The Flattest Sound
October 29, 2012 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide between several studio monitors for home studio use.

The beautiful pair of Mackie HR624's I was borrowing have now been returned, and it's time to finally buy a proper pair of active monitors for my small-ish studio.

I don't have a huge budget, but I also do this professionally, so I don't want something completely bottom of the barrel; I've asked around with other professional-but-home-based producers and the same three makes keep coming up:

Mackie MR5 MkII - if my experience is any indication, you would not believe how much of your favourite electronic music has been mixed on these things. They are generally the most expensive of the bunch, but people seem to swear by them.

Yamaha HS50m - another decent choice within the budget, these ones get recommended a lot.

Alesis M1 MKII - don't know much about these except that they consistently get surprisingly good reviews for the price. They seem, like, maybe ONE step up from M-Audio, which is worrying, but people seem to like them.

If you've used any of these makes, I'd love to hear about your experience with them! Also, very much welcoming further recommendations - let's say we want an upper-limit of about £300 for a pair. I know that seems low, but I think it's totally reasonable for what I need to do.

posted by Tiresias to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have used all three of these and I preferred the Mackie pair. I hated the Yamaha. There isn't much else in that price range I would recommend, aside from (very surprisingly) the Behringer Truth model at that price point, whichever it is. Behringer makes non-stop crap but their monitors really are punching above their weight somehow. They're the only Behringer product I would ever recommend.

Honestly though, the differences between those different monitors isn't nearly as big as the difference that your room and speaker placement is going to make. You could put those Yamahas in a good room and they'll sound a lot better than the Mackies in a bad room, if you follow me.
posted by Jairus at 2:52 PM on October 29, 2012

I have the Alesis mkii, and have used them in 3 separate rooms over 7 years. I'd buy them again, but I'm fairly certain their bass output is a bit heavier than it should be.
posted by l2p at 2:59 PM on October 29, 2012

The Alesis are bottom-heavy for sure. I use my old pair as living room speakers right now and they have a lot of boom.
posted by Jairus at 3:26 PM on October 29, 2012

What about the Tannoy Reveal 601a (Sound on Sound review). You can pick up a pair for just under £300. I've got some older passive Tannoy Reveal 6 and personally I think they sound great - nice tight bass definition, clean stereo spread, and revealing without being too fatiguing. I also know people who love their KRK monitors, so it might be worth auditioning them.
posted by iivix at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2012

I use older KRK V6’s which are incredibly flat and work great. I don’t know how different the new ones are. They seem very clear and forward in the mids so I have to be careful not to scoop things out too much, and stop myself from bumping the bass up.
posted by bongo_x at 4:04 PM on October 29, 2012

Another vote for Tannoy Reveals, I used a pair for years and they're great. I recently switched to KRK V4s, which I also recommend highly. Not quite as clear a sound as the Tannoys but I needed smaller active monitors to better fit a small room.

Both of them sound less "clinical" or "cold" than other reference monitors, which probably means their response curve isn't perfectly flat, but I like to use them as speakers for general music listening as well as monitoring and they're great for both.
posted by mmoncur at 4:34 PM on October 29, 2012

I mixed an album on the Alesis speakers, and found them to have such harsh highs that I could only work on them for about 45 minutes at a go before ear fatigue sent me away to recuperate. Not out of balance as such, but sharp and ragged and hard to listen to. YMMV, of course.
posted by Betafae at 4:16 AM on October 30, 2012

Speaking of Sound on Sound, have you read the reviews for the models you mention?

Mackie MR5 MkII
Yamaha HS80M (bigger sister of the HS50M)
Alesis M1 MkII

Reading reviews of some monitors is not the same as spending some time listening to them, of course, but it can provide an impression of a unit's character, and SoS' reputation is very good in this arena.

Mind you, the HS50M/HS80Ms are described as "NS10-like", which is an acquired taste, not so much flat per se but the cliché is "if it sounds good on NS10s it'll sound good on anything". YMMV.

Lastly, I agree with Jairus on the Truths, which are indeed surprisingly non-crappy for a Behringer product. I'd never use anything like NS10s for mixing (they're fine for checking a mix however, IMO) but the Truths are nice and flat (if not super-detailed) as a main pair. I've been using them for years, although I admit I pried off the little Behringer logo triangle. :) If your material depends heavily on the low end I'd get a sub-woofer and/or check your mixes on a club system or similar, but that goes for any set of small near-fields to some extent.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:37 AM on October 30, 2012

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