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Mehdiem Offline OP
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I want to purchase a good monitor for the main purpose of playing with digital piano (midi keyboard and VST).

Budget: up to $1,000 CAD$ for a pair. However, I’m open to hear slightly more expensive options if the quality difference is enough to justify the price.

I have the following setup:

• Scarlet 4i4
• JBL 306 MKII
• Balanced XLR to 1/4
• Room size 40x20 feet (speakers are in the length side of the rectangular - low ceiling - basement)
• Speakers can be placed max 10” from the wall and I want to see as close to the triangle (max 4 feet)

Issue:
I recently purchased a pair of JBL 306P MKII. When I play with piano (both in low and high notes, I hear a annoying buzzing sound (distortion like), not sure if it’s from woofer or tweeter). First, I thought the speakers are bad, I replaced them but the new pair, more or less have the same issue. I tried to distance them from wall, but issue persist. I don’t hear the issue when I play with a some other instruments (string, accordin etc), or when playing mastered songs. I only hear when play piano or digital piano (low and very high notes). Sample quality is not an issue (using Apple MainStage samples and some other good quality samples, such as Arturia Analog lab). Volume setting is as follows: Scarlet 75%, JBL 75%, Master output (MainStage 80%). No distortion shown on MainStage.

Question:

1- Model: What is the best monitor that I can get, to be able enjoy playing piano with no fear of hearing buzzing sound! HS8, HS7, HS5, Kali, Adam, KRK, PreSonus, Focal, DynaAudio etc? I’m open to other suggestions.

2- Size: Should I get 5”, 6.5” or 8”? Is there any disadvantage in getting larger size given I have an untreated room? I naturally thought the bigger the better, but further noticed the bigger might create complication due to my untreated room, and I also noticed that Nord piano monitor are 4.5”, so I thought maybe that the right size?

Last edited by Mehdiem; 02/20/21 08:11 PM.
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From your description it seems the problem is not with the speakers. I think it's the piano sound source.

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Just out of curiosity, what is the purpose of using the Scarlett? I have never used a preamp with my ELectrovoice ZXA1-90 speaker. Very minimal noise.Never an issue just plugging the digital piano into the active speaker. If I were to use a preamp I would use the Yamaha MG series mainly for EQ'ing and possibly effects.

Last edited by gracegren; 02/20/21 09:06 PM.

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You first need to identify the source of the buzzing. First, be sure your speakers are set for +4dBu and not -10dBV. You would be overdpec'ing them at -10dBV. If not fixed, second, hook the piano up directly to the speakers and check for the buzzing. If still there, try different cables. If still buzzing, try a different sound source. If still buzzing, it may well be the speakers. If you've overspec'd the speakers by setting them at -10dBV and running a +4dBu load into them, they may be damaged, not defective. I've owned three pairs of JBL LSR305 and still own two pairs and have never heard a buzzing sound. The 306P may be different, and have a buzzing defect, but as noted above, it is unlikely.


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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
From your description it seems the problem is not with the speakers. I think it's the piano sound source.

+1.

The chances that two pairs of Rokit 6" monitors are faulty, in the same way, is pretty low.

(a) Buzzing distortion -- if it comes from the speakers -- should happen on _all_ sound sources -- string instrument samples, pre-mastered recordings, etc. Try playing those other sounds louder than usual.

Try playing some drum samples, of various pitches.

(b1) "Buzzing" is often caused by stuff _inside the room_ resonating. Check carefully -- loose papers, loose heating ducts, etc.

(b2) you may have intermittent connections in cables, plugs, and jacks. Use contact cleaner (not too much!) and see if that helps.

(c) Check with headphones -- do the piano samples you're using sound OK, when you plug headphones into the Scarlett 4i4, and turn off the speakers ?


If you do decide to replace the Rokit's, I have a question:

. . . Do you need good sound at your playing position,

. . . . or do you need good sound through the whole room ?

A 20' x 40' room is pretty big. If it's not treated (with stuff to reduce the reflections from the walls), it may echo. And speakers that generate good sound at your ears, may not be loud enough to reach people seated at the corners of the room.


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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
You first need to identify the source of the buzzing. First, be sure your speakers are set for +4dBu and not -10dBV. You would be overdpec'ing them at -10dBV. If not fixed, second, hook the piano up directly to the speakers and check for the buzzing. If still there, try different cables. If still buzzing, try a different sound source. If still buzzing, it may well be the speakers. If you've overspec'd the speakers by setting them at -10dBV and running a +4dBu load into them, they may be damaged, not defective. I've owned three pairs of JBL LSR305 and still own two pairs and have never heard a buzzing sound. The 306P may be different, and have a buzzing defect, but as noted above, it is unlikely.

I tried in both -10 and +4 and both resulted in the same distortion sound. The distortion (or rather buzzing) heard in only one speaker (R). When I swap L & R speaker (same cable, same power) I hear the issue on the same speaker (R) each time. This indicates to me that issue is not with the sample, but rather the speaker (R) itself.

I am not sure what do you mean by setting speakers at -10 and ruining +4dB could cause damage to the speaker? I started with -10dB and ran 75% volume out of scarlet and 75% on speakers, where I could hear a clear and reasonable sound (expect little distortion now and then on certain notes). Did I do something wrong? JBL catalog instructed start with -10 and if you hear distortion then change to +4B.

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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
The chances that two pairs of Rokit 6" monitors are faulty, in the same way, is pretty low.

Not that it matters ... but I am curious as to how "Rokit" came into this discussion.

Did I miss something ?


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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
From your description it seems the problem is not with the speakers. I think it's the piano sound source.

+1.

The chances that two pairs of Rokit 6" monitors are faulty, in the same way, is pretty low.

(a) Buzzing distortion -- if it comes from the speakers -- should happen on _all_ sound sources -- string instrument samples, pre-mastered recordings, etc. Try playing those other sounds louder than usual.

Try playing some drum samples, of various pitches.

(b1) "Buzzing" is often caused by stuff _inside the room_ resonating. Check carefully -- loose papers, loose heating ducts, etc.

(b2) you may have intermittent connections in cables, plugs, and jacks. Use contact cleaner (not too much!) and see if that helps.

(c) Check with headphones -- do the piano samples you're using sound OK, when you plug headphones into the Scarlett 4i4, and turn off the speakers ?


If you do decide to replace the Rokit's, I have a question:

. . . Do you need good sound at your playing position,

. . . . or do you need good sound through the whole room ?

A 20' x 40' room is pretty big. If it's not treated (with stuff to reduce the reflections from the walls), it may echo. And speakers that generate good sound at your ears, may not be loud enough to reach people seated at the corners of the room.

Sorry for the confusion. I tried with headphones and I heard the same distortion. My scarlet output (software) was at 0dB, Mainstage at 0db. I lowered them both to -4dB and until no distortion heard from headphones. I also set the speakers at +4 dB. Then tried the speakers, and this time no distortion. But, now the volume is so low. It's practically useless. I am not sure what should I do? If the sound is this low with 6.5" speakers, how come digital pianos such as Yamaha P105 have better onboard sound with 15W speakers? I am a bit confused. I thought maybe a better speaker could play higher volume with less distortion?

I need good sound at my playing, and not caring much about others, as I mostly play for myself.

Last edited by Mehdiem; 02/20/21 10:37 PM.
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At what level did you set the volume of the JBL ? And what happen when you raise the volume of the JBL ?



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Quote
I tried in both -10 and +4 and both resulted in the same distortion sound. The distortion (or rather buzzing) heard in only one speaker (R). When I swap L & R speaker (same cable, same power) I hear the issue on the same speaker (R) each time. This indicates to me that issue is not with the sample, but rather the speaker (R) itself.
Not sure what you mean. Do you mean you always hear the distortion from the same physical speaker, regardless of whether on the L or R channel, or do you mean you always hear it on the R channel, whichever speaker is attached to the R channel? Neither behavior is consistent with an inherently defective design of the speaker. When you swap speakers if the buzz is always in the same soraker whether L or R, then that well may be a defective instance of the monitor. If the buzz is always in the R channel regardless of which monitor is attached to R, then is is unlikely that the buzz has anything to do with the monitors.

Quote
I am not sure what do you mean by setting speakers at -10 and ruining +4dB could cause damage to the speaker? I started with -10dB and ran 75% volume out of scarlet and 75% on speakers, where I could hear a clear and reasonable sound (expect little distortion now and then on certain notes). Did I do something wrong? JBL catalog instructed start with -10 and if you hear distortion then change to +4B.

Pro line level, i.e. +4dBu, is a hotter signal than consumer line level, -10dBV. That is, a given gain/volume level is encoded with a higher voltage in the +4dBu standard than in the -10dBV standard. If you run +4dBu at high gain/volume into an input expecting -10dBV, it can be a higher voltage than the maximum voltage in the -10dBV standard.

Your default should be to set the monitors to +4dBu and if volume is low, call Yamaha to find out what the output spec of the AUX OUT is and use -10dBV only if you confirm that is the output spec of the piano. Running -10dBV into +4dBu won't hurt any thing but volume may be low.

Audio interfaces like your Scarlett often have preamps so that instruments with low output level and MICs can be brought up to line level. The most likely culprit is too much accumulation of gain from devices you have in the audio path.

You should start by attaching each monitor directly to the AUX OUT used for mono and just verify each monitor with the keyboard in mono. Once that is verified, attach them in stereo snd establish the monitor gain setting tgat provides a good volume range with the keyboard volume control. Then add the Scarlett interface and be sure you have tge input set dor line level and not a MIC or guitar, and set the gain on tge Scarlett interface to provide the same volume range as without it. Even bypass the Scarlett preamps if possible.


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FWIW, years ago I purchased upgraded monitors for my Roland RD 600. I noticed an irritating high frequency distortion in my favorite piano sound. I contacted Roland thinking a circuit must be failing.... after chatting with the tech, he said that was just in the sample.... it was what it was.

Better sound reproduction has a dark side... you may hear some uglies that were masked by poor reproduction. This is one of the reasons you may see audiophiles always upgrading their components of a home stereo and spending even more money. But, it is worth it and I would never recommend someone buying low-grade stuff to mask bad sound.

Peace
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Last edited by Bruce In Philly; 02/21/21 12:03 PM.

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If indeed the piano sound source is at fault then I think in this case it might be preferable to mask the bad sound, if such is possible.

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I assume mehdiem

Is using s a midi keyboard with no sound out,

connected to a computer which is connected by usb to the

Scarlett 4i4 audio interface which is converting the digital to analog.

The scarlet has balanced line outs

I assume he is using a balanced 1/4” trs to xlr cable to run the balanced signal to the jbl monitors.

There is no piano sound from the keyboard to check out and the preamps on the Scarlett are not used.

If he has switched a speakers left and right and the distortion follows the speaker, I assume that the speaker is bad.

If this is his second go, at those monitors, he is probably better off trying something else.

Last edited by Purdy; 02/21/21 01:47 PM.
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Originally Posted by Purdy
I assume mehdiem

Is using s a midi keyboard with no sound out,

connected to a computer which is connected by usb to the

Scarlett 4i4 audio interface which is converting the digital to analog.

The scarlet has balanced line outs

I assume he is using a balanced 1/4” trs to xlr cable to run the balanced signal to the jbl monitors.

There is no piano sound from the keyboard to check out and the preamps on the Scarlett are not used.

If he has switched a speakers left and right and the distortion follows the speaker, I assume that the speaker is bad.

If this is his second go, at those monitors, he is probably better off trying something else.

You described my situation exactly correctly. Those stuff are all I have, and need to figure out how to get the best of them. (I still can return the JBLs for something better)

I believe two issues could have happened simultaneously:

1- Inappropriate setting of output level at Scarlet and MainStage software output:

Because yesterday, when e fellow suggested I check with headphones; I connected a headphone (to scarlet) and I could hear the distortion as well. Hence, no blame on speakers up to this point. Accordingly, I tweaked (decreased Scarlet output level on Scarlet software from 0dB to -4dB, decreased MainStage output level from 0db to -4dB, increased scarlet physical volume from 75% 100%, set speakers to +4db, increased speakers physical volume from 75% to 100%). At this point, no distortion heard on speakers, but volume was practically so low and useless.

2- When output was at a higher level (that caused distortion at the output level), speakers by themselves helped to intensify the issue, and add even more to it. Because at the same output level (given the output has some distortion to it) one speaker (always) buzz more than the other.

I understand that when I set the output level so low, on Scarlet and MainStage, and set the speakers +4dB, I hear no distortion anymore. But, at this point, the output volume already so low which makes it literally useless for playing!

I understand that I have to tweak the output on Scarlet to a no-distorted level, but at the same time, I want to know, what are the best monitor suggested for my purpose if I want to change the JBL? In, other words, had I not purchased the JBLs, what would you guys have recommended to me? In terms of:

1-Brand/Model

2-Size (5", 6.5", 8").

Something, that minimizes the hassle of this and/or similar issues. I am very new to the world of VST/SoundCard/Midi and this is my first try with this setup. I just need to hear a satisfactory sound at a reasonable volume. This annoyed me to the level that I thought I might just forgo the monitors and get a keyboard amp instead. I would like to hear your ideas.

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I've often had problems with individual notes that stand out, volume and or distortion. It can be useful to play a chromatic scale at full volume to isolate the notes in question.

Basement, all concrete? That'd be a challenging space to tame, esp at that size. Some minimal sound dampening could help a lot, esp in the area your playing in.

With the acoustic challenges your room presents, and apparently no plans to treat it, near field monitors of a smaller size is probably called for. Being within 3 feet of your ears, near field monitors minimally excite the whole room. I've had problematic rooms where 5-6" near field monitors worked well, but bumping up to 8" the sound became problematic.


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Originally Posted by Mehdiem
I understand that I have to tweak the output on Scarlet to a no-distorted level, but at the same time, I want to know, what are the best monitor suggested for my purpose if I want to change the JBL? In, other words, had I not purchased the JBLs, what would you guys have recommended to me? In terms of:

1-Brand/Model

2-Size (5", 6.5", 8").

Something, that minimizes the hassle of this and/or similar issues. I am very new to the world of VST/SoundCard/Midi and this is my first try with this setup. I just need to hear a satisfactory sound at a reasonable volume. This annoyed me to the level that I thought I might just forgo the monitors and get a keyboard amp instead. I would like to hear your ideas.

You can buy a pair of Kali Audio LP-6, they are cheap and loved by many, but I tried them VS my Neumann KH120A and they lack power and acoustic controls.
If you can stretch your budget you can try a pair of Neumann KH80DSP or also the KH120A if you want to spend more.
I have also a pair of Genelec 8010A. They are small, but they have more power then the bigger LP-6.

BTW I use also a subwoofer with my studio monitors...


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Hello,

Great job @Purdy to rule out the previous confusion and set a clear picture of Mehdiem's situation at hand.

This same time, I am battling a similar situation. I have a sound path from standalone VST on a pc to an audio interface to a hifi amplifier to older but great quality stereo speakers combined with a subwoofer. Sound quality and volume were most satisfactory with any VST or other musical content that I used thus far. No troubles whatsoever.

Until I recently started using VI Labs' Modern U in its free UVI player. This library is absolutely splendid by the way. But in the last few days I did some experimental pianoing in which I went to its extremes and found two D-notes in the tenor/mid range that gave bad distortions when repeated loudly and rapidly, pedaling them intensified the problem. They bloomed out of control so to speak. Most of the other notes take such 'abuse' easily.

Today, I also found the need to adjust the VST's level to -4dB or even somewhat lower, to mitigate the digital distortion on those notes, and also was no longer happy with the output volume after that. And I had the same finding, that the speakers (as opposed to headphones) quickly intensify digital distortions that do not yet seem as bad on the headphones.

So to help eachother think about these challenges: @Mehdiem, do you use multiple VSTs? Which ones? Does the distortion occur with all of them or only one or two, and/or on all 88 notes or only a few? Only at the high velocities or also when playing softly?

Maybe, with these details we can zoom in on the culprit(s) a bit further.

Also @Mehdiem, if you lower level settings in multiple places in your digital sound chain, this quickly accumulates to an attenuation that gives you a real low output volume. This afternoon, I found it best to leave everything, such as the audio interface software settings, at 0dB, and only lower the output level in the particular VST I was using, as little as needed to battle the distortion.

Cheers,

HZ

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Originally Posted by orcoaffamato
Originally Posted by Mehdiem
I understand that I have to tweak the output on Scarlet to a no-distorted level, but at the same time, I want to know, what are the best monitor suggested for my purpose if I want to change the JBL? In, other words, had I not purchased the JBLs, what would you guys have recommended to me? In terms of:

1-Brand/Model

2-Size (5", 6.5", 8").

Something, that minimizes the hassle of this and/or similar issues. I am very new to the world of VST/SoundCard/Midi and this is my first try with this setup. I just need to hear a satisfactory sound at a reasonable volume. This annoyed me to the level that I thought I might just forgo the monitors and get a keyboard amp instead. I would like to hear your ideas.

You can buy a pair of Kali Audio LP-6, they are cheap and loved by many, but I tried them VS my Neumann KH120A and they lack power and acoustic controls.
If you can stretch your budget you can try a pair of Neumann KH80DSP or also the KH120A if you want to spend more.
I have also a pair of Genelec 8010A. They are small, but they have more power then the bigger LP-6.

BTW I use also a subwoofer with my studio monitors...

Kali LP-6 seems to fit my budget, but they are 6.5" and I hear some people say due to my room being untreated, I might have some issue with larger sizes rather than smaller ones. Do you think 6.5" isn't too big that creates complication in my room? I noticed Genelec 8010A is 50W, as opposed to Kali 80W. So, you are saying despite the wattage difference Genelec sounded lounder? In that case, what do you think of KRK Rokit 5". It has DSP, and it's 55W. I was hesitant that 55W might not be loud enough, and that if I want to move from Rokit 5" to 7", I would get into room size complication again?

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Originally Posted by Randyman
I've often had problems with individual notes that stand out, volume and or distortion. It can be useful to play a chromatic scale at full volume to isolate the notes in question.

Basement, all concrete? That'd be a challenging space to tame, esp at that size. Some minimal sound dampening could help a lot, esp in the area your playing in.

With the acoustic challenges your room presents, and apparently no plans to treat it, near field monitors of a smaller size is probably called for. Being within 3 feet of your ears, near field monitors minimally excite the whole room. I've had problematic rooms where 5-6" near field monitors worked well, but bumping up to 8" the sound became problematic.

So, do you think, given my scenario, 5" and 6.5" both would work fine, or to 5" is still better than 6.5"? I was looking at Rockit 5" and 7" (55W vs 145W). I wasn't sure which one is better for my case? I was hesitant that 55W would have enough loudness? Is there any particular model/brand you suggest?

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@Mehdiem: When you heed advice based on "some people say ..." you know you're going off the cliff.
Originally Posted by Mehdiem
I hear some people say due to my room being untreated, I might have some issue with larger sizes rather than smaller ones.
... because "some people say" that the moon is made of cheese.

Instead get some authoritative advice.

Anyway, my simple take on this is ...
Your monitors are fine for a small room. But your original post mentions a 20 x 40 foot hall. For that you need more than monitors.

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