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Top 10 monitors for mastering

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by audiokid, Sep 13, 2002.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hi, I hope this question isn't to vague.

    Mastering is where I'm going, what set of monitors should I buy first?
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    That is a tough question and one i've been struggling with for awhile. I don't think there is a straight answer. First, who is your client base and who are they for, you or the client. I basically think there are 3 types of monitors to choose from. And you may have to move through them as you progress as a mastering engineer.

    1st is the pro monitor. These are pretty forward sounding and tend to hit you over the head when you've gone too far. As an engineer moving into mastering, these are the easiest to start out on because you are familiar with them and how and where things sit with them. The drawback with these monitors are when your clients walk in, usually the artist, they can't relate to them. They just don't sound like a home speaker. they are harsh, very forward sounding and the imaging has much to be desired. They get worried when they hear their music on them because it sounds totally different then at home and they begin to second guess you and themselves.

    On the other end is the audio file speaker. These are the hand built, made out of endangered wood by virgin women kind of speaker. These will knock your clients socks off and can set you back as much as a 1/4 million. They are absolutely gorgeous looking and sounding speakers. That's what they were designed for. To make the music sound as good as it can. They have awesome imaging, easy to listen to, sweet soft high end, and rich deep low end. The drawback, they are a nightmare to work on. Everything sounds good on them. Within reason, no matter what you do, it sounds good. Of coarse i'm being very broad, but in general you can pop in all kinds of CD's and sit back and enjoy, even the ones you know to be crap because you did them.

    The 3rd kind lie inbetween. These are usually in the audio file catagory but are more discriminating. They are not as forward sounding as the pro and not as silky as the ones built by virgins. Their imagining is much better than pro but not as good as the 2nd. You can pop a cd in and it will reveal things you never heard on your mackie's but it will also tell you things could be better hear or there. you pop in a crappy cd and you can tell, you pop in a excellent sounding cd and you can tell. They are pretty easy to work on with a lot of practice but they also make a nice presentation to your client. This catagory in my opinion is the one your shooting for. now depending on you client base, your room size, and your budget, your options will vary.

    Now my pics: By far the most popular mastering speaker are the dunlavy. These are multi driver monsters. The large ones stand around 7' and weigh around 300lbs each. They have a familiar forward kind of sound but not too much. They look impressive which is important and they are extremly sensitive. It doesn't take much to drive these babies and at low volume there is a whole lot of detail. The drawback is that the company is or was in trouble and it's hard to get a good listen to them, not to mention their $25,000 or so price tag (not including the amps). The custom ones run much higher. Not to mention you need a fairly big room cause there are a lot of drivers and the sound needs to mature and mix before it reaches your ears.
    next are the B&W nautilus line. These are probably the second most popular and have the distictive mic looking tweeter sitting on top of the midrange eightball looking thing. They very in size and price from around $6000 to $20,000. they have a tight punchy low end, very detailed midrange, but the tweeter seems slightly out of place with the rest of the system, but easy to get used to. These look cool and are very familiar to the pro line. The difference to the pro line though is that the soundstage is huge. You put these puppies in a room and your front row. They crank loud but you don't have to work that way, they are fairly sensitive so you don't need a lot of amp. Clients sit down and you can see their comfort level rise. They get home and are not supprised and everyone is happy. Drawback is that if your doing classical or things like that, they may be too punchy for your clients.
    Others include Griffins which are huge, heavy, $25,000 monitors. These things can rip the hair right off your head, they can get real loud and they don't compress which is really kind of neat at loud volumes. Hip hop clients will drop to their knees worshiping you. But you do need a big room to put these in and some serious amps to drive them. Also, they are nearly impossible to demo because there aren't a whole lot around.
    There are a thousand other kinds out there with varing benifits and setbacks so you have to do a lot of research and listening before you choose one. But as with anything, you should always keep checking what out there even after you've made a choice because your tastes will change, just like a wine drinker or cigar smoker after time notices subleties they they didn't notice before.
    The thing to remember is that whatever monitors you choose, they will alter what you do. When I moved to the B&W's, I looked at reverbs and space in a whole new light. They have a heavy bottom that extends way down so i started to really listen to sub freq's like I never did before. The imaging is set back further than pro monitors so it takes lots of practice to set the vocal in the right place so you may want to have those tried and true monitors your used to just to check back and forth once in awhile and just to have them there for the engineers who pop into the session. hope this answered some of your questions

    Michael Fossenkemper
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    It's very apparent that ( ears aside) your room and monitors are a critical component.

