No matter how large, well-equipped, and impressively furnished your home recording studio may be, it won’t be complete if you don’t have good-quality monitors.
Studio monitors or speakers are vital pieces of recording studio equipment since they provide a consistent, natural playback of recorded materials. Although some types may not introduce extra color or texture to the sound, they accurately reproduce the audio being played in the environment.
When you select the right monitors, you will have the ideal equipment you can use for recording, critical listening, mixing, editing, and mastering audio recording with a professional touch.
Shopping for Studio Monitors
If you want the best studio equipment, which should include the right monitors, follow these tips when buying your speakers for recording use:
Know the difference between active and passive monitors.
Studio monitors come in two main categories: active and passive.
Active monitors have built-in amplifiers and crossover, a feature that splits the signal into the appropriate frequency ranges before they are sent to the specific drivers.
Passive monitors, on the other hand, are modular in nature, which means you have to connect it to an external amplifier. They do not have internal crossovers.
If you don’t want to purchase external amplifiers and go through the process of connecting them to your monitors, opt for active speakers. They are easier and more convenient to set up and use, and they provide excellent audio without the need for other equipment.
Although both types have their own advantages and disadvantages, they work great as home recording studio monitors. As such, you have to consider other important factors in your decision, which include your budget and studio size and requirements.
2. Consider the amount of wattage you need.
The power or wattage of your monitor system has a significant effect on its overall sound. It also defines your dynamic range or the amount of headroom you have before the signals peak.
When your monitor has a high wattage, you will be able to hear more transient details. This will help you make precise adjustments to the compressors, limiters, and gates.
Although you don’t need monitors with maximum power ratings (which are often expensive), remember that speakers with more wattage produce more definition and dynamic range. As such, try to get speakers with the highest one you can afford.
While checking the wattage, look into the monitor’s power configuration as well. Bi- and tri-amped speakers typically produce clearer and more defined sound than single-amped ones.
3. Factor in the type of music you will be recording.
If you are wondering about the best size of monitors to get, consider the kind of music you plan to record.
Medium-sized monitors work well for recording and listening critically to light or easy listening music. But if you are playing rock, hip hop, and heavy house tracks, larger speakers with a higher wattage are better choices.
If you need to monitor deep bass frequencies of your recordings, consider getting a subwoofer. They are great for hearing the low-frequency range of your mixes.
4. Consider the size of your recording space.
Aside from the type of music you will record, you can choose the right size of your monitors by factoring in your recording room.
The size of your monitors has to be appropriate for the size of your room. If your home recording studio is small, you will get more accurate results with smaller speakers.
Five- to six-inch monitors will do well for such rooms.
If you have a spacious recording studio, speakers that are at least eight inches will serve you well.
5. Think about their placement.
Even before you start thinking about the type and size of monitors you want to buy, consider how close you will be standing to your monitors.
If you have a small recording space, look for a pair designed to work in close proximity (usually less than five feet) to your listening position.
Monitors that are designed for use in close proximity are called nearfield types. They create a highly focused and detailed soundstage within the area, or what recording experts call the “sweet spot.”
While in this spot, you can accurate;y evaluate the sound of your mix while minimizing the effects of the acoustics in the room.
Nearfield monitors are usually four to eight inches in size, compact, and have woofers. You can place them directly on your desk or put them on stands and arrange them near you.
Putting the monitors on stands helps improve their accuracy since the additional features reduce the amount of sound reflected off of the desktop or floor.
If you have a spacious recording studio, farfield monitors are your best options. To get the best audio from these speakers, make sure to arrange them in a way that they form an equilateral triangle with your head when you are in your listening position.
This position helps your monitors provide accurate, balanced, and clear audio imaging.
6. Pick monitors that are within your budget.
Finally, once you have narrowed down your options based on the factors above, you can zero in on the perfect monitors by considering your budget.
Although monitors are essential for your home recording studio, it doesn’t mean you should spend all your money on this equipment. Keep in mind that there are other devices you need for your room. These include headphones, microphones, and a computer.
You may also need to outfit the recording studio properly to improve the acoustics. This means investing in carpets, rugs, and draperies.
To narrow down your options, think about the amount of money you can spare for your studio monitors. Since there are more manufacturers producing premium speakers at different price points, you won’t have difficulties finding one that meets your budget.
Once you have set your budget, go online to compare prices. Be on the lookout for retailers that offer discounts or have promos so that you can save some money or get freebies that will help you complete your home recording studio.
Since monitors are essential equipment in recording studios and they can be quite expensive, you have to put some effort into the whole shopping process. But by following these tips and checking all your options, you will be able to get the best ones for your personal use.
Amrit Shivlani is the Founder and CEO at Music Majlis, a community-driven e-commerce platform that offers a wide variety of musical instruments and equipment for every musician and sound professional. The company’s goal is to make music-making, recording, producing and mixing accessible and available to everyone.