Gear Guide

Studio monitorS
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2013

Studio MonitorS
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G e ar Guide
Editorial

Studio MonitorS Gear Guide 2013
othing else has the potential to improve an audio engineer’s work like the ability to monitor accurately. A superior monitoring source allows its users to better assess each decision made throughout a production. And, unlike the pursuits of purely recreational listeners, the ultimate goal is not simply about a subjective “better sound.” It’s about reliable translatability—the more accurate a monitor is to the source, and the more consistently the engineer’s listening experience is to that of the audience across a broad spectrum of consumer monitoring options, the better. Sure, options in monitoring for audio production abound: purpose-built, wallmounted loudspeakers, headphones and even in-ear monitoring (IeM) devices are available for every budget. The most popular choice in monitor devices today would be the self-powered nearfield studio monitor, chosen for comfort (long sessions with headphones and IeMs can be fatiguing), spatial imaging, consistency of reference and convenience (you can’t carry a great set of studio mains with you place-to-place, not to mention the physical space where they were designed to perform their best). Virtually every modern monitor manufacturer offers at least one such model, most of which are easily transportable and efficient two-way designs. Here, we examine the technology behind good studio monitors, talk to end-users about what they look for in a set of monitors, and take a peek at some of the most impressive, innovative and great-sounding models in the marketplace.

FRANK WELLS EditoR 212-378-0400 x535, fwells@nbmedia.com CLivE YouNg mANAgiNg EditoR 212-378-0424, cyoung@nbmedia.com KELLEigh WELCh, StRothER BuLLiNS ASSoCiAtE EditoRS

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tARA PREStoN ASSoCiAtE PuBLiShER 917-331-8904, tpreston@nbmedia.com KAREN godgARt AdvERtiSiNg diRECtoR 323-868-5416, kgodgart@nbmedia.com

art & production
NiCoLE CoBBAN SENioR ARt diRECtoR WALtER mAKARuChA, jR. ASSoCiAtE ARt diRECtoR FREd vEgA PRoduCtioN mANAgER

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StEvEN PALm PRESidENt/CEo PAuL mAStRoNARdi ChiEF FiNANCiAL oFFiCER toNY SAvoNA viCE PRESidENt, CoNtENt & mARKEtiNg

ins id e
Speaker Specs: What do they mean ................................... 4 of mixes And monitors: user Perspectives ....................... 12 Review: AdAm Audio A77X AX-Series Powered Studio monitors ................................................... 16 Review: dynaudio dBm50 desktop Active monitors ........ 17 Review: Focal Professional Sm9 3-/2-Way Active Studio monitor ................................ 18 Review: jBL Control 2P Compact Powered desktop monitor ................................................. 19 Product Showcase .............................................................. 20 directory ............................................................................. 22
ON THE COVER: Engineer Alex Oana at NRG Recording’s Studio B with Genelec nearfields and Dynaudio main monitors (out of frame).

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Speaker SpecS: What do they Mean?
Lynn Fuston records an orchestra session at Sound Kitchen, Nashville, using his Tannoy DMT-10 MkII, dual-concentric speakers

By LyNN FuSTON

s it possible for me to buy a pair of speakers and have some idea what I’ll hear based solely on specifications? If so, how do I interpret the typical specs to hopefully make an informed choice?” Some speaker shoppers have probably wondered exactly those things, especially ones who are doing research for a speaker purchase without the advantage of hearing the speakers in person. Interpreting meaningful data from speaker spec sheets can be a frustrating task. What do they mean? Let’s walk through the typical speaker specs and learn how to interpret them.

“i

the BAsics
Studio speakers can be listed as 2-way, 3-way or 4-way, and the number identifies how many times the audible spectrum is split up. A 2-way speaker has a woofer and a tweeter, covering low frequencies and high frequencies, respectively. A 3-way adds a midrange, and a 4-way can split the midrange (Lo-Mids and High-Mids), or add a supertweeter for extremely high frequencies. Some manufacturers make dual-concentric speakers that feature the tweeter and woofer in the same driver, with the tweeter opening in the center of the woofer. The advantage of this system is time alignment of the high

and low frequencies, which some listeners are more sensitive to than others. I also like to look at the crossover frequencies, the frequencies where the audio is passed from one driver to another driver. If the crossover frequency is listed as 2500 Hz in a 2-way speaker, it means that the woofer reproduces up to 2500 Hz and not above and the tweeter reproduces down to 2500 Hz and not below. In truth, there is a handoff between the two speakers at that frequency which involves filtering of the audio. That handoff in the midrange can be seamless or problematic depending on the design of the crossover network, the filter network that sends the appropriate audio content to each driver (HF to tweeter, LF to woofer). Another consideration is whether or not a subwoofer will be used. If a powered speaker system (meaning a single cabinet containing all the drivers and amplification) is going to be used with a subwoofer, then the lowest frequency it will reproduce becomes less significant because the sub will augment or replace its response below the cutoff frequency.

Frequency response
The first criteria many listeners will consider is frequency response (Fr). When looking at a Fr chart, the flatter and smoother the line is, the better. That will mean its output is matched at all frequencies in

