Studio monitor test and calibration: 5 speakers in a “bedroom” studio

When shopping for studio monitor speakers, you probably spend countless hours researching the highest ratings and pouring through many comments on forums, but you’re probably also aware about what kind of impact the room itself has on your sound system.

We have a thesis that frequency response wise monitors of the present day actually vary in just the slightest ways and the studio or room is the greatest factor in determining what you hear. Of course the best option is to build the perfect studio room and treat it with the best room treatment materials with the help of the best acoustician around. But not everybody is lucky enough to have the time and resources for that. Or you are travelling and just have to do with whatever room is available. So for those cases where you have to do with less-than-prefect studio and still want to create some great music with confidence, we’ve got the next-best solution to this seemingly complex problem.

Because every theory must be proven, we decided to conduct a little experiment to see how various monitors performed in a standard, unchanging environment. Then we applied the Sonarworks software, a highly precise, groundbreaking calibration technology with multipoint measurement, to see if we could obtain the sort of balance and harmony we were striving for.

On to the experiment…

Our testing location, or our “constant” if we are being completely scientific, was a studio with minimal acoustic treatments – one wall with an angle and an uneven and treated ceiling. (It could be considered a basic bedroom studio much like the ones growing in popularity with the accessibility of digital mixing tools.)

At this location, we set about to measure five different sets of speakers without adjusting the state the room. We left all the instruments, monitor stands, and tabletop components as they were.

Our test monitors included:
KRK VXT6
ADAM A7X
ADAM A77X
Genelec 8040
Equator D5

Studio big Studio test setup Studio measurement
Adam A7X studio monitors
Adam A7X studio monitors
Genelec 8040 studio monitors

After setting up each monitoring system, we used a 3-step process:

1. Measure the frequency response
2. Apply the correction (flat response target)
3. Re-measure the monitors with correction

For each speaker setup we measured approximately 70 points around the sweetspot. We kept the default priorities for the correction of the room quadrants (sweetspot – high, ~40 cm around it – medium, rest of room – very low). It is important to note that the software automatically detects where you are holding the mic, thus making the measurement process simple for the user and free from accidental mic placement errors.

Measurement tool graph

Pre-Sonarworks Results
After applying the same measurement techniques to each set of speakers, a pattern emerged to reveal reoccurring issues that the room produced for all sets. As you can see from the graph below, there was a strong overall boost in the low mids ~80 – 200 Hz and dips at 100 Hz, 300 Hz, and just below 1 kHz.

Frequency response (before calibration)

Post-Sonarworks Results

We then ran the measuring process again, applying the Sonarworks software to see if we could correct the room issues. The correction plugin was included in the audio chain (using Virtual Audio Cable and Reaper).

We were quite pleased with the outcome of this test. As you can see from the graphic below, we witnessed considerable improvement. After the calibration, the main difference between these sets of monitors was at the roll off point of the bass frequencies while the overall frequency response was quite uniform.

Frequency response (after calibration)

The evidence from our experiment confirmed our thesis that frequency response wise room characteristics determine the sound in the studio more than specific model of monitor speakers. While the characteristics of the room generally affected all of the speakers equally, we were glad to see that the issues were easily remedied with the Sonarworks technology.

Over the next few weeks, we will test the same speakers in an acoustic chamber to gauge measurements with and without Sonarworks in a new environment. If you have any other speakers you’d like us to measure, please let us know in the comments below.

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33 Responses to “Studio monitor test and calibration: 5 speakers in a “bedroom” studio”

  1. Read up about the Chinese on Wikipedia

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    Reply
  2. Dave

    Hi Sonarworks!
    I’m a pianist working on my classical music in my “home studio”. I usually “mix” my work with my AKG K240S headphones at first. But I’m also looking for studiomonitors to compose with. I’v struggling between choosing Tannoy 5-series or the new Mackie mk3 series. I have a 25 square meters room with a high roof of 4 meters, and my thoughts are if I’d pick a 5″ or a 6″ monitor. My “wish” for another speaker would then be the new Mackie mr5 or mr6 mk3. 🙂
    Best regards!
    David

    Reply
    • brandon

      Presonus eris e5… Very nice and accurate speaker. If budget allows, the yamaha hs7 would be a nice step up from that

      Reply
  3. Geektarblog

    Awesome software. Loving the headphone correction.
    Please, don’t forget the bigger brother from Equator Audio, the D8!

    Thanks! and keep the good work!

