Choosing The Best Studio Monitors For Your Home Studio (2022)
If you want to make the best music possible in your home studio, then having a pair of studio monitors will help you a great deal in accomplishing your goals.
Studio monitors are a cornerstone in every major recording studio out there. Luckily, studio monitors can play the same influential role in your studio at an affordable price.
In this article, you will learn:
- What studio monitors are
- How to pick the best studio monitors for you
- Some recommendations to get you started
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What Are Studio Monitors?
When you think about studio monitors, think about a flat, objective listening experience.
The whole point of having studio monitors is to hear your music as accurately as possible without any embellishments, adjustments, or anything else.
When you look at other speakers out there, such as car stereos, home theater systems, and headphones, many of these speakers are specifically designed to give you an enhanced listening experience that makes the music played sound better.
Often times, these speakers are designed to have increased bass, increased treble, and other changes to the frequency response that improve the listening experience.
When mixing, these changes to the frequency spectrum can mask what your music truly sounds like. Without a flat frequency response, your mixes will suffer in quality.
Having a flat frequency response also means that your music is going to translate to other sources much better. If you mix your music on good studio monitors, and the music sounds great on them, then chances are your music will also sound great in cars, headphones, and wherever else people are listening.
Studio Monitor Features
Studio monitors come in pairs, with a left monitor and a right monitor. This configuration allows you to mix your music in full stereo.
Front and back view of a typical studio monitor. The front of the monitor has a tweeter (top), woofer (middle), and port (bottom). The back has audio inputs (RCA, 1/4″ TRS, and XLR), some level/EQ adjustment knobs, and a power connector/switch.
Most monitors have a fairly simple design. On the front of the monitor, the tweeter is responsible for the higher frequencies and the woofer is responsible for the lower frequencies.
In many monitors, particularly more affordable ones, there is a port, which is an opening to help extend the bass response of the monitor. Some ports are flat and on the front of the monitor and some are round and on the back of the monitor.
On the back of the monitor, there are audio and power connections. Most monitors receive their audio signals from either an XLR connection, a 1/4” TRS connection, or an RCA connection. You can use any of them to connect your audio interface to your monitors.
Monitors are either active or passive, which means they have a built-in amplifier (active) or they do not (passive). Most monitors are active, which means they simply connect to a wall outlet with a cable and do not require any additional hardware.
Passive speakers rely on a dedicated amplifier module to be powered. If you are considering a pair of passive monitors, make sure you get an amplifier for them. A common place where passive speakers are found is in home theater systems, which use lightweight speaker cable to both power the speakers and drive the audio signal from the stereo receiver.
Some studios use subwoofers to extend and improve their bass response, but subwoofers are not required for most home studios. If you want to get a subwoofer, I recommend getting the unit that is specifically designed to accompany your specific monitor pair.
Are Studio Monitors Right For You?
Generally speaking, monitors are better than headphones for critical listening. The provide a wider, more natural way to listen to music compared to headphones, which push and trap the sound they produce against your ears in the confined space that they create.
However, this doesn’t mean that monitors are always the right choice for your home studio. In some cases, it’s better to stick with headphones.
If you’re wanting to put monitors into a tiny space, such as a closet, the reverberation caused by the space will defeat all of the benefits of the monitors. Headphones will be a better choice in this situation.
Additionally, if monitors will be too much of a disruption to people around you, headphones are a fine option too.
How To Choose The Right Pair Of Monitors For You
Picking monitors usually comes down to two factors: price and size.
Monitors can vary greatly in price, starting below $200 and going up to over $10,000 for a single speaker. Fortunately, there are plenty of high quality, affordable pairs of monitors on the market today. Most people’s needs can easily be met by a pair that costs under $500.
If your budget is under $200, I would consider saving for a higher priced pair of monitors or opting for headphones instead. The quality and performance of monitors below $200 are usually not worth it, and headphones in this price range perform much better.
Ultimately, get the best pair of monitors you can afford. They don’t have to be too expensive, but they also shouldn’t be too cheap.
Monitor size is measured by the diameter of the monitor’s woofer. Most home studio monitors have 5-8 inch woofers, with the most common sizes being five inches, seven inches, and eight inches.
Monitor size matters. To get the best-sounding monitors possible, you need a good bass response. The larger the monitor, the better the bass response will be.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone should get the biggest monitors possible. If you put giant monitors into a small room, you’re going to have a reverberation problem, which will wash away all of the benefits of having monitors.
Finding the right-sized monitors for your studio is important. For studios in typical bedroom-sized rooms, a five inch monitor will be a good fit. Despite their smaller size, five inch monitors will give you adequate volume and bass response without creating too much of a reverb issue.
If your studio is in a larger space, like a living room or a basement, larger monitors may be a better option, assuming the higher prices are within your budget.
Finally, make sure you are paying attention to which monitors are active and which are passive, and make sure you know what cabling to get to connect your monitors to your audio interface.
These are small details, but they can become trouble if you don’t plan ahead!
Recommended Studio Monitors
PreSonus Eris E4.5
If you’re looking for a solid yet cheap pair of monitors, then I recommend the PreSonus Eris E4.5 studio monitors. These monitors cost $200 for a pair, and despite their low price, they are a decent entry-level studio monitor to consider.
Their smaller 4.5 inch woofer makes their bass response a little weak compared to higher priced monitors, but they are a decent option if you have a tight budget.
KRK Classic 5/7/8
If you want a high quality pair of monitors for a relatively low price, one of the KRK Classic pairs (five inch, seven inch, or eight inch) are the monitors to buy. This series of monitors is much higher quality than the PreSonus Eris E4.5s, yet they aren’t too much more expensive.
The five inch pair costs $300, the seven inch pair costs $400, and the eight inch pair costs $500.
Historically, KRK monitors have been well known for their extra bass response. However, these monitors have a flatter response with a bass boost switch to give you optimal mixing conditions or the classic KRK sound, depending on your needs.
Yamaha HS Series (5/7/8)
The Yamaha HS series is practically an industry standard for monitors. They are immensely popular, and for good reason.
The HS series is specifically designed for mixing and mastering, which means they have a very transparent, unforgiving, flat frequency response. They may sound a little underwhelming with regular music, but they are outstanding for mixing.
The HS5s cost $400 for a pair, the HS7s cost about $660 for a pair, and the HS8s cost about $750 for a pair. These monitors are noticeably more expensive than the KRKs, but many engineers still feel like these prices are a steal.
ADAM Audio A7X
If you want professional-level monitoring and have the money to back it up, I would recommend the ADAM Audio A7Xs.
These monitors cost $1,500 for a pair, but they are worth the cost. Just make sure you have proper room treatment before buying these monitors, or their high price won’t be worth it.
The A7Xs have a seven inch woofer and a unique type of tweeter called a folded ribbon tweeter.
These tweeters reproduce sound up to 50 kHz, which is much higher than what our ears can detect. Because of this extended high-end, these monitor’s highs are amazingly well-defined.
Learn Your Monitors
Once you’ve bought your studio monitors, the work isn’t quite done yet.
First, you have to position your monitors properly. To get the most out of your monitors, read how to position your monitors effectively here.
Next, you have to spend time getting to know your monitors with your ears.
Most monitors, when first listened to, might sound a little weird due to the flat response. Getting used to these differences is an important part of getting the most out of your studio monitors.
Learning your monitors and becoming comfortable with them is simple – just spend time producing and mixing with them. Additionally, listen to music that you are familiar with to get a sense for how they differ from other listening sources you may have used in the past.
Over time, your ears will get to know your new monitors, making it easy to harness their benefits and improve your mixes as a result.
To get the most out of your monitors, learn how to make professional quality songs in your home studio with our free guide!
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