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Author Topic: The present and future of monitoring  (Read 20363 times)

zetterstroem

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The present and future of monitoring
« on: January 09, 2005, 06:32:58 pm »

hey all

although this and other forums have been filled with monitor threads i still fell the subject needs to be discussed.

for some 20-something years i spend a lot of time listening to speakers of all sorts shapes and sizes.... i've had and heard everything from electrostatics and magnestats to small dynamic nearfields....

of course i did my share of mixing on ns10's and gene's.... and even did some live engineering for a while...

but i must say that i think the current trend in speakers/monitors leaves me very worried!

i think most of the monitors released by the big companys today have very little to do with transparent neutral monitoring..... speakers that are so heavily coloured that even the smartest engineer will not have a clue what is going on in his mix/master.

not to name anyone as this will start a flamewar.... people are of course very sensitive about their investments.

it's not even because people don't wanna pay for their monitors.... it's not uncommon to see some guy talking about $6000-10000 monitors that severely coloured or even distorted!

i can understand thay maybe it's nice to have some inspirational colouring while you compose/program..... but for tracking/mixing/mastering it is essential to have good speakers (and room).

i am convinced that most people do not even just sit down and listen to cd's and enjoy their speakers and get to know them and get to know neutral sound. and how many people know how instruments really sound? it's a bit like religion.... people say they believe in god.... but they don't go to church or pray! (at least in denmark where i live).

that combined with the fact that i (as a mastering engineer) recieve alot of mixes that need ALOT of fixing leads me to think (or know actually) that the relationship between bad monitoring and bad mixes is no coincidence......

and i don't think that it's a coincidence either that (most) records today are sounding poorer and poorer...

what to do?

are we fighting a losing battle? has peolpe stopped caring? am i losing my mind?

opinions opinions ..... i need opinions!
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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2005, 07:04:10 pm »

Perhaps the past, present and future. I edited this paragraph in for relevancy. The past is just as important as the future. We cherish many works of old and some of them are still within the "state of the art". Listen to some classical vinyl of the late 50's and it is simply STILL outstanding in clarity and reproduction translation. The 60's provided us with hits a many that still sound great. Our work today must fit the mould of high fidelity reproduction and the frequency balance that was established long ago still remains..balanced. It those days, recordings were done with utter care by lab coat technicians. People put a lot of heart into what they did for future generations to enjoy in its full splendor. Also I will add in this edit, it is not simply that a loudspeaker system must sound great. The loudspeaker system must be DYNAMICALLY accurate as well and to hear accuracy in loudspeakers is to realize the mids are definitely tilted up a shade because of fletcher-munson and this goes along with my argument of: when we mix and master, we should crank the volume for at least a short period to make certain we are not mixing undue pain into our work on critically accurate systems. Remember, we have to translate to inexpensive "box" type systems as well.

OK, original text from 2 hrs ago...

I have been in the same boat but really really early on. I posted some history in Brads forum (in short form) of how I evolved from musician first, to speaker nut and then to recording engineering and mastering. From 69-75, I was very unhappy with consumer loudspeakers in the early 70's to the point of creating my own designs. My first real studio experience was in 75 when everyone and their brother had 4310/4311 control monitors as mixing devices and mastering was simply the transfer from tape to disc (vinyl) with small changes to accommodate the lacquer. Mastering had evolved into many different things now but the purpose of it is to convert from the professional format to the consumer format(s) for proper translation with a wide variety of systems.

This said, going back to 75, my favorite LP's simply sounded very "right" on the JBL's and especially the L200's and L300's which were large scale studio monitors, not control room monitors. Most recordings sounded *"right". If they did not, it was oftentimes the recordings and engineering themselves were the problem. A standard was used and this standard was consistancy.

Skipping ahead to the 80's and digital involvement, studios shied away from the JBL's simply because they were on the harsh side with the CD's (all the while the major problems were the first generation converters and lack of experience in transfer) and began using other various types. NS10's have the ability to reproduce the simple snare drum properly and this by no means is an easy feat for a loudspeaker. I find many modern monitors to be very bass heavy, especially around 50hz (hence the thin mixes) causing engineers to back off on the bottom to balance to the loudspeakers. This and that their seems that through the 90's, their were no fewer than one hundred companies producing what is called "a studio monitor" and no telling how the mix will translate and this began the dawn of "mastering engineer" trying to get things back to a form of translation or back to "level".

