One of the most common questions I get asked about studio monitors is whether front ported or rear ported speakers are better. And to be honest, it is a difficult question to answer.
As with many elements of a piece of gear, you need to consider other factors. This guide will review the differences between front and rear ported speakers and the other things you’ll need to consider.
What’s The Difference?
A large number of studio speakers offer a ported design. This is especially prevalent among the most popular entry-level options. But even high-end choices may opt for a ported design.
Many of the leading studio monitor manufacturers make front ported monitors.
A front-ported speaker will have the port on the front of the speaker cabinet. This can be in a variety of positions. Some will have these off to the side of the woofer or below the woofer. A rear-ported speaker will have this port at the back of the speaker.
For smaller speakers, it is ubiquitous to have the port located at the back. To keep the overall size of the speaker as small as possible, the most logical position for the port is on the back panel. A larger speaker has the benefit of more surface area on the front, so a front port is more viable.
How Does A Port Impact Sound
Both back-ported and front-ported speakers offer the same functionality. When a woofer moves, it will physically push the air around it. A ported speaker allows for that air to escape the cabinet.
It is often called a bass-reflex system, which helps smooth out and amplify lower frequencies. The ability for air to escape the box results in a perceived deeper low-end frequency response. But there is a sharper and more distinct drop-off once you move beyond the tuning point of the port.
A Bass Relex Port allows for extended bass response.
Ported speakers also tend to reach higher volumes with lower distortion levels. But while both front and back ports do the same thing in principle, the differences in the design of these ports also play a significant role.
The smaller the port, the greater the velocity of the air attempting to escape the cabinet. These smaller ports can result in compression or distortion at lower volume levels than a larger front-ported speaker.
The placement of the port can play a small role, but the tuning and design of the port are more critical than where it is located on the speaker.
Why Speaker Placement Is Important
Selecting the right type of studio monitor can come down to a simple assessment of your studio space and how you setup your studio monitor placement.
Rear ported monitors are better suited to spaces with ample room to be away from a wall. A general rule of thumb is at least 6-inches away from a wall, but 2-3 feet is ideal.
Suppose you put them up against a wall. In that case, the amount of resonance and refractions you’ll experience will muddle the low-end frequency response.
Keep rear ported monitors away from walls for better sound.
Front-ported speakers allow you to set them up closer to a wall, but they can still suffer from some refractions. This can be amplified for both types if placed in a corner. But the front-ported speaker will often be the better choice for tighter spaces.
Poor port design can also be an issue with a front-ported speaker. Ideally, the air escaping should not interfere with the output of the woofer and tweeter. Sticking to established brands with an extensive speaker design history is always a safe bet.
If you still have your mind set on a rear-port choice, I advise ensuring that capable tuning options are available to help cut down the lower part of the frequency range. This will help mitigate low-frequency build-up to some degree.
Which One Is Better?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Both types have their pros and cons. They both can sound amazing and deliver a fantastic listening experience.
The construction quality, engineering, and placement of your studio monitors will all play a more significant role than where the port is. Where possible, avoid butting up to a wall and avoid placement in a corner. You’ll end up with better sound and smoother frequency response no matter which one you end up choosing.