If you’re a budding audio engineer, you’ve probably heard of studio monitors – but you might not know exactly what they are, and what they do. To the naked eye, a studio monitor can look much like any other type of speaker, but they offer a very different set of features – in fact, in many ways they’re the exact opposite of speakers, fulfilling very different requirements. We’re here to give you a rundown of everything you’ll need to know to get the most out of your studio monitor.
Producer or consumer?
Where your average speaker is designed to make audio sound as flawless as possible, adapting its output to suit the recording and filter out any imperfections, studio monitors are specifically designed to highlight those very same imperfections so that you can edit your mix to remove them at the source.
By playing your mix exactly as it was recorded, studio monitors give you an accurate representation of what it actually sounds like, rather than the edited version offered by a speaker – so while the average listener might get more enjoyment from the modified audio of a normal speaker, a dedicated audio producer will require the flat, ‘real’ sound offered by a studio monitor.
Audio engineers will quickly find a studio monitor to be an essential part of their home studio, offering high levels of detail when playing back your recordings – so you can be sure that what you’re hearing is accurate, and can make your edits accordingly.
Most studio monitors tend to be ‘nearfield’ – suitable for small home studios, nearfield monitors are designed to be listened in close proximity, lessening the impact of a room’s shape and size on the sound of your recording. Studio monitors are also designed to produce flat sounds with little emphasis on specific frequencies, allowing you to get a more accurate idea of what your recording really sounds like – essentially, studio monitors aim to remove ‘coloration’ from recordings ie. the impact of external effects on the sound of your audio.
One criticism of nearfield monitors is that they generally don’t offer much in the way of low-end, which can be a problem with bass-heavy productions. Although this is a deliberate attribute of studio monitors aimed at accurately reproducing the source audio, the lack of low-end frequency can be a significant drawback when listening to music, but this problem is easily solved with the addition of a subwoofer to your studio monitor setup.
Value for money
Studio monitors are available at a range of prices, from entry-level sets which won’t break the bank to high-end monitors for the dedicated audio engineer. The more expensive monitors tend to offer better sound quality and a wider range of features – but even the cheaper sets provide clean, powerful sounds and an array of functions designed to ensure your mixes sound exactly as you intend them to. Low-mid range monitors such as the Adam A3X and the Avantone Mix Cube (available at a range of price points) provide a nice balance between quality and value, while the £4,000 price tag of the Focal Trio6 BE seems more reasonable once you’ve heard the astonishing clarity of its output.
So there you have it – an introduction to the world of studio monitors. These unassuming little wonders are the key to unlocking your producing potential – once you’ve bought one, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!