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the audible band. That’s the ultimate goal, at least. A speaker that has a bump (peak) in the midrange (say at 3-5 kHz) may sound better to the listener but will result in a mix that has the inverse of that bump, thus a dip, at those frequencies. This is because an engineer will compensate for what he is hearing. So a speaker that is lacking in the low frequency range will cause the mixer to compensate for that deficiency by adding eQ, or pushing up the fader on low frequency instruments, which will create a bass heavy mix. The same is true at all frequencies, so using a bright speaker will likely result in a dull mix. PMC’s MB2 SA is a While many speakers will actually 3-way speaker with reproduce 40 Hz (or close to it) to 20 woofer, midrange and kHz, the far more important criteria is tweeter. how tight the tolerance is, meaning how far the speaker’s output strays from a relative zero in terms of plus and minus. The tolerance is stated as a + and – figure and typically is amended to the stated frequency response, for example: 60 Hz to 22 kHz, +1, - 1.5 db. Some manufacturers will specify Fr with very tight tolerances, like +/- 1 db, while others, in an attempt to make the speaker’s response look wider and flatter, will state the Fr at +/-3 db. A spec of +/- 3 db means that there is a 6 db variance in output level between the loudest and softest frequencies. That’s huge, especially when considering that an engineer is often making sonic judgment calls on music material and adjusting eQ in 1 to 2 db increments. It’s clear how a 6 db variance could severely impact equalization judgment calls. Here are some real world specs one might encounter, copied from mfr. spec sheets: n 60 Hz to 22 kHz, +1, -1.5 db n 33 Hz to 50 kHz, +/- 1.5 db n 37 Hz to 21 kHz, +/- 2.5 db n 31 Hz to 20 kHz (no tolerance listed) n 30 Hz to 40 kHz, +/- 3 db So if a speaker manufacturer wants to make their speaker’s Fr range look particularly wide, then they can just broaden the tolerance. A speaker that can only reproduce from 80 Hz to 12 kHz +/- 1 db, might easily accomplish 25 Hz to 22 kHz at +/- 5 db. So if I see a frequency response rating that states no tolerance figure, like #4, then that spec is meaningless. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad sounding speaker; it just means that there’s no way to tell how flat its Fr really is.

input sensitivity
The input sensitivity simply means the speaker’s ability to convert electrical signals into audible output at what level stated in db SpL. The standard for passive speakers is measuring the speaker’s output in db SpL at 1 meter with 1 watt of input power. Frequently stated as 88 db/1 W/1 m, a db number that is lower means the speaker is less efficient and a higher number means a speaker is more efficient. This is important for passive speakers (ones without built-in amplification) when selecting an amplifier because an inefficient speaker will require more power to achieve the same output level in db SpL. Conversely, a very efficient speaker can use an amplifier with half or even a quarter the power output and play louder. With the advent of powered speakers, this spec is less meaningful because the amplifiers are integrated into the speaker enclosure. on many speakers’ amplifiers, the input sensitivity is adjustable, sometimes over a wide range (-20 to +8) in coarse or fine steps. I encountered one powered speaker with a low input sensitivity, meaning for the same input level it would put out about 15 db less sound than a competitor. That could be a concern depending on the input source and if it was easily adjustable.

WeiGht
This can occasionally be overlooked, but it is an important criteria depending on how the speakers will be mounted. Some speakers are very light (15-20 lbs.) but others, with multiple amplifiers built in, can easily tip the scale at 80 or more pounds. If the intended application is a workstation surface or console top, this can be a deal breaker or a budget-buster if heavy-duty speaker stands are required, which can cost as much as the speakers. The best thing about this spec is that every manufacturer lists it and it’s non-negotiable.

distortion
While distortion (both THd-Total Harmonic distortion and IM-Intermodulation distortion) is easy to measure in electronic devices, the electric/acoustic transfer makes it challenging to come up with a meaningful spec. If someone is accustomed to looking a THd specs for consoles or amplifiers or AdCs stated in the hundredths (0.02%) or thousandths (0.004%) of a percent, then speaker THds will seem abysmally large, often over 1%. Since THd is so high in loudspeakers, in my years of listening, I have never seen a meaningful spec or noticed a corollary between those numbers and my listening experience, although a lower figure is most certainly better. but as a source for comparison, unless both figures are derived by the same method (such as from a single manufacturer), it may be a meaningless comparison.

poWer specs
This frequency response chart of the JBL 6332 speaker system shows its very smooth frequency response from 60 Hz to 20 kHz.

For powered speakers (with active crossovers and built-in amps), the power spec is the power rating (quoted in watts-the electrical

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power transferred to the speaker from the amp) for each amplifier, spec’d according to the frequency band it is supplying. Though some manufacturers will specify this as peak power or music power to make the number higher (a commonly used trick in the consumer market, since peak power can be 10-100 times higher than rMS), the more meaningful continuous power rating is stated in watts rMS. Another term one might see is “short term,” which is sometimes cited when the limiting circuits in an amplifier keep it from delivering maximum output in rMS. Some manufacturers will include the amplifier type within that spec: pWM or Class Ab or other class. Another problem with stating a spec in peak power is that the duration of the peak is often unspecified and can be incredibly short, like a few milliseconds or even microseconds (thousandths or millionths of a second) and, unless the THd of the amplifier is stated at that peak power output, it’s a meaningless spec. examples of power ratings for 3-way speakers, lifted from manufacturer’s specs: n Low/Mid/High n 250/250/50 (music power 350/350/100) n 80/30/30 n 180/120/120 (short term) n 400/400/100 n 200/200/200 These numbers show that different manufacturers have different philosophies concerning how much power is required for each frequency band, varying from all the same (200/200/200) to less on the MF or even less on the HF. Higher frequencies require less power to reproduce than lower frequencies, so a smaller amplifier is frequently utilized. The concern to me is whether the included amplifier has sufficient headroom to handle the demands of the incoming audio. Higher wattage amplifiers have more headroom and can accommodate dynamic music and transient peaks with less stress on the amplifier. In my experience, having an oversized amplifier with lots of headroom is always preferable sonically. plus the amplifier requirements are directly related to how loud the listener likes to monitor, hence the importance of the next spec (you might find this a useful link if you want to further explore the topic of amplifier power: http:// www.meyersound.com/support/papers/amp_power.htm) conditions. Another issue to consider here is accuracy. Many powered speakers these days include limiters in the amplifier circuits. Is that for sonic reasons, to make them sound better? no. It’s insurance for the manufacturers so they (or you) aren’t replacing blown drivers frequently. These limiters can kick in at surprisingly low SpL levels. And while some speakers have indicators on the front to let the listener know when the limiter is engaged, surprisingly, some do not. So if I start listening at a level that is beyond the realistic capabilities of the speaker’s design, all bets are off. There’s no telling what I am hearing. And since the limiter is built into the amp, I may be hearing limiting on the woofer and not the mids or highs. Good luck making educated sonic decisions based on that performance.

