Learn everything about studio monitors including it’s definition, history, types, uses, features to look for and a whole lot more!
Listening to music has become an integral part of our life for a while now. But what about music production? Has it become an integral part of our life? Well, for a few of us, the answer should be a big YES!
Now, what do I mean by ‘A Few of Us’? It means we- the musicians, music producers, or maybe the future sensations who’re just starting out. Either you’re in this category or a music lover, we’ve designed this article to serve everyone’s purpose equally. So, keep reading!
Now, people know that the current industry has some of the best speakers and stereo speakers around in 2020 to choose from to feed our soul by listening to music with maybe some of our coolest buddies out there, or maybe to have a peace of mind while listening alone.
But, in this case, you’ve searched for studio monitors, probably because you want to take your sound production to the next level; therefore, you’re expecting a proper guideline or maybe because you’re just curious about the term studio monitors or perhaps interested to know the connection between studio monitors and music production. Either the case, you’ll know a lot more than that.
Alongside, what’s actually their necessity? How are they different from regular speakers? Moreover, another question that stands is how studio monitors are better than standard speakers? A lot of questions surely will be answered in this guide. After reading this, you will know everything there is to know about studio monitors.
What We Will Learn?
In this article, we’ve covered everything there is to know about studio monitors. Studio monitors are an integral part of a studio. A studio concentrates on creating the best quality of music. When publishing any music or song, a studio has to make sure that the quality of the song is of the highest level.
Later on, when the song gets ripped, copied, downloaded, or uploaded to various platforms it loses quality.
We will learn the history behind studio monitors, what they actually are, why they are used, typology, comparison with other types of speakers, pros & cons, and finally, how to buy a studio monitor.
What Are Studio Monitors?
When we listen to music on any speaker, and we look for high sound, bass, a little bit of treble, and normal equalization of tunes. But when someone is creating or producing a song, accurate audio reproduction is a very significant matter. Because the production of a song mostly has an economical and commercial factor to it.
So, commercial studios, home studios, television studios, film makings, audio engineering, etc. require a studio monitor for perfect audio reproduction.
So, a studio monitor is basically a commercial output for professional music producers and audio engineers which is created to playback the music creation with highly accurate details by several factors including frequency range of drivers, materials of the cabinets, etc.
We’ll discuss these factors more in-depth later in this guide.
Because of the accurate audio reproduction intensity, in the early 1920s and 1930s, studio monitors were only used to check for the interference of noise and other technical issues with songs and audio. But, now, they are used for the artistic adjudication of any music. Usually, most speakers are not able to identify every instrument played behind any songs with the most accurate details.
But, studio monitors are capable of capturing everything literally and provide an accurate evaluation of any song.
In the 1940s and 1950s, various studios around the USA and UK started replacing usual speakers with high-tech studio monitors. Within 25 years of the first studio monitor, it was obvious that a studio monitor had many other purposes rather than just identifying problems and noise reduction.
After that, until today, studio monitors are an integral part of any professional recording studio or maybe for a home studio as well.
At the end of the 1980s, it was evident that a studio monitor is a must part of any studio. So, the manufacturers started putting the state of the art tech onto their products and creating masterpieces with better sound quality and also better functions. And now what we find in studios is the final form of a 100-year-old technology that has become an absolute part of the music industry by the span of time.
There are many types of studio monitors, each serves a different purpose. Let’s go through the type to understand why there are so many types. In the current market, you can find about 5 types of studio monitors. Let’s name them first:
- Active studio monitors
- Passive studio monitors
- Near-field studio monitors
- Mid-field studio monitors
- Far-field studio monitors
Now, let’s dive deep into each type.
Active Studio Monitors
Active studio monitors are considered the most powerful ones, and it’s the most popular one as well. They use an active crossover network, and they have built-in power amplifiers that handle the frequency range. This means active monitors are far more compact, have all the necessary things you need on a studio monitor, and of course, you won’t require any external amp to drive.
These features make active studio monitors an optimal function based speaker with fewer wiring problems. Although these monitors come with a high price, you’ll get the most value.
