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Why The "Best" Monitors Aren't Always The Best For Music Production

watchnerd

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#1
I thought this was both very interesting (and maps reasonably well to my personal experience), as well as highlighting the huge impact the producing engineer has on the sound and how gear choice affects artistic decisions:

 

March Audio

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#2
......mmmmm.....so the lesson is initially hear less, do more and dumb the quality of production down to the lowest common denominator because consumers may not have a good hifi.

Whikst I understand where he is coming from, I dont agree with it as a philosophy.
 

watchnerd

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#3
......mmmmm.....so the lesson is initially hear less, do more and dumb the quality of production down to the lowest common denominator because consumers may not have a good hifi.

Whikst I understand where he is coming from, I dont agree with it as a philosophy.
Whether you agree with it or not, the vast majority of recordings are made with that philosophy for the reasons you stated (consumers not having good hi fi).

Yes, there are audiophile labels that don't follow that approach (e.g. Reference Recordings), but then you're often dealing with mediocre performances and limited repertoire.

The converse is also true: audiophile reviewers who write equipment reviews using garbage recordings (I'm looking at you, Herb Reichert @ Stereophile...)
 

amirm

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#5
Creating music seems such a maddening experience to me. They must know that nobody hears their production in the same way. So what does it mean to tailor the sound, eq, etc when it could sound like anything at playback?

How over the decades they have not forced some standardization in playback to match the timbre they hear is beyond me. It is a busted model and stays this way.
 

watchnerd

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#6
Creating music seems such a maddening experience to me. They must know that nobody hears their production in the same way. So what does it mean to tailor the sound, eq, etc when it could sound like anything at playback?

How over the decades they have not forced some standardization in playback to match the timbre they hear is beyond me. It is a busted model and stays this way.
I'm not sure if anyone has enough of an economic incentive to force standardization.

Unlike movie theaters back in the heyday of THX, there isn't an equivalent "pay to hear a canned, pre-recorded music performance in a public venue" market.

It's all personalized listening. The music labels don't care as long as the music sells. Home audio gear makers might be opposed because it constrains feature set differentiation and would subject them to certification bodies (Dolby Labs, THX) like happens in the AVR world.

Classic audiophiles definitely don't want it because takes away the freedom of choice and "artistic" nature of gear matching.

Which leaves only rational audio enthusiasts like you find on this site. :)
 

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#7
Some time ago, I spent 10 years as a pro recording and mixing engineer at a number of studios. I went out of my way to ensure the best fidelity I could get. In fact, everyone was keenly aware of the sound production quality - both musically and technically, from the producer, artists and record label.

Virtually all the studios I worked in, not only had a wide range of home and studio monitors to check the mix on, but always a set of monitors that were calibrated to industry guidelines. On the "engineering" side, everyone had heard of the B&K curve: https://www.bksv.com/media/doc/17-197.pdf
Or the ITU curve: https://www.itu.int/dms_pubrec/itu-r/rec/bs/R-REC-BS.1116-3-201502-I!!PDF-E.pdf
Or the EBU curve: https://tech.ebu.ch/docs/tech/tech3276.pdf
Or the Dolby mix guidelines: https://tech.ebu.ch/docs/tech/tech3276.pdf
Heck, even Toole's paper has the same in-room frequency response curves as the industry production guidelines above - see Figure 14: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=17839
So much for the circle of confusion...

Those industry guidelines specify much more than just frequency response... But looking at just the frequency response for a moment, one can see if we took all of the recommended frequency responses from each of the articles that span a 40 year period of objective measurements and subjective listening preferences for "neutral" sound, one can see that they are virtually all the same:

frequency response targets.png


That is standardization gentlemen - for over 40 years now. With all due respect to AudioOllie, he is not a "professional" and does not represent the (small) base of professionals I worked with. His explanation is simply nonsense. Sure, there are many reasons for bad mixes or masters, almost always related to either not enough time in the studio (i.e. money) or not a properly designed studio that adheres to one of the industry guidelines.

A proper mix on a set of monitors/speakers, regardless what they are, that match the neutral frequency response curves as described/graphed above, will translate very well on any speaker system... As the guidelines have been around for 40 years... but it require professionals, both in studio/control room design and recording/mixing/mastering. It is not rocket science, it is simply education. Which given that DAW's are now less $100, any untrained person can call themselves recording/mixing/mastering engineers.
 

