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Even though this is really a gear question, I am most interested in the opinions of MEs, so I hope it's fine to post it here =P

Over the last year and a half, I've been studying mastering, and it's really become my passion... I've been making some long-term gear plans, but I have a problem when it comes to monitors. I know that the monitors people use to mix with aren't necessarily good to master with (not full range, compression due to the speaker, etc), so I basically started looking at various gear lists for mastering houses and then checked out the brands I spotted for specs and reviews =P From the research I've done so far, I'm thinking of the following:

Dynaudio BM15A
Adam S2.5A
B&W Nautilus 802

I've read both good and bad about these choices, but the problem isn't that I can't narrow it down, the problem is that there are only 2 music gear places anywhere near me - one's a GC and the other is like a mom-and-pop GC, so of course neither of them have what I'm looking for in order to do a listening test... SO, I need your help =) Anyone who owns, has owned, uses, has used, or can listen to these speakers (or just has heard something good/bad about them), please let me know what's GOOD and BAD about them, hopefully with regards to mastering.

Thanks!
HB

Member for

51 years 4 months

Ed Littman Sat, 09/04/2004 - 23:16

I My self have dunlavy scIIIa's
The 802's are great...nothing wrong with them...not sure about the others.
Ed

Massive Mastering Sat, 09/04/2004 - 23:55

I'd go with the 802's also. Admittedly, I'm a fan of the older "800" M series 802's... But that's just a personal preference.

From the three that you listed, the 802 is quite a standout though... The other two almost don't belong in the comparison, although they compare to each other.

I guess that means that the 802 doesn't belong in the comparison, but I digress...

What's good and bad? Good question... If I were tracking or mixing, I'd love to have either the 15's OR the 2.5's in the room in the near-to-mid field.

You really don't want to master on nearfields... Well, maybe you do. Who am I to judge?

However, I think that once you wrap your ears around a set of 802's with some solid power behind them, you'll forget all about the other two.

Some big price differences there also - A used and slightly beaten set of 802's and a decent amp is likely going to cost quite a bit more than a pair of either of the others at retail.

Others to consider if you're looking for that type without that type of price tag - The B&W 700 series.

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Sun, 09/05/2004 - 00:46

Thanks for the responses, both of you =)

Massive: nearfields are probably going to be what I end up with, I probably won't have the room to go bigger (though I'm not sure about the room yet, which is why I'm keeping my options open... I will end up moving at least once this coming year, and I might be able to swing a bigger space by not using a bedroom).

What is it about the 802s or the 800s or the 700 series that makes them desirable? I think right now I'm more after specific qualities that I should look for to help me decide whether a set will or will not be what I'm after.

"If I were tracking or mixing, I'd love to have either the 15's OR the 2.5's in the room in the near-to-mid field." Do you think they inherently wouldn't be desirable for mastering because they're smaller? Or what else would make them great for tracking and mixing but not for mastering?

Again, thanks for the help =)

HB

Ammitsboel Sun, 09/05/2004 - 03:20

Dynaudio BM15A
Adam S2.5A
B&W Nautilus 802

I will say the same:
Dynaudio and Adam don't belong in a mastering studio, instead recording engineers use them.
Dynaudio do make bigger monitors and I've heard them... but I don't like them, they sound too dead and controlled.
I've heard the Adam mastering monitor witch is severe colored like the smaller ones... it almost sounds like putting a multiband compressor over your mix.

In the names you put, I will also put my vote for B&W 802.
But I like Audio Note much better than B&W.
Do yourself a favor and try out a pair from Audio Note, you could contact them so they can send you a pair?

Best Regards,

Member for

51 years 4 months

ken_m Sun, 09/05/2004 - 11:19

Let me throw some names out there. I don't have any experience with these so maybe someone else can elaborate.

Dunlavy SM-1
Thiel 1.5 or CS2 or higher models depending on room size.
PSB Stratus series
Sonus Faber
SLS S8R
PCM TB2+

I believe all of these would probably be needed to be coupled with a sub.

Ken

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Sun, 09/05/2004 - 23:51

Ammitsboel wrote: Dynaudio and Adam don't belong in a mastering studio, instead recording engineers use them. In the names you put, I will also put my vote for B&W 802.
But I like Audio Note much better than B&W.

Thanks for the response, I'll definitely keep that in mind =)

HB

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Sun, 09/05/2004 - 23:54

I guess one problem with my original post was naming names; what are the specific qualities I should be looking for? Just "full range and flat"? What makes mastering monitors mastering monitors?

