Whether you are in search of a studio monitor to enhance the overall quality of your already existing home stereo system, or you want to deploy a set for professional use, either in your home or commercial studio, rest assured you are in the right place. Studio monitors go a long way in giving you honest feedback on your work. They will output the sound exactly how it’s meant to come out in any stereo system. You want to avoid a situation where you are done mixing a track and it sure sounds great in your system only to find out it sounds awful in a different set of machines. Aside from having to redo the work again, this just sucks at all levels. They achieve this by offering an even frequency distribution to all drivers. It ensures true fidelity in your mixing or mastering work. This has a significant impact on how well the track does in the market or to your immediate listeners. This is why the best studios in the world are ready to part with thousands of dollars for the best pieces. The number of small home and commercial studios is sprouting at a fast rate. For those reasons, the market has seen several players up their game to match up with the demand. This has had a substantial drop in price and an increase in the availability of a quality set.
Benefits of studio monitors
- It adds a touch of professionalism to your home studio as it opens avenues to be able to mix all kinds of music.
- They even out sound across all frequencies. Unlike consumer speakers which sacrifice some bands. This makes it possible for you to hear exactly how the file sounds.
- It serves as a marker for your mixing/mastering development and competency. This is way better than using, say, mixing headphones.
- They can be used for both professional and entertainment purposes.
How do they work?
To get a mass appeal, ordinary speakers available in the market go a long way in ensuring the infidelity of the soundtrack in play. This means that some aspects of the audio file are ignored and others exaggerated to produce a soundtrack with universal liking. For instance, the bass and treble frequencies are usually amplified while the driver directory is downplayed to avoid producing raw sound. On the other side, studio monitors pay every attention to every last driver detail and combine that with a powerful amplifier, in a relatively small form factor, and you get the real sound as intended by the artist.
Finding a sweet spot between your budget and the right quality to suit your needs is difficult in this flooded market. The good news is that we have done all the dirty work for you. In this article, we will educate you on the basics of studio monitors and give you a top ten list of speakers that check most of the boxes. All budgets are covered and any set you pick will certainly give you decent service. Let’s dive in.
Types of studio monitor speakers
- Active monitors: These have an in-built amplifier and are connected via active crossover links. Besides their plug and play design, they also offer a cost-effective option as they dot require a separate amplifier to connect to them.
- Passive monitors: These do not have an in-built amplifier with external addition of the same being a necessity. They are preferred in applications that require more flexibility and customizability of the driving amplifier and crossover such as in professional studios.
- Near-field monitors: These are relatively small in size studio monitors and are meant to be placed a few feet (3-5 feet) away from the listener. This makes it possible to eliminate room echo and is best for small studio set-ups.
- Far-field monitors: These are relatively larger studio monitors meant to be placed at a much further distance from the listener. As obvious, such setups will have more room echo coming along with the original sound.
Factors to consider when choosing a studio monitor
- Size of the speaker: The physical size of a monitor has a direct relationship with both its price and frequency response. Depending on the size of your working space, chose a set that gives you the best audio output. Smaller rooms require smaller monitors and the contrary is true for larger rooms.
- Layout: This depends on the arrangement of your audio system. To properly understand this, we’ll use an example of a typical two-way stereo system. It has a woofer for low frequencies and a tweeter for mid and high range frequencies. A crossover separates these frequencies and is usually defaulted at a specific midrange point to act as a reference. More expensive systems employ more speakers with dedicated drivers to make the output clearer. Put this into consideration when choosing the right studio monitor.
- Price: As discussed earlier, getting a decent set of studio monitors is now possible for a relatively low price. Factor In your intended purpose to help you properly decide on how many bucks you are ready to part with.
- Listening distance: Studio monitors are classified according to their woofer diameter. Nearfield types are meant to be used in smaller rooms or near to the listener’s ears. Midfield types are meant to be places a further in a medium-sized room. Lastly, full-size types are giant and are meant for larger studios.
- Frequency response: This is arguably the most important factor in getting a proper studio monitor. This is usually given as a pair of numbers. It tells you the range of frequencies the speaker can produce, usually the highest and the lowest frequency. Find a speaker that supports most if not all range of frequencies the human ear is capable of detecting, usually 20HZ-20KHZ.
- Power: This is usually given in watts. It dictates the loudness of the studio monitor speaker. Lower watt ratings are suitable for smaller rooms with the opposite being true for larger rooms.
Mistakes to avoid when buying a studio monitor
Now that you know what to look for, the do’s, it’s time to check out the don’ts. Do not:
- Go with the wind. Do not follow trends. Rather, chose what works for your set up and budget
- Poorly position the monitor as it will ruin the output of your sound. Be sure to place the speakers at a fair distance from all the walls in the room.
- Have excess bass as it will downplay other segment s of your music.
- Play the tracks at high volumes to be able to make out every bit.
How to connect your studio monitor
We will divide the connection guide into the two types of studio monitor speakers;
- For active monitors: These usually have hardwired ports such as USB, XLR or jacks from where you can hook them directly to your computer or audio interface.
