Chapter 2: Secondary Monitoring
AUDIO FILES (To download all WAV examples at once: 12MB ZIP)
- StereoTest: (Ex02.01:WAV/MP3 ) This file contains a repeating pattern of four noise bursts: the first only in the left channel; the second only in the right channel; the third in both channels; and the fourth in both channels, but with the right channel out of polarity with the left channel. On most real-world nearfield monitoring systems, the phantom image of the third noise burst will appear much less well focused than then real images of the first and second bursts. (The fourth noise burst is irrelevant to this particular discussion, but is useful for checking the polarity of stereo speaker rigs.)
- MonoBalanceShift: (Ex02.02:WAV/MP3 ) This audio example demonstrates the middle-versus-sides balance shift when a stereo file is summed to mono. On a reasonably set-up stereo monitoring system, the brass chord should remain at a roughly consistent level as it pans around the image. Listen to the same file in mono, however, and you can hear a clear reduction in level for the hard-panned chords by comparison with the central chords.
- DrumOverheadsStereoPhase: (Ex02.03:WAV/MP3 ) In this audio example you can hear a stereo drum overheads recording which is periodically being switched into mono. You can clearly hear some mono-compatibility problems, for example a loss of high end which making the cymbals dull-sounding.
- SynthPadStereoPhase: (Ex02.04:WAV/MP3 ) Polarity inversion has been used to artificially widen the stereo image of the synth pad in this audio example. While this makes it appear more impressive in stereo, it also seriously affects its overall level when it's summed to mono, as you can hear at 0:05 and 0:12.
- Correction: In the schematic diagram of Figure 2.7 (page 40), the pins of the male XLR connector are incorrectly numbered. The top pin should be '2' and the middle pin '3', as shown in this updated version.
- Focusrite VRM Technology: I had so many enquiries about this from readers that I bought a VRM Box myself to put it through its paces. Read my findings here: Focusrite VRM Box: The 'Mixing Secrets' Verdict.
- Smyth Research Realiser A8: If you're unable to mix over loudspeakers for non-budgetary reasons, then there is an alternative headphone-monitoring option available that really does work: the convolution-based loudspeaker-modelling engine of the Smyth Research Realiser A8. This is a very sophisticated device, and despite its seemingly high price-tag (around £3000 including suitable headphones) is actually excellent value for money if loudspeaker monitoring simply isn't an option. It's also a very cost-effective way to get into surround monitoring. For more details, check out my full Sound On Sound magazine review..
- The Rebirth Of The Auratones: The Auratone speaker company has recently launched a recreation of their long-discontinued 5C Super Sound Cube, specifically the 1985 iteration of the design. However, although classic Auratones carved out a strong reputation as a midrange reference monitor, I don't think the new speaker is very well-suited to that role -- it actually sounds surprisingly hi-fi! That said, if you look at the new Auratone 5C as a full-range monitor (not a midrange reference), then I think a pair of the new 5Cs actually constitute a rather competitive option for mixing on a budget, given that they're unported and their low end is both remarkably extended and extremely well-behaved. For more in-depth info, see my Sound On Sound magazine review.
- Auratone Substitutes: It can be difficult to find a small, single-driver, unported speaker to use in place of an Auratone (as discussed at length in the book), so here are some suitable options I've come across: the Avantone Pro Mix Cube (active or passive), which is my own personal preference and which I reviewed in Sound On Sound's June 2010 issue; the Triple P Designs Pyramid (passive); the Canford Audio Powered Diecast Loudspeaker (active); and the Fostex 6301 Powered Loudspeaker (active). I have reservations about using Behringer's Behritone speakers (C5A & C50A) as Auratone substitutes at mixdown -- see my February 2012 Sound On Sound review for details. If you're really strapped for cash, but handy with your power tools, then check out these two DIY Auratone Projects: one from the GroupDIY Forum and the other from the Acoustica Forum.
- Simulating An Auratone Using Impulse Responses: It's pretty easy to find an impulse response of the Auratone 5C on the web (for example, in the Reaper Resources Stash) which you can load into any standard convolution engine to simulate the speaker's frequency response. However, playing this convolved signal through any normal monitoring system actually cancels out most of the mixing benefits of using an Auratone -- ie. the real single-point image, the well-damped time-domain response, the single-driver design, and the low distortion. That said, the idea isn't completely devoid of merit, because you do still at least get the speaker's characteristic midrange focus, so I suppose it's better than nothing.
- Mono-switching In Software: About the best little freeware mono-switch plug-ins are Brainworx's BX Solo and Boz Digital's Panipulator, both of which let you solo the Left, Right, and Sides signals independently. Which plug-in you prefer just depends on which user interface best suits your own workflow.
- Recommended Mixing Headphones: In the book I discuss the advantages of investing in a pair of top-of-the-range monitoring headphones for small-studio applications. Having heard dozens of different sets of headphones, and having compared many of the top models side-by-side, my personal top tips here are Beyerdynamic's DT880 Pro and Sennheiser's HD650. If you've less money to hand, then AKG's K240 MkII also seem to work very well for mixing purposes.
- Making A Stereo-to-mono Adapter Cable: Full details of how to make one can be found here, but note that the diagram is incorrectly labelled -- this is the correct diagram.
- Using Headphones For Mixing: Here's a big headphone shootout I was involved in not long ago. What's good about it is that it includes established classics as well as newer models, and also covers a wide price range. And here's another large shootout which features many studio models. If you have to work a lot on headphones, here are two articles which investigate techniques for doing this more successfully: article 1, article 2.