SO there you have it. The paradigm has changed and truly accurate monitors (with flat phase and amplitude response) were traded in for those which "sound better" on cruddy material. This is the wrong way to go.

Going back to 75, it is still the material here that needs the hard work and mastering helps..but it should not the industries "band aid". As their will be many more monitors built and different levels of competence in recording, balancing and paying attention, the need for "mastering" grows ever stronger. A good set of full range low distortion cones should sound really good with music. This is not the ultimate criteria but one that is a "standard" to be kept in mind.

We haven't even talked about people who are using "cans" to mix with.

Engineers, really good ones can learn to use whatever monitors they get used to. It is the skill of that engineer how well the translation works and hopefully an incompetent mastering engineer *won't* mess it all up, or the other way around where it is messed up and the mastering engineer has to try to "fix it"..but the latter is the case many times these days..and it is mainly due to monitors, rooms and levels of competence.

*One recording in particular was H. Lewis and the News or the "back to the future 1" soundtrack album
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Daniel_Dettwiler

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2005, 09:49:00 pm »

Yes I agree, it is imortant to speak about speakers. I do not understand that many people are not that critical about it. IMO The speakersystem togeher with the acoustics of the Mixing Room is the absolut most important factor in any studio. A speaker has to be as acourate as possible, meaning that it should convert the electrical signal coming from the amp as good as possible in to sound waves.

Now the problem imo is, that in such discussions most people do not know many loudspeakers (not the good ones at least). But if we speak about Mixing Desks, soon people come with their desks, with coast about $100,000 till $700'000. Nobody says why would they not mix on a mackie. A Monitor with great quality also has a high price, one can not believe that with $5000 one gets a acourate speaker.

IMO we are a lot more in the "future" then many would think. I have been looking for acourate speakers for years, and found amazing ones, speakers made by little compagnies that are not even well known in their countries. I found two compagies which their speakers easely have blown away the top models from the well known compagnies. (That where the Dynaudio C4 and a big PMC Speaker to make it concret). One Speaker that I should mention is the Strauss SEMF-1 (Strauss Elektroakustik). It is even more expensive than a complete C4 System, but well worth it. For my studio it was a great investment and very well worth it. BTW, the monitor has been developped for the Sony Music Studio Japan. The Engineers there have compared about every Mastering Monitor that they could get, and choosed this Strauss Speaker to be equipped in all their mastering suites (40 Speakers in total:-). He makes great nearfields aswell that are of course cheaper, probalby about $12,000 or so for a stereo system.  

To sum, I believe, no I know that their are excelent sound wave converters (speakers). But most people are not aware of the good ones, but just buy goods in bulk. As if we would all work with Beringer Mics, just not knowing that there are also brauners, DPA's Neumanns... Smile. Finally I also believe that studios needs to invest far more in their monitoring (with acoustics) and imo far less in the console that anyway just ruins the acoustics...

My two cents
Daniel Dettwiler
www.ideeundklang.com
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ammitsboel

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2005, 01:24:02 pm »

I believe that what has happened to monitors/speakers from the 50'ties and up to now is closely linked to what has happened to audio electronics.
In the 50'ties electronic designers where limited to rather expensive components witch resulted in simple designs that simply sounded better than today where it seems like the only parameter build after is convenience resulting in very complex designs that has attained so much sound of its own that it is ot the detriment of the original sound.
Even firms that consider them selves to be High End are limited to commercial production methods of vital parts in their units... and even some firms put themselves in limited situations by choosing predesigned integrated components that again are the victims of severely limited production methods.

So as i see it, we have only gone in the direction of convenience and ease of use where we should have improved upon the designs and components of the 50'ties.

The monitoring situation has evolved in the same direction resulting in monitors that are not capable of reproducing the beauty of musical detail.
Studio engineers have to realize that people at home with a good hifi system have greater detail and musical joy that can't be matched by even some of the best studio monitors around.

