Pro oriented speakers are used by recording engineers as analytical tools in the record production process. Domestic oriented speakers have a slightly different purpose. They're designed to make music sound good in a home environment. In general, domestic speakers will be more "forgiving" than their pro counterparts. Somewhat paradoxically, this does not mean that domestic speakers are less accurate than pro models. Typically, the better domestic speakers will go deeper in the bass, have a lower noise floor and reveal the spatial qualities of recordings better than pro models.
Obviously there is a huge amount of overlap between domestic and pro models and there is no reason why pro models cannot be used in domestic situations. However, in much the same way that a purpose built race car would make for a very poor everyday vehicle, most studio monitors are not ideal in home use. But then again, there are exceptions.
Kind of funny, but most of the better studios that are concerned with "audiophile grade" or just plain old "high quality" reproduction have gone to using "hi-end" speakers rather than the typical "professional studio monitors" that they were using in the past. To top it off, many of their customers ( the musicians themselves ) have commented that their music has never sounded so good to them while using these "hi-end monitors" to mix their recordings down. As such, what better "critique" and "endorsement" could one ask for when the person making and recording the music says that "hi-end" speakers do a better job at presenting the music in a more natural and accurate manor than the "industry standard" professional grade monitors ??? Sean
I really don't think the ordinary recording engineers really care about what kind of speakers they use. If they have the money, they go for the fancy TAD or the ultra expensive Westlake. If not, Yamaha speakers or anything that can make some noise will do. Of all the recording engineers in this world, I think 99.99% of those recording engineers don't really care about the sound quality of their works since they don't have any advanced audiophile background. They really don't know what are possible....like soundstage, focus, separation...etc.
But when the recording engineers have advanced audiophile background, their approaches to recording are totally different. They really care about what kind of amps, cables or speakers.... that are in the recording chain. And it all shown in their works.
I don't think there are any major differences between the professional and consumer speakers at all. If the end user knows what he(or she) is doing, they will both sound wonderful......
I agree with both previous posts .Most of the pro studio monitors I have heard are designed for "near field" placement, where your 3 or 4 foot from the speaker since they are many times placed on top of the mixing board. Yes they are accurate but most engineers are more concerned with details and levels in the mix rather than the soundstage, bloom of the instruments, air, etc. Put it this way, I have heard some of the best and have never felt I would like them in my home. As Sean mentioned, I can see why the audiophile labels would go to a high end speaker. I have not heard them all however so there may be some exceptions. Tom G
My Westlake monitors sound fantastic to me...MUCH better in fact than any "HiFi" speaker I have ever heard.
i have a home theater with pa gear. on live dvds like riverdance and feet of flames it is awsome. i have seen feet of flames live, and i can tell you i have not heard a home speaker that will take me to the live performance like the pro gear i have. also for movies i love it as well.
People. Lets go a little lighter on the recording engineers shall we? Couple of broad generalizations made here, Engineers care more about what you hear than you give them credit for. Not only are there things like time constraints, artist who can't or haven't learned to perform in a studio, or who just never have before, studio's that you are called into that you have never used and you are told you have 3 days in which to record 6 tracks, accompanying artists who literally want to phone their part of the recording in, feature artist and producers that don't care if they do, the difficulties go on and on. Then there are producers who just want it done, labels who are the same way, artist that have tour dats, etc, etc, etc. I would suggest to you that most recording engineers would love to have all the time and all the help in the world in order to do it right, and they love being in a studio and with a label where they can. They are no different than most, they would like to work in the best studio, with the best artist, have freedom to do it as many times as it takes, use only the best sidemen and the best equipment. But business enters into it, and there are usually 100 people+ involved in the production of an recording, and a lot of them aren't going to slow it down while the engineering makes it an audiophile recording. On most big labels, about the only person that can really do that is the feature artist, and they usually don't know what it takes to make a
audiophile recording and are under so much pressure time wise that it can't always be done.
Now having that off my chest, don't go blaming all the monitors either, a lot of the time its the associated equipment as well. Good audio people know its not just the speakers, but the rest of the gear down the line, and a lot of it does not get matched, and even then differnet amps mikes guitars effects etc wind up getting used. Most studio's do not have Neumann mics, tube preamp stages etc, not cost effective and difficult to maintain. I have had and used KROK ROK monitors on my home system, and I consider them a steal in good small monitors, studio or home, home on a tube amp especially. Incredible how good they are, and there are others
I use pro monitors for HT and small project studio both with SS gear. For classical music I have a tube system with home speakers. Anything I produce in the project studio gets a first listen on the classical setup and then the HT and finally on my car CDP. The idea is to learn to translate what one is hearing in the studio to other environments. Many hits have been mixed near field on Yamaha NS-10Ms that have a serious dip in the midrange and produce world class ear fatique, but as an engineering tool can be useful.
