Studio monitors are one of the most important parts of any production studio.
Unlike ordinary hi-fi systems, studio monitors aim to represent sound in its purest form. This allows for accurate mixing and mastering of your music. A vital tool to ensure your latest musical creation sounds great. From headphones to huge sound systems.
Studio monitors are also great for general listening. Hearing music without any colorization gives you deeper insight into the music you love.
There is a lot to consider when choosing studio monitors. This guide breaks down some of the major categories of studio monitors. You’ll learn what these categories have to offer and key features to keep an eye out for.
Plus two bonus sections that cover one of the most crucial accessories for studio monitors. Studio monitor stands and isolation pads.
Studio monitors will provide you with a listening experience that is second to none. The clear and defined sound will allow you to analyze your music properly. Whether that is for music production, sound editing for podcasts, or YouTube videos. Understanding how your project will sound is critical.
Studio monitors allow you to accurately mix and master your music so it sounds great on any sound system.
Selecting the right studio monitors for your needs is not an easy task. With so many options available, it is important to know some key features you’ll want to look out for.
- You’ll need to factor in your studio space when selecting studio monitors. Both in size and sonic dynamics. Superior studio monitors will offer tuning options that allow you to refine the output to suit your space.
- Studio monitors are one area where quality is important. There are plenty of cheap speakers out there. But if you want great sound quality, buying a monitor from a reputable brand with a history in the audio space is important.
- Studio monitors should also offer excellent value for money. Just because you can buy a studio monitor for thousands of dollars doesn’t mean you have to. Aim to strike the balance between audio profile, sound quality, and price.
3 & 4 Inch Studio Monitors
Many people start their search for studio monitors as a replacement for computer speakers. As a result, 3 and 4-inch monitors are often the most popular choice due to their compact form factor. These smaller monitors will often also offer additional connectivity options that computer speakers offer.
3 and 4-inch monitors are popular alternatives to computer speakers.
The popularity of this size has led to an explosion of options giving you maximum flexibility to choose the one that suits your needs. While these are a valid choice for people with limited desk space, there are some things you should be mindful of if you are buying 3 or 4-inch monitors.
- Studio monitors provide a flatter frequency response, which might seem dull compared to computer speakers offering a colored sound profile. If you prefer accurate audio, stick to studio monitors, but if you want to listen to music, computer speakers might be a better choice.
- These studio monitors will have a smaller footprint compared to bigger monitors but they often are much deeper than computer speakers. Take some time to check out the dimensions of any studio monitors you are interested in.
- If you are looking to buy 3 or 4-inch studio monitors as a replacement for computer speakers, it is worthwhile to check that they have adequate built-in shielding. This will prevent other electronic devices from interfering with your signal chain and causing unwanted sonic issues.
5 Inch Studio Monitors
One of the most popular sizes of studio monitors is the 5-inch range. These monitors offer a more well-rounded balance between low, mid, and high output. They also have a greater capacity to hit higher volumes without placing strain on the speaker.
5 Inch monitors are a popular choice for home studios.
When you move into the 5-inch category, you’ll also see improved connection options and tuning controls. The 5-inch size is well suited for small to medium-sized studios. An excellent adaptable option if your studio space changes.
- Balance is important for all studio monitors. 5-inch monitors can offer excellent sound output, but not all monitors are at the same level of quality. Stick to established brands with a track record of producing high-quality studio gear.
- Tuning options are very important. While a 5-inch monitor is versatile, it can still suffer from issues depending on the studio space. Considering the price point for these monitors, you’d want to ensure they come with some tuning options.
- The low-end output is generally good with 5-inch monitors, but there is a lot of variation between models. Not all 5-inch models deliver a smooth low-end. If that is important to you, it’s worth checking before buying.
6 & 7 Inch Studio Monitors
For some, the bass output of 5-inch monitors is insufficient for their needs. This is where moving up in size to 6 or 7-inch monitors becomes a viable option. The larger woofer can deliver a healthier bass response while still maintaining accuracy.
A high-quality pair of 6 or 7-inch studio monitors is often enough for most home studios.
