It’s surprising that so many monitors speakers are purchased just from a review or word of mouth, since they’re such a personal item. Here are some points to remember before choosing new monitors.
1) Don’t choose a monitor because someone else is using them. Just because your favorite mixer uses a set of Tannoy Precision 8D’s, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be right for you too. Everyone hears differently and has a different hearing experience.
2) Make sure you listen to the monitors before you buy them. The pros take their time and listen to them under a wide range of conditions before they commit to a purchase, so why shouldn’t you? Take the trip to your local pro audio or music store and spend some time listening.
Here’s what you should listen for when you evaluate a monitor:
- Listen for An Even Frequency Balance – Check to see if any frequencies are exaggerated or attenuated while listening to a piece of music that you’re very familiar with. Listen especially to the mid-range cross-over area (usually about 1.5 to 2.5kHz), then to cymbals on the high end, vocals and guitars in the midrange, and bass and kick drum on the low end.
- Listen to the Frequency Balance At Different Levels – The speakers should have the same frequency balance at any level, from quiet to loud.
- Make Sure The Speakers Are Loud Enough Without Distortion – Be sure that there’s enough clean level for your needs. Be sure to listen to them at various volume levels to determine if they’ll be loud enough for your needs, if they will distort, or if their sound characteristics change dramatically at different volumes.
3) Listen with source material that you know very well. The only way to judge a monitor is to listen to material that you’re very familiar with and have heard in a lot of different environments. A high quality 24 bit source like from a personal digital recorder is great because it gives you a better idea of the frequency response of the system.
If the monitors that you’re auditioning aren’t powered, you might want to bring your own amplifier to the audition because the amp/speaker combination is a delicate one. A speaker has a much greater interdependence on the power source than most of us realize, and many engineers search for the perfect amplifier almost as long as for the perfect monitor. Thankfully, that’s not as much of a problem these days since most high quality monitors have built-in amplifiers perfectly matched to its speaker drivers by the manufacturer.
That being said, you can easily get used to just about any speaker if you use it enough and learn it’s strengths and weaknesses in your room. It also helps to have a reference point that you’re sure of to compare the sound with, like your car or a particular boombox, then adjust your mixes so they work when you play them there.