Master Mi

Faithful studio monitor speakers with flat frequency response and crystal clear sound

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Yeah, an untreated room will be off, but there are basic "treatments" you can do via geometry and speaker placement that can make a dramatic difference. You don't have to cover your walls with insulation panels and have bass traps in your corners, as long as you place your speakers in a symmetrical position (avoid corners if you can) and have some sort of diffusion around+behind you (bookshelves or any other furniture that breaks up incoming sound waves into a relatively random/uneven dispersion pattern so you don't have too much flutter and reflections).

Having accurate bass representation in a home studio will be impossible 99% of the time, and while a couch does help a little bit you'll still find yourself in the position to compensate in every mix, just be wary of the crossover frequencies between your sub and speakers.

As PRYZM said, regardless of how flat a speaker is, your room will unflatten it, so follow some basic setup rules to get the most out of them:
 

  • Have your speakers pointing down the length of the room if possible.
  • (most important rule for home studios I think) Maintain an equilateral triangle between your ears and the speakers. Have them pointing at your ears and be the same distance from each other as one is to your head. 
  • Try not to have bare flat walls to your left or right (immediate location plus 1-2 feet behind you, wherever you approximate the sound from the speakers hitting the wall first)
  • Don't have your back up against an immediate wall, the longer the space between your back then wall behind it, the better bass response you'll get.

There are debates about what is the best way to set up speakers, but what there's no real debate about is that haphazardly placing your desk+speakers in any room is not the best idea, so try to follow as many setup guidelines as you can, even if you can only do one of those, it'll be a huge difference between having none.

The Presonus Eris 3.5 in that graph are not flat in the least. There's a pretty large 8dB resonant peak at about 110hz and a large 9dB boost between 1khz-1.7khz, they're designed more for listening than mixing, so you'll have to watch your bass mixing and the very important 1khz area (between 1khz-2khz is where a lot of speakers of all price levels tend to vary a bit). If you want to test, load a simple sine wave patch and play B2, and then play a D4, you should hear a difference in level.

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@PRYZM

Sounds kinda impressive what I've read about Sonarworks and the pretty complex measuring method.

But tell me one thing.
The both graphs in your picture....

1) Are these the two graphs of the frequency response of the sweet spot listening position vs the average frequency response of the different measure points in the room?
2) Or are those the two graphs of the frequency response before and after calibration?

I guess it's rather 1) - because I've seen after calibration results that were much more impressive concerning a flat frequency response.
But just to get sure about the meaning of the graphs in the picture...

And just another question.
After the measurement of the frequency response of the about 20 differents points of the room with the special microphone of Sonarworks - what happens afterwards?
Is there some kind of a software equalizer within Sonarworks that adjusts the whole sound output of your PC into a more flat frequency response by taking the peaks and adding a similar, mirrored counter frequency on an imagined axis supposed to be the intended "flat frequency axis" to flatten the exceeding peaks?

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@SnappleMan

So, for the room adjustment of the speakers I guess I've got some luck.

1) The sound of the speakers (which are quite in centered position on one end of the room) goes into the long side of the room, where it might go a bit through the glass of a window and a balkony door - so, a pretty open room structure.
2) I've set up the speakers on angled absorber pads on my desk - pointing within a slight triangle slightly upwards to my ears (so, the bass reflex unit of studio monitors won't reflect directly and straightly towards the wall as well).
3) I've got wallpaper on walls and ceiling, carpeted floor and a carpet on the floor and a couch on one side in the middle of the room - which might absorb some of the roaming frequencies or reflections.

And of course I've got some smaller studio monitor speakers with a far less dominant bass activity and more present mids than others who tend to put larger studio monitors in comparatively small rooms.
I guess that could be a big advantage of a smaller studio monitor system with less bass response - because bass frequencies obviously tend to stay longer in the room within their long-wave reflections than mids or high frequencies.
And even at close range (due to my room structure and doors I'm pretty much forced to sit less than one meter in front of them) and even with low volume they make a pretty decent sound where my former (much bigger) Adam T5V studio monitors had to be about 2 meters away and turned up much more to get an hint of imagination of certain details of the full sound spectrum (especially in the mid and high frequency range).