dispersion
Another incredibly critical and enormously under-spec’d consideration of loudspeaker design is dispersion or directionality. dispersion is the output volume of different frequencies, based on the angle of the ear to the driver. It can also be referred to as “off-axis response.” Here’s one test I do when listening for the first time to a speaker. (It takes guts to do this because it is guaranteed to elicit some odd looks from anyone standing nearby.) I plug one ear with my finger and use my open ear like a test microphone with it facing the speaker front. Then I move my head across the horizontal front plane of the speaker. And then I do another pass in the vertical plane. This will work with either a broadband noise source or with music. I listen as the frequency balance changes as I move off the center of the speaker. The change in what I hear (usually most noticeable in the high frequencies, with cymbals or vocal presence) is due to the dispersion characteristics of the speaker. It can also be caused by other factors (like reflections off a console surface or desk), but I’ll assume that I’m listening in a free-field environment for now. The differences that I hear as I move off-axis can be the most critical factor in selecting a studio monitor. Why? The reason it is such a crucial consideration is because of how we work in the studio. We’re either reaching for an eQ or compressor, turning our head to adjust something or moving out of the

mAximum spl
If the goal is listening loudly, then this is one spec that really matters. While most speakers will do loud, not many will do loud accurately. While many speaker manufacturers quote a Max SpL rating (some actually don’t), sometimes the specifics of that spec are curiously missing. Is that rating for continuous SpL or peak SpL? For what duration? At what distance? Here are some examples: n Max SpL (@1m) – 116 db (continuous) n Max SpL – 116 db (peak @ 1m) n Max peak Acoustic power per pair @ 1.7 m with music – 126 db n Max peak SpL – 113 db Clearly, there’s little standardization in this spec as well, but if I need a speaker that will play loudly, then I look for continuous, not peak, ratings. Comparing written specs to determine which speaker will play louder will be a tough call unless both specify the same

These polar plots reveal the off-axis response of the RenkusHeinz T15/4-2T speakers, in both the vertical and horizontal planes at six different frequencies.

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listeners at JbL’s listening lab. The speaker should be flat on-axis from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, offering a listening window of +/- 30 % off-axis, the first reflections should be smooth along with the sound power and directivity. His research indicates that listeners will prefer a flat speaker to one that is hyped in the majority of the cases, when the two are compared side by side in a controlled, level-matched test.

listeninG
The control panel of the Focal SM9, which shows the extensive control available: five bands of EQ plus Hi-Pass.

sweet spot so the artist or producer can listen. every time we move back and forth horizontally and when we stand up, the sound arriving at our ear changes. The goal is to make that change as small and insignificant as possible. Many sonic decisions will be made or influenced when listening off-axis, not to mention that when my head is in between the speakers, the artist or producer will be making all his decisions off-axis. So having a smooth off-axis response is crucial. Some speakers can be very directional at the highest frequencies, which I call beaming. It is most noticeable when things sound bright and clear directly in front of the speakers, but drastically less so when off to the sides. Unless the listener is in a situation where all the sonic decisions can be made without moving, then having a smooth off-axis response is critical. Unfortunately, this is an area where specs will typically be of little help. While some manufacturers provide polar plots (a 360˚ overhead view of the output level of the speaker, plotted at different frequencies), most do not. If a polar plot is provided, then look for even and wide dispersion at upper frequencies (low frequencies are much less directional).

Listening is the absolutely most critical step in evaluating a loudspeaker. Finding a speaker that offers what I like to hear while also providing what I need to hear is the ultimate goal. I don’t want a speaker that “flatters me” and makes me think that my recording

Adjustments
Frequently, the task of matching a speaker to a room is as important as the choice of the loudspeaker itself. (And positioning the speaker is hugely important, too, but that’s a whole different ball of wax.) Some speakers offer adjustments for all or none of these parameters: low frequency shelving, high frequency shelving, high pass filtering (in case of use with subs), high frequency shelving, low frequency eQ, low-mid frequency eQ, mid frequency eQ, driver gain. These adjustments are not offered on some speakers but can be very important when matching the speaker to the individual space. Having the ability to taper the speaker’s output without resorting to external eQ or acoustic modifications within a room can be a big factor, so check on what controls the speaker offers before purchasing.

A sonically transparent curtain assures listeners will not be visually biased as they audition speakers at the Multichannel Listening Lab at Harman International headquarters in Northridge, California.

An expert opinion
Sean olive, the director for Acoustic research for Harman International, summed up the desirable characteristics to look for in a loudspeaker this way, based on years of research and testing thousands of

sounds better than it actually does, because that will result in my mix sounding worse everywhere outside my control room. I need a speaker that appeals to my ear but is critical enough, accurate enough, that it will tell me where and when problems exist. And listening to the speaker in the space where it will be used is crucial as well. Unfortunately, reading the specs can only inform a listener about whether or not a speaker system might meet his/her needs, but being able to understand and intelligently evaluate the speaker specs will get a listener further down that road. The truth is that there is no one perfect speaker that fits everyone’s needs. The ultimate test is sitting down and listening. And for that, you’re on your own. Lynn Fuston is a Nashville-based recording and mixing engineer, the proprietor of 3D Audio (3daudioinc. com), and Technical Editor for pro Frequency plots showing the audible effects of the Audio review. controls on the Genelec 1037c.

