Why Do We Pay So Much For Mixing Monitors And Headphones

Posts 1 - 19 of 19
  1. 841435
    ValveDriver : Mon 10th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    So, here's the question:

    When choosing these, (so I've been told) you want to find ones that are smaller and midtone rich so that your mix doesn't lean one way or the other. Right. I get that. It makes perfect sense and I don't argue that logic one bit. But, what I want to know is, why do we pay out the ass for these fancy pants speakers/monitors/phones that, if used for the sole purpose of listening to your favorite albums, would basically sound like crap. Why do we need to spend that kind of money, when we could just go down to Goodwill and get a pair of crappy Sony knockoffs for 3 bucks? Is there something special about these gigantic-name brands that serve some sort of purpose that the cheapies don't? Do they cut frequencies at a certain scientifically proven dynamic? Do they provide some kind of specific resonance, or lack thereof, in their design? Do they pour you a cup of coffee when you've been up all night working on that sweet-ass jam?

    This is something I've wondered for a bit. I could probably Google search the info, but I thought I'd ask you guys since there's such a diverse range of opinions and a vast wealth of knowledge. Any info and answers would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance, and take care.

  2. 111346
    Planetjazzbass : Mon 10th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    A very good question!....I suppose once you corner a specific market with an established precedence you have a captive market,that is until some other manufacturer comes along and bucks the trend hopefully...speaking from personal experience I use small Auratone 5C Super Cubes and swear by them,made in the 70's these things have become(or were) the industry standard for many years,they currently retail second hand(if you can find them) for about $500 a pair(I wouldn't pay this price),which is a big risk for 40 year old speakers that will potentially fail on you!..I had mine recoiled for about $130 a piece (after an exhaustive search for a reliable repair service with the proper expertise) so hopefully they'll hang in for many years to come...there's also the Yamaha NS10's which studios swear by,these are give or take $600 a pair.....are they worth it? well probably, you can pay way way more for Genelics! etc lol..I have read quite a few cheap DYI solutions from the web which seem promising....but I suppose when you set your eyes on a classic car,that's what you want...until you buy it and come to the realisation that's it's a one trick pony with many foibles,having said that I always keep an eye on the classifieds!

  3. 630386
    JoeFunktastic : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Headphones are so expensive is because we are willing to pay more for them especially the celebrity endorsed headphones. We really cannot afford them but we can still purchase them. Credit, late on the electric bill, you might buy less food or borrow money from family and friends are some of the ways to get your trendy headphones quicker.

    The sad reality is yes they are trendy but many of them sound very lousy. You see all kids on the public subway and bussed wearing them while connected to their dumb device or tablet. I saw a pair of rap celebrity producer headphones from a known industry celebrity producer for $300usd.

    Now here is where it is really sad. The Frequency response was 20Hz to 20Khz, yeah about the same specs and driver as you would find on a pair of $29usd headphone. The only difference is you look much cooler in the celebrity endorsed headphone. Wow, that is a lot more money for just looking cool.

  4. 841435
    ValveDriver : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    What I'm asking is, what is the difference between mixing on cheap stereo speakers with a narrow bandwidth, as opposed to expensive studio monitors that are "midtone rich"? Why do we pay so much for studio monitors, when we can just go down to the local secondhand store and pick up a pair old Sony's and basically get the same sound? Is there some sort of specific engineering in the studio monitors that maximize sound quality and necessitate such a high pricetag?

  5. 111346
    Planetjazzbass : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Ok to be more specific(understand these are my assumptions,I can't speak about integral components such as drivers,wiring etc and the obvious plethora of brands,I'm no industry tech)..basically your premise is correct why the hell can't you mix on cheap midrange monitors (I'm purposely not including headphones here as producing solely with them leads to stereo image problems amongst other things)..you can!...if your able to get some music with a mix that you really want to emulate and sounds perfect,you just have to be able to recognise what those mixes are doing on your own midrange system,then mix accordingly.....sounds too simple,it's not...getting a well trained ear is the whole reason there are disparities between professional audio techs....no doubt others will have differing views.

  6. 841435
    ValveDriver : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Those different views are what I'm looking for, too. Not only from experienced users, but also from the tech side. I mean, I really have no intention of mixing on a crappy stereo system. After all, if the industry standards don't use a pair of 8" Coby's from Walmart, there must be a reason, right?
    It makes sense that the drivers, wiring, box design, and various other materials would all have a pretty large impact on the sound. That's kind of why I asked. I just wanted to make sure that before I (or anyone else that may have the same question), start buying equipment like that, that I'm not just being suckered into the "I gotta get Dre's Beats" mentality that Mr. Funktastic was talking about, just "Because the professionals use them."

