Recording Studio sound Vs. Audiophile system


Has anyone had the opportunity to compare what they hear in a recording studio vs. What they hear in their own system?

i recently had a friend come over and Listen to the album they had just recorded and mixed with a fantastic NYC engineer. The drums were recorded analog in a large studio (the way top albums are) while the rest was recorded digitally.

I was was quite impressed with the sound as the engineer captured the full envelope and dynamic shadings (for a rock record, that is). In fact the engineer doesn’t even allow people to take pictures of his mic positions or Pro tools session settings- I can hear why he’s protective of his secret sauce.


I pushed her for a comparison of what she heard in the studio vs. What she was hearing in my system. She commented that she could hear much more in my system vs. The studio, and would have mixed the vocals diferrently!

I cautioned her to make sure the mastering she was planning on having done doesn’t squash the life out of the tracks, or introduce subtle distortion in an attempt to win the "loudness wars."

I’m getting ready to do a blumlein Stereo recording for another friend in my space and Tonight I played some tracks the Rupert Neve company uploaded comparing seperate guitar and vocal tracks with 2 difference mic pre amps, so perspective buyers can compare. (One I own and one is a newer design/flavor)

https://m.soundcloud.com/rupertnevedesigns/sets/shelford-channel-and-portico-ii-channel-comparison

In an interview The engineer that recorded the demo tracks seemed to prefer the newer preamp over the one I own, as he felt it emulated some of the Classic Neve units and had a bigger sound.

Upon listening to the naked tracks in my system ( Tad cr1’s + PS Audio/Atmasphere electronics and top power conditioning) it was so obvious the newer (retro) design was glossing over the details the older more transparent Portico II design easily revealed.

In fact I could hear lots of flaws in the recording, eq, breath pops, ) with the more transparent pre amp.

My point is that often listening to recordings on my system I think " if only the engineer / producer could hear their work on a system of this level (and in a big room) their aesthetic and technical choices would provide much better recordings.

I often hear to me what sounds like mic pre amp subtly distorting or hitting their dynamic threshold (gain set too high or low) , which makes the sound brittle or hard.

Anyone else with studio vs. Audiophile experience who can chime in?

I know hearing a multi track master can be an incredible and dynamic experience but I’m referring more to the final mixes.
emailists
I have not had the experience but at home I have used similar gear to the main monitors used by many studios/artists ...Doug Sax, Pink Floyd, Sting, Jack White, Mark Knopfler, Coldplay, Rolling Stones, Diana Krall, Tom Petty, Telarc etc. Etc.

I would say audiophiles are often more interested in impressive coloration (usually boosted muddy bass, euphonic distortion and scintillating highs) and a sound show (lots of speaker weird directionality making sound highly variable from one position to another but also exciting as different sounds can suddenly come from left field)

I would say artists/studios are more interested in accuracy (sounds like the timbre of the real thing), balance, consistency (sounds good over a large sweet spot and in a variety of venues) and realistic dynamics. The word most often used by professionals is a "translatable mix" - meaning that a setup should be neutral enough so that the final result will sound good on most other systems (only possible if the original setup is extremely neutral right across the frequency range and at all SPL levels)

IMHO Your setup is more like a high end studio than the typical audiophile.
I spent years in recording studios and it’s very hard to generalize. I have seen recordings mixed on everything from Klipshorns to Auratones, which are single 4" drivers in a tiny box. I’m not sure I can say what the actual difference is between studios and audiophile systems, except to say that the engineers have to know their monitors and rooms and try to predict what the end user will hear with no idea of where it will end up being played. I don’t think they look for harmonic textures as much as balance and eq settings to get the track to sound how they want. Basically, they’re doing the recording and we’re doing the playback.  Very different priorities.  

Auratones and Yamaha NS10's were in the control/monitoring room of just about every studio I recorded at in L.A. during the 80's and 90's. Some of them also had large Altec "monitors" (Voice Of The Theater) or other 15" woofer/compression horn systems built into a wall of the room. In the 2000's I started seeing Westlake (a Pro sound company) self-powered speakers, and British Tannoy monitors. Smaller studios (including home studios) often have Mackie speakers and sometimes subs.

