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New Mastering Speakers

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Sep 4, 2007.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I am looking into some new mastering speakers. I went to a couple of shops to hear the new B&W 802Ds but neither shop had them hooked up so I have been invited to go back when they are hooked up. I am also looking at the ATCs and the PMCs. We currently have ALON IVs with a Bryston 4B amplifier and a Benchmark DAC-1 head end. One problem is that the stereo shop I use to do a lot of business with closed up due to their rent being doubled and their inability to sell more equipment. So it is hard to get things to audition in my studio. I have heard other speakers that maybe in the running and I am in no way displeased with my Alons but as always am looking for Nirvana. Any suggestions or favorites?????? to suggest. Thanks in advance.
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Tom, you probably already know I'm going to suggest you listen to the Lipinski L-505's or the larger L-707's. Both are passive boxes, neither are cheap. For the kind of work you do, I think you'd be wise to at least give them a listen. For accuracy and the total sonic picture in mastering (esp classical and "Serious" music), these are worth checking out. Since I moved up to these speakers, my "do-overs" and remixes for clients have been zilch. What I hear on these speakers always seems to translate well for the rest of the world.

    Another system that's worth hearing is the Blue Sky SAT-12 & Sub 15 system. A completely different experience (and a powered rig to boot), but very interseting and transparant speakers with a lot of power.

    AES is in NYC this year, from Oct. 5-8. I realize that's not terribly close to you physically, but if just about all of the speaker manufacturers worth hearing are there, some of them in private salons. Might be worth a weekend trip to see/hear some of them up close and personal?

    Regardless, take your time, listen to everything, and have fun deciding!
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    I have never heard the Lipinski L-505 or L-707 and I am sure if they are good enough for you and Bob Katz they are probably very good speakers. Not sure there is even a dealer within a 150 miles of here so I could go and audition them.

    Too bad I can't get them at the price Bob Katz paid for them. (-$s)

    I prefer a speaker that is an all in one so I don't have to have a seperate sub or in Bob Katz's case SUBS.

    Thanks again and good listening.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I've listened extensively on the 802Ds and have been very unimpressed (especially given their price).

    In my opinion, the series IIIs are the best they had with the more recent Nautilus 802s being a very close second.

    Something else to consider is JM Labs (now called Focal). Their Berillium models are simply stunning!

    I've listened extensively to PMCs recently and have been thoroughly impressed. However, don't expect Earth-shattering lows without the sub. Their transmission line is great, but for low end impact, you need more.

    I've also listened to some ATCs (not as extensively as the others mentioned thus far) and while I was impressed, they didn't blow me away. In fact, they sounded so incredibly similar to my current NHTs (2.5i's) that I couldn't justify the $$. (The only significant difference was a tad bit more forwardness in the upper mid-bass range compared to the rather laid back upper mid bass of the NHTs)

    One speaker that I was simply blown away with for price, performance, appearance and just plain old engaging sound was the Quad loudspeakers (I think 22L is the correct model) and of course the 989. With the right amp (and the Bryston fits the bill - perhaps a *little* forward sounding, but still very nice) these things just are friggin amazing!
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Yes, sorry about that; the Blue Sky is a system with a sub, and I'd certainlly recommend a sub with either of the Lipinski's.

    To temporarily hijack this thread, I'm of the opinion that when it comes to full range sound reproduction, esp for serious listening & mastering, there's just no free lunch; you have to be able to hear it all. Just as pipe organs have longer bigger pipes for the lowest notes, and string basses' 4th E string, or a 36" field drum, there's just no getting around the laws of physics. It's one of the reasons why spinet pianos SOUND like spinets: phony overtones due to shorter, thicker strings - instead of longer, accurate length strings in concert grand pianoss

    Ditto for an 8" or 10" speaker in a box. You can fake it, but you can't get the real thing without the real thing.

    I was never a believer in the value of subs until I got into 5.1 projects, and it naturally carried over into my stereo mixing & mastering projects. Once I realized (to my embarassment in some cases) what I'd been missing, I've never gone back to working without one for serious stuff. Keep in mind, it's NOT used here for shaking walls or rattling my trousers, its' for hearing that last bit of low end that everyone else misses. It's subtle and never overstated, but it's there, letting me hear what most others miss.

    Get a good sub with levels set properly, and give a listen to some so-called "Commercial" releases. Roughly 30-40% of them will have something down there that got missed by the engineers who made these records with inferioir playback systems. It's astounding what you'll hear on some recordings. (I ALWAYS hear the thumps, buses, trains, footfalls, plosives and chair noises before anyone else....you can too. ;-) Conversely, it's a joy to hear what the REALLY good engineers created. They knew, even if they didn't have subs at the time, what was and what should NOT be down there.

    Look at it this way: If YOU don't deserve to have a good sub with your system, then who DOES? And if YOU don't have a good sub working for you in your system, doesn't it concern you that your competition might?

    Sorry, end of rant....back to talking about speakers. :oops:
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I tend to be with Joe on this one.

    My sub works on 9 Hz worth of material, but I swear that 9 Hz is so crucially important sometimes! (Of course I exaggerate a little, but the LPF is actually set to 29Hz on my sub and it slopes down from there.)

