When I was doing my research into studio monitors, there was a concept that kept coming up time and time again. All the pros said the same thing: you’ve got to learn the sound of your monitors in your space.
This week – almost 18 months after getting my studio monitors – I finally understand what that means.
I’ve been listening to music that I know and love through my Focal Shape Twin studio monitors while I work. This week, for the very first time, that music has started to sound like it should.
It’s Not The Gear
First of all, nothing physical or virtual has changed.
- Same speakers that I’ve had for 18 months.
- Same audio interface that I’ve had for 3+ years.
- Same cables.
- Same room (although I did install some acoustic treatment a month or two ago).
- Same music that I’ve owned for years.
I’ve no reason to believe that my speakers have suddenly broken in. If they needed breaking in, that would have happened over a year ago.
It’s All In My Head
If you follow any professional music producers, you will have heard them talk about the importance of listening to reference tracks. Reference tracks are music that you know the sound of extremely well.
Now, I always thought that the idea was to use them to hear the differences of different studio speakers or a different physical space. That was my misunderstanding.
The reference tracks are ear training. We use them to train our brains to adjust to the sound that we’re hearing. That’s why it’s important to work in a familiar space long-term. As my friend Giancarlo Erra told me this week, it takes a lot of ‘normal subconscious listening to learn’ the sound of your space.
I was listening to the Tron:Legacy soundtrack when I noticed that it sounded different. And when I say it sounded different, what I really mean is that it stopped sounding different, and started sounding right.
It’s the only way I can describe it. Suddenly, the familiar started sounding familiar.
Did It Need To Take 18 Months?
Now, it’s only been the last month or so where I’ve been using the Focal Shape Twins regularly just for playing music on. And – perhaps also important – I wasn’t actively listening: I had music on in the background while working in the day job.
I didn’t have an opportunity to have music playing all day every day before now. My current main client actively avoids holding meetings, and that’s given me all this extra space to listen to music while I work.
If I had been able to play music regularly when I first got them, would it have clicked sooner? I have to assume so.
Just as with the re-cabled studio rack, I’m really grateful that this has happened now.
I’m really trying to make this year more about music than gear. Being more comfortable with the sound that I’m hearing can only help me with that.