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Near-Field Monitors VS Far-Field vs ? Studio Monitors
Old 10th January 2014
  #1
Lives for gear
Near-Field Monitors VS Far-Field vs ?

Hello all,

Monitors - you gotta be able to play back what you've recorded. Every home studio I see pictures of is the same - a desk of some kind with a shelf and a pair of "near field monitors" perched on the outside corners of the shelf.

I've also read much mythology about the special qualities of near field monitors. As if this were the preferred arrangement.

But I can't help thinking it can't be. So after much reading, here's my understanding of the subject:

It is it in fact the other way 'round - near field monitors are a compromise to make the best of the non-optimal arrangment small home studio mixing desks impose. If you could have a large room with large, far-field speakers, that would be much preferable. But when you can't have that big room, there's near field monitors to partially make up for it.

Based on what? Well, it seems the terms "near field" and "far field" are actual technical audio terms, not just marketing hype.

If the diameter of your speaker cone is "a", and you are on-axis at a distance "r" from the cone, then the sound pressure produced by the speaker varies with that distance like this:



(from "On-axis and far-eld sound radiation from resilient at and
dome-shaped radiators", Aarts and Augustus, http://www.univie.ac.at/nuhag-php/janssen/data/p167.pdf )


In other words, when you are within a distance less than 4 times the speaker cone diameter, the sound pressure is varying wildly with small changes in listening distance. You want to be at least 5 or 6 times the cone diameter to be in a uniform sound pressure field. With large speakers, the near field can be 2 or 3 feet, and you'd have to sit 5 or 6 feet away to be in the far-field. But at a small home studio mixing desk, you're sitting just a few feet away. So you can make that distance the far field by having smaller cones on your monitor speakers. On a 6" speaker, the near field is much shorter. "Near field monitor" means you can sit in what would be the near field of the larger monitor you wish you had, not that you are in the near field of the monitor you actually have.

So - essentially, "near field monitor" means "small speaker". A large near field monitor would be an oxymoron. And all it really does is allow you to sit at the mixing desk with monitors close by and not have your listening too badly affected by near field sound pressure variance effects.

So - if I'm designing my studio, really, I want some space, enough to have larger monitors and sit back in their far field. I want to set it up like you set up good stereo listening. This is the preferred situation. But if I can't arrange that, then I need near field monitors.

But - maybe I haven't understood it right, or haven't found some important additional information. Any sound pros out there that can confirm or correct this?

Thanks.
Old 10th January 2014
  #2
Lives for gear
 
666666's Avatar
You're over-thinking all this.

Very simply, having smaller, and thus faster, more articulate speakers, closer to your ears (near-fields), gives you a different type of response verses larger cones that are farther away (mid-fields or mains).

In my opinion, near-field monitors and mid-field or main monitors are two different types of tools. They each bring something different and important to the table.

Also, mid-field or main monitors churn up plenty of room sound, even in treated rooms, so they're going to be less accurate in general in various regards, unless perhaps you are truly in an ultra state-of-the-art situation.

Most pro studio guys will work with near-fields as well as mids or mains.... not just one or the other.

Personally I start out mixing with nearfields to get the mix into general shape. The accuracy of the nearfields allows you to really hear any issues that might exist, pops, clicks, bad edits, whatever. Also great for getting relative levels really dialed in. And ideal for assessing stereo image, phase, etc. Another plus, nearfields generally make for less ear fatigue.

Then when things start coming together I'll switch on mids or mains so I can start to "feel" whats going on as well as get a secondary portrayal of the overall frequency response.

In most cases I feel that the nears will show things that the mids or mains will not readily show, and vise-versa. So I feel that they're both important, at least if you're really fussy about dialing in a pristine mix that's going to translate well with minimal revisions. If you do it right in the mix room, you won't have to go back and forth to your car stereo 17 times etc.

So, in sum, it's not like mid or main monitors are "better" than nearfields. If anything, if I could only have one pair, I'd use good nearfields, regardless of room size etc, mainly because they're going to be more accurate overall and are really going to reveal whatever needs to be revealed. Again, mids or mains, depending, will not be as accurate and revealing to subtle issues. The may sound more flattering and "fun", but won't be as effective in terms of precision tweaking.

And after having said all this, I'll throw in that this is all actually very much a personal preference. No rules. I've seen guys working on tiny nearfields almost exclusively and other people working on large, very distant, inaccurate mains almost exclusively. Finally it comes down to whatever works best for the user. Room has a lot to do with it too.

One thing to remember, if you think you wish to rely largely on "distant" (midfield or main) monitors, the room REALLY needs to be treated VERY well. Like, not just throwing up some foam here and there, but should be put together by a pro designer, or at least user proper, proven materials and spend the time to do it right, measure, etc... otherwise your response will be terrible and inaccurate regardless of how great the speakers are.