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of MixeS and MonitorS
By STEVE HARVEy

ranslation—the ability of a finished mix to sound uniformly at its best and as it was intended—regardless of what system it is played on, from studio to home to car to ear buds—is all-important in music recording. one of the most critical elements for ensuring translation is the studio monitor system. but the speakers should not be considered in isolation. reference monitors are part of a larger system that also includes the monitor controller—whatever is providing the switching and volume control, and sometimes the converters—and the listening environment. The environment, including the acoustic treatment of a room, is largely off-topic for this discussion, but one element, isolation, is affordable and can make an enormous difference to the performance of even an expensive monitor speaker system. The monitor controller is one of the most important components of the listening chain, according to Junior Sanchez, a dJ, remixer, producer and engineer long associated with electronic dance music, but who has worked with artists as diverse as Madonna, Good Charlotte and Gorillaz. Sanchez, who most recently collaborated with Steve Angello from the Swedish House Mafia, has long since made the transition from commercial multitrack studios to his own home-based facility. “you want the monitor source to be a very real, clean, efficient source,” says Sanchez. “you don’t want to listen to nonsense. people don’t seem to realize that it’s a cause-and-effect thing. you invest a certain amount of dollars and go and get the best monitors you can, but then you’re monitoring through a [cheap controller]. don’t spend seven grand on a pair of monitors and then monitor through any of these not-up-to-par pieces of equipment.” Sanchez currently employs a monitor setup that includes a pair of AdAM S3As with a Focal Sub, a pair of barefoot MicroMain35s, and a pair of Auratones. “I was a Genelec user,” he reports. “I had 1031As for a long time. When I came across the AdAMs, I fell in love with them: I love the high end, the ribbon tweeter and the way it sounds. It’s very open and very true.” but over the years, Sanchez began to feel the need for a second

t

Junior Sanchez

set of monitors to offer an alternative. “I wanted something else, just so I could A/b, and rest my ears, and have a different source of reference.” He recalls, “I was in L.A. and listened to the barefoot MM27s and I fell in love with them; I thought they were amazing. I started to do more research; I spoke to Jeff [ehrenberg] at Vintage King, and got to talk with Thomas barefoot and saw some of his videos. I saw how they’re built and structured, and how the subs are positioned in a way that they cancel the inertia, and the frame basically doesn’t vibrate. you can put them on a desk and you’re listening to the monitors; you’re not listening to wood. you could put a feather on top of one and the feather wouldn’t vibrate. I haven’t been so blown away by a pair of monitors in a long time.” but, first things first, he says: “before I got my AdAMs, years ago, I got my dangerous Music stuff.” Sanchez has a dangerous Monitor ST with integrated dAC ST for consistent digital-to-analog conversion, plus a dangerous 2-bus LT for summing. perhaps no less important than his dangerous monitor control chain, he continues, are the primacoustic recoil Stabilizer isola-

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tion pads. “I have the pads on all of my monitors, including the barefoots, which didn’t really need them,” Sanchez reports. “Those things are incredible, genius; I don’t know why somebody didn’t think of those before. you can really hear the difference—you get to hear the monitor for the first time.” Summing up, he says, “If somebody really cares about their mixing environment and they’re willing to go the extra mile, those three ingredients—speakers, controller, and isolation pads—are cost effective. your monitors, how you monitor, and isolation, and you’re good to go.” Chris Vrenna, drummer with nine Inch nails until 1997, and drummer-turned-keyboard player with Marilyn Manson from 2007 through 2011, is now a busy producer, engineer, remixer, songwriter and programmer. Vrenna operates out of The Treehouse of Terror, a well-equipped private production studio in Sherman oaks, CA, mainly working with artists at the lower end of the recording budget scale, such as up-and-coming industrial metal bands dawn of Ashes and Italy’s Army of the Universe, with whom he also performs. “For me, more is better,” says Vrenna, who utilizes four pairs of monitors. “I know the problem with most people in the real world is that most rooms aren’t big enough for the speakers they buy. The two biggest problems for any home studio, due to the fact that it’s a garage or a bedroom or whatever, is that the room isn’t acoustically perfect.” As a result, translation can be a big problem: “you take it somewhere else and it’s awful.” Vrenna’s monitor preferences have evolved over the years, more recently also broadening to a diverse collection that ensures his mixes translate. “I’ve gone through a speaker renaissance in the last couple of years. I had always been a Tannoy guy. I had a pair of 800As, the active version with the eight-inch concentrics. I used them for over 10 years.” but then he got to work on a project in Germany. “They had Mackies and AdAMs, with a sub. AdAMs are great speakers, but, no disrespect, they’re harsh to me; I fatigue out on the high end with them.” The Mackie Hr824s were really solid, he continues. “I called West L.A. Music and bought them. The Mackies get so loud, almost like mid-fields. everything I do on them translates.” He then sold his Tannoy speakers and bought Chris Vrenna a pair of dynaudio Acoustic bM5 MkIIs, plus a fourth set, a pair of Genelec 6010A desktop speakers. “people ask why I have so many speakers: I want to make absolutely sure. I can go between all four sets. We all make our music in a vacuum but it’s got to play everywhere.” The bass reproduction is obviously different between all four sets, he observes, but if the vocals and mid-range stay solid from one set to the next, the mix will translate outside of the studio. but ultimately, he comments, he can’t advise anyone what speakers they should buy. “you can’t tell people, ‘this speaker is awesome.’ A speaker is a combination of your ears, what sounds good to you, what fits in the room that you work in, and time. When I bought the dyns, I could tell instantly that they were awesome. you just throw the faders up through Genelecs and it sounds mixed because they have this hi-fi-ness about them. but they may suck in their room.” That said, there are a lot of really great speakers out there, says Vrenna: “For $1,000 a pair, there is a choice of six or seven amazing speakers.” Like Sanchez, Vrenna has primacoustic pads under his main monitors. “I have three pairs. They made a huge difference,” he says. Vrenna also agrees with Sanchez that the monitor speaker is not the only critical piece in the chain. “The most important piece of gear in this room is that dangerous d-box. I bought it because I wanted the summing, but the monitor control was crucial. pro Tools goes into it, and my Cd player, and it’s the switcher for the speakers. prior to that, I had a $500 piece that has the same features—it ruined every mix I did. I had a year where everything was so bad; nothing

worked outside of this room. It was that box. If there’s any piece of gear in-line that is distorting things in such a violent way that it makes you do something that is not really happening, you’re f***ed. That was happening to me.” pilsound Studios, a tracking and songwriting studio attached to the Southern California home of Jeff pilson, founding member of dokken and longtime bass player with Foreigner, features three sets of monitors: Mackie Hr824s, vintage yamaha nS10s, and a pair of Altec computer speakers. Most recently at the studio, pilson has recorded

