Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

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Cybronica
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Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Cybronica »

I’ve decide to to finally take the plunge and buy myself a set of monitor speakers (all the better to mix you with, my dear). I’m not really sure where to start, what works best, etc, so I was wondering:

1. What do y’all use?
2. What do you like about it?
3. What do you not like about it?
4. What price range is it?
5. What do you wish you had instead (if applicable)?
6. What do you wish you knew when you were first choosing your monitors?

I currently mix using Logic Pro X on a 2015 MacBook Pro running MacOS Catalina with ports for usb, thunderbolt, HDMI, and a headphone jack. Thanks to my tax refund my budget is $500-$1k.

Thanks!
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Lunkhead »

I've got a pair of Fostex PM0.4D which I bought 5 years ago as a stupid deal of the day for $180 before tax/etc. This looks like their latest iteration of that model:

https://www.fostexinternational.com/doc ... 0.4c.shtml

I like that they were cheap and compact and sound fine. I got them as a space/quality/cost downgrade from a pair of very nice pro monitor speakers that Ken turned me on to probably like nearly 10 years prior to that, Event 2020P's. Those sounded amazing but they were gigantic. I couldn't justify the space they took up, especially on top of some big wooden speaker stands arranged in the proper positions behind and to the sides of my desk. I frankly mostly mix on headphones these days. I bought a pair of BeyerDynamic open back headphones for mixing and I really like them:

https://www.amazon.com/beyerdynamic-Ove ... B0011UB9CQ

And I also got Sonarworks Reference Headphones, a plugin that will EQ your main out to try to compensate for the frequency response profile of specific brands/models of headphones. I think it helps.

I mostly check mixes on the monitor speakers as a sanity check rather than a primary source. I've never put up acoustic treatment in my mixing rooms, so no speakers are going to give me really neutral representations of my mixes anyway. Checking mixes on various other setups (laptop speakers, stereo speakers, phone earbuds, car stereo) is still important.

You may want to consider splitting your investment between room treatment and monitor speakers, if you want to get as far as you can toward a neutral mixing setup with the money you have. Just spending all your budget on the speakers may not get you as far.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by fluffy »

I have that exact same pair of Fostex and I am pretty sure I bought it in the same stupid deal of the day. I like them, they're clear and loud enough, and I have them sitting behind an equalizer which helps to even out the sound (which was very necessary because of some resonant nodes in my studio room). I feel like any set of monitors with a wide enough frequency response and enough power output can be tweaked with an EQ to be basically perfect, and I am now and forever on team Get An EQ To Account For Your Shitty Room, For Fuck's Sake.

Someday I'll get around to writing up how I actually used the EQ to shape the speakers but the tl;dr is I set a reasonably-flat microphone at my listening position, turned on a pink noise generator in Logic, set the mic input to record with input monitoring enabled and a graphic EQ visible, and then fiddled with the EQ's sliders until the measured response matched the curve of the microphone itself, more or less. I went into a bit more detail over on this thread: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11837

For headphones I mostly use a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50X, sometimes switching to Sony MDR-7506. The only downside to the ATHs is that the earpads wear out pretty quickly but there's plenty of cheap replacement earpads available. I currently use Brainwavz which sound just like the originals.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Lunkhead »

That process fluffy described is roughly what commercial "room correction system" products (like Sonarworks Reference Studio $299 w/mic, IK Multimedia ARC $249 w/mic, etc.) try to do. They come as kits with or without a reference mic. They apply an EQ on your DAW's master bus though whereas fluffy is using an outboard hardware EQ. Potentially the software might make the calibration process easier. I haven't used any of them personally though. And there may be only so far that room correction systems like that can go.

https://www.musictech.net/guides/buyers ... libration/
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/ro ... n-software (<- they strongly advise still treating your room)
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by fluffy »

Yeah, as seen in that thread I had originally tried the evaluation version of Sonarworks and it was pretty darn good but it also had a bunch of drawbacks which led me to just pay the same amount (actually, somewhat less) for a much more versatile hardware EQ. It's a bit more work to set up but also worth it to still have the low-level control over my audio routing, and to not have to fiddle with stuff every time I switch between headphones and speakers.

Sonarworks probably does a better job of getting a perfect flat calibration but you don't really need perfect; your ears do way more EQ fine-tuning while you're listening, and what's most important is to just not have your acoustics totally ruined by room resonance or whatever.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jb »

One of the questions you need to answer is whether you want "active" or "passive" monitors.

Passive monitors require a separate amplifier and all the controls are on the amplifier. For home use something in the 50w range is fine, and that kind of amp is as low as about $100.

Active monitors have built in amplifiers, and each speaker has its own power cable and volume controls.

Passive monitors are cheaper than active, for the same quality, because the speaker doesn't have to have the extra amplifying bits inside it. You can get an amplifier, and cheap passives, and then just upgrade the speakers without having to replace the amplifier.

