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10 Critical Things to Look for When Buying Studio Monitors

If you're in the market for some monitors, strap in because, In just a few minutes, you will learn what to look for when buying studio monitors.

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Did you know what to look for when you were buying studio monitors? I sure didn’t. I ended up grabbing a pair of cheap 3-Inch monitors to save some cash, and boy, I regret it.

If you’re in the market for a new pair, then strap in because, In just a few minutes, you will learn what to look for when buying studio monitors so you can grab the best pair for your studio at the right price. I will also offer my recommendations for some monitors and tell you which pair I bought when I was shopping around.

10 critical things to look for when buying studio monitors - edifier studio speaker monitors for home recording studio - audio apartment

What are studio monitors?

Studio monitors, also known as reference monitors, are loudspeakers housed in speaker enclosures that are used in professional audio production environments, such as recording studios, film studios, television studios, radio studios, and project or home studios, to ensure that the audio being produced is being reproduced accurately.

Is it possible to obtain good results with only one studio monitor? While it’s possible to get by with just one studio monitor speaker for casual listening, using two in stereo is highly recommended if you want to create professional-quality music during the mixing process.

Should I listen to playback on speakers or headphones?

The key differentiator between listening with headphones and speakers (the head-related transfer function). When you put on headphones, everything happening in the right channel only reaches your right ear, and vice versa for the left channel and your left ear.

How to buy studio monitors

When buying studio monitors, there are no one-size-fits-all for studio monitors. Everyone’s ear is different, and everyone has a different taste. And some of these factors might not be important to you, and that’s ok. The keyword in all of this is you. You might work with trap music or vocals or edit podcasts. The point is that you need to consider what you need it for and how you will use it when determining what factors are essential for you.

1. Power: Look for high-wattage studio monitors

Power is not just for volume; it’s also for dynamic range. As an audio engineer, you probably add a lot to your mix. If you don’t have a set of studio monitors with a high dynamic range, you won’t be able to hear all of the elements in your final track.

A speaker’s power is measured in wattage. A speaker with a high wattage will allow you to listen to transient details, making it easier to make precise adjustments to limiters, compressors, and gates.

Sounds that tend to peak, like snare hits or kick drums, can require up to 10 times the power. This can make your track sound distorted, making you hear clipping on musical peaks. To provide the best dynamic range possible, invest in a set of speakers with a lot of headroom. 

Headroom is the maximum amount of undistorted signal the speakers can handle. When buying studio monitors, choosing a pair with plenty of headroom will help retain the details of your track when listening to playback so you can turn your speakers up to 11 without losing quality. 

10 critical things to look for when buying studio monitors - giphy - audio apartment
Studio monitors are jamming-out.

2. Active vs. passive studio monitor: Which is best for you?

Passive speakers draw their power from an external amplification source. Passive speakers have wattage ratings but do not provide any power. The rating is there to indicate their ability to handle power.

Active speakers come with an internal power source. They typically have multiple power amplifiers. So the woofer, tweeter, and midrange speaker each get a separate power source. The woofer usually hogs up a lot of power. With a dedicated amplifier, the tweeter (for high frequencies) will sound great regardless of how much power the woofer uses, rendering a clear and accurate playback. 

Most studio monitors are active speakers. I wouldn’t suggest getting a pair of passive speakers unless you have no other option. So, when buying studio monitors, look for active ones. an active speaker will have an amp built into the speaker cabinet, while a passive speaker will require an additional external amp

3. Driver configuration: Single-amp, bi-amp, and tri-amp?

Active speakers have amplifiers built-in. Single-amp, bi-amp, and tri-amp refer to how the power is divided among the speaker’s components. A single amp configuration will power both the tweeter and the woofer, sharing power between the two as needed. 

A bi-amp speaker has two dedicated amplifiers for the high and low frequencies, resulting in a cleaner, more accurate frequency response. A tri-amp configuration is used in monitors that have dedicated midrange speakers. 

4. Size: Do you have enough room for large studio monitors?

Do you have room for studio monitors? You may be working in a very small environment. If so, chances are you’ll want a small pair of speakers. Consider the size of the overall area that it will take up in your room or desk.

If you do not have the space on your desk, consider grabbing a pair of studio monitor stands. Most manufacturers provide this as an optional add-on when buying studio monitors. 

5. Audio inputs: What audio input should a monitor have?

When buying studio monitors, consider what audio inputs it needs to support. It would be unfortunate if you bring a pair of studio monitors home to realize that you have incompatible equipment. 

Do you need ¼ inch TRS or RCA inputs? How about ⅛ inch stereo inputs? Perhaps you need AUX inputs to plug your phone in via a 3.5mm cable? How about XLR, Bluetooth, Optical, or Coaxial? When buying studio monitors, you should know which inputs and how many you require. You should have a way to input an audio interface as well.

Also, consider your geographical region. Do you live in the states, UK or EU? Some speakers have different plugs, so be cautious when making a purchase, make sure to choose a speaker that provides the appropriate connector or adapter for your AC/DC outlet.

Audio inputs buying studio monitors.
Many types of audio inputs.

6. Ported or closed studio monitors: Which type should you get?

You’ve probably noticed many studio monitors have holes in the front or rear. These kinds of monitors are called ported cabinets. This is there to extend the frequency response to provide more bass. When monitors vibrate, the backward movement will create internal air pressure inside the cabinet. The holes (or ports) redirect the air pressure outside the cabinet, allowing a better low-frequency response. 

However, if the port is positioned in the rear of the speaker, then you might experience over-extended lows. If you place your speakers in front of you, you should be fine. But if they go to the corners or walls, consider front-ported or closed monitors.

