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Understanding studio monitors

marcuscbm

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Hello, everyone. I'm pretty new to the whole speaker game, so I'm just blindly trying things out to figure out what I want. Recently, after reading a bunch of reviews, I got myself a pair of Edifier MR4 and to my surprise I was pretty disappointed after hearing them. Now, I'm not blaming the speakers, they are probably fine for what they are, just not what I wanted or expected. So what I'd like to know, is what part of them is responsible for the things I don't like. Those things are: the amount of bass, the way they sound when I'm anywhere but at my desk, and just general lack of fun.

I'm comparing them to Samsung HW-T400 soundbar and Sven Stream Mega bookshelf speakers (120w with 6 inch woofer, sorry if that not enough info). Out of the box the speakers sounded worse then the soundbar, but after placing them properly I could enjoy better bass and left/right separation. Overall I'd say they are 10-20% better then the soundbar. Until you move away from the desk, that is. Then they are 80% worse while the sound from soundbar stays pretty much the same. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what "near field" is all about, right? So If I don't like it I should avoid it?
Next, the 6 inch bookshelf speakers. Just like the soundbar they don't change the sound based on my positioning, what's better, even if I'm in a different room I still feel that subtle oomph from the lows in the music, while with MR4s it disappears, not that it had a lot of it in the first place. Does it have more to do with size, or will 6 inch near fields still lose all the base when I'm not in front of them?
Lastly, MR4s are just not fun to listen to. Even in front of them, when I get all the bass that they can give, and all the detail, music just doesn't sound engaging at all for some reason.

I've been kinda looking into passive setup next, with something Jamo C93II or Airmotiv B1+, but I worry I'll make the same mistake I did with MR4s. For example I hear that C93II are more musical and fun, but that their woofer is physically just over 4 inches. Is that a problem? Hell if I know. B1+ is bigger, but again, I read that they are more analytical, so I'm guessing no fun. What descriptive terms and spec values should I avoid to get fun speakers that sound good no matter where I am?
 

Jim Taylor

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just general lack of fun.
Lastly, MR4s are just not fun to listen to.
What descriptive terms and spec values should I avoid to get fun speakers that sound good no matter where I am?

We can't understand specifically what you mean by "fun". It's as if you said, "I want a food that tastes good". The problem is that objective evaluation has standards which can be used to judge the speaker performance, and tests and measurements can tell you what the speaker does in relation to these standards.

Subjective descriptions (which is what "fun" is) lack that definable standard. IOW, they're ambiguous.

If you can clearly define what "fun" is for you, perhaps we can help. Otherwise, it's just a matter of casting about in the dark, hoping to hit something that helps you.

Jim
 

Penelinfi

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Larger woofers will generally give more bass and better bass coupling to the air.

Are your 6inch speakers and soundbar on a desk?

Perhaps try to elevate the speakers off the desk a little if not done already.

You may also be used to speakers with extra treble or bass boost, or perhaps wider dispersion.
 

JeremyFife

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I don't know anything about your Sven speakers, but they are bigger and more powerful than the Edifiers (as you know) https://www.sven.fi/gr/catalog/multimedia_2.0/stream_mega.htm?sphrase_id=3242599

Just that, even if the Edifiers are "better" can perhaps make them seem more "fun": more base, lower base and you might tend to play them louder just because of that (which will also make them sound more attractive).

I'd be tempted to return the Edifiers if you can.
Alternatively, put aside your Svens and the soundbar and allow yourself to get used to the Edifiers. It takes time for our ears/brain to adjust to a change. You may find that you like the new sound - perhaps it is cleaner, more detailed (and perhaps not).
My concern is that you just won't like the less bassy sound.

Don't get hung up on passive or active - it really doesn't make much difference and Active speakers probably give you much better value.
A bit more money takes you to bigger active speakers like JBL 308P or Kali LP-8 (or the JBL 306P, Kali LP-6) which should be pretty good.

What is your source of music? what are you feeding your speakers with - just the TV?

Before all that ... what is the problem with your current setup, why do you want to change?
 

DSJR

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Do you have a dealer nearby with a 'speaker wall with comparator' (yes, I know, but bear with me here), which would allow you to briefly get an idea of a variety of different speaker models. I'm saying this, coming from single speaker (pair) dems, but we had several speakers set up for instant comparisons to get a basic 'flavour' of what we had for sale.

I appreciate things have changed in more modern times, but I hope the OP can get to hear a fair few general alternatives (albeit passively driven ones) to form some kind of general reference.

