An Interesting Quote on Studio Monitors

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Came across this as a quote, but no idea who said it.



Even in the glory years when 43xx ruled the world, large format monitors were not used very much. Their main purpose in life was to IMPRESS THE CLIENT. Ken's Westlakes were my favorite monitors. I can remember when I started my career, hearing them and being so impressed. Westlake is not just a builder of monitors they are proprietary studio designers. They build the room around the monitors. Their sound just impaled me against the wall...it was so loud you "couldn't even look at it", yet there was no ear fatigue at all!
The only other use for these beasts was in aquiring initial sounds off the floor in bed tracks. For example: the first sound an engineer gets is kick drum because the entire mix is built around it, followed by the rest of the kit and bass guitar. When the two instruments are seated right, the entire mix is placed around them. The purpose of the large format monitor is to hear every nuance in that kick drum which could be missed in a small monitor. Also it is very, very hard to derive your tonality and sculpt your sound unless you have the SPL level to deal with it. Once your 'beds' are laid, (the easiest and most fun part of the mix) many engineers prefer to use small format monitors on the console for MANY reasons. Ear fatigue, a more appropriate image size, not to mention a more realistic sound. A common rookie mistake is to blast a large format monitor and be in sonic heaven. You know what that sounds like when you play it back on a normal home system...CRAP....tiny....out of balance....improper tonality....I could go on forever.
Large format monitors are generally not used for final downmix, and mastering. Back then the monitor of choice (for all of the above reasons) was the good old 4310. If you owned a pair of L100's back then, you would find many albums that had perfect phasing, imaging, texture and balance. That is a direct result of the product being mixed on a 4310!
Secondly, the world wide market for large monitors is estimated at 2000 units. Even if you produce a successful product, that's not much of a market. Small format monitors and small studios are in. There is an advantage to using small near fields. Even in world class installations, which all have in wall monsters, the small self powered unit produces excellent imaging and lack of exterior interference. And yes I think Genelecs are superb in this regard.
The third reason large format monitors are not popular is the shear decline of medium and large installations. Today everyone and his mother has a pro tools in their basement....which has led to a lot of crap, and a lot of monitors for sale. BTW, being a casualty of the times...anyone want to buy a pair of Tannoys?
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Most of the large monitors I've seen in studios were built into the walls of the space, not 'speakers' as we think of them in separate boxes. The best sound reproduction I have ever heard came from such speakers built into the walls of a playback room of a studio in London. Most of the first rate studios I've been in still have large monitors of some sort, though with many they were now using the largest of something from a company like Genelec. The built-ins were usually triamped, active crossover, etc, types of things by looking at them, and the cost of such things is -up there-. They're not unheard of in private studios: a friend of mine builds out rooms as a sound absorption/acoustics specialist and he's done a few for music artists that rivaled the rooms in major studios.

The only time I saw a pair of old, giant, monitors was at a major studio in Los Angeles. They had a pair of gigantic JBLs with dual 15" woofers sitting horizontally in the relatively near-field in one of the playback rooms. I asked them what they were for and they said they only used those when the heads of rap labels would come in to approve something. The bass would impress them and they'd leave happy, but otherwise they were useless for mixing, and sounded incredibly dated compared to what they were using.
 
I've spent a lot of time in the studio with Westlake BBSM 10s which WL calls "mid-field". The two rooms, my current one and my old, one were treated with ASC tube traps and other acoustic considerations. I could not agree more with the assessment above except for one thing. The difference between Westlake monitors (BBSM series) and the large JBLs and Ureis was that you could play them at low volumes and they were responsive.

When I worked at Martin Audio in NYC we supplied all the major studios and had a few in house studios custom built to showcase gear and speakers. The Westlakes blew everything else away at loud or low volume, except for one, the nearfield Meyer HD1s which unfortunately suffered from requiring too much power to speak and a low threshold before blowing out.

Largely though, the assessment above is really true. Things also changed a lot when big studios with massive monitors became dinosaurs and producers in LA started building their own spaces in the basements of their luxury homes. That trend of course is now the defacto standard these days. JMTC

PS. Happy to join in here after years as Supercool! on a couple of other sites. Wonderful community here!
 
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Happy to join in here after years as Supercool! on a couple of other sites. Wonderful community here!
Glad you are here Zen. Your background and experiences will be yet another great addition to the gang for sure.

I have a friend that is a concert sound production guy and he has given me many things to consider about much of this stuff and the differences in the chain of production to reproduction and it's all fun to consider.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I've spent a lot of time in the studio with Westlake BBSM 10s which WL calls "mid-field". The two rooms, my current one and my old, one were treated with ASC tube traps and other acoustic considerations. I could not agree more with the assessment above except for one thing. The difference between Westlake monitors (BBSM series) and the large JBLs and Ureis was that you could play them at low volumes and they were responsive.

When I worked at Martin Audio in NYC we supplied all the major studios and had a few in house studios custom built to showcase gear and speakers. The Westlakes blew everything else away at loud or low volume, except for one, the nearfield Meyer HD1s which unfortunately suffered from requiring too much power to speak and a low threshold before blowing out.

Largely though, the assessment above is really true. Things also changed a lot when big studios with massive monitors became dinosaurs and producers in LA started building their own spaces in the basements of their luxury homes. That trend of course is now the defacto standard these days. JMTC

PS. Happy to join in here after years as Supercool! on a couple of other sites. Wonderful community here!

Really happy to have you here. My studio experience is that of an outsider looking in, and I've always been curious about it. I get to kind of step into these places for a day or two and hear all of the gear, but really don't know what's going on with it behind the scenes and am left to guess. I'm more often in specific film-sound studios, less often in music-specific places, but they seem to share a lot of similarities. The speakers at the music places are more impressive, unsurprisingly.
 
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