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Which Selection and Types of Studios Monitors For Mixing?

807Recordings

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I would indeed appreciate any scientific references to articles or studies that discuss using studio monitors to mix music that translates to a broad selection of consumer systems.

As a looong-term mix engineer I have worked tirelessly at making my mixes extremely translatable for the genre of the song, and this has mostly come about through trial and error, experimentation, using countless studio monitors over the years, and a lot of listening and analysis.

I feel that in my current Genelec 8351B, Neumann KH150, Avantone, Apple Airpod Max equipped studio I have it down, however always open-minded and willing to research.
Good monitors, rooms, help along with quality of the material. Nothing trumps experience and what you just mentioned seems to confirm that and how we can be adaptable to our environments (within reason).
 

JLKingsland

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Yet Dr. Olive hasn’t been able to get standards adopted at AES, nor Dr. Toole before him on studio monitors.

I’m not sure why that is. Industry pushback, lack of consensus on what standard should be, other considerations? No studies (like in none, not a single solitary one) showing a correlation between monitors used and quality of end result? There are studies on the massive differences in playback sound in studio control rooms, but no standards.

Or maybe mixing engineers, the top tier who can command a production royalty, have never been tested at Harmon’s Northridge facility with multiple studio monitors to see if their preference for mixing monitors is the same as consumer preferences for consumer speakers.

Top tier mixing engineers are top tier for one reason, and one reason alone, their mixes sell records/downloads/physical media/get played on radio.

Then there are the unknowns, are the studio monitors used by the top tier being run flat in the control room (doubtful), or EQ’d, if so what EQ, what in room response.

All the proper controls are in place, after decades or refinement, for blind preference tests on consumer speakers. I don’t know of any equivalent for mixing engineers, or monitors in a control room setting, etc.

Dr. Toole, I believe, even up to the latest edition, spells out the circle of confusion problem, and says it’s surprising that it exists, but says studies are needed and more information is needed. The same for Dr. Olive, in a blog post from about 4 years ago, says need to start by getting a more standard control room.

What’s the update on where things are at with AES or other professional organization (acoustics or IEEE) on standards for control room monitors, or control rooms.

If my company made the flattest, most accurate, most (fill in blank) professional monitors available, I would be figuring out a way to demonstrate objectively how using them results in better mixes, better recordings, higher sales of music, more awards, etc.

It’s not there, studies, standards, manufacturer’s research, nothing. I don’t know why, but there isn’t, unless I have missed something that has come down the pike since the last 100+ page debate on this issue.
I've been a long time lurker on this forum and really appreciate what voice it brings to the internet audio community. I've worked in recording studios for 20+ years (my entire adult life), I've been a chief engineer at several facilities, freelanced for the last 15 years, built a litany of studios, and assisted in the building of several studios. All that to say, Hi thanks for having me.

Travis, there's a litany of reasons that standardization is/would be difficult. Secondarily, Dr. Olive and Dr. Toole, while they have some very good points in the circle of confusion, have acoustic theories so at odds with accepted fundamental concepts of control room design that they may not be the best arbiters of this task, regardless of if standardization would be a good idea or not.

As a mixing engineer(and I am one), you are constantly tasked with 1.) achieving the most translatable version of artist and producers vision, which is not always a walk in the park. This means it resembles the vision in car(ford or bmw), on a bluetooth speaker, on someone else's studio monitors, in a club on a PA, in headphones, in airpods, on someones 100k Wilson system as well as a set of sony bookshelf speakers. LOUD and soft. 2.) the expectation that it will be in step with the style of the times. This may mean making it able to be extremely limited in dynamic range, this may be making the widest dynamic range possible (genre dependent). 3.) doing all of the prior comfortably, quickly and on budget.

