Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

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Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by alexdingley » Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:12 pm

I’m kinda uncertain of my monitoring situation. So, among many potential solutions, I’m starting to wonder if getting new near-field monitors is a wise move. Here’s something about which I’ve often wondered (but never really asked anyone about)

As I look at social media posts by all sorts of recording/mixing studios, I often see the very same sets of standard NF monitors; lots of Focal / barefoot / still some genetics / those Neumann KH rebrands / tons of dynaudio... / unavoidable NS-10’s (and plenty of avantone/auratone small speakers)

But when I look at mastering houses, I see all of these esoteric (and preposterously expensive) towers and monoblock amps... and a mix of traditional hi-fi speakers... and very very few instances of ANY of the monitors that I typically see in tracking/mixing rooms.

Like MoreSpaceEcho - I see smaller B&W monitors (w/ subs, I think) on your homepage.

So I’m wondering:
Why are mastering studios so wildly all over the map, while tracking & mixing spaces seem to confirm to a narrower collection of monitoring rigs?

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by drumsound » Tue Jan 05, 2021 12:43 am

Part of the difference is in the room and gear in it. A mastering room doesn't have as much stuff in it, it doesn't need as much stuff in it. Then there's the job, it's to make all the tracks work together and to "triple check" frequency balance and possible issues. So A set of big, full range, detailed speakers tells you 'everything.'

The different speakers in a mix room are to simulate various end user systems. If the mix is working on those different systems, then you can feel you'll have decent translation. THEN you can feel good about sending it to an ME that can give it the final polish (or make a kind but difficult call suggesting that track number 3 might need a remix...)

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by vvv » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:08 am

May I also add, my impression is Mastering rooms are used by the same folks all the time who learn the gear and the room.

Recording and Mix rooms are often used by different folks, so there may be some attempt at familiarity between locations. And near field monitors by definition try to eliminate some of the effect of the room, itself.

Wearing both amateur hats on my stuff, I think of mixing as in part editing/adjusting the individual tracks and then combining/balancing them to get the best aggregate/mix.

I think of mastering as maximizing that aggregate mix.

In some ways, the mix monitors are used like a microscope. When mastering, the monitors are more or less used for the big picture. <--- This is likely a bad set of analogies, but it's mine. :twisted:
Last edited by vvv on Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by markjazzbassist » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:15 am

mixing/tracking studio has to buy a ton of other gear like instruments, amps, microphones, etc. mastering studio its nowadays a computer, 4 pieces of nice outboard (exaggeration) and big ass monitors. i would wager it's the biggest expense (other than building the actual studio) for a mastering studio. i see it as a difference of monetary allotment.

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:39 am

alexdingley wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:12 pm
Why are mastering studios so wildly all over the map, while tracking & mixing spaces seem to confirm to a narrower collection of monitoring rigs?
We're not really THAT much all over the map, there's maybe a half dozen common mastering speakers...ATC, PMC, kii, B+W, Dunlavy, Tyler...those seem to be the ones you see most often.

When I was looking for mastering monitors way back when, I knew I didn't want whatever the flavor of the week was (that week it was ADAM), I wanted something that experienced pros had been using for a long time. Looking around, I saw lots of B+W 802's (the big ones). I couldn't afford those, and even if I could've, I'm not sure I want speakers I can't move by myself, so I got the little 805's and added stereo subs. It'll be 15 years this year and I've no plans to change them.

Main difference in mix vs mastering rooms is that a good mastering room is gonna have way more treatment and be much flatter than a mix room. It's just a more accurate environment in every way. And the room makes all the difference. Crappy speakers in a great room? You can still get good results, no problem. Amazing speakers in a terrible room? Essentially useless.

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by alexdingley » Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:16 am

Good insights, all around, (...even vvv! :wink: )

I guess this all started because of the differences in my old room vs new room. My old room (a heavily dampened Cape Cod house attic, knee-walls and a 7' ceiling) seemed to give my Hafler TRM-8's an apparent bass-extension that the new room doesn't. My new room, a 13' x 16' x 8' square-ish bedroom with adjacent rooms on two sides seems to have robbed me of that familiar "thump"... even after fiddling with the 'Treble/bass' dip-switches on the back of the haflers.

I suppose one of the answers, at the end of the day, is that I gotta figure out what's wrong with (and potentially fix the sonics in) my room — which is a bummer, as I know that the room I'm in now is temporary. I've got everything set up in a bedroom (until I can gut & refinish either a portion of the basement or the whole garage), so I need to figure out what I can do in a temporary / non-damaging-to-the-walls sorta way to get my room to be more trustworthy.

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Jan 05, 2021 12:25 pm

There's lots you can do. To start with, where are your monitors? You're probably going to get the best results with them as close to the front wall as you can get them. I mean like an inch.

Do you have any treatment in there now?

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by Recycled_Brains » Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:35 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 12:25 pm
You're probably going to get the best results with them as close to the front wall as you can get them. I mean like an inch.
This is real shit. I did it a few months ago... almost touching the front wall. I basically put them as close as I could without bending the IEC's coming out of the backs of my speakers too much. Made a pretty remarkable difference in terms of hearing the low frequency stuff. My room is super dead too. It's small, so I covered it with 703 panels.
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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by drumsound » Tue Jan 05, 2021 5:00 pm

alexdingley wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:16 am
Good insights, all around, (...even vvv! :wink: )

I guess this all started because of the differences in my old room vs new room. My old room (a heavily dampened Cape Cod house attic, knee-walls and a 7' ceiling) seemed to give my Hafler TRM-8's an apparent bass-extension that the new room doesn't. My new room, a 13' x 16' x 8' square-ish bedroom with adjacent rooms on two sides seems to have robbed me of that familiar "thump"... even after fiddling with the 'Treble/bass' dip-switches on the back of the haflers.

