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My quest for new monitors

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by Cucco, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Please pardon a potentially lengthy post.

    I have been searching for a while now for new monitors for mastering. I enjoy my NHTs, but I find them to be a tad forward in the upper register, translating into fatiguing sound after a few hours of working on them. Also, they are phenomenal at sane levels, but when pushed, they tend to compress.

    So, thus far, I have listened to numerous monitors to replace them. Here are my thoughts so far.

    First, let me state that I have done my best to account for room anomolies by moving speakers within the room and listening for consistencies and inconsistencies which give away tell-tale signs of issues.

    Here are the speakers and my thoughts in no particular order (based on notes I took during listening tests) -

    B&W 804 (Nautalis) - Good soundstage both front and back. Build up around 200-300 Hz - suck-out zone around 4 kHz.

    B&W 802 (Diamond) - Excellent bass - accurate and quick. Treble a tad too forward. Soundstage excellent.

    PMC OB1 - A tad forward but not fatiguing in the upper register. Very smooth extension into the bass regions. Amazing resolution and soundstage. A tad loose on the lowest frequencies.

    Totem Forest - Also a tad forward in the upper register but soundstage among the best I've ever heard. Very accurate, almost to a fault. Bass extension almost non-existent past 50Hz.

    Dali (not sure of the model, but cost is around $8K MSRP - that I recall) - Bass seems reigned in - to a fault. Extremely tight and controlled speaker. Organic treble sound - very nice with great extension. Soundscape is large but not very deep.

    Theil 2.6 - VERY accurate. Clearly a BIG speaker. Low bass a tad anemic (could be room though) but soundstaging is huge. Treble quite quick and accurate. Beautiful sound, but I fear potentially fatiguing after long hours.

    Gallo Reference 3 (with sub amp) - Simply put - a VERY fun speaker to listen to. Bass is extremely tight and pretty quick over all. Treble is quite smooth and open. Unfortunately, I feel that these are ideal hifi speakers but not so perfect for recording - treble is TOO wide.

    Vandersteen 2Ce Signature - Huge sound. I mean HUGE sound but a tad laid back in the 1.5 - 4 kHz region. This appears to be a great, laid back hifi speaker. Perhaps my favorite that I've heard in a while. Ultimately though, I might mix too much upper mids in with this speaker.

    Quad ESL 989 Black - WOW....I mean, friggin WOW. This might just be the most exciting and accurate speaker I've ever heard. True, the bass isn't quite as deep as the 802 or the Gallo, it's super, super quick and accurate.

    So...here's my big shocker...my favorite speaker out of the whole bunch...

    Quad 22L - Exciting, accurate, smooth, simply beautiful! Tight, accurate, quick bass capable of pipe organ extension. The soundstage is HUGE. Not quite as big as the vandersteens or the theil, but pretty damn close. A sound which belies both the price and the size. Easily preferred over EVERY other traditional (non-electrostatic) loudspeaker I've heard yet. Toe in a little but not much. Listen approx 5 degrees off-axis. Wow...smooth without forcing the smoothness. Dynamic as hell, no hint of compression until insane levels.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Listening evaluation hardware and software -

    Hardware -

    Marantz SACD->Conrad Johnson Integrated Tube Amp (40W/side) -
    PMC, Dali, and Totem

    NAD CD/Pre/AMP -
    Vandersteen and Quad 22L

    Marantz SACD->Conrad Johnson Pre->Conrad Johnson Tube Amp (60W per side) -
    Quad Electros/Gallos

    Denon SACD->Rotel Amp/Pre
    B&W 804

    Denon SACD->Mac Pre/Adcom Amp -
    B&W 802

    Yamaha SACD -> NAD Pre/Amp -
    Thiel

    Software -

    Telarc - Baroque Brass (Empire Brass and Pipe Organ)
    Telarc - Classics at the Pops (?) - Pines of Rome (Pines of Apian Way), Schwanda the Bagpiper
    SFSO - Mahler 1
    Telarc - Mozart Requiem
    AC/DC - Back in Black
    Diana Krall - Girl in the Other Room
    All Software = SACD except AC/DC.

    Anyway, just thought I'd share. I think I'll be picking up a pair of the Quads! I encourage EVERYONE here to at least take the opportunity to listen. You'll be blown away with what to expect from a $1700 pair of speakers!

    J.
     
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    At $3000 per pair, the Linpinski L-505's are a bit steeper, but you may want to give them a listen at least once, before you spent your $$ on anything else.
     
  3. videoteque73

    videoteque73 Guest

    I am new to this site, I love good music and good audio... 8)

    The best speakers I have ever heard are http://www.merlinmusic.com/ VSMs. Forget about "hi fi" vs "monitoring"!!!

    You should try to listen a pair of them before buying anything else. I am pretty sure I heard they are used in mastering studios. I don't know names though...
     
  4. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I suggest you try a pair of ATC SCM100's or SCM150's.

    http://www.lasvegasproaudio.com/atcstmo.html
     
  5. dementedchord

    dementedchord Well-Known Member

    $ .02

    wow sounds like big fun buddy... was interested to see you included an ESL i've always liked electros but always thought they were kinda taboo for monitoring... except for maybe liquidstudios... the big martin logans have always been a fav... enjoy your search...
     
