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I have heard that studio speakers aim to give the flattest possible spectra, whilst hi-fi speakers aim to flatter the sound (i.e. alter the spectra to make any music sound perceptually good). Users therefore use the studio speakers while mixing to detect flaws in the track, and at home will use the hi-fi speakers for pleasure.

I am having trouble understanding this argument, because surely it would be possible to mix the track to sound optimally flattering using the studio speakers, and therefore the hi-fi speakers would overcompensate and make it sound worse?

If you are not aiming for the most pleasant possible sound on the monitors, then what are you aiming for (how do you define 'accurate': if it is the live sound, then shouldn't the live sound in turn be trying to sound as pleasant as possible)?

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There is a logic to your argument, but the problem arises from the fact that there are thousands of models of consumer speaker, all with their own way of 'flattering' the sound.

If you mix on one pair, it may become bass heavy on another.

The idea behind studio monitors is that the sound is as neutral as possible, so that the mix will more or less be same across all the possible listening environments. I say more or less because sometimes professionally mixed audio will sound unbalanced due to some bass boosting circuitry or EQ curves built into the speaker. You can't mix for every speaker in existence. You can only mix as accurately as possible on monitors and that should translate to being 'pro' sounding on the greater part of consumer electronics.

  • Am I correct in my understanding that the studio speakers have a flat frequency response rather than an average of consumer speaker models? And if so, then how do you know if you have added too much bass etc for when studio mix is played on hi-fi? – xyz Nov 26 '13 at 9:37
  • (by flat frequency response I mean equal Watts of sound power out for Volts in at each frequency, which may be different to what people mean when they say 'free from coloration') – xyz Nov 26 '13 at 9:56
  • "If so, then how do you know if you have added too much bass etc for when studio mix is played on hi-fi?" The problem is that you don't know how the hifi set of all consumers sound. So you try to mix as good as you can on a system that sounds as good as possible. Good here means flat frequency response. It's not your responsibility to know how every system in the world sounds like, it just has to translate 'well enough'. I think 0.5IRPC has a good example with the bass heavy vs bass weak systems. – Arnoud Traa Nov 26 '13 at 10:07
  • You will know how much is 'too much' bass from knowing and trusting your own particular monitor set up and from experience and skill. – Brendan Rehill Nov 26 '13 at 18:24
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It's based on the assumption that studio speakers sound "flat" (and it's technically true as well, because they're designed to sound flat/neutral/clinical/accurate) and thus represent "the average" of all sorts of colorizing. I.e. if the mix is done on a system that sounds "flat", then all colorizing to one direction or another will be less compared to mixing on an already coloring system (e.g. bass weak) and listening on yet another coloring system (e.g. bass heavy, in which case you had mixed the bass too high on the bass weak system and it would be further boosted by the bass heavy system, sort of "doubling" the mistake that's already present in the mixing sound system, in this particular example).

Remember though that speakers are not as important as the room. All speakers will sound imbalanced if there's no acoustic proofing (esp. bass trapping) and they aren't optimally placed. However even cheap studio monitors can perform well, if the room is ok.

0

Another reason to mix with studio monitor is that you can hear slightest changes in your mix. If you mix in bass-heavy hi-fi you may not hear a subtle adjustment of your bass. (Or hear too much adjustment in case of that bass colorizing somehow roll off exponentially)

On the extreme case if you mix in a cheap tweeter where the bass is "colored" to nothing, you will not heard any changes in your bass at all.

0

The idea is that monitors will show up the flaws of a sound in the most accurate possible way without any consideration for the enjoyment of the listener but hi-fi equipment is all about being an enjoyable experience. A good example of hi-fi gear flattering the sound at the expense of accuracy is the Dre Beats headphones. Plenty of people enjoy listening to them with their ridiculous extended bass even though it's far from a realistic representation of the sound. Mixing on such headphones (or comparable speakers) would lead to lightweight/ trebly mixes when heard on regular systems - my first few mixes with a big sub were embarrassingly tinny when played back at home.

This is a bit of a tangent but mixing on hi-fi speakers is worth considering if you're on a tight budget. I doubt that a cheap pair of active monitors are genuinely all that "flat" especially not in an untreated/ poor sounding room.

This is probably more true when it comes to mixing music rather than dialogue/ film stuff, but I like mixing on my mid-priced hi-fi speakers because I've listened to music through them for years and know their quirks and inaccuracies. I then check my mixes on my cheapo monitors and then at least one pair of headphones because my room sucks too.

That said, if I could afford a £1000+ monitoring setup and worked in a decent room I doubt I'd be mixing with my hi-fi.

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It comes down to what-you-hear-is-what-you-record on studio monitors in a sound proof space as like recording studios are. As auditive signal meters they give you the unbiased version of the signals while hifi is all about taste of customers and the spaces they occupy when listening to their favorite music.

You also have nearfield studio monitors who are all about having them close to you. Nearfields are popular as home recording monitors. The distance between the listener and the nearfield must be such that their power level of speaker sound is far enough above room reverberations for the latter to be masked by it. Studio monitors are such that their cases are as heavy as concrete to not vibrate. It's like they must reproduce sound but not sound themselves or change the sound they have to reproduce from fed signals. Hifi speakers tend to do the opposite ... on purpose by design.

  • This is an excellent answer to the title of the question, unfortunately, the details of the question actually kind of go against the title. I really want to vote this up, but without addressing why we mix on flat and many people listen on non-flat, it doesn't really fully answer the question as asked in the details of the question. – AJ Henderson Jun 7 '17 at 15:18
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The simple reason is that people like different things. Not all hi-fi speakers color sound in the same way. A good neutral set of studio monitors will allow you to distinguish fine detail and get an overall natural sound for the mix. Without coloring you can make sure that all the detail of the original sound is present in the recording without having to try to compensate for any adjustments people might make to hear certain parts more than others.

When listening to music, some people want to hear more of certain parts of the sound than others. Some like their bass, other's like crystal clear details in the highs. They choose speakers based on these preferences. Since the original mix was made neutral, the detail is there for both of these preferences, the listening environment just biases the experience towards focusing on what the listener most enjoys.

Some people also prefer to listen on very neutral speakers to get something as close as possible to the natural sound the original engineer was going for with a minimum of coloring.

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