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Budget Studio Monitors: Any Luck?

Brandon Drury —  March 16, 2008

I’ve been loading up on products for the new review section here at Recording Review. I was surprised to see just how many low budget monitors have hit the market recently. There are WAY more budget studio monitors out there by Mackie, Tascam, Yamaha, KRK, and all the big boy names you usually associate with studio monitoring.

While it makes sense that the budget studio monitor market is so profitable, I’ve got bigger aims.

Does anyone out there who owns a set of budget studio monitors (let’s just say in the $500 and under category) feel confident that their mixes will will translate well to the outside world?

Respond to my thread here:
Budget Studio Monitors: Do They Work?

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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22 responses to Budget Studio Monitors: Any Luck?

  1. Yeah, we got some Alesis MK II monitors that are pretty excellent.Got them from Muscicians Friend.

  2. tannoy reaveals all you need!! but a spectrum anilyser and 32 band graphic eq is also essentail pinking the room properly is more important than spending a huge amount on monators ive used NS10′s too but they are to harsh to listen to over a long time

  3. I own Behringer Truth monitors, most anyone who knows anything about Recording arent fans of Behringer….but I love my monitors. For just over 300 for the pair it’s a steal. I feel pretty confident about my mixes translating, all of the mixes that I’ve posted in the review section have been mixed on these 300 dollar monitors.

  4. No wonder your mixes sound like a cat in a dustbin

  5. I also use the Behringer Truths and really like them. I have had my set for almost 5 years now. Perhaps I will get around to posting some mixes soon.
    I must confess I personally know of no final mixes done with ‘budget ‘ monitors. I will ask around though.

  6. I just got a pair of Mackie MR5′s that work for me. Much better than my computer speakers!

  7. I own some Behringer Truth monitors too. The specs looked nice. Flat response, bi amped, good range… However, I find that they have an odd sort of bass sound. They are bright and crisp and powerful for their size, but I wonder if they need a sub as well to sound right. Just doesn’t sound warm at all, a bit under water or pressurized sounding on the low end. Very cheap though. Entry level. Under au$600… Still love them, but I always test mixes through the monitors, headphones, and then the hi-fi to get a better idea of what it will actually sound like… hmmm… :/

  8. I personally have not had a problem with monitors, more with badly tuned rooms. There are some expensive studios that I’ve worked at where the room and monitoring equipment is so badly positioned that I’ve ended up with bass heavy mixes. On the other hand – I’ve been working on my home system that I’ve known ever since I was a teenager and have had mixes translate wonderfully. I recently upgraded my speakers with Alesis passive monitors and added a little more detail overall, otherwise no huge difference. I think you need to treat your room acoustically and do ultimate monitoring position, two things that are more important than the price of your monitors.

  9. I own M-Audio BX5A monitors, and have been very pleased with the mixing results. As you probably know, they are approx. $300 a pair. Great bargain

  10. I’ve used the Truths for a very long time. They’re not as detailed as comparable monitors, especially in the lower end. But I have to say that they sound good, and they’re loud.

    I’d say avoid M-Audios. They’re uninspired and uninspiring.

    I own a pair of KRK Rokits now, and I’m very happy with them. They’re clear, wide, and a pleasure to listen to. Just wanted to cast my vote. I’ve read that the VXTs are even better.

  11. I kinda like Tannoy Reveals for recording voice over.
    For whatever reason they’re in a few different studios out here, and they aren’t too shabby.

  12. Monitors of any value are always a listeners thing. In reality, if you can mix on a set of speakers, even pa speakers and then listen to the mix on a boombox, a car stereo, a computer , headphones, etc – and get to know how true are your mixing speakers – you can begin to recognize and work with them. For example – if you mix with pa subs and pa mains = more then likely you will have a heavy bass mix on other speakers. Reason why – pa speakers can handle more low ends and not sound over done. With this in mind – you can make your adjustments and not over do it the next time. This can go on and on but eventually you will get to know how to work around it. So in conclusion – any monitors are good if you get to know where they lack and where they shine and adjust your ears and mixes to that.

  13. Having used a bunch of budget monitors I realise that after you’ve paid for 5 sets of shitty pairs you could have bought 1 pair ONCE – a pro pair like Genelec 8040A.
    Buy Stuff Once.

  14. Rant mode: ON

    Personally, I think it’s all a bunch of hooey, Genelecs on down the line. I think we’ve all been duped. These are all supposed to be “reference monitors”, right? Analogous to a calibration microphone, an “acoustical coupling measuring device”, if you like. Supposedly with no coloration, not favoring one frequency over another so one can get at the “unbiased sonic truth” of things. But not one of these speakers is anywhere near “ruler flat”. It’s all semantics and marketing. If they’re not flat, if they’re not sonically accurate, then what makes these so-called reference monitors any different than any other [decent] consumer speaker where subjectivity is the name of the game? (i.e., “I like this one, I like that one. This one seems to translate well.” etc.) Why not just go out and buy whatever you like, then run everything through an EQ to suit your personal subjective taste? I’m sorry, but I don’t see the difference. On top of everything, you throw crossovers and the enormous effects of your room (near-field or not) into the mix, and what semblance could there possibly be of an accurate reference?

    One person in this blog/thread pretty much nailed it. First, you need to minimize your room’s standing waves and reflections any way you can (there are easy ways to determine what your standing wave frequencies are based on your room dimensions). Then you need to place a calibration microphone ($50-$100) in the sweet spot and “pink the room” using a pink noise generator and an RTA (Real Time Analyzer). (Allen & Heath sells a simple software third-octave RTA for about $20 that works just fine.) Then you need to compensate for what the room and the speakers (and crossovers) are doing to your sound by using maybe a third-octave EQ. Or, another real simple yet effective way to do this, though not terribly cheap (yet cheaper than some monitors), is by using IK Multimedia’s ARC (Acoustic Room Correction) plugin ($600), which is awesome. (I’m not a dealer.) It very effectively eliminates the unwanted effects of your speakers, your speaker’s crossovers, and the room itself, not to mention correcting for phase distortions.