Most of them are bi-amplified that individually powers the different frequency drivers and produces the best result. Note here that, drivers are basically two types as follows:
These are drivers that capture the low-end frequencies. If you’re a hip-hop and electro music producer, you definitely need subwoofers. Because in these genres, the beat drop is very important. So, to ensure the best beat drop and also the best bass, you definitely need this driver.
The 2nd type of driver is the tweeter. Tweeters have again three sub-types:
● Soft some
These three sub-types provide and add different elements to the music. Tweeters usually produce high pitched sounds and add versatility to the songs. Usually, treble is managed through tweeters.
Bi-amplified studio monitors are the most popular ones because of their various features. Don’t forget to check out the most versatile, great value for money bi-amplified active studio monitor of the modern age- The Yamaha HS8, one of the best in the business!
Yamaha HS8 (Expert Recommended):
Passive Studio Monitors
Passive monitors don’t have built-in amplifiers and don’t have a crossover. So, this means you have to buy each separately and set up yourself. External amplifiers sometimes do a great job when it comes to proper audio production.
The best part is each piece apart costs less than active monitors, and you get the chance to go creative with your setup.
Avantone Pro Passive Mixcube is our no.1 choice when it comes to passive studio monitors.
Avantone Pro Mixcube (Expert Recommended):
Near-field studio monitors are basically monitors which have a smaller range. For smaller studios and small recording rooms, near-field monitors are the best options as you would need better reception than a surround sound. It also features two drivers: woofer and tweeter, best for 1 to 2-meter listening distance.
You can definitely take the Edifier R2000DB and PreSonus Eris E-3.5-3.5″ under consideration as your next near-field studio monitor for your home studio on different budgets.
Edifier R2000DB (Expert Recommendation For You):
PreSonus Eris E-3.5-3.5″ (Expert Recommendation For You):
Mid-field Studio Monitor
Along with woofer and tweeter, the basic feature of a mid-field studio monitor is- it has a dedicated mid-range driver, ideal for 3 to 4-meter listening distance.
Far-field studio monitors have a wider range. These monitors provide a range that is ideal for bigger recording rooms and studios. They offer a surround sound that cancels out any other noise.
Uses Of Studio Monitors
Just like any other speaker a studio monitor also has the same job. It’s output for music and audio. But still why people prefer studio monitors over normal speakers? It’s because they serve a specific purpose.
Think about a very high-quality speaker that you use at home for listening to songs or say your home theatre system. They provide great sound, don’t they?
Now, multiply that sound quality to several times. That’s how much more accurate a studio monitor is when it comes to playing the exact original sound.
So, when a sound engineer is working on a music track at his studio, it’s important and evident for him to understand and feel every single beat accurately. No high-quality speaker can ensure that better than a studio monitor.
That’s the use of a studio monitor. To listen to the accurate sounds and provide the best quality result out of studio/audio production.
Difference Between Hi-Fi Speakers And Studio Monitors
It’s often thought that you can replace a studio monitor with a hi-fi speaker and vice versa. But that idea is not right. You can’t do that because these two types of speakers are made to serve two different purposes.
You can’t really replace one with another. That’s why they are so different from each other. We can talk about several differences. Let’s point out three major differences between hi-fi speakers and studio monitors.
- Different types of usage: Both have very different usage. They serve two different purposes. Hi-fi speakers use for the home audio system and are made in a way that they produce a good sound that would soothe your ears when you’re listening to songs or watching a cinema on your home tv. But a studio monitor lives to find out problems in a perfect tune or a song. So, it’s supposed to sound pretty bad in a way because it looks for sonic technical issues.
- Projection difference: Hi-fi speakers have this specific need to have a very surround sound. But on the other hand, studio monitors don’t really focus on surround sound. So, the projection of the two speakers is very different according to their purpose.
- Sound difference: Hi-fi speakers don’t have amplifiers, to amp the sound you need to add an extra amplifier to it. But studio monitors, the active ones have amplifiers built-in and utilize a crossover system. So, the sound itself is different in both speakers.