HB

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Mon, 09/06/2004 - 01:11

Ammitsboel wrote: But I like Audio Note much better than B&W.
Do yourself a favor and try out a pair from Audio Note, you could contact them so they can send you a pair?

Which set (or sets) in particular would you suggest I check out? The AN-E? It will be a while before I can get anything sent to listen to myself; beside still needing to save money for the actual purchase, I'm going to be moving before I even need the monitors, so I wouldn't be listening in the right room (with the right treatment) yet. BUT, I still appreciate the suggestion, and I'll see what else I can find on Audio Note speakers.

HB

Ammitsboel Mon, 09/06/2004 - 01:51

The AN-E and AN-K are very good speakers! It's worth it to listen to them both to deside what you like best.

There should be some dealers in the US where you could listen or pick the speakers up. -maybe check the distributers on the homepage.

Michael Fossenkemper Mon, 09/06/2004 - 07:25

there are a lot of good monitors out there. it's really a matter of matching a pair with you room and tastes. The 802's have a really big soundstage and some good punch. It took me a few years of listening before I picked a set of monitors. I actually prefered the 800's but they didn't work in my room due to their size. the dunlavy's are excellent monitors too. egglestons are excellent and so are jm labs. all of these are very pricey so you have to be sure you like them and that they'll work well. there are many more that are worthy to mention. you really have to listen to a lot of different ones.

quality of components, construction materials and design, and of coarse sound are the things you should look for. some people can work with subs, I don't like to. If you look at this as a journey that never ends, then you'll get a better perspective on choosing monitors.

joe lambert Tue, 09/07/2004 - 08:01

Lot's of good advice so far. All I will ad is get a full range monitor. If you master with nearfields as you only set you are guessing on the low end.
I was talking with a fellow mastering engineer last week. He told me B&W has a pair of speakers now that is basically the same drivers as the 802. Kevlar drivers, same tweeter. It doesn't have the expensive matrix cabinet. But he said they sound great and are under 2grand. If I was looking for an speaker in this price range I would definitely check them out. Sorry I don't know the model number but a dealer will be able to help.

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Tue, 09/07/2004 - 08:35

joe lambert wrote: Lot's of good advice so far. All I will ad is get a full range monitor. If you master with nearfields as you only set you are guessing on the low end.
I was talking with a fellow mastering engineer last week. He told me B&W has a pair of speakers now that is basically the same drivers as the 802. Kevlar drivers, same tweeter. It doesn't have the expensive matrix cabinet. But he said they sound great and are under 2grand. If I was looking for an speaker in this price range I would definitely check them out. Sorry I don't know the model number but a dealer will be able to help.

Even the 802s only come about as close to full range as the "better" nearfields (-3dB at 34Hz), I'm guessing it's the imaging / sound stage that makes them better? Or what else am I missing for that 8k price difference? Since I am likely not going to have a 20+' long room, would it be worth getting the bigger (and more expensive) 802s (plus the cost of a good amp) that are nearly full range but have a wider/better sound stage, instead of the smaller/cheaper Dynaudios that go as low but have a narrower sweet spot?

I'll take a look around for that other set you mentioned... On the B&W site they have the Nautilus 805 (the Nautilus SCM1 is similarly built), which is smaller and sells for about $2500 retail, but it's not quite the same drivers, so I don't know if either of those are the speakers you are thinking about... I'll keep looking, though =)

Thanks again for your help!
HB

Don Grossinger Tue, 09/07/2004 - 11:29

I did some pretty extensive auditioning for monitors recently. I ended up with Wilson Audio Sophia speakers. I also listened to B&W 802, Avalon, Vienna Acoustics, Dynaudio, Sonus Faber, Martin Logan, and some others, all in the $10,000 range. The room came with Dunlavy SC-V. For my room the Wilsons were clearly the best. Try to get the dealer to allow an in your studio audition. Its the only way to tell how the speakers will interact with your room acoustics.

PS: we still have the Dunlavys here and are looking to sell them. They list for $15,000 a pair; our price is $5,000 for the pair. Buyer pays shipping or pick up. P.M. me if interested!!

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Tue, 09/07/2004 - 12:29

Massive Mastering wrote: On the mega-low-price side, I set a guy up with a pair of 603's - Floorstanding, 2.5-way, Nautilus tweeters - $1000 for a pair. They sound great. Not quite the 802's, but for $7,000 less, they're pretty impressive.