So, for my room conditions I guess I can't get so much better results with most studio monitors within my price limit up to 600 bucks...
... except with Sonarworks maybe.

But now I'm a bit curious.
Just tell me - what kind of studio monitors do you own (and in which kind of room with which room size they are placed) - or to which studio monitors are you looking up to eagerly?
 

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On 11/5/2018 at 4:55 PM, Master Mi said:

@PRYZM

Sounds kinda impressive what I've read about Sonarworks and the pretty complex measuring method.

But tell me one thing.
The both graphs in your picture....

1) Are these the two graphs of the frequency response of the sweet spot listening position vs the average frequency response of the different measure points in the room?
2) Or are those the two graphs of the frequency response before and after calibration?

I guess it's rather 1) - because I've seen after calibration results that were much more impressive concerning a flat frequency response.
But just to get sure about the meaning of the graphs in the picture...

And just another question.
After the measurement of the frequency response of the about 20 differents points of the room with the special microphone of Sonarworks - what happens afterwards?
Is there some kind of a software equalizer within Sonarworks that adjusts the whole sound output of your PC into a more flat frequency response by taking the peaks and adding a similar, mirrored counter frequency on an imagined axis supposed to be the intended "flat frequency axis" to flatten the exceeding peaks?

The two graphics are both before, for each the left and right speakers separately.

That's a crude way of understanding the calibration but it's really not just about EQ. It develops a filter to invert the problems in your room; not just "frequency" the way musicians think of it (musicians associate frequency with pitch, from bass to treble) but the true extent of what frequency represents in electrical engineering, which includes eliminating things like room reflections.

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Yeah the only ways I know of to "eliminate" room reflections are to either absorb or diffuse them, but I am relatively inexperienced. I never heard of doing something like phase cancelling reflections, not sure how that would physically be viable but I assume that's what "... filter to invert the problems in your room" means.

@Mister Mi
There aren't any monitors I'm wanting to get, I've gone through so many different ones in my studio at many price ranges, right now the main ones I'm using are just a simple pair of HS7s, I have a set of A7X's waiting in storage to be installed on my 2nd rig, but that's as expensive as I'm willing to go in this environment. Anything beyond the low-mid range would just be going to waste here, my studio is a 20x13x8 room so the low ceiling limits how much use any expensive speaker would give me, but I have some strategically placed gear racks and bookshelves to diffuse the sound a good bit so I don't hear too much reflections or fluttering.

If you're used to the sound of your room and have enough experience you will eventually be able to mix in it just fine regardless of your acoustics (to a reasonable degree). I spend 19 hours a day in here working on mixes and recording music so I need to have decor, windows, sunlight and an overall aesthetically pleasing atmosphere to keep me from going insane. I made that compromise between acoustics and aesthetics and it only took about a month to get used to the new sound of the room and the confidence in my mixes came back 100%.

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So, if Sonarworks can't detect and eliminate room reflections (thought it could do it approximately 'cause of the 24 points room measurement method) it would make more sense to buy fairly flat and much smaller studio monitors (with a small sub which makes a tight 'n' dry bass maybe) that don't make too heavy low frequency reflections in your cozy couch-wallpaper-and-floor-covering-'n'-carpet-treated room.

@SnappleMan
Dude, if "20x13x8 room" is not a special term for any kind of a plain vanilla cave then you obviously have something like an awesome small cinema for music production (hope it won't freeze your ears in the winter 'cause of the immense heating costs :D).

If you already have a simple pair of Yamaha HS7 studio monitors, be content and don't invest into more expensive little downgrades like Adam A7X.
I've listened to them in the store and they sounded kinda impressive (I guess I was deceived by the powerful bass) - but they sound (figuratively speaking) a bit more like "an engine than nature" and they seem to have some slightly extended basses and high frequencies where especially the basses could bring some problems in your room at home cause of the low frequency waves tend to stay much longer in the room.
I guess I had exactly this problem in my room which induced me to bring my Adam T5V (which are similar to the A5X) back in the store.

If you compare the A7X und the HS7 to the source track you might recognize that the HS7 are slightly closer to the original sound in this case:


The wattage of the HS7 (about 95 W) is also much lower than the A7X (about 150 W!!!).