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Alon IVs used about $2500

    Dynaudio

    B&W 801E used

    Quad Electrostatics

    Questeds

    Genelecs

    Adams

    Earthworks
     
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Thanks Joe! I thought about the Lipinski's. There were really only 2 reasons why I haven't done more than thought about them.

    1 - I don't have any place to really listen to them. (Although I was in Baltimore all of this week until today - I thought about calling you and seeing if I could swing by...)

    2 - I'm afraid, due to their size/volume that they would not be able to generate the kinds of levels in my room (a little under 4000 cubic feet).

    ATCs are on my list to try. However, I'm afraid the models you mention are probably out of my range by a little. I'm trying to stay around $5k. My logic is, many of the "standards" in the industry (B&W 802, Dunlavy, etc.) can be had for around $5k, albeit used.

    I have found a pair of SCM35s (I think that's the right model number...it is 35) for a good price and might try to audition them as well.

    Thanks. I've looked everywhere I can, but cannot find a place where I will be able to audition these anywhere in the near future.

    Exellent list Tom. Thanks. I have actually listened to many of these before, but not during this itteration of evaluations, therefore I have no notes.

    I like the Alons (though the version I heard was not the IVs, I think they may have been the Lotus Elites). They're quite nice, but I haven't heard them recently to compare.

    I'm a big fan of Dynaudios, but the ones I like are WAY out of my price range.

    801E - Yes! I like these. Far more than the Nautalis or the Diamonds. They are hard to find on the used market and even harder to ship!

    Quad's electrostats were among those which I listed above. They were magical and transparent (and expensive as hell!)

    Questeds - never heard em. They look nice though.

    Genelecs - Nah...never liked them.

    Adams...I would definitely not use these in mastering applications. Very unrealistic sounding.

    Earthworks - nice, but no where near enough sound output for a big room.

    Hehe...nah...Liquid's mastering monitors are Aiwa...

    I've liked some of the ML stuff in the past, but I find the bass to be seperated from the treble too much and the highs a tad unrealistic. They are damn fun to listen to though.
    The Quads though....OMG - VERY, VERY, VERY nice! Transparent, open, clean, realistic. It just doesn't get any better. If I had the $$, they would be my monitors.
     
  8. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I own five ATC20's and a pair of ATC50's. As much as I like them, they don't really cut it for mastering. That is why I recommended the 100 and 150's. Mastering needs a monitor that gives you the real deal story on the bottom. One thing to consider about their higher price, they are internally tri-powered. You won't additional expense for amps.
     
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    801Es come up all the time on Audiogon, so do Alons.

    I have a friend that may be getting rid of his Quads in the not to distant future. (he is getting a pair of Beveridge speakers (http://www.beveridge-audio.com/Beveridge_History.htm)with custom power amps)I will let you know.

    I was at the Concertgebouw in Holland in 1990 and heard a stacked pair of Quads while the Amercian Soviet Youth Orchestra was being recorded they completely blew me away. I had heard them in the states but this pair of pairs was AMAZING being driven by a Quad power amp from the output of the console. I was in row H for the concert and it was almost exactly what I heard downstairs in the recording room. Great sounding speakers.

    One other speaker if you have a large room would be the Carver Amazing Loud Speakers (used)

    I sounds like you are on your way to having some GREAT speakers.
     
  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    You should also try out if you can, the JM labs Mezzo utopia's. I loved the midrange on these, The low end was a bit soft but that's subjective.

    Man, so many monitors and so little time. hahaha
     
  11. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    Hello Cucco.............

    I'm not sure if these have been mentioned. But check out the Dunlavy SC-IIIA. They are way out of my price range. I use my old faithful Mackie's for mixing, I send my stuff out for mastering.

    I just had a project master at another studio. Got to listen to the master on his Dunlavy............freaking awsome. Just to sweet.

    Just thought i'd put that one up there for ya!

    Peace............Scoobie
     
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    You're not kidding!

    I did get a chance to listen to some of the JM Lab/Focal lines, but not any of the Utopia series. Both of the JM Labs dealers in my area don't have them and won't order them just to let me hear them...(bummer).

    If I can find a pair in the area to listen to, I'll definitely do it.

    I was impressed by the ones that I heard (don't recall the model, but they are roughly $4K a pair.) However, I was still far more impressed by the Quads.

    God, I wish I had 1/5th of your budget!! :lol:

    I'm not terribly worried about bass below say 35 Hz or so. I have a truly amazing sub (the REL Storm III) - one that is accurate, tuneful and infinitely variable to match with just about any speaker. I've never found myself wanting anything more out of the low end. Perhaps one day I will, but for now...I'm good with that.

    Unfortunately, my budget is capped at $5K. That might change soon, but not likely. With my studio being shut down by the city and revamping everything into strictly mastering, I'm out just over $43,000. ($25 that I either spent or lost on the studio and $18 that I have gone into debt for the mastering studio - acoustic treatments, hardware/software, a little bit of building.)

