The Confidence of Accurate Studio Monitoring: Mackie HR 824s

Brandon Drury —  December 16, 2007

Like most people trying to make great sounding recordings at home, I’ve struggled with accurate studio monitoring since 2001. Each and every question I’ve asked myself during tracking and mixing is passed through a medium which has lied to me before. It’s hard to trust a liar so you simply throw up your hands and gamble. Every decision during tracking and mixing is sort of a hail mary. You pretend like your mixes are telling you the truth just to find yourself disappointed when listening on other stereos.

When I originally bought all my recording gear, I selected the Mackie HR 824s. At the time, just about everyone had something good to say about them. Fast forward 6 years later. You still find people here and there who love them, but I’d say that most of the fascination with the Mackie HR824 has moved on to some other “hip” new studio monitor. Because I knew that there were quite a few professionals who weren’t overly excited by the Mackie HR824s (but I knew some who were) I always wondered if they were the right monitor for me. Then again, I knew there were some great engineers still using the Mackie HR 824s.

The Breakthrough
About 3 weeks ago I had the huge breakthrough that allowed me, for the first time, to feel like I could trust my Mackies. It didn’t require any gear upgrades and in fact, the solution was sitting out in my yard covered in mud and leaves. (That’s another story!)

The Results
I did a mix about a week ago that is clearly the best mix in my life. Ironically, this was the “first draft” where I get lazy and don’t really try to over think anything. I simply got the drums to smack using some compression, got the bass guitar to work with the kick drum, and did very minor eq or effects elsewhere. I know the mix took me less than an hour. I don’t think I even used any automation.

When I played the mix on my computer speakers, I feel like I had succeeded. No, the recording isn’t 100% perfect, but for the first time in my life the decisions I made in the control room hold up when we listen elsewhere.. I 100% attribute that to my studio monitors being drastically more trustworthy.

Since every mix has sounded better and better with my more honest monitoring system, I’ve found that tracking is MUCH easier (most of the time). Instead of a link in the chain being a guessing game, I now know immediately if the tone is going to work on other systems.. That’s just one less thing I have to be unsure about. I kind of feel like that dude with the “male enhancement” drug. I’m always smiling. I feel like that hair club for men weuss who was insecure about his baldness and then got it fixed. (Yes, I am balding myself. No, it does not rank in my top 10,000 problems). I just feel confident now when I say “Yes, that guitar sound works”. This has lead to exponential increases in recording quality. I’m talking about the extra confidence I have in my studio monitoring.

Evidence Of More Accurate Monitoring
Yesterday I recorded bass tracks. The bass player was damn good and played a Schector bass which I LOVED. I kept hearing this boominess in the upper bass / lower mids. It was driving my crazy. It actually took me about 10 minutes to calm it down without killing the tone of the bass. I would have NEVER heard this in my previous setup. I’ve never had that hard of time calming the boominess of the bass guitar. Let me rephrase that.. I’ve never had a studio monitoring rig that would be up front and honest with me from the beginning that said “Brandon, we are friends and all, so I need to be the first person to tell you this. Your bass guitar tone is a little much in the 100Hz range.” In the past, my studio monitor situation was the friend that would pound my girlfriend that first chance he got. (That’s an odd picture) My old studio monitor situation would say “Brandon, it sounds good to me” even though he knew better. I’d have to wait for my home stereo friend to pull me aside and tell me about the problems after the fact.

Now that my studio monitors are illustrating problems up front, I’m able to make changes when I should. DURING TRACKING! The bass player knew exactly how hard he could dig in. If the tone got a little muddy, he knew to back down. We ended up doing quite a bit of tweaking on the bass itself to get it to sound right in the studio monitors. When I listen to that bass on my computer speakers, it sounds exactly like I wanted!

So, I just wanted to share my excitement of my improved studio monitoring situation. I wish I would have really taken the time to get my monitors right years ago. I probably wouldn’t be so bald, today!


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 and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

11 responses to The Confidence of Accurate Studio Monitoring: Mackie HR 824s

  1. Huh… what’s the break through?

  2. glad you got it sorted brandon. neoprene is a good thing to layer as iso speaker pads.

  3. I would have been alot better if you had let us into your secret of what you found out under the leaves which you claim is another story because what your artical fails to exicut is a punch line great lead up no punch line my only educated guess is that you have applied some form of acustic damping in the appropriate places. If this is indeed the case the illistrate that fact if its not then for god sake say what it is you have found instead of all the other nomal stuff that comes as a consequence of bad moniter positioning and inadiquate acustic treatment.

  4. ”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. ”

    This is the punch line that you should have left in this blog do you get to where im coming from we the reader are not where you are and so we are relying on you to reveal. there is nothing more frustrating when this dosent happen and we are fed the world its grand mother and the garden sink with no real answer insight.

  5. This article was not intended to discuss how to make your studio monitors accurate. It was designed to illustrate the benefits of accurate studio monitoring that I had never knew of before.

    If you are looking for the holy grail of accurate studio monitoring, it’s going to take more than a simple blog. With that said, I already wrote another blog telling how I did it. Again, this was more of a motivational blog than a “how to” blog.


  6. first, go back to elementary sentence structure classes found in grades 3 thru 8. then tackle acoustic engineering….

  7. Come on!! The guy was just trying to explain the importance of good studio monitors
    and you cut him up! However, I did get something else from the posts that followed the article…I have been a guitar player/engineer for 30+ years and wonder why none of my close friends are in the business and now I know why. The egos are over the top and just plain rude! Grow up, get over yourself, and learn to be a humble artist that can respect the ideas and success of others. Don’t worry those of you who are “legends in your own mind”, I won’t be back!

  8. Don’t worry those of you who are “legends in your own mind”, I won’t be back!

    That was an interesting post. I’m not sure who was getting slammed on it. Oh well. I hope you come back!

    I think most people aren’t in the business for too long because the hours are long and the pay is low. There is a reason that I run a recording website in addition to a recording studio.


  9. I’ve had the good fortune of using Tannoy Near Fields PB 6.5 for years when I occasionally do studio stuff.

    When I did my last recording in a small but powerful digital studio, i made the engineer take out the NSM 10′s -(the worst monitor ever), and put in the Tannoy’s, i was much happier with the results. My new problem playing in an acoustic band is getting the Acoustic Bass sounding right. While the rock stuff i did on the Tannoy’s were pretty good, I might need that extra sound on the bottom end for getting the best acoustic sound I can. Since I’m going to be doing a project this fall, we shall see if i can get my hands on these and put them to use.

    But if may be time to look at something like the Mackie’s, especially if they are essentially in the sub 500 range.

  10. I’ve got to admit to have been looking for the “punch line” as well. It would seem to me that accuracy of monitoring is a given necessity. If you can’t hear it – you can’t judge it. So, sitting here in my little project studio (with it’s Mackie HR824′s and Yamaha HS50M’s – I was hoping for something I hadn’t tried to improve accuracy. I got the Yamaha’s for the reason most studios still have NS10m’s around (to listen on a pair of crap speakers like most consumer’s use to see how accurate my mix might translate). It’s worked pretty well for me – but I don’t do this for a living. I’ve tracked some pretty good vocals and instruments in the attached live room that translated well to home stereos and auto stereo systems. I’d still like to know more about the acoustic downfalls of my tracking room and what I could do to improve it even more.

  11. Hey Kevin,

    I cover the concepts of control room acoustics in about as great as depth as I can in Killer Home Recording: Audio Engineering. Take a look.