You are here

Log in or register to post comments
ajschmidt
ajschmidt's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 2:58pm
Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new speakers)

I'm looking for a new set of stereo speakers. Budget is not a big factor but my audio mastering logic is getting in the way of picking a pair. I come from a mixing recording background and need some help outside my circle of friends.
Here's the problem. I want to hear music the same way as the engineer/producer/artist heard it at the time of the cut. Most of us monitor on near field two ways, and I was going to go with JBL LSR6332 for my den, as this is the workhorse of the industry, but my travels got in the way, changing my mind. I had a chance to visit Abbey Road Studios and to hear cuts on an array of B&W Nautilus 800Ds. This seamed more like mastering to B&Os rather than near fields. Yes, at Abbey they have NFs too (ADAM S5VA MK2) but they didn't have that "sweat air" that the 800Ds did. I guess it boils down to this. Am I crazy to think that what the studio monitors sound like is a goal in choosing a speaker or should I keep looking for an improvement with great loud speakers?
Thanks Much.

The Room: 12x14 feet, floor to ceiling bookcases full, no windows, isolated HVAC (was going to be a studio space but plans changed, now a den) a very dead space.
Current System: Rather dated Martin Logan Sequel II, Bryston B4 (2x bridged), balanced feed from MOTU HD192 interface to MacPro (remote system).

Jan Vigne
Jan Vigne's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 18 2006 - 12:57pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

What is your intent? To criticize the production values everytime you listen to music? What are your listening priorities? IMO there aren't enough studio monitiors that will emphasize the music over the production values. But we all listen with different intents. If you want to hear the music as it was heard in the studio, then it would make sense to put studio monitors into your home system and expect to come as close as possible given the different location and system set up to hear what the studio set up sounds like. Once again IMO that doesn't mean it will sound like the original performance - just like the studio monitors. You might keep searching for monitors that are favored by the audiophile oriented studios and not the commercial studios.

ajschmidt
ajschmidt's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 2:58pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

Good Points. Didn't think about it that way. Yeah, see, the "bizz" has this idea that what ever it is, rock, hop, classical, that it sounds the best in the car. That the mix is great when your distracted and surrounded by noise. those are my buds. I guess the question becomes; are you treating speakers like a playback device or an instrument? Faithful like a dog, or someone to have an affair with? (Why you look lovely this evening)
I think I just answered the question, but I'd take input. Thanks.

wkhanna
wkhanna's picture
Offline
Last seen: 12 hours 15 min ago
Joined: Jul 13 2007 - 1:46pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

I don

JoeE SP9
JoeE SP9's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 3 days ago
Joined: Oct 31 2005 - 6:02pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

I wish you'd do us all a very big favor. Please spread the word to your buds in the "bizz" that automobiles are not the best place to listen to music.

ajschmidt
ajschmidt's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 2:58pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new


Quote:
I wish you'd do us all a very big favor. Please spread the word to your buds in the "bizz" that automobiles are not the best place to listen to music.

Honestly, I think it would be easier to have them all buy Audis with B&O systems...

misterdecibel
misterdecibel's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jul 8 2006 - 9:31am
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

First of all, I hope no one Masters on nearfields.

Tracking, mixdown, and mastering are three separate processes, and usually result in three separate monitoring situations.

During tracking I've usually seen engineers using the big soffit monitors when they're still at the stage of moving microphones around and finding basic sounds, then kick down to the nearfields for the more repetitive bits of actually laying down tracks. For mixdown a lot of times the Producer will want to hear the nearfields, Yamaha NS10s or something similarly vile, to hear how the recording will translate to "the average end user" (they think), with occasional references to the big monitors. Mastering labs tend to look more like a spread from SP or TAS, I've seen (pictures of) mastering labs that looked like Jonathan Scull's room.

So when you say you want to replicate the mastering experience, which are you asking for?

Personally, through the whole recording process, at least for multitrack pop/rock/rap/r&b type material, I think the mastering engineer may be the only person in the chain who has actually HEARD what the project sounds like. Right before he squashed it into oblivion to make it radio-friendly.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 6 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

the MEs dont squash to make it "radio friendly"

they are merely translating the wishes of THEIR CLIENTS(who pay their bills) to the medium.

the CLIENTS are the idiots. The record company suits that think LOUDER IS BETTER..

not the engineers.

misterdecibel
misterdecibel's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jul 8 2006 - 9:31am
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new


Quote:
the MEs dont squash to make it "radio friendly"

they are merely translating the wishes of THEIR CLIENTS(who pay their bills) to the medium.

the CLIENTS are the idiots. The record company suits that think LOUDER IS BETTER..

not the engineers.

I didn't ascribe a motivation to the Mastering Engineers, of course they're acting according to the wishes of the client. No one makes decisions they're not empowered to make by whoever holds the purse.