    Reply
  4. Javier Lamela

    I tried the demo a few days ago and I’ve been amazed.I own a medium-sized recording studio 50% acoustically treated and always i have perceived resonances and cancellations in sound from speakers.I bought other similar solutions, but the sound I’ve gotten has always been strange, nasal, like plastic, uncomfortable to mix. Testing reference for PC, I’ve been pleasantly surprised .The sound I’ve gotten is very neutral and honest. I don’t have the feeling from equalized sound. With a musical career of 15 years and many jobs in the market, i seriously think that this tool will change the way you mix because You will get a sound closer to the real sound in a bad o semi acoustically treated place.

    Reply
    • Sonarworks.com admin

      We’re glad that you liked what we’ve achieved! Happy mixing!

      Reply
  5. TatarAdrian

    Good article, I like how you place the accent to a measurement in a real world over those from specifications sheet made in anechoic chamber.
    Will be a pleasure to return to your blog if you’ll place more measurements of this type. All the best

    Reply
  6. Mackie MR5 MK3

    Very interesting article. However once you’ve achieved flat response on your monitors using the plugin surely the frequencies will be different again once a mix is played back in a different room?

    Reply
    • Karl

      Mixing on a calibrated system is your best bet on getting a mix which will translate better on the majority of systems. Sure, you won’t get 100% of what the engineer is hearing, but the mix will sound better if the guy working on it is able to make more informed decisions.

      Reply
  7. Jerry Jabs

    I read your comments comparing the VXT6s vs the D5s on gearsluts. You said “My PERSONAL opinion – when I listened to the D5 and VXT6 in the same studio, i preferred the D5, but if i had to buy one of them, i would go with the KRKs.” Can you elaborate on that statement? If you liked the D5s better, why would you take the KRKs over them??

    Thanks! ! ! !
    Jerry

    Reply
    • Karl

      Sorry, we never finished that article. We plan on finishing it in the next months.

      Reply
  8. Pat

    Hi guys
    Thanks for the great article.
    I own a pair of Quested H108 near field monitors and I would be very interested to see how they perform in your next test.

    Cheers.

    Pat

    Reply
  9. Simbosan

    Without knowing what mic you used it’s only half the story. Surely different mics will give very different results, after all your only measuring what the mic says it can hear.

    Reply
    • Karl

      We used a custom calibrated measurement mic which should be pretty similar to an ECM8000. It was calibrated to the response of our Earthworks M30.

      Reply
  10. Rov

    I would love to see a test on the Yamaha HS8, wonderful monitors. Please make that happen!

    Reply
  11. Ken

    Interesting article and will check your software!

    I understand why it is desireable to have flat frequency responce when mixing. I also even agree that room has greatest affect on frequency response you hear.
    But it is disingenuous to therefore suggest that there is no difference, sound quality wise between e.g. Genelec and some cheap $50 hifi speakers once the frequency response is normalised. All they need is Sonicworks software right haha! 😉

    Reply
    • Karl

      I’d rather put it this way – no matter how expensive the monitors, you can always ruin them with an untreated room.

      Reply
  12. p STYKES

    Bla. I usually let this stuff ride but today it just seems to have annoyed me. Averaged frequency response is one small and trivial-to-achieve bit of the puzzle. You cant get reasonable time domain behavior with a bit of EQ. I love sound, this low grade stuff just muddies the water!

    Reply
    • Karl

      I get what you’re saying. I’m not saying that you should just calibrate and stop there. Use physical treatments to deal with reflection mud and long reverb, but frequency response can be left for electronics to sort out. Especially at low end.

      And AFR isn’t that trivial. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many badly sounding control rooms.

      Reply
  13. Joey

    Would love to see a basic pair of Mackie HR-824s in there. Also good would be a pair of the ol’ Yamaha NS-10s. 🙂

    Reply
  14. MC

    Nice product you got there, maybe you’ll slow down the sales of some ‘best’ sellers. Can you measure genelec 8010?

    Reply
    • Karl

      I’ll keep my eyes open for one of the tiny Genelecs. They should measure good and due to the small woofer room mode excitation might be very small.

      Reply
  15. mffm

    Please, add a really true budget speakers: Tannoy Reveal (first passive edition) and active M-Audio BX8D2 (not a big fan, but it’s still very popular nowadays)

    Reply
  16. AJAY

    I’m curious for I have the KRK ERGO($499.00) Will this work along with it my monitors are mackie HR624 mix 2

    Reply
  17. OO

    Please include some mid and higher prices monitors.

    APS Klasik and Focal Alpha 80 and Focal Alpha 65, and all the KRK’s.

    Reply

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