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Moving monitors with your mind…

by on April 9, 2009

Just on my way to Birmingham to do a photo job and it’s so early and I should be catching up on work but I’m too knackered cos me and Rich were up working till 1am last night and then I didn’t get to sleep till 2 and I was up again at 4:30am and can’t concentrate right now so I though I’d post this instead…

[warning contains really spacey random geek thoughts about sound and speakers and stuff and very little to do with this band- do not continue if you are of faint heart! In fact there’s a possibility that no-one needs to read this…]

Loads of this is stolen from/inspired by a chapter in Stav’s book – http://www.mixingwithyourmind.com/ – it’s expensive but really worth it… I’m sure that you can find a way to beg, borrow or steal a copy if you want to….

As Rich said in his last blog we love our church based studio. It’s a really incredible sounding and feeling space. It really has something magic about it but we’ve always really struggled to find the best spot to put the monitor speakers that we mix through. The room is a large complex space which makes it wonderful for recording but difficult to mix in. It’s pretty live  It’s just one room as well, not like your traditional studio where you’ll have a specially designed control room where the geeks live and a live area where the musicians do their thing. We’re all together in our world…

So we’ve moved the stuff around a number of times trying to find the spot in the room where the sound we hear through our monitor speakers is kind of “most helpful”. It’s where the full frequency range is kind of most accurately represented, where there aren’t any weird bumps or troughs in the bass or mid or treble and where the reflections on the room are working together at their best (or doing their least to harm the sound – your choice). And we’ve always struggled. It’s a weird science acoustics and really dificult to fully understand…

One of the great things about Stav’s book is that he helps you to understand what your ears are hearing. Just loads of things in it just kind of clicked with both me and Rich… Your ears are really really clever and sensitive but actually understanding what they’re telling you is really hard.

So… we were trying to decide where our monitors sounded best. We used:

1 Monitor speaker (anything)
1 pieces of string tied to monitor (2 – 3m)
1 accomplice (whether I was helping Rich or he was helping me is hard to say…. [grin] Mostly I was holding speaker and Rich was listening)
Some music that can play through the speaker

You stand in middle of room. You hold end of string. Accomplice holds speaker so string is roughly taut. Play some music. Accomplice slowly moves round in a circle round you.

LISTEN.

LISTEN AGAIN.

AND AGAIN!

NB. put some music you like on… You’re gonna be listening a lot.

What are you listening for? The point where (bless you Stav) the sound from the speaker becomes:

thick, mono, powerful.

Mono eh? One speaker is mono isn’t it you doofus? Yeah… but the room and you ears ain’t…. As the speaker moves round you sound from it is bouncing off the walls and furniture in a different way depending on where it is…. If you’re right next to a hard wall treble sounds are going to bouncing off that in a different way to when you’re 3 feet away (which also means that you’re three feet closer to another wall so the reflections from that other wall are gonna get louder and they might start to cancel out the other relections). Also bass and treble sound reflect in different ways and kinda of at different speeds it’s all just constantly changing as you move round. Aaaarggggh!

It’s all ever so confusing…. But slowly it starts to make sense and you slowly become aware that there are points in the room where the sound of the speaker just CONGEALS into a bigger thicker thing. You become aware that at these points the entire frequency range (bass to treble) is actually being presented by the room in such away that it works with the speaker to appear to come actually from where the speaker actually is and at the points where this doesn’t happen you can hear the sound smearing in the stereo field… bass and treble actually appear from slightly different points… bottom end to the left of the speaker and treble to the right etc as the room starts working against the speaker.

It was quite amazing actually once your brain locked into it… It became blatantly obvious even to the the person holding the monitor where these points were beacuse you could the feel the room start to reinforce the speaker’s sound rather than working against it and cancelling it out. It actually felt more solid as you were holding it, just bigger and more purposeful.

The final positon was a no-brainer. It was utterly unaminous. Obvious really! We’ll see how it works out but it really does sound better…

Right. Time for a first class poo before I have to take photographs of cricketers under UV light.

It’s a weird world…

edx

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