Remember the first time you saw the price tag on a set of studio monitors? Your eyes probably widened, and your jaw hit the floor. Studio monitors can be expensive, and you probably won’t just buy one. But can’t your home speakers do the trick? Do you really need studio monitors to mix music?
In this post, I will go over the difference between these two types of speakers, give you my recommendations for some quality monitors, and offer an alternative to both.
Do you need studio monitors to produce music? You should use studio monitors to mix because they will give you the cleanest sound possible. Home speakers hide noise and imperfections. If you use them to mix, your final mix will sound inconsistent from one device to the next. However, you dont need to use them if you dont want to (though you should).
What are home speakers?
Home speakers are the conventional speakers you might find on most boomboxes or wired home audio systems. They don’t usually provide a power amplifier. Instead, they have two terminals in the back for power and sound, so they rely entirely on a separate power source. Home speakers usually come in pairs and are relatively inexpensive compared to studio monitors.
What are studio monitors?
Studio monitors give you the flattest and most accurate representation of your playback. They have a separate terminal for connecting power and an XLR audio input terminal. They are sold in single units as well as in pairs.
Looking for top-quality monitors? Check out some of these top picks.
The difference between home speakers and studio monitors
The most significant difference between home speakers and studio monitors is sound quality. Studio monitors are designed to sound flat, while home speakers are designed to enhance the listening experience.
The speakers are also technically different. Most home speakers are “passive,” meaning they require external power. If you take a look behind a conventional home speaker, you will see only two connection terminals. These are for providing both power and sound to the speaker. Studio monitors are active or powered, meaning the power amplifier is built into the speaker so you can plug them right into the wall.
Why you shouldn’t mix with regular speakers
Home speakers are designed to be heard how the manufacturer wants you to listen to music, which is usually as pleasant as possible. The intent is to mask away any imperfections.
This is a problem because the sound was pre-designed by someone else, Not by you. When mixing, it is up to you, the engineer, to select what you want to tweak. If the mix needs more bass or treble, you won’t know because the mix you hear on the home speakers is lying to you. So you do not hear the real mix. You are hearing the manufacturer’s EQ version of your mix.
Worse yet, If you attempt to export a mix made using home speakers, you will find that it will sound radically different from speaker to speaker. When you take a track that was mixed with home speakers and attempt to hear it on another speaker system, you may find that it will sound radically different from speaker to speaker and nothing like you heard it at home.
But your mix wont not get played on professional equipment, right? Most of the time, no, it won’t. But just because people will listen to your track on lower-end devices doesn’t mean you should mix for those devices. Can you guarantee the listeners don’t have quality speakers? You should be shooting for the best mix possible. That starts with good quality, flat, natural playback.
When should use home speakers over monitors?
Audio professionals need studio monitors to mix and hear what is going on in the track to address any imperfections. However, most music enthusiasts are passive listeners. They want to enjoy the music. A pair of conventional Hi-Fi home speakers do a great job by boosting the sounds, making the flattest mixes punchy and rich.
Whether you are a music professional or a music lover, there’s nothing wrong with listening to your favorite music through a good pair of conventional home speakers. After all, most music consumers prefer speakers that will enhance their listening experience.
Tips for choosing studio monitors
It’s important not to have a consumer mindset. If you are shopping at a local music store, chances are the dealer will be playing extremely well-recorded music CDs. But you won’t listen to perfectly polished music while using them. You want to demo the monitors with rawer materials to reveal imperfections. If you buy a pair that was demoed with, say, steely dan, you might find that those monitors, while great, don’t reveal the imperfections you need to hear when mixing.
When you shop for studio monitors, become familiar with a song or playlist. Then go to your local music store and have them demo any of the monitors that you can. You will be able to hear the difference from speaker to speaker.
Here’s a pro tip when shopping for studio monitors. Make yourself a dedicated tester mix, and make a checklist of things to look for. To do this, simply rip a CD with some mixes you deliberately messed up. Try to hide some imperfections in the tracks and start listening. You will know exactly what to look for when demoing a pair of studio speakers. Using this method should help you choose the perfect monitors.
Also, try not to select a pair of speakers that make your music sound better than it is. While studio speakers are not designed for this, you might find that a particular manufacturer may have tweaked the speakers in such a way to make the music sound better than it is.
Remember, you are buying studio monitors to mix, not just for your listening pleasure. Your music will only sound good on most speakers if mixed on the most revealing speaker system.
5-inch vs. 8-inch studio monitors?
Monitors are measured by their largest speaker cone. Most typical sizes are 5 to 8-inch speakers. The most significant difference between an 8-inch and a 5-inch speaker is that a 5-inch speaker does not produce as many low-ends as the 8inch. The drawback of using smaller speakers is that you won’t get much lower ends, and you will be chasing a good base tone because the speakers can’t produce any more base.
If you are just starting, starting with a 5-inch speaker is better. Thir less expensive, more compact, and they won’t be too bassy, so you won’t drive your neighbors crazy.
If you are looking for even more tips, check out this awesome video by Jeff from Manchester Music as he breaks down his tip ist for buying a new studio monitor.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Cardioid vs. Omni-directional vs. Bi-directional Mics, Which Should You Buy?” from the Podcastage YouTube channel.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Do You Need Studio Monitors to Produce? (Studio Monitors Explained)” from the Show Your Genius // Adriel Rivera YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about studio monitors.
Can you mix with studio monitors?
If studio monitors are just a little out of your budget, studio headphones are the next best option. Studio headphones, sometimes called monitoring headphones, are mainly used for mixing and editing, much like studio monitors, but with the additional benefits of having sound isolation and (usually) a lower price tag.
Can you use regular speakers as studio monitors?
While normal speakers will work, the sound will be distorted when used as studio monitors. To ensure that the recorded sound is accurately reproduced, studio monitors contribute very little to the signal being played back. Contrarily, standard speakers alter the sound to fit the “coloring” specifications of the brand.
Are studio monitors necessary for mixing?
When mixing, it is crucial to hear all frequency ranges clearly and precisely, therefore studio monitors take on a great role in the mixing process. However, studio monitors are a must-have for any professional recording setup, but they’re not required for a basic home recording setup.
So, do you need studio monitors to mix? Yes, but ultimately, the decision is yours. However, your goal should be to mix in a balanced natural unenhanced state. You can not properly mix on a set of home stereo speakers. There’s just no way around it. Simply put, consumer speakers mask extended highs, lows, or imperfections. Professional studio monitors let you hear everything. But if you want to use those bose speakers for your listening pleasure, by all means, go for it.
However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music producer by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.
This article covered studio monitors and water you need to use them to produce music. Here are some key takeaways:
- Home speakers are the conventional speakers you might find on most boomboxes or wired home audio systems
- Studio monitors give you the most accurate representation of your playback.
- The difference between home speakers and studio monitors is sound quality.
- Studio monitors are designed to sound flat, while home speakers are designed to enhance the listening experience.
- You should use studio montoors to mix
- You can also use studio headphones.
So,do you use studio monitos? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on niche. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.