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Chariton Bobylev
Chariton Bobylev

Studio Monitor Buying Guide

So you're wondering which studio monitors you should buy, rent or otherwise try out. In this comprehensive buyer's guide, we'll go through everything worth considering before you make any decisions about a pair of studio monitors.

studio monitor buying guide

Consider the cost to benefit ratio of the purchase of the studio monitors. For example, if the monitors are needed for business, perhaps stretching the budget is more appropriate. On the other hand, if you don't plan on making money with the monitors, perhaps a more conservative budget is appropriate.

So it's important to have proper acoustic treatment if you want a proper listening environment for your studio monitors. Moving on, how do the size and shape of the room affect the optimal choice of studio monitors?

Of course, these are just guidelines. Large monitors could work in smaller rooms, though the bass frequencies will likely cause issues, especially in poorly treated spaces. Similarly, small monitors could work in large rooms, though they may not fill them the same and may lack in perceived bass.

Some studio monitors come with software and DSP to help tune/EQ the monitors to the room. These features are great, but it's rather difficult to optimize any playback system in a poor acoustic space. Remember that when choosing your monitors and perhaps opt to spend less on the monitors and more on acoustic treatment!

Far-field studio monitors are generally only found in high-end mixing and mastering facilities. These are larger monitors designed for placement along the perimeter of a mixing room, often 8 feet or more from the listening position, mounted behind the mixing console/desk.

At this distance, much more of the room acoustics will be apparent in the sound. So not only do we need a large enough space to distance the monitors from the listening position, but we also need a properly treated and acoustically pleasant room as well. For these reasons, far-field studio monitors are generally only used in high-end studios.

Speakers (including studio monitors) require speaker level signals to be driven properly. Most audio equipment works at line level, or at least close to line level. Professional line level signals are nominally +4 dBu (1.228 VRMS). Speaker level signals aren't as standardized (speakers vary significantly in power handling capabilities) but range from just about line level to 100 VRMS (+42 dBu or +40 dBV) or more.

Frequency response refers to the frequency-dependent sensitivity of the studio monitor. In other words, how well the monitor will respond to and reproduce the frequencies of the incoming audio signal.

Passive studio monitors will require speaker wire to connect to their appropriate power amplifier. These monitors often have binding posts or push terminals and require cables with compatible connectors.

Once your monitors are in position, you should ensure your listening position is an appropriate distance from the monitors; most home studio monitors will be near-field, and should be listened to from a distance of approximately 1-2m.

Being able to hear your mixes in intricate detail is the most important aspect of music production. That means that choosing the best studio monitor is a key decision for you as a music producer. Hearing your mixes in detail means you can improve them and iron out inconsistencies, so getting the best monitor speaker for your studio is a sure-fire way to drastically improve your music making.

It will also help avoid that common scenario: where you spend hours labouring over a mix that sounds amazing on your (not so great) monitoring system, and then you play it elsewhere and it sounds awful. If this is happening to you with your mixes, then it could be time to upgrade your studio monitoring set-up, and that's where this guide comes in!

We've also included some in-depth buying advice (opens in new tab) at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to learn more about the best speakers for music production, we'd recommend you head straight there. On the other hand, if you'd rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.

We have also included a selection of brilliant affordable monitors in this guide - head to our best budget studio monitors guide for more like this. While their sound quality is not quite as accurate and true as most of the mid and high-end speakers here, some do deliver an awful lot of monitor for the cash. Of these, the IK Multimedia iLoud Micro (opens in new tab) and the M-Audio BX5 D3 (opens in new tab) both have features geared specifically towards making sure you get the clearest, most precise image of your mix.

The famous story about the old Yamaha NS10 studio monitors was that they were chosen not because they sounded great, but because they didn't. The theory being that if you could mix a track to sound good on them, you could be confident it would sound good anywhere. Of course, times have changed and even modern entry-level monitors will do a job, but the appeal of owning a piece of genuine studio history is strong.

