Monitors: One of most important parts of gear?

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Monitors: One of most important parts of gear?

Post by benjbenj » Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:20 am

I recently put up a post wondering what the next step in improving my sound would be while making computer music (drum samples, real instruments vocals, soft synths, random samples, etc.). One reply that I got said this:

explore/consider the possibility of upgrading your monitors and/or treating your room somehow as the next step. People say it again and again and it's proven true for me, that the only piece of gear that really puts a ceiling on what you're able to accomplish is monitoring.

This is what I have

TASCAM's VL-X5 Features

90-watt active biamped near-field design
(30 watts HF and 60 watts LF)
1 inch natural silk high frequency dome driver
5.25 inch low frequency driver.

I am using these in my small studio apartment. Can anyone recommend specific monitors that would be much better for me.

Should I just add subs?

What is it that makes better monitors such an extreme advantage?

I understand the principle that I you can't hear it you can't fix it, but when someone says better monitors, does that just mean something that has a better representation of the entire frequency range?

Any advise would be greatly appreciated.


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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:42 am

Your monitoring and room treatment (don't even consider a sub if the room isn't ready for it) are without a doubt, the absolute most important part of the chain.

ESPECIALLY if you working on "ITB only" stuff.
What is it that makes better monitors such an extreme advantage?
I'd almost hope you're kidding -- You will only ever be as good as your monitors allow you to be (and your monitors will only ever sound as good as the room they're in allows them to).

Two of the only "hard" rules of audio.
I understand the principle that I you can't hear it you can't fix it, but when someone says better monitors, does that just mean something that has a better representation of the entire frequency range?
Something like that... Again - You can't tweak what you can't hear. The basis of everything.
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Post by benjbenj » Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:30 am

Ok, so monitoring is the most important thing in the chain and I shouldn't get a sub if the room isn't ready for it. Any advise on what I could do to improve the monitoring situation?

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Post by I'm Painting Again » Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:54 am

benjbenj wrote:Ok, so monitoring is the most important thing in the chain and I shouldn't get a sub if the room isn't ready for it. Any advise on what I could do to improve the monitoring situation?
hire an acoustic scientist, architect and contractor!

it's never going to be even close to perfect without mega-bucks and the right size room to start with..

here is a list of general things to look into:

*proper monitor placement & monitor mounting
*use of multiple monitors and headphones
*broad band sound absorbtion & bass trapping
*sound diffusion and diffraction
*proper monitoring levels
*proper connection of cables

probably a ton really is so complex..most of us get by in less than ideal monitoring kind of have to really get to know what sounds "right" in your space on your speakers..try to do the best you can on what you have then take your CD, etc. to as many other room hi-fi's, cars, boomboxes, as many different places as you can and then compare them all to what your hearing at the "sweet spot" of your mix position and compensate there by mixing it "wrong" for your imperfect listening position..with practice you "get to know" your monitors and room..and can get by quite well this way..

hope that helps..

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Post by Harry » Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:52 am

Some people trip out over having million dollar monitors.
Some people can mix on shit little speakers,because they know how they translate to the outside world.
If you have any money left after you "hire an acoustic scientist,architect and contractor" to rebuild the studio apartment (that I assume you're renting?) then by all means buy those million dollar monitors.
It's only my humble opinion but I can think of a few things that would take priority over "perfect monitoring".
For me it would go something like this.
#1 the source.....good instruments/players in a good room(If you cant make your room sound good,than it doesn't take a genius to make it sound dead)
#2 something decent to put in front of the source. for a whole band this can mean quite a few good mics.
#3 something decent to plug those mics in to
#4 something decent to capture that sound
somewhere around here is where I would start upgrading to high end monitors?

Nothing is ever going to be perfect.It's really about doing the best with what you have.

This is just me though...and I wouldn't call myself a "sound scientist" or even a "real engineer" so take it with a grain of salt

Happy new year!!


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Post by JWL » Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:37 pm

I disagree that you need mega-bucks and a perfect-sized room. Of course that helps, and the best rooms do indeed sport these features.

But anyone can make their mix room sound better, by optimizing the room setup and having a good acoustic treatment strategy. In general, there are three basic steps you can do that can improve the sound of the room tremendously.

