About monitoring environments

Monitoring environment is critical to production and mixing. You must be able to accurately hear and interpret the sounds you’re working on in order to make reasonable decisions. Achieving a good monitoring environment, however, is not as simple as buying the most expensive speakers you can – there are several components to a good monitoring environment: The space, the speakers, and headphones. Ideally, they should all work together and complement each other.

The Space

The space you listen in is just as important as the speakers. There are many different types of acoustic spaces, and if you want to get the best out of your space you should try to understand the relevant acoustic properties. Spaces generally have three broad properties that you should pay attention to:

  • The size and dimensions of the space
  • The surface coverings
  • The placement of objects within the space

The Speakers

The speakers are the most obvious component of a monitoring environment, but not necessarily the most important. It’s also not simple to choose speakers. For example, simply getting the largest woofers you can afford is not always the best approach – speakers with larger woofers tend to be focus their energy and accuracy on the lower frequencies, sometimes at the expense of accuracy in the upper mids. Conversely, smaller speakers might be more accurate in the upper mids but weak in the bass, making it more difficult to correctly judge mix decisions for the kick and bass – critical in modern dance music.

Headphones

Headphones are also a part of a well-balanced monitoring environment. They offer a different listening perspective to the speakers in your room. Generally, headphones allow more detailed and focussed listening, which makes them ideal for spotting problems in recorded audio (such as background noise or interference). The drawback is that the sound is generally drier and wider than when listening with speakers, making them inappropriate for judging front-to-back depth. If you choose well, however, you can use your headphones to compensate for weaknesses in your speakers – either using bright headphones alongside muddy speakers or deep headphones alongside thin speakers.

I intend to address each of these topics in more detail in future blog posts.

-Kim.

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