    Until you address these basics, you’ll have to just accept the fact that your sound – your sonic point of reference – is colored, affected, biased, subjective. In other words, certain loud resonant frequencies will be masking their quieter neighboring frequencies and you won’t be getting an accurate representation of what’s going on. It’s already hard enough trying to mix and master knowing what the average person is going to do to your music by playing it on every kind of speaker in every kind of room (or car) imaginable. If you think your “reference monitors” (in your room) are telling you the truth, try measuring them sometime. You’ll be shocked.

  15. Yeah S.M.
    I agree with most of that. If your room isn’t “flattened” the quality speakers are a bit pointless. Like putting and evening gown on a donkey? But really, the little monitors are better than my hi-fi, and I don’t regret the bargain. At least I can’t hear them distort up loud. After all, it is a little home studio, and trusting our ears is better than any “data” specs anyway. After comparing headphones, and other sound systems, I’ve put an eq compensation on the monitors now, and padding underneath them to stop the desk vibrating, and they’re fine. Maybe not professional quality, whatever that means, but I’m getting balanced mixes now.

  16. But not one of these speakers is anywhere near “ruler flat”.

    You didn’t define what “these speakers” are but have you taken a measurement of them in an anechoic chamber? It seems like this is a generalized, blanket statement and I would need further evidence before accepting it as fact.

    you need to compensate for what the room and the speakers (and crossovers) are doing to your sound by using maybe a third-octave EQ.

    This is bad advice in my opinion. EQ can not solve room mode problem. Let’s just say that we have a dip @ 80Hz. This dip is 15dB. Are you saying that it is wise to boost 15dB? You are sending a tremendous amount of power to your studio monitors.

    To make matters worse, this 15dB will only exist in one position. Move over a foot or two and the dip is gone. Then you have a 15dB boost from your EQ.

    Room problems should be solved by the room. There appears to be only one professional acoustics big boy who uses EQ on monitors and most of the other big boys think he is crazy.

    IK Multimedia’s ARC (Acoustic Room Correction) plugin ($600), which is awesome. (I’m not a dealer.) It very effectively eliminates the unwanted effects of your speakers, your speaker’s crossovers, and the room itself

    Again, it is 100% impossible to correct standing waves with a plugin. It can not be done. When physics creates a 5, 10, or 20dB “hole” you can’t just use a plugin to fill it. You either need to address the problem causing the hole your need to use raw power to overcome the hole.

    So the plugin may reduce the apparent effect of the room in only one specific location in that room, but there is no way in hell that it does anything to deal with standing waves. That would be like making an anti-gravity plugin that made you float. We aren’t there yet.

    Brandon

  17. Heh. I’m new here and trying to find the right ref. monitor for my home studio. I totally dig the conversation. Thanks dudes. Right now it looks like I’m going with the KRK Rp 8′s.

  18. My take on the issue…..

    After spending many years in major studios with the finest monitoring situations money can buy, I have found that the easiest way to mix a project on my little Behringer Truth monitors at home is to simply get about 4 or 5 “monster” mixes that I really respect from major-studio projects, and then begin a series of A-B comparisons with my mixes I am trying to do on my speakers.

    I can quickly see where my Truths are coloring or missing something and make appropriate adjustments. Then when I play my final mixes on a virety of other speakers and monitors, I find that they sit right in the “pocket.”

    Probably not too scientific, but it works for me.

    All of the above said, I agree that the room problems need to be eliminated to whatever extent your budget will allow.

    By the way, I worked for many years with Gary S. Paxton in Nashville, and you wouldn’t believe some of the crap he mixed his many hit songs on.

  19. Gary S. Paxton…of Monster Mash fame? Cool. I believe he also wrote a couple of Christian music “hits” in the seventies also.

  20. I dont have studio monitors – instead i have Soundstick II. an awesome subwoofer, and two satellites. The sound is really really great. My mixes all come out great, I can hear every nuance :) 150 bucks too! say what you want but these speakers are really kickass

  21. I recently added Yamaha MS50′s to counterbalance my Truth monitors. (I agree they can be a bit aggressive on the bottom end) I bought a Presonus Central Station for the switching which has been a real Godsend when mixing. For a bit extra you can get the remote to sit on your desk, very handy.
    I agree with Brandon also. Do your best to fix the room. The room equalizer plug-ins are cool and there are several out there now but every pro studio I was ever in treated the room. Trying to compensate for a frequency dip by boosting said frequency is just asking for trouble.

  22. I’m a bit perturbed now… I’ve been trying to mix a demo for some friends, and I cannot find a playback system that is representative of the true sound of the recording. The Behringer truth monitors make the treble sound harsh, and the sub-bass disappear, the headphones are beautifully warm, and crisp, but I can’t seem to find a comfortable medium. So, I sent off the demo to the band, and they seem happy, but unimpressed despite my best efforts at making their takes sound better. It seems the 3khz treble is too loud/harsh, but the overall mix is too flat. I am an amatuer, but still, I know what I want to hear, I just can’t seem to find the happy medium of balanced sound I like.
    I was defending the BHtruth monitors earlier, but now I have to wonder if it is me, or the speakers…

    *sigh*

    Advice appreciated, thanks…
    R