Studio monitors play a critical role in audio production and are a common feature in recording studios. But what makes them so important?
Studio monitors are important in audio recording, mixing, and mastering. They produce clear, precise, and dynamic sound mixes, enabling you to identify any flaws in audio quality and correct them. Unlike standard speakers, they’re consistent, making them the best option in quality sound production.
This article will describe studio monitors, how they differ from standard speakers, and why they’re important. Read on for these and more information on the best studio monitors on the market.
What Is a Studio Monitor?
At first glance, you may mistake a studio monitor for a standard Hi-Fi speaker because of their striking similarities. However, these speakers are designed to perform a different function – produce sound in its natural form. Unlike the conventional speakers, made to produce quality sounds, monitor speakers provide flat-accuracy responses, enabling you to identify distortions and mix tracks better to produce high-quality sounds.
Therefore, the main difference between monitor speakers and standard speakers is that the former produces accurate sound profiles of tracks. The latter is built for pleasing playback of the audio produced.
Are Studio Monitors Necessary?
Suppose you’re wondering, “Why are they important, and why would I need studio monitors in professional audio production?” In that case, here are some of the reasons to use studio monitors:
One of the primary cons of normal speakers is their tendency to distort sound after a certain volume level. That’s because their drivers and amps cannot deliver undistorted sound at high volumes. Often, these components’ parts cannot handle the power above a specific volume range, producing distortions instead.
However, studio monitors come with well-designed drivers and amps that can handle high-volume operations, making them more reliable for distortion prevention.
Most notably, the amps of studio monitors are usually built according to their drivers’ wattage and frequency ranges, preventing overloading at high volume operation. Consequently, these monitors keep distortion away, ensuring you get more accurate sound to mix.
Provide Flat Frequency Response
Transparency or flat frequency response is another critical aspect of studio monitors. When mixing music, you want your tracks to sound good on all kinds of speakers. Right?
That means you want to get high-quality sound on car stereos, home systems, to mention a few. However, to achieve that, you must first hear the track in its neutral state, and that’s what studio monitors are built for!
When listening to the track on a studio monitor, you won’t hear any exaggerations of portions of the frequency range of bias. Because of that, you can hear all kinds of imperfections in the mix. You could easily spot any instrument spiking when they’re not supposed to or when the bass is too wide, and so forth.
However, using standard speakers for such a job is a sure-fire way to get low-quality, distorted sound. Do you use your desktop to mix tracks? If so, you’re certain to end up disappointed after playing the same track on a different audio system.
One striking difference between standard HiFi and home speakers and studio monitors is that while the former is “passive,” the latter tends to be “active.”
In this case, “passive” means the speaker requires an external amplifier with outputs. On the other hand, the word “active” means the speaker cabinet features an inbuilt power amplifier, so you need to connect the device to a line source with volume control, such as a dedicated controller or an audio interface. Because of that, studio monitors usually produce a punchier, accurate, and dynamic response.
Individual Power Amplifiers
Being active, studio monitors feature multiple power amps within single units. Therefore, the woofer, mid-range speaker, and tweeter cones each get powered individually. The result is a more precise sound since the woofer, which usually requires a lot of power, doesn’t take energy away from the other speakers.
The market for normal speakers is highly competitive, thanks to the higher demand for standard speakers than for studio monitors. Consequently, normal speaker manufacturers often make amps with cheaper components.
As a result, the quality of the amps of standard speakers is usually compromised, causing low dynamic ranges and narrow frequency responses. The components of these speakers are also usually less durable than those of studio monitors.
Conversely, studio monitor amps and parts are built with high-quality components. Because of that, these monitors produce better sound quality, as evidenced by their flat frequency responses.
The dynamic range of a speaker determines whether you get that high-quality, melodic sound. If a speaker has a low dynamic range, you’ll get poor-quality sound.
Dynamic range is the difference between the highest and lowest audio intensity. For example, say you have a soundtrack with the lowest intensity of -30 dB and the highest at -1 dB. If you listen to it on a speaker with a 20 dB dynamic range, you’ll miss all the sounds below -21 dB.
