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How do your monitors measure up?

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by audiokid, Apr 5, 2014.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    How do your monitors measure up?
    Why does it matter so much? Why does it matter to be on or close to par when collaborating over the www?

    I am just starting a project with someone quite affluent in my circle. He's heard about me, asked for some help but after a few minute of hearing his work, I'm now thinking its time to back out.
    He's good enough at recording and mixing to be fun, but dangerous. Sound familiar? From what I'm hearing, he has some good gear and really inefficient monitoring. When he was in my studio the other day he said, wow, my mix sounds much better here than at home.
    He's now he's back home waiting for my mix, a mix that will sound good in his studio, not mine. Follow me.

    I asked for a few tracks before I commit to anyone. I highly recommend this.
    How in the world can anyone attempt to successfully online collaborate when you have two completely different levels of monitoring environments. Is it possible? I used to think it didn't matter as much but I dunno anymore. You'll never be able to agree on certain aspects of a mix .

    The reason why studios passed music to mastering houses has long been appreciated and insisted upon. The professional set of sonic standards was a logical step as it not only gave us a second set of ears, it also was the right balance needed to make it all fit into mainstream. Once it left your studio, it wasn't up to you to question it. You understand why and left that up to the next step of the process.

    To have a successful collaboration both parties MUST has similar playback environments. Otherwise, how are you ever going to agree?

    What do you do?
    Have you even thought about this?
  2. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    who is doing what here exactly? are you providing musical input, or even providing musical "instructions" or are you just mixing this guys band?
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    There are a few scenarios.
    This would be sharing a mixing or mastering project with another engineer for a client that you both are working for .
    Mixing or mastering for someone that is using a monitor system completely inadequate for professional results.
    As an other example, this person gave me a mix that had mass reverb that would make the 80's look lame lol. I know he doesn't hear the amount he is using.I know if he was here, and heard what I am hearing, there would be no question.

    I blame a lot of problems on monitors. I think we all know a good mix when we hear it.
  4. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    ive been described as "overly blunt", so imo the solution here is you need to have a conversation with the collaborator. be honest with him. put your concern out there.

    does he know his room sucks for monitoring? maybe suggest he listen thru headphones. too much reverb will be relatively aparrent thru cans man.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...How in the world can anyone attempt to successfully online collaborate when you have two completely different levels of monitoring environments. Is it possible? I used to think it didn't matter as much but I dunno anymore. You'll never be able to agree on certain aspects of a mix ..."

    You can't limit that decision based on monitoring caliber alone.

    You know that there are many other factors involved in collaborations - you guys could have the exact same mixing scenarios and the results could still be dramatically different - because you have two different sets of ears.

    And, I'm not implying that one person's ears are necessarily better either.... just different... a different take or angle on the way things should sit in the mix. You and I could walk into the same pro control room with great acoustics, monitors and gear, and with the exact same raw tracks, and still walk out of the same control room with two completely different mixes.

    If it's a recording collaboration, then it's not as crucial for both of you to have the same caliber monitoring system. As long as the tracks are well recorded, then they should end up with the person who has the best scenario to mix with.

    In the scenario you spoke of, it should be you - not only because of your monitoring system, but also because you have so many other nice tools to work with as well.

    Honestly Chris, I've never heard of a "collaborative" mastering project. I can see where you might collaborate on the mixing, but I can't see you both doing the mastering.

    As far as mixing goes, then yes, the two of you need to be sharing the same caliber of monitors... maybe not the exact models, but at least the same caliber - as well as having similar environments acoustically.
    But you'll still be at the mercy of that wrench in the machinery known as "subjectivity". You'll never hear things exactly the same way. And often, that can be a good thing. But it can very often lead to problems as well.

    Your best bet is to collaborate on the recording, but then choose which one of you will handle the mixing and mastering. And I think we both know which one of you that should be. ;)
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    A collaboration is just that.....a collaboration. In working with someone, ESPECIALLY in the type of environments necessary for making recordings, its particularly important to sort out who is doing what and sticking to that.

    I assume that this person did the tracking and even the mixing(perhaps) and is looking to you and your room to bring up the level of quality to the mastering point. I also assume that he is not the artist in this case. In your point of view, you can only do what you can do with the material presented. At some point, your professionalism must be, not one of a critique of his place no matter what you hear that could be improved, but simply one what your place can bring to the table and how you can make it better for the artist.