Blumlein 88

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#8
Everything that guy said is a bad idea. Based upon a really bad philosophy. Resulting in such a hugely compromised result it is ridiculous.


Or so I thought until I did some recording. Now I don't know if he said anything I don't agree with and most of what he is talking about I recognize at least a little. And I say this as an amateur recordist who could afford to do it the purest way I want to the highest standard I can manage and if you don't like shut up and leave me alone. I am not making a living at it. And even then it is such a strange minefield. The typical way audiophiles talk about, revere the musical source, search for utmost purity and detail and accuracy of recordings vs how they get made and more so why they get made the way they do....................I could compare it to visiting the sausage factory, but it is much much worse than that.

I think I posted this in another thread. Anyway download and listen to the two versions of this sub 3 minute recording in the first post.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/rem...162132-stereophony-senn_ms-vs-dpa4006_ab.html

Two different pair of very high quality microphones resulting in two very nice recordings. This is the sort of thing I would like to do. The better the gear you play it on the better it sounds. No processing just the straight mike feeds. I would be proud of either one even though there are subtle differences. These are the kinds of recordings audiophiles believe they are listening to, and this is not the case at least 99.9% of the time.

Checking your tracks on little moderate quality speakers, yeah you just about have to. I recorded some folks in a church, the HVAC would cause a low resonance at like 17 hz. Two of my mikes will go that low and lower picking it up just fine. My speakers didn't reproduce that, but weren't bothered by it too much and my amps were strong enough no problem. Sounded fine I sent initial copies to people involved. Everyone of them told me how it was badly distorted and they couldn't listen to it. Sounded fine here. I had been high pass filtering those mikes and forgot too. So I go back and roll out of it at 40 hz. Now everyone hears it with no problem. Everyone's little speakers at home, in the car etc. were just having the power eaten up by that low frequency resonance. So should I be the purist or let other people hear music? That is just one of many such issues about recordings. And this without getting into heavily processed pop or rock music.
 
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RayDunzl

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#9
Let me ask a naive but burning question:

Where does the "boost" in the high frequencies come from that has to be "cut" at the speakers?
 

amirm

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#10
That is standardization gentlemen - for over 40 years now.
I am sorry but I don't believe any of that. :) How did anyone achieve those ruler flat target responses? Answer is that they did not!

Genelec did a survey of Dolby certified theaters which supposedly matched the X-curve. This is what they found:

Genelec-Control-Room-Study-of-Speakers.png


And:

Genelec Studio Speaker Study.png


And the above is with speakers that leave the factory calibrated. No way would these systems sound similar in any way. Room impact is huge as is whatever they had done for "calibration."

Worst thing in the world is the attempt to match those curves using forced EQ. You can't make speakers sound the same that way. You wind up making them sound worse, not better.

So no, there is no standardization. The proper standardization is what is done for video. You comply with a standard there and then do the same at home. Then you have a matched system end to end. A rose will have a similar color in that studio that it does on my display. Audio is not in the same universe.
 

amirm

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#11
Let me ask a naive but burning question:

Where does the "boost" in the high frequencies come from that has to be "cut" at the speakers?
The question has multiple answers. One is that reflections have less high frequencies in them. A microphone "hears" both the direct and indirect sounds and mixes them together. As a result a measured response will need to have a sloped down response or else you would be increasing the high-frequency energy of the speaker reflections.
 

watchnerd

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#12
Two different pair of very high quality microphones resulting in two very nice recordings.
This is one of the many reasons why I think audiophiles who use live music as an "absolute sound" reference point (unless they were present in the venue and know the mics used) are, at best, paradoxical, and worst, delusional.
 

March Audio

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#13
Everything that guy said is a bad idea. Based upon a really bad philosophy. Resulting in such a hugely compromised result it is ridiculous.


Or so I thought until I did some recording. Now I don't know if he said anything I don't agree with and most of what he is talking about I recognize at least a little. And I say this as an amateur recordist who could afford to do it the purest way I want to the highest standard I can manage and if you don't like shut up and leave me alone. I am not making a living at it. And even then it is such a strange minefield. The typical way audiophiles talk about, revere the musical source, search for utmost purity and detail and accuracy of recordings vs how they get made and more so why they get made the way they do....................I could compare it to visiting the sausage factory, but it much much worse than that.

