JBL 305p MkII Monitors

In addition to the new microphones and audio interface I received over the winter break, I also got a pair of the JBL 305p MkII studio monitors. Previously, I just did all of my mixing on either my laptop’s speakers or my Sony WX-1000XM3s which are both not really ideal. Although I still don’t have a lot of mixing experience, I will be writing about what it’s been like using the JBLs.

First, pretty much all audio that comes through is really crisp and doesn’t have any noticable muffling or distortion. I guess this is something standard with any decent pair of monitors, but compared to laptop speakers it is a huge change. Especially on the lower end of the frequency spectrum, things are actually audible instead of either being really quiet or distorted.

Another nice thing about having the JBLs is that the stereo imaging is wider compared to just using headphones. Even though my desk isn’t that big, I have the monitors spaced out so that as long as I’m sitting in the right spot, I’ll be able to have more detail in terms of where sounds are coming from. I usually have a hard time noticing how I’m panning things using the laptop speakers. Even if I have two tracks panned hard left and right. With the Sonys, there’s a lot more separation, but not as much compared to the monitors.

Of course, the main reason why I got the monitors was to be able to hear all frequencies at the same volume as they’re meant to be. Often times when using the laptop speakers the low end never really came through, and with the Sonys, the low end was often boosted and probably some other specific frequencies as well. However, the monitors play things back really accurately, and it’s much easier to tell when certain things are too quiet or too loud.

One thing that bothers me a bit about the monitors though is the hissing that they produce whenever they’re on. If you start playing something you can’t hear it, but it always comes back once there’s nothing going on. It’s not too noticeable at first, but once you hear it, it’s hard to tune it out. So usually, I’ll just reach over the back and turn them off when I’m done using them for the day.

Overall, the JBL monitors are a lot better to mix on compared to the laptop speakers and headphones that I was using before. Even just using them to listen to music sounds really good. The only thing that I’d really complain about is the hissing, but even then, I still really like them.

Rode M5 & Scarlett 2i2

Over the winter break, I got a pair of Rode M5 microphones and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. I was able to record some things with them, and the Scarlett even came with some extra plug-ins. So this week, I’ll be writing about my experience using the microphones and audio interface.

The Rode M5s came as a pair of pencil condensers which means they have a smaller diaphragm making them more responsive and detailed. The cylindrical shape also makes them easy to position. They also came with microphone clips and pop filters for each microphone which was really useful. However, I feel like the clips were a bit too tight. While they are supposed to be tight enough to make sure your microphones don’t fall out, these ones made getting the microphones in really difficult.

I’ve only used one other microphone to record with before, and although I don’t know the name of it, that’s what I’ll compare the Rode M5s to. Using a spaced pair setup towards the fretboard and bridge to record guitar I would say that the M5s definitely pick up a lot less room noise. I also think that they picked up some more of the high frequencies compared to my previous microphone, but that could’ve just been from positioning. Having two microphones also helps create a much wider stereo image compared to using one microphone.

Moving on to the Scarlett 2i2, it has four different inputs, two XLR and two 1/4″ however only two can be used simultaneously. The main reason why I ended up getting a new audio interface is because I needed to be able to have two XLR inputs available at the same time to record using the M5s in stereo. All the knobs for things like gain and volume feel really smooth and the two line outputs at the back were needed to connect the monitor speakers that I got soon after.

Comparing the Scarlett 2i2 with the previous Apogee One I was using, it sits a lot easier on the desk and has much more input options. The noise between both of them is quite minimal so there’s not much of a difference there. However, the software on the Scarlett is much easier to navigate and change settings. The different plug-ins that came with the Scarlett are also really useful as well. Some of the VSTs sound really cool, so I want to try using those soon.

Overall, the Rode M5s and Scarlett 2i2 are big upgrades to my recording setup. The M5s allow me to record in stereo while reducing room noise and getting more detail. The Scarlett makes it possible to use the microphones and also allowed me to have outputs to connect to my future monitors. Next week, I’ll write about the new JBL 305p MKIIs I got over the break as well.