Active monitors feel a little simpler to set up, and you don't need that extra hardware of an amplifier. But they're more expensive.

I currently have about the cheapest model of Mackie active nearfields (that usually means "small", though it really means "meant for you to be near when listening, not far") monitors that they make, and they are fine. I used to use have a set of passive Tannoy 6.5 nearfields that I liked a lot and still use on my TV. I got the actives in order to have less hardware in my room and because I was itchy. I am kind of ambivalent about the results.

The most important thing is to get some monitors that sound good to you and then don't change them. Get used to them. Do your due diligence in translation comparisons (play your mixes in the car, on earbuds, etc) to find out what a good mix sounds like on your monitors as well as in the car-- so you know what to listen for when mixing.

When you are shopping, make sure to note whether the price listed is for one speaker or for a pair. You need a pair, so don't think that the $500 Mackie speaker will necessarily be a pair-- it might just be one monitor. If money was no object? I'd get a set of Barefoot monitors.

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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by vowlvom »

I have a pair of Yamaha HS50M active monitors, which I've been very happy with and were reasonably priced. Looks like this model has been replaced by the HS5 but they look exactly the same.

I usually split my mixing between these and some low-end Sennheiser headphones (HD 200) and... I dunno, I've never considered that I would need to upgrade either at any point so I guess they're doing a decent job.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by crumpart »

We have a set of monitors, but to be honest, our rooms are currently so shit that it's not worth the time to set them up, so everything is mixed through headphones. One day we'll stop renting and set up a dedicated music room. One day.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Lunkhead »

I didn't even think about active vs passive monitors, haha. Personally I would strongly recommend getting active monitors, for the sake of simplicity and convenience. Separating the speakers from the amplifier is great if you ever want to individually upgrade one or the other component, but if you don't care about that, it doesn't seem worth dealing with multiple components, IMO.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jb »

I guess the real question is “do you have an amp already”— if so passives might be a good choice to get better speakers for the money.

But yeah if starting from scratch active is easier I suppose.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by ken »

1. What do y’all use?
I have a pair of Mackie CR3s

2. What do you like about it?
They are small and cheap, under $100.

3. What do you not like about it?
They are fine for most things like writing, tracking, and casual listening. I use headphones for the final mix tweaks. The thing that I don't like about them the most is that I don't trust them.

4. What price range is it?
Under $100

5. What do you wish you had instead (if applicable)?
I debated whether to go cheap with these or buy what I actually wanted, Genelec 8010s. I wasn't sure how much I would use the monitors, so I went cheap. I ended up doing a lot of music last year. I'm not sure how much better or easier it would have been with the nicer monitors, and I still haven't upgraded.

6. What do you wish you knew when you were first choosing your monitors?
See above. If I had known how much I was going to create in 2020, I might have invested in more, nicer stuff. I'm with Lunkhead though, that you also have to invest in room treatment to get the most out of your environment.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jast »

I have a pair of JBL LSR305 - discontinued, the successor seems to be the 305P MkII, currently ~$120 each.
I like their sound (unlike, say, KRK RokIt which I can't stand) and in terms of detail they are clearly superior to everything I ever had before.
Like all speakers this size, the low end doesn't reach very far. However, my room can't really accommodate larger speakers, and I have standing waves at certain low frequencies which are almost impossible to eliminate without tearing down the room and changing the walls, so there's not much I can do about it.
For the same reason, I don't think any other speakers would serve me significantly better. I have to accept that I can't monitor low frequency stuff on this setup, and I have to fall back on headphones occasionally.
Treating rooms for bad behaviour in the low frequency range ranges from expensive to impossible.

If you can test multiple monitors, do it. Between any of the popular choices, any will do, you'll want the one that you enjoy the most.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by ken »

Cybronica wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:36 pm
I’ve decide to to finally take the plunge and buy myself a set of monitor speakers (all the better to mix you with, my dear)
Cybronica - did you buy a set of monitors? Why/why not? Did the advice in this thread influence you at all?
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by vowlvom »

Cybronica is no longer able to reach her keyboard to reply. Every room full of monitors. The sound is overwhelming.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

A set of the Jast monitors (305 MKii) for 238 US seems doable to me. To pull the trigger or not? I'm unable to go test a setup at this time.

Funny that this thread is revived right when I went to look for it.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jast »

If you can't do a test, then as I said, any of the popular monitors in the price range will do. I like the JBLs (though keep in mind I have the older models) because they sound detailed and "nice" - to me at least. I didn't really get the chance to test a wide range of speakers, either, but I did listen to KRK RokIts previously and I simply very much disliked the way they sound. Some of the other popular ones, e.g. the Yamaha HS 5, are known to sound rather more neutral, but I am told that they can end up sounding a little harsh as a result. I don't get any of the with the JBLs.

Personally I've got the -3 dB low frequency trim ("boundary EQ") active (using the switches on the back), because I feel like you shouldn't rely on bass reflex too much anyway, and certainly not in this price range. I use headphones, e.g. Superlux HD-681 Evo - by far the best semi-opens in this price range -, to test the low end.