- For passive monitors: The output from your computer/ audio interface will usually be passed through an amplifier intermediate stage before connecting to your studio monitor.
#1. Adam Audio A7X
This is an excellent type of nearfield studio monitor. For starters, its high end in terms of price. However, you get a lot going with the speaker. It features sharp bass reproduction, clear and price mid and high frequencies. This is made possible by a 50W A/B amplifier driving the tweeter along with a 100W PWM amplifier driving the bass and mid-range woofer. It features a single XLR along with one unbalanced RCA port. Overall, it enjoys good customer reviews in the lines of quality, service, and durability.
- Precise sound output.
- Flexibility across all frequencies.
- High price.
- It might not be suitable for small rooms due to their high wattage rating.
#2. Yamaha HS8
Featuring an 8” woofer, this is a big boy! Its simplistic design delivers a solid build quality. It has excellent versatility across all frequencies. At 120W, it boasts all the power you need. Maybe even intimidating for smaller rooms. The set supports XLR and TRS inputs. The overall set up is made up of a 75W cone woofer along with a 45W dome-shaped tweeter. The frequency response is beyond sufficient at 38HZ-38KHZ.
- Great, simplistic design.
- High sonic output fidelity to a wide range of input frequencies.
- Decent pricing
- Over powerful for smaller rooms.
#3. Mackie CR3
This is a champion in the budget category. The design is fantastic with green accents lining the exterior. They feature 3” woofers with the amplifier built right in. This explains the low cost. Don’t let this fool you though. The quality is excellent and the power is s decent 50W. The set-up constitutes two 50W woofers along with two self-cooled tweeters. It offers both the unbalanced RCA and the balanced TRS input options. You can also connect smaller devices such as your phone or laptop using the mini-jack input port. It offers a competitive 60 Hz-20 kHz frequency response range.
- Great design.
- The flexibility of input options.
- Well priced.
- Not suitable for larger studio set-ups.
#4. Genelec M040
This made it to the list based on the amount of research and development investment the Finish Company that makes. They have great build quality. Several special technologies are integrated into the unit. For instance, the Laminar Integrated Port technology which employs two venting tubes for better bass output. The standards Genelec room response compensation technology ensures the set is versatile to the acoustic response of the room. In short, this is the “smartest” option in the list.
- Smart room compensation technology
- LIP technology
- Compact form factor
- Relatively narrow frequency response
#5. Neumann KH 120
This unit made it to the list for its compact solid build quality. As you might be already aware, the company has a long-standing reputation in electronics manufacturing. It is with a lot of confidence that we endorse this studio monitor. It offers an excellent frequency response at a decent power level. This is thanks to the use of dual amplification channels. They have paid close attention to the accuracy of the output by restricting the manufacturing of all such units to a 5dB margin of error.
- High customizability of output sound.
- Highly accurate.
- It can perform all the functions in one unit.
- Works best in a multiple channel system.
#6. KRK RP5G3-59107 ROKIT
This is a bi-woofer set up. This will give you wider flexibility in terms of positioning and placement. It’s worth mentioning both speakers are bi-amplified for maximum power output. You get two, high definition dome-shaped tweeters, one for each unit. The speakers’ parent company Gibson, has a century-long reputation in the audio equipment industry and pushing the envelope is their thing. That’s why you get an extended frequency response range maxing out at around 35Hz.
- You get a pair.
- Sharp sonic output.
- Reasonably priced.
- No option for a sub-woofer output.
#7. Pioneer Pro DJ Studio Monitor
First off, Pioneer as a company is one of the most beloved audio equipment lines in the world. They have earned this spot by finding a perfect balance between price and quality. They have also made a bold statement by using wood in the construction of most of their device, unlike other competitors who use other materials such as plastic and metal. This studio monitor is no different. The design is excellent, the price is reasonable and the sonic response is excellent!
- The premium quality of sound.
- It’s been reported to shut down unexpectedly
#8. Avantone Pro MixCube 5.25”
This line of product was created to target large studios. It was meant to output sound as it would on an ordinary consumer local stereo system. They are meant to complement other monitors you might already have on your list.
- Excellent sound quality.
- Reasonably priced.
- Compact, solid build quality.
- It can’t serve the role as a stand-alone.
#9. HEDD Audio Type 20
These are heavy, to begin with. They have excellent quality and feel to them. They have close to zero disturbances. The set spots both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA input ports. When properly calibrated, they can be a jack of all trades with regards to sound. It effortlessly delivers all frequencies, especially in the mid and high range.
- Perfect reproduction of low-end frequencies.
- Great for universal application.
#10. M-Audio AV42
This rounds up the list as the best budget option. It features a ton of features for its pricing. The set comes in a 4” woofer and 1” tweeter combo. The frequency range is sufficient at 80Hz-20 KHz. I’d recommend this if you were on a budget.
- Best value for money.
- Simplistic, minimal and modern design.
- The quality sound is slightly not at per with more expensive counterparts.
For both personal and professional studio use, getting a great part of studio monitors will definitely up your game. Be sure to consider your context first before making a choice. studio monitors will definitely up your game. Be sure to consider your context first before making a choice.