NOW, relevant to your post:
Standards (or reccomendations) have been talked about forever: https://tech.ebu.ch/docs/tech/tech3276.pdf (40 sq meters rec sized room???? uhhh yahhh)

1.) CR acoustics are incredibly difficult to deal with in regard to FR. Consumer listening environments rarely share the same isolation (sound proofing) requirements a studio does. This matters because if it can be contained (isolated) it can be reflected meaning that it will interfere with speaker FR. Meaning treatment. Maybe not much? Maybe tons? Case dependentant. But very hard to accurately project that a spec is reachable in any given space.

For instance: +/- 5dB FR @ 24 dB an octave smoothing with 300 ms decay over 300 hz and 500 under 300.
At mix position, this is doable though some work sans DSP. With DSP? Definitely doable. 150 sq ft. of the area behind mix position? Good luck. That's work.

SO, if you were AES/EBU/ITU and wanted to profer a set of standards that rooms MUST meet, would you offer support? If some tells you to get f*cked, how do you enforce it? Major record labels only release records mixed in certain environments as agreed to with AES? Would you have a recommended method? Acoustician? If there was some variable that wasn't easily seen at the start of the project, and all steps were followed, what then? "Sorry your room doesn't meet spec, better luck next time! Good thing that was only 250k!". Would offer support to legacy studios who existed prior to the standard? I can think of some pretty prestigious rooms I've been in that wouldn't meet +/- 10 dB.

It's just a can of worms. For everyone. And to be clear I would love to live in the world where I could walk in ANY control room and immediately understand it.

2.) Mixers all have different perspectives regarding what makes them get to an end result that they like and translates. Everyone knows about the NS10 thing, right? "WELL YOU KNOW, Bob Clearmountain mixes on NS10s.." "BUT THEY SOUND LIKE POO AND HIS MIXES WOULD BE BETTER IF HE MIXED ON GENELECS". I mean, he has the money. As a matter of fact I think he has Dynaudio BM15s as an alt. Whatever. That gets him there.
TONS of records are being mixed and mastered on PMCs right now. Certainly not flat. But it works for them. I can't stand working on them.
Those reasons may not be correlated to the speakers flatness or even the FR in general. Some guys just like mixing with something that's brighter/midrangier/bassier cause it makes them sort through that range in a way that helps them make it translate more universally. I.E. If the speaker is harsh then the mixer will be more inclined to consider somethings harshness and handle it.
I, personally, don't like that approach, but I know TONS of people it works for.
For me, I have trouble mixing on modern Genelecs. But I can mix on Neumann 420s. The FR is similar, but the Genelecs always sound like the low end is too long to me (Very ancedotal).

All this to say, to codify all the above in order for it to be usable in a very broad range of circumstances and tastes just turns in to something thats not particularly meaningful like +/-10 db FR at mix position under 1 second of decay. It's a standard but not a very tight one.

Wooof. That was probably a lot.



Regarding current monitoring norms. Most professional mixers will have some reasonable space that at mix position will be +/- 5-7over 100 hz with no eq. Hopefully similar in the bottom octaves. But, there are also just freaks who somehow intuit how to deal with it(literally thinking of a friend who is a popular rock mixer). Generally, speaking under +/- 5 is considered REALLY good for control rooms(inclusive of speakers).

Ultimately the forever compromise of the recording studio environment is how isolated does it need to be vs frequency response vs when its all done does it aid people in making decent decisions. This is hard and filled with a litany of people who will take your money and run once the end result isn't what's promised. People with credentials. People with PHDs(for clarity this is not backhandedly referring to Dr. Toole or Olive). The best way through is enhanced study of: 1.) predictable methods of generating a specific result (I've been in multiple situations where professionals will promise this but never deliver) 2.) studying daily working professionals by changing individual variables such as speakers (and trying your damndest to match FR between your sets of speakers) then control rooms then analyzing the outcomes of the program vs their experience vs the client satisfaction to better understand what factors motivate the desired outcome.
 

