Monitoring – Hifi or “Pro” Gear?

Posted in Recording on Januar 18th, 2011 by EO-Manager

Monitoring is one of the most important part of  mixing and mastering – if not the most important at all. All you efforts, all your intrument finesse, basically everything goes down the drain, if your monitoring system is bad and you won’t get a monitor signal that is as neutral as possible. But let us start from the beginning.

First of all, let’s start with your aspiration. If you are playing in a local band with – well, let’s say – 12 live events per year, a practise room (the usual „garage“) and no real intention to do this for a living, you probably will invest in other things first. When we played in bands regularly, the practise rooms were exactly that: practise rooms – not (project) studios. At some stage we wanted a little more and started fiddling around with sounds at home. Our monitor system was the inevitable hifi system including the speakers. And, yes, it sounded relatively good on these speakers … BUT, the problem was, on these speakers ONLY! Which leads to the general question: is it possible to use hifi-speakers?

When you search the web you will find very different opinions, and I personally made the experience that it is possible to have decent recordings within limitations. What does that mean? Well, I won’t go on here about graphs and mathematical figures of different systems and monitors, but it always seemed to me, that hifi systems and speakers „sweetened“ the sound, in other words: you sound better than you REALLY do. And if this happens, you won’t hear all the mistakes and necessary bits and pieces you need to in oder to do a really good mixing and mastering job, e.g. eq-ing, fixing the the loudness of the various intruments in relation, have difficulties when it comes to multiband compression and so on.

Secondly your monitoring needs to fit into the rest of your studio equipment AND (even this may sound strange) to your personal hearing. In other words: if you don’t like the sound of a particular monitor from the start, you definitely won’t like it later either. Before we decided what monitor to use, we went into music shops and had a really good listen to 3 or 4 monitors in our paying range. Actually Kai decided to buy different monitors than I did (Tascam vs ADAM), but after some time he changed them and we both got ADAM monitors now – just in case you are interested, it’s the A8 active model, which I find excellent to work with. Anf if have not mentioned it before the monitors  should be ACTIVE!

The last thing is you have to get used to is the sound in your project studio, find the sweet spot and so on. And then start listening. (Actually every monitor needs some time (10-20h) to produce its final sound.) But after that you can start working. Ideally you monitor produces exactly the sound (flat or neutral average)  that was recorded. This is necessary because it gives you the opportunity to shape „your“ characteristic sound. „Your“ producer or band sound.

What you must not forget though is to doublecheck your mix or master on as many soundsystems as possible. When it sounds good on you monitors it doesn’t necessarily mean that it sounds good on every system. Be careful with too much bass, too much stereo, too much upper frequencies. (I am going to write another blog entry about common beginner mistakes another time).

Just one more thing: don’t even think about mixing and mastering on headphones.

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