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How significant is the difference between a good and a very good monitor really?
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
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How significant is the difference between a good and a very good monitor really?

Let's say between the ~500$ range of Adam, Dynaudio, Focal, Eve, Genelec, etc. and the 1500-3000$ range of Neumann, Geithain, and the above mentioned?

Is it really as drastic as the price suggests? And if so, what exactly makes them that much better? And where's actually the limit that you won't notice any difference anymore?

Sorry if it's a trivial question to you, but i'm actually curious how much of the pro gear really makes that difference that distinguishes the ambitioned amateur from the pro.
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
Deleted c387cfa
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Too trivial?

I've hadn't had the honor yet to test one of the more expensive speakers. So i have to just ask you guys how it actually is
Old 18th October 2013
  #3
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decocco's Avatar
 

There is a big difference. Just listen to the monitors and you will hear the difference for yourself. You may or may not feel that the difference is worth the money until you hear it for yourself.

There is no limit where you will stop hearing differences. Typically, different products that share the same price point will be of similar quality, but will sound different enough from one another that they appeal to people with differing tastes.

The best monitors are built to a performance standard. Cheaper monitors are built to a price point, sacrificing performance for affordability.

It really comes down to how much you would like to spend. Wanna spend $500? You can find something in that price range. Wanna spend $5000? You can find that too. And yes, the $5000 monitors will SMOKE the $500 ones.

I have KRK rokits in my home studio. They work fine for digital editing. The studio I work in has Barefoots, which are much more expensive. They are absolutely better monitors than the rokits. They immediately reveal any sonic problems, so I can fix them before I hit record.

Better yet, go work in a control room that is properly designed around the main monitors and prepare to be blown away. That's as expensive as it gets, and yes, it is sooooo worth it!
Old 18th October 2013
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco View Post

I have KRK rokits in my home studio. They work fine for digital editing. The studio I work in has Barefoots, which are much more expensive. They are absolutely better monitors than the rokits. They immediately reveal any sonic problems, so I can fix them before I hit record.

Better yet, go work in a control room that is properly designed around the main monitors and prepare to be blown away. That's as expensive as it gets, and yes, it is sooooo worth it!
Could you elaborate this a bit more? How do they sound different, sonically?
Old 18th October 2013
  #5
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When you have a really well tuned room that's designer around specific main monitors, the sound can be incredible. You hear everything. There are no secrets. Unfortunately, in many studios the mains don't do this, they are basically "impress the label people with crazy SPL" loudspeakers. Fun, but not really a good recording/mixing tool.

With something like the Barefoots, they are smaller than big old school mains, but they still produce a very accurate sound. They reveal problems. Again, no secrets. They do what I need them to do, which is to reproduce what is actually being recorded in a transparent way.

The little KRK rokits are not problem revealers. They are fairly easy on the ears, but not revealing in any way. They hide problems that I would easily hear on better monitors. They are basically decent sounding little home hi-fi bookshelf speakers. They are accurate enough to be used for editing. The sound is already recorded and it's too late to move the mics or swap them out at that point, so for me, more accurate monitors aren't a necessity.
Old 18th October 2013
  #6
Deleted c387cfa
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I see, thx for reply

The hunt for the next better studio piece can quick become a sickness...
Old 18th October 2013
  #7
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WinnyP's Avatar
A rather big difference. I went from krk rokit 8's to kh120's. The rokits sounded good but I could not get a consistent feel for bass levels and the separation between instruments. Eq and comp on the new speakers are a breeze as its easier to hear small changes. If I started over monitors would be first place in importance now.
Old 19th October 2013
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Winny Pooh View Post
A rather big difference. I went from krk rokit 8's to kh120's. The rokits sounded good but I could not get a consistent feel for bass levels and the separation between instruments. Eq and comp on the new speakers are a breeze as its easier to hear small changes. If I started over monitors would be first place in importance now.
I haven't heard too much good things about the Rokits though.

