What differentiates a Studio Monitor from a regular speaker?

Those who have barely begun their venture with a home recording studio could make a very wrong assumption by believing that any soundbox can work in a fashion similar to the studio monitors. A somewhat common misconception that is incorrect. Home stereo speakers don’t provide a flat balance between low, mid and high frequencies which could debase the quality of your mixing. 

When we discuss good monitoring equipment, our main focus is on equipment with one precise purpose: it will be as “flat” as possible. The secret of good mixing is that the equipment shouldn’t favor or smooth out any frequency. As we realize this, it’s time to explore the characteristics, specifications, and installation tips. 

What is the purpose of studio monitors?
  • The major challenge: The common home speaker isn’t “flat” and so it may level out or favor certain frequencies. Thus, you’ll always be deceived by what you hear.
  • The result: the most common consequence is unreliable mixing which, when played on another device, might result in a bad sound or accentuate certain frequency ranges. 
  • Just buying a good studio monitor won’t suffice: Correct placement of the studio monitors is crucial to avoid conflicts or the erasure of frequencies. You must also take care of the room’s acoustic treatment and even buy the best desktop stands.
  • Don’t be fooled by the price tag: The price of the monitor is never an accurate indication of its quality. Chances are that you might end up paying more for a brand just because it’s famous. USE YOUR EARS and bring reference material that you know well.
  • It is always good to compare: You should never blindly trust your device. Compare different studio monitors and check them out using known mixes against a flat pair of headphones made specifically for mixing. 
How to choose the right studio monitors?

Starting with the size
This is the first step when it comes to choosing between different studio monitors. In case you have a very small room, it’s better to pick a monitor with 5-inch to 7-inch speakers. Similarly for very big rooms, 8-inch speakers may work best. If you use a big monitor in a tiny room, the low frequencies get jumbled and you might be fooled into erasing out bass sounds. 

How many ways?
Confused? A “way” refers to each of the studio monitor speakers. 

The most common types are:
  • 2-way: one speaker for mids and bass, and a tweeter for treble/high end
  • 3-way: one speaker dedicated to bass, one for mids and a tweeter for treble/high end
  • 4-way: usually, two of the speakers are dedicated to mid frequencies.
Active and passive studio monitors
The next consideration is to pick between passive or active. You may be tempted to go for the passive monitor during your research. They’re usually cheaper than the active ones. This is because the passive studio monitor requires an amplifier to go with it requiring you to “invest twice” – once with the monitor and once again with the amplifier.
An active monitor, however, comes with an amplifier (or amplifiers) built in it. All you need is to connect it to the interface and you’re done. 

Power should never impair the quality
Talking of the higher technical aspects of studio monitors, the next thing to consider is power. Simply stated - the greater the power, the louder the speaker.
One would expect that a greater power means better sound quality. However, this isn’t always the case. 

You must be aware of two points:
  • Although it is a general misconception, power isn’t linked to quality alone
  • Though the manufacturer might insist on producing a certain amount of power, there can be distortion once it’s achieved
So it is best not to blindly trust the manuals and listen to studio monitors in action before acquiring them.

Investing with confidence
After carefully considering all the above factors, it will be easier for you to find the best studio monitors worth your money. And though you’ll see many market favorites, don’t forget: the decision is yours to make - use your ears.


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