If you can't stand the plastic-like sound of the Yamaha with the sometimes a bit harsh sound, check out the Presonus Eris E5 (only 70 W - sound similar, but a bit warmer and less harsh - and just around 300 bucks as a pair!!!) in comparison.

>>>


I guess you won't regret it because the Presonus studio monitors do a pretty well job (kinda flat and very faithful sound, choice of materials - which are also important for a nice and faithful sound, design, price) - although I'm just fine with the smallest and newest ones (E 3.5) with which I don't have too much annoying bass frequency reflections in my small room.

Maybe give all your favourites a try, order all these in your local music store and compare them with the Presonus studio monitors.
I'm totally interested how you would decide after this. ))

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On 11/8/2018 at 2:17 AM, SnappleMan said:

Yeah the only ways I know of to "eliminate" room reflections are to either absorb or diffuse them, but I am relatively inexperienced. I never heard of doing something like phase cancelling reflections, not sure how that would physically be viable but I assume that's what "... filter to invert the problems in your room" means.

So I should amend my statement to be more technically accurate: Sonarworks can not remove reflections from the room, they are still bouncing around, and no amount of DSP can just stop them from propagating.

However, the effect is "cancelled" at the exact measured listening position. Sonarworks is an FIR approach, which is another name for convolution style filtering. Deconvolving reflections is totally and absolutely in the wheelhouse of FIR filtering, as reverb is "linear" and "time-invariant" at a fixed listening position, (relatively) fixed monitoring level and fixed positions of objects and materials in the room. So it absolutely necessitates re-running calibration process if you change stuff around in the room, change the gain structure of your system output, etc

I can't comment on standing waves but it seems in their paper they noted that it wasn't covered by the filter approach and so they recommended treatment for that. Just from my peanut gallery background in studying EE I think it makes sense that standing waves aren't linear and time invariant and so trying to reverse them through a filter wouldn't go well. Same goes for nulls, if a band is just dying at your sitting position, trying to reverse that via filter is just not smart at all.

Regardless, if you were to move your head or walk around, you would again clearly notice how horrible the room sounds (though the fixed general frequency response is still an improvement), because now you've violated the "math assumption", introducing sound difference created by changing your spatial position. This is the disadvantage of relying on DSP calibration (along with latency and slight pre-ring for the linear phase) and is a compelling reason why you wouldn't want to choose it over proper acoustic design in a more commercial/professional studio design (you don't want crap sound for the people sitting next to you in a session!).

I think it's a pretty decent trade for home producers and produces much better results than trying to put cheap speakers in a minimally treated room and still having to learn how to compensate for issues. I just see it as more expensive and time-consuming. Compensating isn't fun; its easy on headphones  where problems are usually broad, general tonal shifts in frequency ranges. But in a room, and this is shown in the measurement curve, the differences are not broad and predictable, they're pretty random and localized in small bands. In my opinion it's difficult to really build a mental compensation map unless you listen to a metric ton of different sounding music in your room. It is traditional to learn your setup, but I think the tech is there to make the process way simpler nowadays.

To be scientifically thorough, I would love to run a measurement test and show the "after" curve of my setup, however sadly I don't think it's really possible, because SW has a stingy requirement that for measurement the I/O for the computer has to be running on the same audio interface and the calibrated system output is a different virtual out, so there's no way I could run the existing calibration and then also measure that in series. All I can do is volunteer my personal anecdotal experience at how it has improved the sound. I'm not trying to literally sell it to you guys, and no, I don't get kickback, I just think it's one of the best investments people should make into their audio before saving up to buy expensive plugins or anything else. Especially because its results are relatively transferrable to any new environment without spending any more money no matter how many times you move, where room treatments would have to be re-done and maybe more money spent depending on the circumstance.

And because of the topic of this thread, it shouldn't be understated that SW calibration can drastically improve the viability of using cheaper sound systems to do professional audio work. I've run calibration at my friend's house with incredibly shitty, tiny $100 M-Audio speakers, in just about the worst way to possibly place/orient them, and I'd say the end result really was within the ballpark of sound quality I get at my home room with more expensive monitors and a more symmetrical set up. It wasn't the same, but it was a lot more accurate (sans any decent sub response) than you could roll your eyes at. Stereo field fixing is dope too.

