Monitor Selection

Robert Katz Leave a Comment

From:  Jimmy Schepers

Dear Bob Katz,

I was pleased to read your article/interview on Especially because I was one of the proud questioners. Your answer on the types of mastering, and your roll vs the producer, made a lot of sense to me. That’s why I decided to check out your homepage, and I have to say,  even here is a lot to find about audio/mastering problems.

I’m a songwriter/producer/beginning engineer, and I’m quite a few years allready into recording, as well for my own work as for others. Till the day of today, I have always mixed on my favorite hifi-speakers.

But when mixing, and especially mastering (which is off course just a plugin-situation on this moment for me), nothing seems to be more important than **** good monitoring. People that are much more into that aspect, always told me that that’s the only way to get a neutral sound.

But when looking further, I realize that the opinions about this fact are so different every time. For hiphop, it’s better to use this kind of type, but when mixing rocknroll, you maybe like the sound of this or this brand more. Your mixing classical? Oh, then just use this pair.

There’s also said that having the speakers too close to your ears would manipulate a right bass image. But at the other hand, you find hundreds of extra subwoofers, the one even more powerful than the other.

The question actually is: what is it about that “neutral sound” that you want to achieve, when every monitor sounds different? Is it then that no monitor at all is sounding completely “as it is” (when not looking at position or acoustic treatment or whatsoever)? When looking at 10 pairs of monitors, there are no two pairs that are equally bright for example. And I can imagine that a 2000watt subwoofer delivers a lot more (sub)bass if wished so than one of 500watt, but what’s then the reference when talking ’bout neutral? Having not enough bass in your satellites makes you hype the bass too much, but having the biggest subwoofer on earth will only make you putting not enough sub in the mix.

Maybe it’s a question of calibrating, measuring, positioning and so on to get that wanted neutral reference sound, but if you have to do that even with pro monitors, which are made for “no coloring”, why then wouldn’t I just be able to do the same with those hifi speakers (aside from other technical aspects of quality monitors off course)?

I would be very pleased to receive an answer from you, or got redirected to your already 1000times given solutions/answers.

Thanks for your time, keep it up, by reading all this I know you’re a man that knows what he is doing with audio, and so you’re one of those whom I admired as a child, and I will keep on seeing your knowledge as a goal for my personal intentions to become as pro as you are.

Kind Regards,

Jimmy Schepers, BE

Dear Jimmy:

Thanks for your question and your wonderful comments on our site!

Let me answer briefly:

Using mini monitors on a meter bridge, near field, is a recipe for disaster for an inexperienced engineer. The engineers who have had success with that setup have done many albums and learned to adapt to that extreme a presentation. The ones who haven’t and take that presentation for the truth end up producing masters with too loud bass drum, weak bass instrument and no stereo separation, among other problems!  That is why it is much better for you to assemble an accurate, wide range monitor system.

In the absence of that, you would need to take your mixes around to half a dozen to a dozen systems that you know and see how they translate. And regardless, a good mixing engineer does that as a matter of course and comes back and tweaks his mix accordingly before sending it off for mastering. During mastering, we do further efforts to help translate and polish your mix. If you can manage at least a “B” mix we can likely take it to an “A” master! At the mastering studio, we have a wide range, accurate, flat monitor system and environment (with infrasonic low frequency response) that translates to the smallest ipods and computers, boomy cars and to the widest club environments. We know this system cold, and we know how it is going to play everywhere, generally without having to compare on alternate systems (most of the time). The object is to get speakers in the middle of the curve to help the translation to the extremes. There is no such thing as loudspeakers that are optimum for a particular genre (e.g. hip hop). There are only monitors which are NOT good for a particular genre. In other words, hip hop would demand that your loudspeakers extend down to the lowest sub frequencies accurately, but you might get away with something less “extended” for, say, folk music.

The key is that the system that can handle all the frequencies and does not overload, and is accurate will work for ALL music; at that point then there are no “monitors for a specific music type”. Regardless, often in hip hop, having accurate bass can be misleading to an inexperienced engineer. He may tend to try to make it super loose and “fat” on the accurate system and then it will be too boomy in the car.

So there is still a learning curve even when you do have the accurate monitor system. But the opposite is not true: If you have a loose, ported and “floppy” bass in the mixing or mastering room you will not be able to judge when the bass is “tight enough” for the wide variety of alternate systems. That’s why “accurate” is the only choice you have.

That’s it in a nutshell. I hope this helps. I’ll check to see if this is in the FAQ and if not try to add it (in my copious free time  :-). I have three entire chapters on this subject in my new book, so you can see there’s a whole lot more you can learn about it if you wish!

Best wishes,


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