The question would be now, what difference would it make if you moved from the KH120s to the KH310s? Do they really sound THAT much better, if the KH 120s are already so good? Or wouldn't i even hear it, because my ears aren't trained as much?
Old 19th October 2013
  #9
Invest in room treatment as well. One does not go without the other.
Once you get to a certain level, everything left are baby steps but it is the baby steps, understanding and applying that become the major advantages to becoming pro. If you can't hear the changes, you are guessing all the time.
Old 19th October 2013
  #10
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
I see, thx for reply

The hunt for the next better studio piece can quick become a sickness...
Yes it can. But get THIS particular piece wrong and you can spend years running around in the dark, actually largely guessing about all the other pieces qualities. Without even being aware of it. Start here and put as much money in it as you can and turn the lights on.
Old 19th October 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiokid View Post
Invest in room treatment as well. One does not go without the other.
Once you get to a certain level, everything left are baby steps but it is the baby steps that become the major advantages to becoming pro.
Yep. I'm surprised it took this long to get to "treat your room" but yeah I'm of the camp that says you'll get a bigger payback spending $500 on treatment with $500 monitors than going to $1500 monitors with no treatment. All small rooms have problems, some have huge problems. Try playing a steady 100hz or 200hz tone and walk around your room. You will probably hear dramatic changes in volume as you walk around (peaks and nulls) if you do, you're going to want to look into treatment. Check out the acoustics sub-forum. Tons of great info..
Old 19th October 2013
  #12
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiokid View Post
Once you get to a certain level, everything left are baby steps but it is the baby steps, understanding and applying that become the major advantages to becoming pro. If you can't hear the changes, you are guessing all the time.
I understand all that, but what actually makes the difference then? Will the sound just get more and more transparent and "real"? Will the bass tighten and get incredibly accurate? How does it change, sonically?
Old 19th October 2013
  #13
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted c387cfa View Post
I understand all that, but what actually makes the difference then? Will the sound just get more and more transparent and "real"? Will the bass tighten and get incredibly accurate? How does it change, sonically?
The bass will tighten if you trap the bejesus out of the corners. Any corners. For a small room more is better. You'll get rid of flutter and blurriness in the mids and washy extra verb from the room. Basically things pull into focus.
Old 19th October 2013
  #14
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Great monitors make all the difference in the world, but you still have to tune your monitor system with multiple sets of monitors to get the best results.

What you want is flat predictable imaging that won't change the "photograph" of your mix from speaker to speaker.
Old 19th October 2013
  #15
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twentyhertz View Post
Yep. I'm surprised it took this long to get to "treat your room" but yeah I'm of the camp that says you'll get a bigger payback spending $500 on treatment with $500 monitors than going to $1500 monitors with no treatment. All small rooms have problems, some have huge problems. Try playing a steady 100hz or 200hz tone and walk around your room. You will probably hear dramatic changes in volume as you walk around (peaks and nulls) if you do, you're going to want to look into treatment. Check out the acoustics sub-forum. Tons of great info..
Thank you, but let's put all that aside here for a moment. I just want to talk about the sonical difference between good and great monitors. Like if they all would stay next to each other in a perfectly treated room.

What distinguishes them really?
Old 19th October 2013
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Flatter frequency responses, flatter responses at different volumes. If the have integrated amps, the will have lower signal to noise ratios. Better build quality. There's a lot more to this I don't know of course.

The difference in sound quality from the mono speaker in my cell phone compared to $500 monitors is pretty great. The difference between $500 and $5000 monitors are pretty great. The difference in $5000 monitors and $50,000-$100,000 hifi speakers mastering engineers might use is pretty great.

The won't change the sound of your mix. The will give you a more clear, accurate representation of it though, enabling you to make better mixing decisions and developing your ears in the process.

Sent from my ADR6400L
Old 19th October 2013
  #17
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lucey's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
Let's say between the ~500$ range of Adam, Dynaudio, Focal, Eve, Genelec, etc. and the 1500-3000$ range of Neumann, Geithain, and the above mentioned?

Is it really as drastic as the price suggests? And if so, what exactly makes them that much better? And where's actually the limit that you won't notice any difference anymore?

