Non-"monitor" monitors?

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Non-"monitor" monitors?

Post by takeout » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:38 am

Those of you who've looked outside the "studio monitor!!11~!" manufacturers for your speaker needs:

- How does one pick through all the information on all the brands to even select potential candidates? Is there a good spot from which to start? I checked out Audiogon, but you have to kinda already know what you like and what each brand is known for to even use that site.

- What did you go with and why? I have a small control room in my basement (13' x 13', although the back "wall" of that space is open to the rest). Figure on a 5'-6' triangle for placement/listening position.

- Do you employ a sub?

"Monitor" monitors get a lot of discussion here; lay it on me regarding some alternative options.

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Post by joel hamilton » Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:09 pm

Going outside of a norm is usually such a personal decision based on years of experience that i dont even know how anyone could try to help you here...

It is totally a valid line of research, but I think one that must be dealt with alone. OR, just get a pair of monitors and learn those. Without a reference point of your very own, NOTHING means anything when you sit down in front of some other pair of speakers. Bassy? compared to what? bright? compared to what. This is all subjective, an I dont mean in an editorial sense, I mean in the relative to your own experinces sense, bright will mean something to you that it maybe does not mean to me and so on and so forth. Establish a benchmark for yourself, then hunt for something as an informed engineer with a specific purpose.

Th last thing I personally would want would be an opinion based on consensus. I like to form my own, then blab at people about what I have found over the years.. ;)

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Post by 8th_note » Wed Apr 02, 2008 3:24 pm

When I originally set up my monitoring system I borrowed my daughter's Polk 5 Jr speakers and used those for a while. When it came time to buy a set of "studio monitors" I listened to several candidates in the $500 to $700 (pair) price range and didn't find any that I liked.

I've been an audiophile for a long time and I subscribe to Stereophile magazine. They do a more thorough job than anyone I know of when it comes to reviewing speakers. They gave an excellent review to Polk Rti 38 bookshelf speakers and those were the ones I got. They are detailed and accurate which are the two most important qualities in my mind.

If you are interested in consumer speakers as monitors the audiophile press is a good place to get recommendations. The Stereophile web site gives a number of reviews of bookshelf speakers. Two brands that have consistently received excellent reviews over the last several years are Polk and Infinity. The Infinity Primus 162 is only about $300 a pair and is much better engineered, I suspect, than most "monitors" that cost up to 2 or 3 times as much.

Another legendary line of bookshelf speakers is made by NHT. They sound absolutely terrific for the money.

I added a 10" Mirage sub to my system last year and it completed the circuit. I was having trouble with the bass in my mixes translating to other systems and the sub solved the problem. I am very happy with my monitoring system and it's one part of my chain that I don't have any desire to upgrade.

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Post by lancebug » Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:33 pm

Personally I love the general idea of this topic. Its sort of a duct tape type discussion: what product performs best when used for other than its intended application? I have had cheap speakers that where really ideosyncratic but still somehow made sense, like the $20 set of 25 year old Altecs that I have hooked up to the tv. However, I have also tried to make mixes on cheap speakers that were unintelligible no matter how much stuff I listened to through them. I suspect that for cheap speakers, things without a lot of artificially hyped low end might be more "learnable". The Altecs I mentioned above don't really have a ton of high or low end, which somehow seems to be workable. Also, like many people have had good experiences with the Minimus 7 (although mine are branded Teac LX-something) and these don't have anything below 100hz. This might be pushing the envelope but my favorite home monitors/speakers are a pair of RogersLS3/5A's, which are sort of monitors anyway. I would love to hear what other cheapie home speakers paint some type of intelligible picture of a mix.

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Post by EnzoPolotso » Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:35 pm

take a look at speakers from
the cbm-170s would probably fit, but of course it's a personal choice. they're very honest speakers, and the price is right too.

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Post by linus » Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:41 pm

B&W Matrix 805s and more recently the B&W Natilus 805s get a lot of love as studio "monitors" although they are bookshelf speakers. They aren't cheap though. Plan on 600 for a pair of Matrix and 1300 for a pair of Nautilus (used prices).

But like all other things, some people find them too bright.

