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Is assessment of monitor quality purely subjective?

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July 18, 2005 8:32:29 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
another?
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 18, 2005 9:11:39 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

While subjective to a degree (particularly since we spend hour upon
hour listening), in the end it comes down to monitors being another
tool in the studio arsenal, the purpose of which is to allow one to
listen and evaluate, tweak and perfect the audio. So, the question
comes down to, does the tool allow you to record and then mix audio
that sounds great (in- and out-side of your studio)? Forgive me if I am
being over-simplistic but that is all it boils down to...

That said, start off on a pair that a few folks you trust have found to
be good in making music that sounds great in- and out-side of their
studios.

Hassan
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 18, 2005 2:38:24 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Doc <docsavage20@xhotmail.com> wrote:
>How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
>what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
>of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
>progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
>decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
>another?

To some extent it's subjective.

But when you go from the booth into the studio and compare the live
sound from the instruments with the playback in the booth, it is
usually _very_ obvious what colorations exist in the monitors.

Now, not all the coloration is due to the monitors. Some is due to
the miking and the tape machine. But the vast majority of system
coloration is in the monitors.
--scott


--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
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Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 18, 2005 5:11:16 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Doc,

> I would guess the margin of difference would get progressively narrower
once you get to a certain level. <

It depends on how you define "level." You can't go by price. For example,
I've heard really REALLY expensive "audiophile" speakers that to me sounded
noticeably worse than a pair of Behringer Truths.

> So, how do you decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or
worse than another? <

All the usual suspects apply to loudspeakers too: Frequency response and
distortion (THD and IM, especially IM). And for speakers, frequency response
versus listening angle is also a factor. All speakers "beam" to some degree,
so as you get off-axis the highs fall off or suffer from lobing.

You'd think speaker manufacturers would publish distortion specs, but I
guess they don't want you to know how bad even the best speakers really are
in that regard.

--Ethan
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 2:10:20 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Doc wrote:

> How do you know if a monitor is "good"?

You can hear clearly what you are listening for,
and you are confident that the sound you hear is reasonably correct.

> It seems there are many variables in
> what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
> of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
> progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
> another?

Sometimes it takes two pairs of monitors to get the job done.
You encounter tradeoffs such as frequency extension vs
efficiency. Accuracy vs linearity. Imaging vs dispersion.

A friend of mine (songwriter) comes over and says:
"you need better speakers" (this coming from a guy
who uses a pair of Samson M40's) He's comparing my
setup to another place with "lots of clean crisp detail".
I've never cared for the over-hyped highend, so anything
I replace my Grafyx SP's with (think Dynaco A25's) will
probably also sound 'flat', which is exactly what I want to
hear.

If you are mainly interested in accurate sound for a
particular instrument range, trumpet for example,
then you might prefer a system that avoids having
a crossover point in the middle of that range or at
least through the fundamental and the primary overtones.
This will help imaging and dynamic accuracy in that range.
Flat and smooth through a range usually sounds 'good' in
that range.

The various uses for monitors also play a role in the design.
Tracking, mixing, editing, mastering, radio spot production
all have particular needs and while a mastering monitor
might be overkill for tracking, a tracking nearfield would
certainly be inadequate for mastering.

I like flat and loud, but not loud all the time.
So my monitors need to sound OK at moderate
levels but still handle higher SPL's when I get
"in the zone".

Many experienced operators can adapt to an unfamiliar
set of monitors (or known monitors in an unusual environment)
by listening to a well known recording, and for this reason
when I go into a new place I carry a CD for 'calibration
playback'. As in calibrating my ears, normally it's
Abbey Road by the Beatles.

Monitors can be a 'religious' subject with lots of
widely ranging opinion and subjectivity.
One size does _not_ fit all.
So to answer the 'subject' line, it is not purely
subjective, but can be highly subjective.

rd
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 9:42:29 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

"Doc" <docsavage20@xhotmail.com> wrote in message
news:xhGCe.5339$oZ.2956@newsread2.news.atl.earthlink.net

> How do you know if a monitor is "good"?

(1) Reputation of the speakers themselves
(2) Evidence of your own ears
(3) Reputation of the speaker's builder/designer
(4) Technical specs

>It seems there are
> many variables in what can effect the sound of any given
set
> of monitors, as well as the sound of recorded instruments.

Yes.

> I would guess the margin of difference would get
progressively
> narrower once you get to a certain level.

That would imply that monitors sounded more like each other,
the more expensive or the more highly regarded they get.

I don't think so.

> So, how do you decide a set of monitors are doing what
they do better or
> worse than another?

Work with them for a while. Give them a chance and see if
they get the job done or not.
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 5:24:08 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Doc wrote:

> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
> what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
> of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
> progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
> another?

A large part of the assessment of speaker quality is subjective.

OTOH, I've found that good technical performance ( using the usual measuring
norms ) normally results in a good sound too.

To state the reverse. A speaker that measures badly will probably sound bad.


