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Nearfield monitors

An explanation of the reasoning behind near-field monitors, and their application.

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The most fascinating use of loudspeakers is the near field monitor.

Near field monitors are now almost universally used in the recording studio for general monitoring purposes and for mixing.

This would seem odd because twenty-five years ago anyone in the recording industry would have said that studio monitors have to be as good as possible so that the engineer can hear the mix better than anyone else ever will. That way, all the detail in the sound can be assessed properly and any faults or deficiencies picked up.

Mixes were also assessed on tiny Auratone loudspeakers just to make sure they would sound good on cheap domestic systems, radios or portables.

That was until the arrival of the Yamaha NS10 - a small domestic loudspeaker with a dreadful sound. It must have found its way into the studio as cheap domestic reference. A slightly upmarket Auratone if you like.

However, someone must have used it as a primary reference for a mix, and found that by some magical an indefinable means, the NS10 made it easier to get a great mix - and not only that but a mix that would 'travel well' and sound good on any system.

The NS10 and later NS10M are now no longer in production, but every manufacturer has a nearfield monitor in their range. Some actually now sound very good, although their bass response is lacking due to their small size.

The success if nearfield monitoring is something of a mystery. It shouldn't work, but the fact is that it does. And since so little is quantifiable, the best recommendation for a nearfield monitor is that it has been used by many engineers to mix lots of big-selling records.

That would be the Yamaha NS10 then!

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By David Mellor Thursday April 3, 2003
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