Studio Monitors Vs. Speakers – What’s The Difference?

It’s not uncommon when buying new gear to face the question of whether you should purchase studio monitors or regular speakers.

The answer to this question is not initially as straightforward as it might seem, but by understanding how you intend to use your new speakers, you can quickly narrow down which one is right for you.

In this guide, we check out the difference and pit studio monitors against the other options available to help you make an informed buying decision.

Table of Contents

Differences Between Studio Monitors And Speakers

Before we dive into the comparisons, it’s worth highlighting their differences.

Active and passive speakers are prevalent in both types, but in the interest of simplicity, I’ll be primarily discussing active speakers. These speakers feature a built-in power amplifier.

All the analysis can easily apply to a passive speaker, but most people opt for powered speakers as they are simpler to set up than passive speakers that require an external power amplifier.

Picture of a music studio.

Studio monitors are ideal for music studios but also good for day-to-day listening.

What are studio monitors? These speakers deliver a flat frequency response that aims to be as close to the original recording as possible. Studio monitors also thrive in a near-field listening environment. They are commonly used in audio production and critical listening applications.

On the other hand, regular speakers aim to deliver a satisfying audio response. To achieve this, they will often emphasize the low and high-frequency ranges. This results in a more prominent bass response and dazzling highs that help make the speaker feel clearer. These regular speakers will also throw sound further and are better for casual listening applications.

What Are Studio Monitors Used For

The most significant determining factor as to which one you should buy is your intended use. Each type offers benefits and drawbacks, but understanding your needs can rapidly determine which one is right for you. Below we’ll take a quick look at some of the most common uses for speakers and decide which one you should look at buying.

Music Production

If you require speakers for studio work, the natural option is a studio monitor speaker. Whether creating music, mixing, mastering, or editing multimedia, a studio monitor will give you the accuracy you need to make informed decisions.

Studio Monitors Vs. Speakers For Music Production.

The flat response ensures that there are no glaring issues when your creation is played on regular speakers. For example, suppose you used regular speakers emphasizing the bass output. In that case, you might tone down the lower frequencies in your mix. This can then come across as inaccurate and underwhelming when playing on other sound systems.

An accurate representation of your project can ensure that the result will sound good on various playback devices, whether regular speakers, headphones, car stereos, or concert systems. It’s also important to note that proper studio monitor calibration will help you achieve the best result.

Critical Listening

If you enjoy exploring the nuances of music or need a critical reference point when working on a project, a studio monitor will also be a better choice.

Studio Monitors Vs. Speakers For Critical Listening.

As mentioned earlier, the accurate reproduction of the source material is critical for effective critical listening. A high-quality studio monitor will help unveil the subtleties of what you are listening to.

Studio monitors can provide a detailed stereo image, and thanks to their high accuracy, you’ll hear the finest of details. Whether that is a delicate reverb or the crispness of a cymbal crash, you’ll experience the music as it was initially recorded with maximum authenticity. It will also highlight whether the original production was expertly mixed and mastered.

To take this one step further, many professionals will also break-in speakers before using them for critical listening. This will ensure they are getting the absolute best performance possible.

Casual Listening

While high accuracy is excellent for music production and critical listening, sometimes you just want your sound system to sound good.

In this case, you’ll want punchy and lively bass that is deep and offers excellent rumble. Clear and defined mid-range that is full of warmth and highs that are clear and bright. While studio monitors have these traits, the high accuracy can be a little dry.

Studio Monitors Vs. Speakers For Casual Listening

In these situations, regular home stereo speakers are often the best option. These speakers feature a smiley face EQ curve that is inherently satisfying. It can also mask poor editing for a more pleasant casual listening experience.

The other significant benefit of regular speakers for casual listening is how they project sound. While studio monitors focus on the near-field experience, regular speakers aim to project sound as far as possible. If you want room-filling sound, avoid studio monitors.

Home Theatre

Regular speakers are a better choice for home theatre applications. You want the explosions to be loud and bombastic. You also want greater clarity in the highs so that spoken words are clear and legible.

Studio Monitors Vs. Speakers For Home Theatre.

Accuracy needs to take a backseat to enjoyment in these situations, so the emphasized curve is also beneficial. Once again, the greater dispersion and throw distance are also critical. You will not be sitting within one meter of the screen, which is the ideal distance for studio monitors.