Cool, I'll keep these in mind, too. Again, though, what's the advantage of getting something like these over the other brands which have a wider frequency response within 3dB? I know bandwidth isn't everything, but what other features are we talking about? The 603s say 44Hz-22kHz on the B&W site, are they still worth getting for mastering (over a wider-range non-B&W system, that is)?

HB

Michael Fossenkemper Tue, 09/07/2004 - 19:58

you are looking at specs way to close. You really have to listen to get a grasp at what certain monitors can do or not do. same with amps. If I just looked a specs on amps, they should all sound damn near identical, but they don't. I don't even look at specs anymore cause i'm convinced they're all flubing them anyways.

what's a 20' room got to do with the cost of monitors. If that was the case, then headphones theoretically should only go down to about 4khz. If you put a decent size monitor in your room that drives at the volume you need and sounds good?? If all your looking at is specs and drivers used, then your missing half the picture. Design, construction are the other half. I can't tell you how many monitors i've listened to over the years. Some that looked good on paper sounded like crap, other that shouldn't have sounded good did. Don't forget about taste either, that plays a huge roll in picking your monitors.

Member for

51 years 4 months

beachhunt Wed, 09/08/2004 - 01:07

You're right, there is no "one best set", or I wouldn't need to ask about them at all =)

I'm glad you guys are bearing with me, but I don't seem to understand the answers as well as I thought I did - wouldn't "full range" mean that the speakers accurately represent the whole audible spectrum (well, 20Hz-20kHz, to avoid that whole other argument), or at least approach that? I know that in the end I'll need to listen to the speakers to know what they really sound like, but isn't there SOME objective measurement? There must be some features that put speakers into the "acceptable" and "unacceptable" categories for mastering, for mixing, or for each other purpose, no? I'm just trying to figure out what to listen for, when I am able to listen.

Michael: About room size and monitor cost, I wasn't saying that one directly influenced the other, I just didn't express what I meant in the right way. What that sentence was supposed to mean is that I didn't think it would be correct to get full-size mains for a small room, since I most likely wouldn't be able to position them (and myself) far enough away from each other and the walls. I was relating the size of the room to the size of the speakers, which just happened to be more expensive than the smaller speakers I was talking about, so I used that as the reference instead. If I'm wrong about room size vs speaker size, please let me know - I'm obviously still a beginner in the monitor arena, hence the questions =)

So forget exact specs, forget brand names, forget prices. What general features am I supposed to be looking for AND listening for in a pair of monitors, if I want them for mastering? Some things that have come up so far are "[subjective] sound", "full range", and "quality of components, construction materials and design".

Stick with me a little while longer, I promise I won't ask anything for a while once this is settled ;)
HB

Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 09/08/2004 - 07:12

Ok, here's what you want to strive for. 1st you want to gather a bunch of material. compose a CD of everything that you like as well as don't like. you want a mixture of material that will put the speakers through their paces. you want to see if the speaker will tell you what's going on and not candy coat too much. If the mix is too bassy, it should sound too bassy etc... Next, get a notebook to document all your findings cause this could take a little while. Next, don't look at price and don't ask, just listen. pick 1 day a week and go listen to all different kinds of monitors. Audiophile and "pro" monitors have a different approach as well as different applications. Listen for soundstage, depth, detail, and freq response. Listen to them with a sub, and without. Listen soft, med, loud to see how they react and how sensitive they are. Position yourself near and far. This is as much a training for your ears as well as evaluation. You'll want to listen to the same monitor more than once and hopefully in different places. room, amps, setup, and condition will be different so don't take anything at face value. look at the construction of the cabinet, how available are replacement components and what's their cost. If you pop a tweeter down the road, you'll be glad you asked. You'll begin to narrow your field and then you can begin to ask about price. Now you re-evalute your budget and double or triple it.

There are many different kinds of design features that you'll come across that have both plus's and minus's. sealed, ported, side fireing woofers etc.. 2 way, 3 way, 4 way. another factor are clients. do your clients attend sessions? If they do, then you'll also have to take that into consideration. will they be able to tell what's going on in your room. Will they like the sound of the monitors. You don't want to spend 1/2 an hour in each session explaining why they don't like the sound of your monitors. next are amps....

Ok, you've found a handful of monitors that you like, you've held up the local bank and now can buy a pair. How does your room factor in. Well in your evaluations, you learned how close you can be to them. How different rooms reacted to them. try and get a pair for evalution.

as you can see, it can be quite involved. but if you're serious, it needs to be done.

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