As with any larger monitor, space can be an issue but they strike a good balance between the smaller choices and the bulkier 8-inch monitors on the market. If you have the space these are an excellent middle ground option that is worth exploring.
- Most high-quality 6 and 7-inch studio monitors will offer balanced connection options like TRS and XLR. But there may be instances where you might want an unbalanced RCA connection. Take some time to assess your connection needs and purchase compatible monitors accordingly.
- Larger monitors can introduce audio issues into your studio space due to their more powerful output. Tuning options are critical here to resolve bass build-up, but so is appropriate room treatment. Sometimes you’ll be better off sticking with a smaller size that might not cause as many issues.
- A high maximum sound pressure level (SPL) can indicate how loud a monitor might reach but take this number with a grain of salt. This is a maximum, and the monitor might not retain accuracy at such high levels. A low total harmonic distortion rating indicates that the monitor will retain accuracy.
8 Inch Studio Monitors
Most manufacturers cap out their line of studio monitors at 8 inches. Anything bigger than this tends to start pushing into the PA speaker category. PA speakers are not good for a studio environment as they color the sound. If you do have a large studio space, an 8-inch monitor will be ideal.
You might not need a subwoofer if you buy larger studio monitors.
8-inch monitors deliver a much better low-end response thanks to the big woofer. An essential component if you make bass-heavy music. Keep in mind these speakers are large and are not ideal for small spaces.
- Most studio monitors offer an excellent near-field listening experience (within 1 meter). Many larger monitors still have narrow sweet spots. Don’t expect that just because they are large, they will fill your large studio space with even sound. Opt for a monitor with a larger sweet spot if you need to fill a room.
- The low-end is generally well looked after, but the frequency response still varies between models. Anything with a rating beyond 20Hz, you’ll feel more than hear. Excellent if you are buying 8-inch monitors for a solid low-end response.
- Tuning options are still a critical component of 8-inch monitors. Due to the large woofer and size of the cabinet, you may encounter some refraction issues. This depends heavily on your studio space. But having good tuning options available can help smooth out the response.
Budget Studio Monitors
Studio monitors can be very expensive. Professional grade monitors can easily jump into the thousands of dollars. Luckily there is a range of more budget-friendly studio monitors. These studio monitors are an excellent choice for beginners who may want more to spend on other components for their studio.
Budget studio monitors can still offer extra features despite the low price.
As with all products, quality can vary greatly based on price. A range of budget monitors are available, but not all are worth buying. If you are on a tight budget, you’ll have to pay extra attention to reviews. With careful research, you can still get quality monitors without breaking the bank.
- Build quality is the biggest concern with budget monitors. To save on production costs, the component quality needs to go down. Striking the balance between reasonable quality components and price is a tricky challenge.
- Usually, budget monitors will fall into smaller-sized options. Be prepared for lower volume output. Also, expect a softer low-end response with smaller monitors.
- Extra features are rare among budget monitors. But there are still some choices available that offer basic tuning options. Value for money is important, but so is understanding what features you need. You can save money by going down a size or bypassing monitors with extra bells and whistles.
Beginner Studio Monitors
We live in an age where anyone can get noticed thanks to the prevalence of social media. Many artists have launched their careers thanks to sharing their music online. This has led to a surge in new talent looking to share their music with the world.
Studio monitors are ideal for producing music but not good for live performances.
This is where beginner studio monitors shine. While studio monitors may appear simple on the surface, there is a lot of variation between models. Beginner monitors bridge the gap and offer easy-to-install and operate options. Perfect for creators wanting to get stuck into creating.
- When looking at beginner studio monitors, you want to have a good idea of the size of the monitor you’ll be after. This will depend on your studio space.
- Connection options vary greatly depending on price point and different brands. Pay special attention to how you plan to connect the speakers and ensure they have the necessary connectivity options.
- Basic tuning options are good to have, even as a beginner. There can be a big difference in sound output based on your studio space. Having these up your sleeve will help you get the most out of your new monitors.
Bluetooth Studio Monitors
We live in an increasingly connected world, with Bluetooth becoming a dominant feature across many modern devices. This technology has found its way to the studio monitor market with a range of consumer-friendly options that leverage Bluetooth’s flexibility.