Travis

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Ultimately the forever compromise of the recording studio environment is how isolated does it need to be vs frequency response vs when its all done does it aid people in making decent decisions. This is hard and filled with a litany of people who will take your money and run once the end result isn't what's promised. People with credentials. People with PHDs(for clarity this is not backhandedly referring to Dr. Toole or Olive). The best way through is enhanced study of: 1.) predictable methods of generating a specific result (I've been in multiple situations where professionals will promise this but never deliver) 2.) studying daily working professionals by changing individual variables such as speakers (and trying your damndest to match FR between your sets of speakers) then control rooms then analyzing the outcomes of the program vs their experience vs the client satisfaction to better understand what factors motivate the desired outcome.

Agree with you 100%.

I doubt we could ever get a correlation, on a set of factors for studio monitor for mixing that translate to better-sounding mixes. However, as I mentioned in the NS-10 clone review, the only way you could do it is economic E.g., standards would make it cheaper for the recording industry for mixing, or, result in higher sales. I think we are a long way from AI being able to do mixes.

If you didn't see that 50+ page thread, here is the link. This was to the page where Bob O. (Motown) chimed in on monitors.

 
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JLKingsland

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Agree with you 100%.

I doubt we could ever get a correlation, on a set of factors for studio monitor for mixing that translate to better-sounding mixes. However, as I mentioned in the NS-10 clone review, the only way you could do it is economic E.g., standards would make it cheaper for the recording industry for mixing, or, result in higher sales. I think we are a long way from AI being able to do mixes.

If you didn't see that 50+ page thread, here is the link. This was to the page where Bob O. (Motown) chimed in on monitors.


Thanks for the reply.

In regard to mixing engineer standards, I’d be very curious to see if there was any group preference to decay time vs frequency response. There’s actually new ground to be tackled there and perhaps even some new ideas of speaker manufacturing.

Regarding the economics, it’s already comical how little most labels want to pay for most mixes unless being done by the top .01% of mixers and even they aren’t paid what they were 20 years ago. And frankly, the expense seeming unreasonable is much more of a staffing/time factor because fundamentally it’s the point in the process where everyone has to make final decisions. Basically, if you take your standard pop multitrack comprised of 100+ stems (not tracks but stems), hope it’s arrives in quality shape, realize it doesn’t, pay an assistant engineer to comb over it for 5 hours at 20-30 an hour, have them set it up to be mixed, mix it for 6-10 hours, make revisions as needed for the artist and producer for 5-10 hours, get it a final version agreed on, print down all the alternate mixes need, send it to mastering, producer want to make last minute changes to mix and arrangement, do that last minute for 2 hours, print all alternates again, resend to mastering, know it’s approved, print all stems for 4 hours, then archive session on server so a decade later the label can ask you for the instrumentals that you printed and sent to both them and mastering that no one else retained, and done. Basically, without naming exact rates, no one is buying multiple Rolls Royce’s like RTB in the 70s anymore.
 

Travis

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In regard to mixing engineer standards, I’d be very curious to see if there was any group preference to decay time vs frequency response. There’s actually new ground to be tackled there and perhaps even some new ideas of speaker manufacturing.
That was discussed in that thread as well, some ideas of the responses were that transient response is part of frequency response. However, as I mentioned in there, all of the mixing and mastering engineers I knew 70s-80s LA/Bay Area, nearly all top tier, all mentioned transient response, the right amplifiers, slew rates, etc. to optimize the time domain for their monitors.

Travis
 

Philbo King

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I use JBL 308s in my studio with a modest amount of DSP room correction, and am very happy with them. I haven't had any mix translation issues since I started using them.
 

Philbo King

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As for time response, bass & clarity survives best if you can get <=300 mSec 'RT30' across the spectrum. Room treatment is best but DSP also helps a lot.
 

DRMLFL

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In my experience, and I'm by far not a professional mixing engineer but I've spent thousands of hours producing music the last 20 years as a hobbyist (I also participate regularly at mixing competitions), good or very good speakers (assuming you have nice acoustics in your room with a healthy FR and RT60, NO flutter echos and NO comb filtering!) help to make faster decisions while producing/mixing because you can hear the little details much better. Is the reverb tail (pre-delay and timing) correct? Does it clash with another reverb or delay fx? Does the kick and snare match to the key of the song or are the "notes" totally off? All this masking which hides certain elements are much easier to detect and all of a sudden it becomes obvious to rather chose this reverb/snare/synth or whatever instead of the other (because of the tone for example). Some reverbs are dark others are bright but in a less than ideal situation you can't hear it. Same with delay fx and other things.

