Why your studio needs a pair of mediocre loudspeakers

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 Record-Producer.com.

Monday September 16, 2019

One of the expectations of the hi-fi age was that gradually ordinary people would get better and better equipment and eventually everyone would be able to listen to crystal-clear sound.

Why that never happened is a bit of a mystery. Personally, outside of professional musicians and sound engineers, I don't know anyone who has a decent pair of speakers. Not that they couldn't afford them. Somehow the need for real quality has just passed them by.

And look at all the other places we listen to audio - TV sets, car stereos, computers, phones, smart speakers...

So that makes your expensive, hand-crafted, massively accurate monitors seem a bit pointless, doesn't it?

Your mix may sound great to you on those wonderful speakers. But what is it going to sound like to the rest of the world?

The answer is that you won't know unless you equip yourself with a pair of loudspeakers of a similar quality to those that people actually use in real life.

Now there is a problem here... real-world loudspeakers are crappy in all sorts of different ways. Some are distorted, some have a poor frequency response, some are muffled, some are fuzzy, some poke you in the ear with a sharp stick.

There's no way any one example of a bad loudspeaker could tell you how your mix would sound on any other.

So what you need in fact is a loudspeaker that is kind of 'averagely bad'.

There used to be one that was so popular you could find a pair in EVERY recording studio - the Auratone. The Auratone was a simple 12.5 cm (5-inch) drive unit in a tiny cabinet that was hardly any bigger.

Although the sound of the Auratone wasn't particularly good or impressive. It did fairly accurately average out the characteristics of real-world domestic loudspeakers.

If your mix sounded good on Auratones, it would sound good, or at least sound its best, anywhere.

But then they fell out of fashion and engineers started using near-field monitors. Some of these had rather average sound quality too. But then they started getting better, and one could make the argument now that they are too good.

So, in response to this, a company called Avant Electronics developed the MixCube Mini Reference Monitors.

And remarkably like the Auratone they are - a 13 cm (5.25-inch) drive unit in a 16.5 cm (6.5-inch) cubical cabinet.

These little loudspeakers will not give you the best sound quality. But that's not the point. If your mix sounds good on these then - as in the days of the Auratones - you can be sure that it will sound good wherever it is played.

And the killer thing is - if your mix sounds good on tiny loudspeakers like this, it will sound amazing on your studio monitors!

P.S. I should mention that since the appearance of the Avantone MixCube, the Auratone has been reissued, but reports suggest that the sound quality of the reissued version might just be a little too good.

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