Sorry if it's a trivial question to you, but i'm actually curious how much of the pro gear really makes that difference that distinguishes the ambitioned amateur from the pro.
What distinguishes engineers is their vision and skill. Skill means technique, and the main one of those is listening skill. Knowing what you have and doing something smart with it, that's the main skill. EQ, compression, faders and pans etc is all about knowing what you have and from that context doing something musical with it.

There are three elements to knowing and doing that you can't buy and can't learn. And these three are key to the context we find ourselves in.

Monitoring, Room, Conversion. This is the hard physics. Monitors are real, they do what they do. We learn them, but only learn around what they give us to a degree. Rooms are real, we can learn around them, but only to a degree. Conversion is real, we can throw plugs at it all day but if the source has imprinted qualities from conversion they're not going away.

A monitor that's cheap like the Avantone can be very useful to a trained ear, and a newbie can learn on them quickly in any room. It's important however to have a full range counterpart and this is where things get tricky. Crossovers, tweeters, ports, etc ... all interact with the room, to the largest degree, and the DA to a lesser but important degree.

Keep in mind that most monitors are trying to be two things at once, tracking and mixing tools both ... and the demands of tracking are very much not the demands of a mix tool. So best to get a pair that's good for tracking (loud and ballsy), good for mixing (linear and lithe), and a pair that are like Avantones (all mids) for starting the mix aggressively and then finally when touching up the rides.

And keep in mind that cheap today was a joke 10 years ago. It used to be $1200/pair was cheap. Now it's $300? $199? lol


Bottom line, more money doesn't always get you better results. But a better (variable dependent) room, monitoring and AD DA are always a great investment, because you can't bull**** your way around physics.
Old 19th October 2013
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
Let's say between the ~500$ range of Adam, Dynaudio, Focal, Eve, Genelec, etc. and the 1500-3000$ range of Neumann, Geithain, and the above mentioned?

Is it really as drastic as the price suggests? And if so, what exactly makes them that much better? And where's actually the limit that you won't notice any difference anymore?

Sorry if it's a trivial question to you, but i'm actually curious how much of the pro gear really makes that difference that distinguishes the ambitioned amateur from the pro.
There are many factors that go into monitoring for the purpose of reproducing a physical sonic event during playback. Many of the variables compete with each other. Some are difficult to measure in a non-laboratory environment. The big issues simplify down to bandwidth linearity, headroom, phase coherence, stereo imaging, distortion from both the amplifier and drive units, and bandwidth extension.

The hard truth is that it's very complicated and difficult to make an accurate sound reproduction system. There is so much energy in live sound; energy that is coming from so many angles and areas of the audible frequency spectrum that it's currently not possible to get accurate playback. But we can get close enough to let the brain take over and fill in the rest. The best systems make the brain work less at filling in the missing information.

The difference between an expensive design and a not-so-expensive one isn't always apparent in the playback sound. That being the case, it's not a given that the more expensive speaker will do a better job of (for all intents and purposes) putting the listener in the live moment of performance. For example, when you're talking about nearfield monitors, in almost all cases, save a rare, and relatively very expensive few, you're always going to be listening to a bandwidth limited, headroom limited, unnatural playback. The key to understanding the matter is knowing that it's fine that way, because it's just nearfield monitoring, which by nature is least likely to sound "real".

That's okay because a decent nearfield isn't supposed to "put you there" in the live moment. It's supposed to give you a reasonable approximation of the live moment that you can listen to and make aural judgements that still make sense when played back over a full range, well designed system, even if the actual playback sound is different between the nearfield design and the full range design. A good nearfield will allow your judgments to coincide with your expectations on how things sound in general, so that you don't have to guess too much at how to make things translate. Some not-so-expensive pieces do this well, albeit with some flaws. But the flaws come with the territory when you're already committed to a playback system that is limited in it's performance standards to begin with.