But my point was that accuracy is not necessarily the goal of studio reference monitors.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

That is true. The studio is designed to do a couple of things. One is to emphasize high frequencies and thus sibilance issues, phase issues, and microphone design and handling issues--and a few more things of similar nature. This is in fact NOT even remotely how anyone wants to listen to music. But, sadly, it is how much of it is produced.

There are differing types of mixing but for the majority of what one would call 'pop' recordings-that is how it is done.

Note the emphasis. Mastering can be quite different.

However, many times, the damage is well past the point of repair- having been done in the mixing and production phase.

Even with all of that..thankfully..some well produced music still manages to get out there. However, in this digital age of recent, it seems like less and less of it. Maybe I'm wrong on that count, though, as more and more kids or music groups/bands buy and use cheap set-ups or rigs, all on their own.

They, in their great lack of large studio production slickness, can and many times produce simply made stuff that -accidentally or otherwise- still manages to sound good.

The same 'large studio music destruction phenomenon' happens in the film industry on a day to day basis.

When a great recording engineer manages to catch live sync sound off the film production floor..the film and it's associated voice tracks are sent to the guys who are supposed to clean it up and add sounds, foley work, etc.

THOSE ASSHOLES...many times decide that they need to make absolutely sure that they justify their existence..and thus totally destroy the audio tracks. They 'artificialize', digitize, can (that shitty hollow empty dry sound of voices in films), and otherwise destroy great and well recorded voice tracks (sync sound) from the original production floor.

Thus the 'average' public perception of what a real voice in a film is considered to be, today, in the film business, is a wholly unnatural beast, very singly created and maintained by the guys in editing studios in Hollywood who desire to justify their importance to and in the production system/chain.

Some guys aren't that bad and the voice tracks are decent and uncluttered. But it is such an UNUSUAL thing for the public to hear that it is not recognized as natural sounding, it is recognized as being that 'British' or 'Canadian' sound of a film or TV show. Basically, the voices of the characters in the well produced sound of a film..actually sound as if they are in the environment that the film was made in. In the hollywood versions, the sound is not like they are in the rooms and spaces they are occupying. This is both good and bad. The hollywood reasoning is to make sure that the voices and sounds do not create a distinct 'separated and changed moment', from one scene to the next. Thus they homogenize the sync sound track to a large degree so no matter if the hero is underwater, parachuting, in the bathroom, or on a stage in a giant auditorium--their voice sounds exactly the same.

In real life, nothing could be more different sounding than these various acoustic environments. The problem is that many recording engineers cannot capture these various changes very well. Only the best can, and they are few and far between. The substitute for quality recording and COST control (otherwise they have to re-hire the actors to do voice overs!! Imagine the cost!!), is to trash the sound of voices in a premeditated manner.

The real point is that getting excellent sound from all these differing environments requires an excellent ACOUSTICIAN--and that is the problem, in near totality. Those guys who can do it to utter perfection are very few and far between. The Studios, directors, producers, managers, all the entire film production chain do not understand this fact, as audio is not self evident and is not visual-the media is visual (relatively self evident)- so they miss this point entirely and do not budget for it-they literally do NOT understand the issue.

Until..they can't capture the sound they want. Then they panic. They'll do stupid things. Eg., like put the actors hanging by wires between two running jet engines, waterfalls, or helicopters. Then they try and record the sound. so they set up a $200k per day and even dangerous set, scene, or shot like that--and totally forget (or fail to understand) that it is literally impossible to record human voices (screaming or otherwise) over 150db high proximity jet engines.

Then they call in my Biz partner, Taras. Who is one of the very few people who can fix any of those environments for perfect acoustics. I'm talking about counting the individuals who can do this---on the fingers of one hand. Seriously. Taras is one of the only people in the world that could be termed as being an acoustical 'cooler'- he is generally only brought in when the impossible needs to be done.

But, when they call him, they are panicking, they need it by yesterday, and they did NOT budget for it. I'm talking about sets where sometimes they are spending $100k-$200k per day, or more. (a $100M film shot in 50-60 days can easily exceed $100k per shot per day, you see-simple math), and they don't understand the subject at all-they are visual people, so they don't even understand that most times they are asking for the impossible. But Taras somehow gets it done. 44 films later-he hasn't failed yet.

Every time he walks onto a film set he literally does the acoustically impossible but every time the studios fail to recognize that act. They just need a job done and that's where it ends for them. Sometimes they are even angry or indignant that they had to pay for this thing they missed and do not understand.

They are visual people and don't put any or even the most minor correct emphasis on understanding acoustical environments.

That, in a nutshell, is why films sound so bad, most times.

PS. If I sound pissed off- I am. He is very likely the best in the business (and to my knoweldge-actually is) and he gets no respect or understanding of that.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 6 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new


Quote:
That is true. The studio is designed to do a couple of things. One is to emphasize high frequencies and thus sibilance issues, phase issues, and microphone design and handling issues--and a few more things of similar nature.

Not any studio I have ever worked in.... mixing and mastering studios are designed for maximum transparency,,,that is , areas that do not emphasize or hide any frequencies.

some rules.