Graham
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 5:24:09 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

"Pooh Bear" <rabbitsfriendsandrelations@hotmail.com> wrote
in
message news:42DE4267.2273F90A@hotmail.com
> Doc wrote:
>
>> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there
are
>> many variables in what can effect the sound of any given
set
>> of monitors, as well as the sound of recorded
instruments. I
>> would guess the margin of difference would get
progressively
>> narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
>> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or
>> worse than another?
>
> A large part of the assessment of speaker quality is
> subjective.
>
> OTOH, I've found that good technical performance ( using
the
> usual measuring norms ) normally results in a good sound
too.
>
> To state the reverse. A speaker that measures badly will
> probably sound bad.

However a speaker that measures good won't necessarily sound
good. For one thing in some areas specifically related to
speakers, we're still a little vague about what measures
good really means.

For example, a speaker that measures with flat power
response IME has a tough time sounding good. It's gonna be
harsh, most likely. The problem here is reliance on the
wrong measure.
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 7:34:31 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Arny Krueger wrote:

> "Pooh Bear" <rabbitsfriendsandrelations@hotmail.com> wrote
> in
> message news:42DE4267.2273F90A@hotmail.com
> > Doc wrote:
> >
> >> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there
> are
> >> many variables in what can effect the sound of any given
> set
> >> of monitors, as well as the sound of recorded
> instruments. I
> >> would guess the margin of difference would get
> progressively
> >> narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
> >> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or
> >> worse than another?
> >
> > A large part of the assessment of speaker quality is
> > subjective.
> >
> > OTOH, I've found that good technical performance ( using
> the
> > usual measuring norms ) normally results in a good sound
> too.
> >
> > To state the reverse. A speaker that measures badly will
> > probably sound bad.
>
> However a speaker that measures good won't necessarily sound
> good. For one thing in some areas specifically related to
> speakers, we're still a little vague about what measures
> good really means.

I'd agree with that.


> For example, a speaker that measures with flat power
> response IME has a tough time sounding good. It's gonna be
> harsh, most likely. The problem here is reliance on the
> wrong measure.

Which is why I tend to prefer the 'reverse statement'. It's simpler than
saying that speakers that measure well *may* sound good !

Graham
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 20, 2005 10:12:04 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Doc wrote:
> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
> what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
> of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
> progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
> another?

I would say that mixing monitors are an example of where
subjectivity should play little part. It should measure as
flat as possible and with as little distortion as possible.

If you mix on a speaker that has a sound you particularly
like then your mix is likely to have sorta the opposite
characteristics.


Bob
--

"Things should be described as simply as possible, but no
simpler."

A. Einstein
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 21, 2005 2:20:59 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Bob Cain <arcane@arcanemethods.com> wrote:
>Doc wrote:
>> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
>> what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
>> of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
>> progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
>> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
>> another?
>
>I would say that mixing monitors are an example of where
>subjectivity should play little part. It should measure as
>flat as possible and with as little distortion as possible.

Where? How? If you can trade treble distortion for bass distortion,
should you do so?

What about dispersion? I like a wide dispersion speaker for the most
part, but that won't work in a lot of rooms.

The problem is that speakers are _so_ high distortion, all of them.
This means you have a lot of subjective evaluation involved in deciding
what kind of distortion you can personally tolerate.

>If you mix on a speaker that has a sound you particularly
>like then your mix is likely to have sorta the opposite
>characteristics.

Absolutely. I have an "Anti NS-10" curve that I wind up using a lot
on material that comes in here.
--scott

--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 21, 2005 7:23:38 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Scott Dorsey wrote:

>>I would say that mixing monitors are an example of where
>>subjectivity should play little part. It should measure as
>>flat as possible and with as little distortion as possible.
>
>
> Where? How? If you can trade treble distortion for bass distortion,
> should you do so?

Sure. If there is harmonic distortion on fundamentals above
9 or 10 kHz you can't hear it anyway. Of course IM muddies
that statement to some degree. Since the high and low
drivers are usually separate, though, I think the point is moot.

>
> What about dispersion? I like a wide dispersion speaker for the most
> part, but that won't work in a lot of rooms.

If the OP was talking near field monitors it doesn't matter
much. Direct sound will heavily dominate, and the mix
engineer is usually pretty near on axis.

For full room monitors, with mid-field listening, you are
right of course. The nature of the dispersion can become
quite important. Which is most common these days for
primary mixing, near-field or mid-field?

> The problem is that speakers are _so_ high distortion, all of them.
> This means you have a lot of subjective evaluation involved in deciding
> what kind of distortion you can personally tolerate.

True enough, and distortion is a well kept secret among
speaker manufacturers. I'd say, then, that the first order
of business should be measured (specified, if the
manufacturer is reputable) spectral flatness and then within
those that meet that criterion, the ear can select for low
distortion.


Bob
--

"Things should be described as simply as possible, but no
simpler."

