Recording - January 2013 - 38
Quarter-space means the speakers are placed in corners—this is not usually the best choice in studios/control rooms, but might be employed in other situations, or as a last resort in a room that doesn’t offer any better placement options. In a corner, there is even more bass reinforcement, from two room surfaces (i.e. two walls meeting). Speakers placed there, if not designed for it, may sound quite tubby or boomy. Smaller and mid-size speakers (like those used for near-field and mid-field setups) might find themselves in full-space or halfspace environments, depending on the layout of the room—even console-top nearfields, typically full-space, might find themselves in a half-space position, if the console is up against a wall, as might be necessary in some smaller rooms. For that reason many such speakers have switches that allow the user to choose full-space or half-space (and sometimes quarter-space as well), to optimize bass response for whatever placement is required. This is usually a high-pass filter or eq, which subtracts low end in the half-space or quarter-space positions, to match the proper balance in full-space use, as would be more typical for nearfields. It’s a good idea to use this, despite the temptation to luxuriate in the extra oomph that can be achieved by pushing smaller speakers up against a wall. Accuracy and even response is much more important than sexy low end—don’t be tempted by the dark side. More is better So why do studios often have multiple monitors, even sometimes having two or three near-field pairs available? Well, for tracking sessions, there’s nothing like playback on the big far-fields to preserve the energy level for the musicians who were just cranked up in the live room. And when it comes to mixing, you can’t have too many references. A mix, especially one for commercial release, has to sound at least OK on any system a listener might play it back with, and music lovers listen on an endless variety of sound systems, from high-power club speakers to audiophile designs to the crappy little speakers in their computers. While a mix should sound its best on the best systems, it also has to be listenable on the worst, and the more speakers the mixer auditions his/her work on when finalizing the mix, the more compatible it will be with the range of end-users’ listening environments. Even good speakers vary widely in tonal balance and bass response, and checking the mix on multiple monitors for final tweaks can help insure that it works as well whether the speakers are bright, warm, thin, full, etc.. Can it... And that brings us around to the other side of studio monitoring, that of headphones.
RECORDING January 2013
Phones (“cans” to old-timers) have some obvious uses in the studio, uses where speakers won’t do, like providing reference mixes for the musicians during tracking and overdubbing that won’t leak into the mics. But in the control room, things get more complicated. The experience of listening to stereo sound reproduction in headphones is significantly different from listening on speakers, and that brings up a number of considerations when headphones are used in the studio for mixing applications. There are both disadvantages and advantages to headphone listening, and not just the obvious issues of sound control and isolation. On the plus side, headphones provide a listening environment free of room interference factors like standing waves and flutter echoes. But tonal balance can vary widely from one listener to the next, due to differences in the shape of the head, and the way the phones couple with the listener’s
ears. Phones can offer deep bass response without shaking the room, but without the physical vibration experienced in speaker listening, they may cause the bass to seem less full than it really is. However, the most important headphone-vs.-speaker differences relate to imaging and localization. From a technical standpoint, the main difference in headphone monitoring is the lack of inter-aural crosstalk, which is always present in speaker playback. When listening to speakers, the left ear receives sound not only from the left speaker, but from the right speaker, slightly delayed, and vice versa— the right ear hears sound from the right speaker, but also from the left, again slightly delayed. This crosstalk in speaker monitoring slightly smears the embedded subconscious timing clues that help provide depth and clarity in stereophonic reproduction. In headphone listening, the left ear receives sound only from the left earcup, and the right ear only from the right earcup. This is ideal as far as the concept of stereo playback goes. Without the crosstalk, headphones can offer more detail, especially in busy mixes with lots of subtle background elements, and a greater sense of depth, enhancing qualities like ambience/reverb when present in the mix.