7. Near vs. far field studio monitors: Which are better you?

Near-field monitors typically have smaller drivers and are meant to sit close to the listener (2-3 feet away). The proximity allows direct sound to directly hit the listener’s ear rather than reflecting from the room’s surfaces. 

Conversely, Far-field monitors have larger drivers and are meant to be placed along the perimeter of a room, farther from the listener. You can typically find far-field monitors mounted to walls, monitor stands, or behind a mixing desk. Far-field monitors take advantage of room acoustics and use the entire space to allow low frequencies to resonate. 

Most of us will go with near-field monitors, especially for home studio use. Far-field monitors require a lot of space, which many of us don’t have. Additionally, far-field monitors are partially dependent on the acoustic makeup of a room, so a lot more money would need to spend a lot of money treating the room acoustically or far-field monitors to be worth it. 

That said, I don’t want you to write off far-field monitors; they serve a purpose and can give you a much more holistic mixing experience when appropriately utilized. Check out this video from Streaky Mastering to learn more about near-field vs. far-field monitors.

8. EQ features: Can you adjust your room’s acoustics?

A good set of monitors will come with EQ adjustability so you can tune the speakers to the acoustics of your studio. Some monitors in the market have automatic digital processors that can detect the optimal EQ settings for the best sound in your room. 

However, If your room echoes, this won’t help. There is no magic pill to get perfect sound if your sound sucks. You will have to treat the acoustics of your room yourself. That being said, if you have a studio with amazing acoustics, a monitor that can match your room will make your playback sound amazing. 

9. Speaker cone size: The size of the tweeter and woofer?

When buying studio monitors, consider the cone size of the woofer and tweeter. Most typical cone sizes are 5 to 8-inches. The biggest difference between an 8-inch and a 5-inch speaker is that a 5-inch speaker does not produce as many low-ends as an 8-inch. The lower frequencies are not as powerful, and you might end up chasing a good base tone artificially because the speakers can’t produce anymore.

But, If you are just starting out, go with a 5-inch speaker. They are less expensive and more compact, so your lows won’t be overpowering. Also, note that the size of the cones will have an impact on the price of the monitors. 

10. Price: How much should I spend when buying studio monitors?

We all know you get what you pay for, but that is not necessarily the case with home studio equipment. Price is not the definitive factor when comparing speakers. We have already seen that there are so many other things to consider. And you might find that a budget-friendly option can provide you with even more value than a more expensive one. It’s all about finding what you need and finding the best gear in your budget. 

But how much should you spend? Well, that depends on what you’re comfortable spending. If you have a steady income stream from mixing and recording, making it rain on a pair of speakers might not be a big deal. If you’re starting and money is tight. Just stick to something inexpensive until you have the money to upgrade (if you even need to upgrade). You don’t have to break the bank to get top-notch quality monitors. 

If you want more information on choosing the right studio monitors, watch this video from Manchester Music. You won’t regret it.

A video from manchester music about studio monitors.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about studio monitors.

How large should my monitors be?

As a general rule, the larger the monitor, the larger the room should be, or the monitor will not function properly. Eight-inch screens become economically viable once the room dimensions exceed 4 by 4 by 2.5 meters. Eight-inch displays work best in the space of 5 m x 5 m x 3 m.

In what range does the price of a studio monitor fall?

The active KRK Rokit 5 G4 studio monitors are among the best available, but they cost anywhere from $155 to $180 for a single unit (depending on where you buy them). If you can’t afford two, a single unit will do as long as you mix in mono. Jan 12, 2021

How much power should studio monitors have?

50 watts is a good rule of thumb if you’re just starting with your home studio. Studio monitors, in contrast to regular speakers, are not meant to improve the quality of the audio as it is being played back; quite the opposite.

Do you need to use a subwoofer?

When it comes down to it, a subwoofer is a must-have component. Begin with a single subwoofer if you’re just starting or the money is tight. Consider adding a second low-tone beast to your system as it develops. You’re pumping up the bass and dispersing it equally over the space.

What is the frequency response range?

The frequency response range of a speaker is an indicator of its ability to faithfully reproduce a wide variety of frequencies. The frequency range that the human ear can detect is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. As the number decreases, the pitch does as well. The typical frequency range for human hearing is 45–20,000 Hz.

Conclusion

The Fact is that there is no best speaker. Everyone will have different needs and situations. And there are many factors to consider when shopping for a studio monitor. But hopefully, now you are armed with a little more knowledge to make the best decision when buying studio monitors. And the monitors I purchased when I had some extra cash? The Yamaha HS7i was the one for me. 

This article covered the most important things you need to consider when purchasing a set of studio monitors. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Look for a monitor with a high wattage (power) rating
  • Consider active monitors vs. passive monitors
  • Consider the amp driver configuration
  • How big do you want the cones to be?
  • Do you have enough space in your room monitors?
  • Consider the input options. Do you need
  • Do you prefer open-port or closed-port monitors? 
  • Do you need near-field or far-field monitors?
  • Can you adjust the EQ directly on the speakers?
  • Are you buying studio monitors within your budget?
  • Putting a woofer into a sealed box has another curious effect on the bass response of a speaker.
  • A larger investment comes with greater, high-quality, improved accuracy and other benefits like lower distortion and a wider “sweet spot.
  • If you’re mixing sound for tv or motion pictures, then a multi-speaker monitoring setup with a subwoofer is practically essential. 
  • When using stereo monitoring, it is recommended that the speakers be placed so that they form a right triangle with the listening position in the center and with each other as the vertex.
  • Don’t skip out on your room’s acoustic treatment, or you’ll never get a good sound from your environment.
  •  Eq and room correction DSP can help make the most out of a bad-sounding room and make a room with good acoustics sound great.

So, what pair did you grab when buying studio monitors? ? 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 music recording. Thanks for reading and sendoff.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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