A question to the Sound Engineers out there


I really enjoy the way in which, some sound engineers have the ability to create tracks that sounds like the recording took place in a much larger physical venue outside of a studio

But based on the pictures I have seen of some studios, i.e. with the large mixing desk in front of a large pane of glass - it hardly looks to be an ideal listening environment.

So I was wondering...

- do Sound engineers listen to the finished master on a TOTL hi-fi system having a more "normal configuration" i.e. like many of us have in our houses, to ensure their end product will sound  just as they want it?

- or is the studio a near field listening environment, which is actually better for the purpose of creating a grander sounding master?

- or are the speakers not really for mixing purposes because the sound engineer relies solely on headphones to create the final product mix?

Just curious - Cheers - Steve



williewonka
"...- do Sound engineers listen to the finished master on a TOTL hi-fi system having a more "normal configuration" i.e. like many of us have in our houses, to ensure their end product will sound just as they want it?..."

Short answer: Some do but very few. Some studios will have a pair of home audio speakers in the mixing room.  
Here's an interview with a sound engineer yes it's basically from a Bricasti marketing site but does give an idea of what a studio looks like and what is used.
https://www.bricasti.com/en/consumer/interviews.php
I think this depends a great deal on the target audience. Dance music won't be listened to or mixed on the same systems Jazz/Classical.

AFAIK, most recording engineers us a mix of headphones, near field and far field monitors.

And let's not forget the cinema engineers and composers either. Take a look on line for Hans Zimmer's system.

It was really interesting to me that he gave up on his massive theater monitors and switched to smaller near field.
I had an old friend who since has passed. He had a studio in Cleveland that was in an 200 year old church. That was half his business was people who wanted that church sound. This was 25 years ago, I’m sure it can be done digitally now. 
The usual problem of asking a question about how its done assuming its all done the same. No one can say what "sound engineers" do because they do all kinds of different things. Not only from one engineer to the next but even the same one from recording to recording over time. 

Also the recording engineer pretty much does what the producer and performing artists want, which in turnhas a lot to do with the intended audience/market. 

If you want to know technically how ambience is created in a studio there's multiple options few if any having anything to do with being able to hear in the studio what you're hearing at home. 
I think the studio in the Bricasti video above is probably not like most studios. having said that there are some record labels that go to extremes.

Tacet - a label that goes to extremes when actually recording their live recordings do not have elaborate studios with big monitor style speakers either.

I do have some recordings from Norway that are amazing sound quality - so are their studios it seems - just a tad more extravagant.
norway recording studio images - Google Search

I guess these small speakers we see in the images are actually very good quality and you can't see if theay are coupled with sub's, so the "impression" is, their sound is rather limited. But I have to believe this is not the case

Tannoy seems to have gone to 6" drivers on their Recording & Broadcast speakers, so I guess the industry in general as moved in that direction and probably use sub's to augment the low frequencies.
Tannoy | Catalog | Product Applications

But I'm still confused as to how the sound guys create these cavernous images in such a restricted environment.

Regards - Steve


A studio loudspeaker is a tool to be used by a technician.  It doesn't have to be state of the art or even accurate.  It just has to have a consistent sound.  As an analogy, professional chefs don't need expensive knives and fancy pans to make wonderful meals.
Cavernous sound is created by reverb.  Here's a primer on reverb history and use.  Bricasti was founded by ex-Lexicon designers/engineers.  Lexicon made the most widely used reverb devices, primarily the 480L.
Some do listen on home hi-fi configuration. Two I know are Octave Records, whose releases have to pass final audition at Paul McGowan's music room at PS Audio; and Andreas Meyer in New York who has a mastering/listening room akin to a home set-up.
Depends on the studio, the end product, the people working on it, and the customer.

Don't confuse the recording studio with the mixing station, which may be just one of several review systems used.  Pretty much all digital processes now, mixing and mastering could be in the next room, the next city, or the other side of the world.
Sound "Engineers", back in the 70's- early 90's. In what I would call the "Golden age" of sound recording, "all" used the exact same monitors.
And I do really mean "All" engineers in any studio producing anything you would hear on the radio at the time. They were "Near-field" monitors that I cannot remember the model name of. But they were a 2-way, made by "Fostex". Small and looking like a bookshelf speaker, but for that time very expensive. Always flat-black with a pure white woofer, (5" woofer I think). I paid $400 for my pair in 1980. Hee hee, and I only paid $800 for the "sportscar" I was driving back then, just so you understand. Tons of clones that look like the old Fostex are around now. NONE sound like the Fostex's though. There was a very clinical resolution heard through them, a "Truth". That when used for mixing down allowed you to present a very even "field" of sound throughout the spectrum. They hid nothing. Horrible as a stereo, "speaker' though!

