There are certain things you need to keep in mind before buying studio monitors. Most people overlook these considerations and regret their purchase.
In this ultimate guide, we go over everything you, as a producer or a new studio monitor buyer, need to know before investing in one.
We will talk about different sizes, active vs. passive speakers, power considerations, how much to pay, a proper setup with an audio interface for min. Noise levels, closed vs. ported monitors and other essential aspects related to a studio monitor.
So, without any due, let’s dive in.
How do I Choose the best Studio Monitors?
Here is an ultimate list of eleven things you must consider before buying studio monitors.
Let’s check them one by one!
1) Do I need a Studio Monitor?
Studio monitors are very different when compared to regular speakers. They have a flat frequency response and may sound un-exciting for casual music listeners. Studio speakers finds their use in professions where accurate reproduction of audio is required.
On the other hand, regular speakers boost and/or attenuate specific frequencies of the audio signal. In simple words, they add a distinctive colour to the sound coming out of the speakers, making it sound brighter and exciting.
Studio monitors are an absolute must in recording or mixing studios. A studio monitor offers a mixing engineer with the purest audio quality with any colour added to the sound.
What if I have studio headphones?
A question I get a lot in my inbox is that “Do I still need studio monitors if I have a good set of studio headphones.
For mix engineers who want to carefully monitor the audio and need numerous referencing sources, I recommend having both studio monitors and headphones if you have a good spending capacity. Otherwise, one will do the task quite well.
For recording purposes, studio headphones prevail over studio speakers as they can be used for monitoring, tracking and recording purposes.
2) Where are you in your Music Production career!
For me, buying studio monitors is turning out to be one of the best decisions of my music career.
Earlier, I used to mix all of my tracks on WH-H900N Bluetooth headphones. Whenever I perfected the mix on headphones, it sounded completely different on the car system or Bluetooth speakers.
To be honest, the mix that seemed perfect on headphones sounded like trash on different speaker systems.
The problem with speakers made for commercial use is described in the above image. They add color to your sound by boosting or cutting the gain levels of a specific frequency range.
Studio monitors, on the other hand, do not add any color to sound. They have a flat frequency response which makes them perfect for mixing and mastering a song.
Therefore, if you are a beginner music producer and testing your chances within the music industry, buying even a small studio monitor can save you hours of frustration.
3) Do you have a proper Setup to pair a set of Monitors?
Studio monitors need a proper setup if you want to experience the sound without any noise. RCA connections can hurt the sound quality coming out of the studio monitors by adding a bit of cruchiness to the speakers. Besides adding noise, using RCA connections can also lower the overall loudness of the monitors.
Therefore, it is important to have a proper setup for your studio monitors. A proper setup includes connecting a studio monitors to a device and then to an audio interface using 1/4″ TRS cables.
A good audio interface connected to studio monitors using 1/4″ TRS cables ensures that the signal transfered is of high quality with least noise level.
This audio interface setup diagram will guide you on how to connect studio monitors to an interface.
You don’t need to invest a huge sum on an audio interface. Buying an audio interface under $100 will work fine to keep away the noise.
4) Size of the monitors
The next step is to decide what size of studio monitors will complement your space. Each monitor is explicitly made to best suit a particular room size.
You can easily measure the size of a monitor by noting down the diameter of its sub-woofer. Hence, the size of a monitor is measured by its diamter length.
For example, small monitors are the best fit for small room settings like a bedroom, whereas large monitors match the sonic requirements of a vast recording studio or a roomy hall.
Typically speaking, a monitor can be classified in three different sizes:
- Small-sized monitors of 3″-5″.
- Medium-sized monitors of 6″-8″,
- Large monitors of size 8″-10″.
For a bedroom setting, small-sized monitors do the job pretty well.
Medium-sized monitors are made for spaces like halls or fair-sized home studios.
Lastly, large studio monitors are ubiquitous in large and professional recording studios, where each monitor can be given a separate channel to work with.
Although these situations are not well defined, they provide you with essential information on choosing a monitor for a particular type of space.
After picking the right size of the studio monitor, it is essential to allocate a proper budget while buying studio monitors.
Here is an average price of studio monitors in each size category:
- Small monitors – The average price is around $150
- medium monitors – The average price is around $450
- Large monitors – The average price is around $800
6) Active vs Passive Studio Monitors
Buying studio monitors poses another challenge: whether to go with a passive system or an active monitoring system.
