There is a multitude of decisions you’ll need to make when selecting studio monitors for your studio. Everything from how big they are to the materials used for the cabinet and drivers.
But one of the most common questions is whether to buy a sealed or ported speaker. Before I dive into the differences and why you might prefer one over the other, let me preface everything by clearly stating that one is not better than the other.
As with many components of a studio setup, there are multiple variables to consider. What might be right for you might be terrible for the next person. This guide gives you the information you need to make the best possible decision for your specific needs.
Let’s get into the details with that disclaimer out of the way.
What Is The Difference?
There are fundamental differences between ported speakers and speakers that offer a sealed enclosure. Below we take a look at how these two designs vary.
Ported speakers are among the most common options available when you are looking at buying speakers.
Ported speakers will feature one or more ports integrated into the speaker cabinet. These ported speakers might have just a solitary port, or there could be a couple.
A ported speaker allows air to escape from the cabinet.
The ports could be on the front or rear of the speaker. The primary function remains the same regardless of how many ports the speaker has or where they are positioned.
This port or ports relieve the pressure build-up within the speaker cabinet. As the woofer moves, an imbalance forms between the pressure inside and outside. A ported speaker will equalize the air pressure by allowing the air to escape the cabinet. This allows the driver to move more freely.
A sealed speaker will not have any outlets for air to escape the box and is often described as an infinite baffle design. As the driver moves, the build-up within the speaker is trapped and will dissipate as heat. It does act as a shock absorber, and as a result, more power is needed to deliver low-frequency output.
At first glance, it may appear like a sealed speaker is inferior to a ported speaker. Why dedicate extra power to achieve the same result? Well, the resulting audio is not the same between the two designs.
Both sealed and ported speaker have pros and cons.
A port will add time delays and roll off the low-frequency response at a higher level than a sealed system. This can lead to music that sounds very one-note in the low frequencies.
A sealed speaker will gradually roll off the low frequencies extending further in the range. This will create a more restrained and accurate representation of the audio and bass tonality.
Why Are Most Speakers Ported?
There are many different types of studio monitors. A large number of consumer-level and even professional-level studio monitors will feature ported designs. One of the primary benefits of this design is that the speaker will require less power since the speaker drivers don’t need the extra energy to fight against the surrounding environment.
This leads to deeper, more gut-punching bass within a relatively low-power setup. This design also allows the sound engineers to tune the port to produce deep low frequencies that sound fuller and boomier.
Ported speakers are the most common type of studio monitor.
It’s an engaging listening experience that appeals to lovers of booming bass or loud explosion in a home theater system. This is why there are so many ported speakers available. They provide an audio experience that appeals to the broader consumer market.
An infinite baffle or sealed studio monitor attracts the audiophile and pro studio market. The low-frequency and bass delivery is tighter, highly accurate, and suits specific genres better.
Factor In Your Room
By now, you might already be leaning towards one option over another. But there is one other consideration you need to account for, and that is your room.
Factors like your room size can impact which design will be ideal. If you have a small room, a sealed box or infinite baffle set of studio monitors can alleviate having to deal with port noise and low-frequency build-up. A small pair of sealed bookshelf speakers are a perfect choice for small theater rooms.
Ported options are usually a better choice for a large home theater room.
If your home theater is larger in size, you’ll likely enjoy the sound that ported speakers offer. The low-frequency output will be more pronounced and give you that epic rumble from explosions.
A well-treated studio space or room can accommodate both types of designs. But depending on the music you produce or listen to, one might be better than the other.
Which One Is Right For You?
As you can see, there is a fundamental difference between the two designs. Selecting the right speakers for you will come down mainly to personal taste.
If you prefer a bass-heavy sound, the greater dynamic output of ported speakers delivers an audio profile that is highly satisfying for general listening. While the bass might be a little one-note, it will offer a sound with lots of rumble and punch.
The type of music you made and listen to can impact your decision.
But if you prefer bass and lower frequencies that are more accurate and refined infinite baffle speakers might be a better choice. The audio will exhibit a more musical flavor in the lowest frequencies. If you like listening to soft rock or country, the restrained bass response will make a difference to the sound profile in a positive way.
Regardless of your direction, it also pays to stick to trusted brands with an established reputation in the audio space. These companies will have sound engineers with years of experience crafting high-quality products.
So go ahead and upgrade your sound system. Nothing is better than experiencing music and sound how you want it. And you should now know which speaker design will suit your needs.