I clicked on the link to the Sven models and they do *look* impressive and may well be a very good all-round speaker (apologies but I'd never heard of this brand before at all). My references for general purpose inexpensive active or powered (in my terms, passive speakers where one has a built in stereo amp) models tend to be JBL, Kali and maybe neat looking Q Acoustics M20's

 

Vincent Kars

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I've been kinda looking into passive setup next
You have one already.
The MR4 is 1 master speaker with a stereo amp build-in and a slave connected with a plain speaker wire. The speakers (the crossovers) are passive.

when I get all the bass that they can give
That is a matter of taste or (sorry) a matter of bad taste.
When I was young consumer gear had 1 speaker, a wide bander. So no bass and no treble.
Today consumer gear has a V-shape frequency response. A thundering bass and brilliant treble. All at the expense of the midrange. The midrange is the range where acoustical instruments live.
Basically car stereo at home.
If you are used to this overblown sound signature, it is pretty hard to appreciate gear with a more a neutral response.
Don't train yourself to become a basshead!

Anyway, the MR4 is designed for a neutral response.
 
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marcuscbm

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more base, lower base and you might tend to play them louder just because of that (which will also make them sound more attractive).
How likely is it that they sound worse when I'm just wondering around because the woofer isn't big enough? Like 6 inch woofer sounds like a 5 inch one when further away, but it's still plenty, but 4 inch sounds like 3 and that's noticeable. Or does it not work like that?
My concern is that you just won't like the less bassy sound.
I don't. I've had them for about 3 months now, and I can't enjoy their sound at all when I'm, for example, in the kitchen cooking. I've connected my old Svens a few days ago, and with one speaker being louder than the other (using front headphone jack messed up the balance somehow), 1 tweeter being dead and positioned way to the side right they still sound better. The condition of these speakers if why I'm looking towards passive next time: if something dies, I will only have to replace a single component or speaker.
 
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marcuscbm

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Do you have a dealer nearby with a 'speaker wall with comparator'
Unfortunately I don't. I don't really have an option to test popular speakers anywhere before buying. If I manage to get my bigger speakers fixed I'll probably gonna sell MR4s and go through some different used options to get a better feel for what I want.
If you are used to this overblown sound signature, it is pretty hard to appreciate gear with a more a neutral response.
I don't think I am. Before soundbar and MR4s I had those really cheap speakers with only 1 driver, and I could hear where the lows should be (like there's a sound of explosion), but without the corresponding lows. MR4s next to my bigger speakers make me feel the same way, like sure, I hear the beat, I just don't get the actual lows from it. It's not that pronounced obviously, and probably just enough for up close listening, but I'd like something that could fill the room as well.
 

MaxwellsEq

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You are presenting us with an interesting challenge! HiFi is about attempting to get an accurate representation of what's in the finished recording. But if as a result, you don't enjoy the music, that's tough to defend. Before you set out, you should be aware that an accurate setup will make some recordings sound poor, simply because the playback system is revealing limitations in the recording.

You seem to want the speakers to sound good when you are in a different room. I don't feel that's a good way to audition speakers, simply because it's very dependent on coupling, dispersion and how your home is built. If you want good sound in another room, put speakers in that room or buy a portable speaker.

It also sounds like bass is where you are unhappy. What sort of music do you like? Do you like electronic keyboard, dance or organ music (which need extension below 60Hz or do you like the "duufduuf" sound of kick drums (which are more around 100Hz?
 
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marcuscbm

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You seem to want the speakers to sound good when you are in a different room
More like I want them to still somewhat like a bookshelf speaker and not a phone one.

I do listen to electronic and some rock, and I kinda feel they just don't go low enough, but where lows are present I don't need them to be more in the face so to speak.

I'm considering getting used 305p mkii to get a better perspective: they should still be neutral, but if the size was the problem it'll show. If it was just off-axis performance of MR4, I guess it'll show too. I was hoping to try out Kali LP6v2 (thought they were humongous compared to 305, but they are actually the same size as my Sven), but I can't get a used one locally.

One thing I noticed today, I don't seem to understand the hierarchy of different speakers. My understanding is that we have:
  • Regular bookshelf/PC speakers - Edifiers and the like. Product for average Joe. Sound mostly not great, and it's not neutral either.
  • Studio Monitors - Good, or at least better, sound and always (mostly?) neutral. At least that's the goal for those, right?
  • Hifi - mystery category for me. My mind jumps to home theater/passive setup kinda thing, but really I don't know what goes there, people seem to use it when they don't want to call a speaker a studio monitor.
But what if I want to upgrade from basic bookshelves, but prefer warmer sound to neutral one, where would I go? I'm starting to feel that I'm poking at these monitors, and they are just not designed to be what I expect them to be after reading all these "X sounds amazing" reviews. Like yeah, for mixing and stuff, but for just listening - is there a better place maybe?
 