First, arrange the room in an acoustically beneficial way. This generally means a symmetrical setup, particularly from the listening position forward, with the listening position 38% back from the front wall, in the center of the room between the side walls. The speakers should make an equilateral triangle with your head, ideally with the tweeters at the same height as your ears. This setup will give you optimum stereo imaging, and the placement within the room minimizes the effect of room modes on the bass. For more detail on this step, read How To Set Up A Room.

Secondly, you need to control the low end of the room, to even out the bass response it all parts of the room. This is most easily accomplished in almost all rooms by adding bass traps to as many corners of the room as you can manage, including wall/ceiling corners or even wall/floor corners if it is feasible. There are many threads in various forums about how to build these yourself if you wish to take the time to learn what to do and do the construction yourself. Alternatively, you can buy products designed to optimize bass trapping. Visit us at to see some great examples of these products, or if you'd like a more detailed explanation of this step you can read Acoustics: Facts & Fiction.

Finally, you will want to create a Reflection-Free Zone to make the stereo imaging as clear as possible. This is most easily done by placing more absorbers at the first-reflection points of your room. You can easily find these with the help of a friend and a mirror. Sit at the mix position and have the friend move along the wall with the mirror. Anywhere you can see your speakers in the mirror, put absorption there, this will be on the side walls and the ceiling (and also possibly the floor, depending on room furniture) in most rectangular rooms. For more detail on this step, read Creating a Reflection-Free Zone, and visit to see examples of products designed to do this task. And again, there are plenty of DIY examples on this forum; do a search.

I also recommend reading Ethan's Acoustic Treatment and Design for Recording Studios and Listening Rooms, this is the single best introduction to small room acoustics that I know of. It's a long article, but it covers all the basics very thoroughly, and it's shorter than a book. :-)

Monitors in themselves are important, and clearly there are sound differences between different models. But I think the room is equally as important when it comes to making good mix decisions. I'd rather mix on my Behringer Truth monitors in a treated room than my Dynaudio custom monitors in an untreated room.

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Post by bannerj » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:11 pm

I put off spending the money on nicer monitors for four years. When I finally made the step and treated my room with some bass traps, I regretted waiting so long. Monitors and treatment aren't very sexy when you are starting out, but they are such a huge help.

What is your budget?

If you can swing a couple grand, that would be a good place to start. I'm a huge fan of the Adam A7s. I hear great things about the Dynaudio Bm5As too. Both can be had for around $1000. Then you'll have another grand to spend on bass traps. Check out or Both are great companies with great products.

If you don't have that much, go with the monitors and then build your own traps. There are tons of designs around here on TO.

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Post by joel hamilton » Mon Dec 31, 2007 4:21 pm

I spend lots of time listening to a boom box that would probably cost about 30 dollars at a pawn shop these days. Maybe less, actually. It is placed BEHIND the computer monitor, and kind of fires into the back of the screen/around the sides of the pedestal. I could easily mix a record on that little thing, because I know what it is telling me. I can hear the mids get "wobbled" by the sub that is not even remotely making a sound on that little thing... i can hear the cymbals "shake" when the kick drum is too much and the intermodulation distortion is just too much, so the mix feels swamped a bit by the LF info, though I am not really hearing much below 100Hz at best. Even how much the box shakes and how much the crappy metal grill screen thingies rattle is a very useful indicator for me, because I know what that means when I take the mix to mastering, or home, or on my ipod with the stock earbuds, or coming out of my laptop speakers, or wherever.
I also know NS10's because I have worked on them for over 15 years now as my main nearfields. In a way, it doesnt even matter how the NS10's sound, because if you know them, you are gathering useful information about presence, FX, harmonic balance, overall balance, width... all the stuff we would listen for on a "nice" sounding pair of speakers (which of course the NS10's are not).
My monitor choices are 100% based on how many hours/days/years I have logged on them tracking and mixing, coupled with durability concerns. My choices may not have anything to do with other people's choices, but they dont have to. They also dont need to wear my shoes...