It's impossible to absolutely say which dollar amount creates the winning design of monitor. Every designer and manufacturer's process is unique to their own operation and their pricing structure doesn't always reflect the end result. That goes for expensive, big names not necessarily being superior, as well as affordable, lesser named or no named brands punching well above their price class. You just have to deal with it honestly on a case by case basis. And like the poster above mentioned, you can't bull**** physics. People can rave all they want about the latest flavor-of-the-moment big named nearfield, but it's still just a nearfield and can only excel at what nearfields do.
Old 19th October 2013
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco View Post
...Unfortunately, in many studios the mains don't do this, they are basically "impress the label people with crazy SPL" loudspeakers. Fun, but not really a good recording/mixing tool.

With something like the Barefoots, they are smaller than big old school mains, but they still produce a very accurate sound. They reveal problems. Again, no secrets. They do what I need them to do, which is to reproduce what is actually being recorded in a transparent way. ...
They also have a little button on the back to make them more "hi-fi" if you want to give clients that sound.

EDIT: And I couldn't justify buying them until my room was in order.
Old 19th October 2013
  #20
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
What distinguishes engineers is their vision and skill. Skill means technique, and the main one of those is listening skill. Knowing what you have and doing something smart with it, that's the main skill. EQ, compression, faders and pans etc is all about knowing what you have and from that context doing something musical with it.

There are three elements to knowing and doing that you can't buy and can't learn. And these three are key to the context we find ourselves in.

Monitoring, Room, Conversion. This is the hard physics. Monitors are real, they do what they do. We learn them, but only learn around what they give us to a degree. Rooms are real, we can learn around them, but only to a degree. Conversion is real, we can throw plugs at it all day but if the source has imprinted qualities from conversion they're not going away.

A monitor that's cheap like the Avantone can be very useful to a trained ear, and a newbie can learn on them quickly in any room. It's important however to have a full range counterpart and this is where things get tricky. Crossovers, tweeters, ports, etc ... all interact with the room, to the largest degree, and the DA to a lesser but important degree.

Keep in mind that most monitors are trying to be two things at once, tracking and mixing tools both ... and the demands of tracking are very much not the demands of a mix tool. So best to get a pair that's good for tracking (loud and ballsy), good for mixing (linear and lithe), and a pair that are like Avantones (all mids) for starting the mix aggressively and then finally when touching up the rides.

And keep in mind that cheap today was a joke 10 years ago. It used to be $1200/pair was cheap. Now it's $300? $199? lol


Bottom line, more money doesn't always get you better results. But a better (variable dependent) room, monitoring and AD DA are always a great investment, because you can't bull**** your way around physics.
/thread.

This should be a sticky. With the first few lines emboldened.
Old 19th October 2013
  #21
Deleted c387cfa
Guest
Honestly, thank you guys. I'm not sure whether i understand it all yet, but it certainly gives me a better idea. And once that i've treated myself with even better monitors than i got now (the EVE SC204s, and i couldn't be more happy), i will think back to this thread and smile...

One last pure theoretical question though: Would it be better to make small steps from here, with, let's say, the KH120s as the next logical choice, and let my ears progress slowly, or should i go directly for the best that i can afford, once that i could afford it?

I'm not even thinking about updating really anymore, but i'm curious about your approach here. Could very well be that i'll keep the EVEs forever now though. Who knows what happens when one got really used to something...
Old 19th October 2013
  #22
Gear Addict
 
BrianK's Avatar
 

You could, theoretically, mix on terrible speakers, and the sound in the wires is perfect and HiFi/acurate. But it's more likely you'll be deceived by the speaker's flaws. Better speakers will always help, and I finally found great ones that don't cost much (I am picky!)

The new JBL monitors (LSR308) are REALLY amazing for little money ($500 pair/powered). They "corrected" many of the flaws in the drivers, cabinet, ports, etc with DSP in the amp - so the speaker puts out a "flat" sound with very good sonics - easy to listen to, detail is great, lows are even. Seriously - give them a listen somewhere, please.

I have worked in many top studios and always preferred Tannoys but love any good quality speaker (usually $2000 and up). The new JBLs are friggin' amazingly beautiful-sounding, with evenness, incredible smooth high and and deep bass (I got rid of a sub I was using). I bought one of the first pairs they sold - and it's very revealing when listening to your old mixes: the problems that I could not hear before are now evident, clearly. That IS what you want from a monitor.

