A studio monitor is, by far, the most noticeable part of a recording studio. It looks like a big case and usually is found in pairs on a table, stand, or are embedded into the wall.
Studio Monitors come in different shapes, sizes, and types. But, the thing about studio monitors we are going to discuss in this article tackles some of the basics and advanced concepts that you must know.
Let’s start with some basics first!
What is a Studio Monitor?
In simple words, a studio monitor is a type of speaker unit used to analyze the audio signal for professional audio applications like music production, where accurate interpretation of audio is vital. Studio monitors have a flat frequency response, meaning they do not add any color/frequency boost to their sound.
Parts or components of a Studio Monitor
Most of the studio monitors are made up of three components. These are:
The outer structure of a studio monitor is known as a cabinet. All the electronic circuits of a speaker reside in this covering.
The cabinet isolates the electronics of a speaker from external agents such as dust, water, and direct heat.
Although there are various materials from which a cabinet is made, the following three are the most common.
The material that goes in making a solid cabinet can be:
While buying a studio monitor, your last consideration should be the cabinet quality. These days all the cabinets are built very strongly. Your primary focus should be getting a studio monitor with good sound dynamics.
The tweeter is embedded on top of a studio monitor and resembles a hemisphere or a cone. It is responsible for emitting high-range frequencies from around 1-2 kHz. It is an integral part of a monitor and compliments the work of a sub-woofer.
In high-end studio monitors made for professional studios, you may find a third tweeter placed in the middle of a monitor.
Such type of tweeter is called mid-range tweeter and is responsible for emitting mid-range frequencies.
The subwoofer is the most prominent part of a studio monitor. It matches the look of a tweeter but generally has a larger diameter.
The sub-woofer in a studio monitor is responsible for emitting the below-mentioned frequencies:
- Low mid range,
What is a Studio Monitor used for?
The studio monitors are used in fields where a sound engineer wants to hear the purest form with no frequency alterations. The problem with most speakers or sound systems is that they boost or reduce specific frequencies. So, the sound you hear is altered in a way that is pleasing to hear.
Although, you can also use studio headphones for such tasks, however, it depends on your studio and work needs.
In the above EQ, you can easily see that the frequency is boosted in the mid-range and the low end. This frequency boost is very similar to that done in regular speakers.
Such frequency boosts make a song appear brighter, energetic, and pleasing to the human ear.
Comparison with regular speakers and bookshelf speaker systems
The studio monitors sound very different when compared to other speaker systems like a bookshelf or regular speakers.
A reason for this difference is the setting in which each of these sound systems is used. Bookshelf and regular speakers are designed to be loud and pleasant to hear. And that is precisely why they have specific colors added to certain frequencies, making them sound brighter and more exciting than studio monitors. You can easily spot such type of a speaker at your home.
On the other hand, a typical application of studio monitors is found in recording studios where a mixing engineer needs the sound in purest and as clean as possible form. This is why studio monitors have a flat frequency response for accurate monitoring of sound.
The second difference is that studio monitor are active speakers, whereas bookshelf speakers are passive. Passive speakers need a separate amplification unit that connects via cables.
Choosing between active or passive speakers is a matter of personal preference and how you want to go about it.
But, if you don’t want the hassle of handling an external amplifier, studio monitors are the one to go for.
How big should Studio Monitors Be?
The diameter length of the sub-woofer in inches is the size of studio monitors. If the size of a studio monitor is 8″, it means that the diameter length of the sub-woofer is 8″.
The studio monitors can be classified into three main categories:
- Small studio monitors range from 3″ to 5″,
- Medium studio monitors range from 6″ to 7″,
- Large studio monitors range from 8″ to 10″.
Note: Although I have categorized studio monitors into three major classes, the size of a studio monitor can go higher than 10 inches.
The next big question is how big studio monitors should be?
Technically speaking, you need to buy a studio monitor that compliments the size of your room. Small Studio monitors are great for small apartments and newbie music producers who want to dive into the world of music production. They are highly portable and great for traveling artists as small monitors can easily fit in one of your bags without taking much space.
On the other hand, medium-sized studio monitors are perfect for a fair-sized hall. These monitors have a better bass response than small monitors and are great for medium-sized recording or home studios. In addition, they can also sit in place of your home theatre.
Lastly, large studio monitors are a perfect match for established and roomy recording studios. They are also used in mixing studios and radio stations.
All in all, the size of studio monitors that you should pick depends on where you are going to place them.
Can you use regular speakers as Studio Monitors?
A regular speaker or a sound system found in homes can never replace a pair of good studio monitors. Regular speakers add a particular texture to the original sound to make songs more exciting and energetic. On the other hand, studio monitors remain unbiased towards all frequencies and do not alter or boost the pure audio signal. However, the use cases are worth considering before making any decision.
Specific uses cases like music production, mixing, and mastering require a pair of well-distinguished studio monitors that’ll help the audio engineer perfectly master a song.
Similarly, a person making their first-ever home studio requires:
- Audio Interface for recording instruments and microphones without losing sound quality,
- And a pair of studio monitors for mixing and listening to the original untamed audio signal.
But, what about the opposites?
Can you use studio monitors as regular speakers?
Speaking from experience, all my friends who switched to a pair of good studio monitors from regular speakers still use monitors as their day-to-day sound system.
So, if you have a pair of studio monitors lying around the house, try them for at least a week and see how well do they satisfy you.
How much money to Spend on Studio Monitors?
Most people waster their time on allocating a perfect budget for studio monitors. But, to be honest, it should be the last thing you need to worry about.
So, how much money should you actually spend on a studio monitor?
First, decide the size of the studio monitors that you need. Usually, large spaces require much bigger studio monitors as compared to a bedroom or even an apartment hall. A small to medium set of studio monitors is enough for a bedroom, whereas medium to huge studio monitors is better suited for huge spaces like a recording studio. After choosing the right size of studio monitors, deciding and allocating a budget becomes much easier. After that, all you need to do is to test out various speakers and monitors.
You need to cross-check several things before deciding how much money I should spend on a new pair of studio monitors.
For beginners creating their own bedroom or home studio, studio monitors are available at a price as low as $100.
On the other hand, for large spaces and recording studios, the price you need to pay for a pair of good studio monitors starts at around $500.
Are Studio Monitors Important?
In short, a studio monitor is vital for anyone related to audio production professions like a music producer, mixing, or mastering engineer where precise audio interpretation is necessary.
Studio monitors are not only limited to music production but are also used in radio stations, filmmaking, and home studios.
The studio monitors provide a flat frequency response with no color added to the final sound. Furthermore, how vital are studio monitors mostly depends on your requirements and where you will use them.
Also Read: How to get high quality recordings at home!
Can I use Studio Monitors to listen to music?
If not hearing music then what else are studio monitors made for.
Studio monitors provide a great alternative that can easily replace a bookshelf or regular speaker. They have a pristine sound and a much better bass response. You may find the sound a bit dull and unexcited. The reason being that studio monitors have a flat frequency response and do not have any color added to the sound. Regular speakers made for commercial use, make the sound coming out of them appear brighter.
All in all, entering into the world of studio monitors is never easy. You need to consider a ton of crucial factors before buying one. Furthermore, the size of the place where you want to place a studio monitor plays a huge role as well.
But knowing about different speaker systems, studio monitors, their use cases, applications, importance, price, the difference from regular speakers will provide you a clear picture as you walk towards buying one.
Do tell me in the comments about what you think about studio monitors.