If you know your speakers, really, really, really well... and you know your room, really really well: you can make it happen. It is only if you want clients to "get it" when they are in that room with you. I love mixing in a well tuned, professional room. I also love mixing in whatever room I am in, because I have done records that I LOVE the sound of them because the room "forced" a low end into the overall fingerprint of this particular record because I just kept reaching for low mids... The mastering guy was like "did you get some new monitors?" Funny. anyway, if you get a pair of good quality monitors, you need to just sit in front of them every chance you get listening to records that you like and have listened to in a million places... at the club, in the car, at home, on headphones... you know what I mean. The records that you KNOW inside and out.

Get listening!

Happy new year.

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Post by bannerj » Mon Dec 31, 2007 8:16 pm

Joel, yeah sure this is possible for someone who spends hours and hours making a living off of a pair of speakers but it sounds like this guy is just starting out. For the sake of the learning curve, I still say that if he has money to invest it should be on the best monitors he can afford. I spent my first couple grand that I saved up on a ua2108 and a great river mp-2nv and tried to learn from good preamps as a weekend warrior. I'm pretty sure that my learning curve would have been much quicker if I had better monitoring. However, your point that you can mix on anything that you know well is definitely true.

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Post by msmith » Mon Dec 31, 2007 8:32 pm

Oh yeah....You should invest in the best monitors that you can afford, and spend lots of time in front of them....Did someone else say that? ;)

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Post by bannerj » Mon Dec 31, 2007 8:46 pm

oops...sorry Joel. that is what I get for posting right before bed. Should have read a bit closer. peace

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Post by rwc » Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:07 pm

I've recorded and mixed in a few places. I have Thiel CS 3.6 speakers in my room, positioned in a triangle with about 6 feet between the speakers, then me.

I can do work anywhere, but I'm never finished until I evaluate it at home. Once I listen to it here, I have a few more criticisms, and when I've made changes at home, then it translates everywhere.

I'd say proper monitoring is very important. What you define as proper monitoring though is completely up to you, and depends from individual to individual.

I have many theories for why I work best with my home setup. The room isn't crazy acoustic treated, but it's not a clusterfuck like some of the cheap places I use. Maybe it's because they're stupidly accurate and go lower than lots of subs without being obnoxious.

I think it's a combination of all these things, but primarily the fact that I've been listening to my own record collection on them all the time. If I can't sleep and I'm up until 6 AM, I'm listening here low. During the day, a little louder if I'm home. When I get home from work, I relax to music. When I get home from the gym, I put on more music.

I know what everything sounds like on here, which is great.
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Post by kayagum » Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:02 am

I would start by reading the "Making A Room" topic on this board. Read as many posts as you can. Seriously. It's probably one of the best resources on acoustics on the internet that doesn't require a physics degree.

If you don't, you'll never understand the posts on this thread, like why you shouldn't bother getting a sub if your room isn't treated well. (Short answer: the sub will actually reinforce the very nulled frequencies that you're trying to cover, unless you have proper bass trapping).

Understanding this is WAY more important than "what brand should I buy?". Leave that to the marketing monkeys....

Welcome to the board- you're in the right place! Now start reading.... :D

(Disclosure: I've done some pretty picky audio restoration work with nothing more than a pair of Alesis Monitor Ones and a consumer Yamaha 10" sub that costed me $90.)
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Post by OM15.2 » Tue Jan 01, 2008 8:06 pm

wow, monitoring is bandied about like it's the new black or something.

but really. Really...

If you are a "studio" & you're recording other people then, sure it's kinda important.

on the other hand for people making their own music - get to know your instruments, your mics, your gear, and your speakers. If you know your setup really well, then after that, all fancy expensive monitoring is going to do is give you a better listening experience, but it won't help you make a better record.

And I would wager that all the extra stuff you open up in the sound spectum with super dooper monitoring is the exact same stuff that is never ever going to be heard by anyone listening to your final product, because they don't play it back with your great speakers.

A pair of decent headphones and a set of ok speakers will "make" a great record if there is a great record to be made.

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Post by micyourbrain » Tue Jan 01, 2008 8:30 pm

my adam A7s made a HUGE IMPROVEMENT in everything I was doing as an engineer. EVERYTHING. Mic choice and placement and mixing as well as knowing when to tweak the source and when the problem is elsewhere. Using EQ and compression helped a lot too

Getting good monitors early on will help you choose gear that sounds to your liking and being able to maximize getting great sounds

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