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Need Mastering Opinion on Inexpensive Passive vs. Active Monitors
Old 14th January 2007
  #1
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Need Mastering Opinion on Inexpensive Passive vs. Active Monitors

Please go to the last paragraph, if you want to skip the background.

I know this probably doesn't belong here, but this is where some (most?) of the smart people in this area are. I'm setting up a semi-temporary home project studio/listening room for recording (overdubs), (rough) mixing and demo (no-budget) mastering. Most of the work I'm doing these days is on location or in other studios, but I need to be able to extend that work to my home.

I need monitors! So far, I'm trying to limit my budget to $750 - $1000. I've been working on headphones at home, though I have NS10m's and Klipsch KG4's that I haven't set back up since we moved a year ago. Over the holiday I scored 3 Marantz monoblock amps from my brother-in-law who is in the high end home theater business - 2 MA6100's and an MA500 (older model/same thing) for 20 bucks each!

I was pretty well set on getting ADAM A7's (active). I had originally thought I'd use the MA6100's on the NS10's or the KG4's and maybe sell the MA500 (or keep it for a spare, sub, etc.). Then I was reading about ADAM ANF10's (passive) and thought the Marantz amps might actually be as good or better than the A7 amps, at least to get by until I can afford something better.

I recently left more than full time employment doing low end mastering, production and quality control at an optical disc manufacturing plant. I'm still doing their ITB mastering work on a contract basis. I am bringing my small label out of dormancy and have four projects underway at various stages. I'm also finalizing a record deal with a medium-sized label for myself and picking up freelance work.

So, the question is: use the Marantz MA6100 monoblocks with ADAM ANF10's (or other in the $750 to $1000 range) or go active with ADAM A7's (or other in that same range). I'm also considering Dynaudio, low end B+W, etc. My room is small and not at all treated yet. And no, you probably can't hurt my feelings (not that you'd want to ;-), so don't pull any punches!

Thanks, Barry
Old 15th January 2007
  #2
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lucey's Avatar
$1000? For Mastering that's too low by 5 fold.

For mixing? Avantones are great at $200 and like most amps. I also like the Truth Audio 1As at around $1400. They have good low-mid fullness, which overshoots that area so poor rooms dont equal a muddy result.
Old 15th January 2007
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
$1000? For Mastering that's too low by 5 fold.

For mixing? Avantones are great at $200 and like most amps. I also like the Truth Audio 1As at around $1400. They have good low-mid fullness, which overshoots that area so poor rooms dont equal a muddy result.
I know, I know - thanks for responding! I've been interested in the Truths - I guess my main question is about these Marantz amps: are they good enough to get by with passives, until I can get something better? - anybody? I figure they are at least as good as the amps built in to sub-$1000 active pairs.

Thanks!
Old 16th January 2007
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
$1000? For Mastering that's too low by 5 fold.

For mixing? Avantones are great at $200 and like most amps. I also like the Truth Audio 1As at around $1400. They have good low-mid fullness, which overshoots that area so poor rooms dont equal a muddy result.
- also, Avantones are probably in the future, but after I get something more full range.

How 'bout the Truth Audio TA-1P's with the Marantz monoblocks?

(I'll move this topic elsewhere soon, I just hoped to get some "expert" opinions.)
Old 16th January 2007
  #5
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lucey's Avatar
Sorry man, no idea on the amp ...
Old 16th January 2007
  #6
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For a $1k max budget - as long as you have sufficiently clean and powerful amps and a decent sized room - I think you could actually get good use out of the Thiel 3.5. They can often be found on http://www.audiogon.com for even less than your max. The Thiel 3.6 might be found in your price range too.

They certainly aren't the best suited in terms of dynamic response for rock and hiphop but they are definitely accurate (if a tiny bit on the bright and fatiguing side to some listeners) and detailed - very well suited to acoustic musics such as jazz and classical and what Paul Zinman was using with good success last time I was at Soundbyte.