The vast majority of engineers are not trying to achieve the "natural timbre" and "uncolored" sound audiophiles judge speakers by, let alone the depth and soundstage valued by them. It is a "good" sounding mix the engineer is going for, good being a very subjective and relative term. The timbre and tonality of acoustic instruments (including vocals) is almost always subjected to parametric equalization, compression, limiting, gating, and electronic reverb. Microphones are not selected for their "accuracy", but for their character. For instance, many engineers record snare drums with a Shure SM57, a mic with a deliberate presence peak built in, appropriate for it's intended use as a stage vocal mic.

The final test of a mix is made by playing the new recording and comparing it to a commercially released hit album CD, A/Bing them back-to-back. The idea is to make the new recording sound as "punchy" and "loud" as the CD. The relationship between the frequency response of the monitor(s) and the sound of the recording is not taken into consideration. J. Gordon Holt long ago found that many recordings were equalized to compensate for deviations from flat response in the speaker used to monitor the recording; play the recording on a speaker possessing flat response, and you hear the colorations built into the recording to make it sound natural on the monitor speaker that is itself colored.

You never see audiophile speakers in U.S. studios---no Vandersteen, Wilsons, Magneplanar, KEF, Spendor, Thiel, Magico, or any other brand found in high end home systems. It's a wonder Pop recordings sound as good as they do!


Been pondering most of the day as to whether or not I could add any value to this thread.

Perhaps not but I can offer a perspective and I'll try to keep it as quick as I can.

1) I've been a musician for about 35 years and have setup, owned and used three nom-commercial recording studios.

2) My "audiophile" speakers were specifically chosen as they are used for final mix and mastering in one of the largest and most well-known studios globally

3) I recently setup my most recent studio and have just completed recording about 20 songs.

Here's what I've learned:

- There are a lot of cycles that occur between initial recording and final master and just as many pieces of equipment and individuals involved in the process.

-All recorded music these days enters the digital domain - there's nothing we can listen to now that's been created in the last couple decades that remained in the pure analog domain.

- Every studio, every individual, every piece of equipment and most importantly the workflow and priorities vary from project to project.

Here's what I know and what I'm doing now:

- All recording (including mine) is done in what's referred to as a "live room" - this is where all the source tracks are created.  It contains a mix of analog equipment, analog to digital conversions and audio to computer interfaces.  I record live at 24/192Khz which is probably beyond what most studios are doing (for cost reasons) that are still at 96Khz sample rate.

- I do all source recording and track creation on studio monitors first.
- I then do a mix down on headphones that are sonically matched to me speakers.
- Final master is done on my speakers and then I listen and take notes ad tweak repeatedly until everything sounds the way intended before even the first track was recorded.

So in my case, I'm a little bit of odd man out (I suspect) as I own "audiophile" speakers that are also well known for being used to master professional recording and I use them not just to listen to my music library for final master recordings.

I then optimize all my music creation to sound "perfect" on that setup.

And most importantly I will say that - These recordings that are optimized for these speakers/ setup actually sound really really good (way better) on other systems than those that were not.

My system and speakers convey so much detail that there's no way you can get away with shortcuts - so any flaws in final mix (Mix, pan, effects, automation, EQ, staging) and the final master that these will be glaring flaws and in need of rethinking and tweaking to be listenable.

I used to take pages of notes on my main system after final mix and then lather rinse and repeat - Now my workflow consists of bringing the final system into the process iteratively in a per/mix or even per/track basis during the production process.

It has made a huge difference in the outcome and I now know that I could never master an album on my live studio gear and expect it to sound great on the final listening system - maybe I'll lear this over time and how to adapt after years and years of experience...maybe not.

So yeah- The odds that your audiophile system will be able to reproduce brilliant sound that was mixed and mastered on a lesser studio system is to be completely expected and that's how the vast majority of the industry will remain.  Why?

If the recording sounds OK on OK equipment the it will sound OK to the vast majority of listeners and buyers of that recording - pure business and economics.

Dang - Meant to keep it quick - sorry :(

Greg
It's been my experience that in a control room, engineers use equalizers and acoustic treatments to set up the room to measure as flat as possible. Having said that, the recording/mixing engineer is listening to the monitors in a near-field situation and is exposed to colourations of the speakers and amps.