Standard speakers have lower dynamic ranges. On the other hand, studio monitors have better dynamic ranges, allowing you to listen to the lowest intensity sounds and get better mixes.
Since studio monitors make it easier to build top-quality crossovers, these crossovers can be placed before the amps thanks to their dedicated power amps. The active circuitry can provide steeper filter slopes, reducing overlap between woofers, mid-range speakers, and tweeters. As a result, you get clearer, more detailed sound.
This video explains crossovers and how they affect sound quality:
Consistency is another reason that makes studio monitors worthwhile. With consumer-grade speakers, you’ll never get the whole picture when mixing. Someone who listens to the track on a high-end stereo can easily dismiss it as an earsore.
However, with studio monitors, the quality of output remains the same regardless of the type of speaker a listener uses. It’s a no-brainer that you want listeners to have that crisp listening experience.
This pretty much sums up the points above. The whole point of using studio monitors is to guarantee precise sound for nearfield use. What does the word nearfield mean? You may ask.
As this article explains, nearfield means a few feet away from the listener. At that distance, you get a clear, intermediate sound. Studio monitors prevent natural reverberations. That way, you can hear a precise impression of your track.
From the perspective of a listener, this point may be debatable. That’s because standard speakers are designed for listening. The sounds they produce are often boosted and colorized, making them listener-friendly. Therefore, if you were to use a powered speaker for the first time today, you may dismiss my point altogether.
However, the top-quality sound you hear from your standard speaker results from work going on behind the scenes, which involves using powered speakers to mix the sound and ensure you get a worthwhile listening experience.
Tip: If these pros of studio monitors fascinate you and you’d like to try them out, here are some of the best options we’d recommend:
- Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor: Features a unique mounting system for minimal vibration and quality performance. It also comes with extra-large magnets for smoother response over a broader frequency range.
- The Focal Alpha 50 Studio Monitor: Compact, powerful, and has a tonal balance that doesn’t change with volume. It consumes less power than other speakers and has a wider frequency response range (40Hz – 22kHz).
- KRK Rokit 7 G4 Studio Monitor Speaker: Features a handy Graphic EQ you can use to condition your acoustic environment. The design and front-firing port offer remarkable low-end extension and accuracy.
- 8 inch cone woofer and 1 inch dome tweeter; Produce low distortion sound with a well-defined bottom end at any output level
- 38Hz to 30kHz frequency response; Power consumption: 60 watts
- 75W LF plus 45W HF bi amp system 120W total; Level control (+4dB/center click), EQ: High trim switch (+/ 2dB at HF) / Room control switch (0/2/4 dB under 500Hz)
- professional active 2-way monitors, comes as a pair
- compact design, perfectly adapted for smaller studios
- low directivity, keeps the same sound throughout the room
- 7" Powered Near-Field Studio Monitor
- Matching Kevlar Drivers
- DSP-driven Onboard EQ with Visual LCD
Studio monitors are a must-have if you want to get into music or audio production. Just like a doctor uses a stethoscope to monitor your body conditions based on the heart’s sounds, producers use studio monitors to tell whether the sound quality of a track is poor or satisfactory.
Do you use a standard speaker for mixing? If so, you’ll receive poor, inconsistent quality output, which could hurt the chances of a track becoming a hit. However, with studio speakers, you get neutral, clear feedback that you can use to improve the quality of sound.
For more information, check out my Complete Guide to Building a Home Recording Studio.
- Musicradar: 5 reasons to spend more money on your studio monitors
- Andertons Music Co: What’s the Difference Between Studio Monitors and Regular Speakers?
- Quora: How important are studio monitors to production?
- Guitar Fella: The Importance of Studio Monitors
- Fluance: Powered Speakers vs. Studio Monitors: What’s the Difference?
- Neumann.Berlin: What’s The Difference Between Home Stereo Speakers and Studio Monitors?
- E-Home Recording Studio: The 10 Best Studio Monitors for Home Recording
- Musician on a Mission: Best Studio Monitors For the Home Studio (2021)
- HyperBits: The 20 Best Studio Monitors For Music Producers in 2021
- YouTube: What is a Crossover and How Does it Affect Speaker Configuration?
Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API