Home studio monitor selecting guidelines by Alan J.S. Han

Beginning 

 

When I think about where my love for the speakers started, I think I might have started with these.

Long time ago, when you buy a computer, ones that comes with it . The role of these speakers is, of course, to make us listen to the sounds that we make on the computer. :)

 

So maybe we're just saying that these sound-emitting products are ‘speakers’ but more professional products for listening for our work are monitor speakers for monitoring, like all these speakers when you search for monitor speakers. 

So let's talk about some of the things that we need to look at to purchasing a monitor speaker.

 

Active vs Passive 

 

There are two main types of monitor speakers. one is an active speaker, also called a Powered-Speaker, and a passive speaker that doesn't have power in itself and uses a separate amplifier.

The most common type we can see these days are Active Speakers. The power circuit , unit is inside the speaker cabinet, because you don't need to install separate external amplifiers and you don't need to think about matching speakers with amplifier, and it's generally loved over passive speakers.

Yamaha NS-10M, which we often see in studio photos, is a passive speaker.

Because it's passive, you have to use the amplifier separately, but some people  favor the passive speaker type because that they can create a variety of sound through the matching of the speakers and the amplifier. And if you already have a good amplifier, you can switch speakers relatively cheaply because you only have to change speakers.

Personally, I didn't like passive speakers because of their inconvenience in choosing the amplifier, but i have changed my perspective a lot passive speakers recently because of product like Amphion speakers, which has systems specialized for their own speakers. but then that's actually the difference between Active is taking the amplifier section out of the speaker then being inside. 

personally, the sound of the Amphion speakers was so good that it was enough to change the bias against the passive speakers.

 

Number of inches and room size

 

When I buy speakers, one of the most frequently asked questions in the music community is, "what inches (size) should I buy?" The size of the speakers shows a big difference in the low range (proportional to the number of upper inches) and power (watt) that the speakers can provide. 

Inches typically come in various sizes, such as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 inches. 

I think it's a good idea to start with a 5-inch woofer-size speaker to give you the most basic balance. also, a large number of inches doesn't necessarily mean that speakers are good. considering the typical home room size, I think the best size is about five inches. of course, in order to fill a larger space like a project studio or a control room, a size of about seven to eight inches (because power has to be taken into account).

All of the studio's Near-field speakers I worked with five-inch products, and even in my home studio mix room, I use five-inch. Using over sized products in a small space can make low-band control very difficult and, in turn, difficult to monitor properly. 

It naturally leads to a very important topic called the "room."

even buying the most expensive and best speaker If the room where the speaker will be put, is not good enough, the performance of the speaker will be useless.

How can you say speaker which costs over 20 million KRW (17.000 USD) was disappointing? That's because the space where the speaker was was doesn't fit too well with this speaker system.

The highs were too strong, and in proportion to the large number of inches, lows did not exist. Because the room acoustic was a bad even 10 percent of the speakers couldn't perform. The interesting finding was when JBL 5-inch speakers were used as near-field in the room it was ratter better, basically 50 times the price difference of the same brand. I am not trying to say something bad about JBL M2 speakers, but to point-out importance of room acoustic . If I had installed M2 in a space suitable for JBL M2, my assessment on this speaker would have been very different.

 

That's why perhaps asking other users for advice on speakers doesn't mean much. It's important to note that the sound of a speaker listening in one room is the sum of the speakers plus the user's space. for example, when you go to a studio and listen to a certain speaker, it sounds so good that you purchase same speaker install it in your space but than you can have a very disappointing result . great speaker can perform great in good room acoustic, but then same pair can be expressed differently in individuals space where the room acoustic is so different.

 

Basically it can be very difficult to talk about the performance of a speaker until you install it in your space.

I always said, "ATCSCM25a were My Dream Speaker" on my YouTube channel, but the first listening experience at the studio the ATC SCM25a speakers didn't sound so good, and i remember thinking"Why are they so expensive?" I later discovered that the studio's room acoustic was so bad it actually boosted lows to +18db (yes really :)) 

 

I like ATC SCM25a enough to be used as a mastering studio in my current job, but I don't think I'll be able to bring it into my home studio even if I have the budget.,because I know that size and role of the speaker will not fit in my little space.

Of course, there is a tendency for speakers. There's a good ones with lows, as well as highs, there's some with poor mid’s, there's a speaker who doesn't have an overall impact etc etc. It's not bad to ask other users for advice on such a basic nature, but it would be great if you could get a comprehensive view of many users rather than one or two of them.  

 

As room acoustic is a very important element in the studio, I also measured my own home mix room, installed my own base traps, mineral wool acoustic panels, and my acoustic panels that I bought in Sound Tree when I was in Korea. It was arranged according to the propensity of Neumann KH-120 speakers when they first moved in here, and created a room with (for) speakers.

