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Testing monitor setup

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Ellegaard, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Hello folks,

    I was wondering what steps you normally take in order to check monitor systems, detect their weaknesses, the balance, balance, etc? For instance, what CDs do you bring, and what specifically are you listening for?
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I tend to bring a disc loaded with wonderful and crappy tracks, and several in between. Faults on recordings that I'm very familiar with should come through. Many monitors/loudspeakers tend to mask the irritants - That's a bad thing, obviously.

    If you're talking about purchasing a set, you're at the mercy of the room that you're listening in. Still, a disc with a broad range of qualities with tracks you know very well will still give you an idea of their accuracy and "truth" to point out flaws.
  3. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    I already have a pair of monitors, it's just because in the near future I'll move my little home setup over to my girlfriend's place where I've found a little corner where I can work, and I would like to set my system up properly with acoustic treatment and all.

    Just out of curiousity, any specific tracks you're listening to? I chose my monitors based on a number of different CDs, and the thing I was mostly listening to was the linear frequency response.

    What about the more physical aspects of it, like doing a frequency spectrum test, playing back all these different test tones, etc?
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    As John pointed out, you are at the mercy of the environment your speakers are in. The same speaker will sound different in different locations.

    Linear response is a good criteria to use as a point to judge speakers but IMO, really the only true test is to mix on them and see how well your mixes travel.

    If you wish you could use a RTA and pink noise to measure the response of different systems in your room and make your choices by seeing which one provides the flattest response ... however this still is not a guarantee that the speakers will be the best for what you do ...

    Good advice!
  5. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    That's why I'm interested in hearing what you guys put on the turntable in order to check the monitors for whatever weaknesses they might have.
  6. soundfreely

    soundfreely Guest

    I'd just like to add the importance of good amplification is something worth considering. There is more to accuracy than just the speaker's ability to reproduce various frequencies. A crappy amp will lose transients and worse yet, clip.

  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Erik makes a great point there - Anecdote - When I first got my M-802's, I had to run them off of a (pretty nice, older) Kenwood amp for a week or so until my Bryston came in.

    As amazing as those speakers sounded at first, they were that much MORE amazing after I hooked the Bryston amp up to them.

    Back to the test disc - Most of the stuff on mine are projects that I've worked on that have particular personalities - One track is a bit smeared in the highs, one is a little mid-heavy, one has HUGE lows, one is a little anemic in the lows, some very clear and crisp classical, THEN, the same classical track with "just a bit too much" compression. If those two tracks sound the same, that's not a good set of speakers.

    Of course, there's the title track to Steely Dan's "Aja" which has an amazing overall sound, TONS of highs that are all crystal clear, and a great stereo image. You should familiarize yourself with the subtlties of the song - The dynamics of the triangle, the light chorusing sound of the vocals, the stereo image of the kit and how it sits with the rest of the instruments. If those subtlties aren't readily apparent, the speakers aren't worthy.

    Another thing that I have on it is test tones - Pink noise is somewhat irritating, but listening to it reveals on lot. Peaks and dips in the frequency response should be apparent. It should essentially sound very smooth - Not harsh like simple static.

    A "count" tone is nice also - little 1/2 second bursts of 1kHz - "Beep" - "Beep" - Beep" for a while. They should start crisp and end crisp from low volume to high volume. You should notice your ears compressing to the beat before you notice the speakers reacting like the signal is compressed.

    A 20Hz to 20kHz sweep of about 30 seconds is irreplaceable for picking out problems with the drivers, cabinets, or room-nasties.

    It should sound smooth, and like it's coming from the speakers for the full travel of the sweep. If there's a loose screw somewhere and the speaker or cabinet rattles at a certain frequency, the sweep may find it. If there are some nasty room nodes, you may hear the room (or your desk, or a cardboard box, etc) resonate during the sweep. Various volumes can help you place absorption and diffusion also.

    Okay, that's enough already... :?
  8. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Thanks a lot for the helpful tips, John!

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