'The Queen's Gambit' Sound Designer Embraces JBL Professional 7 Series for Common Sonic Reference Point

Professional 7 Series
To streamline post-production on The Queen's Gambit, sound designer Wylie Stateman equipped the show's director, picture editor, composer and sound team with JBL Professional 7 Series monitors. 'One of the challenges we faced,' he said, 'was to find a monitoring system that was up to the task. In terms of what we needed to create our 5.1 and 7.1 playback systems, the 708 just rang the bell.' (Image credit: JBL)

The Queen's Gambit is a 2020 Netflix limited series about a troubled chess prodigy who makes a meteoric rise in the world of professional chess during the 1950s and '60s. The series became an instant success, with a record 62 million households watching within the first four weeks of its release. However, with post-production complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, some of the team had to work from remote locations instead of collaborating in person. In order to provide the team with a common sonic reference point, sound designer Wylie Stateman (opens in new tab) provided director Scott Frank (opens in new tab), picture editor Michelle Tesoro, (opens in new tab) composer Carlos Raphael Riviera (opens in new tab), music editor Tom Kramer (opens in new tab) and re-recording mixers Eric Hoehn (opens in new tab) and Eric Hirsch (opens in new tab) with JBL 708p (opens in new tab) and 705p (opens in new tab) monitors. Stateman and the rest of his team worked out of 247SND's editing and mixing suites, which were already equipped with 7 Series monitors (opens in new tab), AC28/95 cinema surround speakers (opens in new tab) and Crown DCi Series (opens in new tab) amplifiers. The decision to supply everyone with the same monitors was part of an initiative called 'Cutting Room 2.0,' Stateman's approach to streamlining the post-production process.

"In 2016, we committed to a project that we codenamed 'Cutting Room 2.0,' with the goal of facilitating a more streamlined approval process by bringing the sound and film editing processes more closely into alignment," explained Stateman. "The mission was to perform sound editing and film editing together, working in parallel so that the picture editor, director and producers could hear the real soundtrack at each step of the way, rather than settling for a proxy of the mix during editing. One of the challenges we faced was to find a monitoring system that was up to the task. In terms of what we needed to create our 5.1 and 7.1 playback systems, the 708 just rang the bell. It covered all the bases-it sounds great, it's very dynamic and it's easily tunable. The compression horn and the overall design of the 7 Series was perfect for us."

The JBL 7 Series includes the self-powered 708P and 705P master reference monitors as well as the passive 708i (opens in new tab)and 705i. (opens in new tab) All models feature JBL Differential Drive low-frequency drivers and 2409H high-frequency compression drivers for extended dynamic range, ultra-smooth frequency response beyond 36 kHz and extremely low distortion at high sound pressure levels. JBL's proprietary Image Control Waveguide (opens in new tab) provides a wide sweet spot with consistent, detailed sound on- and off-axis. Mounting points on the top, bottom and rear make 7 Series monitors ideal for installed applications such as Dolby Atmos mixing setups that require overhead speakers. Additionally, the 708P and 705P feature built-in digital signal processing (DSP) including EQ and delay for easy room calibration, plus an RJ-45 port for HARMAN HiQnet connectivity.

"JBL had the wisdom to build the 7 Series around compression drivers for the high frequencies, which are much more predictable than dome tweeters when it comes to approximating the environment that the mix will ultimately be judged in, which is more like a theater," said Stateman. "The design of it is really reassuring in terms of translating to the larger auditorium sizes. I'm confident in what we're producing, so whether you're watching and listening on a smartphone or in the 15,000-seat main room at ComicCon, it's going to sound right.

The 5.1 and 7.1 editing suites at 247SND feature JBL 708P monitors for the left, center and right channels, with 705i models powered by Crown DCi 8|300 amplifiers for the surround channels. The remote members of the team received a similar package consisting of all powered speakers for easier setup. Additionally, the main mixing and editing space at 247SND, where the final mix was created, features 28 JBL AC28/95 (opens in new tab) dual eight-inch loudspeakers in the surround positions.

"Post-production sound is a team sport, and it revolves around the approval process," explained Stateman. "Being able to have a common monitoring experience is very important in terms of sound. That common experience allows us to benchmark sound pressure levels and frequencies that are appropriate to the story we're trying to tell. Speakers play a very significant role in developing a common experience for listening to sound pressure and frequency response."

The Queen's Gambit aired on October 23, 2020 and quickly became one of the most-watched shows of the year. Critics and audiences praised the sound design and music, and the series won numerous accolades including 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and three MPSE Golden Reel Awards for its sound effects, dialogue and music. The series' positive reception is due in part to Stateman's commitment to giving his team the most high-quality, consistent monitoring experience possible-something he's been doing for years and aims to continue.

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