I suppose one of the answers, at the end of the day, is that I gotta figure out what's wrong with (and potentially fix the sonics in) my room — which is a bummer, as I know that the room I'm in now is temporary. I've got everything set up in a bedroom (until I can gut & refinish either a portion of the basement or the whole garage), so I need to figure out what I can do in a temporary / non-damaging-to-the-walls sorta way to get my room to be more trustworthy.
Sounds like bass trapping is what you need. The bass is probably bouncing around and canceling, where, in your last room it might have been ringing, or it was treated and big enough to hear what was happening.

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by digitaldrummer » Wed Jan 06, 2021 6:37 am

I built "superchunk" style absorbers for my studio relatively cheaply. They can also be made portable so you can take them with you. Find rigid fiberglass (OC703 or Johns Manville--which I've even seen at Lowe's). Get the 2'x4'x2" size. Get one of the electric knives (like you'd slice Turkey with - $10 or $15 at Walmart). Cut the sheets in half so you have 2'x2' squares. Now cut them diagonally so you have a bunch of triangles. Spray some 3M adhesive spray on one and stack another on top. Do this until you get a block that is about a foot tall (or whatever you think is portable). Now cover that chunk with fabric (use the adhesive spray again). If you want to do it properly you should use a flame retardant cloth. I'm cheap so I used bed sheets from Walmart (which was cheaper than bulk fabric, LOL). Then stack as many of these superchunks in the corners and if you want, cover them with another sheet or fabric. I never felt like there was glass fibers floating around (of course do the cutting outdoors) and they work.
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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by losthighway » Wed Jan 06, 2021 6:59 am

digitaldrummer wrote:
Wed Jan 06, 2021 6:37 am
I built "superchunk" style absorbers for my studio relatively cheaply. They can also be made portable so you can take them with you. Find rigid fiberglass (OC703 or Johns Manville--which I've even seen at Lowe's). Get the 2'x4'x2" size. Get one of the electric knives (like you'd slice Turkey with - $10 or $15 at Walmart). Cut the sheets in half so you have 2'x2' squares. Now cut them diagonally so you have a bunch of triangles. Spray some 3M adhesive spray on one and stack another on top. Do this until you get a block that is about a foot tall (or whatever you think is portable). Now cover that chunk with fabric (use the adhesive spray again). If you want to do it properly you should use a flame retardant cloth. I'm cheap so I used bed sheets from Walmart (which was cheaper than bulk fabric, LOL). Then stack as many of these superchunks in the corners and if you want, cover them with another sheet or fabric. I never felt like there was glass fibers floating around (of course do the cutting outdoors) and they work.
Superchunk is a classic.

In my control room I stacked typical rolls of insulation. Put in some basic framing some measurement, a few feet out on either wall. Then mounted a double layer of 2" 703 in front of the stack. Then stretched fabric on to the one by's I used as a frame in the corner.

I still ended up wanting another level of control in the corners so I later built two stands with floor to ceiling 703 4" deep. I'm sure a studio designer would laugh at the continual additions as opposed to a scientific design from the start, but everyone's got a budget!

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by digitaldrummer » Wed Jan 06, 2021 7:31 am

yes, the walls in my studio are 10ft (with a vaulted ceiling that goes to 15), so I have 10ft of superchunks stacked in each of the 4 corners. and I also stretched fabric across the corners (to hide any messiness) - basically wrapped the fabric around a 1x2 and stretched it to another of the same and then screwed it to the wall. In this picture I think I only had about 8 or 9 feet but I eventually put it all the way up.
superchunk.JPG
superchunk.JPG (87.97 KiB) Viewed 767 times
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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by alexdingley » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:24 am

Okay... busy week, so I'm just getting back to the forums here, and thanks-all! for the suggestions and questions/insights. Here's the current music room layout:

Image

The beige burlap panels are full of a white fiberglass "703"-esque insulation, and the Auralex is just mounted to a panel of hardboard — none of this is done in anything other than a basic-guesstimate fashion. As a new dad, who just moved into a new house (right before having our baby) I haven't had the luxury of any A/B time to really listen to the room.


The speakers' backs are about 14" off the wall. I do have some speaker stands, and the desk's speaker shelves are easily removable... so maybe I should get the near-fields off the desk and onto some stands?
Image

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Fri Jan 08, 2021 9:09 am

Yeah try putting the speakers on stands right up against the wall. I can almost guarantee that will help.

Congrats on the baby!

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Re: Differences in monitoring: mix rooms vs mastering suites

Post by digitaldrummer » Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:16 am

and I still say super chunks won't hurt. You can get something fancy like this -- https://www.acousticsciences.com/produc ... l-tubetrap but that's pretty pricey (especially with kids, right?). Lowe's carries Rockwool (and it's not fiberglass!) and I thought some of it was rigid like OC703 (otherwise you'll need a frame) and I think you could probably do a corner for around $100 ea?
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