Firstly, what’s the difference between active and passive studio monitors?
Passive studio monitors require an additional amplification unit and a cross-over. But, in the case of the active monitoring speaker system, you get everything built into the studio monitors. In addition, you do not have to worry about what type of amplifier is best suited for a particular passive system. Whether you go with an active or passive studio monitor depends on your personal preference and past experiences with either of these speaker systems.
Both passive and active monitors have their distinctive pros and cons.
No hard and fast rule says one is better than the other. But, for a beginner unaware of how the passive systems work or for someone not wanting to mess things up, it is best to go with an active studio monitor.
Passive speaker brings an addtional hassle to manage and maintain an extra piece of gear. On the other hand, you do not have to care about the amplification unit after buying an active monitor. And for me, that is a vast advantage that active monitors have over passive systems.
In short, go hassle free by choosing active monitors.
Recording studios use both passive and active systems. It’s all about personal preference and comfort with both systems.
7) Power Requirement of a studio Monitor
Different monitors are powered differently. Some need high power to drive the systems, while others require considerably low power levels.
But, why is power requirement a vital aspect of a studio monitor?
It is no doubt that power is a driving force for electronic equipment and, in our case, studio monitors. High-powered studio monitors perform well in retaining the overall harmonics of a sound wave.
On the other hand, a low-power speaker system will have difficulty giving you each instrument’s transients simultaneously.
For example, a low-power studio monitor will mask some of the transients if a song has different elements like kick drums, snare, hi-hats, guitars, and say chords. It happens because too many transients overlap, and it becomes difficult for low-power monitors to meet the energy demand of each instrument.
Next, a viable question is, how many watts is enough?
Generally, a monitor powered by 60 Watts is enough to give you a good transient and harmonic retention of a sound wave.
Here is a detailed guide on power requirement of a studio monitor.
8) Closed/Sealed vs ported Studio Monitors
There are two types of monitors available in terms of ports. Either you can go with no ports/sealed monitor or with a ported monitor. The whole point of having ports on a monitor is to improve the sonics in the low end.
The ports can either be on the front of the speaker’s back, as shown in the above image. If you fit a monitor in a closed space, going with front-ported monitors is the best choice, as backported monitors will cause many wobbles.
The next type of monitor in terms of ports availability is called sealed/unported monitor. Such monitors do not have any ports wholly and whatsoever rely on sub-woofers for low-end sound.
If you have a subwoofer for managing low-end frequencies, go with sealed monitors, else increase the low-frequency response by using ported monitors.
9) Sub Woofer Requirement for a Studio Monitor
You cannot forget about a Sub-Woofer if you are playing with really low end frequencies. A sub-woofer is mostly required to analyse frequency below 40 Hz. Such frequencies are mostly observed in Lo-fi or Hip-hop genres.
Also, putting a sub-woofer in small room is not ideal. Sub-woofer needs a comparatively large space so that the low end frequencies can really shine through the mix.
Now, whether to pair a sub-woofer with a pair of studio monitors or not?
The first step is to analyze which type of music you are making. If it is bass-heavy, then pairing one is necessary to get an accurate mix of your tracks, especially in the low ends.
For other genres like pop music, a medium or a large-sized monitor will do the job just fine. But, in the end, it is a matter of personal preference.
10) Parts of a Studio Monitor
Many people focus too much on the quality of the parts used in a studio monitor. And I think it is completely a wrong way to judge the capability of a studio monitor.
In such an age where technology has risen exponentially, I recommend not to worry too much about the build quality of a monitor. Rather paying attention to how good a monitor sounds is more beneficial.
The key takeaway here is focus on the audio quality of a monitor and not on build material.
11) Alternate Uses
Although studio monitors are an absolute must in the music/audio industry, it does not mean that monitors cannot replace your home speakers.
Studio monitors provide a great alternative to regular or bookshelf speakers. Small monitors can easily fit any room and are portable enough to fit in your travel bags.
They also have found their way to the halls of many households because of their pristine and untouched audio quality.
In conclusion, this little studio monitor buying guide ends here!
All in all, I hope these points will help you to get the best possible studio monitors that’ll complement your needs and space.
There are many things you need to consider before buying studio monitors. Some are related to the Size of the speakers while others on how much to spend on them.
Tell me in the comments whether you will buy a new pair of studio monitors or not.