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How complicated do your monitors have to be?

Do your monitors have digital FIR filters; digital fine-tuning for volume, trim, bass and treble settings; soft fade-in and Crimson Aramid fibre drivers? Your listeners' loudspeakers don't.


My eye was caught recently by an ad for the Fostex PX series of monitors. I quote the following features...

  • Digital FIR filters for superb imaging, impossible with analog crossovers
  • DSP fine tuning for volume, trim, bass and treble settings
  • Soft volume fade in to preset memory
  • Crimson Aramid fibre drivers for rigidity and accurate frequency reproduction

Now I'm all for progress, and I realize that Fostex needs to sell loudspeakers to stay in business, and I want them to stay in business. But the ad doesn't address the realities of monitoring in any useful way.

There are two requirements of monitoring, which conflict to a significant degree...

1. Your monitors should tell you exactly what is on your recording

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2. Your monitors should tell you how your mix will sound to your listeners

There is a third requirement that is often overlooked these days, which is to create a vibe during the tracking process. There is nothing like the feeling of tracking with huge horn-loaded main monitors, but I won't go further on that point in case a time warp whips up and whisks me back to the 1970s Taking all things into consideration, I prefer now.

You can see that the two requirements I have numbered above are distinctly in conflict. Very few of your listeners will have loudspeakers that are anything like accurate. Indeed, many will listen on earbuds or on their laptop. If your work sells into the TV market, then your listeners will experience your work with pixel-perfect vision, but lousy audio.

In the days when it was popular to aspire to have a quality hi-fi system in one's home you could create a mix that aimed at sounding really good in high fidelity sound. And for anyone who didn't listen on a decent hi-fi, well it was their fault.

But now hi-fi is very much a minority activity and it would be foolish not to consider the majority who will listen on anything that is convenient, and if it doesn't sound good it's your fault.

Since Fostex is promoting their advanced digital technology which is still quite a rare thing in loudspeakers, it seems reasonable to view these monitors as a further step towards accuracy. So if your inner philosopher tells you that mixing on accurate monitors is the best way forward, then the Fostex PX series might well be worthy of your consideration. However, if you want to keep more in tune with your listeners, then monitors that are more realistic in their ambitions might be your priority.

By David Mellor Monday May 19, 2014