A. Einstein
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 22, 2005 2:57:11 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Bob Cain <arcane@arcanemethods.com> wrote:
>Scott Dorsey wrote:
>
>>>I would say that mixing monitors are an example of where
>>>subjectivity should play little part. It should measure as
>>>flat as possible and with as little distortion as possible.
>>
>> Where? How? If you can trade treble distortion for bass distortion,
>> should you do so?
>
>Sure. If there is harmonic distortion on fundamentals above
>9 or 10 kHz you can't hear it anyway. Of course IM muddies
>that statement to some degree. Since the high and low
>drivers are usually separate, though, I think the point is moot.

IM muddies that statement a lot. You can get distortion spectra that
make speakers sound mushy, that make them sound harsh, that make them
sound muddy. All due to the same basic effect, all with about the
same absolute value, but with a different effect.

Likewise, you want a speaker that has a very rapid decay at all
frequencies, a nice smooth waterfall plot that drops right off. But
if you can't get that because you live in the real world, would you
rather have bass hangover or treble hangover? Would you rather have
a narrowband resonance or a wide one?

>> What about dispersion? I like a wide dispersion speaker for the most
>> part, but that won't work in a lot of rooms.
>
>If the OP was talking near field monitors it doesn't matter
>much. Direct sound will heavily dominate, and the mix
>engineer is usually pretty near on axis.

I am skeptical of this... although the whole idea of the nearfield monitor
is to reduce room effects, I find this is really not very true at all
in practice.

>For full room monitors, with mid-field listening, you are
>right of course. The nature of the dispersion can become
>quite important. Which is most common these days for
>primary mixing, near-field or mid-field?

For the most part, you see more people using nearfield monitors than anything
else, in part because control room acoustics in most places are so bad.
Unfortunately although this helps a lot at high frequencies, the low frequency
room problems don't go away.

>> The problem is that speakers are _so_ high distortion, all of them.
>> This means you have a lot of subjective evaluation involved in deciding
>> what kind of distortion you can personally tolerate.
>
>True enough, and distortion is a well kept secret among
>speaker manufacturers. I'd say, then, that the first order
>of business should be measured (specified, if the
>manufacturer is reputable) spectral flatness and then within
>those that meet that criterion, the ear can select for low
>distortion.

It is _really_ fascinating to look at waterfall plots and listen to speakers
and correlate the two in your head. I would bet that looking at simple
harmonic distortion plots would be as interesting.
-s-cott

--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
Anonymous
a b C Monitor
July 22, 2005 6:17:50 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Scott Dorsey wrote:
> Bob Cain <arcane@arcanemethods.com> wrote:
>
>>Scott Dorsey wrote:
>>
>>
>>>>I would say that mixing monitors are an example of where
>>>>subjectivity should play little part. It should measure as
>>>>flat as possible and with as little distortion as possible.
>>>
>>>Where? How? If you can trade treble distortion for bass distortion,
>>>should you do so?
>>
>>Sure. If there is harmonic distortion on fundamentals above
>>9 or 10 kHz you can't hear it anyway. Of course IM muddies
>>that statement to some degree. Since the high and low
>>drivers are usually separate, though, I think the point is moot.
>
>
> IM muddies that statement a lot. You can get distortion spectra that
> make speakers sound mushy, that make them sound harsh, that make them
> sound muddy. All due to the same basic effect, all with about the
> same absolute value, but with a different effect.

But multiple drivers and good crossovers signifigantly
ameliorate that.

>
> Likewise, you want a speaker that has a very rapid decay at all
> frequencies, a nice smooth waterfall plot that drops right off. But
> if you can't get that because you live in the real world, would you
> rather have bass hangover or treble hangover? Would you rather have
> a narrowband resonance or a wide one?

Good questions. I've not attempted the correlation with wf
plots that you suggest so I don't know how "hangover"
manifests at different frequencies. I'm encouraged that you
are actually finding them readable in a predictive way after
training yourself in ear/eye correlation.

I totally agree that the time domain characteristics can be
as important as the sinusoidal steady state and that wf
plots should tell the story about both if you learn to read
them well.

As for resonance, you have to specify the magnitudes. I'd
think narrow and big would sound worse than wide and small
and that narrow and small _much_ better than wide and big
but that's just stating the obvious. :-)

But I don't want to see resonances at all in the steady
state frequency response. That would rule a monitor out of
my consideration.


Bob
--

"Things should be described as simply as possible, but no
simpler."

A. Einstein
July 24, 2005 8:16:58 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

In article <xhGCe.5339$oZ.2956@newsread2.news.atl.earthlink.net>, Doc
<docsavage20@xhotmail.com> wrote:

> How do you know if a monitor is "good"? It seems there are many variables in
> what can effect the sound of any given set of monitors, as well as the sound
> of recorded instruments. I would guess the margin of difference would get
> progressively narrower once you get to a certain level. So, how do you
> decide a set of monitors are doing what they do better or worse than
> another?



Damn simple answer: How do your mixes travel?





David Correia
Celebration Sound
Warren, Rhode Island

CelebrationSound@aol.com
www.CelebrationSound.com
!