Most people who read my blogs and forum posts know that I’ve never been happy with my Mackie HR 824s even in my heavily bass trapped room. (I still wonder if I messed something up when I built them!) I’ve came close to selling the Mackie HR 824s several times. I came very close to buying a pair of Dynaudio B15s, too even though that upgrade would cost me a good $2k.
I’ve been working hard on writing my recording book, as some of you may already know. I came to the part where I was discussing various tips to improve the studio monitoring environment. At one point, I wrote that your favorite recordings shouldn’t sound too “hi fi” or mid scooped in your monitors or you mixes will come out sounding lo-fi / mid heavy. This is part of the “Inverse Theory”.
It occurred to me that:
My favorite recordings sound a tad too hi-fi / mid scooped for my tastes on my studio monitors
I once was able to get my Mackies to much more neutral (which most people would consider to be a “bad” thing, but is a great thing for studio monitors.
When I panned the sound of a mono instrument changed drastically from left to right
I was able to get my Mackies, which tend to be ultra hi-fi in the way I had them for the previous year, to highlight boomy, boxy, and unfocused portions of my mix. This is great. Beginners like to talk about the “detail” in a studio monitor, but what about the “obvious, BIG issues” like boominess and boxiness. Is your studio monitors illustrating this?
My Studio Monitoring Solution:
I placed my studio monitors on a cheap, plastic card table. Yes, you heard me. It’s a $30 card table I bought years ago and actually left outside for a month. I had to wash all the leaves and dirt off of it (in the bathtub….the woman was happy!!) I was using heavy duty speaker stands. Okay, they weren’t exactly “speaker stands”. They were stacked up cinder blocks! ($6 for 6 bricks seemed like a better solution than $150 for “professional” speaker stands.
My Previous Measurements
I had spent every eweekend for a month finding the spot in the room with the smoothest frequency response. However, I had made a HUGE mistake. I was using one speaker in one position for my tests. I’m confident that I found the smoothest part of the room, but I didn’t take into account that the other studio monitor would be setting in a another position that was far from ideal. When I panned a low frequency instrument’s mono track from side to side, the differences were enormous! The results weren’t what I had hoped for after all that measuring.
Throwing Out The Measurements
I said “Screw the measurements”. I decided that I would be better off finding a spot where my studio monitors sounded as close as possible. Instead of using a test microphone, I was going to simply pan mono tracks back and forth until I found what I wanted. I couldn’t imagine the phase cancellation and obvious soundstage issues of bass heavy instruments drifting to one side. It makes sense that if two studio monitors play back a mono signal in more or less the same way, they should be fairly accurate anyway. What are the odds that studio monitors would be equally destroyed by the room when 4′ from each other? It must be a good spot!
Using Symmetry Again
A fundamental of placing studio monitors it place them equadistant from the walls. In other words, the speakers should be centered in the room so that the each monitor is the same distance from it’s walls as the other speaker.
I ditched this concept last time when doing all my test measurements and I have a feeling it was the main reason for my problems when I turned off the measurement software and turned on the second studio monitor.
After placing my studio monitors on a card table and moving them to a location that used symmetry, the results were significant. I was able to hear WAY more in the low mids region. In fact, a guitar that I had recorded the day before in my previous recording location now sounded…..weird and crappy. I would not have went with the guitar tone / mic placement I did on my new monitor location. So that seems to say a lot right there.
The mixes I’ve done so far have turned out fairly well. Boxiness and boominess are not a problem at all! This is GREAT news! Now I’m mixing with too much kick drum, but I’m also allowing more bass guitar meat (which is something I’ve never really allowed myself to do in my previous locations).
I’m VERY happy with the way my mixes are translating at the moment. I’ll have to find a bass heavy spot in the room to tell me when I have too much low end, but other than that, I may not need to dump $2,500 on new studio monitors!