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when is the right time to purchase monitors?

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by amadeustm, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. amadeustm

    amadeustm Active Member

    Hey everyone,

    I am new with music production and I am having a bliss with two courses I am enrolled. Two by Berklee College Of Music, online courses.
    I am learning a lot about plugins and daw. It gets me motivated to buy my gear, setup a basic home studio.

    My current gear:
    m-audio fast track ultra
    m-audio axiom pro 61 (midi controller)
    creative home theather 7.1 p7800
    Koss Porta Pro headphones
    Koss The Plug earbud

    Considering I do not have, and will not, a room treatment (because it is virtually impossible in my reality), does it make any difference to have a monitor right now?
    With all the lectures I am having, I wonder when will I need a reference audio monitor even with a bad monitoring environment (I would work with then in my bedroom, so you can have a picture of my situation).
    For how long can I postpone the purchase of a pair?
    Is it already necessary to purchase one right now?
    Can I learn anything by trying mixing with headphones?

    I am considering purchasing M-Audio Bx5 D2, which has a nice price in my city. But I need the expert opinion.

    Thank you all,
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The BX5s are reasonable, average-sounding monitors, but no monitor is going to be able to give of its best in an untreated room. If anything, lack of acoustic treatment will emphasise deficiencies in the monitoring.

    The other thing to take into account is whether in your home studio you intend to do any live recording using microphones, as getting a good recorded sound is in many ways more difficult than monitoring if you have no control over the room acoustics.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I agree with Boswell. The room you are mixing in is just as important as the monitors you are mixing through. Unfortunately, unless you are able to make some improvements, even the best sounding monitors won't be able to give you optimum results, if your room is lying to you.

    OTOH, you'll need monitors at some point anyway...

    While you may not be able to do everything the room requires treatment wise, you can improve the acoustics of a room without reconstruction or massive built-in improvements.

    Mobile corner bass traps can help for low end, as can 1" sonex tiles for around 1k and up with flutter echo - and instead of gluing these tiles to the walls, consider using velcro to attach them... and you DON'T need to cover every square inch of your space with them, either. You'd be amazed at how much a few tiles here and there will help (depending of course on how bad your space really is acoustically)... also, upholstered furniture... chairs, a couch, anything with mass can help to tame certain frequencies.

    Not a perfect situation by a long shot, but any improvement is an improvement, right? Also, placing the monitors as close to you as possible will help a little in that you'll hear less reflection and more direct sound.

    Look, we know this isn't the optimum situation... lots of guys are in rental spaces or small bedrooms where they simply can't do the changes that need to be made... but if it's a question of making due and getting the best you can out of the room with the minimal changes you can make, or not recording at all, then you should look into those small changes.

    It will also help for you to start to get accustomed to mixing through monitors. You're just gonna have to do a lot of translational checking on different playback systems in different environments... and while that may be a pain in the ass, it will help you start to get acclimated to what you have at your disposal.

  4. amadeustm

    amadeustm Active Member

    Hey Boswell and DonnyThompson, thanks a lot for your answers. I've found out that Yamaha HS50M have the same pricerange as M-Audio BX5 D2.
    You have clarified for me something that was exact clear.

    Just to finalize my doubts: as of my understanding monitors are immediate necessity since I am studying producing. Right? Or can I really learn something out of my koss porta pro/creative home theather?

    Thank you very, very much!
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Treating a room does'nt only meen to plaster the walls and ceilling with expensive acoustic panels. Long and tick curtains can act as absorbtion. Having few bookshelfs can act as diffusers. The important thing is to place them and your recording desk with a bit of strategy. You can build your own gobo too (floor units, so you don't touch the walls)

    To me, having some fairly flat monitors in a bad room is way better than having colored speakers in that same room. At least you can learn to compensate for one problem instead of 2. Creative home theather speaker are good for movies.