  7. 490439
    ZeeHipHop : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    I read an article on the sondonsound website a while ago, unfortunately I don't have the link.

    Guess you could google it, but that defeats the point of your post though. I'm going back into my corner now.
    Ok, bye.

  8. 1266446
    ronwess : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    one of my best friends gave me his Beats by dre.......they sound ok....but i got a pair of sony mdr-xb800 which for me work and sound way better than the beats. Ive always been a big on headphone person cause not only do i wanna hear my fav songs but when i create i wanna hear every instrument nice and clear. you get into that celebrity endorsed stuff and you'll be disappointed. there are millions of choices you just need to get what works for you....don't believe the hype ("

  9. 631823
    Mahloo13 : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Well...the answer is quite simple...you pay once for the sound,+1 for the design, +1 for the brand, +1 for the tech bullshit and you end up paying 3000$ for a pair of monitors...that should explain why you pay so much.

    Anyways the thing with monitors is that they are developed so that the sweetspot is really wide (that spot in the stereo field where you can clearly hear the center separating from the sides), they are made to reproduce the frequency range as flat as possible, they rarely have any resonating frequencies problems etc. etc. In essence they are made to sound great.

    You might end up buying a pair of monitors and say "hey it sounds like shit" but you have to keep in mind that in studios monitors are placed perfectly in the room, the walls and ceiling have acoustic treatment etc.

    Why can't you mix on a pair of cheap speakers? ...actually you can and a lot of big industry names do spend a lot of time on such systems while they are mixing. However they have years of experience behind them. Experience is what makes and engineer good...not the equipment.

    Just my 2 cents

  10. 186161
    Spivkurl : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Mahloo's comments are valuable... you must consider the design of the monitors, as well as room placement and treatments.

    Also beware of sympathetic vibrations in your room form things rattling, like loose window panes or that old snare drum sitting under your organ (lol).

    I guess when buying either monitors or headphones, I try to look for things with a wide range within the human hearing spectrum. I looked at a lot of monitors which couldn't reproduce below like 50 Hz. To me, that's just not good enough. To me, narrow bandwidth would often lead to a midrange rich monitor, which is not what I look for. I want a balanced throughout the spectrum response.

  11. 1231236
    joecramer : Tue 11th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    I am no profi at all and i have nothing else then "cheap" solutions here on my side :) BUT i go with PlanetJazzBass, cause if you hear something on your things and it sounds like you like it and then you do something by youreself in that style and it sounds same great, then its ok.

    I use just a cheap Sony Headphones called MONITOR
    and a pair of easy Sharp speakers, who get the sound from a old Nikko reciever, who gets the sound from the inbuild soundcard in my Zoom G7.1 Guitar efect comsole via USB.
    I dont know why but it sounds fantastic in my little cellar room :)

    Sure better things make often things easyer to do or hear or see ...... but very often the guys with the best stuff are just tech freaks and have no real creativity and the guys with the crazy, cheap, old, stuff make the cool things.

    I think - if you dont know realy exactly why you need something - THEN - you dont need it - BUT - if you have enough money - Buy it

  12. 1029245
    Emolyte : Wed 12th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    I never believed in the hype of beats, never even considered getting a pair. I knew they were overpriced marketing tools, and there were much better options. For me, money has never been a an easy thing to come buy, and i gotta say. Im more than content with the set up i have. Some $8 JVC speakers from the thrift store give tremendous sounds and have great output for everything. As for headphones, ive got my trusty $120 pair of AT-M50's. These also work perfectly fine for my mixing and mastering needs. I have no reason or consideration for the "name brand" things. While audio technica COULD be considered as a name brand in some aspect, i dont see many if any commercials ft. rappers with using them.

  13. 841435
    ValveDriver : Wed 12th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Thank you Gentlemen for your input. These points are all good things to know when looking for equipment.

    You have actually answered my question as to what makes them "special." Knowing that they have actually been designed for a specific range is helpful. That's damn near exactly what I was asking. I just have a way with making a short story long. Or, question in this case. Thank you.

    The room treatment and placement makes sense. It never occurred to me before, but once you said it, it made perfect sense. I only use headphones for my actual mixing. I test my work on a few different systems for fine tuning, but always headphones for mixing.

    " To me, narrow bandwidth would often lead to a midrange rich monitor, which is not what I look for. I want a balanced throughout the spectrum response."