    A quality sub is key though! I searched for 3 years before settling on a REL sub. It was friggin expensive and a b*tch to set up, but once it started working the right way, it was amazing! It also freed up my main speakers to work the way they work best.

    Some speakers truly do achieve full range status and they sound damn good at it (Nautalis 801s and 800s come to mind as do Utopias) but they're far more expensive and difficult to setup than a good 2.1 system. In my humble opinion, a 2.1 system is the only way to get that full range sound without limits.
  7. dpd

    dpd Active Member

    Another interesting thing about subwoofers - they tend to reduce distortion in the main speakers since the mains don't need to be trying to move so much air volume to reproduce the bass; plus, the overall bandwidth is reduced. These lead to lower IM distortion in the mains.
  8. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Earthquake rumble, explosions, cannons and other low frequency effects are great fun as reproduced by a sub-woofer. So far, I have yet to hear a sub reproduce music in a useful way. Mmpff, mmmmppfff, mmpff... is that a bass gtr; or kick maybe; or the sounds of a colonoscopy? Neither have I yet heard a sub resolve with the bass of the main speakers. Not like proper full range speakers in a correctly designed room would, anyway.

    It appears that some have integrated a 2.1 system to their satisfaction. If those engineers are relating to them and producing successful masters, then you won't get much argument from me. For myself, I will stick with full-rangers interfaced properly with the acoustic.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I would contend that you've heard the wrong subs then.

    Most subs on the open market are made for one thing in mind...explosions in Jerry Bruckheimer films. Some subs, however, are genuinely designed to reproduce music.

    Seriously...have you tried a REL? Even the "so called" golden ears at Stereophile revere these as some of the finest and most 'tuneful' subs.

    I find most Sunfires, Velodynes, and other HT subs as generally useless in a mastering/recording environment. (I say "most" because Velodyne actually does have a line of subs that is quite nice, albeit pretty expensive.)

    If you were to listen in my setup, you would not be able to determine where the sub kicks in and the mains kick out.

    As you point out though, proper setup and acoustics are necessary.
  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I personally don't like to work with subs myself. I've never NOT heard them in a setup. I like listening to them as an effecty kind of thing. But I just find it hard to work on them.
  11. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    dbl pst. ignore
  12. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    That's possible. It is a wide world of audio after all. I can only speak about the high-end 2.1 systems I have used. I have not liked the results of my work when using such systems. The monitor system I am used to working with goes down to 16Hz and supplies the needed information to make masters which connect with audiences. That is what works for me.
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Fair enough.
  14. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Without knowing your likes/dislikes or the properties of your room, its difficult to suggest anything. You don't have any complaints with your current Alons, so there is no clue there for contrasting ideas. Are you prepared to rip your room apart so the acoustic will accept the new monitors? Just window shopping for the fun of it?
  15. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    All valid opinions, indeed. But if you ARE going to use a sub in a professional environment, you must have everything in place, or those things that you guys mention will indeed stick out like a sore thumb.

    And don't get me wrong, it's often important that I listen to mixes on my other systems without a sub, just for reality checks.

    There's a lot of junk out there with bad specs and uneven responses (I know, because I bought many before finding the right one.) Placement and room tuning are also critical, and of course, matching them with the right speaker system is also important. I'm of the opinion that even the tiniest mismatch and rolloff curve adjustment is crucial down there; we're talking about very small frequency ranges; it's not like getting it "close enough" between, say, 1k and 2k; very often it's the difference between 80, 100, or 120 hz rolloff, level matching, etc. That can have BIG impact on what's buidling up (or cancelling out) when getting the woofers in your system to play nicely with the sub. I'm willing to bet that more than 50% of the average sub systems out there aren't set up properly, doing more harm than good.

    It took me a long time to get mine set properly with a smooth response all the way down, and for a while, it was a wild wild ride listening to the huge disparity in low end levels on so many commercial CDs. I even considered just turning it off at one point.

    But again, getting the rolloff, position, room tuning & levels set properly takes a lot of effort. (Hint: in the end, it should usually be set a lot lower than you'd think.)

    My own rule of thumb is that if you hear it (separate from the system), then it's not setup properly. As always, YMMV.
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    My room is GREAT it was designed by Don Mitchell of DSM and Associates and is a joy to listen in. If I do get new speakers then Don will come over and make the necessary recommendations as to changing the room if needed.

    Here are the speakers we have had in the mastering room in the past

    I started out with Carver Amazing Loudspeakers which were nice but way too big for the room and big power hogs.

    I then switched over to Genelec 1030s which were ok but needed a sub which I could not afford.

    Then we used KEF 104.5s which I dearly loved and were simply the best speakers for our room but lacked really low bass.

    We finally ended up with ALON IVs after auditioning lots of other speakers including B&W 801s

    The ALON IVs sound GREAT and are truly the best speakers I have heard up until now. We specialize in acoustic music and they are the truest speaker for that genre. We do have some problems with translation to lesser systems and I am looking at the possibility of replacing the Alon's with something new BUT I am in NO WAY upset with the Alon's and the current setup.

    Hope this answers your questions.

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