Again - not what I personally choose given a larger budget (I have B&W Nautilus 802's at my studio) but I think a better option for getting going with your mastering work while you accumulate funds for an upgrade.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 16th January 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Sorry man, no idea on the amp ...
Thanks, though... looks like Truth Audio is in transition and isn't selling right now.
Old 16th January 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
For a $1k max budget - as long as you have sufficiently clean and powerful amps and a decent sized room - I think you could actually get good use out of the Thiel 3.5. They can often be found on http://www.audiogon.com for even less than your max. The Thiel 3.6 might be found in your price range too.

They certainly aren't the best suited in terms of dynamic response for rock and hiphop but they are definitely accurate (if a tiny bit on the bright and fatiguing side to some listeners) and detailed - very well suited to acoustic musics such as jazz and classical and what Paul Zinman was using with good success last time I was at Soundbyte.

Again - not what I personally choose given a larger budget (I have B&W Nautilus 802's at my studio) but I think a better option for getting going with your mastering work while you accumulate funds for an upgrade.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Thanks, Steve - I heard some big Thiels some 15 years ago at Stephen Hill's "Hearts of Space" production studio - definitely impressive. There are 3.5's on Audiogon for about $750 (thanks for bringing this up, I was trying to remember Audiogon and couldn't). The slant thing is kind of odd, but part of their newer designs, I guess. I presume one could use them this way in a studio and they are flat-ish 3-way.

I guess I'm back to the 3-way vs. 2-way deal. I've certainly read a lot here about that. I am a reluctant mastering engineer. I started doing my own mastering to save money and for most of the music I've done, it didn't really matter that much (I know, sacrilege!). Then I started doing it for others and that segued into the job I had for the last 6 years. My employer never built me a room or bought gear I needed to do real mastering.

So, I'm back in music production now (janitor/dishwasher, if that doesn't work out). I'm still doing some low end mastering and can't afford to turn down any work. But right now I'm not all that buzzed about mastering. I had forgotten how fun production work is, especially my own. Next time I'll be back either looking for "mastering monitors for $100" (or $10,000), Alex (bad Jeopardy joke) - let's hope it's $10,000!
Old 16th January 2007
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coyoteous View Post
Thanks, Steve - I heard some big Thiels some 15 years ago at Stephen Hill's "Hearts of Space" production studio - definitely impressive. There are 3.5's on Audiogon for about $750 (thanks for bringing this up, I was trying to remember Audiogon and couldn't). The slant thing is kind of odd, but part of their newer designs, I guess. I presume one could use them this way in a studio and they are flat-ish 3-way.
Yeah - the "slant thing" is a very deliberate design point - they are "time aligning" the tweeter, midrange and woofer by pushing the higher frequency drivers back a little from the lower frequency drivers so that imaging will improve by eliminating time delay distortions - by having every frequency produced at a single time point hopefully arrive at the same time to you at your listening position. You'll find a lot of high end monitors with this consideration included in the design.

Quote:
I guess I'm back to the 3-way vs. 2-way deal.
I think you'll find that most monitors suitable for mastering purposes are indeed 3-way (and not 2-way). Sometimes you'll find 4-way (usually because of the addition of a sub-woofer) or even 5-way monitors in use also.

Anyway I would consider $750 a bargain for the Thiel 3.5, if the drivers are in good shape, as I believe they were going for around $3000 a pair when they were first introduced.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 16th January 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
Yeah - the "slant thing" is a very deliberate design point - they are "time aligning" the tweeter, midrange and woofer by pushing the higher frequency drivers back a little from the lower frequency drivers so that imaging will improve by eliminating time delay distortions - by having every frequency produced at a single time point hopefully arrive at the same time to you at your listening position. You'll find a lot of high end monitors with this consideration included in the design.

I think you'll find that most monitors suitable for mastering purposes are indeed 3-way (and not 2-way). Sometimes you'll find 4-way (usually because of the addition of a sub-woofer) or even 5-way monitors in use also.

Anyway I would consider $750 a bargain for the Thiel 3.5, if the drivers are in good shape, as I believe they were going for around $3000 a pair when they were first introduced.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Make that "had" - oh well!

Thanks for explaining the slant. I thought it was about having the drivers "angle up" to the listening position and/or for dispersion (non-parallel to walls, etc.) - but whaddo I know? As usual I leave here with more questions than answers - I guess that's a good thing...

Barry
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