Studio monitors are generally high quality professional speakers specifically designed for a recording studio. The biggest distinction between studio monitors and other speakers is the attention to precision. Check out our list of the 5 best studio monitors and find one that’s right for you.
General Thoughts on Studio Monitors
Studio monitors are made to produce flat or linear frequency response which simply means that they do not boost any frequency thus allowing accurate transmission of the audio signal. On the other hand, consumer speakers have functions to artificially boost bass, treble and other frequencies so as to give a more impressive sound. However, the changes in audio signals in consumer speakers pose a major problem when trying out audio production.
Studio monitors are a must have to provide accurate sound for multi-tracking, audio engineering, record producing and music mixing activities. Whether producing music, creating podcasts or producing voice-over recordings, studio monitors offer output of audio signals in their original form thus enabling informed decisions. The music producer needs to clearly make decisions based on the original audio signal without the unnecessary frequency boosts by the speaker.
A good mix requires the user to get accurate frequency response during the mixing process. Even though headphones are mostly used when mixing, studio monitors give the best results. A studio monitor does not give you a nice sounding mix rather it makes it possible to expose any recording flaws by delivering sound in a more refined detail. Therefore, the user is able to make the necessary adjustments and eventually produce a high quality sound.
There are two broad types of studio monitors namely active and passive monitors. Near-field studio monitors are placed closer to the user so as to reduce the influence of the sound from the given room and ensure a more direct sound is heard through the speakers. Some of the best studio monitors provide accurate, consistent flat response regardless of the volume level allowing the user to hear exactly how various segments of the mix sound at different levels. YouTube videos, magazine reviews, online forums and advertising materials are good resources to help the user to determine the best studio monitors.
Top 5 Best Studio Monitors of 2016
Here’s our lineup of the all-around best studio monitors of this year.
1. KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 RP5G3
The Rokit series is one of the highly recommended and most popular studio monitor in the market today. The RP5G3 has an upgraded visual appeal and performance. This monitor offers clear high frequencies and ensures perceivable distinction between high and middle frequencies. The unit has a frequency response range of 45Hz-35 kHz to ensure an effective and balanced sound.
The rear has conveniently placed controls to change the high frequencies as well as alter the low frequency settings with steps of ±2dB. The RP5G3 has a 50Watts power output and includes RCA, TRS and XLR connections. It has a 5 inch woofer driver and a 1inch soft dome tweeter driver. This studio monitor is ideal for use with subwoofers and is equally best suited for DJs.
2. JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitors
This LSR305 monitor from JBL incorporates performance and a substantial amount of value. It has innovative technologies like JBL’s Image Control Waveguide that breaks up audio frequencies for a wide center image allowing listening from any position without compromising on the accuracy of the sound output. Additionally, its SlipStream low frequency port uses a double flared design that easily works with the woofer to deliver greater low-frequency extension. The unit offers a refined bass which is also very smooth and accurate.
The JBL LSR305 has 41/41 output wattage and eliminates the need for an extra amplifier. It has a frequency response range of 43Hz-24 kHz. It is beautifully designed with the TRS, XLR connections conveniently located in the rear. Notably, the technologies incorporated in this studio monitor can also be found in some of their high end monitors thus adding great value on the LSR305 monitor.
3. Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor
Yamaha produces some of the best music instruments including this slightly pricey but equally powerful studio monitor. This active HS8 monitor has a big 8-inch woofer driver and a 1-inch tweeter driver; both individually amplified by 75W and 45W amps respectively. The unit has a high wattage of 120Watts and allows a frequency response range of about 30Hz-30 kHz. Its bi-amp design allows a two way use for high and low frequencies.
It also includes a built-in Room Control” feature that trims high and low frequencies to enable the user to get the required accurate sound quality. The Yamaha HS8 has the standard TRS and XLR ports located on the rear. The Yamaha HS8 delivers value for money, good imaging, deep bass and remarkable flat response. However, the unit is quite heavy and expensive as compared to others in its category.
4. PreSonus Eris E45.5 2-Way Nearfield Studio Monitors
This studio monitor is affordable and solid, guaranteed to meet the user’s expectations. It has 4.5-inch woofers made of Kevlar and a standard size 1-inch tweeter with silk domes. The monitor is has about 50Watts output wattage and is ideal for a small home studio or DJ set up. It delivers accurate near-field listening experience despite its small size.
The E45.5 2-Way studio monitor has a frequency response range of about 70Hz to 22 kHz and includes an RF interference limiter. The E45.5 2-Way offers an affordable entry-level studio monitor that is perfectly sized to fit on any desk space.
5. Mackie CR5BT CR Series Channel Studio Monitor
This monitor is compact, portable and offers studio-quality performance suitable for multimedia creation as well as entertainment. The Mackie CR3-3 has a wide frequency response range of 80Hz to 20 kHz and has output wattage of 50Watts. It features an impressive polypropylene-coated 3-inch woofer that delivers a deeper bass sound.
The CR5BT has conveniently placed volume knobs and power indication. It also has a standard tweeter with silk domes as well as 1/4-inch, 1/8-inch and RCA connections. Additionally, the monitor has a convenient plug and play functionality enabling the user too even connect their phone and play any record directly to the speakers.
The Most Important Benefits of Studio Monitors
Studio monitors are very important to professional audio producers as they provide clean and purified sound by removing all the unnecessary sound reflections and interferences. Through different processing techniques and amplification studio monitors have an edge over traditional headphones and recorders by offering a refined sound quality. They are specifically designed to ensure consistency in the effective and single translation of the given recording without distorting the output.