I have always used professional studio monitors in preference to similarly priced domestic models. If I had to give one simple reason, it would be that dollar-for-dollar, real studio monitors blow domestic speakers away especially, but not only, in terms of dynamics and neutrality. Currently I use Tannoy, as I have for 25 years, but I have also heard exceptional monitors using JBL, TAD, Altec/Urei, Genelec and other drivers.
This is not to say there aren't domestic speakers of comparable or even better quality, but not, I would say, for the money.
In general, techniques and technologies developed for the pro market tend to filter down to domestic models, whether it be balanced circuitry (in components), cabinet design, biwiring/biamping, or actual drivers.
It's also useful to remember that there are two distinct categories of studio monitors. "Near field" monitors (e.g., Yamaha NS-10, Tannoy System 8, the smaller Genelecs, Montanas, etc.) are used to monitor the mixing process. These are the monitors you see sitting right on the mixing board.
The other type of studio monitor, the "main" monitors are used to audition and make a final decision on the completed recording. It is these through which the artist will be invited to listen to his or her song or piece. And it is really these main monitors that offer mind-blowing sound (and frequently, though not always, mind blowing prices). Here's where you find 300 litre/10 cu.ft. cabinets, 100 dB sensitivity, dual 15" woofers, etc. and a ruthless purity of sonic reproduction that makes a lot of sloppy mainstream commercial recordings sound terrible.
It is true that many recording engineers don't trouble themselves too much about the quality of their monitors (in this case, generally near field monitors). The fact is, though, that most copies of most recordings are destined to be played on car stereos, Walkmans and low- and mid-fi systems. As we all know, audio enthusiasts, not to mention audiophiles, are only a very tiny proportion of the music-buying public. And part of what a recording engineer is paid to do is to optimize the recording he's creating to sound the best (or most immediately impressive, anyway) on the widest variety of playback systems. And "sounding the most impressive" does not generally mean "being the most accurate." This often means filtering out deep bass, boosting mid-bass, and other "corruptions" of the original musical signal.
On the other hand, engineers who are deliberately setting out to create the best possible recording use the best possible equipment.
I know of one well-regarded series of audiophile LPs engineered by David Manley, a set of a dozen that sometimes comes up on eBay. Manley strove to eliminate distortion of any kind at every point in the recording, mastering and pressing process. This meant, to take but one example, having German specialists manufacture made-to-order record cutting lathes and then customizing these further. Expense of this kind makes even the most expensive studio monitors appear modest in price. In this cost-no-barrier project, Manley used his own (modified) high power tube amplifiers and standard Tannoy System 15 DMT studio monitors (though biamped with tube crossovers).
I am convinced that, like myself, many more music lovers and audiophiles would buy professional studio monitors for their home systems--if they knew about them. Hifi shops, including high end shops, do not sell professional monitors and it would be disastrous for their business if they did. You have to go to the shops that sell mixers, compressors and PA systems.
I don't pretend to have listened for more than a tiny fraction of pro monitors and domestic speakers that have been available over the last quarter-century. Nevertheless, from my own experience, at any particular price-point, be it $1K per pair, $5K or $15K, the true studio monitors will usually show up the domestic models.
And for this I am grateful. To get the quality of reproduction I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy with pro monitors (and pro cabling and connectors for that matter!) I would have to have spent probably twice as much.
My two cents' worth. A excellent forum. Thank you all for your contributions.
I visited Studio Morin Heights, just north of Montreal. This studio has had some of the biggest artists record there...U2, Bowie, the Police, on and on and on. Gold and Platinum albums grace the walls. Very nice setting visually, looks like the rooms used are well suited for music as well. The speakers on the console...the infamous Yamahas, the electronics used throughout even worse. The equipment isn't worthy of the worst wood-paneled rec-room. I walked away shaking my head, no wonder so much of what's released isn't worth listening to. Economics isn't an issue, the artists spend more on their catered food and accomodations than the gear in the studio. What a farce.
I had the chance to play with a set of Mackie 450 self powered speakers.
If you take away the hisssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss that they made when you got real close......... detail and overall pres. was very very good.
