How to choose the best studio monitors

If you want to make music comfortably in the home studio, you need a set of studio monitors. But how to choose the best studio monitors for your space? Which format is suitable for your room? After reading this article, you know what to look for when hunting for a new pair of studio monitors.

How to choose the best studio monitors

If you want to make music comfortably in the home studio, you need a set of studio monitors. But how to choose the best studio monitors for your space? Which format is suitable for your room? After reading this article, you know what to look for when hunting for a new pair of studio monitors.

Contents

Your studio monitors need to provide an accurate representation of your music. You want your mixes to translate well everywhere: in the living room, on the beach, in the car and on a pair of headphones. Your studio monitors let you hear exactly what you’re doing while mixing music in your DAW software.

What is the difference between hi-fi speakers and studio monitors?

Studio monitors represent your music as neutral as possible. Without coloring low, mid, or high frequencies. Hi-fi speakers in the living room or car often modify the sound for a “better” listening experience. This is often achieved by emphasizing the low and high sound frequencies. And that’s exactly what you don’t want for your studio monitors.

Compared to hi-fi speakers, studio monitors have a smaller sweet spot. They reproduce your music in detail. But if you get up from your mixing position, you will lose some of those details.

Nearfield, Midfield or Farfield?

How to choose the best studio monitors - nearfield monitors
Nearfield monitors in a small home studio

For small home studios, nearfield monitors are best suited. Nearfields are the easiest to use. In addition, they give a good sound when you sit close to them. In an ideal situation, they are placed at a distance of 50 to 150 centimeters from your mixing position.

Midfield and farfield monitors are suitable for larger studios with good acoustics. When placing midfields and farfields, it is best to ask a specialist. They are placed at a distance of 2 to 3 meters from your mixing position.

Active and passive monitors

When buying a set of studio monitors, make sure they are active. Active studio monitors have a built-in amplifier that is specially designed for the speakers. This way, you can be sure that your studio monitors sound good. You only need to connect them to your audio interface.

If you opt for passive monitors, you have to add an external amplifier. In addition, the amplifier must be suitable for your passive monitors. So active monitors are much easier to install in your home studio. That’s why most nearfield studio monitors are active ones.

2-way design

Nearfield studio monitors usually have a 2-way design: 1 tweeter for high frequencies and 1 woofer for the mids and lows. The amplifier sends the high frequencies to the tweeter and the mid and low frequencies to the woofer. Some studio monitors are equipped with a third speaker for the reproduction of mid frequencies.

How many power (Watts) do you need?

The power of your studio monitors is expressed in Watts. The amount of power affects the sound reproduction. This is not only the volume, but also the dynamic range. The more power (Watts) the speakers produce, the more detail you will hear at the same volume. This can be noticeable at higher peaks, for example with kick or snare drums in pop music.

Studio monitors with more power allow you to adjust a compressor, limiter or gate much easier while mixing. You don’t need to buy studio monitors with the highest possible wattages. But it is good to know while looking for a new pair.

Ported or closed cabinet?

How to choose the best studio monitors - a ported cabinet
Studio monitor with a port in front of the cabinet, so it can be placed near the back wall.

Many studio monitors have a ported cabinet for more bass. The port is placed in front or behind the cabinet. When the port is located at the back of the cabinet, then make sure you don’t place your studio monitors too close to the wall and corners. This way you prevent an exaggerated bass reproduction. The advantage of studio monitors with a closed cabinet (without a port) is that sound reproduction is tighter and more precise.

Equalizer and Room Correction

Monitor with equalizer on the back.
Connections and some tools for acoustic tuning.

Many studio monitors have tools to adjust them to your home studio space. Often it works with a simple equalizer. Some studio monitors also have digital room correction. This way, your music sounds better in a room with poor acoustics.

However, these tools only work to a limited extent. Poor room acoustics need to be treated with acoustic wall panels, bass traps, etcetera.

Do you need a subwoofer?

It depends on your studio space and your audience. You only need 2 studio monitors in a stereo setup to create song demos for your band. Are you creating music for film or TV? Then you need a multi-monitor setup with a subwoofer. This way, your audience can enjoy your music on their home entertainment system with a subwoofer. Does your audience listen to music through headphones? Or in the car? Then you usually don’t need a subwoofer.

