Given the advent of ever more accessible, and versatile, DJ gear, it is now possible to start producing and mixing tracks without extensive hardware requirements.
Gee, I have produced many a smashing track on my laptop during a 6 hours flight without having any external reference other than my trusty headphones. So, you might be inclined to ask why do DJs need studio monitors? Haven’t we reached peak audio fidelity in terms of headphones technology?
The answer is more complex than a binary solution. Headphones, speakers. and monitors all have their uses and serve different purposes.
Can I Mix Without A Monitor?
As I mentioned earlier, it is entirely possible to produce a decent mix with a pair of headphones. However, there are things that headphones tend to do to our ears that don’t translate well to your speakers or PA.
For example, most headphones, even on the high-end brackets, tend to add color to your track. They usually have their unique response ranges that either exaggerate or hide certain frequencies, and you will be tempted to compensate for these differences in your mix, altering the final product.
One other problem with headphones is that they don´t handle space well. This has to do with two different factors: stereo imaging and crossfeed.
When you pan your instruments, or use signal processing effects such as reverb, delay, phasing, and other tools to enrich your mix, you need a clear idea of how they will interact with each other when there is an audience in front of them. Headphones place your left and right signals each on one side of the head, completely separating them or exaggerating the space effects.
For instance, center-panned instruments usually sound like they are right in front of us when we listen to them through speakers. Headphones tend to place these instruments inside our heads.
That’s why it is always better to mix with a source that brings you high fidelity (low coloration), and accurate signals that reflect the way your audiences will experience your tracks.
I am partial to using Pioneer DJ studio monitors when I’m working at home and really want to nail a certain sound in my final mix.
However, having a pair of professional monitors with the frequency response DJs crave is not enough to get a perfect mix. They also need to be correctly placed so your aural experience is accurate as well.
How Do I Set Up A DJ Monitor?
First, you need to make sure your monitors are the correct size for your room. 5-inch drivers are perfect for small and even medium rooms. 8-inch monitors are better left for rooms with plenty of space, or they could exaggerate your low frequencies making you want to kill them in the mix.
After that, you must perform some basic acoustic treatment if you hope to take full advantage of your monitor´s neutral frequency response. Walls and flat surfaces tend to bounce waves back to you, interfering with your sound and preventing you from listening to an honest representation of your work.
It goes without saying that driving your monitors too hot is also a no-no when mixing (or in general). After 85 dB SPL, our ears start flattening their frequency response, making it useless to have monitors at all.
If you have any questions regarding studio sound or would like to find more information about Pioneer DJ studio monitors, visit EMI Audio. They’re located in Minneapolis, but provide top technical service and information regarding DJ gear and professional audio. Get in touch with them at 1-800-832-5174 and let them know how they can help!