In an attempt to find issues that maybe aren’t quite so obvious on one set of monitors, I’m often asked if it’s a good idea to purchase multiple monitors/speakers/stereos and then use a switch gadget to switch between them. These “switch gadgets” range from A/V switches using RCA cables you can find at Walmart to much more expensive items like the Presonus Central Station or the Dangerous Audio Monitor ST-SR. Ultimately, the aim is to identify problems immediately, fix them, and save time by finding flaws before a person bothers rendering a mix, burning a cd, and moving to physically different locations to listen.
I want to make it clear that I’m coming from the attitude of a person who trusts his studio monitors. If I had to bet money on a mix translating, I would do it. This is a luxury I’ve only had with my Focal monitors which I purchased last October. If you aren’t in this position, my views may be slightly skewed. However, just keep in mind that if you aren’t willing to bet money on your mixes translating, you are missing out on the single most important requirement for maxing out your recordings. PERIOD.
I have a few random thoughts on this and I’m just going to list them here:
- This is not a bad idea, but I’ve found having one set of monitors I REALLY trust is exponentially more beneficial than listening on multiple stereos which I do not trust. This is kind of the difference between having one honest wife or 4 lying girlfriends.
- It actually takes discipline to pull this off. What happens when a guitar sound is great in one set of speakers and not-so-great in another set? If a sound is absolutely perfect in one set of speakers, do you go ahead and tear it up and “compromise” so that it only sounds really good in both speakers?
- I’ve been in this position and ended up getting lazy, and decided not to ruin my “great” sound. It was the wrong decision as the not-so-great sound is the one that I heard pretty much everywhere else.
To pull this off properly, just using two, three, or ten different audio systems isn’t an automatic life saver. These stereos must be able to expose specific flaws. For example, the only flaw in my current Focal monitoring system is sibilance is tamed a hair more than I’d like. When I switch to my Audio Technica ATH-M50s studio monitor headphones, I hear this sibilance loud and clear….assuming I didn’t catch it on the Focal monitors. If another set of monitors didn’t expose this sibilance, I’m not sure what benefit they would be.
- Just randomly listening on different stereos has a certain benefit, but only if you really, really, know these stereos inside and out. To listen in some random car is 100% useless in my opinion as we’ve all been in cars where it was obvious the guy driving was both deaf and blind.
- If you’ve never moved your monitors to a totally different room, you are probably dramatically underestimating the power the room has on the monitors. Moving a stereo from your bedroom to your recording room may turn your lion into a turtle or your snot rag into a tiger. Be prepared for a transformation.
- There needs to be a boss and a subordinate in terms of your monitoring systems. If you have two “leaders” butting heads, you’ll run into the discipline problem mentioned above. I think it’s best to have one set trusted set of monitors you listen to 99% of the time. You test it on another system just to find flaws, but immediately after addressing it you’ve got to go back to the main monitors again.
- There’s a point when the flaws of democracy kick in. In other words, maybe one monitor tells you one thing, another monitor tells you another, and another monitor tells you another. While you want to keep all three happy enough not to revolt, I don’t think you are ever going to make all three monitors 100% happy. This is the other side to the mix translation thing. You want to spend your time making a bad ass, exciting mix. You definitely do not want to spend all your time playing the “Make All Your Monitors” happy game. There are times when trying to make three monitors happy actually makes the final mix worse. Not always, but sometimes.