    Do these higher end monitors come with amps? hehe, can't wait to get into that area.

    WoW Michael, what a totally awesome reply! Thank you so much. I'm going to read this a few times and think.

  4. spp

    spp Guest

    It's "audiophile". Doesn't do much for your cred as a mastering specialist when you misinterpret the most basic of terms.
  5. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I didn't say i could spell. But thanks for pointing it out even though your tone needs a little tweeking.
  6. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I'm interested in what others are using or have heard that they like. I listened to the NHT pro (I think the A10's) and I really liked these as nearfield monitors. They aren't too expensive and i thought that they had very good detail but have yet to hear them with the matching subs. This is another company that was in trouble and it's really hard to find a place to sit down and listen to them. They orginated as an "audiophile" company and moved into the pro line.
  7. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Sheesh! The guy posts a book with tons of great information, and you challenge his credibility as a mastering specialist because he misspelled a word? If you are such an awesome speller and critic, I wonder why you abbreviated "credibilty", as "cred"? Tough to spell it correctly without a spell checker? Sheesh! chill out!

    Maybe the guy is a horrible "mastering specialist". Fine, then challenge him on the information he posts or on the lack of information he posts. IMHO, *you* lose credibility when you challenge him over a BS thing like the spelling of "audiophile". And by the way, he didn't "misinterpret" a basic term, he misspelled it. Get a life.

    At least the guy took the time to try and answer the original post, unlike you and I that are just slinging mud! :)
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    spp, you just got dumped in the toilet. :(

    Michael, is our newest Moderator to RO by the way and deserves a bit better than that from you . Michael, please don't let this kind of garbage taint the vibe you just most generously shared here. ssp needs a little tweeking and I apologize for him. ssp, your profile says it all.

    Please carry on.

  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Thanks Bill for the link. I'd love to hear these monitors. I will contact as see if i can get a listen.
  11. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I've been looking into some monitors with super tweeters that extend up to 50khz but after after exposing myself to these for more that 4 hours I walk away with a headache. Most of them are titanium super tweeters with a x-over around 15khz. But there is so much boost up there that it feels like your head is caving in. I have yet to try the Tannoy super tweeter. Anyone run across some monitors with super tweeters that sound smooth and natural?
  12. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Distinguished Member

    Metal cones and domes have pretty harsh resonances in my experience.

    Dunlavy/Duntech speakers are designed to have minimal driver resonances. I suspect that this and diffraction control are major factors in why they work out so well for mastering. They are among very few speakers I've ever run into that measure flat but don't bite your head off.

    I think the best test for mastering monitors is how they sound playing a wide variety of musical genres. "Hypey" monitors generally sound incredible when playing some kinds of music but dreadful when playing others. Speakers that sound great for BOTH orchestral music and popular music are few and far between but they are usually the ones that work out well for mastering.
  13. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Ultra high frequencies from the very finest of tweeters and super tweeters are so point source that they must be aimed directly at you. Typical dispersion at 45K can be less than 5 degrees, then you have all the reflections. God help you if a ceiling fan is running!!! the Doppler can drive you insane. The NS1000's do have berellym domes but their is so much magent material and dampning that they simply do not ring. I did insert a 50KHZ tone at typical 65dB level and Miss Maddie my Dog (terrier) was twisting her head meaning that the speakers were putting out plenty of sound up there..of course, her ears are hearing things we cannot but the presence of these waves DO change the shape of the waves we do hear and it is viable to have super high frequency extention..as long as it is not peaky. I imagine (by guess only) that your headache came from a super tweeter than could have been 10 to 20 dB hotter than the normal program. If this is the case, then a 20 dB hot signal imunating from the speakers at 3K would have simalar effects on your ears/brain. Absence of Ultra highs is very audible in impact and air..the dangling sounds of windchimes between you and the speakers. Getting useable FLAT frequency response above 20K is the key. In measuring the wave output at even 30K, the dispersion is so narrow that one must be very point source with the pickup instrument to get accurate readings. Super tweets that have wide dispertion (inaccurate at best) at super high frequencies due to reflections in the diaphram or lens (or phase plug) will be very peaky and deviate as much as +/- 15dB up there. I have measured it many times. Thankfully the Yamahas stay quite smooth (-8dB to 45K)...and this is probably the rolloff of the B&K Meter...as it is accurate only to 24K (-1)

