Studio/Nearfield monitors and sound in general

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by ReverendCharm, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. ReverendCharm macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    #1
    Ok i've been trying to set up a home studio and I have pretty much all I need as far as hardware goes but I have questions about mixing/mastering and studio monitors in general. I have a couple of hangups and questions:


    1. I bought a pretty cheap pair of monitors and they are ok but have really done nothing to help my mixes (i know i know, you get what you pay for ..but Im on a budget and I really dont need my mixes to sound SUPER SUPER clean ..i actually dig the "analog" sound anyway, so the sound doesnt have to be perfect). I can get it to sound good on the monitors but as soon as I test it out on some $50 Altec Lansing computer speakers its WAAAAAY too trebley and just overall sounds like *****. So what gives? I thought if you could get a mix sounding good on monitors which are supposed to have an "honest" sound that they should sound good on most all speakers (especially those that are inferior like regular old computer speakers)? I realize my monitors are on the cheaper side but they actually got good reviews from many people for their "flat" sound. But as I said, if I spend 2 hours mixing and finally get them to sound the way I want on the monitors then why would they sound downright AWFUL on other speakers?


    2. What is the optimal way of connecting monitors to a computer? For instance, I have a Mac Mini and I use the headphone out jack to plug in the 1/8" plug (with RCA on the other end going into my monitors). Something tells me there is a better way to go. I keep hearing about 2.0 and 5.1 sound. Whats the difference? Is the way I'm plugged in now 2.0? Is 2.0 good enough to do mixes (again, I dont need it to sound like Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or anything)? If not, how do I upgrade a Mac Mini so that I can output "better" or more "high def" sound? Do I need a sound card or something? How do you install that?


    sorry for the million and a half questions but any replies covering even some of what I asked would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds. Peace n love.
     
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #2
    2 hours mixing? i'm happy if i get the kick and bass working by then. okay, maybe i'm not *that* slow :)

    a heck of a lot happens to the soundwaves between the time they leave the monitors and they hit your ears, and it's influenced by the room and what's in the room. the best monitors in the world won't matter if they're placed badly, if the listening position is incorrect, or if the room's not treated correctly.

    in these cases, you're making decisions based on a distorted view of what the speakers are producing, and that means your mixes won't translate. from your description, it sounds like your room is too boomy and you compensate by some combination of turning down the bass and increasing the treble.

    this is a big subject. start with photos of your room and any descriptions necessary to convey placement and treatment.
     
  3. akswun macrumors regular

    akswun

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
    #3
    mixing in what way? djing? What kind of mixer or sound board do you have? are you just using your mac?

    Monitors can only do so much. Yes they can give you a clear/flat sound but depending on the levels on the monitor itself and whats being recorded it can be deceiving. Your output levels on your monitors is totally different from the recording levels in your mac or whatever you're using.

    If you have a sound board/mixer you need to watch your levels. Avoid the red which causes your final product to be too loud and even clip. Regardless if you're using monitors or a home theatre system, if they're turned down it will have no change on the final product because they run on their own separate from your recording device.
     
  4. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #4
    Your monitors might be built according to different specifications than your computer speakers, but they're still limited by the elements and electronics inside, for which the manufacturer has a limited budget. You can mix on (almost) anything as long as you know how the mixes translate to other speaker systems. That means knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your current monitors and knowing how to compensate for them in the mix. For example, if your monitors are stronger in some bass-frequencies than your computer speakers, you will end up pulling them back in the mix, ending up with no bass on the computer speakers.
    The first number is regular speakers, the second is subwoofer; 2.0 is a regular 2-speaker system, 5.1 is 5 speakers and 1 sub.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #5
    Get some good headphones. The AGK K240 are a "standard" and cost only $99 at Sweetwater. You need speakers too $99 is much less ten new speakers and room treatment
     
  6. TomKing, May 1, 2011
    Last edited: May 1, 2011

    TomKing macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    #6
    OK, So some good points have been raised here, and points i dont feel the need to go over, but meerly point out they are important. These are speaker placement is critical, especially with cheaper monitors, and the other is learn your speakers.

    But a few bits have been missed out here.

    First of all you dont need to worry about 2.1/5.1/etc systems, you need two monitors left and right, stereo is king.