- Most studio monitors offer sound transmission at higher intensity from about 150 to 200MHz translating to a higher and more refined sound quality. They are also designed to output flat or linear frequencies which greatly assist in resolve all inaccuracies and ensure only the best quality of sound is recorded and produced.
- Near-field monitors are placed closer to the user thus avoiding the long distance interference. Additionally, they eliminate the sound reflection disturbance as is experienced in most closed sound recording rooms.
- An active monitor come equipped with built-in amplifiers that divide all incoming frequencies (low, medium and high) and amplifies each of them independently to deliver a clean sound quality. Active monitors help cut down costs as the user does not need to buy another amplifier. They are also extremely compatible and ready to use with any woofer and tweeters. Although passive monitors do not have amplifiers they offer great flexibility to connect them to more powerful amplifiers than the inbuilt ones in active studio monitors. Also the passive monitors offer more mixing options since the user can connect them with a huge selection of amplifiers, all with different settings and features.
- Studio monitors offer a great deal of convenience as they can be easily set up in a plug and play manner. They are becoming popular in most homes not only for mastering tracks and mixing purposes but also for general album listening as they give the actual studio sound quality. Some of the studio monitors offer decent off-axis performance, this makes them ideal for home listening. They are designed to monitor sound quality hence studio monitors can handle huge volume peaks. Home studios get face lift with the purchase of studio monitors from a simple desk with a few controllers to something more professional.
Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Studio Monitor
The best studio monitors are mostly high priced but can ensure the best results. Although recording headphones and HI-FI speakers may offer an alternative, studio monitors are the only ones specifically designed to deliver accurate and refined sound quality .While some brands may put too much hype on some of their products it is prudent for the user to consider several factors before making the purchase. One of the key factors is the budget the user is working with hence other factors must be looked out for in order to get the best unit in the given price range.
Even the best studio monitors require an equally better sound room to ensure their effective and optimal performance. It is highly recommended to use sound absorbing material on the walls and if possible the ceiling should also be sound proofed. The material not only absorbs room noise but also reduces internal slap-echo reverberation. Room correction devices may also come in handy to finesse the frequency response to as linear/flat as possible. Below are some of the other factors to consider:
The wattage of the studio monitor must be considered depending on the size of the studio room. Mostly, 10-60 wattage is adequate for a small size studio or home studio while larger rooms may require more power for optimal performance.
Active versus Passive Monitors
They are also referred to as powered and unpowered studio monitors respectively. This regards to amplification where active monitors come with an inbuilt amplifier and passive monitors require external amplification. If the user wants to carry out basic home recording then an active one will be the most ideal and cost efficient while a passive monitor is suitable for pro-studios.
Since studio monitors are intended for accuracy, the frequency range is one key factor to consider. Most specs list the minimum frequency (Hz) and the maximum frequency (kHz) they can handle. Record works require a frequency response of about 50Hz-20kHz there a monitor with such minimum specs is adequate. A decibel rating also helps indicate how much variation will occur across the frequency range. For most tasks a decibel rating of ±3dB or a smaller rating will guarantee a well-balanced sound. However, if working with bass-heavy music or 7.1/ 5.1 surround sound mixes then a studio woofer may be purchased to handle frequencies lower than 30Hz.
Numbers and Specifications
The various numbers and specs largely depict how the monitor will perform during mixing, mastering and recording. They are as a result of tests carried out by the manufacturer in a bid to determine the performance of their products. However, it is important to note that most of the specs are not standardized thus can vary across different units. Therefore, the user should consider expert recommendations and also follow user recommendations so as to determine their ideal monitor.
Placement of Studio Monitors
There are types of studio monitor designs depending on listening configurations used namely near-, far- and mid-field monitors. Near-field monitors are optimized for close distance listening while far-filed ones carry the sound in accurate manner over a greater distance. Near-field studio monitors are the most common and most suitable for audio production since the user can hear the sound from the speakers more directly. The speakers are positioned in front of the user and angled inwards so as to form an equilateral triangle between the monitor enclosures and the user’s head. Far-field and mid-field monitors are the most ideal for large studio rooms; however the room must be acoustically treated to get the accurate sound quality.
Studio monitors comprise of three major parts the cabinet, the drivers and the electronic circuitry. Powered monitors are the most common today and may include a built-in amplifier. There are two main types of drivers namely woofers and tweeters while some monitors may include a mid-range driver. The mid-range driver handles midrange frequencies. In a typical 2-way monitor the tweeter handles high frequencies and the woofer handles high-mids as well as high frequencies. The drivers are made using different materials such as carbon, Mylar, silk, titanium and metal alloys. Mylar is unaffected by humidity while carbon and glass is suitable where high power handling is required and produces accurate, extended high frequency response.
A properly designed cabinet gets maximum performance from the monitor’s drivers. The cabinet should be built from strong, hard materials like dense plastics and metal with internal bracing so as to avoid unwanted resonance and coloration of output. Lastly the circuitry must include inputs that will work with the user’s equipment. Most studio monitors have TRS, XLR, S/PDIF, RCA or 1/4 inch jacks. Notably, some monitors may have only balanced or unbalanced inputs and others may offer both.
The THD -Total Harmonic Distortion specification is a good indicator of the monitor’s accuracy. Generally, audio circuits add some distortion and noise to the output. Studio monitors must have a number close to zero in the amount of noise and distortion. One minor factor is the general appeal of the studio monitor since most monitors are mostly built for performance rather than aesthetic appeal.