Wednesday, I got delivered a pair of Presonus Eris 5 studio monitors and a Focusrite 2i4 USB Audio Interface to start building up my studio a bit more. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy at work that I didn’t have any time on Wednesday to really do anything with them. Luckily, yesterday we managed to fix a ton of our issues and last night was the first night in almost 2 weeks that I could just sit down & relax for a bit.
It was Georgia’s birthday, but she was busying playing with her new Legos & watching A Nightmare Before Christmas (one of her favorite movies & we got it for her on Blu-Ray) so I had some down time. I finally got the speakers hooked up as well as the Audio Interface and wow.
I finally understand what “a flat response rate” means. Most consumer speakers are tweaked so they push a particular frequency. For example, Beats by Dr. Dre really, really, really push the bass to make everything thumpy. Desktop speakers do the same thing to try to make the sound fuller.
Flat speakers provide the same level for every frequency across the spectrum (or as close as they can). If you mix you music so that it sounds excellent on those, the chances that they will sound good on speakers that push other frequencies goes up exponentially. This doesn’t mean once you’ve got it nailed on the monitors that you are done, but it really does get you about 95% of the way there. Even the best studios will do their mixing, then listen on cheap speakers, computer speakers, earbuds & even a speaker ripped out of a TV for mono (you’d be surprised how mono can be a nightmare with phasing issues!).
My problem is I was mixing in headphones only then pushing to my cheap computer speakers later. I was WAY overpowering my bass levels so when I got in my car, it would sound like crap (but awesome on earbuds!). Just playing around a bit with an older song of mine, I was able to correct it on the monitors and when I put on my headphones, it was like an eargasm.
The other nice thing is that each monitor is independently powered and nicely so. My old speakers required the sound be above a certain level before they’d kick in. So listening to something quietly wasn’t really an option. These things can go from gnat-fart to ear-bleeding without a hitch. Plus, being flat, you don’t have to turn it up to make it sound good, it sounds the same regardless of volume.
As far as the Focusrite goes, it’s a nice little unit. Still trying to learn the ins & outs of ‘monitoring’ which isn’t as straight forward as “plug in & listen”. There’s also some configuration I have to do if I want to do guitar stuff since my foot pedal is much better at it than the box as the Guitar Rig Kontrol is the fastest USB Audio device I have. The Focusrite will run at about 27-32ms latency. At 30ms, you can hear it. Generally the GRK runs at 900µs but that requires a very specific setup. So if I’m going to be doing very precise guitar work, I’ll have to swap back out to my old way of doing things which isn’t a big deal.
Now, USB audio has issues. You can get snaps, crackles, & pops as the OS prioritizes other things over USB. PCs that are specifically geared for doing audio kill off any process that might get in the way (and I really need to see how to do this so I can script it on & off). When I first tried out the speakers, I loaded up Absynth which is geared towards ever-evolving soundscapes. It has some really friggin’ cool sounds, but alas, it was popping & clicking something fierce.
So I fiddled with the ASIO driver. Still, pops & clicks. More fiddling. Pops & clicks. I started feeling bad because I thought “great, this AI isn’t going to work”. Then I tried another sound. It was perfect. Went back to the original sound. Pops & clicks. It wasn’t USB, it was part of the sound (I verified by hitting a lower key. The pops & clicks were now at a lower frequency).
There are a few things that I have to iron out. There’s a difference between just listening to things and monitoring. If I use the Focusrite for my guitar, it will always have the dry sound go through the headphones. This is actually effective while playing at times, but most of the time I just want to hear the final product. My daughter’s drums use MIDI and the Focusrite has 0 lag for them (where as my GRK had just enough MIDI lag to be annoying). Now, she has access to thousands upon thousands of drum kits and can even practice without headphone.
All in all, things are good!