    Mixing with headphones is another thing noobs always want to do. The stereo field will be different, the bass response, the reverb levels will be out.. I'd rather mix with bad speakers in a bad room. Keep those headphone, to do spot check once in a while but not to do an entire mix. So yeah, start with the monitors !

    Hey good luck with your courses and come back to teach us stuff !! :wink:
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The Yamaha HS50M is undoubtedly a better product than the M-Audio BX5, but, as we have been saying, a good product in a poor room is going to give a poor result.

    It would be fine to check a mix on your home theatre sound system, but in no way should you use that system as your mix reference monitors. Equally, headphones can be useful for identifying problems with individual tracks, but if you carry out a full mix using headphones, that mix will not sound right on real loudspeakers.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    BTW, you don't need a perfect room and perfect monitors to LEARN. But be prepare to have the deception of having trouble making your recordings sound good on any other system than yours. The best reference, make the best mix and mastering...

    (well there's no such thing as perfect room).. hihi.

    Edit : Actually it would be a perfect room if everybody would listen to there music in a room identical yours !! (I'll keep on dreaming)
  8. McMurphy

    McMurphy Guest

    In response to your question, it's just as important to have a pair of monitors from the get go as it is to have a good pair of headphones. There are many wonderful monitors out there that are self powered or passive requiring external amplifiers. But they pushed towards self powered monitors which are very convenient and integrated design for optimum performance. And powered monitors, like headphones are as personal as any marriage/wedding.

    The great thing about small near field monitoring is just that. It's in the near field which has less monitoring issues than speakers further away. Small ones are just fine and still provide adequate low-frequency response without need of sub woofers. You don't want a boom boom sounding mix. You want it tight sounding. Then when it makes it to the boom boom car stereos, it'll still cut the mustard.

    Every time I've tried mixing with a subwoofer I inevitably turn it off. That's not to say I don't listen to it after I'm done mixing with the sub woofer, I'll check it. Otherwise I do not care for sub woofer's at all. KRK's make some very nice low-cost powered monitors that I've enjoyed using over the years and are quite reasonably priced. There are others by other manufacturers of course. That decision is as personal as your underwear. We all have our favorites so your answers would be all over the place as there is no best, no single one, nothing universal like our old JBL's used to be 40-30 years ago.

    Bottom line, trying to record and mix strictly with headphones can be an exercise in futility. Perspective is completely different. Frequently not translating to speakers without a bunch of mud. Speakers generally prevent that scenario from occurring. And then there's different kinds of headphones that are better for recording and mixing than overdubbing. Some are closed back, a.k.a. sealed ear and others are known as open-air. Open-air can be much more accurate for recording and mixing but of course also offer headphone feedback into microphones during, say, overdubbing vocals. That's where you want to sealed back style headphones to keep the headphone leakage out of the microphone. This is not a factor when you are just using open-air when you are not directly on microphone yourself with those headphones. So that's two different kinds of headphones you should have and a pair of powered monitors.

    Your question is kind of like asking if your car requires 4 quarts of oil can you still use it with just 1 quart of oil. Sure, for a couple of hundred miles until it blows up. So that's an answer with ramifications and not being able to monitor anything properly is like not even checking your oil and we all know what happens then. Ask any woman when was the last time she checked her oil LOL? They'll be able to remember everybody's birthday before they can remember the last time they checked their oil. And then how do you purchase the birthday presents, when your car breaks down on the way? Not having the right kind of monitor speakers and headphones is kind of like that, a car wreck. A fender bender, with one that has six strings or four, 12? Which guitar should you get? Isn't six strings better than four or isn't 12 strings better than six? Certainly better than four if you have 12, right? Nope... they're used for different sounds and purposes, just like headphones and speakers, monitor systems, etc..

    You need both, start saving. Headphones can cost just as much for good ones as decent low-cost powered monitors. You need to decide what should be first and I would choose speakers but then I have to have the headphones also. There isn't any other decision. You must have both for effective work.