    With all that said, I am going to address Chris' original question.

    These are not in order of preference by any means. I firmly believe the finest mastering can only come from listening to many systems under varing circumstances...as mastering is an artform of averaging to make great sound happen on even a meager reproduction unit.

    1. Auratones. If the vocal works with them, your midrange is in order. If the bass does not overdrive them between 100 and 200 hz, then your midbass is in order. Don't expect any translation above 8K or below 90 hz. They don't have any to speak of.

    2. JBL 4311
    The mix speaker of the 70's and early 80's. Listen to Chicago "Just you and me" and "Feeling stronger everyday" through these..you will know instantantly what I am talking about. They are mid fields and have no useable response below 45hZ. They are quite powerful. With 150 watts, you can hit 117dB at 55hz no problem at 2 meters. They have a peaky 5K and rolloff quick above 11K. They do not image well. They are a fun listen and a good tool. Also see the L-100 and L-88 (minus the midrange driver)

    3. Celestion SL600

    Tizzy on the top, huge sound from a 7" 2 way. Large image. Fairly tame, a lot of fun to listen to. Very delicate changes yield large results. Best for evaluation between other works.

    4. Wilson Watt/Puppys. Expensive, I think they are also kind of colored but they throw a large sound and have a nice balance from 150 up. Different amplifiers yeild widely different results as do speaker cables. Nothing useable below 36 HZ IMHO. Again, expensive, needs expensive power for best results.

    Misson 70's

    Inexpensive British speaker with little to no bass but very neutral dynamics. Great to hear a 12 string guitar on but gets confused with full scale works.

    Rogers LS3/5 BBC industry standard. Need I say more? They have their faults on extremes but they can definitly tell you if you are close or not. Peaky midbass give the illusion of larger than life sound. Very smooth high end..abit rolled off and contoured. Not much in the LF range either. 50hz is it on a good day!

    Martin-Logan Aeon.

    This is a beautiful speaker system to use if you do not listen loudly. Absolutly stunning to listen to but they produce coloration above 95dB. "Everybody hurts" by REM at low volume on these is awesome, great layering, you can listen very deep into the mix.. but the bass gets clumpy at higher volume. Also their is a tendency for the peaks and dips to rise dramatically at the crossover region at sound pressures above 90 dB. Still a significant tool. A great pair of speakers to own...Electrostatic mid and high frequency driver.

    ATC. I have not found one model that was anything other than most useful and stunning. Truly some of the finest speakers avalable at any price. Big Money, super accuracy. Big big Money. Worth it if you got it. Closest thing to New NS1000M's...

    Yamaha NS1000M

    This is what I use as my mains. They can reproduce the sound of the original instrument at any level at any frequency needed. Getting rare. Production is no longer happening. Reliable. Mine are 27 years old. Still within tight calibration. They amaze me daily. They need to be used on their sides at ear level. Tweeters and mids on the inside slightly higher than woofers (speaker position)

    Cheap Boom box. Yes the one for 39 to 59 dollars with a CD. Go for one that has rolled edge drivers. If your bass is too heavy, it will fail sadly on one of these.

    Clock radio and FM transmitter. Don't laugh, it is useful. Best for just seeing if their is a lack of vibe and mojo...yes, a 20 dollar clock radio can Mojo.

