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Old December 10th, 2008, 06:42 AM   #1
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monitors: reading user opinions

As I live a few hundred miles from any city that would have audio monitors, I have to rely on reviews and user opinions to a great extent-- at least to narrow down the choices.

When I read the message boards, you could almost copy and paste one brand name into someone's opinion of another. Comparing the Genelec 8030A and Adam A7, for example, people have the same praise and criticisms about both.

My question: what do you think would happen if opinions were based on blind A-B testing, using sound samples that were unfamiliar to the listener? I just wonder how much of what I read is what people want to believe, especially if they've already made an investment in one brand.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 07:35 AM   #2
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Genelec seem to be either loved or hated - I call them a "Marmite" loudspeaker. Adam do seem to be flavour of the month at the moment with some people.

Personally, I searched for about 6 years to find small high quality monitors I could trust.

ATC were top of my list, but were heavy and expensive - Harbeth were also in there with the quality, but were only passive versions and I wanted actives. I ended up purchasing the Klein + Hummel O110 (D version actually) which I am very happy with.

Review is HERE.

It says:- "These monitors may be small, but they punch well above their weight."

Under "Alternatives" it says:- "Most monitors that match the sonic quality of the K+H O 110s cost significantly more, but on the list would be the ATC SCM20As, Harbeth Monitor 20s, PMC DB1s and Geithain ME25s."

I tried the first three before I went for the O 110s - cost and weight on the first ruled it out, passive only on the second ruled it out, slightly coloured speech ruled out the third (but all were excellent and, personally, I would go for any of these over the two you mention).

I hope this helps.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 07:49 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Fass View Post
As I live a few hundred miles from any city that would have audio monitors, I have to rely on reviews and user opinions to a great extent-- at least to narrow down the choices.

When I read the message boards, you could almost copy and paste one brand name into someone's opinion of another. Comparing the Genelec 8030A and Adam A7, for example, people have the same praise and criticisms about both.

My question: what do you think would happen if opinions were based on blind A-B testing, using sound samples that were unfamiliar to the listener? I just wonder how much of what I read is what people want to believe, especially if they've already made an investment in one brand.
Blind testing is good, but with well-known, not unknown, sample files. You're correct that monitor choice is a very subjective thing. But you're looking for accuracy in reproduction and you can't judge that unless you know what the test clips are supposed to sound like AND kinow that they were recorded and mastered properly to boot. You can't say that violins sounds too strident, for example, unless you know that they sound properly on the original recording.

FWIW, my personal choice was for a pair of JBL Pro LSR4328P
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Old December 10th, 2008, 08:55 AM   #4
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John and Steve, both of you make valid points -- and I'm not contradicting anything you brought up -- but I'm not thinking so much about relative and/or subjective opinions of sound quality. I'm thinking of bias caused by seeing a certain nameplate.

To take a ridiculous example, how many people could fairly judge a top-quality monitor that you slapped a "Radio Shack" logo on?

People seem to need allegiances to various brands, like the years-old Mac vs. PC wars. It becomes less about the thing itself, and more about your affiliation. Nothing to be done about, just a human need to take into account.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 09:32 AM   #5
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philip:

I do think you're right to some extent. I have to admit, while I love my Earthworks monitors, I really couldn't tell huge differences between them and the Genelec monitors used at the CD replication plant where we remastered a music project I recorded. I honestly think that once you get to a certain level of audio quality, things are pretty even. Although I do know those people who say they can tell the difference between brands of audio wire (I won't even go into that area). Names do play a role. They did when I bought my monitors, and I suspect anybody who says differently fibs at least a little.

Wayne

FYI, another engineer I know swears by Truth monitors. Loves them.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 09:51 AM   #6
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Wayne, I'm starting to formulate my personal rules for choosing:

1. Pick something with good reviews.
2. Buy.
3. Stop looking at the alternatives!

I was just about to settle for the Gen 8030s, when I saw the JBL 4326 with self-adjusting acoustics. Knowing that my room is not ideal for sound, I'm starting to rethink...again!...and violating my own rules.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 10:40 AM   #7
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The important thing about a monitor is that it is truthful and trustworthy - so you can make intelligent decisions on it.

It should *not* sound "good" or have a sound of it's own - in fact, good monitors can often sound bland or bad, especially if what you are playing through them is not perfect.

A monitor that makes your recordings sound better than they are should be avoided at all costs.

Be very careful - many people fall into the trap of buying a monitor because it sound great, rather than telling them the truth about their recording (which is what it should do).

