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The Cheap Speaker Test

by | Jan 8, 2013 | Sound Advice | 0 comments

The way we consume music has changed drastically over the previous few decades. I remember growing up listening to ABBA and Billy Joel vinyl records on my parent’s HIFI in the sitting room whereas now it seems that everyone listens on iPods or their phone. So you have some pretty decent studio monitors but how do you know that your mixes are going to translate to the real world? The answer is to invest in some cheap, nasty “grot boxes”.
Threecircles Recording Studio - Cheap Speakers

So why are these so useful?

Speakers like the ones pictured don’t tend to be very flattering and also tend to over-emphasise the mid range so they will really highlight any problems or deficiencies on your mix. These speakers also don’t tend to go very loud so you will have to work hard to get the details across on them, making you work harder on your mix, and that’s a good thing right?

And don’t just take my word for it – many top mix engineers take the same approach:

Most of my mixing is done listening to my little Sony boombox. Because the speakers of the boombox are relatively close to each other, I essentially listen in mono. The Sony is like a magnifying glass, it tells me whether my mix sucks or not.

Michael Brauer – Coldplay, James Brown, Aerosmith.

I use a Fostex 6301b for my mixing duties and prefer this over a set of smaller PC speakers for a couple of reasons.

Firstly the speaker is mono so it is a point-source which helps generally when mixing and also the speaker can go fairly loud which helps me with checking for phase when tracking drums. I love to mix on this thing as it becomes really obvious if something is too loud or quiet. It makes setting FX levels a cinch too.

Also if the mix is sounding sweet when played back through a 4″ speaker cone in mono when the band come in for playback, they’re usually even more impressed when I turn up the mains!

I then tend to check my mixes in the studio lounge over a pair of JBL Control monitors which are the ones found in just about every restaurant in the world! This gives me an accurate idea as to how the mixes will translate in a “real-world” situation. The speakers are also mounted on the wall so will highlight any problems with the bass frequencies.

So do yourself a huge favour and plug some cheap PC speakers – mono if possible – into your monitoring chain and hear the difference for yourself. Not possible? Bounce an mp3 and check it on a laptop – remember: that’s how most music is listened to nowadays…

Threecircles Recording Studio
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Kieren Jones
Kieren Jones
2018-04-28T14:45:45+0000
Excellent recording facility and Adrian is a top professional guy! Thoroughly enjoyed it, will definitely be using your services again thanks for a great productive day.
Richard Simmonds
Richard Simmonds
2018-02-25T10:39:15+0000
Adrian, thank you for a great day and a half of recording finishing last Wednesday. Having been together as a group back in the 60s and now getting together 50 years on to record was a bit nerve racking but you made the thing so much easier with your professional advice and guidance. You've got a great set up and since we had Rog playing flute and drums [for some reason not at the same time!] the layering down of the instruments went really well. We had a great time and ended up with a CD and lots of happy memories. Martin living in France doesn't make it easy but we have all vowed to be back with something completely different for you to cut to disc. Thanks again and see you soon. Sam, Andy, Roger and Martin of Old Lemons fame.
Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis
2016-12-19T05:50:37+0000
This is a relaxed studio in a lovely location near the beautiful town of Saffron Walden. Adrian is a great sound guy, he listens and responds and adds enthusiasm to the day. Top recordings with the best equipment for a great price ... highly recommended ��
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
2016-12-17T12:19:23+0000
Having recorded at Threecircles several times, there's good reason why I keep going back... with such high end equipment, Ade's expertise and competitive pricing there's no need to go anywhere else!!
Andy Webster
Andy Webster
2016-12-14T22:55:28+0000
I first met Ade when a charity band event needed a sound technician and PA rig at short notice, he provided top notch sound for the event and also offered a very well priced live recording, which he would go away and mix at Threecircles Studio. The results were brilliant, I have never heard myself recorded live so well and the mixing was fantastic too. As a result, one of my bands then used Threecircles services again, this time at the studio to record a track for promotional purposes. We had a great time and were really happy with the results! Would highly recommend for both studio work and live sound.
Dan Mailer
Dan Mailer
2016-12-14T20:26:42+0000
Three Circles is excellent. Great studio that I have recorded at various times over the year. Ade is a hard working producer who gets great results.
Victoria Mills
Victoria Mills
2016-12-14T20:25:21+0000
I've both recorded and rehearsed at Threecircles and I can't recommend them enough! Nothing was too much trouble, the facilities are excellent and our demo sounds amazing! Thank-you!
Steve Watts
Steve Watts
2016-12-14T18:46:27+0000
Loved working with the chaps at Three Cirlces, they have all the gear and every idea! Super talented guys who get the very best out of you! 5/5
Rob Clark
Rob Clark
2016-12-14T18:20:10+0000
Very professional sound, genuinely listens to what you want and the sound you wish to create, and makes it better in every way! Highly recommend!
Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis
2016-12-14T18:19:54+0000
Recorded the last Kaine single at this studio; very professional set up, Ade is a great guy and the coffee is also good.
Gemma Marner
Gemma Marner
2016-12-14T18:04:48+0000
I've always loved recording at Three Circles - lovely, comfortable space and surroundings and Adrian is so easy to work with. Would recommend it in a heartbeat!
Joel Priest
Joel Priest
2016-12-14T16:57:59+0000
Great location as so close to London by road or rail. More mics than you can imagine and Ade has always done a highly professional job whenever I have used his services.
Kennedy Clark Herring
Kennedy Clark Herring
2016-12-14T16:42:36+0000
Truly professional attitude and highly capable. Recommending these guys for studio work as well as live sound... Cheers guys, appreciate the extra effort you put in,making us sound truly amazing. 5 stars : )
Chris MacKinnon
Chris MacKinnon
2016-12-14T16:41:46+0000
Ade at 3C is a true hero. Aside from having professional equipment, incredible understanding and knowledge of music production and a brilliant studio - he is a real genuine man. If I could I'd give this studio 6*, Ade recently recorded a single for my band completely for free because he knew we were doing it for charity.
Saxon Davids
Saxon Davids
2016-12-14T16:39:40+0000
Great recording facility! I've recorded at Threecircles twice now and enjoyed both sessions a lot, Ade is great to work with and has an set up of equipment and can produce excellent sound, and charges at a reasonable rate also! And the coffee is also a huge plus! 😉
Matt Milligan
Matt Milligan
2016-12-14T16:01:56+0000
Excellent recording studio, highly recommended!