Buying Guides

How are studio monitors
different to speakers?

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In years gone by, a dedicated audio engineer would have had to visit a professional studio to guarantee their productions were of the highest quality. But the lightning pace of technological improvement has ensured that, nowadays, creating a studio in the comfort of your own home is no longer an impossible dream. Starting from just a couple of hundred pounds, you can install reliable studio monitors which will allow you to create high-quality recordings with a minimum of fuss – but with normal speakers available at a much lower price, you may be wondering whether the extra outlay for studio monitors is worthwhile.

Sound quality

If you’ve decided to invest in a new studio monitor, it can be difficult to know where to start – before you even think about deciding which model to buy, it can be a trial differentiating between studio monitors and regular speakers. Visually, there isn’t always a lot to distinguish between them, but they serve very different purposes; while speakers are designed for end users to enjoy a finished piece of audio with an enhanced, even sound, studio monitors are aimed at people looking to create.

Whether you’re recording a piece of music or a podcast, studio monitors allows you to maximise the quality of the audio, providing a ‘true’ output of your recording and thus allowing you to iron out any creases that may be exposed by poor quality speakers. Where a speaker may add additional bass, or take on the ambience of a room, the short projection of sound offered by studio monitors ensures you get an accurate reflection of what your audio sounds like, so you can mix and master it until it’s exactly how you want it – whether you’re looking for a crisp high-end or a booming bass, studio monitors will ensure your mix translates well to any set of speakers.

To a novice, the output of studio monitors may at first seem under-powered compared to a normal speaker, with a flatter sound – but this is actually a major plus point, allowing audio engineers to fine-tune their productions to ensure the finished article is as impactful as possible. Where a decent set of speakers are ideal for casual listening, for audio engineers studio monitors are an important addition to your setup which allow you to maximise the quality of your output.

Value for money

For anyone investing in a home studio, studio monitors are an essential bit of kit – and they don’t have to be eye-bulgingly expensive. While there are high-end sets available to buy which will empty your bank account – you can easily spend over £2,000 on top-of-the-range home studio monitors – there are plenty of affordable models out there which will do an excellent job on a budget.

ADAM, Avantone and Dynaudio all offer superb monitors for under £500, allowing you to professionalise your home studio without breaking the bank, while the high-end Focal Trio6 is ideal if you have money to spare, a three-way speaker offering incredibly precise audio – but at almost £4,000, it’s a serious investment.

The final say

When it comes down to it, choosing between studio monitors and speakers comes down to what you’ll be using them for. Studio monitors are more expensive and deliberately offer a flatter, less ‘impressive’ sound – for the casual listener, speakers are the obvious choice. However, if you’re an audio engineer looking to get the most out of your recordings, buying studio monitors is a no-brainer, as they will highlight any weaknesses in the sound quality, so that the final product is just as you want it to be.

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