As far as audiophile gear in the recording studio, the top studios use very high-end monitoring systems. A quick google search showed that some of the top studios in the world use B&W, Tannoy, Dynaudio monitors and Bryston or Classe amps. And what a surprise; they still have a set of Auratones in the room.
When I was mixing (on a much smaller scale) I was in analogue studios in which JBL was widely used for monitoring. Plus we had Auratone mini-monitors where we would check the final mix because it simulated the sound of a car stereo or a cheap stereo.

the engineers have to know their monitors and rooms and try to predict what the end user will hear with no idea of where it will end up being played. I don’t think they look for harmonic textures as much as balance and eq settings to get the track to sound how they want.
I agree with @chayro and @bdp24 in that the engineer is looking for a balanced mix, which does not include any of the qualities desired by the audiophile. But, and this is a big but, the producer always has the final decision. This is often unfortunate because a producer may have a certain "signature sound" that he imparts to the final mix.
 
So far, I assume we have been discussing Rock music production. Jazz and Classical would be treated very differently as far as the use of effects and compression. I once mixed down a Classical performance for PBS, syncing picture and sound, and the producer had the full score laid out on his desk. No effects were added, only EQ.

I just watched a video on Michael Fremer’s Alanog Planet website in which he visits a couple of mastering studios. Sterling Sound in NYC is one of them, and in their monitoring system is a pair of Pass amps and Rythmik subwoofers, plus a pair of floor-standing speakers I don’t recognize. Sterling is well known for their superior mastering work, which includes many audiophile LP’s.

Another AP video is of a visit to a few recording studios, and they all have a pair of Yamaha NS10’s sitting on the console, plus 15" woofers and horns built into their monitor room wall. The only studio I’m aware of that uses audiophile speakers as monitors is Barry Diament’s Soundkeeper, in which Barry has a pair of Magnepan MG3.7. He has each 3.7 mounted on a square piece of plywood, with a trio of roller bearings sitting between the plywood and the studio floor, to achieve seismic isolation.

@bdp24 , now you've brought up an entirely new subject; the mastering studio. I would imagine a top-tier studio would have to have gear that reproduces "audiophile" quality. Too bad mastering engineers are at the mercy of The Loudness Wars or the latest trends.

BTW, did you see any Yamaha monitors using tissue over the tweeters? :-)
@gregkohanmim   Thx for contributing from the perspective of a working professional.   Very informative.
lowrider---Tracking and mixing engineers (typically two separate individuals in big-time recording) often taped tissue paper over the tweeters of the Yamahas, to tame the speaker's hot tweeter. Yamaha took notice, and offered a version of the NS-10 with a slightly less emphasized treble, the NS-10s I believe.
Wow Does he poke people's eyes out before they leave the session so they can't reproduce the mic setup, what a bunch of BS. You get a good drum sound with a good drummer  a good sounding kit and room also not an over abundance of mics (less phase cancellation). I have been a Pro Engineer for over 30 years and ther are no big sercets only good engineers and musicians. 
Yes it seems odd the engineer would not allow photos (or give out the protools project files) but honestly the sound (for a psyc rock record) preserved the complete waveform of transients in a way I almost never hear. Or maybe just listening to unmastered mixes preserved these details.

I did watch Michael Fremer’s video at Abbey Road studios, and noticed they were using TAD R1’s i had read about them getting years ago.

I’d like to think I’ve taken my TAD CR1’s to another level by adding subs and stat super tweeters, but it's nice to see some studios using state of the art monitoring when making critical choices.  

But it seems to my ears that in many recorings the engineers can't hear how their choices are translating to less than optimal fidelity.  
I'm not a music pro, but I've researched pro monitors very extensively in past 2-3 months, preparing to purchase a pair for use in my desktop audio system (not many do this, but some users of big-$$ studio monitors are music lovers, like me).

I've learned 2 things from all my reading:

1. People who record music and produce the finished product are very concerned with their mix (or final master) "translating" to regular, everyday audio systems owned by John and Jane Q. Public. They know their recordings will be consumed on everything from shitty earbuds to wifi speaker to megabuck audiophile speakers. So their goal is that the recording "translate" to everybody else's gear. That's a hard thing to do.

