This post focuses on how monitoring with different kinds of speakers will help you achieve better mixes.
One of the things that sets professional studios apart from hobbyist studios is their collection of monitors. Most studios have at least a couple pairs of monitors, from nearfields to farfields. Many have boomboxes and ‘hi-fi’ stereos to give even more diverse listening options. Having monitoring diversity helps reveal weak spots in the way the music translates from system to system.
Nearfield speakers are usually small and are designed for low to moderate volume levels. They’re meant to be positioned relatively close to the listener. These speakers are good for hearing the overall balance of elements and for hearing blending of midrange elements such as vocals, guitars, and the like. Speakers such as the classic Yamaha NS10, Mackie HR624, and KRK VXT4 or 6 are nearfields.
Midfields are a little larger than nearfields and, as you might imagine, are designed to be moved back a bit. They generally are higher power with greater bass extension. Midfields include Mackie HR824, much of the Genelec line, and the Event ASP8 monitors.
Farfield monitors are positioned several meters from the listening position. They’re usually quite large and have greatly extended bass, allowing the tightness and balance of bass elements to be heard accurately (especially in conjunction with the room). These usually move a lot of air and will reveal things that cannot be heard with smaller systems. They’re also expensive, usually…
Having a relatively high quality, small boombox can be very useful for hearing what a mix will sound like on the majority of low cost listening systems.
A good set of consumer-oriented speakers placed in a lounge area are useful for determining the energy of the music without the clinical environment and accuracy of the tuned studio room and monitors.
A lot of people listen to music primarily in the car. I know a few engineers who, in the last step of their monitoring process, play the track back in their vehicle. It’s a nice change of pace to take a spin around the block with your new tunes, anyway!
Switching Between Monitors
Usually the best way to use multiple monitors is to use a switching box like the Mackie Big Knob to quickly move between the monitors. This gives you a good opportunity to hear many sound sources before your ears adjust to the sound of one pair in particular. Monitoring like this also helps prevent fatigue from constantly hearing the same frequency response.