Best Regards

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maxdimario

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2005, 01:48:15 pm »

ammitsboel wrote on Mon, 10 January 2005 19:24

I believe that what has happened to monitors/speakers from the 50'ties and up to now is closely linked to what has happened to audio electronics.
In the 50'ties electronic designers where limited to rather expensive components witch resulted in simple designs that simply sounded better than today where it seems like the only parameter build after is convenience resulting in very complex designs that has attained so much sound of its own that it is ot the detriment of the original sound.
Even firms that consider them selves to be High End are limited to commercial production methods of vital parts in their units... and even some firms put themselves in limited situations by choosing predesigned integrated components that again are the victims of severely limited production methods.

So as i see it, we have only gone in the direction of convenience and ease of use where we should have improved upon the designs and components of the 50'ties.

The monitoring situation has evolved in the same direction resulting in monitors that are not capable of reproducing the beauty of musical detail.
Studio engineers have to realize that people at home with a good hifi system have greater detail and musical joy that can't be matched by even some of the best studio monitors around.

Best Regards





I totally agree with you 100%. I was saying the exact same thing to a friend a week ago. the old stuff was simpler, superior in quality of components and made with music reproduction in mind by scientifically-minded engineers who actually cared about musical quality.
Miniaturization problems and cost concerns were almost non-existent.

The main thing modern systems have more of, compared to the first-generation technology, is the SPL to do a woofer-body-massage
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Roland Storch

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2005, 04:15:13 pm »

Great thread!

A lot of mastering engineers and studios with a certain level use so called consumer high end loudspeakers instead or the so called professional studio monitors. Why?

Very often the only professional thing about the pro monitors are typical pro features like balanced XLR inputs. In another thread somebody describes the compromised input stages of active studio monitors.

Like already written above:
"Studio engineers have to realize that people at home with a good hifi system have greater detail and musical joy that can't be matched by even some of the best studio monitors around."

Exactly!
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lucey

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2005, 05:11:33 pm »

in my mind there are cheap studio monitors, midfi monitors, and high end monitoring options.

the cheap ones are newer tannoy, event, mackie designs and things below those

the midfi range is from truth at $1300 up to a variety of most powered monitors that get discussed ... adam, emes, dynaudio,  etc. at the $5000 to $10,000 mark

the high end is a matched amp/speaker combo like barefoot, or a speaker with a great amp of your choosing ... but we're talking $10,000 and up to be really certain of what's being monitored


seems to me that for most nearfield apps the trick is to find the best midfi set up for that person/room.   while for mastering or audiophile listening $10,000 and up is the ticket in.  
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Daniel_Dettwiler

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2005, 05:30:22 pm »

Quote:

in my mind there are cheap studio monitors, midfi monitors, and high end monitoring options.

the cheap ones are newer tannoy, event, mackie designs and things below those

the midfi range is from truth at $1300 up to a variety of most powered monitors that get discussed ... adam, emes, dynaudio, etc. at the $5000 to $10,000 mark

the high end is a matched amp/speaker combo like barefoot, or a speaker with a great amp of your choosing ... but we're talking $10,000 and up to be really certain of what's being monitored


seems to me that for most nearfield apps the trick is to find the best midfi set up for that person/room. while for mastering or audiophile listening $10,000 and up is the ticket in.


I agree with what you are saying, but the price but the coast of a monitoring system where one can be really certain of what's been monitored is imo a whole bunch higher even than $10,000. To me highend options start around $20,000 and go easely till $80,000

daniel dettwiler
www.ideeundklang.com
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seriousfun

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2005, 05:43:59 pm »

Don't you think it's funny that the film and video industry has trade organizations that specify requirements for (video and projection) monitoring, and every facility pretty much adheres to them? Yet, for the better part of a century, the music industry has let engineers work at every stage of the process with their choice of monitors, most of which lack some obvious range of frequencies, dynamics.

