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2018/19 bookshelf speaker recommendations ?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author 2018/19 bookshelf speaker recommendations ?
Midiot
It seems to me, that speakers are so important...because differences in monitor speakers are the most significant change you can experience, in a sound system. (besides adding a subwoofer)
I'm surprised this is not a bigger topic, or an area where "how can I change my sound, dramatically? "

Personally, I don't want or need self-powered audio monitors. I'm a passive guy...though I admit, I have never tried self-powered monitors. (Now they are going wireless too).

If you have tried recent/current small monitors......what did you like or dislike, in your studio ?

I'm not asking what I should buy (I'll decide that), but what have YOU tried and heard...and what made your decision ?
hsosdrum
You may want to reconsider your stance against self-powered monitors, especially if you're looking for speakers that are small. The current state of the art in DSP allows speaker designers to achieve much more accurate performance in a small speaker than is possible with a separate passive speaker and power amplifier.

I worked in the audio industry between 1977 and 2013 and I was always a passive speaker + separate amp guy. However, between 2009 and 2013 I was employed at Harman/JBL, where I worked alongside of some extremely smart and talented transducer and electronics engineers. When JBL released the M2 reference monitor (which is sold as a system along with amps that have built-in DSP) and the 305/308 bookshelf monitors (that have built-in amps and DSP) in 2013 I instantly became a convert to the idea of powered monitors.

In short, a well-designed small monitor speaker with built-in amplification and DSP will outperform any well-designed small passive speaker/separate amp combination in flatness of response, maximum SPL vs distortion and bass extension. The DSP can also go a long way towards providing more even dispersion in the crossover region provided that the physical designs of the individual drivers allow this. (No DSP will allow a plain 1" dome tweeter's dispersion between 1kHz and 3kHz — typical crossover points for a 2-way speaker — to match that of a 5" – 6" cone driver at the same frequency. However, if you put that 1" tweeter in a proper waveguide, then it's possible to apply DSP that will allow the transition between those two drivers to be audibly seamless.)

If you're starting from scratch and want a small monitor speaker that's tonally accurate, has solid bass performance and is capable of relatively high SPL playback with low distortion, a powered monitor is the only way to go. You may find a passive+separate amp combination that you like better, but it won't be as truthful sounding. thumbs up
BenA718
+1 to the excellent post above.

A ‘bookshelf speaker’ is quite different from a ‘nearfield monitor’. They have different design goals and very different presentations of your audio.

I am assuming that you are looking for the latter?

As nearfield monitors vary drastically in starting price, what is your budget?

As explained above, I would also look in the 5-6” midrange woofer size. This will give you reliable low frequencies well into the low 50Hz range.

An 8” woofer will give you, essentially, two powered subwoofers and getting low frequencies right in a normally sized and shaped room will be very difficult.
Midiot
hsosdrum wrote:


In short, a well-designed small monitor speaker with built-in amplification and DSP will outperform any well-designed small passive speaker/separate amp combination in flatness of response, maximum SPL vs distortion and bass extension. The DSP can also go a long way towards providing more even dispersion in the crossover region provided that the physical designs of the individual drivers allow this.
......


If I am understanding correctly.........built-in amplification has DSP algorithms tailored to all the separate drivers ?
Is this like a digital "crossover", compared to a passive speaker's internal (preset) crossover ?
If so, is the amplitude for each speaker driver, altered also ?
hsosdrum
Midiot wrote:
hsosdrum wrote:


In short, a well-designed small monitor speaker with built-in amplification and DSP will outperform any well-designed small passive speaker/separate amp combination in flatness of response, maximum SPL vs distortion and bass extension. The DSP can also go a long way towards providing more even dispersion in the crossover region provided that the physical designs of the individual drivers allow this.
......


If I am understanding correctly.........built-in amplification has DSP algorithms tailored to all the separate drivers ?
Is this like a digital "crossover", compared to a passive speaker's internal (preset) crossover ?
If so, is the amplitude for each speaker driver, altered also ?


While I can't speak for all companies that produce speakers with built-in amplification, I know that JBL's small powered monitors do include DSP processing that helps to create more neutral tonal response, reduce distortion and extend low-distortion bass performance.

The crossover functions in these speakers is indeed handled digitally, which makes it possible to maximize the speaker's performance in ways that are not possible with analog crossovers.

Altering the relative amplitudes of the speaker's individual drivers is something that is done by both digital and analog crossovers. Along with selecting the driver elements, box size and woofer tuning, fine-tuning the crossover is the primary tool that the speaker designer uses to "voice" a speaker's final performance. In a passive speaker the crossover elements that the designer can change to improve the speaker's performance are relatively limited. On the other hand, a speaker with built-in amplification and a digital crossover provides the designer with many more options that they can vary in order to improve the speaker's performance.
Midiot
Thanks for the info !!

