Monitor size and room size - does it matter?

DrewPeterson7

Sage of the Order
Ok, over at another waaaaay less recording focused board I read, I keep seeing people post things like "in a small room of the size you're in, you shouldn't use monitors with a driver larger than 6"" or things like that. I admittedly haven't been looking, but I never see comments like that here, and the whole premise doesn't make much sense to me.

I have to assume we're talking about largely untreated rooms here. I guess the only argument I can think of is in a relatively small, untreated room, an 8" driver produces more bass than a 5" or 6", and in an untreated acoustic space that extra low end is just going to get lost in a wash of phase cancellation and leave you with an unreliable low end. Fair enough. But, dealing with this by jumping to say a 5" speaker, well, wouldn't that only "solve" the problem if it just wasn't faithfully reproducing those frequencies anyway? At which point, you've just switched from one problem to another (phase cancellation in the very low end to no reproduction in the very low end) and you're left with the same symptom - you can't trust your monitors' low frequencies. This is to say nothing of all the midrange and flutter problems you likely have anyway in an untreated room.

Idunno, I've never heard a really good physics-based argument as to why switching to a smaller driver might actually help in a small room, and I figured if there's any forum I read that could provide a good explanation, it's this one. :)
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
Read John Brandt's sticky thread above about small rooms.
Without acoustic treatment, in a small room, you're screwed. Monitor size doesn't enter into it, except that as the woofer size goes down, the low end reproduction gets worse - you still need to treat the room, then learn your monitors.
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
I guess the only argument I can think of is in a relatively small, untreated room, an 8" driver produces more bass than a 5" or 6"

Almost. A larger woofer outputs bass to a lower frequency, but doesn't give more bass overall. Using speakers with small woofers is like sticking your head in the sand. Yeah, you might not hear the problems in your mix at very low frequencies, but they're still there! Further, most room acoustic problems at low frequencies aren't below 40-50 Hz, but rather between 80 and 300 Hz. So no matter what, bass traps are always welcome and even needed.

--Ethan
 

DrewPeterson7

Sage of the Order
mjb - I'll give it a read, but yeah, I agree. I just keep seeing this argument that somehow a smaller speaker would improve things. I don't think that makes any sense.

Almost. A larger woofer outputs bass to a lower frequency, but doesn't give more bass overall. Using speakers with small woofers is like sticking your head in the sand. Yeah, you might not hear the problems in your mix at very low frequencies, but they're still there! Further, most room acoustic problems at low frequencies aren't below 40-50 Hz, but rather between 80 and 300 Hz. So no matter what, bass traps are always welcome and even needed.

--Ethan

So basically, I'm not wrong when I say that it seems to me you're just trading one problem (comb filtering, phase cancellation and reinforcement randomly throughout the spectrum) for another (lack of response in these frequency zones)? Again, I don't think the "small speakers for small rooms" thing makes any sense, I just want to be able to articulate why.
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
Yes, you're correct. Either you use a large speaker and hear the problems in your room, or you use a small speaker which hides the problems even though they still exist.

--Ethan
 

Jens Eklund

New member
Hi Ethan.


Almost. A larger woofer outputs bass to a lower frequency, but doesn't give more bass overall. Using speakers with small woofers is like sticking your head in the sand. Yeah, you might not hear the problems in your mix at very low frequencies, but they're still there! Further, most room acoustic problems at low frequencies aren't below 40-50 Hz, but rather between 80 and 300 Hz. So no matter what, bass traps are always welcome and even needed.

--Ethan

Not always.

It is unfortunately a common misconception that a large woofer automatically means lower frequency reproduction capabilities compared to a smaller woofer, but there are 15” woofers that won´t reproduce much low bass frequencies at all since they are not made to do that, and there are 3” mini subwoofers that can produce relatively low frequencies (but naturally not at very high SPL due to the limited volume displacement capabilities).

Simply put; the size of the woofer is not always a good indicator for how low a speaker will play. It´s the selection of a suitable driver, in an appropriate enclosure, that determines the usable low frequency extension of the system. A 10” driver (with the right specs) in a sealed enclosure could reproduce 10 Hz. A 21” woofer in a ported enclosure would struggle to do that since it´s probably tuned to a much higher frequency.


More on room vs. speaker size here:
Hm … not allowed to post links … Search for “Does monitor size really matter?” and you´ll find a thread over at Gearslutz.


Another thing is that when I measure rooms (and I have measured many rooms), the biggest issue is often the first axial mode, and unless a very small room; that is going to end up below 40-50 Hz. If you seldom find this range problematic, perhaps you measure rooms that are mostly constructed with fairly lossy walls? If so, the walls would partially pass the lowest modal frequencies through, thus reducing the intensity of lower order modes.


Sincerely Jens Eklund
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
Simply put; the size of the woofer is not always a good indicator for how low a speaker will play.

Of course. I was assuming "all else equal" such as comparing a Mackie HR624 to a Mackie HR824.

Hm … not allowed to post links

I think you need to have made five posts before you can post a link, as an anti-spam measure.

--Ethan
 

Jens Eklund

New member
Of course. I was assuming "all else equal" such as comparing a Mackie HR624 to a Mackie HR824.

Yes; assuming similar woofer (and speaker design) but bigger, the resonant frequency of the driver usually drops due to higher moving mass, and this will allow for a lower cutoff frequency for the speaker (assuming the cabinet is adjusted to match the drivers air volume requirement).

/Jens
 

wmalan

Member
Great sticky on the small room!

So having also just gone through researching the "what size" monitor issue... Given I have a 10'w x 12'l x 8'h room (not ideal - getting ready to treat it). I'm still not clear if an 8" monitor is better than say a 6". I read into this (all things being equal), the 8" could have a more accurate bass response? Also, rear port vs front port for a room this size. Any more pointers would be awesome.
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
I'm still not clear if an 8" monitor is better than say a 6". I read into this (all things being equal), the 8" could have a more accurate bass response?