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album projects with T&n, featuring three original members of dokken; Adler, which features former Guns n’ roses drummer Steven Adler; and tracks for Foreigner’s three-disc (two Cds, one dVd) retrospective and live greatest hits set, Feels Like the First Time. His next project at pilsound will be tracking a new Starship album, which will include eight songs written by pilson, with singer Mickey Thomas. —Chris Vrenna The Mackie monitors were a recommendation from Kelly Hansen, Foreigner’s singer, pilson reports. “We were working together a couple of years ago and I just had the yamaha nS10s at the time. He kept saying, ‘My ears get so fatigued on the nS10s.’ So he brought over his Mackies. We set them up and I thought, wow! They were just dimensionally so much better. I still like nS10s for certain things, which is why I’ve held onto them, even though that’s not the ideal listening position for them, but my mixes improved—what I was taking out of here was 30 percent more accurate.” pilson adds, “The primacoustic pads added another 10 percent on top of that. I could not believe the difference they made. bass is always a problem, and they really cleared that up a lot. I’ve got the sub for the nS10s, but that’s not always an accurate read either.” of his three sets of monitors, pilson says, “I’d say 70 percent of the time, I’m on my Mackies, 20 percent on the Altecs, and 10 percent on the nS10s. With nS10s, you have to work to make it sound good. The problem is, they’re very shy in certain frequency areas, and dimensional areas. That is something I really enjoy more and

“You can’t tell people, ‘this speaker is awesome.’ A speaker is a combination of your ears, what sounds good to you,what fits in the room that you work in, and time.”

Jeff Pilson

more now, listening to dimension in recordings. The Mackies just improved that so much for me.” pilson frequently takes projects, including Foreigner, to Total Access studios in redondo beach, CA for mixing, where owner Wyn davis has a pair of Meyer monitors. “The Meyers are really, really nice, but for a fraction of the money, these Mackies have the same effect for me. not to the same degree; the Meyers are beautiful. but I really like these Mackies a lot. “I do a lot of tracking in here. When I’m tracking drums, I try not to use much eQ on tracking; in fact, I prefer none. These help me get the microphones placed in a way that I think is just so much more effective. I’ve not had any complaints about drums in the last few things that I’ve done from the engineers,” says pilson. “I think those speakers have something to with it.” perfect Sound Studios, discreetly tucked away in the Hollywood Hills, recently traded out the main monitors in its control room for a new pair of pMC Ib2S speakers. “We refer to them as a game changer,” says Jason donaghy, chief engineer at the tracking, mixing and mastering studio located close to the heart of Hollywood. perfect Sound, which recently remodeled its attached luxury accommodations, features a new SSL AWS console and a classic 1970s analog neve 8014 desk. The world-class facility has attracted projects by Sum 41, band of Horses, ryan Adams and a host of others. Most recently, says donaghy, “I’ve been working with a band called Cynic, a metal band. We’ve been working with producer Maki, who’s also an artist, and a band called Tallahassee, from the east coast. I’ve got two mixes for a band called Scattered Hamlets coming up.” donaghy continues, “I love mixing on the pMCs. I still mix on my nS10s. but when it comes to tracking, I never have any doubt about what I’m hearing with the pMCs, which is just a weight off my shoulders. They’re great speakers when you’re tracking—very detailed and articulated, and you’re hearing everything that you want to hear. you can also turn them up and get a good vibe going, if the guitarist is tracking in the control room or you need to impress the client.” In fact, donaghy and the staff had considered opting for the next model up in size in order to get plenty of level in the room, but pMC recommended the smaller model. “The Ib2s are an absolutely perfect fit for our control room. Anything bigger would have been

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overbearing,” he says. bryston 7b amplifiers are driving the passive monitors. Set up was quick and easy, he reports. “They didn’t take much tweaking; we put the speakers up and that was it. our room is treated: we had [acoustician] Vincent Van Haaff help with it. but there’s no tuning on the speakers—it’s pretty much straight out of the board and into the speakers. I can’t speak highly enough about them. They’re fantastic speakers, and very much worth the investment.” The studio’s trusty nS10s are being driven by a pair of bryston 4b-ST amplifiers, with a yamaha sub. “I’ll never get rid of those nS10s; I grew up using those, so they’re my point of reference for 99 percent of what I’m doing,” says donaghy. “It’s a comfort issue.” perfect Sound also has a set of computer speakers for reference. “We use a little baby Altec ipod dock sometimes, but that’s very rarely used,” he says. “Since I got the pMCs, I don’t really need to reference my mix on too many other things.”

Perfect Sound hosted the u.S. VIP debut of PMC’s twotwo monitors, shown here sideby-side in the studio’s control room with their PMC IB2S models.

review

adaM audio a77x ax-SerieS poWered Studio MonitorS

By ROB TAVAGLIONE FOR Pro Audio review

n 2010, AdAM Audio first introduced the AX-Series featuring its updated X-ArT tweeter plus significantly lower prices than its flagship SX-Series. The A77X horizontally positioned, three-way loudspeaker is the top of the fivemodel AX-Series. The X-ArT tweeter has an actual diaphragm area (if unfolded) of four square inches (the equivalent of a 56mm dome tweeter in area). Crossover is at 3 kHz and the tweeter reaches up to 50 kHz. The A77X’s 7-inch woofers feature a “double sandwich” of fiberglass/carbon fiber/rohacell and high excursion. one of its woofers handles only 400 cycles and below, while the other reproduces lows as well as mid content up to 3 kHz, where the ribbon takes over. A 100W pWM-type amp powers each woofer, whereas the tweeter has its own 50W Class A/b amp. The rear panel houses both XLr and rCA inputs, a low- and high-frequency shelving eQ control (at 300 and 5 kHz, respectively, +/- 6 db) and a tweeter level control (+/- 4 db). The cabinet is a bass reflex design with dual front-panel ports and optional magnetic shielding. AdAM Audio defines the A77X as suitable for both nearfield and mid-field monitoring considering its high power (114 db SpL output long-term), high SpL levels (122 db max.) and radiation characteristics. I incorporated the A77X pair into my workflow, atop my