On the other hand, good nearfields are more likely to yield excellent, accurate response even without going too bananas with room treatment... at least if the room isn't too small. Very simply, the closer the speakers are to your ears and the lower the overall volume, the less room issues you'll have. BUT, if the room is super small, you'll have no choice but to pay great attention to room treatment if you want to have a chance in hell of doing any degree of decent mixing.

Since you were studying cone sizes and distances... I'll mention that my nearfields are two-ways with 7" woofers and I keep them about 2.5" feet away from my ears, and my "far-fields" (if I may use that term ) are 3-ways and have 12" woofers and they're about maybe 9' away from my ears. And I soon plan on checking out other monitors too, considering something in-between, in addition... like maybe "midfields" with 10" woofers that would be about 6' from the ears. The hardest part would be getting them all into a proper sweet spot without having them block / shroud each other, this is the challenge that I have yet to figure out. Many people use more than two sets of monitors but almost always arrange them in a far from ideal manner... which kind of defeats the purpose.

Final statement... one thing I've learned that is not readily apparent when you first start out.... monitoring is ULTRA critical!!! You won't have any chance of doing even remotely decent work if you can't hear what you're doing. A lot of guys starting out wind up spending all their dough on assorted outboard gear, lava lamps, etc, but yet think it's ok to use their old home stereo amp and stereo speakers for monitoring, even if temporary. Don't make that mistake. Good monitors (and proper monitor placement, meaning good stands, good room treatment, etc) should be at the top of your list. Just say NO to cheap, rigged monitoring. Get it right from the start, you'll be very thankful later.

Old 10th January 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Hjelmevold's Avatar
Musicus: Cone diameter vs. listening distance is not as important as the distance between the tweeter and mid/woofer drivers, compared to the crossover frequency, all in relation to listening distance. Here's an explanation by RyanC

Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
One thing to remember, if you think you wish to rely largely on "distant" (midfield or main) monitors, the room REALLY needs to be treated VERY well.
[...]
On the other hand, good nearfields are more likely to yield excellent, accurate response even without going too bananas with room treatment... at least if the room isn't too small. Very simply, the closer the speakers are to your ears and the lower the overall volume, the less room issues you'll have. BUT, if the room is super small, you'll have no choice but to pay great attention to room treatment if you want to have a chance in hell of doing any degree of decent mixing.
You do say this, but I'd like to be more precise: Nearfields have the same room issues as mid/farfields, so room issues such as SBIR and room modes apply just as much to nearfield configurations as they do with longer listening distances. Therefore, bass trapping is just as important no matter what configuration, but smaller rooms have more issues and should have more bass trapping. However, the proportion of direct vs. reflected sound is likely to be greater in a nearfield configuration, so this is an aspect where your statement is correct.
Old 10th January 2014
  #4
Gear Addict
 
adam_w's Avatar
It's a weird one. In many rooms the mains are pretty much completely pointless, and have no function apart from making the place look like a studio. I have never heard one of those big JBL mains make any sense at all, though one of my mentors assures me he mixed a few huge 80's hits on them. Those kinda dudes like a different kind of loud, I'm telling you. So loud...you want to leave the room!

That said, I really like a midfield setup as you can get a good balance between nearfieldiness and power which seems to minimize lots of potential mistakes. Something like westlakes work really well for that.
Old 11th January 2014
  #5
Lives for gear
I also found this article that seems to give a good explanation is fairly concise manner:

http://mixonline.com/gear/buyersguid...o_livin_large/

There are numerous advantages to monitoring in the near-field, such as a reduction (but not elimination) of the effects of room acoustics on the listening space. Large midfield and far-field monitors are hardly suited to smaller studio environments, so along with the rise of the project studio came the popularity of near-fields.

THE ISSUE

In any studio, the room itself is part of the listening experience. Even in the largest rooms, near-field speakers can be an essential component to successful mixing, either as secondary references to the visiting engineer who may be unfamiliar with the main monitors, or simply as a “real-world” indication of how mixes sound on smaller systems. But no matter what size the room, close-in listening definitely has its drawbacks, especially in high-SPL situations where the near-field concept doesn't work. Once large amounts of low frequencies (from the monitors and/or accompanying subwoofers) begin building up in an untreated control room, the near-field concept of reducing the acoustical interaction between the speakers and nearby walls, ceilings, floors and gear/furniture/console surfaces becomes meaningless.

The other drawback of speakers designed for close listening is the width of the sweet spot, which may be fine for the mixing engineer, but may not offer adequate dispersion with accurate stereo imaging for multiple persons (producer/artists/clients/director/etc.) within the room. A well-designed mains speaker system — either freestanding or soffit-mounted — in a properly treated space can provide the ideal combination of accuracy, soundstage/stereo ]imaging and high-volume playback in such cases.