It MAY be possible you could stay in this price range, get GOOD flat quality sound, and then spend more on making the room be as good as the speakers?
Old 19th October 2013
  #23
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
Honestly, thank you guys. I'm not sure whether i understand it all yet, but it certainly gives me a better idea. And once that i've treated myself with even better monitors than i got now (the EVE SC204s, and i couldn't be more happy), i will think back to this thread and smile...

One last pure theoretical question though: Would it be better to make small steps from here, with, let's say, the KH120s as the next logical choice, and let my ears progress slowly, or should i go directly for the best that i can afford, once that i could afford it?

I'm not even thinking about updating really anymore, but i'm curious about your approach here. Could very well be that i'll keep the EVEs forever now though. Who knows what happens when one got really used to something...
Go and listen to some really expensive monitors that you can't afford (now) for a yardstick and you will answer some of your own questions.
Old 19th October 2013
  #24
Deleted c387cfa
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Go and listen to some really expensive monitors that you can't afford (now) for a yardstick and you will answer some of your own questions.
I don't want to, lol.
Old 19th October 2013
  #25
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
Let's say between the ~500$ range of Adam, Dynaudio, Focal, Eve, Genelec, etc. and the 1500-3000$ range of Neumann, Geithain, and the above mentioned?

Is it really as drastic as the price suggests? And if so, what exactly makes them that much better? And where's actually the limit that you won't notice any difference anymore?

Sorry if it's a trivial question to you, but i'm actually curious how much of the pro gear really makes that difference that distinguishes the ambitioned amateur from the pro.
The rooms - recording, mixing, mastering - are the most profound in terms of their overall impact on the production result, but in that same category of impact and on a very good second place are the monitors (incl. their amps). If you have both of these really well implemented, you have a high profile studio no question about it. The difference between good and very good monitors are huge! You can be sure that the monitor manufacturers that produce monitors that can make record labels sell records in the millions won't sell them for cheap. You have to remind yourself about the strong connection between music gear and business. The reason why this to many engineers is not understood is because the big guys that get the big sound and know about these impacts don't necessarily want all the rest to figure it out to the same degree, they want to stay ahead in the game. They don't go: "Hey all, we thought we needed to invest heavily into rooms and monitors due to their impact on the production quality in order to get a leading position, so we made these investments and we are selling a lot of records, we are doing great!"
Old 19th October 2013
  #26
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothVibe View Post
The rooms - recording, mixing, mastering - are the most profound in terms of their overall impact on the production result, but in that same category of impact and on a very good second place are the monitors (incl. their amps). If you have both of these really well implemented, you have a high profile studio no question about it. The difference between good and very good monitors are huge! You can be sure that the monitor manufacturers that produce monitors that can make record labels sell records in the millions won't sell them for cheap. You have to remind yourself about the strong connection between music gear and business. The reason why this to many engineers is not understood is because the big guys that get the big sound and know about these impacts don't necessarily want all the rest to figure it out to the same degree, they want to stay ahead in the game...
Monitors do not 'make record labels sell records in the millions....'.
Old 19th October 2013
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Monitors do not 'make record labels sell records in the millions....'.
Yes, they do. I'll invert that. If you put a chain of low quality monitors used during recording, mixing, mastering, you won't sell records in the millions, for sure...
Old 19th October 2013
  #28
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothVibe View Post
Yes, they do. I'll invert that. If you put a chain of low quality monitors used during recording, mixing, mastering, you won't sell records in the millions, for sure...
Very relative statement. And still, monitors don't make records. Guns don't kill people, Rappers do.
Old 19th October 2013
  #29
Deleted c387cfa
Guest
I assume the 3D imaging will improve significantly as well?

I like it when the sound is just there, flowing through the air, and you're able to immerse deeply into it, to be really intimate with what you're working on.
Old 19th October 2013
  #30
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

I hope you don't expect me to read all that, Smooth.

Sorry to trigger that into your thread, OP.
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