    And the other bit here that you really do need to sort out is the sound card. Your coming out of the built in sound card. this is basically treason to your set-up. You should seriously look at upgrading to a USB/Firewire external professional soundcard. you can pick them up cheap.

    Novation do a couple of cheap units, which include a single phantom powered XLR which is always a nice addition to have. but there are literally loads on the market. This will increase your sound quality immensely, built in sound is a big no no.


    Unfortunately ChrisA is quite wrong, sorry chris, but you never want to be doing your mix down in headphones, as was mentioned alot happens to that audio between the speaker and your ear, and alot of it is quite important, especially the bass frequencies. Headphones will ensure a "muddy" mix. (and as far as a standard goes, look nearer to the beyerdynamic DT770's.)


    You say you have cheap monitors, well, which monitors are they? theres cheap, like the genelec 8020A's or theres cheap like the m-audio bx5's, or cheap like the edirol MA-15D's.

    The unfortunate truth is that 2 of those cheap monitors, really are very cheap, and will be near impossible to actually mix with.

    Monitors is one of the areas that you have to spend a good bit of your budget. IF you cant hear it properly, how can you expect to mix it properly.

    Anyway, thats a bit waffly. Hope this helps. questions i can answer, information i cant make up. so please give FULL spec of system, monitors, what your recording/mixing, mics (if recording) everything. Its all important to the end result
     
  7. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    #7
    The 'analog' sound doesn't come from a lack of a polished mix, it comes from using analog recording chains and a tape machine, and mixing in a console.

    I've read a zillion reviews of KRK Rokits as being good flat speakers, but to my ears they sound terrible - horrendously coloured and uneven across their bandwidth.

    Good speakers cost good money. Simple as.

    Using TRS or XLR outputs from the back of a good quality interface into a good monitor controller (or a good quality mixer), then XLR or TRS from the controller into the back of your speakers.

    5.1 is surround sound, 2.0 is stereo. 2.1 is stereo with a subwoofer (which I really don't like personally).

    Good stereo is far better than average 2.1 or 5.1, and costs a lot less.

    My suggestion - get a good pair of nearfield monitors. I'm a fan of the Adam A + AX ranges as well as the Focal CMS range when you don't want to spend a huge amount on smaller speakers. Just make sure you position them properly, avoid reflections off nearby walls (think of every wall as a mirror, and if there's a reflection somewhere near the speaker, it'll be disturbing your sound) and don't turn them up too loud!

    Depends how much you want to spend, but the Focusrite Pro 24 is a great little budget interface. Next step up would be an RME Babyface, or a Fireface if you have a little more money to spend!


    Just remember - good kit costs good money, and there's a reason why professionals use good quality kit.

    It's worth saving up for, by the time you get to the stage of investing in some really, really nice speakers or a really, really nice interface, you'll wish you hadn't bought all the cheap crap you had before (believe me I've been there).

    +1000000. ReverendCharm - this post contains some good advice.
     
  8. ReverendCharm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    #8
    sorry i havent posted back til now... was tied up all last week

    anyway, i want to thank everyone big time for their responses.. on a side note, I think i'll be returning these monitors and getting something a little pricier in hopes it translates to quality. The monitors i had were Numark NPM5's. I realize that some of my comments were stated poorly also so allow me to clarify.

    I know that you cannot acheive the "analog" sound thru mixing and that it requires actually recording to tape... i was just using that as an example to mean that i'm not an audiophile and i dont strive for a "todays music" clean kind of sound anyway

    the sound card sounds like its definitely important so I have looked into them briefly today and still a bit confused about what i'd need ...i guess i'll run down my gear, the kind of music i make (and how I make it) and maybe some of you can throw out a few suggestions ..