Remember that you might need to deal with more reflections in smaller rooms due to how far these speakers throw sound waves. You’ll want to explore room treatment options for the best possible experience in your home theatre setup.

Comparing Different Powered Speakers

By now, you might already know which type of powered speaker is right for you. But let’s dive into more detail about how studio monitors stack up against the different types of regular speakers out there.

Studio Monitors vs. PA Speakers

PA speakers are often large, with a woofer size ranging from 8 inches all the way up to 15 inches. These large powered speakers often feature an emphasized curve and long projection.

These powered speakers are ideal for gigs due to their loud output, broad dispersion, and more satisfying sound profile. But their large size makes them cumbersome for home studio applications. Plus, the excessive throw distances can cause issues with sound reflections in smaller rooms.

An assortment of PA speakers on a stage.

Large PA speakers are ideal for live performances and big crowds.

The sheer size of these speakers, coupled with the colored output, also makes them a poor choice for music production and studio use. But if you have the space for them and have a large enough room, they can be great for testing out your latest creation to see how it would sound in a live sound environment.

If you are a performer or DJ, you’ll also need a PA system for your gigs and house parties. Studio monitors don’t have enough dispersion and output levels to rock a house party.

Studio Monitors vs. Hi-Fi Bookshelf Speakers

Standard Hi-Fi speakers or bookshelf speakers are the most common option for home audio. These powered speakers offer a satisfying listening experience and are an excellent choice for day-to-day listening. They come in various shapes and sizes, making them a versatile option for different types of rooms.

The home audio market is overflowing with choices which can make it a bit overwhelming, but if you stick with trusted brands, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in finding an appropriate option for your needs.

Home Hi-Fi speakers on a shelf.

Hi-Fi speakers are a popular choice for casual listening.

Hi-Fi speakers are often powered speakers, but passive speakers are also common in this area. Passive systems will often link into a dedicated unit with built-in power amplifiers for an all-in-one experience that is generally hassle-free.

But Hi-Fi speakers will offer a consumer-friendly sound that is not accurate enough for serious studio work. They are not the right choice if you are a mix engineer, recording artist, or into music production.

Studio Monitors vs. Computer Speakers

Studio monitors are often an excellent alternative for computer speakers. Since you’ll be sitting within close proximity to your computer, the near-field output of studio monitors is ideally suited.

The sound quality from studio monitors is accurate and precise, which makes them ideal for studio applications and editing work. While they might sound a bit dry at times, you can still get plenty of enjoyment from day-to-day listening as well.

2.1 channel computer speakers on a white background.

Computer speakers are not accurate enough for detailed studio work.

Computer speakers will often feature a colored smiley-face EQ curve, so they are still a viable option if you don’t want to produce or edit.

The choice becomes relatively straightforward, depending on your needs. Need to do serious studio work? Opt for dedicated monitor speakers. Want satisfying sound and don’t care about accuracy? Computer speakers are perfectly fine.

FAQ

Can Studio Monitors Be Used As Speakers?

Studio monitors can be used as speakers, but you need to be aware that they are best suited for near-field listening and have a flat frequency response.

Can Studio Monitors Be Used As PA Speakers?

Do not use studio monitors as PA speakers. Studio monitors are often not loud enough and do not throw sound very far, making them a poor choice for PA speaker applications.

Can I Use Hi-Fi Speakers As Studio Monitors?

While technically you can use Hi-Fi speakers as studio monitors, they are not the best choice. Hi-Fi speakers have a different sound profile that makes it more challenging to make accurate mixing and mastering decisions.

Are Studio Monitors Better Than Speakers For PC?

Studio monitors are better than speakers for PC if you want accurate sound for music production, editing, or analytical listening. Computer speakers are better for casual listening thanks to a boosted EQ curve.

Enjoy The Sound

As you can see, there is no clear-cut winner in the studio monitor vs. speakers debate. It all comes down to what you want from your powered speakers and how you intend to use them.

So if you ever see someone claim one is better than the other, take it with a grain of salt. Evaluate your needs and pick the one that is best suited to fulfill those needs. If you get that step right, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality sound, irrespective of which one you choose.

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Article by Robert Calabrese
Article by Robert Calabrese

Robert has over 15 years of experience working in the digital marketing industry. From a very young age he was influenced by music theory as part of his education and played a variety of instruments. From there, his passion moved into electronic music and the equipment used to create it. Using his education and experience, Robert started his own digital marketing company and successfully operates his business in the music industry.

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