I have these really good JBL Studio monitors that I use in with my DAW. But I have a hard time using them with my ear training/transcribing. I don't know what it is but I seem to be able to pick out tones better with the builtin computer speakers or headphones than these. I feel it could be a spacial thing. They are each about 36 inches from my head and each other, but one ear is definitely cocked toward them when I have the guitar in hand. Should I just try to use headphones or is there some other thing I should be thinking of doing with the setup.
I suspect that the answer is simply this: when you use good speakers your brain receives a lot more information, more details, and therefore it has to work harder at filtering out what you don't need and just focus on following the melody line you are trying to transcribe.
I would also guess that with more practice it will cease to make much of a difference, because your brain will get better at filtering and focusing.
In particular, when you become very good at transcribing you'll discover that you'll be transcribing more from your memory than from your ear -- in other words, you'll be able to listen just once to a long-ish line, and then keep that line in your mind and write it down, possibly replaying it a few times (in your mind, not with the external player). and of course, at that point, it will make little difference what speakers you use...
@mike628 That's very interesting. I can't imagine why it would be spacial.
Perhaps there's interaction between waves in the room. When waves superimpose, some are re-inforced and others are annulled. If a piano note is played through the speakers (even if it's in mono), the frequencies from each speakers will interact such that some harmonics will be more obvious and some less obvious. Depending on where you are in relation to your speakers, the fundamental frequency could be louder or softer---certain harmonics might be louder than the fundamental (potentially). Therefore, two ears would be better than one, and closer to the speakers would be better to reduce the influence of the reflected sound in the room. (Actually, I can't see how these things would make a perceptable difference, but theoretically, more direct sound to both ears would help.)
It might also be that you're used to listening through the headphones. Or it might be that the headphones are closer to your brain, so it gets in further.