In the past, I have built a couple of active crossovers (Linkwitz–Riley, 24dB slope), and are somewhat freq adjustable.......for melting my subwoofer with a stereo pair of bookshelf's. Simple high-pass to the mini-monitors, low-pass to the sub, (adjustable cross points via internal jumpers.)
Because I built them myself....the filter components are extremely well matched, better than 1%.
Did I test for a flat response ?...no, I don't have the proper spectrum analyzer + mic set into my room/listening position....though I did test for freq cutoffs via basic line level freq measurements with a scope.
Snapshot.....


Midiot
The term "DSP" seems to be bantered about, and possibly used too often. It can have a wide range of meanings.
If, on many mid-priced powered monitors....DSP just means a "digital crossover" that is tuned by ear by adjusting shelving or other EQ, that is not "DSP" to me.....it's just adjusting the subjective sound of the speaker in your particular room by ear.....by the ease of tuning (turning) a few knobs.
Am I wrong that this tuning then becomes subjective ?

A spectral analyzer and a test microphone is the ultimate way to test for a flat freq response...in your room, and your listening position.

I am not knocking the ability to tune your speakers, but how do you know it's flat, and you are not just mistakinglly tuning it to your liking ?
I'm also not knocking the "ability" to tune your monitors, as most passive monitors do not have that flexibility.

I'm trying to learn these differences, not debate them. I'm on the fence right now.
Midiot
Here's the next matter....auditioning new monitors "in your studio/room" ??

Are there dealers that will allow you to "borrow" a pair overnight, so you can experience them in your working space ?
felixer
i built my smallest (=bookshelf) speakers myself. did it with fostex speaker and the plans that came with it. just a small 4" job, but it sounds great! those full-range fostex speakers are really good. have them in my large system as well. advantage is that you don't need any crossover (well the big one has a supertweeter that obviously needs a lowcut filter. but the main speaker is not filtered). no need as it gently rolls off at the higherst (>12k) freqencies. the low end is taken care of by an exponential horn. it is called jericho. and even with a humble 30-40 W amp it can go earbleedingly loud. and sounds very direkt/honest. all my mixes always come out right on other systems. not the type of system i like to listen to for fun (to other produktions, not my own). as you hear every mistake ... but then i have a different 3-way system for that in my bedroom. getting away from a crossover is (IMHO) the most important thing. obviously we are not taking about high powerd pa systems here ...
hsosdrum
Midiot wrote:
The term "DSP" seems to be bantered about, and possibly used too often. It can have a wide range of meanings.
If, on many mid-priced powered monitors....DSP just means a "digital crossover" that is tuned by ear by adjusting shelving or other EQ, that is not "DSP" to me.....it's just adjusting the subjective sound of the speaker in your particular room by ear.....by the ease of tuning (turning) a few knobs.
Am I wrong that this tuning then becomes subjective ?

A spectral analyzer and a test microphone is the ultimate way to test for a flat freq response...in your room, and your listening position.

I am not knocking the ability to tune your speakers, but how do you know it's flat, and you are not just mistakinglly tuning it to your liking ?
I'm also not knocking the "ability" to tune your monitors, as most passive monitors do not have that flexibility.

I'm trying to learn these differences, not debate them. I'm on the fence right now.


The DSP (digital signal processing) that JBL employs in their small powered monitors performs electronic crossover duties and provides compensation for frequency response anomalies inherent in the drivers, as well as compensation that extends bass response lower than would otherwise be possible (within reason) in such a small enclosure. It may also provide dynamic compensation to minimize distortion (it's been 5 years since I worked there and my memory is a bit fuzzy on this).

JBL's development analysis is much more sophisticated than a simple spectrum analyzer/calibrated microphone. When I worked there they had 3 different-sized anechoic chambers and 6 different listening rooms (2 built to IEC dimensional proportions) along with a host of self-developed measurement and analytical tools. One of the most useful of these is a series of anechoic measurements taken with the mic at dozens of precise locations (I think it's around 72) around the speaker (both vertical and horizontal) that they've dubbed "spin-a-rama". When feeding sophisticated computer analytics, the spin-a-rama measurements have proven to be an extremely accurate predictor of how a speaker will perform in real-world listening rooms.

