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Microphone Month 3


Use of different types of monitors in studios. Studio Monitors

“In the pictures I’ve seen of studios, I’ve noticed about 3 different monitors of different sizes. Are all of these monitors nearfield or do they have a pair of regular speakers to listen to the playback on?”You’ve inadvertently touched on an important concept that’s lost on many beginning studio engineers. No matter the specific purposes of any given monitors it is important to always check your work on several different types of speakers, Many studios do employ nearfields (which should more accurately be referred to as closefields since the listener rarely listens to them in the actual ‘near field’), midfields (which imply they work between the nearfield and far field, though there isn’t really a technical delineation known as midfield), and big room monitors (sometimes called far field) to get the corresponding different views on how things sound. In other applications an engineer may switch between a set of nearfields and a very small set of TV type speakers, or even one mono speaker. When mixing, some engineers will actually bring in four or five sets of speakers, or they may check things on a hi-fi stereo nearby, and of course all of us always check things in our cars. Not only is the car a relevant place to check a mix, but since so many of us listen to our favorite music there it also serves as a workable reference; we know what it sounds like and how things translate to it.Normally in big studios the big monitors have been ‘tuned’ to the room. This may involve anything from custom-built systems to custom-built rooms designed around speakers, to simple EQ adjustments using a RTA, or anything in between. With all of this work most engineers still prefer to mix on nearfield speakers they know and love, but those big speakers can be an excellent reference check, and will sometimes reveal things that get missed on the small speakers (especially low frequency problems). Conversely, a good set of nearfields can reveal details that would be obscured in a large set of monitors. They ALL can reveal things that would get lost on a set of “regular” stereo speakers. But even those regular speakers can be helpful in terms of hearing how your mix translates to the real world.Some facilities use different monitors for different phases of a project. Basic tracking is sometimes done through the big monitors because it allows the engineer to turn it up and reinforce the live performance vibe, plus if they are of high quality and properly tuned to the room they can reveal problems that should be corrected before any signals get recorded. In those situations they are being used as a sort of objective reference, whereas a nearfield monitor has a subjective sound to it that will appeal to an engineer, but not necessarily be completely accurate, which can sometimes limit their usefulness when trying to carefully scrutinize the raw materials that are being recorded. All of this is a matter of opinion and varies from engineer to engineer and facility to facility.

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