Bluetooth monitors are an excellent multi-task choice for home studios.
There is no denying that Bluetooth offers additional features that many traditional monitors lack. But there are some key elements worth considering before committing to Bluetooth monitors. Convenience doesn’t always result in one monitor having an advantage over another.
- Bluetooth transmits data, and in the process, there will be a drop in audio quality and an increase in latency. This makes it not the best choice for detailed analytical work. The inherent latency is also not ideal for DJing if you rely on your speakers for monitoring.
- Bluetooth monitors allow you to enjoy streaming music from your devices while also experiencing the benefits of a corded connection when required. But to get the most out of your monitors you’ll want to ensure they have the latest Bluetooth protocol, low dropout rate, and good range.
- The vast majority of Bluetooth monitors will have a heavier casual listening focus. As a result, they might not have as balanced a sound profile as dedicated studio monitors. It is worthwhile exploring reviews if a flat and balanced response is important to you.
Small Studio Monitors
With the growth of independent music creation, there has been a growing need for quality small monitors. Not everyone has a large amount of space to dedicate to their recording studio. Large studio monitors can quickly gobble up your available space. They can also be overbearing and unnecessary for smaller spaces.
Studio monitors come in a range of sizes with the most common sizes ranging from 3 to 8 inches.
Small studio monitors give you more flexibility. High-quality sound reproduction in a compact form. While you’ll often find the lower frequencies to be lacking, the mids and highs can be amazing. Plus, you can always invest in a subwoofer to improve low-end output. This is a great way to experience the sound output of larger monitors without taking up a lot of space on your work surface.
- Small studio monitors should be compact but well-built. Pay extra attention to the quality of materials used. As they are smaller, it is easier to knock them over and potentially cause damage.
- Flexibility is important for small studio monitors. Especially if you intend on using the studio monitors beyond music creation. Connection options like Bluetooth come in handy. So does easy access to volume control or front AUX input for media devices.
- Weight is another consideration. You’ll want lightweight monitors if you plan on using studio monitors as bookshelf speakers. Many floating shelves or bookcases limit how much weight they can handle.
Front Ported Studio Monitors
Front-ported studio monitors are an excellent choice if you have a studio space that requires you to place your speakers against a wall. By having the bass port facing forward, you minimize the potential for bass build-up, which can lead to a sloppy and unpolished low end.
Front-ported monitors can sit closer to walls, but rear-ported options are still viable with proper treatment.
Ported monitors generally make up a substantial portion of the studio monitor market. Due to the port, these monitors don’t require as much power to deliver satisfying bass. There is also a decrease in heat build-up, making them a capable and efficient option.
- The bass reflex port should be precision engineered and designed to handle lower frequencies. It will help enhance bass output without introducing colorization or over-emphasis. A poorly designed port will introduce a one-note response that dulls the character of some lower frequencies.
- While front-facing monitors are popular, that doesn’t mean you can’t look at rear-ported options. You’ll just have to treat your room accordingly, keep them away from walls, or have comprehensive tuning options to dial back the bass response.
- Unlike sealed cabinets, there is the potential for dust and other particles to make their way into your monitors. Keep them away from locations where they might be exposed to the elements and dust; otherwise, your shiny new monitors might fail sooner rather than later.
Studio Monitors For DJing
As DJing has become more accessible thanks to a range of affordable gear, it has become increasingly difficult to set yourself apart from other DJs. A growing trend is for DJs to produce their own music and, likewise, for producers to get into DJing so they can begin touring.
DJing and producing have become increasingly intertwined.
The combination of these emerging trends has spawned a new desire for studio monitors that are equally great for practice DJ sessions as they are for detailed studio work. It is a tricky balance to get right, so you’ll need to pay extra attention to some key features.
- Flexible tuning options are critical if you want monitors for both tasks. You’ll want to be able to adjust output to be flat when producing but also have the option to switch the profile to a more club-like sound for assessing how your tracks translate.
- Larger monitors are generally better for DJing thanks to the larger bass response and increased volume levels. In some cases, you might want to also add a subwoofer to your setup for your practice sessions. But often, when producing, you’ll be better off switching it off for greater insight into your latest project.
