Inside the Box with Joe Albano: Monitor Calibration
Studio monitoring and acoustics may seem like a mostly outside-the-box concern, but they critically affect everything we do in the box! Studio monitors’ frequency response has a significant effect on mixing decisions, especially EQ. Most professional studio monitors shoot for a flat, neutral response. Still, the inevitable tonal variations in different speak-er designs, coupled with the effects of room acoustics, good or bad, often make producing that flat response an elusive ideal.
For decades, studios have used hardware (and now software) systems to measure and correct for frequency response anomalies. This involves measuring the response of the monitors in the room and utilizing specialized EQ to flatten that response, making as close to an ideal listening environment as possible. Past professional calibration tools were often both pricey and technically complex. In recent years, simpler, more reasonably priced software/hardware packages have become available, thus bringing monitor calibration into the mainstream (we're looking at you, Sonarworks!). Some manufacturers offer proprietary systems often built right into the speakers, such as the Genelec GLM SAM Loudspeaker Management System. Others, such as JBL, IK Multimedia, and KRK offer both speaker-specific and standalone calibration systems suitable for measuring and tweaking the monitor response in smaller studios; these will be discussed below.