@Master Mi I'm not sure what's to be accomplished by linking YouTube videos of the sound of other monitors. They're all being colored by whatever you're watching the YouTube video on. At best, a "flat response" speaker will sound as bad as the speakers you're using to watch the video, and furthermore, a speaker set that has opposite problems that yours do will sound flat, when they aren't flat at all. Listening to recordings of other sound systems is just about the worst possible way to tell what they sound like.

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On 11/10/2018 at 4:13 AM, PRYZM said:

@Master Mi I'm not sure what's to be accomplished by linking YouTube videos of the sound of other monitors. They're all being colored by whatever you're watching the YouTube video on. At best, a "flat response" speaker will sound as bad as the speakers you're using to watch the video, and furthermore, a speaker set that has opposite problems that yours do will sound flat, when they aren't flat at all. Listening to recordings of other sound systems is just about the worst possible way to tell what they sound like.
 

... unless you have a source track with the original frequency exposure to make a better comparison between different speakers in relation to the source track itself - like in one of the videos above I've posted.

Let's take this one again:
 


In this case you rather need a studio monitor system or headphones that don't have to be that flat at all - but which make a good definition of the sound within its fully perceptible frequency range.
If that's the case you can make a good comparison of the presented speakers to the original source material.

And in this video you (or I) can hear that - for example:
- the Adam A7X have a pretty clear - but boosted and sligthly roaring bass - compared to the source track
- the Dynaudio BM5 MKIII have a boosted and roaring bass which lacks in definition and tends to bleed into the mids - compared to the source track
- the Yamaha HS7 are the studio monitors which are very close to the source track and which only differ from each other by a slightly different coloration of the sound (I guess it's also because of the used materials of the studio monitors which always reflect, absorb and transform an individual spectrum of frequencies in their own way...)

Based on studio monitors within comparisons like this you can also make vague comparisons to all other studio monitor speakers where you don't have some source frequency material - for example if you take the Yamaha HS7 as a close reference for further comparisons.


So, it's not completely impossible to make fairly good decisions based on comparisons like this if you have at least some studio monitors which make a very good definition of the wholly perceptible sound (no matter if nearly flat or not) and at least one comparison of different studio monitors with an original source track where at least one studio monitor pair is very close to the source track.

...

... and of course - if you don't forget the big influence of the room you want to put these studio monitors in. ;D

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On 11/12/2018 at 11:19 AM, Master Mi said:

... unless you have a source track with the original frequency exposure to make a better comparison between different speakers in relation to the source track itself - like in one of the videos above I've posted.
 

 

That'd be true if human loudness perception was linear and frequency-invariant; it is neither (hence the existence of the db scale and the fletcher munson curves).

If you're listening on a colored system which has any dramatic deficiencies, those ranges that have deficiencies will have a worse perception of the comparative difference between the source and the chosen monitor.

It's the same reason you can not just "compensate" if your headphones lack bass. If the bass is way too quiet, you literally are worse off to tell the difference between +/- 3 dB in the signal compared to if it were at the proper loudness coming out of the headphones, and this is terrible for mixing (why do you think you're supposed to mix at a constant monitoring level?). Only through lots of experience can you compensate that level of nuance with at such reduced monitoring level, like Zircon can do with his DT 880's; his sub and low end is freaking monstrous but controlled, just the right amount of everything, but he had to learn how to do that over years and years of working with the exact same pair of headphones.

Again, it's the worst way to judge anything. For example, I don't really agree with half of the assessments you made on those speakers listening on this end. The HS7 is actually the worst sounding speaker in this video, as it sounds like it was run through a bandpass. There's no life in any of the transients. Taking the HS7 as a close reference would not be a "fairly good decision" on your part, it would be pretty bad.

Also, note the disclaimer at the end where he said "these speaker sounds contain room acoustics".

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Yamaha vs. Presonus studio monitors
------------------------------------------------

Got some news on this studio monitor topic.

Some days ago, I've compared the Yamaha MSP 3 (smallest version of the MSP series) - the studio monitors of a good friend - with my Presonus Eris 3.5 (smallest version of the Presonus series).
And somehow, I really liked the more airy, very detailed hi-res sound and the better panorama staging of the Yamaha MSP 3 a bit more.