And I note from a post above:

Also, mid-field or main monitors churn up plenty of room sound, even in treated rooms, so they're going to be less accurate in general in various regards, unless perhaps you are truly in an ultra state-of-the-art situation.


So, if I try to summaraize......

If you have a lrage, well treated studio, mid and large monitors of good quality are the standard. You can compliment these with smaller speakers and listen to them closer, but mostly as an indication of what your mix might sound like on a consumer stereo.

In a smaller, or less well treated room, however, large monitors won't work because of near-field effects and sound pressure saturation. In that case, smaller monitors can be used to (a) reduce the size of the near field and allow you to sit closer to them without near-field effects; and (b) somewhat reduce, but not eliminate, room effects - BUT - ONLY if they are kept quiet enough, otherwise room effects will become too significant. Also, in this arrangement, listening position is critical, as the audio sweet spot is much much smaller.

So, if you have a large enough and well enough treated room, go mid and large, and use smaller "near field" monitors as a secondary reference of what it might sound like on a smaller consumer system. This is preferable.

If you're stuck with a smaller or less well designed room, you can partially compensate by using smaller monitors, which will allow you to sit closer without being in the speaker's near field, but you must make sure not to monitor loud, and you must take extra care about listening position.

Sound fair?
Old 11th December 2014
  #6
Gear Maniac
The thread from the dead...!

I'm setting up a room - songwriter here.
I'll need monitors. Starting from scratch.

Short term options (next 4-9 months):

1. Buy monitors to track and mix in an 11.5' x 11.5' room. Some sort of near field. 5"? 8"? Ported? Not? Read on..

Other 'crazy' ideas ....trying to mitigate that small room:

2. Buy monitors for a bigger room, go back an forth.... :( !
i.e. Track in the small room; do work-tape mixes there too
Do critical mixing in the large room once a week. (can't leave stuff there.)
I.e. Drag laptop, speakers/stands and bass traps(?) out there once a week! Can be done..

3: Buy 'small room tracking monitors', hire out critical mixes. Sounds reasonable to me, actually. Hm.

Long term: (option 4):
Am increasingly likely to build larger room(s) in basement in 2015.
Sense I'll need that for mixing, easy access to instruments, collabs (and maybe marital bliss). Don't want to put all projects on hold right now for a basement build, but, could buy current monitors with that in mind. (may need to sell and buy new again, or add speakers (subwoofer) for a buid.

With all that in mind:

1. What do you recommend?

2. Is the science below correct?

Questions:
- do I indeed need to be [5-6 times the width of the largest cone] from the monitors?
I.e. 40-48" from an 8" speaker
- Should ported speakers should be 20-36" from the wall? (non-ported - how far? 6" or something?)

If so:
Ported- I'm 4-7 feet from the wall
Non-ported - 4.5 feet from the wall

Wow.

Or can I be significantly closer and be fine?
(small tolerances won't matter- a difference of 6" won't help me).

IF so, Re: Option 1:
8" speakers would be out of the question - I can't be up against the opposite wall in a small room just to mix!

So am I looking at:
5" non-ported: I'm 31-36" from the wall to mix. Not too bad.. (I've heard Eris, etc.)
5" ported: I'm 45-66" from the wall in mix position! still pretty far... i.e. [Me: 5x(5-6") from the speaker + 20-36"(speaker from the wall].
** Can I get away with closer for this?
(The JBL 305's get great reviews....but they don't seem to fit the specs here)

Can I put the f-er on wheels -track closer to the wall, and pull back to middle of the room to mix on 5" ported? (I've been reading about the 305's.)
that sounds crazy....wheeling the speaker stands and myself back!... :(
Brainstorming..

Please help me...!

All the best,
Thx,
Phil

Last edited by PhilB; 11th December 2014 at 04:06 PM.. Reason: Clarification
Old 11th December 2014
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicus View Post
Hello all,

Monitors - you gotta be able to play back what you've recorded. Every home studio I see pictures of is the same - a desk of some kind with a shelf and a pair of "near field monitors" perched on the outside corners of the shelf.

I've also read much mythology about the special qualities of near field monitors. As if this were the preferred arrangement.

But I can't help thinking it can't be. So after much reading, here's my understanding of the subject:

It is it in fact the other way 'round - near field monitors are a compromise to make the best of the non-optimal arrangment small home studio mixing desks impose. If you could have a large room with large, far-field speakers, that would be much preferable. But when you can't have that big room, there's near field monitors to partially make up for it.

Based on what? Well, it seems the terms "near field" and "far field" are actual technical audio terms, not just marketing hype.