I certainly have heard systems costing ten times the amount that did one tenth the true repro. of the tune.
I wonder why in high end, we dont see more spaker/amp matches from manufacturers.
I would be tickled to hear a setup that would be a constant, only needing to be fed a line level and AC!
A nice, matched outboard amp with an umbilical cord...hmmmmm
The reason I got into high-end audio was because I was looking for speakers for my recording studio and found that the "pro" models sounded vastly inferior to what was available on the better consumer end of the spectrum. The B&Ws/Dynaudios/Dunlavys/etc. had way more detail, less fatigue, tigher bass than the Tannoys/Events/KRK/etc. In other words it was easier to get good mixes that translate to home systems if you are using high quality home speakers.
P.S. I have a friend that works at Westlake Studios that heard my B&W system and was blown away with the more natural sound. He said "This is what they want our rooms to sound like but how do they expect us to do it with their speakers?" No joke.
My brief experience as a "consultant" (supposedly, I knew something about how 19th century English choral music was supposed to sound...) for a small studio/production company introduced me to many of the realities of the recording industry touched upon by jvia in his excellent post, above. I was amazed by the variety of reproducers available even in that small facility and the extent to which the final mix was determined by the company's understanding of the target market for each CD. Critical listening was done on "pro monitors" but final mixes were chosen based on the sound coming out of all sorts of things including $14 Sony headsets and "SuperMegaBassBoost" boomboxes.
"We make it sound as good as we can on the type of equipment our market research shows it's going to be played on."
You know what was missing, of course: Anything in the way of high-end speakers. The owners' attitude: "It's a niche market; we can't afford to mix for it."
Alas, the few "niche market" studios that try hard to produce audiophile recordings so often lack the resources to hire real world-class players resulting in luscious recordings of mediocre performances.
I just wanted to add another "professional" opinion to this
post. I have owned a video editing and media duplication
company for nearly 13 years; and have owned a number of
"pro" type monitors for use in our studios, as well as number of well known home speaker brands, such as Thiel, NHT, AR, etc.
Many - if not most - of the smaller and less expensive
(under $2K) speakers seem to be built for near-field listening; with placement on a console or in a control room
environment. This is NOT the way most audiophiles listen to
their music - and when using this type of speaker, the results are sometimes less than rewarding. I will not even
discuss the fact that many of the better known "pro" speakers sound dead and unmusical to my ears. Many of the lower priced "pro" monitors also seem to be built with playback at high levels more of a consideration than any
sort of "musicality".
And while some companies - such as Westlake - do make
audiophile type pro monitors; I feel thay are the exception.
The bottom line for me is that since most of my clients don't record their audio tracks at high levels - we seem to
have more "ear-pleasing" results with monitors from AR, NHT,
etc. than with the "pro" monitors. And at home I listen to
Thiels and NHTs.
Thank you for the varied responses. It looks like this is not as simple as I'd hoped. So the near-field monitors are out. Maybe main monitors would be okay. It is hard to find these kind of speakers to audition.
I have read J. Gordon Holt's reviews of Westlake and ATC and he was really for the "pro" speakers as consumer speakers were overly lush and lacked the harshness that real world music really has.
One thing with pro speakers that I think is more universally agreed on being a good thing are the active designs.
What do you mean "harshness that real world music really has"? Listen to a jazz quartet, a symphony or a great rock band not at earbleed levels and it is not nearly as "harsh" as even a very good playback system. High quality playback systems strive to eliminate that electronically induced harshness that was introduced in the recording process. I have never heard a music system that can reproduce the dynamics, black background, clean extended highs, deep powerful bass and purity of midrange of an actual musical event. Maybe one day though...
Have you listened to ATC active 100's? Still not quite as dynamic as live but the sound was very clean. Maybe the lack of odd-order harmonics that are designed out of the drivers or the active coupling to the driver.
By "harshness" I was talking about the sharpness that, say brass instruments produce. I agreed that live instruments do not have the distortion you get in a stereo. But that's why I liked the ATC's.
I have not listened to many tube or SET amplifiers or records but they supposedly round off the "rough edges" of music that are supposed to be there but some people do not like to hear. So I understood J. Gordon Holt's description to mean that some people do not want reality in their stereo - enter devices to add euphonic distortion / coloration / smoothing of what is really being played.
I am currently trying to find a smaller speaker than ATC 100's that retains their dynamics, clarity and lack of distortion. Thiels are clear but I can't listen to them. Maybe smaller ATC's or some other pro monitor speaker.