DVDdoug

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In my "old school world" 8-Iinches is a small woofer. ;)

There is more to speaker design than size and sometimes a smaller better-designed speaker can put-out more (or better-smoother) bass than a larger woofer, but physics do come into-play and "bigger things" tend to put-out lower notes & more overall sound. (A kitten can't roar like a lion.)

--------------------
Hi-fi speakers and monitors CAN be interchangeable.

Floyd Toole says the main difference is that pro studio monitors are often played at high levels so they need to handle more power. I read a related story about the old days at Motown Studios - They were using hi-fi speakers (Acoustic Research AR3) and they had to keep extra midrange divers on-hand because they were frequently burning them out.

The "trend" in monitors is active (built-in amplifiers) and a more industrial look, without grills or grill cloth.

Most home stereo & home theater speakers are still passive (except for the subwoofer). And the "trend" is toward smaller main (and surround) speakers supplemented by a separate subwoofer. (A lot of home studios also have small monitors and a sub.)
 

MaxwellsEq

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More like I want them to still somewhat like a bookshelf speaker and not a phone one.

I do listen to electronic and some rock, and I kinda feel they just don't go low enough, but where lows are present I don't need them to be more in the face so to speak.

I'm considering getting used 305p mkii to get a better perspective: they should still be neutral, but if the size was the problem it'll show. If it was just off-axis performance of MR4, I guess it'll show too. I was hoping to try out Kali LP6v2 (thought they were humongous compared to 305, but they are actually the same size as my Sven), but I can't get a used one locally.

One thing I noticed today, I don't seem to understand the hierarchy of different speakers. My understanding is that we have:
  • Regular bookshelf/PC speakers - Edifiers and the like. Product for average Joe. Sound mostly not great, and it's not neutral either.
  • Studio Monitors - Good, or at least better, sound and always (mostly?) neutral. At least that's the goal for those, right?
  • Hifi - mystery category for me. My mind jumps to home theater/passive setup kinda thing, but really I don't know what goes there, people seem to use it when they don't want to call a speaker a studio monitor.
But what if I want to upgrade from basic bookshelves, but prefer warmer sound to neutral one, where would I go? I'm starting to feel that I'm poking at these monitors, and they are just not designed to be what I expect them to be after reading all these "X sounds amazing" reviews. Like yeah, for mixing and stuff, but for just listening - is there a better place maybe?
What everyone can tell you is "there is no replacement for displacement". Generally this stems from Hoffman’s Iron Laws of Speaker Building :
1) Bass Extension
2) Efficiency
3) Small Enclosure
Pick one...

All the speakers you are looking at are quite small in general HiFi terms. So for small speakers they will have to make one of two trades: 1) they may be inefficient but have good bass extension (demanding more from the amp than you expect); 2) they may have limited bass, but go loud will a less gutsy amplifier. But if you want louder with better bass for your amplifier buck, you need bigger speakers...

You can't really compare a pair of "classic speakers" with a soundbar! Modern soundbars are amazing devices with very clever tuning and DSP to make them sound bigger and more spacious than expected. They often have multiple drivers pointing in various directions, unlike a pair of speakers which are trying to emulate a point source - to create a stereo image with depth as well as width.

"Monitor" is sort of marketing speak these days, in my opinion. It's supposed to imply a relatively flat frequency response in an anechoic chamber so that sound engineers and producers can check that mixes are good (they can "monitor the sound"). Or it should produce a reliably coloured sound, unit-to-unit over several years of production to allow sound engineers to make comparisons (see Yamaha NS10M or Auratone).
 
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marcuscbm

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2) they may have limited bass, but go loud will a less gutsy amplifier
Are we talking "having a party" loud with music blasting on max, or just "I can distinctly hear the lyrics 10-15 feet away" loud? Could you give a couple of examples of inefficient speakers with good bass?
 

GIEGAR

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Are we talking "having a party" loud with music blasting on max, or just "I can distinctly hear the lyrics 10-15 feet away" loud? Could you give a couple of examples of inefficient speakers with good bass?

Here's a couple of examples of very well engineered speakers where the designer has chosen to trade off sensitivity (which is not efficiency) in pursuit of extended low frequency capability (F3, F10). The Edifier MR4 is also included below for reference.

Ascend-Acoustics-Sierra-1-V2-FR_Linearity.png



March-Audio-Sointuva-AWG-FR_Linearity.png


Edifier%20MR4%20FR_Linearity.png


By contrast, here's an example of a larger sealed speaker where the designer has chosen to prioritise sensitivity over low frequency extension; the use of subs is mandatory with this speaker.

Power-Sound-Audio-MT-110-M-FR_Linearity.png
 
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