Yes, 8 inches is better than 6. It's not necessarily more accurate, but it will have usable output to a lower frequency.

rear port vs front port for a room this size. Any more pointers would be awesome.

I think a front port is better in a small room because that offers more flexibility with placement. If you need to put the speaker right in front of the wall, a port in the front won't be blocked. Maybe Jens has an opinion?

--EThan
 

wmalan

Member
Yes, 8 inches is better than 6. It's not necessarily more accurate, but it will have usable output to a lower frequency.



I think a front port is better in a small room because that offers more flexibility with placement. If you need to put the speaker right in front of the wall, a port in the front won't be blocked. Maybe Jens has an opinion?

--EThan

... that's what she said. (couldn't resist)

So at the same db level, the 8 would generally have perhaps a "cleaner-clearer" bass? I've been trying to justify the cost of an 8" vs the 6" vs what am I trying to achieve musically. Plus, I read about folks using sub-woofers with the 5"-6" models which made to me adds some complexity to the "mix". The port issue comes as they would be less than a foot from the wall and was looking at a pair with rear ports (Yamaha HS series). Great info!
 

Jens Eklund

New member
Yes, 8 inches is better than 6. It's not necessarily more accurate, but it will have usable output to a lower frequency.



I think a front port is better in a small room because that offers more flexibility with placement. If you need to put the speaker right in front of the wall, a port in the front won't be blocked. Maybe Jens has an opinion?

--EThan

Rear ported cabinet offers some benefits: any port noise will be somewhat attenuated compared to having the ports on the front baffle. Avoiding big holes in the front might also prevent additional diffraction artifacts. Ports facing forwards can sometimes blow wind in your face (BM15A anyone ;)?).

I feel the fear of blocked ports by the front wall (the wall behind the speaker) is often exaggerated since we normally toe-in our monitors by about 25-30 degrees and this is usually sufficient to prevent the ports from being blocked enough to cause any issues, even if the monitor is placed very close to the wall (as we normally want).

Naturally; if you want to be able to flush mount a ported speaker, the ports need to be in the front.

I personally prefer sealed designs, and the points made above are some of the reasons why.


Sincerely
Jens Eklund
 
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wmalan

Member
Thanks for the explanations Jens and Ethan! It seems if I go with decent 8" in a treated room, I'll have an easier time translating to the finished sound. Reason enough! :)
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
I'm not sure that anybody said anything of the sort. Frankly, I think you'll have a better idea what people in those "boom cars" might hear, and maybe how it'll translate to the big systems in the clubs, but if you get down to 50Hz or below, you'll be hearing (/feeling) things that most of your listeners will never experience. That's not a good reason not to go as low as possible. Just, when you say "translate"...
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
Excellent Jens, those are all great points.

So at the same db level, the 8 would generally have perhaps a "cleaner-clearer" bass?

Eight inches mostly gives you more bass extension (lower frequency), but it can also be cleaner because it can play those lower frequencies with less distortion.

--Ethan
 

wmalan

Member
Excellent Jens, those are all great points.



Eight inches mostly gives you more bass extension (lower frequency), but it can also be cleaner because it can play those lower frequencies with less distortion.

--Ethan

ashcat_lt
I'm trying to learn the correct terms for this aspect of music... So by "translate" I'm saying it will be close to the bass or kick drum I recorded (fingers crossed). The monitors "should" represent that in the room - or should I say the room should present the sound from the monitors? Kinda looking like treating a room first - the size will follow. :)

Ethan
So given my new found education here (thanks again), I'm thinking perhaps a 6" in my properly treated room could be an option given the importance to the room treatment first? Not doing hip-hop rap beats or heavy bass. But would just like an accurate track.
 

Jens Eklund

New member
The only reason except budget and possibly practical placement restrictions *, to deliberately restrict the low frequency response of a monitor system, is if you know that you have low frequency issues in your room that you for some reason cannot treat, and instead choose a speaker that won´t excite this frequency range at all. As long as you are aware of the limits of your system, you can learn to work with that and check your mixes on other systems (in other rooms) to make sure that the lowest frequency range isn´t out of control, but the ideal scenario is a well-treated room and a monitor that can accurately reproduce the entire frequency range of interest. Preferably at least down to about 31 Hz (low B on a five string bass), but ideally all the way down to at least 20 Hz (or even lower depending on what kind of material will be mixed/mastered in the room).

* Oh, there is one more possible reason to choose a monitor with limited low frequency range, and that is if you feel that you need an additional monitor system (besides your main, full-range monitors) that deliberately lacks the low bass range in order to check how your mix will behave on smaller sound systems, and also to be able to analyse the midrange in more detail (since no matter how accurate a monitor is; removing the low frequency range will help the brain to focus more on the remaining mid and high range).
 

Ethan Winer

Acoustics Expert
Yet more good points from Jens. Another reason to want a response down to a very low frequency is to hear rumbles and footsteps and outside trucks etc. Though many people routinely high-pass tracks anyway. One listening pass using decent headphones is always suggested if only to listen for rumble.

--Ethan
 

wmalan

Member
Ethan & Jens,

Now hope I have a handle on it. Currently I've just been fooling around in an untreated room (headphones) waiting for my niece to move out soon which opens up a designated songwriting "studio" in my upstairs bedroom. As such, I've been waffling about monitor size vs cost. Ideally I'd like to go with 6's for the price point. I'm installing a basic room treatment as noted in Jens great sticky and Ethan's great site. That said, 8's may be best if I treat it right.
I think the size issue will define itself as I treat the room.

Thanks for the help for this nubie!
 
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