For casual listening, this is great, it even allows for the seductive three-dimensional reproduction of binaural recordings (which can only be reproduced properly in phones). But for mixing, this enhanced sense of detail will give a false sense of how clear the mix will sound when played back on speakers. In fact, when a mix that was produced entirely on headphones is heard out in a room, significant clarity may be lost, and this is problematic when the goal is a mix that “travels” well (sounds good on all playback systems). It’s such an issue that at least one manufacturer of high-end headphone amps actually builds adjustable crosstalk into the electronics to simulate speaker playback! When listening to stereo music on speakers, the left-right panning of the various instruments and voices makes a very important contribution to the clarity of the mix, as well as to the soundstage—the width of the mix, and the perceived imaging. While some headphones offer more of a sense of this left-right width than others, it’s never as noticeable as on speakers, and the contributions of panning are easy to overlook during a mix on phones, especially by relatively inexperienced mixers—many of my students, who have to mix on phones in their lab classes, need to be reminded to pan things away from center, and are surprised by how congested their mixes often sound when checked on speakers. As a result of this, the conventional wisdom is to mix on speakers, and check the mix in headphones, based on the idea that a mix done on speakers will automatically address the normal loss of clarity from inter-aural crosstalk, and sound even clearer in phones, while one done in phones may (probably will) suffer from loss of detail and imaging over speakers. That said, a lot of people nowadays do the majority of their music listening on phones, especially the ubiquitous in-ear “earbuds” that come with their iPods and MP3 players, so it’s important that speaker mixes be auditioned and tweaked to sound just as good in that environment as well as over traditional monitors. Yet another listening test to add to the final stage of mixing... Pick a can, any can So, what kind of headphones are best for studio use? Well, like speakers, they come in a bewildering variety, but there are some general guidelines. First off, from a design standpoint, there are several different types of headphones: circumaural, supraaural, and in-ear. Each type sits on (or in) the listener’s ears a little differently. Additionally, phones can be open-back or closed-back designs. Circumaural (around the ear) are the type with large earcups that surround the ear, usually sealing off outside sound. If they are
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013
Table of Contents
2012 AES Convention Report.
Universal Audio Apollo.
ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Monitors & Monitoring.
Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Getting Into Your Head.
Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
2012 Annual Index.
Recording - January 2013 - Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013 - Cover2
Recording - January 2013 - 1
Recording - January 2013 - 2
Recording - January 2013 - 3
Recording - January 2013 - Fade In.
Recording - January 2013 - 5
Recording - January 2013 - Table of Contents
Recording - January 2013 - 7
Recording - January 2013 - Talkback.
Recording - January 2013 - 9
Recording - January 2013 - 2012 AES Convention Report.
Recording - January 2013 - 11
Recording - January 2013 - 12
Recording - January 2013 - 13
Recording - January 2013 - 14
Recording - January 2013 - 15
Recording - January 2013 - 16
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Recording - January 2013 - 18
Recording - January 2013 - 19
Recording - January 2013 - Universal Audio Apollo.
Recording - January 2013 - 21
Recording - January 2013 - 22
Recording - January 2013 - 23
Recording - January 2013 - ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Recording - January 2013 - 25
Recording - January 2013 - Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Recording - January 2013 - 27
Recording - January 2013 - Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
Recording - January 2013 - 29
Recording - January 2013 - AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - 31
Recording - January 2013 - 32
Recording - January 2013 - 33
Recording - January 2013 - Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Recording - January 2013 - 35
Recording - January 2013 - Monitors & Monitoring.
Recording - January 2013 - 37
Recording - January 2013 - 38
Recording - January 2013 - 39
Recording - January 2013 - Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording - January 2013 - 41
Recording - January 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
Recording - January 2013 - 43
Recording - January 2013 - PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Recording - January 2013 - 45
Recording - January 2013 - Getting Into Your Head.
Recording - January 2013 - 47
Recording - January 2013 - 48
Recording - January 2013 - 49
Recording - January 2013 - Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
Recording - January 2013 - 51
Recording - January 2013 - 52
Recording - January 2013 - 53
Recording - January 2013 - 54
Recording - January 2013 - 55
Recording - January 2013 - Readers’ Tapes.
Recording - January 2013 - 57
Recording - January 2013 - iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Recording - January 2013 - 59
Recording - January 2013 - 60
Recording - January 2013 - 61
Recording - January 2013 - Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - Advertiser Index.
Recording - January 2013 - 64
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Recording - January 2013 - 2012 Annual Index.
Recording - January 2013 - 71
Recording - January 2013 - Fade Out.
Recording - January 2013 - Cover3
Recording - January 2013 - Cover4