She took his amplifer
October 27, 2014 4:38 PM   Subscribe

So my daughter came home from college for a visit, and when she left, she took her Les Paul and the cute little Line 6 amplifier I'd been using for my synthesizer rig. So now I'm using this incident as an excuse to upgrade myself with a pair of powered monitors (and perhaps a subwoofer, too).

Any recommendations? My "studio" is actually my living room, with all of the detailed attention to acoustic fidelity that that implies. I'd like to keep the total cost around $1000US. I'd like the monitors to be accurate - but also I'd like to use them sometimes to play loud pre-recorded music. If the bass can rattle the silverware in the kitchen, that's a plus.

I know the KRK line is popular with a lot of people. But also I've read some reviews that lead me to think that they're getting by on brand name popularity and not much else.

If I get (say) a 10" subwoofer, would a pair of 5" or 6" monitors be sufficient for the high end? What kind of power should I be going for? (or have "Watts" become a meaningless number in this market?)

If it matters, my tastes run to Amon Tobin, Filter, The Glitch Mob, Tool, &c.

Bonus: thoughts on what kind of hardware I'll need to connect my Macbook up to these monitors?

(Yes, this question has been addressed here before, but not in a number of years. I'd like to hear current thoughts on currently available equipment).
posted by doctor tough love to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I actually just bought a pair of KRK Rokit 6" monitors and have been genuinely pleased. I haven't ever had speakers before, preferring headphones, but these are every bit as good to use in my small office as my SRH440 is. I've tested them with a tone generator and they do an honest 40Hz, though it drops off *really* quickly. If you want sub-bass, you'll definitely want a subwoofer, but they've got as much dynamic range as I've wanted so far (again, my space is small).
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2014

Oh, and they're loud enough to be painful at 3'. They easily rattle the windows.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:03 PM on October 27, 2014

Best answer: Last post, I promise: I really like NO audiophile for no-bullshit reviews.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:04 PM on October 27, 2014

Best answer: I'd like the monitors to be accurate - but also I'd like to use them sometimes to play loud pre-recorded music. If the bass can rattle the silverware in the kitchen, that's a plus.

I personally would put the money into the monitors and let them take care of the low end. You won't get punch-you-in-the-chest subbass, but you'll be able to get a low end that sounds loud and full. That also means you don't need any extra gear to deal with the crossover. The monitors I use are discontinued and were a smidge over your price range, so I have no specific recommendations there. But I absoultely recommend whatever you get, try to find a local retailer that will let you bring some media you know well and have a listen.

Bonus: thoughts on what kind of hardware I'll need to connect my Macbook up to these monitors?

I'm pretty happy running my macbook and a few other audio sources through a small desktop mixer. I use a Mackie 1202 I got used for cheap forever ago.
posted by aubilenon at 5:08 PM on October 27, 2014

Best answer: I recently purchased a set of German made Adam speakers and couldn't be more pleased. I find speakers like the KRK series to have a weird footprint as far as eq-ing. I was raised on British style flat response speakers such as Rogers which have a much truer picture of what you are listening to. These will function both as playback speakers for anything you please plus will work for your synthesizer. I power my speakers with a crown 150 watt amp that matches well.

Btw, this is the husband of Eggkeeper.
posted by eggkeeper at 5:38 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: for my synthesizer rig.

Honestly, you'll have a lot more fun for a lot less money with a used roland keyboard amp. My friend has an older one of the bigger roland cubes(like this, which was hard to find a picture of) that's freaking great for everything from quiet volumes to just using as a PA to rock huge parties.

I have never owned a pair of monitors i was actually happy with, and wouldn't really want some for this anyways. One speaker all the sound comes out of vs a split up sub/sat setup always sounds better anyways.

If you do go for monitors, get some bigger 8in ones. And don't ever buy anything m-audio makes. They sound really great, but die after like 8 months. My storage unit is still filled with 4 of them, two of which i inherited from a very angry friend.

