Do you want to set up your own home-studio and finally be able to record your own music? Getting some Studio Monitors would be a great place to start. As the name implies, studio monitors enable you to monitor and control the sound of your recordings. In this article we will mainly be referring to Active Nearfield Monitors, as they are the models most frequently found in home-studios.
How much do they differ from hi-fi speakers?
Unlike hi-fi speakers that boost the highs and lows for more punchy sounds, studio monitors should be as linear as possible. This means that the sound should be as accurate as possible without colouring the sound, nor should it favour any frequency or frequencies over others, in order to ensure you obtain a flat frequency response.
Studio monitors (again unlike hi-fi speakers) are very directional. Each room has its own particular acoustics with reflected sounds bouncing off of a combination of the walls, the ceiling and every piece of furniture in the room. The larger the room, the smaller the chance of reflected sounds interfering with the direct sound. The purpose of the monitors is to target the direct sound as close to the proximity of your ears as possible. This is where the importance of positioning the monitors comes in.
Active or passive?
Studio monitors are mostly active these days, with passive speakers slowly disappearing. Active monitors are equipped with multiple amplifiers in such a way that individual amps drive individual speakers. This means that the crossover is placed before the amplifier stage instead of after. The benefits are enormous, saving space, simplifying connections and with amplification designed especially for each speaker.
Choosing the right studio monitors is dependent on the size of your listening room. As most home studios have limited space there are a few things to consider. Monitors larger than 8” to 10” commonly move more air around, which may cause acoustic interferences in a small room. Therefore for a limited space, we recommend monitors up to 5” or 6” for the most positive results. For a larger room we recommend 8” monitors.
There are various monitors for all kinds of budgets and tastes, but do be cautious of making hasty decisions when it comes to audio equipment. You won’t be successful finding ‘the one and only ultimate monitor’ for hip hop or for metal, but there are certain factors that can help you determine a good choice. For 80 to 100 euros you should already be able to find good monitors, so feel free to find suitable monitors while keeping to your budget. However, studio monitors above the 100 euro price range should really be a massive upgrade compared to your PC speakers, they will blow them out of the water for sure!
While in use
The first rule is to trust your ears! Studio monitors are designed to be placed within a distance of one to two meters relative to the listener, this makes them ideal for small studios. The ideal listening position is also known as ‘the sweet spot’ and is indicated in the diagram below.
The positioning in height is also very important if you want to make the most of your monitor setup. Ideally the tweeter should be placed at ear level, while the monitors should be slightly angled, facing towards the listener.
Besides using a monitor stand, you can also place your monitors on studio foam pads. This isolates them from the surface on which they are placed, while improving their performance. There a variety of studio monitor accessories such as absorbers and diffusors that can also optimize the acoustics in your studio space. Some monitors are also equipped with an integrated equalizer, which is very practical in improving the effectiveness of acoustic treatments.