Although... my mixes sounded kinda similar on both systems concerning the frequency response levels (Presonus makes a bit more bass and a fuller, warmer sound, but lacks a bit in the top end frequency spectrum), some of my tracks I would have mixed slightly different at some parts at which the Presonus Eris 3.5 have shown me a clean mix, but the Yamaha MSP 3 gave me a little warning that there could be some minimally muffled mids there.

While my Presonus Eris 3.5 are already very quiet (you can only hear some kind of a white noise, if you are really close with the ears at the tweeters), you won't even hear too much of a noise when getting really close with the ears to the Yamaha MSP 3.
While the Presonus Eris 3.5 might look a bit more stylish, the Yamaha MSP 3 impress with a rock-solid building quality and they also weight more than twice as much as the Presonus.
While the Presonus Eris 3.5 studio monitor speaker are rear-ported, the Yamaha MSP 3 are front-ported (which seems to make them a better option for home studios with the common fate of being placed close to a wall).
The frequency range of the Presonus Eris 3.5 goes from about 80 to 20000 Hz (which is quite enough) - but the frequency range of the Yamaha MSP 3 already goes from 65 Hz to 22000 Hz (I totally love that higher top end, which only a few studio monitors can reproduce in a pleasant way).

Both studio monitor systems are extremely energy-efficient - the Presonus Eris 3.5 have a wattage of around 2*25 W and the Yamaha MSP 3 have a wattage of around 2*20 W.
And both studio monitor systems also seem to have a similar frequency response:

Presonus Eris 3.5 >>> presonus-eris-e3-5-2090536.png

Yamaha MSP 3 >>> YamMSP3response.png


In the end, most of my mixed tracks sounded pretty nice on both studio monitor systems - so, I guess the decision between both is not a deadly one for a beginner or advanced composer or audio engineer.
So, both seem to be really good for higher quality mixings - even more, if you use a good additional (adequately turned up) subwoofer like the Fostex PM-SUBmini 2 which can deliver a very dry, clean and detailed bass down to 40 Hz.

I'm sure, Yamaha does a great job at least since the 80s with their NS-10 studio monitors which have been successfully used in many professional studios since then.
And I really dig the sound of the successors within the HS and MSP line of the Yamaha studio monitors - like in this video which compares the bigger versions of the Presonus Eris 5 against the Yamaha MSP 5:
 


I totally like the crystal clear hi-res sound and the very detailed mid and high frequencies - as well as the really great top end (bigger Yamaha monitors go above 30000 Hz) - of the Yamaha studio monitor speakers.
No intrusive bass frequencies which could overshadow the mids in an unpleasant way - a big problem lots of studio monitors obviously have to deal with..
At least I can sense a bit of the good sound quality of these Yamaha studio monitors by listening to this with my Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones, directly connected to my high-end headphone amp Lake People Phone-Amp G109 (which is connected to my Steinberg UR44 audio interface).

Finally, I would really like to see (or rather listen to) a direct comparison between the Yamaha HS series and the Yamaha MSP series - because I still don't have listened to both versions alternately in a store or within one video.

Edited by Master Mi

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Finally, I've completely updated and edited this thread with a much better choice of high-end studio monitors.
I've also added some very good smaller studio monitor models for smaller or untreated rooms.

And in addition to some smaller changes I've made in the main text of this thread, I also found some good new features on a great Youtube channel for very helpful comparisons of several studio monitor speakers.

If you want to compare the sound and frequency response of several studio monitor speakers a bit more with your own ears and eyes, there's a pretty useful Youtube channel at which the uploader called Digital Stereophony makes kinda professional comparisons between lots of studio monitors and/or hi-fi speakers within a series of different soundtracks.

In his newer uploads he has also added the original source sound of the soundtracks for a better comparison of the speakers - and further on, he has added the frequency response graphs of the speakers at the end of his newer videos.
According to his own writings these are the frequency response graphs of the speakers in a semi-treated room.

So, if you are still looking for some studio monitors, feel free to have a detailed look at his speaker sound comparisons.
>>> https://www.youtube.com/user/skubny/videos

Edited by Master Mi

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