A long time ago, by shortlist became ATC, Harbeth and PMC - because these were all excellent monitors and because the owners of the companies were passionate about their products and wanting to get them right. Later on I added K+H to the list and with the possible additions of Geithhein and Digidesign (made by PMC). Of these my favourites are: ATC, Harbeth and K+H (and I own Harbeth and K+H monitors).
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Old December 10th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #8
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John and others....let me bring you into a topic that seems to have no good answers, as far as I've seen in my Google searching and message board posts.

Let's say you have a good editing setup with honest monitors...now you add an editor (me) who has less-than-great hearing. (As many people do who are 50+, with limited upper-frequencies.) Has the cost of the monitors been a wasted expense? Is their honest sound of any value, even without the ears to fully appreciate what they can do?

I think less-than-perfect hearing is becoming very common, with the aging of the baby boomers and the long-term effects of loud music. So much that maybe "perfect" hearing is now the exception and not the rule.

What are your thoughts on this riddle?? I can't reach any conclusions so far.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 11:08 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Philip Fass View Post
John and others....let me bring you into a topic that seems to have no good answers, as far as I've seen in my Google searching and message board posts.

Let's say you have a good editing setup with honest monitors...now you add an editor (me) who has less-than-great hearing. (As many people do who are 50+, with limited upper-frequencies.) Has the cost of the monitors been a wasted expense? Is their honest sound of any value, even without the ears to fully appreciate what they can do?

I think less-than-perfect hearing is becoming very common, with the aging of the baby boomers and the long-term effects of loud music. So much that maybe "perfect" hearing is now the exception and not the rule.

What are your thoughts on this riddle?? I can't reach any conclusions so far.
If you have a dealer handy that will let you do it (and I remember you saying you didn't) one trick it to take a compilation CD of audition tracks and do a series of A/B tests. Rank the candidates in descending order by price. Test each pair with your material starting with the top. Compare 1 & 2, then 2 & 3, then 3 & 4, etc, working your way down until you reach a pair where you can hear a difference between the two under test. The upper one of that pair is the one to pick.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 11:34 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Philip Fass View Post
John and others....let me bring you into a topic that seems to have no good answers, as far as I've seen in my Google searching and message board posts.

Let's say you have a good editing setup with honest monitors...now you add an editor (me) who has less-than-great hearing. (As many people do who are 50+, with limited upper-frequencies.) Has the cost of the monitors been a wasted expense? Is their honest sound of any value, even without the ears to fully appreciate what they can do?

I think less-than-perfect hearing is becoming very common, with the aging of the baby boomers and the long-term effects of loud music. So much that maybe "perfect" hearing is now the exception and not the rule.

What are your thoughts on this riddle?? I can't reach any conclusions so far.
"Less than perfect hearing" is mostly a drooping upper end frequency response.

Quality monitoring is a *lot* more than mere frequency response - frequency response in itself is less important that a lot of other factors.

This is the ability to judge a mix, to hear what is going on, to hear and understand "noises", to get a proper balance.

Frequency response on it's own plays very little in the above.

I have only had my K+H O110Ds for a couple of years and I certainly don't regret the money - and I am in my 50's with a less than 20kHz top end.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 01:20 PM   #11
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...
I have only had my K+H O110Ds for a couple of years and I certainly don't regret the money - and I am in my 50's with a less than 20kHz top end.

I auditioned a pair of O110's and a pair of O300's at the time I got my JBLs. Found the JBL and O110 sounded very similar. The 300's were very nice and their price showed it!
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Last edited by Steve House; December 11th, 2008 at 03:37 AM.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 01:49 PM   #12
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John, your reply is exactly what I've been searching for. Thank you.

Do you know of any further reading on this? Not mixing itself, but the skills and physiology of it? I have books on audio, but none address the issue as your post did.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 09:03 PM   #13
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I've got a set of B&W's I use which I am happy with. not a lot of bottom, but reasonably honest, and you can listen to them all day long without fatigue. since you never mentioned price range, add in Dynaudio. they have some great units, with optional DSP to eq the room out via remote control software. even their base monitors are very nice, with good low end.

if your higher end hearing isn't great, you can always eq it up a little. to me transient response is a big factor, especially when editing dialog.
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Old December 11th, 2008, 03:34 AM   #14
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Lastly, the room will make a huge difference, no matter what you install.

Make sure you deal with room acoustics properly or else it won't matter what you get.
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Old December 11th, 2008, 05:26 AM   #15
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Any books or articles you'd recommend on room acoustics? Thanks.
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