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primacoustic recoil Stabilizers and workstation furniture. I chose to position the mid-woofers towards the outsides of my sweet spot (the A77X pair are marked as either A or b models for this), which was the placement that sounded the best with the best imaging. I proceeded to do only clientless editing and rough mixing work for the next week and a half. during that time, I honestly never felt comfortable with the A77X monitors. After a break-in period, the A77X pair changed completely: The top end was extremely detailed; high-mids musical; and low-mids now sounded woody and rich. I was impressed with ample bottom and punch, even with my subwoofer bypassed. don’t let the smallish A77X cabinet size, diminutive weight or 7-inch woofers surprise you: These boxes will rock. They never shut down, although they will distort if pushed very hard and they get plenty loud enough to cut guitars in the control room. My only significant concern is a narrow sweet spot, making the A77Xs not ideal for situations with more than one critical listener. At approximately $2,800 per pair, the A77X is certainly not a budget monitor; they are destined for professional use. yet for the market, I believe they are ideally priced, as the quite similar Adam SX-Series S3X-H (with identical drivers and same horizontal config as the A77X) are priced at approximately $7,000 per pair. I’ve listened to the S3X-H monitors, too, and I find the A77X to be its impressively affordable alternative. AdAM Audio | adam-audio.com

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review

dynaudio dBM50 deSktop active MonitorS
By JERRy IBBOTSON FOR Audio MediA worldwide

hese are fairly big speakers compared to what I’d been expecting — 13.7” high. That puts them on a par with many compact studio speakers that you’d happily put on stands or even soffit mount. but that’s not the point; what makes the dbM50s special is the angled front face. It’s tilted upwards, directing the 1-inch tweeter and 7.5-inch woofer at the user’s ears. The idea is that they can be placed directly on the desktop or working surface, for use in more confined spaces. Specifications include 50 Watts of power each to tweeter and woofer, frequency response from 46Hz to 21KHz, 1.5kHz crossover frequency, an MdF cabinet, XLr balanced and rCA unbalanced inputs. on rear of each speaker are an input level selector (+4db and -10db), a high-pass setting for those using a separate sub, an LF boost/cut, a MF cut, and an HF boost/cut. These allow for simple adjustments according to environment; for example, dialing back the bass if they’re placed close to a wall. My source was a Focusrite Saffire pro 24, which handily has a Monitor knob on the front, running off a VAIo laptop. There is an optional and very posh-looking dedicated volume controller ($69) for the dbM50s ($499 each), but that wasn’t available for the review. The environment in which I was testing is my homeworking setup. Though the dbM50s were fairly close together and in close proximity to me (my desk isn’t that big), for familiar music playback, there was still a cracking [british speak for ‘good’ — ed] stereo image and incredible detail to the sound. This wasn’t a jawon-the-floor moment as I’ve had with other speakers that I’ve tested, but it perfectly suited my listening environment. I then played back some interview material that I had recently recorded for a project, using a roland r-26 and rode nTG3 mic. now, this was a jaw/floor interface moment. I’d been listening to this material over and over on both speakers and headphones and I’d never heard it sound this good. The voices were stunningly reproduced. Maybe a set of normal right-angled speakers could do the same job, but you’d have to mount them either angled, or high

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enough for alignment with the ears. If you were editing video and needed excellent sound reproduction, these could be just the thing. Small voice studios and radio production environments could also put them to great use. but they are truly cracking speakers and should definitely be on your short-list. Just make sure your desk is big enough. dynaudio professional | dynaudioprofessional.com

2013

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review

focal profeSSional SM9 3-/2-Way active Studio Monitor
By RuSS LONG FOR Pro Audio review

ocal’s latest offering, the SM9, offers the tremendous sound quality that Focal is known for as well as the revolutionary concept of offering essentially two monitoring speakers (a 2-way and a 3-way) in one unique 12.8” x 19.6” x 15.6” cabinet ($3,995 each). In 3-way operation, it’s a three-way monitor equipped with a Focal hallmark, one-inch, pure beryllium inverted dome tweeter; a 6.5-inch mid/low frequency driver; an 8-inch cone low-frequency driver; and an 11-inch cone piston, extra wide inverted surround passive radiator—the last three all Focal “W” composite sandwich cones. When set to Focus mode, it becomes a two-way monitor, utilizing only the tweeter and the 6.5-inch mid/bass driver, making it easy to preview how well a mix will transfer to a low-frequency challenged system. The SM9’s Treble and Midrange components are each powered by a 100 W, Class A/b amplifier and the low frequency driver is powered by a 400 W, Class A/b amp. In three-way mode, the speaker has a rated frequency response of 30 Hz – 40 kHz (+/- 3 db) with a maximum SpL of 116 db (peak @ 1 meter) and in two-way (Focus) mode, it is rated at a 90 Hz – 20 kHz (+/- 3 db) frequency response with a 106 db maximum SpL (peak @ 1 meter). The input is a 10 kohm, electronically balanced, fed from an XLr jack switchable between +4 dbu/-10 dbV. The extensive tone-shaping controls include hi-pass, (45, 60, 90 Hz) Low and High frequency shelving (+/- 3 db in 0.5 db steps) and eQ settings for Low, Low-Mid and Mid frequencies, 50, 160 and 1 kHz respectively (+/- 3 db in 0.5 db increments). The rear panel also includes a voltage selector, IeC connector and power switch. At 77 pounds per cabinet, these babies are heavy! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that three powerful class A/b amps in a single enclosure make for a pretty hefty piece of gear. After spending three weeks working non-stop on the SM9s, I’m