    Monsoon computer speakers using ribbon sats. They will let you know if you are in the box. They get ugly quick if you are off a very small amount.

    Your car stereo. Just another tool.

    Why so many speakers? Once you grow to appreciate eachs' pros amd cons, your mastering will take on a whole new level of performance. After years of getting to know different loudspeakers, rooms and situations, extrapolation on one or two sets of speakers is possable.

    Basically it is what you are use to that matters. Knowing how other systems will translate is most important to uniformity in the mastering. You must have at least one very critical set of loudspeakers to pull it off IMHO.
  14. spp

    spp Guest

    Sheesh! The guy posts a book with tons of great information, and you challenge his credibility as a mastering specialist because he misspelled a word?[/QB][/QUOTE]

    First of all, he didn't post anything that I didn't already know. I've come from an "audiophile" background and it's amusing how the pro sound community is just now coming to the party as far as monitoring/amplifying equipment is concerned. They act like using Dunlavy, Mark Levinson, etc. is a new discovery.

    Second, a command of the vocabulary is VERY important when establishing credibility. Posting "audio file" (repeatedly, by the way) is not a matter of mispelling, it represents a lack of attention to detail.

    And audiokid, I don't need to apologize for anything except for using your lame forum.
  15. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Using speakers is not a new discovery to us. I would love it if you could contribute something other than spell checker to this forum. If you have experience or know something that hasn't been addressed, then I personally would love to hear it.
  16. joe lambert

    joe lambert Distinguished Member

    Hello Everyone,

    The reason I haven't been around much is because I have been making some changes to Studio A here at Classic Sound. One of the new additions is the new monitors!
    We just installed Eggleston Savoy's. Bi amped with a pair of class A Krells. The speakers have a long burn in time. But after 4 days they are starting to sound incredible. They are perfect for this room and the stereo image is just incredible. In case you wondering what we had before, we were using Duntech's (you may have seen me standing next to them in my Mix or TapeOp ad) Those are great speakers but I think they were too big for the room.

    Which leads me to my comments. Speakers are so subjective. It depends on your room, amps, placement... I don't know if I would even recommend speakers to someone because how I listen my be different than that person.

    It's true that the top speakers are harder to find for a demo. But thats part of the fun.
  17. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    This BS has gone on long enough.

    Sorry Michael for SPP. He said it all when he said "He comes from an audiophile background". In my experience, audiophiles are the most disturbed creatures in the universe. No wonder we have to "water down the sound" for mass market. I am also glad of it. Mastering for audiophiles is sure to get your record thrown into the fray of assholes and imbecels. Not to metion that audiophile systems are amongst the widest of varables of any industry know to man. Lots of hype and get thy money..until next year..your $*^t is now obsolete. Audiophiles also agree that Krell gear is "grainy" "not tubelike"..it "SHOUTS MIDRANGE" when they do not have a clue how to properly implement and amplifier/Loudspeaker/room situation professionally. What they disagree on in multi-thousand dollar wire is really a lack of understanding of good room acoustics and proper implementation. I have been to over 20 CES's, 100 High end shops and never..I say NEVER have I heard any system that had any quality close to what we enjoy daily in our systems. From 25 thousand dollars to systems well over 1 million, for 2 channel, no video, no digital. Over 1 Million..not including the room..just equipment. The mushy lack of dynamics and the shrillness "as demonstrated in the above" plus the hash from the poor implementation. HIGH END is simply a toy to keep the audiophile coming back for more. One year they will do this, everyone buys into it..then they reverse that as improved. How many audiophiles have heard a pair of stacked advents with a McIntosh MC2500 (500/side) playing "Who are you" by the "Who" on vinyl (table in another room) and walked away saying it was not good. Never anyone. New Audiophiles (20 to 35 years old) jaws drop to the floor and say goddamn that sounds real. How can this be?? 100% of the time. Demonstrated time and time again..and that is not even the good stuff. A tweak here, a tweak there. I know of only 2 "audiophiles" (actually master acousticians that love music and high definition sound) that have spent 1/10th of the money on their acoustics as being a major part of the system. I hear this amongst audiophiles: They speak of.."I bought this 5000 dollar power cable and it sounds great!" when the building is laden with Romex is a testiment to the speak I am referring to. $500 on acoustic treatments, properly implemented, would yield 100 times the results..but those guys would probably put the "glue side out" and think it was "better".