    The trickiest scenario is obtaining speakers and headphones that you find offers some similarities to each other, I feel. Each different headphone can sound as different as each different companies monitor speakers. And it's hard to find and integrate anything if you don't know what everything sounds like to begin with. So it's good to hang out at those music stores and bring your own reference CD's with you of something you have been familiar with for years. And when you do check out all of the speakers and find a pair you like... they might sound like crap once you get them home? And I've gone through that a few times. So it's good to have a good relationship with a music store you have frequented often and who feature a liberal return policy.

    Once I purchased a pair of powered Tannoy's. Sounded great at the stores. Sounded great at the radio station and sounded completely awful in my control room. I had to return them. Ended up settling on the KRK's and I've had 3 different pairs of those. Sold one pair off, kept the other two, all one passive pair and one active pair. I was also mixing on V-88's, both with and without the subwoofer at another studio I had set up for a client. I can work with a subwoofer but I don't like to when I'm mixing. They keep altering my low-end perspective in ways I don't like, I don't care what any manufacturer says. Sub woofers are great for those morons that require ultimate boom boom and have no real concept of how their mixes will sound on an average system. They only know other guys with the same kinds of car stereos. And that's not realistic in the normal homestead for most folks. So what's the most effective way to work? Only you can decide that based upon your budget. So I would suggest a pair of decent low-cost powered monitors and a bag full of cheap headphones and one decent pair of headphones. After saving up a few more dollars, you might then decide to purchase the subwoofer? I also suggest matching sub woofers with the same manufacturer of monitors because each has their own way of doing things and one by one manufacturer and another one by a different manufacturer may or may not play well with whatever your primary monitors might be? Though plenty of folks have utilized other manufacturers sub woofers with a different manufacturers pair of monitors. But we cannot decide that for you. I'm sure others will have different suggestions. I don't even own a subwoofer of any kind. I don't do enough rap and hip-hop to warrant that purchase. I do everything from old-fashioned rock 'n roll to jazz, to symphonic recording. And where I don't want any sub woofers to cloud my judgment in mixing. When you've been recording and mixing without subwoofers for most of your career, there is really no need to change that if one uses decent full range monitors to begin with. Especially those that have larger than 4 inch woofers like 10 inch, 12 inch woofers, even 15 inch and double 15 inch, why would you need a subwoofer then? You won't. But if all you have are 4-5-6 inch powered monitors, you might want a subwoofer? But then that's why I will switch to monitor on the larger monitors and then back to the smaller ones and then back to the larger ones... you get the idea.

    So your question is a little bit like do I need socks or do I need shoes? Answer... you really need both. Though not necessarily both during certain times of the year? Other times you'll need both. If both were not important, why would we have both? Answer: because we need both and so do you. It's not a question... it's a requirement. The dentist is not drill holes in your teeth to review of a cavity without refilling what they drilled out, with something else to complete the mix. A different type of ingredient expected to last as long as the OEM ingredients. And the dentist custom modifies the filling to affect a transparent retrofit otherwise your bite between left and right would be different and uneven. So customizing the shape of the filling is paramount to a successful production and/or dinner. You want your dinner too loose and sloppy and you don't want it burned, either.

    You've got to have a complete kitchen in order to cook a proper meal. No good if you can't cook that spaghetti. What would you call that? Breakfast of champions? Crunchy spaghetti cereal in tomato juice, Yum. Just kind of tough when you get one of those pieces of spaghetti stuck in an unfilled drilled tooth, ouch! So that's not really an ideal breakfast would it ?

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i'm with Mac on this one .. get some speakers.

    something i just remembered on treating rooms... i went to an used office furniture store and bought some office partitions.. the thin ones covered with fabric.

    i removed the stands on the bottom and drilled holes in the metal surrounds and the screwed them to the wall ... surprisingly, they kicked ass.

    cheap ... easy ... easy to move when you leave.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I agree with you McMurphy, we need the whole recipe to get a great mix. But there was also this question :

    I said earlier ; Sure you can learn! But when I get back thinking about it, you can also learn wrong. If you train your ears to certain speakers and learn to compensate them. It might be hard to unlearn this faulty training in the long run.