    These days its a regular thing for records to be tracked at one place, mixed at another, and sweetened and mastered somewhere else. The age of specialization is upon us in a big way. The plethora of gear and the huge amount of variations in rooms (which can be easily pointed out by quality gear) is the thing that prompts this multiple environments to complete a project.

    So choosing the environment for each portion of a collaboration is critical in bringing the quality and polish to a project. Thinking that your different environmental qualities will hurt the project simply because of different monitors or rack gear or even work flow and practices would seem to doom this from the start. If your collaborator knows from the beginning that the project will be enhanced from the beginning by doing certain portions at your place then he should be on board with that.

    It would seem to be a matter of whoever is the producer of record to decide this. And if its the person who came to you then his decision should be based on whats best for the project not on an ego thing.

    But then how many times does this go on???
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks for chiming in guys and always a big thanks to you Donny for adding me into many of your posts.

    I agree, we will all come out of the same room with something different. Thats is the beauty of all of us. :love: But, this isn't my point. Its about doing business abroad where two or more involved all basing suggestions from different monitoring. Do you not think its that big a deal? I'm most likely over concerned.
    I have thought about this plenty. I know we all get used to what we have so it becomes irrelevant. I get that. There comes a point where we know our room and gear and get it done! I know that.
    I'm more concerned over the extreme being laptop and buds or just crud monitors or clients using home stereo subs .

    There was a thread some time back, I think Remy ( and you too Donny) were helping a guy. His mix sounded like ass. Really bright to us! He kept mixing back examples that were killing me. Then, it dawned on me. I asked, "are you using subs cranked in a living room "? Your mix is super bright. He replied, ya!

    Well this is what I'm talking about. How many people are making music using whacked monitoring systems, then hiring guns to get it done.

    I'm using the mastering example here only to shed light on how difficult its must be for M.E. too. I've had my share of mastering enough to know I never would do this full time unless I knew the client pretty good.
    Its stressful having to keep spinning wheels over monitoring. generally speaking, people don't ask the details of bad testimonials. I know from basic experience that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and one day to kill it all.
    The monitoring thing takes the fun out of this business somewhat, don't you think?

    The more time I invest, the more stressful this last 2% HD becomes because we are already at the so damn fussy level. Know what I mean? I'm not complaining. I'm merely trying to slim down the sentence on this one.I'm trying to find the words to say it well.

    Here's something funny in closing. The guy I was just talking about emailed me saying he did this song a decade ago! Now I get it! Why don't people tell you this *&&^$ up front. I have obvious been played somewhat on this one. Never the less, he is really happy .

    the monitoring thing is always a stress point for me. "do you hear what I hear".
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    it's all about the transducers. in front and at the end. mics and monitors. fancy conversion, reverbs and signal processing comes later. you have to have a decent foundation to build on and it ain't gonna be cheap.

    it's important to stress to newbies that good mics, monitors and a decent listening enviornment are critical. doing quality mixes isn't an endevour for the cheap at heart. gotta be willing to spend a couple grand at the start or you're just pissin in the wind ...
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nicely put Kurt, I'm going to use that, thanks.

    Your new avatar is priceless. Do you really feel that way hehe. (y)
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    only in the early and mid mornings, late mornings and early/ late afternoons, evenings and late nights ...
  11. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I am not getting a good sense of the parameters of the arrangement. You either trust each other or you don't. If you don't be honest about it. I differ to my mastering engineers expertise when in doubt. You don't hire an expert and not use the advise. If your the expert then you have to assert this as part of the arrangement. One person should have final authority. Often it's the person with the money not the ears.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I've learned a long time ago, never, and this applies to every successful trade or venture I've been part of. Never reach for a project just for money. If there isn't a mutual circle of similarities and respect, even though someone is willing to pay me money at the time, if it doesn't have an positive outcome that will build more of what I want, I always end up regretting something about it, which usually has a negative costs down the road. There hasn't been a time where I didn't get something better by passing on a carrot.

    Never the less, my question is about monitors and collaborating. The question of inconsistent playback systems and trying to mix for them and clients that aren't on the same page.
    The question is: How do your monitors measure up?