I think I posted this in another thread. Anyway download and listen to the two versions of this sub 3 minute recording in the first post.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/rem...162132-stereophony-senn_ms-vs-dpa4006_ab.html

Two different pair of very high quality microphones resulting in two very nice recordings. This is the sort of thing I would like to do. The better the gear you play it on the better it sounds. No processing just the straight mike feeds. I would be proud of either one even though there are subtle differences. These are the kinds of recordings audiophiles believe they are listening to, and this is not the case at least 99.9% of the time.

Checking your tracks on little moderate quality speakers, yeah you just about have to. I recorded some folks in a church, the HVAC would cause a low resonance at like 17 hz. Two of my mikes will go that low and lower picking it up just fine. My speakers didn't reproduce that, but weren't bothered by it too much and my amps were strong enough no problem. Sounded fine I sent initial copies to people involved. Everyone of them told me how it was badly distorted and they couldn't listen to it. Sounded fine here. I had been high pass filtering those mikes and forgot too. So I go back and roll out of it at 40 hz. Now everyone hears it with no problem. Everyone's little speakers at home, in the car etc. were just having the power eaten up by that low frequency resonance. So should I be the purist or let other people hear music? That is just one of many such issues about recordings. And this without getting into heavily processed pop or rock music.
I do disagree slightly - there is a difference between a bit of "quality control" checking for, how shall we say, "out of range" signals (you know woofer destroying low frequency wind noise for example) and using low quality speakers to mix and master.


Slightly OT and I think you also did this in another thread, but here are the responses of some mics I have recording the output of a pair of headphones. Note that headphone are not meant to have a flat response. Not a hugely scientific test subject to error, but as a comparison interesting nonetheless.
Bruel and Kjaer 2250 SLM output - red
Bruel and Kjaer 2238 SLM output - green
UMIK usb mic - with cal file blue, no cal file purple
Audyssey Pro cal Mic light blue
Rode NT5 - yellow - note the massive LF gain due to being a directional cardiod mic - proximity effect.
Waiting for an Earthworks M23 to arrive, which will be interesting.

mics.png



Also, completely OT, has anyone else noticed this about their UMIK mic?

B&K

BK imp.png


UMIK
umik imp.png
 
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#14
Where does the "boost" in the high frequencies come from that has to be "cut" at the speakers?
As Amir said, the typical speaker's power response in a typical domestic room.

PLUS the need to tone down the typically close-miked recordings. This is in the B&K paper. They propose a different curve for mid/far-field recorded classical music, adding to it that such recordings are but a tiny portion of the market.
 

dallasjustice

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#15
The fact that so many recordings sound great with so many ways to playback should tell us something about the need for additional recording standards. These days, standards are much more important for home reproduction. IMO, there are ways to design home playback so that anything sounds great. But that's not what audiophiles do. Just go to a hotel room show to hear the same jazz trio or close mic female vocal ensemble played all day. Music selection says much more about playback competence than anything else.
 

Blumlein 88

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#16
I do disagree slightly - there is a difference between a bit of "quality control" checking for, how shall we say, "out of range" signals (you know woofer destroying low frequency wind noise for example) and using low quality speakers to mix and master.


Slightly OT and I think you also did this in another thread, but here are the responses of some mics I have recording the output of a pair of headphones. Note that headphone are not meant to have a flat response. Not a hugely scientific test subject to error, but as a comparison interesting nonetheless.
Bruel and Kjaer 2250 SLM output - red
Bruel and Kjaer 2238 SLM output - green
UMIK usb mic - with cal file blue, no cal file purple
Audyssey Pro cal Mic light blue
Rode NT5 - yellow - note the massive LF gain due to being a directional cardiod mic - proximity effect.
Waiting for an Earthworks M23 to arrive, which will be interesting.

View attachment 7767


Also, completely OT, has anyone else noticed this about their UMIK mic?

B&K

View attachment 7768

UMIK
View attachment 7769
Yes the Umik inverts polarity.

