Studio Designers | Form & Function

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



Education Guide

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Chris Pelonis on How and Why He Developed His Pelonis Signature Monitor Series

Did you decide to develop your own monitors because of a need you perceived in the industry?
Absolutely. It was so frustrating back in the '80s when I would build a room and I knew it was dead-on—the decay times were perfect as they could be across the whole frequency spectrum, and I knew the response in the room was right—and the monitors would make it seem that something was wrong. But what was wrong was that the monitor was not showing the room in its true light. People initially would say, “The room sounds a little this,” “The room sounds a little that.” And I’d do a real hard-core analysis of it, and everything they would be describing was right there in black and white on the analysis of the monitor. So I’d have to go back, and say, “It’s not the room; the speaker’s doing that. And they’d say, “It wasn’t doing it so much in this other room,” and I’d say, "That’s because the other room wasn’t really accurate, and the inaccuracies of the room happened to be beneficial to the inaccuracies of the monitor." That sounds a little complicated, but it happens. It happens a lot.

This goes back to the early '90s, when I started tweaking and messing around with speaker systems and off-the-shelf monitors—modifying them and working with different companies until finally working with Tannoy quite a bit. I was a big fan of the point-source speaker system, which has the tweeter inside the woofer: All the information arrives in time—the high frequencies and the low frequencies. That philosophy and technology is really, in my opinion, far superior to when you separate those two things in time. The phase information and the time-domain information stay intact.

So I really focused on working with that company till finally, some time in the '90s, after bouncing back and forth about what I wanted and what I needed, the president of the company said, “Well, why don’t we just do your speaker? Why don’t we just do it your way, and it will be your speaker?” Now I wasn’t quite sure if that was like, “We don’t want to put our name on this because we’re not sure you know what you’re doing,” or if he was legitimately saying, “You’re directing this; let’s honor that.” But that is what happened. I went right after the biggest, baddest-name monitor system I could find, and now it’s a main monitor system that some people use exclusively.

It used to be like, “We listen to the main monitors for loudness and height, but then we go down to these little ones for accuracy.” Well, I didn’t believe that was the way it should be. I thought that if the room is right and the monitor is a part of the room, the main monitors should be dead-on and that should be your main reference. And that’s what I achieved. So whether it’s mastering rooms, tracking rooms or mixing, they just use the big speakers for everything.

And then from there, I got a lot of heat: “Well, not everybody can afford $50,000 a pair!” So I progressively worked my way down to a 10-inch system, which was still a little spendy but more affordable—down into the $5,000 to $6,000 range. And then I got complaints like, “What about something really small for $1,000 a pair with that same philosophy that you used in your other speakers that I can take with me everywhere?”

And I felt like saying, “Would you like a magic carpet or anything else? And would you like them delivered by Angelina Jolie? Maybe we could demo them for you in a limousine with some single-malt scotch?” I was also concerned because I also knew that for me to compete on that level, I was not going to be able to build them here in America the way I had been building; I had been building pretty much everything in Canada, Scotland and America up to that point.

Finally, I got enough pressure from clients and friends and a lot of recording artists and it got under my skin, and I developed the Model 42s, which are $999 a pair and I’m having to build them overseas. We did do all of the engineering and development and design work here in California, but they’re manufactured in Asia, and it’s really filled a void.

I’m on my way right now to do a clinic at Westlake Audio; they’re having their grand opening and invited me to do a clinic on monitoring and acoustics and introduce the Model 42. They’re light, they’re easy, and you can carry them around with you. And they do have a similar characteristic and approach to voicing that my big guys have. I tried to get some of that accuracy and musicality in something you can buy for under $1,000.

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