This month we look at monitors. There are basically two types of monitors that we deal with in a recording studio: visual monitors (such as computer displays and television monitors) and audio monitors. It will be the latter that we look at today.
Monitor can be both a verb, meaning to listen or observe, as well as a noun, meaning the device that we use to listen or observe. In the recording studio, we have studio monitors, sometimes called reference monitors, which are loudspeakers specifically designed for extremely accurate reproduction of audio. They produce a relatively flat phase and frequency response, so as to not color the sound. While high-fidelity speakers are often designed to produce a pleasing sound, such coloration can create undesired results if used in a recording studio. For example, if the speaker has a bass boost, an engineer would tend to mix in too little bass.
Studio monitors are normally near-field monitors, speakers designed for listening at close distances, typically three to five feet. Near-field monitors minimize the effects of the acoustics in the control room. Some studios also use far-field monitors. These are speakers in which the sound is directed toward the room rather than to the mix position. Far-field monitors are generally used for general listening, to produce a more pleasing sound than the flat, uncolored studio monitors, but they usually are not used for mixing.
The monitor mix is the audio mix created and sent to the musicians to hear what is being played, whether in a studio or live on stage. The monitor mix is sometimes called a foldback mix, cue mix, or headphone mix. In the studio, the monitor mix is usually listened to on headphones, and hence the name headphone mix. Depending on the sophistication of the equipment and software being used, an engineer sometimes can send different mixes to each musician.
A monitor selector is a selector switch found on some consoles and digital audio workstations that selects what audio is sent to the studio monitors, such as main outputs, the tape machine, or disc player. It can also be used to select between two or more sets of monitors, if the studio has more than one. A monitor controller provides even more control over the monitor signal. It not only allows you to select from two or more sets of monitors, but also may allow you to adjust the level of the monitors, subwoofers, and individual headphones, select solo or mute, and provide other controls.
A stage monitor is a speaker usually placed on the floor of the stage facing the musicians so they can hear the performance. They are sometimes called floor monitors. Wedges are often used for stage monitors. These are wedge-shaped speakers that direct the sound upwards from the floor to the performers' ears. Sometimes, instead of floor monitors, performers will use in-ear monitors (IEM), which are sometimes called personal monitors (PM). They can be anything from inexpensive earbuds to very expensive custom-made earphones that are molded to the contours of the user's ears. The monitor mix is usually sent wirelessly to the IEMs.
Next month will be Issue No. 100.
• On December 17th, 1977, David Ackroyd, a fireman in the UK, purchased the one-millionth copy of “Mull Of Kintyre” by Wings and became the first record buyer to be awarded a Gold Disc.
• “Maybe Baby” was recorded at the officers' club at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma while Buddy Holly and the Crickets were on a tour in 1957.
• The backing vocal on Firefall's 1977 hit “Just Remember I Love You” was sung by Timothy B. Schmit, the Eagles' bass player.
• Bruce Springsteen once opened for Canadian singer Anne Murray, known for her hit song “Snowbird.”