From their famous Oxygen MIDI controllers, M-Track digital interfaces, and robust studio monitors, M-Audio is the go-to company for many budding producers looking for high-quality, affordable home studio products.

Output is well known for its much-loved audio plugins, virtual instruments, and beautiful studio furniture. The release of the Frontier nearfield loudspeaker sees Output enter the studio monitors arena, with a little help from their friends over at Barefoot Sound.

A sister product to the original single-box iLoud, this two-speaker setup is billed as "the smallest active studio reference monitoring system in the world," and is designed to be used in small "makeshift" working spaces. iLoud Micro Monitor certainly has the look and feel of a downsized 'proper' monitoring system rather than a posh pair of consumer-level computer speakers.

If your recording journey has started with you using headphones or the speakers in your laptop, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 will provide an instant upgrade. These affordable studio monitors offer a variety of connections, and the onboard EQ correction is superb to find at this price point.

Studio monitors should reveal everything about your music in as truthful a way as possible. They should therefore have a completely flat frequency response, that is not coloured or enhanced in any area, so what you hear being played is the actual mix in all its glory. You can then make correct mix decisions based on this true response (reduce volume levels, or EQ certain parts, for example). If your studio monitors don't have a flat frequency response and are, say, enhanced at the bass end, you will hear too much bass so reduce it while mixing and your mixed track will sound bass light on any other playback system.

Furthermore, buying active monitors is somewhat less expensive than buying the two individually. In other words, powered monitors will offer you a better deal for your money, but passives will allow you to improve later.

Nearfield studio monitors are essentially very directional, bookshelf-style monitors designed to play music as flat as possible. They are mainly used for mixing and mastering. However, near-field monitors usually cost more as they are designed to be as accurate and impartial as possible, allowing the producer to hear every little nuance of his work.

Therefore, testing bass-heavy music on studio monitors can somehow determine if the monitor has a flat frequency response or not. If, for example, the bass feels overhyped or exaggerated, this indicates the monitor is not neutral.

Usually, in a bi-amp architecture, studio monitors offer two drivers, an LF (low frequency also known as woofer) driver and an HF (high frequency also known as tweeter). As the name implies, the tweeter is a driver inside the monitor responsible for reproducing high frequencies. On the other hand, the woofer is responsible for reproducing mid to low-frequencies.

To assist you to adjust studio monitor characteristics to your space, many of them come with built-in EQ controls. Some monitors even offer digital processing to help them function ideally in your acoustic environment.

EQ and room adjustment digital signal processing may help a room with poor acoustics sound better and can enhance the sound of a properly treated room. But in the end, no monitoring system can compensate for poorly managed acoustics in your studio.

Most mid-end monitors nowadays are built using MDF material (Medium Density Fibreboard), which is known to be one of the most efficient building materials for studio monitors. It also dampens resonant frequencies well, making it an excellent choice for a high-quality budget-friendly enclosure.

Too frequently, amateurs in the field of music production overspend on studio monitors while entirely ignoring studio monitor placement, which is one of the most crucial elements in obtaining a nice sound.

It is not necessary (or convenient) to have extremely large monitors in a small space, yet larger drivers in a small room will not generate greater acoustic concerns, contrary to common assumptions. You may reduce the volume of a larger studio monitor to match the sound level of a smaller studio monitor. We should point out, however, that having larger monitors at the same volume level as smaller monitors in a small room has the advantage of lowering distortion.

Eris E4.5 active monitors boast 4.5" woofers and 1" silk-dome tweeters. Ideal for gaming and home video production, the Eris E4.5 delivers studio-quality sound yet is compact enough to fit almost anywhere.

The sound output on the Eris E4 5 is excellent and super-flat, as any decent monitor should be. The design leaves a bit to be desired, but where these speakers really shine is in sound quality. And when it comes to finding the best studio monitors, that really matters!

This floor-standing single studio monitor produces clear and optimal sound with minimal distortion. A soft dome tweeter delivers crisp highs, and a glass-aramid composite woofer booms out thick bass. 041b061a72


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