    You are at the beginning, it's time to start on the right foot. Get some monitors, treat the room and end up a better sound engineer !
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    the hsm80s are pretty good, once you compare them in a room w/ some high end stuff the decent room shows the speakers deficiencies. The alesis active m1 mk2's are freakin killer. the yams are nice, my boss likes em better than quested (has both), but for a very mildly treated room, the yams 8's are bash your brains w/ mids, and canceled lows. seriously at least demo the alesis jump off's, they sound like a nice stereo speaker. they allow you to do the things you wanna do like boost highs and mids, cuz they are practical in their hypness. they have 6" drivers, that'll help out some bass smear, i mean ya ain't mixing the next prodigy record on them, but you are battling speaker cost and treatment.

    treatment need not be permanent. people in college hang posters right? buy some mics stands and hang some stuff. i dunno i use crappy cpu speakers and boom boxes as reference too. The whole concept is 'diminishing returns'. the point is your online classes have cost you more than what it takes to make a reasonable entry level room treated w/ soft stuff and a pair of speakers. no speaker room comes w/ out a learning curve, so no matter what, your gonna need a little time to figure out whatever you get. i'd say 6's unless you have like16 ft' behind you for 8's to cause problems in the guitars lows.

    just get used to comparing the differences of your studio car theater and heaphones, if you strike balance between them, you are pretty good man. those alesis speakers kill for there price tho. sorry i sweat them even tho i use all kinda other stuff, they're easy to balance. designed for modestly treated rooms. as was better said than by me, rooms/speakers are one in the same. get both or none.

    treating a room w/ an avereage stereo (if those tsill happen anymore) is not right. those speakers are designed for untreated rooms. so is life, the othe way around, high end speakers are for high end rooms. dead horse beaten. best smart, be modest, get speakers, soft materials, and find the most taleneted people you can find to make that stuff move!
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I know exactly what you are talking about, Kurt.. Those partitions are awesome. I was in a Goodwill store a few years ago and they had 2 for like $20. I ran home to get more money, came back, and they were GONE. facepalm LOL
  13. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I just told a friend to watch for these for his room. On a budget and they do help a lot!
    I think I would kick them off the wall e few inches but these can be bargain finds.
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    A bit on the office furniture.....ALL dividers have a sone rating. I know this because as an electrician I have installed a billion or so offices. A lot of them are wired for communications and power...very interesting plug and play designs out there, but you dont need this style....Imagine for a moment the DIN of a huge open room with a hundred cubicles without some damping and reflective surfaces.......Some are reflective and some are absorptive. How can you tell? Get up next to them and speak in a normal voice. What you hear will tell the tale. Most of the reflective surfaces will be a harder board than the absorptive. I have built some really good gobos from office panels. A couple of like sized panels, a couple pair of quality trucks(wheels), leave an air space between the panels, blocks at the corners as well as top and bottoms, trim with 1/4" wood around the opening and VOILA! Gobo. Used office furniture stores are rampant. You can even find colors that enhance the calmness of your room. (yeah they study that stuff too)
  15. McMurphy

    McMurphy Guest

    Exactly, those types of computer speakers are simply designed with tailored and exaggerated frequency response tweaks, appropriate for home entertainment purposes. And once you get to familiar with others... real monitors might not sound the way you think they should? That can get you into a boat load of trouble. Your recordings will be forever messed up, not real, not appropriate and certainly not professional sounding.

