Interesting Secondary Reference Monitors - Review

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by LSchefman, Sep 16, 2005.


  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I've had some really good monitors in my twenty or so years of owning my studio - Genelec 1031As and others, several models of Bowers &Wilkins, KRKs, Mackies, etc. I've had some crummy ones, too...

    But I have a soft spot for any monitor that will get the balances my clients will hear on their systems and in their cars. Often, my studio monitors just get this wrong, and I think the reason is that they can reproduce things that make the average speaker sound like mud.

    Too often I've put together a mix that absolutely kills on Genelec 1031As, only to find out there are problems at the client's place.

    Enter what I call the "secondary reference" monitor. Lots of people reference mixes on speakers like NS-10s for this purpose, even if they use something else as the primary monitor. I've found a secondary reference I like better - the M-Audio BX8a.

    Oh yeah, they're cheap and cheerful!

    I read that one of my favorite film composers, Mark Isham, uses them. And I like their weighted action 88 note keyboard controller quite a lot. My son uses their interface with his computer. I figured I'd check them out at GC. Well, they didn't sound very good there, but I figured I'd check them out in my studio and see.

    When I plugged them in at first, they were the worst monitors I have ever heard. All pinched high end, no mids, flabby bass. I let the music play for awhile while I went to lunch. I was really thinking these would have to go back to the store. They sounded worse than NS-10s.

    When I came back, they sounded a lot better - almost good! I figured maybe they need a break-in period to sound halfway decent. So I played a bunch of tracks on them to get a feel for them, and then let them play most of the evening, just as background.

    The next day, they sounded quite nice. Not "3D" and not "pinpoint placement" of course...as you would expect for the money. There is limited power handling. But - here's the important thing - they reproduce music with the kind of characteristics of typical systems, that is, they sound like speakers sound in the real world.

    I wrote a music theme for a radio ad campaign, and decided to reference to these speakers. When I met with the client, the mix sounded just like it sounded on the BX8as at my studio when the client put it on his small hi fi system. There were no surprises, and no excuses. It just sounded really good.

    It sounded good in my car. In fact, the mix sounded good in my wife's car, at my client's office, on my den hi fi, and on a boombox!

    These are speakers with built in amps that cost $500 for a pair. Yeah, peek inside them through the rear port with a flashlight, and you can see why. They're cheaply made.

    But they make an excellent secondary reference. Also, they are easy on the ears for long periods.
     
  2. EVT

    EVT Member

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    Hi,

    I have had the same problem with the way that my mixes translate onto other systems. But, I have been learning by listening to many different kinds of music through my monitors and then through other systems to see how they are different. Also, when mixing whatever style I'm going for I try to find an album with a similar style I'm going for and listen to it first as a reference and then try my best to match to it.

    I have passive tannoy reveals powered by a hafler ta1600 amp but, after mixing I listen on a cheapie boombox, my car, on an old sony cd walkman, and anywhere else I can. I think I've been doing better lately with my mixes, because I have more of an idea on how I need to get the mixes to sound on my speakers.

    Something that has helped me a lot is using subractive equalization instead of adding eq, I'll cut let's say some of the low on the guitar to open up the lower frequency up for the bass. And I do so however I find it needed with other tracks too. Also, recently I read that if you have a part with a lot of vocals at the same time with harmonies etc. it can get kind of muddy with a lot of vocals, so you could cut some of the low end eq from the harmonies and then that makes the lead vocal sound more full and prominent in the mix.

    These are just some of the latest things I've been implementing in my mixing.

    The speakers you mentioned sound interesting. That could be a huge help if they sound similar to systems most commonly used by people.
    evt
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    Actually, I've always done the things you mention, most especially running around, referencing on different systems, for the past 20 years. This is a pain in the rear, especially when I'm working on a TV ad project under a tight deadline. So now I can just switch to the "B" monitors, and I have a good idea of how things are going to translate.

    Most of the guys around here do this using NS-10s, but I really can't stand them.

    Subtractive EQ is a good technique for carving out space for various instruments.
     
  4. loudboy

    loudboy Supporting Member

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    We use Rat Sahck Minimus 7s as "B" monitors. I actually use them more than the Dyn BM15As when mixing - more accurate for vocal placement.

    The trick is to get them to sound almost as good as the Dyns - then you know you've a decent mix going.

    Loudboy
     
  5. HammyD

    HammyD Supporting Member

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    Enlighting thread, Les!