According to some other reviewers, the speakers are little noisy when idle (and they power down after a bit and take 1-2 seconds to wake back up when they receive audio, a change from the model I have which simply stays powered up forever), but personally I don't really notice this, the (fairly low level of) fan noise from my PC is enough so I can't really hear any noise.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by Cybronica »

ken wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:42 am
Cybronica wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:36 pm
I’ve decide to to finally take the plunge and buy myself a set of monitor speakers (all the better to mix you with, my dear)
Cybronica - did you buy a set of monitors? Why/why not? Did the advice in this thread influence you at all?
SORRY! I thought I replied - THANK YOU GUYS for all the recommendations! Every since y’all replied I have been doing more research, now that I have a better Idea of what I’m doing. It seems really clear to me that a big part of choosing monitors is getting it to fit the room, and that made me realize that I don’t have a set work station (I tend to just wander around with my laptop to a comfy spot), and if I get I roommate (which I hope to do soon), the monitors would likely go into my room, which is much smaller and differently shaped than the main room where I mix a lot.

I got intimidated, and have been procrastinating ever since. Also I haven’t been on the forums as much lately.

So clearly the budget I quoted above was much grander than it needed to be, and it seems to me that if I’m not going to take the room into account, there’s little point in paying the big bucks, especially for my first set. Now that I’m really thinking about it, I’m not sure where I would put them.

To answer Jb’s question- I have an amp, but it’s a bass guitar amp, and I don’t think that’s what you mean... ha. I think for this purchase I would want active amps, as I move not in frequently, so it’s good to have fewer pieces of equipment to deal with.

Are there monitors that sit on poles/stands? When I first learn to mix at school, they had monitors set up at one station on stands (and a subwoofer on the floor), but listening to your guys’ thoughts on room treatment, stands don’t seem to play much of a factor.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by fluffy »

There are generic speaker strands that should be able to accommodate whatever monitors you throw at them, and I’ve seen monitors that are intended to go on stands/mounts although I don’t know any specific brands or models (but look at various studio tour videos on YouTube). My favorite generic speaker stands are the wooden bar stools you get at a random home furnishing store. Use blu-tac as coupling putty if you want to be extra fancy.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jb »

Just buy some damn monitors already and stop thinking about it so hard. If you buy monitors you'll be inspired to make more music so you can try them out. They're just speakers- you can hook them up to your tv or your PS5 or whatever as well as using them to mix. They ain't gotta be precious.

And don't forget to take all our advice with a grain of salt. Our advice is only as good as our music sounds, right? If you don't like how my stuff sounds, you should ignore all my advice even if I'm parroting what smarter people have said. :)

Amplifier
Active speakers are a good choice to minimize the stuff. Just know that each speaker will have a power cord that needs to plug in, so remember extension cords or a good power strip, since power cords don't tend to be very long. This is an example of an amp that would power monitor speakers: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -amplifier

Room Treatment
Don't think too hard about it. Will your setup be perfect? Nah. You're a home recordist.

More Room Treatment
The kind of monitors you're going to buy are "nearfield" monitors. They're meant for a small space and you're meant to be pretty close to the speakers while you listen. You can mix with them at low volumes, and many people say mixing at low volumes is a way to get good results: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... low+volume
Mixing at low volume means that the room reverberations won't really come into play so much, because a) you're close to the speaker so you're not hearing the room sound and b) the volume is low enough that there's not a lot of room reverb anyway.

Small Room
Here is a picture of my setup. My desk is in what used to be a closet, but I took the doors off. The monitors are on these foam things called "isolation pads". Lots of options on Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B078PQ7TLD/ ... 101B5FRK5G
jb_desk.jpg
jb_desk.jpg (132.55 KiB) Viewed 243 times
Monitor Placement
The isolation pads help raise your monitors up to ear level, which is important. You can also lower your chair when you really need to listen closely. The other important thing, at least what everyone tells us, is to angle the monitors so that the sound kind of meets where your ears are gonna be.

Translation
Monitors are a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. But to get it right you need to listen in your headphones, earbuds, the living room stereo, on your laptop speakers, and in your car. Then adjust the mix after each one to try to address any issues you heard-- without going so far in any one direction that it makes more problems. You don't have to listen in ALL those places all the time, but it's pretty easy to switch to headphones and then laptop speakers and earbuds without leaving your desk. I usually only listen in my car after it's posted. Then I lament where I went wrong.

HTH,

JB
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by crumpart »

Goddamn all you people with "closets" that an actual person can fit in.
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Re: Buying my first set of Monitors, need recommendations

Post by jb »

Not to downplay the significant amount of privilege I am afforded, here is the room that contains the alcove nee closet where my desk sits. (I guess the room is probably as big as a walk-in closet, but I don’t think of it that way...)
A83BE37D-6F36-477D-B1B8-CEF1C655FD1E.jpeg
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