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So I'm a home-recording guy, and I've been mixing on my home theater/hi-fi system so far. However, in the last few weeks I've been feeling that the frequency response of the speakers isn't flat. In fact, I checked the FFT plot and heard my work on a range and I realized I was mostly right, and because of the nonflat frequency response I wasn't mixing my songs well.

After I realized this, I've been using my Sennheiser monitors to cross-check every change I made in my mix. I feel that it's time I bought a pair of monitors. I live in India, but my budget would translate to $300(not more).

Sadly, I am not mixing in a square or rectangular room, nor can I afford to get my room acoustically treated, so that is totally impossible.

Now I have two questions:

  1. Is it a good idea for me to buy studio monitors?
  2. Even if I buy monitors, I live in India, and it's nearly impossible for me to audition monitors before buying. What do I do?
  3. Within that range, what monitors would be ideal for me? I mix my own songs, which are blues/jazz, prog rock, and classical.
    The frequency response of my hifi system isn't flat, I think I need monitors, but I can't treat my room acoustically. My budget is upto $300. What do I do?

djmukilteo Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:00

It would be easy to tell you to go buy cheap monitors for $300 like small nearfield Rokits or Mackies, ($150 each here in the US) but if that's all you have to spend on a pair the only thing your going to get are cheap monitors that aren't that great (many of the budget brands aren't that flat actually) and if your room isn't treated for a flat response your not going to hear them in the room as flat or accurate anyway because the room will affect the sound.
If that's what your idea is, and your set on doing that then go for it!
To be honest It's sort of throwing away money on an idea that your mixes "might" sound better.
If your just a do it yourself home recordist, you would be better off saving your money, treat your room and buy good quality professional monitors. Work on your composition.
If you seriously think your music is worth the $300 investment and commercially viable, why not take the money and have it mixed and mastered by someone who has the right room and equipment.

sachit Tue, 09/13/2011 - 09:36

Thanks for the valuable advice. I didn't realize that monitors at the $300 price point wouldn't be worth it. In that case, I'll have to reconsider. I don't want to throw away money.

A few doubts arose in my mind when reading your post:

Like I said in my original post, I cannot get my room acoustically treated, for the foreseeable future. I don't go to a professional mainly because my composing, recording and mixing is almost simultaneous, being a solo composer, and I cannot do that in a studio. And if monitors are mostly useless till I can get a treated room, as I understand, then could you suggest an alternative for my situation, until I get my room treated?

djmukilteo Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:10

What brand of Sennheiser speakers do you have?
What is your recording setup right now?
Are you using a DAW and computer with an interface?
Do you have a good pair of headphones?
Maybe there is something more useful your missing?

I would say...use what you have for now and mix it the best you can...use your ears...when you think it sounds good...take your composition and play it on lots of different speakers (if you can)....get some computer speakers with a sub for instance, or find another bookshelf Hi-Fi system and figure out what frequencies come thru and which don't. Listen and take notes on what doesn't sound right to you. Then go back and boost or cut what sounds bad or lacks detail. Also because you don't have a proper studio room or reliable professional monitors, try using good quality headphones....they can help you hear detail, but don't rely on them entirely, they can also be deceiving.

The entire thing boils down to translation....if you have a properly treated room that is flat across all the audio frequencies (or as close as possible) and you place two accurate reference monitors which are also "flat" in that room you now have a space that will pretty accurately reproduce audio without any boosts or cuts across the spectrum. If you don't have that sort of reference space to mix or master sound in, you have no way of knowing what your hearing is a crap shoot.

The most expensive and most important monitors you have are the ones on the side of your head....use those...learn to listen to the detail and start training them to hear accurately!
Listen to your favorite professional music that you love and learn the way they were mixed and mastered and what it is that you like or dislike about them....then try to apply that to your own work!

sachit Tue, 09/13/2011 - 23:07

My recording setup:

DAW: Logic Express on a 2011 iMac 21.5", 4 gig RAM, quad i5, 10.6.8
Audio Interface: MOTU Microbook
Mic: Shure PG58
Headphones: Sennheiser HD205
HiFi system: Sony DAV-DZ120K
Instruments: Ibanez electric guitar, Vox amp, Korg SP-250, my voice :D

I think the only thing I'm missing is monitors. I feel my headphones are pretty okay, just slightly weak in the bass.

