There’s a huge advantage to having more than one set of monitor speakers in your studio. This Quick Tip explains why you should consider it and how to manage a multi monitor studio setup.
Hey guys! Dezz Asante here again from the TechMuzeAcademy with another MixLesssons.com video quick tip. This one comes again from another question I stumbled upon in the Gear Slutz Forum from a member named Hydraon Stimpack (I think I got that right).
He writes in, he says
“So, for my home studio right now, I have something simple. KRK Rocket 5s with the KRK 10-inch sub. I want to upgrade my speakers but still have my Rocket 5s hooked-up for reference. I don’t know the best way to go about doing this. Should I keep the sub and just have two pairs of monitors. The sub has a built-in cross-over by the way. So, considering that, is it okay that the two different pair of speakers will have the same sub and cross-over or should I get a new pair of monitors and a sub to go with it. I’m not sure what is the best way to do this. Anyone with suggestions on how they do it?”
Well, my thoughts on the matter is it is definitely a good thing to have more than one reference, more than one set of monitors or listening scenarios. What I do recommend however, is that you get something as your secondary pair of monitors that’s dramatically different than what you already have. So, if you’ve got a pair of KRK Rocket 5s and the sub, thats a pretty full-range set-up right there and if your going to upgrade your monitor to something a little more accurate, a little more high-end, then what you’ll end up with is two somewhat full-range setup. When I say full-range,I mean across the whole frequency spectrum. So, you’re getting detailed highs, detailed mids, big bottom end with the sub-woofer in particular.
What I recommend instead is to upgrade your monitors as you see fit whatever is it you got your eye on and to actually, perhaps, sell the care case and replace them with something really low-fi, really low-budget.
Myself , what I use is a pair of these cheap, little $5 yard sales speakers that have drivers this big, but are nothing but mid-ranged, no bottom-end, no top-end. And I use these to simulate my worst case scenario. If somebody’s going to be listening to my mix on their laptop speakers which are tiny little drivers as well, you know can they still hear the bass player? Because on a little speaker a lot of times they don’t represent the bottom-end. They don’t reproduce the bottom-end very well.
So, the other thing that it does is the more dramatic the sound.. the sonic difference is between your two reference sets the more likely it is that your ear is going to freshen its perspective and help you to avoid ear fatigue. This is something that I have spoken about in the past. But what will happened is, as you’re listening for an hour, 2 hours, 3 hours into a mix session on your main monitor, your ears start to get desensitize to certain frequencies and just from repetition, from hearing them over and over again they begin to get desensitize. Its the same reason why a lot of times you don’t notice that theres noise in the room until it stops. Your ears have become desensitize to that sound. Your mind has filtered it out and …you know, to avoid going crazy I suppose. Right!
Same thing happens in a mix situation, so if you can switch your speakers into something very different, then you’re giving your ear a completely fresh range of frequencies to chew on so to speak. And this has a tendency to help avoid ear fatigue or to help prolong your listening session. So,thats the first advice.
The second advice is to…is in terms of how to set this up. There’s a couple of ways to do it and I’ll show you a few things right now. Basically, what your goal is to have a quick way to switch between your monitoring scenarios so that you cannot impede your your flow…your workflow. You just want to hit a button or flick a switch and you’re listening onto your opposing speakers.
So, I’ll show you a couple of things that could be useful in that regard. One of them,lets start with the simplest. This is a tiny,little small format little mixer. This one is just the cheap one from Behringer. I think these things sell for for 40 bucks, brand new. And this would allow you to place a one set of speakers through your main outs (which I believe are here in case of this little mixer) and your other set of speakers could be through your tape outs or even through the headphone out with the proper cable, stereo, TRS, quarter-inch to duo whatever your speakers have. And this would allow you to really quickly sort of turn down your mains and turn up if you use the headphones, turn up those secondary speakers for that quick switch between between monitors. So, thats a very inexpensive and kind of simple way to do it. Something else, a little further up the chain, price wise and a little more full featured will be something like the Mackie Big Knob. These are pretty good, these are an active system. There is an argument out there they have the potential to colour your sound a little bit with the active electronics in the device. I don’t think its something you need to worry about unless you’ve gotten to the point where your ear is picky enough that you can really hear those nuisances. If thats the case, then you know, make whatever decisions that are appropriate but I don’t think its a big issue. This will allow you to have 3..up to 3 sets of monitors setup at once and very quick bottom switching between them. It also allows you to have multiple input sources so you can have the outputs of your DAW connected here. You can have maybe a cable that plugs into your Ipod here for listening to a quick reference mix, maybe you got a cd player over here, a turntable over here. This also gives you some more advance features too like the talk-back mic if you want to communicate with somebody in another room of your studio. You’ve got some quick controls to switch to mono, mute or just dim the mix, to attenuate the volume a little bit so you could talk over it. So, this one is a little bit more full feature and this sell for I think 350 bucks at the time of this recording anyway.
Something else you could use is the Personas Monitor Station, very similar to the Mackie Big Knob in terms of what it is designed to do. Again, you have 3 sets of speakers. You have a couple of different input sources – your external mic talk-back and so forth one big master volume knob and again pretty full featured. This one gets some pretty great reviews for being a very clean signal path.
And then last but not the least, just to round things out,I’ll show you what I use personally. This is the M Patch 2 from SM ProAudio. The thing I do like about this one it is entirely passive, so that issue that sometimes comes up with the Mackie and so forth, that the active circuitry can tend to colour your signal. That issue is non-existent with this device. Its passive in a way that you don’t even have to plug this thing in. The only reason you have to plug this into power, is if you want to use the headphone amp which does require power, but If you’re not going to use this headphone amp and you’re using the headphones on your interface or what have you then you don’t even want to plug this thing into the wall. Good solid volume knob. This is for your secondary input source, a separate volume knob. I like that. And then you have your output selection that supports 2 sets of monitors and 2 stereo input sources as well. You’ve got your stereo to mono switch and a mute button. So, pretty simple and self-explanatory. These things sell for about 100 and a half I think, around about 160 bucks or so and its a half rack two unit size and it comes with a mounting wings so you could put that in your rack. So, that’s what I use and I think that’s a great way to be able to quickly switch between your monitoring set-ups.
So, just to recap when you’re choosing your secondary pair of monitors. I recommend going (as counter-intuitive as it may sound) Low-fi. Like you probably got something in your box in the garage somewhere already that will do the job. And the point is is to get a dramatic shift in the frequency response of these monitors and in my opinion, a worst case scenario is a good thing to have. Not everyone listens on fantastic sounding speakers.
Secondly, you want a quick and easy way to switch between those 2 monitoring setups. You don’t want to have to rewire, re-patch things. You want something like the SM Pro M Patch 2 or the Big Knob or any of these things I’ve spoken about to allow to quickly shift your reference.
So, I hope that answers the question and we’ll see you on the next quick tip.