Mix/Mastering suites must be extremely quiet..noise specs AT least NC 30, with the really great facilities attaining NC 20 or better. The monitor speakers should be high bandwidth , high headroom and extremely flat frequency response..rooms should be large enough to permit even handed bass response with no standing waves. rooms should be wide enough so that reflections from side walls are of no consequence. L>R symmetrical dimensions... ceilings sloping upwards from the monitor speakers(cathedral ceilings are a huge plus)...

as for the TRACKING rooms.. those are a mixed bag.

but there isnt any studio in existence that is DESIGNED to emphasize ANY frequency band. Balance is king.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new


Quote:

as for the TRACKING rooms.. those are a mixed bag.

but there isnt any studio in existence that is DESIGNED to emphasize ANY frequency band. Balance is king.

Yes, perhaps a misnomer on my part. But, the more illiterate among the rats can mix and record badly due to their feeling that they need to hear these things in such great abundance. Ie, way overemphasized so they can put it under the microscope. They then fail to realize that this ends up coloring their entire work effort in a detrimental way.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 6 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: Listing with the same intent as mastering? (deciding on new

yeah...I dont disagree, Ken.

I think most of this bad work is circulating due to a basic misunderstanding of how to work in the digital realm..we try to approach the digital environment the same way we did with analogue, and it doesnt work...particularly involving headroom...when we worked with tape, we had a limited amount of range we could use, so we kept the levels hot.. so as to not throw any information away.. many also fail to realize that driving an ADC hard is not the same as driving tape hard.. analogue saturation/compression= euphonic.

digital saturation/distortion-- ear bleed

in a nutshell...if people would remember this: things would be fine.

if you record with a 24 bit word, the noise floor is so low that setting levels that peak well below full scale is fine, still way above the noise floor.

Each bit you add to the word doubles the available values the word can represent, and therefore doubles the dynamic range (signal to noise ratio from full scale down to noise) that you can record.

A doubling of dynamic range equates to 6db. Therefore, each bit in the word contributes 6db of dynamic range. A 16 bit word therefore has a 96db signal to noise ratio, and 24 bit word can express 144db of signal.

In the real world, the audio electronics in the converter provide a higher noise floor than a 24 bit word can represnt, so a good 24 bit converter will give, lets say conservatively, 110db of signal to noise.

This means that if you record your audio with peaks no higher than -14db under Full Scale, you'll still be experiencing a recording with 96db of dynamic range, which is the best any 16 bit CD has every accomplished.

To make the point even more graphically - this all assumed that the source signal has a dynamic range in excess of 96db too. I would bet you a beer that it isn't even close. There's no tube mic that operates that cleanly. Your studio room has noise higher than that. All your hardware compressors and EQs operate with a much higher noise floor.

If you were very careful, and ended up having a source with 70db of dynamic range (congratulations!) you could record it with peaks at -26dbFS (-26 under full scale) and still have preserved every ounce of dynamic range.

So its obvious that hitting full scale isn't necessary at all - why not preserve some headroom just in case? Let's say you do make it just under full scale. No harm in doing that if you don't go over, right?

Well, what do you do when you want to EQ something +2db? Where does that 2db go? Into clipping of course, unless you lower the input level of the plug in, which is going to lose any hypothetical S/N benefit you had preserved anyway.

Even more importantly, when you record this hot, I've got to ask - what did you do to your preamps, and analog chain to get this level? Most converters are set so that 0dbVU = -18dbFS.

That means that if you're getting -6 below full scale on your converter, that you're +12db over the 0VU point! Many analog electronics can crap out here, but almost all will sound different at least. Some times it may be "better" but usually, its a small accumulation of distortion that builds into a waxy fog that makes people blame "digital recording" for its pristine playback of their slightly distorted, but "pretty on the meter," tracks.

If you record with levels around your 0 point, some thing like -18dbFS or -14dbFS, depending on how your converter is calibrated, you'll have your analog electronics in their sweet spot, headroom for plug ins and summing, an appropriate analog friendly level if you use analog inserts later in the process, and on a modern 24bit converter with 110db S/N, the ability to faithfully record signals with a dynamic range of over 90db.

And by all means, 0dbVu is no glass ceiling like 0dbFS is. Keeping levels around 0dbVU doesn't mean that peaks won't exceed that by 6 (or more) db. If they do, your ability to record 96db of S/N (if you even have it in the source, and you don't), just like the best CD you ever heard will be preserved, if peaks don't exceed -12dbFS! More if they do.

So all this means is that the noise is SO low in a good modern 24 bit converter that you can keep gobs of headroom for proper interfacing with analog gear, and still get the full 96+db of dynamic range, just 12 to 18 db lower on the meter. Your analog gear will thank you too.

So all of this results in a pristine, beatiful, airy, detailed 24 bit mix with peaks around -12dbFS? Cool!

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading