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The other day I visited a friend's home studio, and I noticed the computer was hooked up at a quite small display. Probably 19 inches, maybe even 17.

I asked why, and my friend said that a larger display would create unwanted echoes and reflections, and that you would never find a serious studio with large things, including large displays.

Is this true? I can't seem to find any information on this. I also find it hard to believe that if this were true, display manufacturers haven't come up with materials to make large displays without these unwanted effects.

Is there any hard data on this?

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    As your friend if you will ever find a serious studio with a large mixing console. Jan 30 at 15:24
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    @ToddWilcox: I happen to work for a company which makes large-format mixing consoles (although they're typically found more in TV facilities, OB trucks, stadiums, and theaters, not in studios), and now I have this image in my head of our next product being an anechoic desk coated with wool. Jan 30 at 22:13
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    I’m voting to close this question because it would be suitable on Sound SE site. Jan 31 at 1:40
  • To clarify: this site gathers primarily musicians, and not necessarily sound engineers, therefore answers to this question are likely to be opinion based or not properly justified, and the community would not be able to verify the correctness of the answer. Jan 31 at 1:47
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    @user1079505 There's enough crossover that it's highly likely you'll get good answers (and answers have proved this).
    – Graham
    Jan 31 at 14:26

5 Answers 5

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And 87% of statistics are made up on the spot too ;) I've never heard such tosh. In a home studio the least of your worries is going to be reflections from a couple of screens. What about the windows, or the hard parallel walls & ceiling?

Even a properly-designed control room has a myriad hard surfaces - the desk, for instance… & the window through to the studio… or what about a vision mixing facility?

Examples pretty much at random…

enter image description here

enter image description here

I have a pair of 27" screens in my own studio. I'd have more but I don't have the space. Trying to do a full mix in a single tiny screen is like trying to decorate your hallway through the letterbox.

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  • In the 80s? For film editing, I’m assuming? Pro Tools wasn’t released until 89, although there were other digital NLEs available in the 80s, I had thought most rock, pop, and related genres were done analog in the 80s. Also, large screens didn’t even exist in the 80s, unless it was projected. Jan 30 at 15:19
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    Three chairs for Herman Miller - hip, hip… It's part of the client schmooze, posh chairs in the advertising - bet they rented them for the shoot ;)) Those three chairs cost more than my dynaudios.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 30 at 18:09
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    Oh I get it. You meant big for the 80s and bigger than small for the 80s. And also editing things other than digital audio (MIDI, patches, sequences, etc). You could have included a Slate in the photos, that would drive the point home about large screens in the control room pretty well. Jan 30 at 19:21
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    Mix automation was previously done by sacrificing one of your precious few 24 tape tracks & you had to drop it in & out of record like audio to update the mix. The early SSL 'total recall' [which meant the tape op had to come in an hour early to move all the knobs to match the pictures on the TV screens] was the new height of sophistication. Life's changed a bit in the subsequent decades ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 30 at 19:31
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    Yeah I put a lot of sequences into a Korg M1 and also one of the first versions of Cakewalk when it was MIDI only. These days things have come around again and I have a Model D reissue, a DFAM, and a Prophet 6 so patch sheets (in an iPad at least) and tedious hardware sequences are sometimes part of my workflow. Jan 30 at 19:36
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I feel like most non-home studios—and I suppose any home studios that can manage it—put everything “engineer-facing” in a separate room from the actual mics. Computers, mixing board, screens, etc. I imagine the biggest reason for this is to get the noise they might generate out of the recording space. Computer fans hum; some screens even have fans or generate high-pitched frequencies or electrical interference. You also give the engineer and other “onlookers” a place to exist without holding their breath or sitting absolutely motionless.

Ironically, these rooms are typically on the other side of a giant plate-glass window, providing a much larger hard flat place than any screen. I suppose some could provide some kind of treatment, like a curtain that pulls back and forth over the window, but I’ve never witnessed such a thing. I’ve also seen studios that, while they treat many hard surfaces (rugs on the floor, curtains on the wall), leave areas larger than a screen untreated. And my anecdotal experience, as an amateur, is that 100% perfect mic placement in a 90% perfect room is 1000% better than the opposite.

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    I assume the unwanted reflections are for the engineers ears, not the mics. And the largest surface that creates low-quality early reflections between the speakers and the engineer has always been the mixing console. But the engineers and producers just deal with it, because getting rid of the console would not be worth the tiny sound quality benefit. Jan 30 at 15:22
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    Concerning studio window, they are typically mounted at an angle, to avoid parallel surfaces. So yes, people do care about it. Jan 31 at 1:46
  • Mixing consoles tend to not be made of large panes of glass.... Jan 31 at 12:22
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    @ToddWilcox Wow, I just assumed the OP's friend's concern was about the effect on the recording, not the playback! Maybe it's just because I ain't one, but I have a hard time imagining an engineer being like "Yeah, I use this 10-inch screen to preserve the delicate acoustics of this booth!" Jan 31 at 14:17
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    @AndyBonner To be sure, the acoustics of the control room are super important. You have to know what you’re hearing. Early reflections from mixing consoles have been a concern for decades, but there’s not a lot to be done about it. Most people focus on eliminating other early reflections. One thing about large displays is that they are usually not located in a place where they would create bad ERs. Between the monitors is relatively “safe”. You may notice mastering suites with much more attention paid to hard surfaces and of course no console. Jan 31 at 18:45
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There are plenty of counter-examples in pictures on other answers. But I think it's important to go back to refute the OP's friend's misconception directly.

He says that large flat surfaces cause reflections. As far as that goes, it's kind of true. What he's missing though is that reflections have to come from somewhere. His monitors are firing forwards, so the sound as it leaves the speaker isn't going to reflect off the screen, and everything is good.

In order to reflect off the screen, the sound would first have to bounce off the rear wall, then off the screen and back. If there are substantial reflections off the rear wall though, the small extra reflection off the screen is insignificant compared to the much larger reflection off the rear wall. In that case, what needs fixing (and urgently if he's doing mixes) is the rear wall with some appropriate panels in appropriate places. At which point there's no longer anything reflecting back towards the screen, and everything is good again.

In short, the OP's friend has (mis)heard something semi-relevant but hasn't actually understood it even slightly. He's simply doing a Cargo Cult thing without knowing what's happening or why, and it'll be just as effective as a Cargo Cult's bamboo model of a radio.

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    The truth is, acoustics is one of the [many] places where we're susceptible to pseudoscience, placebo perception, and "but-somebody-told-that" wives' tales. And especially when we're talking about armchair acousticians! "I always throw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder because it disperses the fundamental bass frequency..." Jan 31 at 14:22
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Search for "Hans Zimmer studio" and look at the pictures. As a film composer, he is pretty much surrounded by large monitors. If it doesn't bother him, I wouldn't worry about it myself.

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  • ... although do note that composers will probably have setups optimized differently than those of recording studio engineers.
    – user45266
    Feb 1 at 8:48
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    Except that every Hans Zimmer song has a persistent background hum. It's his trademark sound, I just never realised it was caused by all those monitors behind him
    – Valorum
    Feb 1 at 23:14
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larger display would create unwanted echoes and reflections ?

True !

Of course, as Tetsujin writes, like any other surface in the field of the sound source(s) would.

you would never find a serious studio with large things, including large displays.

Because reflections also depends on the volume of the room, I presume this will be true for small sized serious studios only.

Then as with any other parasitic source of whatever, the question being : How much do you care ?

I can understand that if you spent a lot, sacrificed the esthetics of your home, in order to build a truly anechoic chamber, you'll be reluctant to spoil your work with whatever object.

Because the unwanted effects of most reflections can be significantly diminished changing the position and orientation of objects, the larger the screen is, the more difficult changing position and orientation is. This is the reason why I personally prefer several "small" screens to a big one.

After all, and as usual in so many disciplines impacted by parasitic effects, everything depends on the way you work :
Either you invest a lot in upstream work (building the theoretical idealistic studio) which needs a good knowledge in physics, and you even don't need any screen at all or…
You invest a lot in post-processing since everything including fine denoising can finally be achieved that way.
You'll then need a good knowledge of the available plugins, a fair knowledge in computer programming, strong processing power... and… big screens.

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