    When I set up my digital video production swuite back in the early 90's we were one of the first to go all digital, non linear. The salesman slash engineer suggested a set of Bose Roomates as he knew our primary market was industrial, training and trade show videos.... ( I wanted the "best" not Bose add on speakers!)

    You know Bose..."No highs, no lows, must be Bose." Well, damn if he wasn't right. If we mixed the voice over and music bed, along with the ambient to sound good on the Bose, they sounded great on the little systems on clients used, escpecially at noisy trade shows.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>We use Rat Sahck Minimus 7s as "B" monitors.<<

    Yup. Good choice there, too.
     
  7. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I spent about a month listening intensely to references to get a strong grip on the Genelec 1031s I use as mains. I listened to all types of music on seven or eight different systems -- headphones (Sennheiser HD600 and Sony 7506), a high end home system (Krell powered w/Thiel loudspeakers), car stereo (Nakamichi-built), PC computer speakers (Klipsch), a couple TVs, NS-10s, Mackie 824, computer laptop -- and at the end of all this testing I was left with a very solid paradigm for what the Genelecs SHOULD sound like.

    It was the most useful thing I've done for aligning my ears to my mixing room and the 1031s, but I still use a second and third set of monitors on EVERY piece of music that is produced. The NS10s you mentioned would be my 2nd, and Aurotones would be my 3rd. After switching back and forth between all three pairs of monitors there is ALWAYS something that needs to be tweaked in the mix, and each set of monitors has something different to say.

    Now I feel like I have complete confidence that I'll be able to predict how a mix will transfer to all of my original seven or eight reference speakers. I still play most of my mixes through a few of these different speakers and rarely do I need to go back and change anything. I highly suggest using a few different references for all of your music.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>I spent about a month listening intensely to references to get a strong grip on the Genelec 1031s I use as mains. I listened to all types of music on seven or eight different systems -- headphones (Sennheiser HD600 and Sony 7506), a high end home system (Krell powered w/Thiel loudspeakers), car stereo (Nakamichi-built), PC computer speakers (Klipsch), a couple TVs, NS-10s, Mackie 824, computer laptop -- and at the end of all this testing I was left with a very solid paradigm for what the Genelecs SHOULD sound like<<

    I did the same thing with my 1031s, as I do with all of the systems I have been using for creating for national ads for the last couple of decades. While referencing to get used to speakers is good, when mixing it's still possible to make errors with any speaker, no matter how well you know it. Secondary references are useful.

    Call me lazy, but I'd rather not run out to the car with a mix at 3 in the morning when I'm exhausted, yet still have to ship music the next AM to meet a deadline. These BX 8s do a good job of sounding like a typical consumer product, and I'm beginning to trust them for that purpose.
     
  9. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Agreed, one set of monitors isn't enough, which was your original point I believe. And that's why I use three very different pairs. There are few major studios (if any at all) that rely on only one pair.

    You have me interested in the M-Audios now. I'll have to take a listen. I was a part of Yamaha's early listening tests for what was supposed to be the NS-10 replacement speaker, but it turned out to be too different to apply. I'm still searching for an alternate to the NS-10. Maybe these will do the trick...???

    Not wanting to run to the car isn't laziness, it's sanity :D Who would? I never do this anymore, it was during my "calibration" period that I burned CD after CD so that I could listen in the car. Now I know what's it's going to sound like in the car before it actually hits the radio.

    BTW - what's the name of the company you work for? We may be in the same business. PM me if you'd feel better about answering there.
     
  10. loudboy

    loudboy Supporting Member

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    When I was doing a lot of AV production, we had a pair of Roland MA-12 powered speakers - 4" speaker, active electronics and a pair of AKG 240 headphones. At a workstation in a room with half a dozen other stations. The speakers gave a good representation of AV-style PA systems and the AKG let me check for noises and to get the low/high-end right.

    I tracked and mixed about a million projects, mainly recording and laying VO over stock music, for some pretty big clients - Kodak, Xerox, Coca-Cola, MTV, Saab USA and many more, on that setup. Always translated, always sounded great.

    I have those same speakers at home now, on my PC (bought 'em from the company) and can tell quickly if things are correct when listening to them.

    I'll still take the Dyns, tho... <g>

    Loudboy
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I've been in lots of edit suites where they use those little Rolands...and clients defninitely hear them a lot. Another good secondary reference.

    Elambo, I emailed you.

    One thing about these BX8As, they're not going to impress you with their clarity and detail. They simply sound a lot like consumer speakers, which is why i kinda dig them.
     

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