SOUND 101: ” Studio Monitors” = Do you have the right monitors for the job?
Having the proper monitors is crucial for anyone who is trying to put together their own project studio. Mixing in headphones will only be used for recording and doing dj mixes, but when it comes to mixing down and mastering, you need monitors that can do the job.
I remember one thing my dad always told me, you cannot do a job correctly unless you have the right tools. For example, when I was building and designing subwoofer cabinets, I thought I can get away with using a hand held saw to cut all the wood panels. I learned later that I needed to spend a little more in order to buy a table saw. After that day, I was able to build better cabinet and in less time. This goes for making tracks as well, since I have the right set up now, I can produce, mixdown, and master efficiently and with little waste of time. This took about 20 years of learning from researching and trial and error.
Okay, so back to the monitors. Most studio monitors frequency response goes from 50hz – 20khz. Which is decent for most project studios, but if you are into Drum and Bass, Dubstep, or any other genre that require low end, these speakers won’t cut it. So now what do you do? If you go to any website that sells studio monitors, you will notice that those type of speakers that can reach the lower ends of the spectrum are in the thousands of dollars. And maybe some of you are thinking of adding a subwoofer, that is also out of the question when you are mixing down and mastering because depending on your room size and dimensions, it can make your mix-downs worse. So this is when you begin to lose hope and wonder how does these other producers make such good sounding tracks without knowing how the lower harmonics sounds like, I use to wonder that? And then I got lucky because at our radio station, KPFK 90.7fm Los Angeles “RADIOBOMB,” we had a couple of well known producers of Drum and Bass come in. So I asked them, how do you get the low bass into your recordings and how do you know it will sound good? They all have the top notch equipment right now, but the answer I got was pretty surprising. They all claimed that they couldn’t really hear the low end, they just added the bass sound and put it as high as possible before it distorts the mix-down. Then when they master it or take it to get mastered, the person mastering would be the one equalizing the mixd-own before proper production. I was like, right on, but they all said the better monitors they have now has really made their production even better.
So if you cannot afford $1,000 monitors, what do you do? Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Get some older versions of more expensive monitors at your local retailer because they get so much new monitors coming in, they have to get rid of the older models. And you benefit by getting a better deal.
2. Buy used or floor models. How do you know if they are in good condition? Most companies are very strict when it comes to quality now, and they come with a money back guarantee if something is wrong with the equipment. I got a pair of these EVENT Powered ASP-8’s, floor models for $440 bucks for the pair at guitar center. New they run for $1500 a pair, and used around $600- $800 a pair plus shipping. check out the specs:
Frequency Response: 35Hz – 20kHz, +/-3dB, ref. 500Hz
Amplifier Power: Biamplified, 280 Watts; 200W LF driver/80W HF driver; torroidal transformer
These hit low, hard, accurate, and the mid-range and high frequencies are clear!
3. Look for studios and/or individuals that are closing down. Kind of sad, but most studios have $1,000 dollar studio monitors that they are trying to get rid of so if you can score one, take it. Make sure the studio is smoke free.
4. Look for models that have some cosmetic issues, like scratches on them. Manufacturers cannot sell them as new, so they drive the price down a lot, but the sound is still exactly the same.
5. Run your track through a spectrum analyzer, there you will be able to see what frequencies are being put out on your track.
6. Find a friend that has a good sound system, whether it is in his/her car or house. And test your track.
7. Have multiple tracks of your favorite productions and compare how your track sounds to them.
8. Find the smallest, weakest, oldest speakers you can find and play your track through them. If it does not distort, then your mix-down of bass is either just right or not enough.
So that covers the low-end frequencies of studio monitors. Remember, all rooms are different so unless you have a room specifically built for mastering, it is a hit and miss when you are mixing down and mastering; especially when it comes to BASS. Sometimes the best monitors won’t sound good if your room is not set-up properly. So get the best, most expensive, monitors you can afford. I can tell you from pros that I have talk, various well know artist in the EDM scene, and from personal experience that the better monitors you have, the better your productions will be.
So what about the mid-range and high frequencies? I will cover that in next months SOUND 101: Do you have the right monitors for the job? – Mid-Range and High Frequencies. I will show you how to set-up any room for optimal recording.