If there's one piece of gear in the modern recording studio that is completely subjective it would have to be studio monitors. I guess this is because we all hear things slightly different to one another. One thing that has always puzzled me though is that there are so many different brands, models and sizes of studio monitors all claiming to be "flat" yet all sound completely different.
So what is "flat"?
Flat is an industry term used to describe the frequency response of studio monitors. All studio monitor designs strive for this as it's considered that if you can achieve a great sounding mix on your "flat" studio monitors the mix will translate well to others.
Back in 1978 Yamaha launched a speaker model for the domestic HiFi market called the NS10. This speaker was ill received by the intended HiFi market, however it went on to become the default, industry standard speaker for every major studio in the world because it was known to have this mystical "flat" sound. The saying goes - if you can make it sound good on an NS10 it'll sound good on any speaker. This does hold true but believe me, if you've ever heard a set of NS10's you'll know that you can't listen to these speakers all day. They are very fatiguing due to a hard top end and brutal upper mid range. The other thing to remember here is that no studio ever had just a set of NS10's. They almost always sat beside a "good" set of speakers.
In recent years there have been a healthy range of great sounding studio monitors by well known brands such as Genelec, Adam Audio, Dynaudio and Focal. All these brands deliver a studio monitor that sound very detailed, accurate and full. Almost all of these are what we call Active - meaning they have their amps built in to the speaker enclosure. You cannot go wrong with any of these brands but a new player has just entered the market and offer a design that really tries to capture that mystical "flat" frequency response.
The brand is Amphion - and they look strikingly like the famed NS10.
Other than looking like the NS10's the other similarity is that all Amphion speakers are passive. In a world that is dominated by active designs it's unusual to see a company go completely against the grain with this passive design. I'm not trying to draw a comparison between Yamaha's NS10 and Amphion but with the similar look and passive design the comparisons draw themselves. The other similarity is this idea of mix translation. But this is where the comparison stops.
In a side by side speaker shootout Amphion are not going to win any medals when you're listening to a finished mastered mix. At first listen they seem to lack Vibe - they certainly don't offer that punch in the chest that other Active monitors seem to deliver. But there's something about these speakers that keeps drawing you back. Something that is hard to put your finger on. There's plenty of upper frequency detail - detail that you just don't hear in other speakers. It's smooth, spacious and revealing. Here's the thing for me - I did a mix on a set - nothing fancy, something I really didn't spend a lot of time on. I was working entirely on the Amphions and thought ok it's sounding good. When I flicked the switch to go to the bigger 3 way active Adam S3X monitors I was completely blown away by how good everything sounded. The kick was perfectly placed, the bass sat thick and solid, the mid and upper ranges were big, wide and open. To be perfectly honest I was completely blown over. These speakers, the Amphions, revealed something very important - and that is, there really is a "flat" speaker design, and they are as close to that mythical description that I've come across. I think I could happily work on these all day, confident in knowing that what sounds right on them is going to sound even better elsewhere.
Being Passive you will need an amp. Amphion offer two stunning amps to choose from depending on the model you go for. The single driver models - The ONE12, ONE15 and ONE18 will all be happy on the AMP100 while the TWO15 and TWO18's would be better suited to the more powerful AMP500.
All Amphion Products are handmade by a select crew of master craftspeople of Finish descent. All speakers and Amp's are of a very high build quality. They look amazing and the finish is top shelf!
301 Mastering engineer Ben Feggans and Local Sydney Music Producer Matt Singmin recently did an Amphion shoot out. Here are some of their thoughts.
From Matt Singmin
One of the best ways to describe the Amphions is that they are like having daylight shone on your sounds - you can hear the elements of the mix very clearly no matter which model you're using. They are particularly good on transients - for instance, I was hearing character of cymbals in a way that I'd never heard before. Also I found that I could hear reverb tails in a way that I could previously only access by using headphones.
The differences between the One15s, the One18s and the Two18s were interesting. The One18s and Two18s definitely had more low end, but in my room it felt as though the low end was less defined and with the One15s, I could actually hear more clearly what was going on with the bass frequencies. Likewise the One18s and Two18s created a bigger sound field with more separation which was great for listening, but for mixing the sound actually felt too big for the size of my room. For Ben, however, who has a larger room at Studios 301 and who, as a mastering engineer, is trying to hear the overall picture (as opposed to identifying mix issues), the Two18s made more sense.
Overall I've had the One15s for 3-4 weeks now and I am loving them. Thanks for the help enabling me to demo them in my own space!
Read more on Matt HERE
Thanks to Cris @ Federal Audio for helping us out with DEMO.
Sounds Easy have Amphion on DEMO for you to check out in our acoustically treated studio showroom. Call and make an appointment to have a listen.
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