    Are you hearing what I am hearing and if not, how do we deal with that? Surely not as simple as compromising our work because someone wants excessive something, not out of taste but because something isn't accurate. Because they are willing to pay you, and you take the money and run isn't good enough for me. I tend to want to educate for the mutual advancement, striving to keep the level as high as possible.
    Do you choose an ME because he mixes bright for you, because your room is dark. there is a consistent pattern here. We choose mixes that sound good to us, in our setting, but would the same mix be as appealing if studied like we do in another setting or system. I say not quite and "not quite" can turn into hours of wasted time..

    Not everyone client or engineer has the luxury to be sitting in the perfect room (including me). So, when collaborating with anyone, are they hearing what I am hearing. That is question and how do we get past all this day after day.
  13. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I am not suggesting you compromise at all. There' been many times that I help someone's project along or mix poorly tracked songs and not end up with as good a project when compared to something I've or a competent engineer has tracked. I can't tell you how many demos I've recorded and released to clients. None of these represent my best work. Sometimes we are a mechanic working on a ford Taurus and other times we are restoring a classic hot rod. The point is to elevate the project to a higher level then they could on their own. That IS your job. Truly great work happens when the work ends up being better then any of you could get on your own but this is what happens when working with equals. There is no shame in working with clients and other producers under our level. Just as we should strive to work with people with superior skills.
    bigtree likes this.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hey Paul, this isn't about ego here, this is about monitoring and being on the same page ( within sanity).
    I truly believe most professional engineers know a good mix when we hear it. The question I am always asking myself, am I hearing it the way they are. Or, are they hearing it the way I am. Is my room accurate.
    How do we get there quickly when we are all in different rooms and systems.

    This topic has a lot more to it than meets the eye here. It just dawned on me... here is an exact example of what I'm talking about. I can't believe it happened here too.
    These tracks where mixed by two competent engineers. I know however, from listening to both tracks, the original was mixed in a room darker (with low freq issues) than the other. I expect some may find this difficult to believe I hear this, or obsess over this, but its where my ears are at this point in my career. I am identifying things that I never heard before, its a good and evil.
    The topic is interesting to say the least and its seem to be coming up a lot in conversations lately. I'm trying to find the words to express it simply and at the same time, wondering if others have experienced this. I mean, more and more people are able to make some serious music on laptops and headphones. But, they do seem pretty damn bright. (meaning, heavy bass and excessive top end).

    I won't say much more on it other than, listen for your self.

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    it has been a long accepted thought that monitor systems and rooms need to fall within certain parameters. producers choose where they work based on these qualifications. there's nothing new going on here.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Exactly, you and I know it. But, how many of us accept it, seriously. We spend more time and money on gear over monitoring and acoustics.
    Affordable recording is mass, its where the work is.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    yet another reason "affordable" recording and the democratization" of the recording studio" has not been a good thing. i saw this sh*t coming 15 years ago. hey! you kids! get off my lawn!
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Another bone of contention: studios being martyr of their acoustic space. That is a whole new topic.

    Mixing is a lot of fun, I get a great deal of pleasure from it. Its fun helping people but its also frustrating too. Sometime you can't say or do anything. It reminds me of painting really. Must be why I am a painter. I don't always like the colour people choose, but, I take pride in the outcome. Whether its an old house, old wood etc, I see it for what it is and simply bring it back to life without spoiling the vision for the client. I get exited for them and hopefully leave with us all smiling.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    a totally different can of worms and one that i am sure you and i will have to agree to disagree. i love having real acoustic spaces to work with and the more the better. at it's largest state, my studio had 5 different spaces and i loved it.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's because this craft has become inundated with people who think that every solution to every problem can be found in a plug.

    They would rather buy something tangible that they can actually operate, as opposed to spending money on something inanimate that just hangs on the wall, or sits in the corner. So many of them have no trouble at all with purchasing 20 different EQ or convolution plug ins, but the thought of putting the same money into acoustic treatment is beyond them.

    I think that monitors fall into the same category - maybe not exactly to the same extent - but it's similar.

    I have a pair of Alesis Montor One's (passive) powered by a Hafler Transnova. I also have several broadband absorbers and diffusers in the room. Is it a perfect acoustic scenario? No. But I've never had any complaints about my mixes, either.

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