    Besides, like I mentioned, I feel that there are numerous wonderful speakers to be had for this price. Sure, there are better ones for greater (Wilson Audio comes to mind, as do Eggleston), but $5K seems to be a threshold. The fact that the pair of speakers that I have been most impressed with thus far has come in at 1/4 that amount surprises me and pleases me.

    However, my quest is not complete yet. I will continue to search.

    FWIW, I'm running some full color ads in Nov, Dec, and Jan Recording magazine. If business increases enough due to those ads, I might be able to justify more. If business does not increase, then I'll run home, tail between my legs and begin mastering on Aiwa speakers and using Plugz-R-Us's new plug-in suite within ProTools LE. :cry:

    J.
     
  13. nacron2

    nacron2 Guest

    Hi Cucco, are you sure that your referential (after mastering) sample on your websites is OK?
    (Dead Link Removed)
    I hear a mistake only by headphones. I´m wondering if anybody else hear it too, (when almost all of you have so excellent monitors)? :)
    This report is only for funny, not hostilities, please!!
    (And don´t tell me that it is due mp3...)
    I have no doubt of mastering experience of anybody on this forum, (except liquidstud…):)
    Cheers.
     
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm not sure of what mistake you are referring to. I have not gone back and listened, but I don't recall any glaring errors. (Don't worry - I don't take your comments as hostilities. I'm all about learning. If someone can show me my mistakes, I'll gladly learn from them.)

    J.
     
  15. nacron2

    nacron2 Guest

    Ok Cucco, what discourage me: I mean that in this case was used too long attack (100ms or more?) and song is (in full guitars part) pulsating from each first beat cca -2dB to normal level. It is any fatal error but it is bad for rock-music, the song loses the draw. Don´t take it bad please, I´m sure, we all here are learning art of the mastering, it is the reason why exist this great forum – I hope so!:)
    BTW: I like this song!
     
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I don't take that negatively at all.

    Did you listen to the "before"?

    You'll notice that much of the pumping is in the "before" mix. This is one of those cases where, the mixing engineer was fresh out of Full Sail or SAE (or one of those) and threw everything in the book (including bad limiting and compression).

    When using a faster attack on that particular track (and all of theirs in general) the bass and drums simply disappeared (BTW, the attack was actually 32 ms). Since the primary concern of this group was to get an organic, dynamic mix with clear dillineations of loud and soft as well as to enhance any bass that was there (the mixes of their songs were quite lean in the bass department), we chose one compromise over another - afterall, that's what this whole game of mastering is about.

    Thanks for the comments!

    J.
     
  17. nacron2

    nacron2 Guest

    Ok Cucco, I´m afraid we are out of your original post theme :) , but if you agree we could sometime use PM or other contact for some detailed discussions. You´re right, the original mix is not very “exclusive”.
    Long livin´mastering! :)
     
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Don't worry...it's my post, I'll deviate if I wanna... :lol:

    Seriously though, it's a worthy conversation - perhaps one of the mods can split it.

    I am finding that much of the work being sent to me, simply put, is awful!!!!

    Either it's WAY too squished to begin with (this seems to be the biggest problem) or the mix just sounds terrible.

    I've had 3 "bigger" clients in the past 2 weeks - 1 was a rock band with similar issues to what you hear in the example on my site. Simply a bad recording. The second was a rap album - all of which in my DAW window looked like a square wave (yet, oddly a little over 3 dB of headroom untouched) and third a childrens album with levels that were ALL OVER THE PLACE and the absolute worst fade outs and entrances I've ever heard! I spent 2 hours rebuilding fades on 7 of the songs. Seriously, that's just insanity!

    There was an interesting article in this month's (or was it last month's) Recording magazine where one of the editors interviewed Bob Ludwig. It was a very interesting interview. One of the statements that Bob made was that, the music he is receiving nowadays is worse in quality (production) than he has ever received.

    Interesting.

    J.
     
  19. carlsaff

    carlsaff Guest

    Wow -- you've had a chance to hear these! I've been trying, but they're hard to come by. They seem perfect for my room. The front-ported transmission line would let me put them against my front wall, which is something that my room basically dictates. I'd love to know how far behind the Quad 22Ls these lagged, and if you could go into more detail about how "loose" they are in the bass. Do you think they need a sub/subs?
     
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I wouldn't say that they lagged behind the Quads, they were just different. I found the Quads to be more involving, where I found the PMCs to be more clinical. Both were accurate and engaging.

    The Quads didn't have quite the low bass extension that the PMCs did, but a surprising amount nonetheless. (I've yet to hear any 2x6" 2.5 way speaker with anywhere NEAR the low output of the quads). By "loose," I mean, basically below 32 Hz or so, the sound could have been tighter and more tuneful. I feel at this point that the sound is almost completely reliant on the transmission line and is perhaps a tad sluggish. A good, tight, clean sub on the low end will definitely help.

    If you're in the Northern VA or DC area or even remotely close, they can be auditioned at Raven HiFi in Fredericksburg. They're only open on Saturdays though, so you'd want to call and make an appointment.

    Their room sucks though, so you'll want to play with placement until you get an idea as to how the speaker really sounds.

    J.
     

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