So yea, i'd just buy a roland keyboard amp. It's literally what they're for.

or have "Watts" become a meaningless number in this market?

yes, because everyone is full of shit now and doesn't use RMS watts but peak, or other tomfoolery. They also ignore efficiency of the drivers. A cube 60 will be louder than any studio monitors could be without breaking quickly.

That cube 100 my friend had sounded very clean and accurate to my ears. Make sure to find a version with the dedicated high end driver, and possibly even the dedicated midrange(which is what his had). It lacked a tiny bit of the crispness on the high end my broken monitors had, but you could EQ that out to the point you couldn't tell even at low volumes.

It's mostly that i just honestly haven't seen a set of affordable monitors that wouldn't break under erm, spirited listening like what you seem to want. Buy a cube.
posted by emptythought at 5:46 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The amp could be an option if you're planning to haul your gear to jams or rehearsals, but I wouldn't be listening to music at home on it. I use a combo bass amp/stage monitor with my digital piano. It has a 12" bass driver plus additional mid- and high-range drivers and proves itself a very good stage monitor, but doesn't quite cut it for listening to music. The single cabinet form-factor means it isn't able to provide adequate stereo separation, either.

My audio monitor setup is stationary, and never moves from my humble home studio. I have a pair of KRK 6" monitors hooked up via XLR cables to a Mackie VLZ 802 mixer. I generally use the monitors only when I'm seated at my workstation. The bass reproduction from these are quite satisfactory. I have run experiments with an added 10" subwoofer, but felt that the extra extension only muddied the sound with my setup.

I use an external USB audio interface to connect my computer. The output from the audio interface is routed to the Mackie mixer. There are lots of options out there, with the price dependent on the number and type of inputs/outputs, supported data rates, as well as on-board features (compressor, effects). The interface you select will depend on whether you plan to do any recording or not, which you didn't mention in your post.

If you're going to be doing any mixing, you could also consider investing in a good set of headphones. You won't need to worry about sound interactions with the room, for one thing, or invest in room treatments.
posted by gox3r at 10:21 PM on October 27, 2014

Best answer: Check out the Presonus Eris line of studio monitors, for their price I'm quite surprised at the amount of detail they put out. I got the E5 and I can hardly use more than a third of the volume in my room - you probably want the bigger 8 inchers, should give you good full range coverage!
posted by TrinsicWS at 12:21 AM on October 28, 2014

Best answer: Hoping your story will end better, but after seeing your headline can't let it go without linking to this.
posted by Shoggoth at 5:38 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a pair of KRKs - the small ones - and they are perfect for my small single-keyboard rig. Sound lovely, weren't too expensive.

I do second the idea of an older Roland Cube amp. They have unmatched versatility and they are bulletproof. I hauled a 90's-era cube 60 around for years and no amount of abuse could hurt it.
posted by Thistledown at 5:51 AM on October 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all of the good advice.

One thing I probably should have mentioned in the original question: I want stereo because I want to use / play with stuff like Melted Sounds' Whoosh, so I can hear the 'movement' of the sound. I can appreciate the notion of using something like a Cube (and I've got a JC120 in the other room that could probably do a reasonable job of it), but - no stereo.

Also, this won't be a portable setup - I'm primarily interested in just staying at home and playing with, um, myself.

Please keep the ideas flowing! And - Shoggoth, thanks *chuckle*. I'll stay away from ladders and such.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:27 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I picked up a pair of Yamaha HS80Ms (8") second-hand at Guitar Center for $150 each. I use them for mixing/monitoring, listening, and playing synth. They're good down to ~50 Hz, so I haven't felt like a sub is necessary. They sound very detailed and clear to me, if a bit forward at first. They've been discontinued and replaced with the HS8s, which go for $350 each new. I plug in and record through a Focusrite 6i6 interface. I've been very happy with this setup.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:12 AM on October 28, 2014

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