As for mixing on low quality speakers I suppose I wasn't quite clear (I think the video was unclear as well, the Adams aren't low quality either just a lesser speaker). I said smaller set of moderate quality speakers. I prefer the LSR305s. They are good quality and a reasonable frequency response. One of the qualities often commented upon is if you mix with them it translates well. Meaning it sounds good on other speakers. Yet these smaller speakers have certain limitations closer to the wide majority of speakers people listen to music with. Due to their size, not due to the basic quality level. I have had the same problem of mixing something on large speakers that somehow doesn't come across on headphones or speakers most people us or in car use. If I do the reverse and mix with the smaller speakers and check with the larger ones this usually is not a problem.

My actual preference which has its own impracticalities is to record with a pair of well placed microphones and not do anything. Adjust levels if needed and that is what you get. I've made recordings of people I know and been very happy with the results. The people I am recording prefer close miking on everything. Their friends, relatives and acquaintances prefer close miking on everything. The very things I like they don't. The sound of the space they were playing in. They consider it noise in the way. The fact it sounds like a reasonable version of what it sounded like when I was there listening, the group playing never heard it that way, nor did anyone else listening.

So I have recorded those people all together as a group, done some tasteful close miking, and minimal processing of the sound to get it to work. It is better than most commercial results (or so I think) and sounds pretty good to me. Others seem to think it sounds pretty good too. I don't really consider it as good as it could be. So there you go.
 
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watchnerd

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#17
Yes the Umik inverts polarity.

As for mixing on low quality speakers I suppose I wasn't quite clear (I think the video was unclear as well, the Adams aren't low quality either just a lesser speaker). I said smaller set of moderate quality speakers. I prefer the LSR305s. They are good quality and a reasonable frequency response. One of the qualities often commented upon is if you mix with them it translates well. Meaning it sounds good on other speakers. Yet these smaller speakers have certain limitations closer to the wide majority of speakers people listen to music with. Due to their size, not due to the basic quality level.
Regardless about the arguments about standards and flatness, I find doing a first mix on 2-ways useful for 2 reasons:

1. Almost all of them, regardless of the expense of the 2-way, have a crossover smack in the middle of the upper mid-range, 1500-2500 Hz. 3-ways tend to crossover higher than this (~3k-3.5khz typically). This crossover null affects the mix and is relatively independent of room and can't be solved without going "full retard" on the EQ (which then causes other issues worse than the original problem).

2. Dynamic compression limitations common to the 2-way species, especially in the crossover region and limits of bass extension.

A mix that translates well won't aggravate these limitations.
 

Fitzcaraldo215

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#18
Whether you agree with it or not, the vast majority of recordings are made with that philosophy for the reasons you stated (consumers not having good hi fi).

Yes, there are audiophile labels that don't follow that approach (e.g. Reference Recordings), but then you're often dealing with mediocre performances and limited repertoire.

The converse is also true: audiophile reviewers who write equipment reviews using garbage recordings (I'm looking at you, Herb Reichert @ Stereophile...)
Yes, over the years, many recordings have been made to least common denominator standards by the major labels. Anybody remember RCA's wondrous Dynagroove LPs back in the 60's? That was only the beginning.

Audiophile labels are doing better in some cases than you imply, particularly in classical music. And, some major symphony orchestras have created their own labels. So, the Concertgebouw, for example, which ain't exactly a mediocre orchestra, can turn out superb recordings of wide ranging repertoire in hi rez Mch or BD video. There are numerous other examples: San Francisco, LSO, Boston, Chicago, etc. I have way, way more - thousands - excellent classical recordings (in hi rez Mch) from other very quality conscious labels like BIS, Channel Classics, Chandos, etc., etc. Yes, Reference Recordings has come back to life also, and their recent discs of Manfred Honek conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony are really quite excellent, especially his Richard Strauss.

Reviewers? Why stop at Herb Reichert? Hell, Robert Harley, Jonathan Valin, John Atkinson, Art Dudley, Mickey Fremer ... The list goes on and on as far as the eye can see. I know of only a very few reviewers who do consistently use quality recordings, namely Kal Rubinson and Andy Quint of Stereophile and TAS, respectively.
 

watchnerd

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#20
Why stop at Herb Reichert?
Herb Reichert especially drives me nuts because he sometimes uses things like historic pre-1920 Delta Blue recordings and anthropological archives of the music of extinct cultures recorded in the hey day of European colonialism which, artistic or cultural merits aside, are horrible fidelity.
 

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