If the diameter of your speaker cone is "a", and you are on-axis at a distance "r" from the cone, then the sound pressure produced by the speaker varies with that distance like this:



(from "On-axis and far-eld sound radiation from resilient at and
dome-shaped radiators", Aarts and Augustus, http://www.univie.ac.at/nuhag-php/janssen/data/p167.pdf )


In other words, when you are within a distance less than 4 times the speaker cone diameter, the sound pressure is varying wildly with small changes in listening distance. You want to be at least 5 or 6 times the cone diameter to be in a uniform sound pressure field. With large speakers, the near field can be 2 or 3 feet, and you'd have to sit 5 or 6 feet away to be in the far-field. But at a small home studio mixing desk, you're sitting just a few feet away. So you can make that distance the far field by having smaller cones on your monitor speakers. On a 6" speaker, the near field is much shorter. "Near field monitor" means you can sit in what would be the near field of the larger monitor you wish you had, not that you are in the near field of the monitor you actually have.

So - essentially, "near field monitor" means "small speaker". A large near field monitor would be an oxymoron. And all it really does is allow you to sit at the mixing desk with monitors close by and not have your listening too badly affected by near field sound pressure variance effects.

So - if I'm designing my studio, really, I want some space, enough to have larger monitors and sit back in their far field. I want to set it up like you set up good stereo listening. This is the preferred situation. But if I can't arrange that, then I need near field monitors.

But - maybe I haven't understood it right, or haven't found some important additional information. Any sound pros out there that can confirm or correct this?

Thanks.
Interesting to read a formulation predicting behaviors which I'm sure many of us have noted in practice.

I can't weigh in on the math behind the rule-of-thumb figures in the post above (and the math in the linked article made my head hurt just glancing at it) but it seems to comport with my experience, at least as with respect to minimum distances.

And, you know, they don't seem too surprising. Using a minimum 'optimal' ratio of listening distance 5x the diameter, that would be 25" for a 5" driver and 40" for an 8". And 40" is, more or less coincidentally, just about the distance between my 8" 20/20bas's and my ears (classic equilateral triangle postioning).

Back when I worked in others' studios there were usually some form of large, wall mounts with 15" LF drivers. In the studios I worked in these were generally considered 'impress-the-rubes' speakers for the final blast-off of the finished project when everyone's sitting around on the couch with beers (or whatever) in their hands. They seldom sounded particularly balanced and I pretty much never tried mixing on them. But good to check, if they were at least well-matched to the room and properly installed and the room appropriately set up. (I didn't always get to choose the studios, though, so I worked in some places where the big speakers weren't worth flipping on, with regard to their sound in the room.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hjelmevold View Post
Musicus: Cone diameter vs. listening distance is not as important as the distance between the tweeter and mid/woofer drivers, compared to the crossover frequency, all in relation to listening distance. Here's an explanation by RyanC


You do say this, but I'd like to be more precise: Nearfields have the same room issues as mid/farfields, so room issues such as SBIR and room modes apply just as much to nearfield configurations as they do with longer listening distances. Therefore, bass trapping is just as important no matter what configuration, but smaller rooms have more issues and should have more bass trapping. However, the proportion of direct vs. reflected sound is likely to be greater in a nearfield configuration, so this is an aspect where your statement is correct.


Quote:
Originally Posted by adam_w View Post
It's a weird one. In many rooms the mains are pretty much completely pointless, and have no function apart from making the place look like a studio. I have never heard one of those big JBL mains make any sense at all, though one of my mentors assures me he mixed a few huge 80's hits on them. Those kinda dudes like a different kind of loud, I'm telling you. So loud...you want to leave the room!

That said, I really like a midfield setup as you can get a good balance between nearfieldiness and power which seems to minimize lots of potential mistakes. Something like westlakes work really well for that.
I think I knew that guy. heh The guy I'm thinking of produced and mixed a friend's album. I had a production class from him at a local community college but he mixed so ear-bleeding loud I had to drop out. And I'm someone who used to stick his head into kick drums to listen for the sweet spot. (DON'T! I didn't think I was going to live to be 35. I guess. Somehow I made it into my 60s. And I really wish I hadn't put my ears through all the idiocy I did. And yet I STILL walked out on this guy's loud mixing some 30 years ago.) I'll say one thing for the guy, he really knew how to make one of the hardest hitting, rockin'-est drummers around sound like a wimpy drum machine.
Old 15th December 2016
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Consider your placement like an equilateral triangle. If you have your near field monitors 3' apart then that's the distance you need to be away from this setup in order to be in the "sweet spot". And so on with you far fields as well. placement is very important and so is room acoustics as well. Bass traps are something you need to be aware of also when it comes to reflection depending on setup and room size. This is really all i can offer to your question being that this is my first year in school as an audio production specialist.
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