Tannoys were used in many famous studios from what I've read. 
In addition to the high quality studio monitors, many mixing studios in the analogue to early digital era also used Auratone speakers for near field mixing. Small box-shaped speakers that were perfect for how the mix would sound on the radio, typical home stereos, boom boxes.
Producers and clients wanted to hear the recording on the large monitors, but the engineer would always check the mix on the Auratones.


raysmtb1

Your reply reminded me of the movie That Thing You Do!, where they recorded the released track in a church.
Most albums are mixed for listening in cars or radio or earbuds these days. The artists must hear the playback and it must be loud and punchy. Serious music may be recorded with critical listeners in mind, if we're lucky. Listen to the Lori Lieberman and Jennifer Warnes albums to hear good work.
I must admit that I have found a lot of current music is mixed quite well, with excellent imaging and separation of performers - so they seem to be doing something right regardless of their studio environment.

I guess what prompted my OP is - I had just made some upgrades to cables that improved the sound of my system dramatically, but the level of venue acoustics on a couple of tracks now seemed a little over the top, so it got me wondering what gear the sound engineers used. They were obviously overshooting the mark.

When I looked at studio images, the setup on a great deal of them seemed to lack the "precision" we audio hobbyists might go to with our own systems.

That made me wonder how could they possibly create great sounding studio tracks that make you think that are actually recorded in a hall of some sort, without having a great sounding system that is correctly setup?

I guess there are some sound engineers that do go the extra mile for those tracks that sound really amazing.

Regards - Steve
  No doubt there are some wonderful mixes/recordings out there. It is a sad reminder however when you consider that, as mentioned above, much recording is adjusted for the sh***y car radio, or ear buds that the general public will be using to listen with. One of the tricks is to really compress and then highten the level of the recording to a degree that it captures your attention just by it's loudness and slam. sigh.
We are Investors in a successful Pac NW studio, we help fund the growing arsenal of microphones. I also have a analog and digital mobile rack, unamplified acoustic voices and instruments in reverberant space is my thing. Some great Church type spaces are amazing.

For the OP ? as others have said the general process is record w monitors in near field. Then mix and as Eric so aptly said might not even be stereo, might be 7.1
then Master it, very typically for the limits of the playback format... car radio or early barnspike phono might be the worst. To put some life back into poor recordings you have some audiophiles and music lovers go down a path of enhanced controls on the preamp - phase, blend, L/R swap, mono, and of course tone. see Cello preamp. Our resident egotist will dismiss that great bit of musicality and electrical engineering but that is just illustrative of how he thinks a particular recording went wrong. 
All manner of reverb to create ambience. The fat analog sounding tanks were viewed as near priceless. Digital became the way, things have morphed a bit. For a hybrid approach see some of the recordings of 2L ( Grammy winners )

for a pure analog experience see the Blue Note work of Rudy Van Gelder, sometimes odd stereo mix but usually drenched in the church like ambience but with some close microphones snap!!!
I had a home studio and recorded bands in the Portland, Oregon area for about 10 years from the mid 90's. I was a one stop shop - I did the recording, mixing, and mastering. Here are a few observations from my own experience.

Most well known mastering engineers have a high quality stereo setup that is equal or better than what most audiophiles have. This rarely exists in the recording studio. I was lucky to have a nice system to help fine tune my mastering but the mixing was done on a traditional setup with bookshelf studio monitors at ear level.

A good mastering engineer will listen to their work on a home style audiophile system, car stereo, and headphones. I can testify that it is really important to listen to the final product on a variety of playback devices - mostly to get the bass right. But it's also important to check your work on a cheap pair of earbuds.

It is my opinion that there is a level of detail that recording engineers generally don't hear if they aren't doing the mastering and checking their master on a high quality system. Their monitoring equipment just isn't good enough to resolve the last layer of detail.

The effect that leads to the perception of a big recording space is more often delay, not reverb. With the advent of digital recording and digital effect plugins the delay effect has been largely perfected with a variety of adjustable parameters and is an integral part of the sound of modern recordings.
You mean pre-delay right? ... an integral variable in modern digital reverb.
@8th-note - Many thanks for your post, that has cleared up a lot of the "unknowns" that had resulted in seeing the images of the recording studio.

The biggest of which was basically...
How could the sound engineers possibly know what the finished track would sound like on an exceptional system when they are basically in such a small listening environment with what appeared to be less that optimal speakers
Cheers - Steve


Digital delay has been used for decades to simulate plate or spring or simply room reverb to great effect (no pun intended). Note that James Taylor used a metal shipping container at his elaborate home studio in MA to provide an actual acoustic reverb tank containing well placed microphones...if you can't afford that just rent a dumpster for perhaps "fragrant" reverberation.