Should we license audio facilities, requiring that their monitor systems at least have the frequency and dynamic response of their acquisition and deliver systems? Will natural selection lead the surviving recording studios to this conclusion?
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Daniel_Dettwiler

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2005, 06:01:36 pm »

Quote:

I believe that what has happened to monitors/speakers from the 50'ties and up to now is closely linked to what has happened to audio electronics.
In the 50'ties electronic designers where limited to rather expensive components witch resulted in simple designs that simply sounded better than today where it seems like the only parameter build after is convenience resulting in very complex designs that has attained so much sound of its own that it is ot the detriment of the original sound.
Even firms that consider them selves to be High End are limited to commercial production methods of vital parts in their units... and even some firms put themselves in limited situations by choosing predesigned integrated components that again are the victims of severely limited production methods.

So as i see it, we have only gone in the direction of convenience and ease of use where we should have improved upon the designs and components of the 50'ties.

The monitoring situation has evolved in the same direction resulting in monitors that are not capable of reproducing the beauty of musical detail.
Studio engineers have to realize that people at home with a good hifi system have greater detail and musical joy that can't be matched by even some of the best studio monitors around.



So true! The developper of the System I mentioned in my later respnse (the Strauss Speaker) says exactly the same thing. A great speaker system does not have to be complicated, nor does it need to have 4 drivers with 4 amps for each driver... in contrary, if the sound is coming over 4 drivers, you will have 3 frequency crossovers, and that to me is very clear that can not sound good.

daniel dettwiler
www.ideeundklang.com
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Rader Ranch

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2005, 06:48:02 pm »

i've tried to critically listen to CD's to get used to Dolby certified dub stages....trust me, that's the last thing you want.

seriousfun wrote on Mon, 10 January 2005 14:43

Don't you think it's funny that the film and video industry has trade organizations that specify requirements for (video and projection) monitoring, and every facility pretty much adheres to them? Yet, for the better part of a century, the music industry has let engineers work at every stage of the process with their choice of monitors, most of which lack some obvious range of frequencies, dynamics.

Should we license audio facilities, requiring that their monitor systems at least have the frequency and dynamic response of their acquisition and deliver systems? Will natural selection lead the surviving recording studios to this conclusion?




...scott rader
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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2005, 07:15:08 pm »

With keeping to a good protocol of forum balance and flow, Daniel, why don't you PM me about the Strauss loudspeakers please.
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eightyeightkeys

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2005, 07:23:50 pm »

ZETTERSTROEM wrote on Sun, 09 January 2005 18:32

..............
and i don't think that it's a coincidence either that (most) records today are sounding poorer and poorer...

what to do?

are we fighting a losing battle? has peolpe stopped caring? am i losing my mind?

opinions opinions ..... i need opinions!


I'm not sure that its necessarily the monitors but it really could be a big, big chunk of it. If you can hear very clearly and accurately how much you could be ruining a mix or master...well then...

When I got the B&W Matrix 802's Series 3's and started listening I was a bit confused/startled at first. How could all of these CD's sound this bad ? Rude, harsh, way too much top end and, of course overly compressed. I actually told the person I bought them from that I wasn't sure about these monitors and that I need more time.

But, as I listened more and more, and tracked and mixed on them, I realized how beautifully accurate these monitors are. Even tiny EQ and level changes are evident, leading to, (guess what ?).....less need for EQ and compression and certainly less limiting.

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Dave T.
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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2005, 07:31:46 pm »

There you go D&D...and equipment needs time with your ear/brain to settle in. After you use them for a while, those nasty CD's will actually show you some new insight. Myself and many of my peers consider the word "break-in" "the time it takes to reassociate with the new equipment from different sources to learn its "state...of the art".

Quotes in bold my myself. (Submitted to a Glossary for review).

The more accruate the loudspeakers and room association, the more '0.3dB' you can hear, and at all ranges. Your next gift will be STEREO subs, not one, flat to 15hz. Then you will hear all the interaction when properly balanced.
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Daniel_Dettwiler

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Re: The present and future of monitoring
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2005, 03:25:32 am »

Quote:

With keeping to a good protocol of forum balance and flow, Daniel, why don't you PM me about the Strauss loudspeakers please.

Bill Roberts Precision Mastering.



Bill

I will PM you information later this day..

Daniel
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