    i have the newer mac mini and as anyone with one of those models knows, we are short on USB ports ...so for me, it would be a little better (since I have ALL my USB ports taken up) if the audio interface was firewire (and I would prefer one that had the 9 pin cable since all the ones i've seen use either 4 or 6) ..the way i make music is with my midi controller that is plug n' play (i just plug it in to the USB slot and it is recognized instantly by my DAW) ..OCCASIONALLY i record with guitarists and flute players and use a mic and would only need 1 or 2 (at most) inputs for those instruments on my interface ..dont need midi on it because as i said, my controller is plug n' play and i just use the USB port ..basically, i need the sound card primarily for mixing, not for recording ..i will do SOME recording with it when it comes to mic'd up instruments but most will be done just with my midi keyboard

    now as far as how the sound gets from my mac into my interface and back to my monitors i have no idea what i want or need as far as hook ups go ..so please suggest the best way to connect monitors (i'm guessing "balanced" since i hear that word alot)

    room placement i know is very important but i have no way to fix that one right now ..just gonna do my best for now (until i move out of my current, small place) ..i was looking into the behringer truths because they have settings on the back to supposedly adapt to a sub-par sound environment

    anyway since Im looking into those and they are around $400 i'd like to get a sound card for cheap so can anybody recommend anything that works good for mac with only a few inputs that would be good for mixing ..i dont need it much for recording so maybe theres one thats cheap that will suit my needs? under $150? maybe i'm dreaming lol ..i only saw one that was cheap on amazon and it was the Behringer FCA202 F-Control ..it looked like it would be fine for my immediate needs but i also see it has no knob for the volume (only the headphones are affected with the knob on the front) ..and i dont want to be going to turn my monitors down manually every time i need to ..anyway, hope these details help someone help me! lol thanks again everybody you guys are out of sight .. i really really appreciate it
     
  9. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #9
    best bang for buck is room treatment and positioning. imho, doing that and knowing your monitors/room is 90% of getting your mixes to translate. quality monitors is the next 8%, the remaining 2% is quality d/a, cables, monitor controller, etc.

    a pair of these will make a big difference, and will provide a basis on which to build w/o outgrowing.
     
  10. ReverendCharm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    #10
    well unfortunately the room im in is sub par for mixing but i want to know if there is a modestly priced (under 400) pair of nearfields anyone could suggest that would mix well being positioned pretty much up against a wall? ..any recommendations would be helpful ..a pair of monitors that would work at least adequately for mixing in that environment would suit my needs for now
     
  11. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #11
    no room is suitable for mixing until treated. you're not getting it -- you could spend $25k on a pair of nearfields, push them up against a wall in a crappy room, and it would sound like crap.

    if you won't be bothering with the room, then mix on headphones. the result won't be any better, but at least you won't be wasting money.
     
  12. ReverendCharm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    #12
    im getting it ..and i dont consider it a waste at all when i move out and have a better room guess what? the monitors will still be with me ...work with me here dude im just asking if there are any nearfields that would be DESIGNED to "work with the elements" so to speak ..i googled this and found some suggestions from others (although a little out of my price range) so i know there has to be some out there ..again, i am NOT a professional (big surprise huh? lol) and am NOT looking for a professional sound ...just adequate for now ...so i get it that room treatment is important ..but is everyone here agreeing that NO monitors will even perform SEMI-WELL in a sub par mixing environment?

    p.s. i have seen loads of pictures on google of peoples studios ...MANY of them it seems, have the nearfields right up against the wall
     
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #13
    The room itself matters more then the brand of monitors. FIx that before you buy anything. There are no "magic speakers" they ALL depend on the same laws of physics. OK if you MUST have an answer then get the ones with forward facing ports becasue those would not get blocked block if the speakers were packed back tight to the wall.

    Or do what I said above and use headphones. Headphones are the best deal if you don't have the $$ for doing what everyone here recommends. Cost $100
     
  14. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #14
    This is difficult to say because it's a matter of degrees. Some say that only Adam/Genelec/whatever in a treated room is acceptable, while for others their Behringer speakers in a square room with concrete walls is good enough. The question is can you make mixes that translate in your current environment? It's not impossible but it would require more work and more time getting to know your monitors and how they sound in you room.
     
  15. ReverendCharm thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Mar 27, 2011
    #15
    thanks for the advice guys ...much appreciated ...and jackerin, thank you especially ..you make great points i like your answer ..very helpful ..i will do what i can to treat the room and have found (thru searching tirelessly today) several monitors that have settings to accomodate small rooms and "wall placement" ..thanks again everybody for all the advice, help, and for putting up with a newb like me!
     

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