Not for small home studios

The studio space itself is also an important factor. If you make music in a small room, a subwoofer will cause problems. Smaller rooms are not big enough to develop very low bass frequencies, resulting in an unbalanced sound. You can improve this by acoustic treatment. For example, you can place bass traps in all corners of your home studio. But the size of your space will always be the limiting factor.

What size to buy?

Nearfield monitors are available in different shapes and sizes. The size you need depends on the size of your home studio. In a room smaller than 4 x 4 x 2.5 meters, it is better to go for smaller monitors with speakers from 5 to 6 inches. In larger rooms, you can place nearfields with 8-inch woofers. The larger the woofer, the more bass it produces and the fuller the sound.

5-inch or 6-inch monitors are best suited for small home studios

What is the difference between 5-inch and 8-inch monitors?

The 5-inch monitor is the easiest to use. However, they do not reproduce low frequencies as well. For music with a lot of bass you will need a subwoofer. Note: you can only use a subwoofer if your home studio is larger than 4 x 4 x 2.5 meters. Also keep in mind that it’s quite difficult to adjust a subwoofer with monitor speakers yourself.

Is your room larger than 4 x 4 x 2.5 meters? Then you can use 8-inch studio monitors. They will also reproduce lower frequencies as well. So you don’t need to place a subwoofer.

Tips & Trics – How to choose the best studio monitors

Choose monitors that sound good to you

Studio monitors reproduce your music as neutrally as possible. However, there are differences between the various speakers. Take your favorite music to the music store and choose the studio monitors that sound most comfortable to you. Do you really want to put the monitors to the test during a listening session? Then play music with the greatest possible dynamics, from very soft to loud. For example, orchestral music or heavy metal.

Keep in mind that the room has a lot of influence on the sound. In your home studio, your music will sound different than in the store, even if you use the same monitors.

In the future, you will be making music for thousands of hours. This way you get to know your studio monitors better and better. Over time you will learn whether something will sound good on hi-fi speakers, for example in the living room or car.

Place your studio monitors in a triangle

Two pairs of studio monitors in a triangle arrangement.

It is best to place your studio monitors in such a way that you form an equilateral triangle (60 degrees) with your head in the mixing position. This way you get the best stereo sound. For example, if your speakers are 1 meter apart, the ideal listening position is exactly 1 meter from each speaker. The tweeters should be at ear height for a good reproduction of the high frequencies.

Create a symmetrical listening position

In an ideal situation, your studio monitors are placed at the same distance from the back wall and side walls. This way you get a better balanced listening position. Example: the left speaker is 1 meter from the left side wall and 40 centimeters from the back wall. For a symmetrical listening position, you place the right speaker 1 meter from the right side wall and 40 centimeters from the back wall.

Place your speakers at different distances from side walls and back wall

To prevent sound problems, it is best to place your speakers at different distances from the wall and sidewall. For example, 1 meter from the side wall and 40 centimeters from the back wall in a small home studio.

Keep your speaker away from wall and corners

It is best to place your speakers at a distance from the wall and corners. At least 25 to 35 centimeters from the wall, if possible. This way you prevent sound waves being reflected directly from the wall towards the listening position. These reflections can cause phasing problems, where certain sound frequencies are boosted or cut. By keeping your studio monitors out of the corner, you prevent extreme resonances of low tones.

Put your monitors on a stand

Studio monitors on floor stands.
Monitors on floor stands. This way you prevent resonance from your desktop.

It is better to put your studio monitors on a stand instead of your desk. When you place your monitors directly on a desk, the sound can resonate while making music. There are special stands for the floor or desk. Desk stands have special rubber feet to prevent unwanted resonances. You can also use monitor pads to prevent speakers from transmitting vibrations to the surface.

Consider acoustic treatment of your home studio

Your home studio space has a major influence on the sound. Consider spending part of your budget on the acoustic treatment of your room. A few acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling can make a huge difference, especially if you’re in a square studio space.

Use a reference track while mixing

Also listen to your favorite artists on your studio monitors. Use their best songs as a reference track while mixing new songs. This way you can check whether your music sounds as good as the artists you admire.

There are excellent studio monitors for every budget. You certainly don’t have to buy the most expensive set to create and mix music in your home studio.

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