- Keep in mind that studio monitors are not for throwing a party. They are for near-field listening and don’t project enough sound for a party. Despite this, they are an ideal choice for your home studio when you are practicing your sets.
3 Way Studio Monitors
Three-way studio monitors offer a unique configuration. Instead of a woofer for low and mid frequencies and a tweeter for high frequencies, there is an additional woofer to handle the strictly handle mid-range frequencies. This can result in a more balanced output, making them a great choice for professional studios.
3-way studio monitors are ideal for dedicated recording and mixing studios.
As with many pieces of studio gear, understanding their role goes a long way in knowing whether they are the right choice for you. And when you consider that these monitors tend to be more expensive, it is even more critical to make this determination early in your buying journey.
- 3-way monitors need an effective crossover system to ensure a smooth transition between low, mid, and high frequencies. A poorly engineered 3-way monitor can sound worse than a well-engineered two-way monitor. Stick to trusted brands if you are buying these types of monitors.
- These monitors also tend to be larger in size due to the space required for the additional woofer. This can make it difficult to place within smaller studio spaces. Additionally, some stands will no longer be viable since they are often horizontally aligned.
- Due to the additional woofer and increased research and development, these monitors tend to be more expensive than their two-way counterparts. If you are budget-conscious, I suggest using conventional two-way studio monitors.
Studio Monitor Stands
Selecting studio monitors is a challenge. But there’s an accessory that will allow you to get the most out of your monitors. Studio monitor stands assist with bringing your monitors up to the correct ear level. They also help cut down on resonance and vibrations so that you experience the best possible output.
Studio monitor stands bring your monitors up to ear level for a better listening experience.
Choosing the right stands can make a huge difference in the acoustics of your home studio. Below are some of the key features you should consider when adding studio monitor stands to your setup.
- Studio monitor stands need to offer excellent stability. You’ll be placing your expensive studio monitors on top of them. You want a dependable surface that won’t wobble or tip easily.
- Good decoupling is also an essential component of studio monitor stands. They should help diffuse vibrations. This will give you cleaner audio delivery. A crucial component to get the most out of your studio monitors.
- Flexibility is also an important element. Studio monitor stands help bring your monitors up to the correct level so that the tweeters match your ears. Stands that offer height adjustment make this process easier.
Studio Monitor Isolation Pads
Another accessory worth considering is a good set of isolation pads or discs. These handy items have one primary goal. To reduce vibrations from your studio monitors. This leads to many benefits. Tighter bass response and higher accuracy across the frequency range of your monitors.
Stands and pads combine to bring the best sound out of your studio monitors.
There are two main choices when it comes to isolation. Pads and Discs. Both are fantastic choices and can work in tandem with monitor stands to give you the absolute best output from your studio monitors. Here are some things to look out for when buying isolation pads.
- Isolation pads should feature high-density foam. This foam absorbs and traps vibrations. The foam should also be durable and not flake easily.
- Both isolation pads and discs will help decouple your monitors from surfaces. Even more so than most studio monitor stands. Pads and discs with high-quality construction and intelligent design will easily tackle vibrations.
- It is also worth checking the load capacity of any isolation pad or disc you want. Some studio monitors can be quite heavy. Your pads need to be able to handle the weight comfortably. This is important both for stability and vibration control.
Choosing The Right Gear
Choosing studio monitors is not as easy as it appears. If you are serious about your productions, you’ll want to allocate a good amount of money for monitors. You’ll spend countless hours listening back to your music and making adjustments. You want a refined and clean sound with little ear fatigue.
Good monitors, high-quality stands, and isolation pads will give you superior sound. Positioning and placement are also crucial for studio monitors, so getting this right is important.
The enjoyment you’ll get from listening to your favorite music is hard to beat. You’ll hear details you’ve never heard before. The flat response delivers an experience as close as sitting there in the studio with the artist.
While hi-fi systems are satisfying, studio monitors will open you up to a whole new appreciation of music and sound.
I wish you many hours of enjoying listening to music with your new studio monitors!