Thanks for the advice, I'll do it exactly like that. I have a few other systems to listen to my music on(car audio, other heads, friends' places, relatives...) so I'll make the best of it that I can. I'll train my ears.

keldog Thu, 09/22/2011 - 16:09

A wise man once told me what he figured the order of importance was in any studio.
#1 The Monitors.
#1 The Room
#3 Everything else

When I started, I used an old hi fi home stereo. I got pretty decent on it but it took alot of trial and error. Burn a CD, listen to it on everything I could, write down the areas of what didn't sound right, re-mix, burn another CD etc...
It can be done...but...
When ya do get a good set of monitors, you'll wonder why ya waited so long. :cool:

djmukilteo Thu, 09/22/2011 - 16:28

keldog, post: 376451 wrote: A wise man once told me what he figured the order of importance was in any studio.
#1 The Monitors.
#1 The Room
#3 Everything else

When I started, I used an old hi fi home stereo. I got pretty decent on it but it took alot of trial and error. Burn a CD, listen to it on everything I could, write down the areas of what didn't sound right, re-mix, burn another CD etc...
It can be done...but...
When ya do get a good set of monitors, you'll wonder why ya waited so long. :cool:

A good set of monitors is only half the equation, and anyone who thinks you don't need the same accurate acoustical space to listen to those accurate monitors in....simply doesn't understand the can have the most expensive and accurate monitor's in the world, but without the same flat room to listen to them in you have no idea what your doing!
You need to have both...
So the order of importance IMHO is:
1. The room
2. The monitors
3. Everything else

djmukilteo Thu, 09/22/2011 - 22:21

That's funny how you don't see something like that!...It just registered as 1,2,3 to me and didn't even see the two #1's...good bad....not that you were wrong either way....that wasn't my intention...only wanted to make it clear that too many people think they just need to buy monitors and everything will be great after that and you see this all the time...the OP is like so many that post things like this...

keldog Fri, 09/23/2011 - 08:20

heh heh :tongue:

The crazy thing is how right he was. I went back and listened to some old mixes and compared (ugh) but also noticed the difference when I was tracking, at least as far as the room went.

I'd just completed the rest of my superchunks and decided to re-track some drums to a new tune I was working on just to see if I could tell which was what.

It was definitely a tighter, punchier set of tracks and I was pretty jacked.
Then it dawned on me how much like ass my other stuff, ALL my other stuff was gonna sound like unless I remixed or (gasp) retracked.

So I said screw it, grabbed a beer and chalked it up to learning curve. :cool:

kmetal Mon, 09/26/2011 - 20:51

Why can't the room be treated? (not being sarcastic, JW) Mucsicians friend sells aurelex foam for $60, for 32 s.q.f. i'd pick up 3 boxes of that, two bundles of rigid fiberglass, and some mics stands on the cheap. If you glue the foam to some ped-board, you can cheaply/easily make some mic stand mount-able panels. they can be moved around to aid during tracking, then moved in the 'mirror points' for mixing. as for the fiberglass, make some "super chunks" bass traps. a quick search on RO will show you these. Use some comercial grade velcro type stuff, perhaps glued to a thin piece of wood, to stick foam to your ceiling. This stuff is all temporary and will hopefully, be allowable on your situation. It will help hear your theater system better, and your raw tracks, should benefit as much as your mixes. it will go much further in the long run than low priced monitors, or any priced mointors, which are designed w/ reasonably accurate rooms in mind.

sachit Tue, 09/27/2011 - 10:26

Thanks, but...

Hey thanks a lot kmetal. That sounds really practical. But will I be using those auralex pads for 'isolating' the source from reflections while recording? And will the super-chunk bass traps be portable?

EDIT: I forgot to add, my room's L-shaped. Will that pose a problem?

keldog Tue, 09/27/2011 - 10:33

I'm not kmetal but I play one on TV. (heh heh)

You can make any of this stuff portable. Like for the superchunks...just put your stack of triangles in a small lightweight frame or even in some sort of sack. And then just use velcro or really anything to hold it up in the corners.
As far as the auralex...just make your gobos and glue em to cardboard, hang your cardboard on the wall like ya would a picture.

Lots of ways to work around this stuff.