Are there any stereo speakers you absolutely love? That might be a place to start. Do you have an amp to drive them? That's an important part of the equation too.

I LOVE the advice about the Stereophile reviews. I bought a stereo system based on their reviews years ago and felt like they steered me right.
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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:35 pm

Most speakers that have a "MONITOR" sticker on the side leave me wanting.

I'm firmly in the audiophile loudspeaker camp. Lots of more "entry-level audiophile" stuff is a fine and inexpensive choice also -- B&W DM602S3's are fantastic for mixing, the Matrix 805's as mentioned (although the Nautilus 805's pretty much put the smack down on the M's, IMO)... There are plenty of speakers out there that are better sounding, more consistent and more accurate than most of the "budget-friendly" boxes out there that say "monitor" on them.

Heck, if they still make them, try a set of JBL S38's... I did some the best mixes I've ever done on a pair of those things. I think they were on sale for $300 - a pair - new. Plugged an old Bryston into them and they were great. A little "dull" - but very consistent and didn't mind being slightly abused.

If you have the space, don't look past floor-standers either... B&W 605's... Another big winner in the reasonably-priced but really good sounding speaker collection.
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Post by Ken_M » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:42 pm

Hey guys.

I use a pair of JMLabs Electra 906's with a Hafler amp.. I forget the model #, sorry.

Hey John... what happened to those Wharfedales you were using once?

-on a side note just realized it took me a year to post something, hahaha.-

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Post by Professor » Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:53 pm

B&W 602s were my monitor speaker for a long time. Sure it helped that I worked at a hifi shop and could get them at cost, but I still stand by them as some of the best bang-for-buck speakers, and their sound is way beyond the "studio monitors" for sale at the average guitar/drum shop.
I'll say that the marketing guys and the Banjo-marts have done a fantastic job at convincing people that anything labelled 'monitor' and sold with a built-in amp must be somehow superior to all other things on the market. But if you go to the big commercial studios you'll tend to see that while they may have a set of near-fields that look like that, the large mains that really are "studio monitors" are considerably different. And for that matter, just check out the websites of maybe PMC, Quested, Genelec, Dynaudio, etc. The speakers they sell start to look a little different from the music store variety.

But as for finding the right speaker for you, I have a fool-proof method that I've recommended over and over again.

First, look through your phone book and find some local high-end hifi shops. Hopefully you can track down more than one in your area, and consider making some longer drives if needed.
Visit a couple stores with some favorite recordings in hand. But not just CDs where you like the music, make sure they are CDs that are well recorded so you really like the sound. Bring stuff that will stretch a system with highs, lows, fast stuff, slow stuff, thin & dense. I have a disc with about 9 tracks on it that includes some orchestral stuff as well as rock stuff including a movement from Michael Daugherty's 'Metropolis Symphony', and old RCA recording of a Ravel piece, a Keiko Abe Marimba & Percussion Ensemble track, some Tool, Fiona Apple, Rush, etc. It's all stuff that really shows off strengths & weaknesses.
Close your eyes to the price tags, sizes, etc. and just listen to all of the speakers you can put in front of your ears. Listen for how they image, how they deliver the sounds you brought, how they perform at low levels, and how they make you feel.
Switch stores and repeat.
And find the best sounding speaker for your personal listening tastes. It might cost $200 a pair, or maybe $20,000 a pair, but at least now you know what is possible, and what you like to hear.
Listen to that speaker some more, get the sound into your head.
Then go back around to the various stores listening again to the speakers in your price range to see which one gets you the closest to that experience. If the one you loved only cost $500 a pair, and you'd planned on $1k then lucky you. If the one you loved cost $50k, then that's a bummer, and the $500 a pair sets probably won't get there, but when you find the one that gets you closest, you'll really know that you have found the best speaker for your tastes and your money.

If you have an audio buddy to share the ride, this is a really fun all-day saturday kind of adventure. I went with a friend to do this in Seattle last summer so he could find a surround system, and we both ended up falling for these little bookshelf speakers from Mordaunt Short. I didn't even really plan on getting more speakers for the studio, but sure enough a pair of them went into the car that day, and the little $400 a pair set are sitting next to the $2500 a pair JBL LSR 28p small monitors and the roughly $10k set of JBL + Bryston mains.

