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3.6 Monitors and Headphones

Monitors and headphones are essential for monitoring your recording, mixing and editing. This is another area where it is easy to get lost in specifications and options. Fear not—in this lesson you will learn what to look for and get some recommendations for specific gear to use for your productions.

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3.6 Monitors and Headphones

Studio monitors and headphones are essential for monitoring your recording, mixing, and editing. This is another area where it easy to get lost in specifications and options. Fear not. In this lesson you will learn what to look for and get some recommendations for some specific gear to use for your productions. Speakers and headphones for recording are a little bit different than your home theater speakers and your DJ headphones. Speakers and headphones designed for music playback tend to have more of a hyped sound, meaning the high and the low frequencies are a bit louder to give everything a more pleasing sound. For recording purposes, you want your monitor speakers and headphones to be neutral sounding. So, that they are giving you an accurate representation of what you are recording, not a sweetened version. This accuracy is gonna cost you. You a bit more than your basic set of bookshelf speakers, or your average DJ headphones. Now, technically, you could get by only using good headphones, but you'll probably want a set of studio monitors as well. Headphones are going to be essential for monitoring your recording. If you are recording in the same room as your studio monitors, you can't use them to monitor the recording, because you will cause a feedback loop and damage your speakers. And probably your hearing. For this reason alone, you have to have a set of headphones. Headphones also come in handy when you need to edit late at night, or when there are other noise sources that are intruding into your space. If you never intend to mix, or edit using your headphones, you could get away with using just about any set of closed back headphones. Or even good sounding ear buds, or in ear monitors. The idea is that you don't want headphones that leak sound, as that would color the recording. I would also recommend a circumaural headphone style, which go around the entire ear. These are far more comfortable than the supra-aural, which sits on top of the ear. Giving a specific recommendation is tricky, because there's going to be some personal preference in comfort, involved. I have four sets of headphones, and the ones that I liked the best, came from monoprice.com. And, were pretty cheap. I like them because they have a fairly neutral sound, they are comfortable on my ears, and they are cheap. When it comes to headphones, there can be a several hundred to few thousand percent mark-up. This makes me feel like when I find an inexpensive set of cans that I like, I'm sticking it to the man and I like that. All the big names like Sony,Sennheiser, Audio Technica, AKG,BeyerDynamic, and Shure make good headphones. You just have to find the right pair for you. I have read good things. Things about the Sennheiser HD 280 pro which costs about 100 dollars USD. And the Sony MDR 7506 which costs about 85 dollars USD. Usually, open back headphones are recommended for mixing and editing, but again, these will not work well for recording. If you're gonna get one set of headphones for recording, mixing, and editing, you might wanna get a nicer set of closed back cans that are gonna last you a long time. For monitors, there are two main options. Active or passive. Active monitors have amplifiers built in so all you have to do is plug them in to power and connect up your audio interface. Better active monitors use bi-amplification which have a separate amplifier for the tweeter and for the woofer in each speaker. Passive speakers require a separate amplifier. The trend in monitors for the last several years is active speakers. These monitors come in several different sizes, but I would recommend that you shoot for something that has a six to eight inch low-frequency driver. For editing and mixing your voice over, you don't need a ton of bass. But, without bass, you'll be missing a critical part of the audio spectrum. Its hard for smaller speakers to generate those low frequencies because they don't have enough surface area to move a lot of air effectively. If you're looking for monitors to edit your voice overs and do some mixing your gonna want to make sure that you get something pretty decent. I would expect to pay between 250 and 600 dollars USD per pair for something decent. You might check out brands like Presonus, KRK, Yamaha, Mackie, and M-Audio. Even Behringer has some monitors that are an exceptional value, and offer a lot of bang for the buck. If you're just getting into recording, and you pick up your first set of monitors you might not like the way they sound at first. They may sound dry or dull, but this is completely normal. The point is that they should reveal things in your mix, and give you an honest representation of what's happening in your audio. A big thing to remember here is that you can become proficient at mixing and editing using almost any speakers and headphones. The key is that you have to reference a lot of different high quality material so you can get an understanding of what good recordings sound like on your system. This can take some time, but once you learn how to mix and edit with your monitors and headphones, the whole process becomes easier. I used to own a set of Mackie HR824 monitors, which cost me about $1,400 USD. These were really nice monitors, but I eventually sold them to get out of debt. A short while later I bought these Behringer Truth 2031A monitors, which look a lot like the Mackies. I've been pretty pleased with their performance, but if I had to do it again now, I'll probably go a different way. The other monitors that I use are these older Alesis Point Seven monitors that are on permanent loan from my brother. These are a passive speaker that I use for gaming, with a 5.1 setup. And I don't use these a whole lot for mixing. But I do check my mixes on these speakers from time to time. I wanted to share my experience with monitors with you. Because I want you to understand that you can get good results on gear that isn't in the top of the price spectrum. If you need a specific recommendation for your first set of monitors, I would check out the Presonus Eris E5 or the Yamaha HS5. Because these are well reviewed and highly rated. Placement of your monitor is something that you. You will want to consider, as well. It's best to have the monitors on monitor stands. Setting the monitors on your desk will color the sound of your speakers, because they will vibrate the surface of your desk, and that will cause some frequency cancellation. If you need to mount them on your desk, you might consider placing them on a half inch or three-quarter inch piece of open cell foam or neoprene or a dedicated monitor isolation pad. A monitor isolation pad is a good idea for your monitor stands as well. This will help to decouple the monitors from the floor and help improve the bass response. It's recommended that you set up your monitors in. In an equilateral triangle. If you are four feet from your monitors, they should be about four feet apart. Now, this doesn't have to be exact. In fact, a lot of people feel that a wider spacing of the monitors works a little bit better. The tweeters should be at ear height, and the monitors should be pointed at your ears to get a good left right image. Sometimes aiming the speakers a few inches behind your head can widen the sweet spot. So you'll have to experiment with this to find out what works best for you. Now that you have an understanding of headphones and monitors, you are ready to move on to the next chapter in this course. Where you're gonna learn about controlling the sound.

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