Studio monitors are critical to any recording project, whether amateur or professional. If you manage to get a good set, you’ll hear your sound in great detail.
However, you’re likely to have several questions when buying, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. What is the difference between a regular speaker and a studio monitor? How can I tell if a monitor is producing good sound?
How Studio Monitors Work
The speakers you use when recording voiceovers, podcasts or music have a significant influence on the quality of the output. Ideally, they shouldn’t have any colouration or distortion – the sound they produce should be exactly how you recorded it. This is where studio monitors come in handy.
The primary objective of studio monitors is reproducing recorded sound as flat as possible. Unlike home entertainment systems that allow you to vary bass and treble to your desired levels, studio monitors don’t prioritize particular frequencies over others.
Studio monitors have varying prices, depending on the quality of sound they produce. Regardless, you can get a model with reasonable features, even if you’re on a tight budget.
Choosing the Right Studio Monitor
When choosing a studio monitor, there’s more to consider than the quality of the output. Here are the factors you need to consider when shopping for studio monitors.
Active vs Passive Monitors
Nowadays, passive monitors aren’t as popular as they were in the past. Although active monitors aren’t exactly superior to passive models, it is vital to know the differences between the two types.
Because of their modular nature, you need the right amplifier and crossover to operate your speakers when using a passive monitor. On the contrary, active monitors have all these features built-in, meaning you don’t have to invest in additional equipment.
The power handling of any sound monitor has a massive impact on its overall performance. Besides the maximum volume, wattage also affects the dynamic range, which is the amount of headroom available before signals peak. The higher the wattage, the higher the quality of sound output.
Many people are unaware of the importance of more headroom. For instance, a particular production might require an average of 10 watts RMS volume, while the program peak requires 200 watts maximum.
If you have an amplifier that can produce 60 watts, you’ll be 140 watts below what you need to get the best out of your equipment. This means that you’ll get more distortion and possibly clipping in your sound output.
From aluminium alloys to Kevlar, there are several types of materials used for speaker construction. Each year, manufacturers come up with different ways of making speakers improve their performance.
Although materials significantly impact a speaker’s performance, you don’t want this to be the primary consideration factor when shopping.
If you want optimal accuracy from your sound monitor, you need to ensure that they can handle your recordings’ full frequency range. Most manufacturers denote lower frequencies in Hertz and higher ones in kilohertz.
The ideal range for most recordings is 50Hz to 20kHz. Besides this, you also need to consider how evenly these frequencies will be distributed, and this is measured in decibels.
For instance, if a monitor has us rated at 50Hz to 20kHz ±3dB, it means that some frequencies might be softer or louder by up to three decibels throughout the recording session.
The ideal studio monitor depends on your intended use case. What works for you might not be suitable for your fellow musician. Always go for a model that produces high-quality sound without distortion and breakups. Moreover, you should be able to listen to it for extended periods without experiencing fatigue.