I had Yamaha HS8, KRK Rokit 5, Focal Shape 65 and now I'm working with Focal Solo 6 BE and my mixes and music has never been "so good" like these days. Of course, experience helps a lot, and I'm also using a room correction software in a somewhat treated room. In that room correction software you can emulate the sound of NS10s and Mixcubes, and a bunch of other stuff. Yes, NS10s (I heard them also in live in a friend's studio) sound not that good because their limited frequency curve and I would never ever produce music with these, but they really help to hear the contour of every element in a mix/song and I find this setting extremely helpful for the initial gain staging and tonal balance of the individual tracks. Once I'm done with this I switch to full spectrum, and damn, the mixes always already sound pretty good at this early stage and eq and compressor work is done much quicker while mixing. This NS10 setting brings me nearer to that "radio ready" sound, no matter the genre I'm producing/mixing (which is almost everything apart from classical music) and it really helps to hear if the bass needs more overtones through saturation/clipping/overdrive etc. in order to be audible on smaller systems. This really helps that translation to, let's say, cell phones and tablets etc.

I use JBL 308s in my studio with a modest amount of DSP room correction, and am very happy with them. I haven't had any mix translation issues since I started using them.
It's the same for me, my mixes translate good to very good (not perfect) to other systems. I still struggle with that 20-500 Hz area, mainly because of the not so perfect acoustic and the monitors. They don't go below 40 Hz (I recently produced a track with the lowest note being an B flat 0 @ 29 Hz) which can become challenging.

In my view, one studio monitor is doable for mixing, but having two or three can be a big benefit when mixing. The change of perspective can be a healthy challenge.
I assume with outstanding and top professional monitors (let's say 8000€ and upwards per pair or whatever currency) you wouldn't need a second pair of monitors because it would be "so easy" to nail it every single time. When I got the Solo 6's I first couldn't believe what I was able to hear, and those are "just" producer monitors. Hopefully one day I can invest in that real top tier professional stuff.
 

JohnnyAudio

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I use TAD TSM-300 but I miss the Yamaha NS-10's
 

TheZebraKilledDarwin

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Aren't we at the point in the development of the tech that you can use full range, loud, neutral monitors for all your work by simulating various limited listening equipment with suitable effects?
The reason why IMO that is not the case, is human perception: the quality of the sound of a mix is determined probably by 80-90% in the midrange. But human hearing is easily fooled and distracted: rooms with room modes, and even flat speakers, are making it more difficult to hear details in the midrange.

The simple solution for mixing engineers to this problem: nearfield monitors that intentionally do not produce lots of bass, but midrange clarity and very good transient behaviour. Almost like an acoustic magnifying glass.
 

Multicore

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The reason why IMO that is not the case, is human perception: the quality of the sound of a mix is determined probably by 80-90% in the midrange. But human hearing is easily fooled and distracted: rooms with room modes, and even flat speakers, are making it more difficult to hear details in the midrange.

The simple solution for mixing engineers to this problem: nearfield monitors that intentionally do not produce lots of bass, but midrange clarity and very good transient behaviour. Almost like an acoustic magnifying glass.
I still don't understand why that magnifying glass cannot be a software device instead of a feature of the speaker design.
 

TheZebraKilledDarwin

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I still don't understand why that magnifying glass cannot be a software device instead of a feature of the speaker design.
Interesting idea. Audified Mix Checker comes to mind. A flat speaker with very good transient behaviour should indeed be able to reproduce the "magnifying glass" effect (depending on how good the sim model works). I have never tried Mix Checker for mixing, only for quick checks, but it may be worth a try!
 
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