Choosing the right studio monitor for your home studio can be difficult and confusing, as there are many things to consider when it comes to design and pricing.
Getting the right monitor for your studio shouldn’t be a frustrating task. Once you know what to look for, what you require and what you can get with your budget, choosing a studio monitor becomes easier.
What to look for in a studio monitor
Active/Powered monitors are popular these days within the studio environment and for good reasons too.
These are monitors with built-in amplifiers, which takes the legwork out of you finding and paying for a matching power amp if you choose a passive monitor.
Another advantage of active monitors is that they generally have two amplifiers in each monitor.
Some manufactures have a power amplifier for the high frequencies and the for the low frequencies.
With this, the monitors can perform better because the amplifier response and wattage are designed exactly to match that particular monitor’s driver.
Ported or unported
Studio monitors come in two types of cabinet designs, ported or unported.
Ported monitors have holes in either the front or rear of the cabinet to allow the internal air pressure emitting from the back of the speaker core to escape the cabinet.
This increases the amount of low-frequency the monitor can reproduce.
The port causes vibration to resonate at the monitor cutoff frequency, which extends the monitor low-frequency response.
Thus, you will sometime find ported monitors that reproduce more low frequency than similar unported design.
Keep in mind that if you place monitors that have rear ports next to the wall will skew its bass response.
Also, the low-frequency response accuracy can get distorted by a cheap or poorly designed ported monitor.
With unported monitors, the cabinet has no vents, which can limit the low-frequency response. However, the smooth phase response of unported design can give the monitor a tighter bass response.
What size studio monitor should you get?
The size of your studio/room will determine the size of the monitors. For a smaller space, the size of a bedroom, you will need a nearfield monitor.
Nearfield monitors are made for close-range listening, making them the preferred option for smaller studios with challenging acoustics.
The monitors are set up close enough to the listening spot so that the listener hears mostly the direct sound emitting from the speakers and little sound reflections.
Because of the close-in positioning, nearfield monitor minimises the effect of room acoustics on what you hear.
If however, you have a larger room, with a greater listening distance, you will want a midfield monitor.
Midfield monitors larger, more powerful studio speakers. They tend to use the three-way design, tweeter, mids, and woofer, so they reproduce more detail sound.
Because of the larger drivers and more powerful amplifier, midfield monitor produce higher volume sounds over a greater distance without an apparent loss of bass or detail.
In summary, nearfield monitors are for smaller studios with a closer listening position. Whilst, midfield monitors are for larger studios where the listening position is further away.
What does the spec say?
You cannot always rely on what the spec says because manufactures can put any old information in the specification manual to make the monitor look impressive.
Always use your ears to know if the monitor is producing the sound you are after.
Nonetheless, it is good to understand what information in the specification means because it will help you make a more informed decision.
The frequency response of a studio monitor represents the frequency range that the monitor operates.
Smaller moniters tends to have a low frequency roll-off because their speaker cores aren’t large eoungh to reporduce low-frequency vibrations.
The human hear ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz, so a monitor with a frequency range closes to this is more ideal.
Studio monitor drivers are powered by a certain amount of wattage.
More wattage means more dynamic range and less distortion.
Monitors with a wider dynamic range produce a cleaner and more detailed sound.
Low wattage can result in dynamic range compression and distortion.
Since smaller monitors require less wattage to power its amp, as with larger monitors, go for ones with the highest wattage values to prevent low-level distortion and limited dynamic range.
Total harmonic distortion (THD)
You may also see the total harmonic distortion (THD) or THDN specified they mean the same thing.
This lets you know how much noise or distortion is in the audio circuit of the monitor.
A THD closer to zero i.e. about 0.001% indicates a cleaner audio circuit.
An audio circuit with 0.3-1% distortions is too much for studio monitoring applications.
How much should you spend on studio monitors?
The question is, how much are you willing to spend? The larger your budget, the more options you have, which make choosing a studio monitor easier.
More expensive monitors will produce more clarity and detail and make mixing less tedious when set up correctly and used effectively.
That said, even the most expensive studio monitor won’t perform the best in a room that’s not acoustically treated.
So instead of getting the most expensive monitor, it best to split the budget and also get some acoustic treatments.
Recommended Studio Monitor
Kali Audio – $140
Kali Audio is a low budget, well designed ported studio monitor.
JBL Professional 305P MkII – $140
JBL Professional 305P MkII have a round port in the back but comes with a Boundary Control to shelve excessive bass frequencies induced when the speakers are close to walls.
ADAM Audio T5V – 399.98
ADAM Audio T5V are a mid-budget studio monitor. A round port in the rear. These monitors tote a reduced risk of phase cancellation thanks to the chamfered upper corners of the cabinet.
FOCAL Alpha 65 – $798
FOCAL Alpha 65 is a high-budget studio monitor with the port in the front. These monitors utilise a bi-amp system delivering 70W. Has high and low-frequency shelving controls around the back and auto standby.
Genelec 8040B –
Genelec 8040B is a high-budget studio monitor. A pair of these will set you back over a $1000, but you get what you pay for. There three-inch woofer gets 80W of power and the 0.75 inch metal dome tweeter gets 50W.
There is a lot to consider when choosing the right monitor for your studio.
But if you keep your studio size, your budget and the principles discussed in this post, you can get a monitor that suits you and your studio.