The comparison is not an ideal one but as people often ask this, let’s get to know this as well.
People use headphones to cancel out the outside noises. But to be honest, the room acoustics are good for creating better quality sounds.
The room acoustics provide much aggressive sound waves and help you to find out serious issues in audio. Whereas headphones provide a much smoother experience.
So, for different types of audio, you need both of them. But studio monitors are preferred.
Now, let’s a take a look at some of the important features to look for in a studio monitor.
Important Features To Look For In Studio Monitors
Remember, we were talking about several factors like materials of the cabinets, driver frequency response? The output of these factors what we’ll be looking in a standard studio monitor.
Let’s take a clear vision of what drivers and cabinets are from this image.
As you can see, drivers are mainly two types: woofer and tweeter. And the cabinet is the housing of all the components. We have to look at the frequency range the drivers can produce in a studio monitor. For example, there are mentions in the studio monitor’s feature that let’s say it can produce 54 Hz to 30 kHz.
The wider the dynamic range, the better. But, you must have to take your room size into consideration. Otherwise, you may end up with the wrong choice in the end. One key factor to mention here as well that human ears capability of the listening range is 20 Hz to 20kHz.
The cabinet should be compacted. Cabinets have a huge impact on drivers.
The other two things are THD- Total Harmonic Distortion: the measurement of distortion a studio monitor can produce and SPL (Sound Pressure Level). Maximum SPL means the highest volume a studio monitor can produce.
You may see numbers like 108dB SPL @ 0.6%THD, which means your monitors are very responsive and punchy.
Watt is another key factor to watch. The more the number the more powerful. But, again, you have to decide the number as per how much power you need.
These factors influence the overall sound of a studio monitor.
Pros and Cons of Studio Monitors
Now, let’s have a look at some pros and cons of a studio monitor.
● Finds out problems in audio
● Helps to sort out technical problems
● Adds artistic vibe to determine the perfection of any audio
● Provides output almost as close to the original production sound
● Adjusts the sound according to the room acoustics
● Expensive setup
● Sometimes not suitable for home use
There are many things to consider before buying the best studio monitor for yourself. Let’s talk about them briefly.
The choice depends totally on your preferences. Active monitors don’t give you the choice of creating your own set up with external amps where passive monitors give you that.
Also, there’s a notable price margin and some other trade-offs while choosing anything. If you want to create your own setup and save some cash, go for passive monitors. And if you don’t think wasting time to set up is not worth the money, you can get active monitors and reduce your work.
Near-field or Mid-field or Far-field
You’ve to determine between near-field, mid-field and far-field design depending upon your room size, listening distance and acoustic treatment of your room.
Bi amps and tri amps provide much more flatter sounds than single amps. If you think that a single amp is enough for you to get your job done, you don’t need to choose the rest. But if you prefer more accuracy on the job, go for a bi-amp or tri-amp and the Yamaha HS8 is one of the best in the business.
Different instruments require you to have a different wattage to cover their sound frequencies. So, take note of the instruments used in the audio you’ll be working on and get a studio monitor with power compatibility.
To provide a better experience and cancel out the room acoustics, some studio monitors now come with built-in EQ and room correction options. You should consider these features while buying a studio monitor.
So, these are the things there’s to know about studio monitors. If you have gone through the whole article, now you know what studio monitors are, their history, typology, usage, pros & cons, the difference with other types of audio outputs, and finally, how to buy a studio monitor.
With this knowledge, you can now determine whether you need a studio monitor or not and also, which studio monitor is best for you. Make your own decision. All I’m going to say is a studio monitor is a good investment. Make it count.
Steven P. Frizzell is from Kinston, NC. He's 37 years old and currently works as a recording gear expert at Instrument Insight. Steven has an amazing understanding of recording gears, and related equipment - their materials, build quality, and versatility. He also has an in-depth knowledge of the history and origins of various recording gear manufacturing brands. This makes him one of the most sought-after experts in the industry!