Being a Monitor

Thanks to those who suggested alternatives to the HD25 headphones, which are now repaired thanks to the lovely people at Richmond Film Services. But this debacle has illuminated an interesting angle on things.

Yes, there are headphones that are ‘better sounding’ than the HD25s. Yes, noise canceling is really great, and the HD25 doesn’t do that (relying instead on a vice-like grip that glues your earlobes to your skull, which I hate). Most assuredly yes, there are more comfortable cans than HD25s.

My HD25s are audio monitors. I don’t want them to make things sound good, I need them to tell me what things sound like (Behold, the sound of a stable door being bolted over an empty void).

Ditto video monitors. I can buy a very very nice TV set for the price of my modest 15″ monitor, and it will display beautiful video images. But it’s not showing me what I’ve got, it’s showing me what I want to see. My interlace rant is a good expample: if you don’t check your interlaced footage on an interlaced monitor (CRT), you may never see the horrors of field dominance errors – usually from motion graphics inserted into a DV edit, or DV and higher end formats on the same timeline.

Analogy time. If your doctor took an X-Ray of you, and the X-Ray display device sort of fluffed your bones up and made them look nice and hid some imperfections in the internal organs, it wouldn’t be much use.

So we need to understand why we pay more for a less flattering result. The only trick is knowing how to spot a high quality monitor from a poor reproduction unit. Apart from peer review, sadly it seems to come down to the weight of the price tag.