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Studio Monitor Placement More issues surrounding studio monitor setups and problems

We had a ton of responses to last week’s tip on bass inaccuracies in studio monitoring set-ups (see inSync 11/20/00). One of the more interesting and consistent phenomena I’ve observed in readers (and people in general) is the tendency to listen to suggestions of others from a mindset of determining if they ‘agree’ with the advice rather than trying to rigorously examine where the writer/speaker is coming from and what may be hidden there that can be beneficial. It’s a cultural thing, but that’s not the tip for today.A couple of points and non-points from that article need to be clarified. First, one reader took issue with suggestion number three. Specifically, the statement about ignoring what you hear below 40 Hz to 80 Hz in most near field monitors. Just in case some others took it as literally as this reader, it may benefit you to think of it in terms of ignoring what you don’t hear below those frequencies. The point is, if the monitors don’t reproduce enough of those frequencies – and most near fields don’t – then you are killing your mix by turning up the low end to compensate. Every time you reach to fiddle with the low end EQ of any track, stop and ask yourself, “do I really need to do this?” It’s a discipline that applies to all equalization. They put the knobs on the mixers and many of us have grown too dependent on them.Many readers wrote in to point out the importance and benefit of using an RTA and/or equalizer to tune the speakers to the room for accurate response. We have done tips on the methods and pros and cons of this. Just search the inSync archives for “Equalizer” to find a few. It can be a good approach, but take it from someone who’s been there many times: it’s a band-aid by definition, and in many cases it either doesn’t solve enough of the problem, or creates other problems that are just as bad, though perhaps less obvious. If your listening position happens to be at a null point for some low frequency (which is common in rectangular shaped rooms), no amount of EQ is going to fix that. You can put 30 dB of boost on it and it will still cancel itself at that same place. These problems have to be solved mechanically… and this is just one small example. If your monitors are simply deficient at low frequencies (also common), a bit of EQ may help, but I advise caution. Most equalizers introduce phasing problems and graphic equalizers aren’t adept at making smooth curves across multiple frequencies. Equalization can be a helpful addition to the other techniques, but over the years I’ve found it better to get a quality monitor you can learn to mix on than to try to correct monitoring problems with EQ (unless you just want to make one or two minor tweaks). One key exception to this is when you have a custom room that is designed around the response of the monitors (or vice versa). Then judicious use of high quality EQ can really be helpful at negating minor trouble spots.One reader suggested an interesting corollary to this. He suggests using an EQ, but set it using CDs of music that is familiar to you. Given that EQ isn’t the correct solution for many of the mechanical problems that are the real cause, this advice should be applied with caution as noted above. However, the idea of listening to known music on your monitoring is a valid point that was missed in the 11/20 tip. The concept is simple: if you are trying to make your production sound something like the latest Sting CD, you would be well advised to carefully check how it sounds on your studio monitors. There’s no shame in using previously done work as a benchmark for your endeavors. It’s a great way to learn. You will also find it interesting how a good pair of monitors will reveal major differences in the sound of commercially produced recordings.

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