    SPP, you may be well laiden with knowledge but RO is "a lame forum" because of assholes like yourself. That is all there is to it. Myself, none of the moderators or anyone else here likes your tone. I hope you stay away or apologize. Changing your tone is well advised. That simple.

    Now run along and tweak your tonearm...

    I always wondered why audiophiles are usually assholes..the above explaines it. I would be too If I got "no satisfaction"
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    SPP we all learn from one and other but your tone is nothing but a stopper in what started out to be possitive. Your tone is full of conflict and spoils the creative flow in what should be fun and interesting. I personally, as life goes on, have less and less toleance for conflict makers, people that insist in putting another person down in order to try an make themselves look more important. Than being said, yes, you need to have chill out and take a step back for a moment. Why are you here?

    I would like to hear what you know about monitors?

    Lets give SPP the floor.

  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Flame off dude....Spelling isn't that important. I have read posts and thought the same thing as you but sometimes it doesn't help or contribute anything to mention it... There used to be things called decorum and manners..... Fats
  20. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Really folks, their is hundreds, if not over a thousand people I have personally associated with in the audiophile, recording, music industry, and the movie industry over the last 26 years, and other endevours such as acoustics, loudspeaker designers and factories. I have been a grip, a key grip, a chief engineer..and too many more to mention projects in the entertainment arts...Including dance, ballet and opera. Writing as well. I take an odds on bet I have met 20,000 indiviguals in this field.

    I really do not want to come off as an asshole..even though I have learned in professionalism, you have to put sensitivity to rest and demand what you need NOW...and GET IT..OR ELSE!. No apoligies for being a dynamic indivigual. That is me. Period. Sometimes this is preceived as being the "KING ASSHOLE"..then so be it. I apologize for my stong language but really, I am PASSIONATE about R.O. and you should be too! This is OUR forum and we want to keep it what it is supposed to be.

    The goal:

    "A unique place to share with professionals in the industry, vibes and ideas to advance the recording arts"

    This is what it is about. Disagreements in good spirit are very welcomed but wholesale negative vibes just suck profusely. Not accetable.

    I am so very humbled and impressed with the talent of the folks that decided to become members of recording.org We have some serious heavy hitters here. Bob O. is one of them. He has had over 45 years of work in this realum and can teach all of us what it is all about. A true Motown engineer from the 60's and beyond. Unbelieveable he takes the time to visit and exchange ideas. Then you have Stephen Paul. What can I possably say about the best microphone designer on this planet? His storys are volumes of knowledge; you get ..no where else. Then you have Michael. His Bio is tremedious. Mr Sulton is the bass player for Meat Loaf! Kasum is awesome!. Rick Hammang has done probably 10 times the hours of video editing than all the engineers combined at Skywalker!

    Many, many other Moderators have ran circles around these arts to discover new mentions and share them.

    ALL MODERATIORS AND PARTICIPANTS HAVE MEANINGFUL INFO TO SHARE! well they do , don't they??? If not..why post anything at all? (get the hint?)

    This is R.O.

    We all have a common interest to excel in these arts and make profitable products from our works to advance the quality of our lives.

    "Yes, RO is NFP, but we all have to make a living. Agreed?"

    I invite discussion and challenges and I also ask personally that folks don't post anything that they cannot back-up fully. Negative vibes will be met with a slam and an axe. Is this really what we want? NO. Agreed? It is so simple to question a comment in a POLITE and Classy fashion than to look like a king asshole with wholesale negitivity. Is this agreed as well?

    Who made me the boss? No one. I am equal to all members of R.O..all 8400+ of them. I just speak for the ones that truly do not want the toilet bowl feeding the sep. tank. Why smell up the joint??

    Is this too much to ask?

    This is your forum. Treat it as such.

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