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sold. The imaging is spectacular and they provide a flat, smooth and natural sound regardless of volume level. When the band comes in the control room for a listen, I can crank up the monitors and kick butt, but they also sound great at extremely low levels. I like that there are significantly more tonal shaping tools on the SM9 than on any other monitor I’ve encountered. This allows the SM9’s response to be sonically adjusted to work in spaces with a strong sonic thumbprint. Low apparent levels of distortion provide non-fatiguing monitoring, which is another strong suit of the monitors. The dual monitor feature is a brilliant idea. I wish there was a footswitch input so the speaker mode could be changed by stepping on a single footswitch instead of having to press a button on the side of each of the monitors. The implementation of a passive radiator over a ported design works wonderfully. The low-frequency reproduction in the monitors is punchy, tight and full. It’s nice to use a monitor that provides fullrange reproduction without the need for a sub. Focal | focalprofessional.com

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review

JBl control 2p coMpact poWered deSktop Monitor
By CHRISTOPHER WALSH FOR Pro Audio review

bL has hit the sweet spot with the versatile Control 2p ($249 list), a compact powered monitor that fits multiple applications from audio production to AV, electronic instruments and home entertainment. The newest member of the Control Series, the Control 2p is an ideal size for desktop audio and video. The 35 W/channel system fits nicely in a dAW setup: in my application, a set of Control 2ps provided sound for an iMac-based Logic/Final Cut/pro Tools home studio that doubles as a hub for iTunes and Cd playback, Internet radio streaming and dVd-Video playback. Control 2p monitors are very simple to set up and operate. powered master and passive extension speakers, an extension speaker wire and power supply (all included) are all one needs to be up and running. For desktop audio, be sure to snap on the included pedestals for on-axis listening—the Control 2ps are quite directional. For wall mounting, JbL offers the optional MTC-2p kit. The master speaker features a white Led on the front to indicate power. A red Led flashes when the speaker is approaching thermal protect mode, and glows continuously to indicate that the system should be turned off to cool (in my experience, neither has yet to occur). on the master speaker’s side is a large volume control and eighth-inch headphone jack. The rear panel houses the power switch, dC power input and most of the Control 2p’s in- and outputs. near the center are combination neutrik XLr/TrS balanced inputs for the master and extension speakers. rCA inputs are also found on the master speaker’s back panel, as is the quarter-inch

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extension speaker jack. Lastly, an HF adjust switch applies a +2 or -2 db high frequency shelf. Having tested and worked with a variety of desktop monitoring systems, I found the Control 2ps the best solution, to date, for my needs. With an 80 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range, they deliver a broad, accurate spectrum at low and moderate levels (the Control 2ps can get plenty loud, too, and remain accurate at high levels). Solid low frequencies without the need for a bulky subwoofer crowding the floor—that’s a welcome change. In my application, the multiple outputs allow monitoring directly from the computer, via an eighth-inch to rCA adapter, for Logic and Final Cut (and iTunes and dVd), or from a digidesign Mbox for pro Tools. My Steinway grand piano—well, the virtual Steinway in Logic’s eXS24 mkII sampler—sounds fantastic through the Control 2ps; if that were their only function, they would be well worth the (attractive) price. JbL | www.jblpro.com

2013

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product showcase
dynaudio m3xe studio main monitors
dynaudio professional has introduced its 20th Anniversary M3Xe monitors, powered by two Lab.gruppen pLM10000Q amplifiers: a significant upgrade from its predecessor, the renowned M3A 3-way monitor. Features include a 20 Hz to 22 kHz frequency response, beyond 133 db SpL output potential, Lake processing, and more. The M3Xe cabinet includes dual 12-inch woofers with aluminum voice coils; dual 6-inch Midrange drivers with 75 mm aluminum voice coils; a 1.1-inch (28 mm) soft dome tweeter, also with an aluminum voice coil; and a total weight of 132 lbs. Amplification, via the Lab.gruppen pLM10000Q, provides 4 x 2300 watts (2 x 2300 W woofer, 1 x 2300 W Mid, 1 x 2300 W HF) with analog and AeS/ebU inputs.

neumann Kh 310 A threeway Active monitor

The new neumann KH 310 A incorporates newly developed drivers in a sealed cabinet for accurate, linear reproduction over its entire frequency response range, fast LF transient response and the potential for high reproduction levels. The KH 310 A treble, midrange and bass drivers, all neumann designs, have all been optimized using acoustic simulations and an extensive series of measurements. bass response extends to 34 Hz, mid frequencies are re-produced by a dedicated soft dome midrange driver and high frequencies are handled by an alloy fabric dome tweeter in an elliptical “Mathematically Modeled dispersion” waveguide. Three class-Ab amplifiers and a high capacity SMpS power supply give the system a high headroom and performance sculpting eQ allows the system to be adapted to its environment. Tight manufacturing tolerances allow any two KH 310A monitors to function as a matched pair.

pmc twotwo Active monitors
pMC’s new active series of monitors makes the design approach of pMC’s top lines available at a lower price range. The twotwo’s employ pMC’s ATL (Advanced Transmission Line) bass loading/ extension approach along with built-in amplification and high resolution digital filtering. The UK-built line initially comprises two models, the twotwo.5 and twotwo.6 (pictured here). A third, the twotwo.8, is slated to extend the line in the first quarter of 2013. All three share the same core design and features with five-, sixand eight-inch woofers. An onboard dSp engine is used to optimize driver response, provide a highly precise crossover, maximize dispersion, and provide component protection. The built-in Class d dual-amplification delivers 50 W to the tweeter and 150 W to the bass driver.

AdAm Audio F series
AdAM Audio has introduced its more affordable F Series professional monitors, including the F5 and F7 nearfield monitors and SubF dedicated subwoofer. both the F5 and F7 employ the company’s new ArT tweeter that provides performance similar to AdAM’s acclaimed X-ArT tweeter in a smaller size to fit the new form factor. designed for smaller rooms, the compact F5 pairs the ArT tweeter with a fiveinch midwoofer, each component individually powered by 25 W (rms) A/b amplifiers. The F7 has a 40 W amp for the tweeter and a seven-inch woofer powered by a 60 W amp. The SubF features an eight-inch woofer with a 150 W (rms) pWM power amplifier.