    Which brings me to another question. I imagine this holds true for headphones as well. But, how do you know what to look for in compatibility with the music you make? I imagine its based on knowing which frequencies you use most. But when actually doing product research, how do you know what's right for you? Right now, I use a pair of KRK-SomethingOrOthers I forget exactly which model at the moment, but it seems like I'm constantly fighting with getting my low ends right. My bass lines always come out overpowering on my test systems. In the headphones, my kicks always sound like they're hollow and have NO low end. Which always makes it a guessing game when I'm processing them in the beginning of the project.

    I'm in the same boat as you. I've never so much as glanced at a pair of Dre's beats. Like I said to Spivkurl, I use a pair of KRK's for mixing. When it comes to listening, though, I actually prefer my little Sony buds. They have a pretty clean sound and no hype at all. Not to mention, they cost less than 40 bones.

  14. 186161
    Spivkurl : Wed 12th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Hey ValVedriVer, I guess my main response to your follow up question would be that the majority of people hear the same frequency range at similar ratios. It shouldn't have anything to do with what frequencies you use the most, as that would lead to purchasing a "colored" option, when the best choice would probably be a more transparent option. I like to try and find things which have a natural curve to their frequency response. I guess I think of getting a curve that is like the inverse of the way humans hear frequencies across the spectrum. Hope that helps a bit.

    As far as I've seen, KRK's and monitors like them can't reproduce very low frequencies, which was also something I watched out for when buying my newest monitors. In general, they can go below 35 Hz, and many of the are even up around 50 Hz. May be part of the problem you're hearing in the low end... I know it would not satisfy my needs.

  15. 841435
    ValveDriver : Wed 12th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    Yeah. It does help a bit. Like I said earlier, I don't plan in mixing with a crappy system, but I wanted to be sure that before I buy, I know why I'm buying.

    I imagine the KRK monitors din't go that low so you HAVE to buy the sub unit for another 600 bones.

    Thanks again. It's been useful. Any other input and opinons are still welcome.

  16. 1277953
    RichKid : Thu 13th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    All of this definitely sounds right, I was told once before I have visited many studios in Nashville(I live there) They say mix closest to what your audience listens on. So if you mix to your $3000 system and it sounds terrible on an iPhone headset but that is all your client base is listening to then you have failed your mixing. In the industry many will use a series of different headphones and speakers. Many will mix in all of the following: Cheap headphones, cheap speakers, car stereo, phone, and whatever else you can mix to that the average person may hold. They start off with their expensive equipment and mix into a good equilibrium of sound to where it sounds good in most set ups. It is true that it will not sound great in all setups in one it may sound fantastic in the other may be the opposite. This is my input on this, I AM NO EXPERT.

  17. 631823
    Mahloo13 : Thu 13th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    @Valvedriver - overpowering bass could occur because of:

    1. Wrong monitor placement - Your monitors actually reproduce the low end but due to the incorrect placement the low frequencies cancel eachother out resulting in you hearing a lot less low end than it's actually there and thus you are compensating for it by boosting more low end or not boosting enough high end.

    2. Lack of acoustic treatment - Due to the lack of acoustic treatment your walls reflect a lot of mid and high range frequencies which again leads to you overcompensating with low end

    3. High volume monitoring - Try turning your monitors down when you mix, you'll hear everything better and will be able to get a better balanced mix. Fletcher Munson curves are responsible for this.....higher monitoring volumes lead to your ears hearing more midrange. It's how the ear works.

    4. Mixing with everything soloed - You solo every instrument and work on them individually instead of doing it in the context of the mix...this can often lead to frequency buildups. Just as an exercise try raising the volume of the track you are equalizing by lets say 6dB while the whole track is playing and EQ that way. You'll notice everything becomes easier...I hope.

    5. Poor monitors - Your speakers can't reproduce low end very well and you end up overcompensating for that. Get a sub if that's the case...and even if it's not...a sub will extend your frequency reproduction range and will help a lot in getting a clear and punchy low end.

  18. 631823
    Mahloo13 : Thu 13th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago

    One more thing you need to remember about monitors and headphones...most of them are tested in anechoic chambers on hard floors or stands and the frequency response is given as an approximation...a headphone can never reproduce 20Hz...it just can't move enough air to do that. And if you think you are hearing it...well you are not...you are actually hearing the harmonics of that 20Hz. Keep that in mind. Frequency response given on any set of speakers is a marketing thing and while some might get close...there really is no need to go from 20Hz to 20kHz.

  19. 841435
    ValveDriver : Fri 14th Nov 2014 : 7 years ago


    You have offered up some incredibly valuable information. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to do so. These are definitely things I (and anyone else who may be wondering) will be keeping in mind on my next track.

    Thank you, again.

    Take care.


Posts 1 - 19 of 19

 ! You need to Log In or Register to post here.