JBL's small monitors provide switches that adjust the speaker's bass response to compensate for its proximity to room boundaries and its treble response to compensate for the distance between the speaker and listener. The M2's DSP is far more sophisticated than that found in the small monitors (after all, the M2 sells for $20,000 a pair, including amplifiers) and does provide for user DSP adjustment that can further fine-tune the speaker's performance for the specific listening environment or the taste of the individual listener. Of course this requires that the user is capable of properly using a calibrated microphone and analytical software.
Midiot
I really appreciate the info.
The analytical testing and length that pro speaker manufacturers strive for and their test facilities, is why I have never built my own monitors.....I can't test them properly (or it's too much work).
We dont live in aneochotic chambers, and I don't have the time to build several variations of cabnitry or acoustic tweaks or tricks.
Speakers with built-in adjustible crossovers and EQ makes sense.

I guess my main reservation about adjustable bookshelf monitors (and you want flattness), is the possibility is that the user is able to tune the monitor "out of flat"......and tune it to the listener's liking. Maybe this is not a bad thing ?

Another thing to consider, is that many synth hobbyists will never need to use monitors for mastering, and they simply like to hear what they like to hear.

That's kinda me.
I currently use hi-fi speakers as monitors... B&K 685.

I'll try to borrow and demo some powered nearfield monitors like Focal or Dynaudio.....maybe some JBL's too.
Under $3k.
hsosdrum
Midiot wrote:
I currently use hi-fi speakers as monitors... B&K 685.

I use "hi-fi" speakers as monitors as well: a 35-year old pair of Klipsch Cornwall IIs. I use them because I've heard so much music on them over the past 3-1/2 decades that I'm intimately familiar with exactly how these speakers sound, so I know if what I'm hearing in my own recordings is on the recording, or is being created by the speakers themselves.

All other things being equal, the greatest asset a studio monitor can have is your familiarity with how it sounds. Monitoring and/or mixing on a pair of speakers you've never heard before can be a recipe for disaster.

No matter what speakers you eventually decide to use for monitoring, I would spend lots and lots of time listening to familiar program material through them before using them to monitor your recordings or mixes. Make sure you know how the speakers are influencing the sound before you start trusting them. (Every speaker ever built influences the sound in many different ways — there's no such thing as a 100% neutral speaker.) thumbs up
Midiot
Quick reply....
I did not buy self powered speakers. I bought passives.
....despite what was recommended here.

Nor did I buy studio-type nearfields.
I bought the Dynaudio Special 40....plus their small Sub 3 (subwoofer)

I do appreciate the previous comments though.

In fact, I am looking at powering them with a class D amp.....something I never thought I would ever do.
The tech of class D, is progressing fast.
mt3
Midiot wrote:
auditioning new monitors "in your studio/room" ??
Are there dealers that will allow you to "borrow" a pair overnight, so you can experience them in your working space ?


Crucial crucial crucial.
As well as evaluating using well mixed music that you are intimately familiar with.

Midiot wrote:
I currently use hi-fi speakers as monitors... B&K 685.


Similar here, so the @hsosdrum's comments have piqued my curiosity.
I'm using Sonus Faber speakers, REL Storm (for sub), and Bryston (for amplification).
Midiot
I think most reputable LOCAL dealers will allow you to "borrow/audition" certain audio products. You leave your creditcard info, and you are not charged if you return the item. Not sure about big-name music stores like Guitar Center. (??)
If you live outside of a big city, this may not be possible.

(Tip....borrow the item over a weekend or holiday, and you can get 2 or more days of auditioning because the store is closed those days, anyways.)
snercle
I've used gale gold monitors (the original black ones) for years, which are nice small light speakers. Not new, so sorry if you're looking for new only. They are very cheap second hand, so almost as good as being able to audition before you buy razz
They don't do anything fancy, no huge bass or anything, but are clear, fairly neutral (with a slight vintage warmth) and can get loud enough.
felixer
Midiot wrote:

In fact, I am looking at powering them with a class D amp.....something I never thought I would ever do.
The tech of class D, is progressing fast.

watch out for powerrequirement. a class D amp clips hard at it's max rating, so in fact you have no headroom as with a classic amp. obviously a good class A valve/tube amp is the best.
Technologear?
Midiot wrote:

I bought the Dynaudio Special 40....plus their small Sub 3 (subwoofer)


Lovely! Do you like them? What amp did you end up getting?

I enjoyed this thread, I feel like a lone wolf with my enjoyment of passive speakers. I super duper love my Bryston amp if you can find one. It sounds like it isn't there at all (exactly what you want in a power amp).

I think Unity Audio, who make powered monitors good enough for you to potentially consider in the future, use Bryston amps in their powered monitors.

The really good manufacturers like Unity and PMC still make passive monitors, there is still a small market for them. But it's small.
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