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product showcase
Focal twin6 Be studio reference monitors
The Twin6 be is a three-way active speaker, Focal’s best selling model, built for horizontal mounting. The speaker’s enclosure (black-bodied with red veneer sides) houses two Focal 6.5 inch composite sandwich cone drivers loaded by two large cross-section laminar bass ports. Focal’s signature LF drivers were developed to control cone weight, rigidity, and damping for transparency of performance with excellent phase response and low distortion. both of the 6.5” drivers handle low frequencies but only one of the two (selectable) passes lo-mid frequencies. The equally characteristic Focal reversed dome beryllium tweeter affords response rated to 40 kHz with accurate image and transient response. The Twin6 is powered internally by two 150 W rMS amplifiers for the LF and MF drivers and a 100 W rMS amplifier for the tweeter. The MSC1 is housed in a sturdy desktop-ready chassis. All I/o is on the back of the unit, allowing for three separate stereo sources: two input pairs are available, one using balanced quarter-inch TrS and the other using unbalanced rCA connectors. outputs to two sets of monitors and one subwoofer are all provided via quarter-inch balanced TrS outputs. There is also a quarter-inch headphone jack, eighth-inch I/o jacks for the rMC mic, and a USb connection to utilize the rMC process with a host computer. The MSC1 ships with a calibration mic, USb cable, and eighth-inch TrS cables.

Genelec se dsp monitoring system
The Genelec Se (Small environment) dSp monitoring system is a full system surround solution for small to mid-sized production rooms in need of precise two-channel or five-channel surround monitoring. The systems include Genelec’s AutoCal self-calibration system and GLM.Se (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager for Small environments) software for intelligent and automated room-correction processing. The heart of the Genelec Se dSp System is the 10-inch Se7261A dSp subwoofer. The 59-pound subwoofer is built around a single 10-inch driver powered by a 120-watt amp, with a 19 Hz to 100 Hz free field frequency response. The sub’s eight-channel, digital-only input is capable of 24-bit, 192 kHz resolution (a companion A/d is available). The 8130A monitors have twin 40 W amplifiers driving a 5-inch woofer and 3/4-inch metal dome tweeter for a 58 Hz to 20 kHz rated frequency response. Its AeS 3 inputs also support 192 kHz/24-bit digital audio inputs. The 8130A is part of Genelecs latest monitor designs with the wave guide an integral part of the “minimum diffraction” die-cast aluminum

jBl msc1 monitor controller
The MSC1 is both an automated room correction tool and a source/ monitor selector/volume controller for use with any two pairs of speakers and a subwoofer. The JbL room Mode Correction system uses a test microphone and software algorithms to measure monitor performance in a given environment, and calculates and applies corrective eQ to optimize the loudspeaker performance.

isoAcoustics iso-l8r130 studio monitor stands
IsoAcoustics has extended its line of surface decouplers with the ISo-L8r130 speaker stands, specifically designed for small speakers with widths exceeding 5” and weights of not more than 20lbs. The ISo-L8r130 stands share all the features found in the award-winning ISo-L8r155 and ISo-L8r200 (the ISo-L8r family is pictured) including flexibility in height and tilt and patented “floating” architecture for audio image stabilization. The new speaker stands measure 5.1” wide and 6” deep and come with tubing to configure it to either 2.5” or 8” in height and 2 sets of end plugs to provide 14 possible tilt adjustments. The ISo-L8r130 was developed in response to end-user requests for an ISo-L8r model suited for smaller monitors.

2013

studio monitor

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studio Monitor ManuFacturers’ directory
AdAm Audio adam-audio.com 516-681-0690 Alesis alesis.com 401-658-5760 Ambiance Acoustics calcube.com 858-485-7514 Atc atcloudspeakers.co.uk transaudiogroup.com 702-365-5155 Audix audixusa.com 503-682-6933 Auralex auralex.com 317-842-2600 Avantone pro avantonepro.com 828-523-4311 B&W bowers-wilkins.com 978-664-2870 Bag end loudspeakers bagend.com 847-382-4550 Behringer behringer.com 425-672-0816 Blue sky abluesky.com 516-249-1399 Bose bose.com 800-869-1855 dynaudio professional dynaudioprofessional.com 519-745-1158 edirol roland.com 323-890-3700 emotiva pro emotivapro.com 615-791-6254 equator Audio equatoraudio.com 888-772-0087 event electronics eventelectronics.com 805-566-7777 Focal focal.com 800-663-9352 Fostex fostex.com 800-431-2609 Genelec genelecusa.com 508-652-0900 Griffin Audio griffinaudiousa.com 914-248-7680 harbeth loudspeakers harbeth.co.uk 603-437-4769 hot house hothousepro.com 845-691-6077 isoAcoustics isoacoustics.com 905-294-4672 jBl jblpro.com 818-894-8850 KrK krksys.com 800-444-2766 lipinski sound lipinskisound.com 877-876-4844 mackie mackie.com 508-234-6158 m-Audio m-audio.com 401-658-5765 me-Geithain me-geithain.de meyer sound meyersound.com 510-486-1166 mK sound mksoundsystem.com 855-657-6863 nady systems nady.com 510-652-2411 neumann neumannusa.com 860-434-9190 nhtpro nhthifi.com 800-648-9993 pelonis sound & Acoustics www.chrispelonisspeakers.com 805-242-1041 pmc pmc-speakers.com 888-653-1184 primacoustic primacoustic.com 604-942-1001 psi Audio psiaudio.com 858-414-3900 quested quested.com 888-653-1184 roland roland.com 323-215-2111 samson Audio samsontech.com 631-784-2200 se munro seelectronics.com 800-222-4700 sls loudspeakers slsloudspeakers.com 417-883-4549 sonodyne sonodyne.com transaudiogroup.com 702-365-5155 tannoy tannoy.com 519-745-1158 tascam tascam.com 323-726-0303 trident Audio pmi-audio.com 310-323-9050 truth Audio truthaudio.com 850-830-7168 unity Audio unityaudio.com 888-572-5825 Westlake Audio westlakeaudio.com 323-851-1222 yamaha yamaha.com 714-522-9105

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