In Canada, where I am, when building a studio they usually hire Room Acoustician, first question they ask is, "What kind of speakers will be your main speaker?" And t "What console are you going to use?" Because as you design your room to fit your speakers, you have to figure out the console, which is a large, immobile reflector.

 

To sum it up I can say

 

• Room acoustic is as important as the speaker

• Choose the right size speakers for your space.

• To understand the speakers' propensity, listen from the listning room where the speakers are placed in the same space, or gather a comprehensive opinion from many users.

 

Communicative power

 

The "monitor speakers" are the final monitoring of tone, music. I'm sure you've all experienced something like in your studio where you were very satisfied with mixwith your speakers, and then when monitored same mix at your friend's house, another studio ,on a car or earphone the result was very different This means your sound doesn't transfer properly from your system to other system. 

So how can the sound I hear from my system can go to another system and still communicate well?

It could be boring answer but it is "adaptation" and "experience." 

No matter how good speaker you have and how you try make a good room acoustic, you can't create a perfect sound space. You need "fit" in that space. For example, if you go to a different place and hear the result of your studio, and you hear too much lows wherever you go, you might be lacking lows in your space. So when you make the mix, you tend to raise the lows beyond what you need to do, thenwhen you listen to it from a different space, it probably sounds like there are excessive amount of lows. from then on, if you actually make the lows feel a little bit less in your studio, you'll be able to create sound that will give you the right lows elsewhere. 

back when Mo-Town dominated the U.S., I heard most studio had an AM radio Transmitter because most listeners had heard music in their cars so studio had to make music and monitor it through the car radio. That's why I always hear the final mix as Apple's Earpot.  And for the same reason, the Mastering Studio has somewhat ‘not-good sounding’ speakers like computer speakers and Auratone to listen and to check their work. 

But if you can trust your studio's sound to 100 percent, you can be more confident than worrying about checking your own sound on other references.

For example, I used to use a speaker called  Focal CMS50. But I felt a little bit bored when I was mixing. But when I heard the result on the system that ‘consumer speaker, it actually was fun to listen to. So, when I made a really interesting sound in my Focal system I found that you get the effect of making a much more interesting sound in a system that already has interesting elements. So I worked with the confidence even though sound was a bit boring with Focal the result should not be so boring.

But then, I felt so bored when I was working on music that I used to get tired of myself  so I searched for a more interesting speaker, then I replaced the speaker with Neumann KH120a. The fast, medium-range texture and high-fidelity stimulation of a far more transient response than a Focal speaker has somehow coincided with the stimulating parts of the consumer system, particularly the air-pots, I experienced to create more result without need for other reference .

 

Craving for new speakers

 

Familiarity is obviously a difficult thing to change. When you get used to one system, you don't get to change it easily, so many people still use a speaker for many years even though that you don't think is a good speaker, I don't think it's a bad thing, if you understand exact the sound of pair of speakers in one room, there's no reason to change it. 

But if you're an music professional... I think it's fate to be interested in new speakers and new systems. ^_^;;

While having thought of 'What other interesting speakers are there’ in my mind I met interesting speaker when I was having a seminar in Korea this summer. 

It was speaker called Amphion. In Korea, it is already popular enough to be used widely in numerous studios, but I did not have a chance to listen to the product because in Canada they were introduced  a little later than in the U.S. or Asia. 

When I heard Amphion through a seminar sponsored by Record factory (http://recordfactory.net) and Gear Lounge (https://www.gearlounge.com) who helped me greatly in Korean seminar, I thought it was very good .

 

But at the seminar, I had to focused on the lecture and missed a lot of things, so I went to the demo room and listened to the Ampion speakers afterwards, and I thought it was the speaker I wanted and I was looking for. 

It was very fun to listen to it was flat and had kind of high-fidelity sound to it, and was surprised to see that it created good sound for every genre of music, like pop, jazz hip-hop and classical also the price was cheaper than the ATC SCM25a (that I always praised:)), so I immediately checked to my purchasing list. But back in Canada, due to operational error of a Canadian Amphion dealer the shipping of Amphion was delayed (It;s very hard to buy MI equipment in Canada) so I searched for another speaker and thats when I met reProducer.

I am using a speaker called Epic5 in my home studio now. It's kind of like Amphion speaker, I found out about it when I was looking for less expensive groups of products. 

 

I found that a company that makes custom speakers called United Minorities (https://www.united-minorities.com) is making speakers for mass production called reProducer so I contacted marketing guys whom I got to know while working as engineer and asked them  “I found out this new speaker brand called reProducer and I don't know if there will be any reProducer products in Canada (MI desert..) also I am afraid It would take too long to arrive even if I order it direct", but then when I placed an order on the official website it was delivered to me on following week.

