(Adopts trailer voice), "Previously, on Pro Tools Expert..."
In part one of this test, I looked at the consistency, performance and adaptability of the Presonus Eris & Temblor monitor rig.
Now, I am looking at this rig from the perspective of using it in Post Production.
Mixing to picture in surround or indeed stereo can place a whole load of different demands on a speaker system, which I didn't have time to fully explore in the first review.
A New Appreciation
I've recently been doing some work down at the International Sound Department at Shepperton Studios, reversioning Disney, Pixar and Marvel films (amongst others) into dozens of different languages. For me it was the first time I've heard this type of material in studio conditions, through an incredible speaker system, in a custom built room.
Believe me, when you're pressed in to your seat by a wall of bass travelling down the room when a Rhino is taken down by a Rabbit in a wrestling ring (Zootropolis), you suddenly get a renewed appreciation of all the hard work and detail that goes in to these films. For me it has also given inspiration to try things out and to try and realise that sort of effect back at my studio.
Let's just refresh ourselves about the setup -
Front: At the front of the studio I have three Presonus Eris E66 MTM speakers, arranged left, centre, right, on stands, just beneath the projector screen.
Sub: Also at the front I have the Presonus Temblor T10 active subwoofer, on an isolating platform.
Rear: At the rear I have four Presonus Eris E5 speakers, two at the side, two at the back, literally mounted on bookshelves.
My studio is not acoustically treated in the way you'd expect from a music studio. The recording area is dead as you'd expect, but the main room, the control room if you will, is not too deadened.
With a room for mixing multi-channel audio for cinema release, you have to accept that a cinema has less than ideal conditions, and it is not just a case of making the room as dead as possible, sorting out reflections and trying to keep the room's frequency response as flat as possible. You need a certain amount of "liveness", and the best thing I've found in a small to medium sized setup, is to try and emulate an average living room. That way things translate well. You can't hope for a 100% accurate representation of what you've heard in the studio, not even in the most expensive Dolby Atmos cinemas.
In previous builds, I've had comments from the Dolby engineer along the lines of, "Your bass response is super tight and very dynamic - keep an eye on that, as you're likely to 'boom out' less capable rooms", or "Your air-conditioning is really quiet - be careful that some of your subtleties aren't lost in the real world".
More Money Equals Better Sound?
Does it? Really? Always?
This Presonus system bucks that rule, but it's not the first time I've witnessed this.
In a previous life the studio I worked at installed two 5.1 Dolby theatres in rapid succession. Both rooms had a "THX Wall" behind the screen, with acoustic treatment and special isolated sofits for the speakers behind the screen.
In the larger room we installed a custom Dynaudio / JBL three-way rig, with 7.4KW of amplification and active digital crossovers. That blew a lot of our budget, so in the smaller room we literally bought a JBL "Cinema Kit" comprising of passive crossover JBL speakers, with QSC amplifiers, off the shelf as it were from a cinema fitter. It made sense to fit the same style of speakers as the average cinema, and was certainly cheaper.
Client feedback was that they preferred the sound in the "kit" room.
And this is where we get the special "post production rules" coming in to play. No mainstream cinema is going to have custom three-way tri-amped digitally cross-over driven speaker stacks in a THX wall. No average home cinema system is going to be as sophisticated as that either.
Obviously, your speakers need to be accurate in that they must show up technical issues, but in terms of being "musical" or "flattering", having these qualities can be a hinderance rather than a bonus.
What's more important is how the sound you get from your main monitors translates to real life. Six months ago I had a set of speakers on demo by a very respected manufacturer, but although they sounded really "sweet", I found myself not trusting them and having to revise mixes more often for small speakers. I couldn't predict the relationship, so couldn't keep them.
In stereo music mixing rooms there is often a dazzling array of different speakers to audition your mix on. In a multi-channel installation this is almost totally impractical without resorting to emulation software. The task we face is to be able to translate well to a variety of scenarios.
Back To Presonus
This is where I've been finding that the Presonus speakers excel. They have the frequency response to highlight the bass thuds, rumble and whistles that while might not be resolved on a consumer system, will certainly cause problems with loudness readings, compressor ducking, legibility and lossy codecs (mp3, ac3, etc).
What's more important is what they don't do. They don't sugar the pill. That's not to say that they're harsh, which they're not. Well recorded and mixed material still shines. The dynamic range really helps when dealing with noisy dialogues - you can feel the processing more, and use it more optimally.
Image Is Still Everything
Some may say that adding a centre speaker removes the need for such good imaging from the left and right, and that adding surrounds adds point sources. What I've been finding working on features in 7.1 and Dolby Atmos, is that the imaging is still critical. Things don't just hard pan to each point source - there are an infinite amount of variations between these point sources. This is also where the consistency of sound across the range comes in to play.
I have been continually impressed and reassured by this system. It has proved to be versatile enough to work well in a 7.1 post production environment, but also sounds nice with music. And in terms of price they certainly tick all the boxes.
Once again, I'd thoroughly recommend speakers from the Presonus Eris and Temblor series for anyone looking to get in to multi-channel post production. You don't have to resort to the "usual suspects".