5 Considerations When Buying Studio Monitors.
Author: Admin Date Posted:9 June 2014
Choosing a pair of monitor speakers can be a daunting task, particularly with the sheer amount available on the market today. Sweeping aside the sales talk and marketing spin, here are some basic tips on what to look for when deciding which monitor speakers are right for you.
You’ve possibly heard it before; “Studio monitors aren’t supposed to sound good, they’re supposed to sound accurate!” But what does that mean exactly? Are you supposed to pick the speaker that doesn’t sound good? How can you tell if a speaker is accurate? When people refer to accuracy, they’re referring to the difference between the input signal and the sound that is output from the speaker. When they say that monitors aren’t supposed to sound good, what they should really say is they aren’t supposed to sound enhanced. A good example of this are Hi Fi speakers that tend to increase the top and bottom end (treble and bass) to make music sound “better” or more exciting. Monitor speakers on the other hand traditionally avoid this in favour of presenting the sound as transparently as possible. It’s important to note no monitor speaker has a completely flat response and is 100% transparent. All speakers colour the sound in one way or another so judging accuracy is certainly a relative term. Comparing multiple pairs of monitors with music you are familiar with is a great way to figure out how each speaker is colouring your sound and to what degree.
Figure out your needs
Most entry-level monitors will focus their accuracy and detail in certain areas; some will feature rich and detailed mids and highs while perhaps sacrificing some bottom end while others may offer more bass and less highs. When listening for these differences, think about the styles of music you plan to be engineering. If you’re mixing acoustic or orchestral music for example, you’re going to want clarity and mid- to high-end detail whereas extended low-end will be important to you if dubstep wobbles are your thing. With higher end monitors, these differences become far less apparent. They tend to give you more accuracy in all areas and are much more versatile for different styles of music.
Like a new pair of shoes, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your speakers. Are they comfortable to listen to? Do you find any particular aspect of the sound jarring or harsh? Are the speakers too bassy? Too bright? These characteristics can induce ear fatigue which limits your ability to hear and differentiate between frequencies. Typically your perception of top and bottom end is drastically reduced and you’ll end up compensating for this in your mix. Finding a speaker you can comfortably listen to for long periods is hugely important.
What Size Do I Get?
Common advice for choosing monitors is to match the size of your room with the size of your speakers, i.e. smaller room, smaller speakers and vice versa. The reasoning behind this is that you only need small, low powered speakers to be loud enough to cover a small space, whereas larger spaces need larger, louder monitors. To an extent this is true. If you’ve got a lot of people trying to listen to a mix in a large room, small speakers aren’t going to give you the coverage so everyone can hear. However, there’s more to the speaker size than just output loudness. Smaller speakers have a lot less bottom end than their larger counterparts. This is because lower frequency sounds require a lot of energy to produce, and so a speaker has to move more air to accurately reproduce the sound. Smaller speakers with smaller components don’t have the surface area to do this. Instead, try to match a speaker to your mixing requirements rather than to your room size.
Subwoofers aren’t just for bass heavy production, they can benefit your monitoring setup for any type of music. Obviously they are designed to output low frequency content however they also have other added benefits. Most studio subs also include a crossover that splits the signal into two frequency bands; extreme low frequencies being handled by the sub and the rest of the signal being sent to your monitors. This allows your monitor speakers to work more efficiently, and with less distortion between components, as they no longer have to waste energy trying to produce a full range signal. Splitting the signal in this way also allows you to turn down your main speakers and monitor exactly what’s going on in your bottom end. This is crucial, particularly if you’re producing content for systems with a woofer, such as 5.1 or 7.1.
Look at monitoring systems that meet your production and budget requirements. Listen to as many speakers as you can, with familiar music, to gauge how, and to what extent, each will colour your sound. Pick monitors that present your sound in a manner that sounds natural and is comfortable to listen to for long periods of time. Check ot our range of studio monitors here...