 

In fact, it's not easy to buy a product that doesn't have any information about it and can't even find a review.but then background of the United Minorities, available Specs and manual sent to me gave the trust in the speaker and when I got the speaker result was the Great success!

 

In my home studio, I didn't need more than five inches, I had my own room acoustic fit for my space , so I could get the speakers I needed. 

Reproducer's moderate low's, high's and mid-range's and high-fidelity sound felt that it only brought the advantages I wanted from Neumann KH-120a and Amphion speakers.

Because I worked on various genres of music such as pop, classical music, jazz, folk,rock, etc., I needed a speaker who could deliver various genres of music to me than one genre and because of that reProducer was perfect for me . I think it's important to recognize "speakers that are right for you" in your choice of speakers. Personally, I don't like speakers with excessive boost at certain frequencies, and some users like the propensity of those particular speakers. Because I like relatively flat speakers, Reproducer's personality fits me well. 

Usually, a 5- to 6-inch speaker because of woofer size It's not easy to express a low-bandwidth, so as far as i know to create a lows, speaker makers use cabinet resonator which uses speaker cabinet or use port on front or back to reinforce lows or use back of the wall for bass reflection to create virtual low ends

 

This product has a system that complements the low-bandwidth with 6.25 inch passive radiator, one inch larger than 5.25. It has a passive radiator on the bottom and it's designed to use the aluminum feet itself as a spike and to avoid contact with the speaker stand, also it's highly adjustable to a very fine height.

 

In fact, I don't think what techniques are better means. It's more about how you put it together than what you use, and the simple but complex speaker technology makes sense in the last detail. There are already technologies in place, such as minimizing errors in Twitter and Woofer's time difference and choosing and filtering Cross-over points, but the final end for creating good sound is their skill. Maybe that's why I don't really care about the technical description of where the cross-over point is the frequency response rate or what the impedance is.  

The final sound is more important than the Spec sheet.

There are RCA and XLR inputs, high-low trim and standby switches on the back. This high-low trim is very useful, even with other speakers. It's very useful to have a device that can control a certain amount of low-band and high-bandwidth control. 

 

reProducer Epic5 had a big bonus that was never seen by any of the other speaker companies: it provides very high-quality case. Actually, I don't have to go anywhere else with my speakers, but seeing the speakers lying neatly inside the case made me feel very good and felt that I had a big bonus and was thinking about using this case somewhere else. :)  

 

Few tips

 

So I went through a variety of speakers and settled down in my home studio as a reProducer for a number of reasons listed above.

I'd like to share some of the speaker installation tips that are commonly used in the studio.. 

To use your speakers properly, if possible you should avoid putting them on your desk its recommended to use a separate speaker stand.

When the speaker goes up on the desk, you can't stop the vibration or booming should occur with the desk itself  even you use separate spike 

 

Sweet spot?

 

Many manufacturers define the height or location of a particular speaker as the location where their speakers make the best sound. In the case of a reProducer I chose, the location was described with the picture

As shown in the figure above, the angle should not be raised from the bottom, nor should the speaker be installed flat forward, with the design lying tilted as shown in the third figure. 

 

The design behind a tilted speaker is that a product was designed to calculate the time difference between twitter and woofer, so you can listen to the speaker's Sweet Spot . It also says to align the ear position with the space between Twitter and the Woofer. 

This detailed manual of the Sweat Spot was what i pointed out initially described above as how reliable reProducer was even just looking at the manual. product which don't discuss about this are generally used to align Tweeter to the level of your ears. 

 

Sweet Spot..? - Triangle

 

Figure-04 above is also extracted from the reProducer's manual, a graph of the importance of triangle positions. The more three-dimensional between the speakers and the position of the speakers and the position of my head, the more stereo images of the speakers are expressed as the manufacturer wanted. In the graph above, the gap between speakers increases stereo image increases, and closer you get a smaller stereo image. But the ideal position is a regular triangle.

 

Ending

 

Review for reProducer became longer than I thought. The choice of speakers, the subject that I really wanted to talk about, is a topic. As a freelance engineer. I often have exiting experience where I can listen to a wide variety of speakers in a wide variety of spaces. 

 

In fact, what size speakers do you have, what kind of bass pot do you have? Is it really important? its a good speaker If I like it ?" could be final speaker story. 

But as I mentioned earlier in the article, because the final point of my sound being expressed is the speaker, it's a very important element in music, and good speakers, speakers that fit you, can really help your work. 

My final monitor speaker is reProducer of the five-inch speakers I've been working as an engineer, I think the best one I've ever heard is reProducer.  

Not even released in Korea while writing a review in Korean. And I end up talking about products that might not be available, but I hope that many of the factors that I'm paying attention to when I choose my speakers can help you choose your speakers.      

 

Alan J.S. Han

 

http://www.alanjshan.com/

 

reProducer audio labs


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