My desk(blue) is stopping me from moving the speakers(red) further away from the rear walls. My bed (red) is stopping me from moving the listening position(orange) further back, such that I can place the speakers in front of the desk (increasing distance to side walls.) See also the two green squares on the right side wall, which are where my curtains are. Although not to scale at all. See also my distance measurment of the speakers from the side walls at the top of the image.

I really appreciate your help and sorry I didnt reply to this yesterday as I was busy.
Honestly though, this is making me think I could do with some acoustic treatment. I think it would be beneficial - more so than EQ (due to my issues rn)

I'm looking forward to hearing anybodies thoughts on this and apologies for being so lengthy in my replies... Better to be detailed than too conservative.

Thanks
Square
 

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square.

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check the match between the pre output and the speaker input - possibly you have the gain staging set badly.
Any way to know which is the most optimal gain staging? Edit: The adi 2 fac fs has 'auto reference level' which automatically adjusts the gain based on volume level. People on RME forums seem to be saying this is the best setting
 

HarmonicTHD

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Yeah I forgot about that. Thanks
Yes, I've seen a video on this before. Basically two things happen when I move them closer to the rear wall : 1. My "null" in the lower mids will shift further into the low end (i.e if I move them 30cm closer to the rear wall, the null will move from around 400Hz to around 200Hz) and 2. The 145Hz bass peak will increase, which I can just EQ since its a peak and not a dip.
Correct me if I'm wrong ^^^

I did sometimes listen to a single speaker - because I have to move my head closer to my dac to change the EQ and I still found the same issue with forwardness in the upper mid-range.

Final thoughts : In regards to this issue, I'd really want to avoid going closer to the wall. I LOVE and NEED good bass response for my techno enthusiasm and I desperately don't want a null anywhere under 300Hz as I'd notice it right away especially in the sub-bass. Furthermore, I am now starting to believe it was potentially just specific tracks that I listen to in my techno playlists that have boosted 1kHz regions. I'm not sure.

I feel like me saying this was a miscalculation or exaggeration. Perhaps I was just happening to listen to certain tracks back to back that had really forward upper-mids.

Speakers are 92cm from side walls to middle-of-tweeter and room is approximately 340cm wide. Ideally, the speakers would be better if they were moved inwards to centre more, say, 115cm from side walls. But... This isn't possible. Please refer to my crudely drawn paint image of my room. See the following : My desk(blue) is stopping me from moving the speakers(red) further away from the rear walls. My bed (red) is stopping me from moving the listening position(orange) further back, such that I can place the speakers in front of the desk (increasing distance to side walls.) See also the two green squares on the right side wall, which are where my curtains are. Although not to scale at all. See also my distance measurment of the speakers from the side walls at the top of the image.

I really appreciate your help and sorry I didnt reply to this yesterday as I was busy.
Honestly though, this is making me think I could do with some acoustic treatment. I think it would be beneficial - more so than EQ (due to my issues rn)

I'm looking forward to hearing anybodies thoughts on this and apologies for being so lengthy in my replies... Better to be detailed than too conservative.

Thanks
Square
It is not uncommon to have positioning restrictions in regular living spaces. So one has to find a compromise. See my comment above about REW. It not only allows you to measure the frequency response but also to simulate it for rectangular rooms. This way you can play around to find roughly the best positioning with respect to your restrictions, so once you start your actual measurements you have some idea where to start.
You will find that no matter what you do there will always be some nulls / cancelations in bass. But… one or even two subwoofer strategically placed at different positions will eliminate some of the cancellation. There is great research on this (Floyd Toole, Sound Reproduction) and people use it now very often because many don’t like the optics and limits of passive room treatment (Bass traps). Actually 4 subs, don’t have to be big, can eliminate almost all cancelations no matter what the listing position (I simplify a bit here). For this people often use a MiniDSP / REW or MSO software to dial in the subs loudness, phase.
 
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Geert

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Basically two things happen when I move them closer to the rear wall : 1. My "null" in the lower mids will shift further into the low end (i.e if I move them 30cm closer to the rear wall, the null will move from around 400Hz to around 200Hz) and 2. The 145Hz bass peak will increase, which I can just EQ since its a peak and not a dip.

First let's make sure there's no miscommunication. The front wall is the wall behind you speakers. I have the impression you refer to that as the back wall. Can you confirm?

If you move the speakers more towards the wall behind your speakers the dip in the low-mid will increase in frequency, and gets narrower. The low end will get stronger.

Earlier you said the back of the speakers was 70cm of the wall. I assume that's the wall behind your speakers. This puts the front of your speakers at about 90cm of that wall, which causes a dip around 133Hz. Moving the speakers 30cm closer to the wall so the distance is 60cm shifts the dip to 200Hz.

Speakers are 92cm from side walls to middle-of-tweeter and room is approximately 340cm wide.

Now the situation becomes realy ugly, because the distance to the side walls also causes a broad dip in the low end, at about 135Hz. And the axial room mode in the width causes a dip at about 150Hz.

That's at least 3 overlapping causes of low mid suck out. Note that this doesn't paint the full picture yet, because we still miss the effect of other boundaries. That's why it's best to make a measurement. But at least you have some pointers that indicate potential issues.

Honestly though, this is making me think I could do with some acoustic treatment

Unfortunately getting a good sound in rooms like yours is very difficult. The frequency range you need to work on is difficult to take care off with basic and affordable acoustic materials like absorbers.

If you're really after reference sound, the best solution is a good headphone with EQ.
 
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