2. The monitors they use are designed to help make those judgements easier. Design emphasis is put on flatness of frequency response, detailed/accurate soundstaging, and in every possible way, reproducing the input as clearly & faithfully as possible. These are not the same goals we use for desktop audio or big living room system.

Some pro monitors are said to actually sound pretty fine for music appreciation. I've spent a lot of time identifying the ones that are spoken of in this manner--and in a couple months, will buy a pair to upgrade my current desktop speakers.
@desktopguy   Very interesting what you said about the recording engineer’s mix for John & Jane Q Public. It sounds similar to back in the day when Motown mixed their music for a 4” car speaker. Very unlike, the high quality Telarc masters. Perhaps, one day, the music industry will consider adopting digital protocols similar to the film & television industry. Feature films and television shows are primarily shot ‘raw’ on digital cameras. Raw footage has abundant data that allows for precise final color correction in postproduction. Raw footage is not pleasant to look at. It is desaturated and grayish. Before the final color correction stage (which might be months away), the producers at the studios and networks need to see a relatively accurate visual of what was shot. A LUT (Look-up Table) accomplishes this. A LUT is an app which creates a proxy of ‘the visual look’ - including color, hue, contrast, brightness, gamma, etc. The Director of Photography is the one responsible for determining the LUT. The DP is creatively in control of the project’s final imagery – similar to a recording engineer’s master mix.

Perhaps in the future, recording engineers could create different mix LUTS. The consumer could pick the LUT for whatever hardware they’re using at the time. Wouldn’t that be novel.


I have a system consisting of JBL M2 Master Reference Monitors, JBL Sub18 driven by three Crown Itech 500HD stereo amps; a system intended for music and movie mastering.   It blows away my much more expensive "audiophile" system and other high end systems I have auditioned.   
I'm friends with an engineer who had won five or six Grammys, is a child-prodigy violinist (that is, he's an artist and an engineer), and designs his own electronics and speakers. When he was a pup engineer, I would hire him to make repairs in my Futterman amps. 

He says that he engineers for neutrality. He knows that there is infinite variability on the consumer playback end and it his his job to simply make sure that the signal he is giving them is the most faithful electronic reproduction of the music that can be made. What the consumer does with that signal is his or her business. 

Thats one perspective. Another opposite one is the Byrds engineer who famously would give a mono demo to the late night/early morning DJ to play while he drove around LA at four in the morning with the windows open and the AM car radio turned up all the way to hear what people were hearing and then make necessary tweaks. 

I have thousands of LPs, almost all of them pressed between the late 50s to the late 80s. Altec 604C duplexes were ubiquitous in recording studios at the time. That's why I use them: to hear as much as possible what the engineer heard and had in mind when (s)he was mastering the disc. 

Cheers - ML

"...who has won fivee or six..."
Clearly spelling challenged today. 
Steakster. Interesting analogy to color grading. Is that your full time gig?

I have a Davinci Resolve color suite (including the big advanced panels -picture attached below) and as you know, what happens on the consumer end with TV’s set to Torch Mode, the product watched on computer displays and tables/phones is a nightmare.

Incidentally I shy away from LUT’s when possible as clipping can occur and prefer to use Davinci’s own color management or my own grade to pull log footage into rec 709 space.

http://edit-video.com/resolve_suite.JPG
I guess one can say there are sound engineers and then there are sound engineers.
Emailists. Very nice set-up. Looks like you have all the bells & whistles. Your room is where the magic happens. Postproduction rocks! I was a D.P. Started in NYC/Washington, DC - last 20 years or so in L.A. I’ve spent countless hours in telecine suites with DaVinci controls. Always enjoyed the company of colorists – especially, the really good ones. :-) My early mentor, Fritz Roland of Roland House in D.C, was one of the first to push DaVinci into building a console for Betacam - in its formative years of component color – somewhere around 1980. Fritz was a mover and shaker. Miss him! I’m not shooting any more. Now, teaching it at a university. Some of my active D.P. friends are testing BT2020. The digital frontier is like the wild west.