    So it's a bit of a sticky wicket when you ask which speakers or which headphones when it really needs to be both. And that's why we save our money to invest in what we have because it's necessary. It's like asking what the 3 tires, you should purchase for your car when, you know you need all four. This is not a matter of money it's a matter of safety. The same holds true in the studio. We make backup safety masters of the masters. So why is that done? To be safe. It's unsafe to think that you can do this either with a single pair of headphones or a single pair of speakers. It takes two to tango and right now you're just dancing with your hand. And that's not really dancing. Remember... it takes money to make money. It doesn't require any money to make a lousy home recording. So you've got choices to make

    And why does everyone think this is an easy process? It's not. Not at all if you want to be good at what you do. And it requires the right tools of the proper amount. Rome wasn't built in a day even when they had thousands of slaves and they had thousands. How many slaves you got? Right just yourself, chief cook and bottle washer like most of us. I'm not saying that one cannot make good recordings with just headphones alone but they won't be good for quite some time until you figure everything out on how it sounds on multitudes of different systems. So your headphones have to be as intimate as your toothbrush. And then you have to reference them against other known speaker monitors in order to know where you stand or what you're actually listening to. That's why you have to have both. You don't need both eyes, both nostrils, both ears, both arms, both legs, both kidneys so why are they there? We've been built with redundant backup systems in a lot of key areas except the two most important singular units. For which there are no good retrofits for LOL

    I don't want to to lose face on this... even though it can be replaced with someone else's today. Just not one of those plug-ins you really want or need since the one that seemed to come stock with your included face ain't so bad. It works. It serves the purpose. Might even be nice looking? But how would you look with only half or just missing parts and pieces?

    So not only do you need to monitor speakers and a pair of headphones, you really need two pairs of headphones at the minimum. One that is sealed back and closed and one that is open air in addition to your pair of monitor speakers or two pairs of monitor speakers or three pairs of monitor speakers. Look in any control room today and you're going to see more than one pair of speakers. Why? It's obvious why. It's necessary. You have to have more than one source of reference. I mean it's understandable why people thought the world was flat when you looked out at the ocean. So some crazy MF didn't believe. No, he took three boats of people so he could kill everyone. Low and behold, they found out the earth didn't sound flat at all. It had this nice round sound to it. Looking back across that ocean... they probably thought their country had sank? And I wonder if they ever thought they would see their homeland again? Or maybe after that kind of a ride? They would never put themselves through that again? And setting up a control room is a little bit like that.

    That is to say if you wanted to install six pairs of monitors but your monitor controller only allowed for three pairs, with three would you choose?

    My uncle did well selling that newfangled modular office furniture, some 50 years ago. And I was actually planning to use some of those go Bo like panels on the walls for a small studio. They looked to have and do exactly what you need them to do. Plenty of damaged ones available real cheap for the garage studio. And you didn't have to attach them flat against the walls either. You could angle one side, which further improves their effectiveness. And they have an element of mass that works well on lower frequencies beyond that of even plywood/particle board. Very handy thing to go with. Not sure why someone didn't suggest that to an earlier post of someone who wanted something healthier and fair studio design?

  16. amadeustm

    amadeustm Active Member

    hey Davedog, could you please post some pictures to help me comprehend the ideas you are talking about? for me it was very hard to get the whole idea. I am not that used with those materials, and etc.
  17. amadeustm

    amadeustm Active Member

    Hey McMurphy, could you too post some pictures of those items you've mentionated? I am having a hard time to figure out the things you explained.
  18. amadeustm

    amadeustm Active Member

    Hey everyone, I would like to inform you that I have purchased HS50M. That was what I could do for now. I will keep up building my home studio with time. Maybe achieve 3 sets of monitors as McMurphy suggests. But it will take time.
    Next step may be acoustics solutions to my rental place.

    Thank you all very much for the dedicated time to help me out with such amazing and deep opinions. It has really opened my eyes to things I couldn't figure out by my self. I'll let you know of my progress.
  19. Ryszard. S

    Ryszard. S Active Member

    When is the right time to buy monitors? That is simple: when you have money to buy them:wink: But you discover that monitors a only part of studio just like acoustic room treatment. Good headphones is a must. I use Adam A7X in my amateur home-studio. Perhaps some day I added subwoofer if I have the money. Good luck with making a studio.

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