Music by Scott Martin

SM Blog

Happy New Year – speaker calibration edition

new monitor position

Man, time seems to fly by these days. It’s hard to believe another year is upon us.

I started off 2016 with our traditional New Year’s Day festivities, including pork and sauerkraut, visits from good friends, and some musical activity. I’ve been struggling with properly mixing the low-end in songs, and certainly a part of that has to be the highly imperfect room I’m mixing in (a.k.a. the basement).

I decided to change the position of my monitor speakers. Until recently they’ve been a little above my ear level, a little too close to the wall (although I have treated the walls behind them with Auralex foam), and a little bit far away. The mix position has been such that I need to roll my chair back a couple feet to get my head in the right spot. Ultimately I would mix the low end (kick, bass, low synths) where it sounded right on the monitors, only to find that it was way too heavy on any other speakers.

So I moved the monitors onto my desk with some Auralex Mo-Pads under them. It had a noticeable effect in that the sound field seemed tighter and more coherent. But I still wasn’t getting much of the low frequencies – I could kind of hear them. but not enough to prevent me from adding too much in the mix. So today while my friend Jeff was visiting we recalibrated the speakers.

These JBLs that I have include a “room mode correction” functionality which I initially tried, but found to be indistinguishable from the uncorrected setting. As a result I never really used that particular bell/whistle. After talking about my situation with Jeff he suggested we do another room calibration since I had changed the speaker positions. That made sense, so I dug out the calibration microphone and the user manual, set up a mic stand on my chair and ran the calibration.

It’s ridiculously easy with these speakers:

  • Plug the 1/8″ cable from the calibration mic into the RMC input on the back of the left speaker
  • Hold down the RMC button on the fron of the speaker for three seconds
  • Get out of the way

The speaker runs through a few (loud) frequency sweeps and uses the feedback from the microphone to create an EQ that helps tune the speakers to the room. In addition, the speakers also have high- and low-frequency shelving EQ for boosting or cutting.

I was surprised that the correction actually had a subtle, but noticeable effect. The low and low-mid frequencies immediately became clearer and more audible. Since it still didn’t feel like enough to prevent me from overdoing it in my mixes, I used the EQ to give the low frequencies a boost in addition to the room mode correction.

I’m excited about getting into some mixes and seeing what kind of impact the change has on my mixing here in the lair. Stay tuned!