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sounding versions of the hi-fi speakers people typically listen on at home. These more modest-sized speakers (2 or 3-way systems with 5"–8" woofers, nowadays usually powered with built-in amplification) are typically mounted on a bridge just above the console (hence the designation “console-top”). These days, in an all-computerized setup where there may be no console but rather a control surface or some such device, monitor stands are recommended. This placement normally puts the cabinets no more than 3–4 feet away from the sweet spot, in what’s defined acoustically as the near field. (The term “nearfield” was originated and trademarked by pioneering designer Ed Long many years ago, but has fallen into common use and he’s rarely credited for it as he should be.) Near-field monitoring has become the approach of choice for most studios large and small these days, with the larger farfield soffit-mounted pair available as an alternative for high-volume, floor-shaking playback (as a reference for what a mix might sound like in a club or theater). Mixes done on “near-fields” (as these smaller systems are called) should translate well in more typical home playback environments. Additionally, the smaller speakers can be carted around to different studios, with relative ease, for consistency—a boon to freelance mixers working in unfamiliar rooms. But there are more important advantages to near-field monitoring than just convenience and similarity to home playback environments. “Near-field” is not just a placement description, it’s an acoustics description as well. It refers to a distance (typically 3 feet or so) between monitors and listener, where effects from room reflections are minimally audible, and the listener primarily hears the sound from the speakers themselves, mostly free from the tonality-altering (comb-filtering) interferences that occur when room reflections combine with direct sound at the listener’s ears. The proximity of the speakers vs. the greater distance of the walls and other surfaces where reflections occur, coupled with selective absorption applied to those room surfaces, guarantees that the speakers’ direct wave dominates at the sweet spot, providing a more accurate and reliable picture of the actual sound of the mix. As a result of the above advantages, even larger studios often rely primarily on nearfields for mixing, using the big monitors more for loud playback during tracking sessions, and checking a mix for the high-level, bigbass experience. However, near-fields don’t solve every issue relating to studio environments. While they do minimize the soundsmearing effects of mid- and high-frequency reflections from walls and other room surfaces, reflections from the console or other surface in front of the listener can still possibly be an issue. Nearfields also don’t really help with low-frequency room modes, which also must still be taken into account when designing the room and determining speaker and
sweet-spot placement. Without a subwoofer, they may be deficient in the lowest octave of bass, failing to reveal problems that might become apparent to listeners with bigger speakers or subs (such as are commonly included with home-theater systems). And since many music lovers listen at home at distances greater than 3 feet, near-fields may give a false sense of clarity for those end users’ listening experiences. An additional option found in some studios might be a pair of mid-field speakers. As you’d expect, these would typically be a slightly larger (than near-fields) pair, at a slightly greater distance, but not as far as the front wall, soffit-mounted pair. These “mid-fields” are usually free-standing, placed on speaker stands just behind the console, and can provide a good alternative to the extremes of near-field and far-field placement. The deep end For smaller studios and personal rooms, near-fields are the way to go. Even if the room can’t be treated for ideal acoustics, the near-field monitoring environment will make that, at least, a bit less of a problem than other options. Even so, some near-field users worry that the lack of low end from smaller speakers will result in mixes that have too much bass applied by way of compensation, which will then sound tubby on other, bigger playback systems. This is a legitimate concern—the bass response in many small studios and most personal studios has long been one of the main problems for mixers working in those environments. One option is to add a subwoofer to the near-fields, to round out the low end, supplying that missing lowest octave. If set up correctly, subs can be a help, but there are definitely caveats to their use. As often as not, subwoofers are not set up and balanced properly, resulting in too much low end, and causing mixes to actually end up being bassshy (when the mixer compensates for too much bass from the sub). Ideally, the sub should simply pick up where smaller speakers leave off, without calling attention to itself, just adding a bit of subtle solidity to the low end. If guests walk into the room and exclaim, “Wow, those little speakers are really kickin’!”, you’ve probably overdone it with the sub, and should recalibrate! Equality Aside from near-field/far-field options, there are a few general guidelines when it comes to speaker placement that apply regardless of the distance factor. One is symmetry—the speakers ideally should be equidistant from the side walls (which should be treated for consistent reflectivity), to guarantee that the Left/Right balance won’t be thrown off at the sweet spot, which, of course, should be equidistant between the speakers themselves. The width of the speakers should relate to their distance from the listener, forming an equilateral triangle—that
is, the distance from one speaker to the other should be the same as the distance from each speaker to the listener. When it comes to height, the preference among many engineers/mixers nowadays is for “ear-level’ monitoring—the tweeters in the monitors should be at the height of the listener’s ears when he/she is in the sweet spot. All of these guidelines are designed to insure the best balance not only between speaker and speaker, but also between speakers and room. Setting boundaries Another important consideration is that all speakers perform differently as a function of their distance from room boundaries. Reflections at lower frequencies cause both the buildup and cancellation of sound at certain frequencies whose wavelengths relate to room dimensions. This can cause the bass response (of any speaker) to be over-emphasized, unevenly, at certain low-mid and bass frequencies, and this is further affected by the speakers’ distance from walls/floor/ceiling. Speaker placement vis-à-vis room boundaries is typically described by these three options: full-space, half-space, or quarterspace. These describe the area into which the speaker can radiate sound energy. Full-space placement would describe a speaker placed away from all room boundaries—”away” meaning at least a couple of feet from the nearest surfaces. Examples might be placement away from the walls, on stands, say, at ear level (to get them off the floor), like mid-fields, or on a console bridge, like console-top near-fields. Speakers placed in this environment would be free to radiate sound in all directions, without too much uneven bass build-up due to reflections from nearby surfaces. This should provide the speakers’ truest bass response (“true” meaning most balanced), but with the least overall low end, due to the lack of reinforcement. Half-space placement means the speakers are backed up against a wall. In this position, they only radiate sound into half the space as above, only in front of the speaker. The adjacent wall couples with the speaker to enhance the bass, so the net result is a fuller sound. Sometimes, if the speaker has been designed for good balance between lows, mids, and highs in a full-space environment, than half-space placement can result in too much bass, for a tubby sound. And the bass reinforcement from this placement is usually uneven, for a less-accurate bass response. The best sound from half-space placement will come from speakers designed for that application, like many of the big monitors intended for soffit-mounting. In fact, some of these large monitors can be surprisingly bass-deficient if not soffit-mounted—despite their hefty-sized woofers, they are often balanced for even response with the reinforcement from the wall/soffit, and are lacking in low end if used free-standing.
RECORDING January 2013
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
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Recording - January 2013 - Fade In.
Recording - January 2013 - 5
Recording - January 2013 - Table of Contents
Recording - January 2013 - 7
Recording - January 2013 - Talkback.
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Recording - January 2013 - 2012 AES Convention Report.
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Recording - January 2013 - Universal Audio Apollo.
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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
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Recording - January 2013 - Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Recording - January 2013 - 35
Recording - January 2013 - Monitors & Monitoring.
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Recording - January 2013 - Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
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Recording - January 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
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Recording - January 2013 - PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Recording - January 2013 - 45
Recording - January 2013 - Getting Into Your Head.
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Recording - January 2013 - Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
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Recording - January 2013 - Readers’ Tapes.
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Recording - January 2013 - iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
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Recording - January 2013 - Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - Advertiser Index.
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Recording - January 2013 - 2012 Annual Index.
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Recording - January 2013 - Fade Out.
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