Happy Listening.


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Post by analogcabin » Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:36 am

I bought a pair of AR 18S bookshelf speakers in the early 80's. I've listen to them basically my whole life. I looked at "studio monitors" for my place many years ago (and even bought a couple pairs). But at the end of the day, I always final checked everything on my AR's.

So long story short, I get predictable results because I'm totally acclimated to my speakers.


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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:03 pm

Ken_M wrote:Hey John... what happened to those Wharfedales you were using once?
Eh, sold 'em off a while back around the time I moved into the new space. Great speakers though... I wound up going through a bunch of different small sets before finally settling on B&W CDM1se's... Almost wish I would've just kept the Wharfies...
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Post by xhavepatiencex » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:22 pm

I have never been one to buy into the "monitor" hype. My father is a speaker builder and I grew up around great speakers. Most companies selling "monitors" don't even post a frequency response graph and only some even post a -/+ on the frequency response, that doesn't seem good to me. Right now I am using an older pair of speakers my father had build using focal drivers that I bought off him while he was building himself a new pair. Very honest in the mid range which I am learning to love and hate at the same time.

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Post by kayagum » Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:23 am

Monitors/speakers are tools only, neither good nor bad. Since no speaker or listening room is truly flat, you will need to learn the quirks/characteristics of anything you listen to, and how that would translate to other speakers, good or bad.

Speakers for enjoyment? Then get the quirks/characteristics you like. Simple! :D

(Disclosure: I still use Monitor Ones with a Yamaha sub, which translates great for my sound design work. AKG 240 for headphones. For enjoyment? My dad's original AR-3a speakers from the early 70s!)
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Post by xSALx » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:38 am

Truthfully, I have not listened to too many pairs of "monitors" for extended period of time. I've had experience with a couple models from Event as well as the Mackies 824s. I always felt like I was sitting in the dentist's office.

As for consumer stuff, I've mixed on JBL control 1+ (I highly recommend these little speakers and their cheap, really cheap), NHT Classic Three (blew the mids and tweeters :cry: :cry: :cry: ) which I bought on recommendation from Stereophile like many others here have done similarly, and I luckily got the NHTs at cost through my dad's dealership, but I think I would have bought these anyway. And now I'm mixing on a pair of Snell QBx speakers. Each definitely has their own flavor. But my favorite are the Classic Three. From bright to dark: Snell (don't go below 150hz) way hyped at 8k, JBL (100 hz) nice all around, and NHTs have great low and midrange definition.

But like someone mentioned the amp a big part of the equation. Right now I'm using an old Technics SA-616 receiver, my vintage Luxman L-100 has a dead channel :cry:, but sounds amazing with the Classic Three. But not so good with the Technics even though it's a class A amp.

Damn! I'm just having a hard time with my monitoring stuff.'s a matter of taste in the end as the countless before me have mentioned. I second the Professor's advice of going one weekend to hi-fi stores and checking stuff out. It will be fun and you'll get an idea of what's out there. I luckily got the NHTs at cost through my dad's dealership, but I think I would have bought these any
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Post by xusr » Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:26 am

This is precisely the thread that I almost just started...

I'm in sort of a weird place. A recent grad, I worked in the school of music's recording studio all four years and got pretty comfortable with the Focal Twin6 Be's. My current home setup leaves a lot to be desired (especially when I remember the focals...) and am really wanting to upgrade, but I'm not certain of where to start. The speakers/monitors will work double-duty as both monitors and main speakers. I'm starting grad school next year, so money is pretty tight (read=450 tops).

Don't you love where this is going? :roll:

I just thought I'd throw out a couple of options and see what people think:

#1. Get a pair of cheap studio monitors.

#2. Get a used NAD receiver and a pair of Axiom m3Ti's, Paradigm Minis, or (hmm...) Infinity 162s.

#3. I just heard about Audioengine (from Stereophile) and they look pretty decent...anyone have any input on these?

I know that I'm not going to get *great* sound for 400-450, but I want to get the best I can. Any thoughts would be great!

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