How complicated do your monitors have to be?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Monday May 19, 2014

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

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

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.

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

An interesting microphone setup for violinist Nigel Kennedy

Are you compressing too much? Here's how to tell...

If setting the gain correctly is so important, why don't mic preamplifiers have meters?

The Internet goes analogue!

How to choose an audio interface

Audio left-right test. Does it matter?

Electric guitar - compress before the amp, or after?

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue