Studio monitors and regular speakers may not seem very different at first glance but there are clear distinctions. While regular speakers color the frequencies of the sound they deliver, studio monitors aren’t designed to do so. In comparison to regular speakers, studio monitor’s frequency response graph is normally flat.
The main purpose of studio monitors is to deliver neutral sound without any kind of modifications. This enables the recordist to get an audio output that is identical to how it was recorded. This also allows them to edit the audio according to their preference. With regular speakers, the case is the opposite. They deliver colorized sound to start with so that the sound becomes more attractive to the listener’s ears.
While talking about studio monitors vs. speakers, people usually ponder over one question and that is if one can use studio monitors as regular speakers or computer speakers. The simple answer to this question is yes, they can be used this way. However, the dilemma doesn’t end here, as you need to consider the different features and benefits of each before you attempt to do so. If you plan on adding either option to complete your audio equipment collection, this mini-guide to the differences between a studio monitor and a regular speaker will help you make an informed decision and fulfill your requirements accordingly.
Differences between Studio Monitors and Regular Speakers
Studio monitors are capable of delivering flatter and wider frequency response as compared to regular speakers. While studio monitors come with a natural frequency curve, regular speakers are manufactured in such a manner that they can boost frequencies at specific areas of the spectrum.
Depending on the quality and the manufacturer, regular speakers can deliver between 20 Hz and 20 kHz i.e. the human audible range and studio monitors can deliver from 20Hz up to 50 kHz.
Appearance and Design
As speakers are generally designed and manufactured for daily consumers, they have a more fancy appearance to them than studio monitors. Manufacturers concentrate more on attracting buyers and luring them into buying their products.
Studio monitors have quite a professional look to them. In their case, durability is given more priority than appearance when it comes to finding a perfect fit in the recording studio.
Neutral Sound vs. Artificial Sound
Studio monitors deliver a raw and neutral sound that can be edited by the recordist later to enhance the quality and make it sound better. Regular speakers, on the other hand, are specifically built to deliver artificial sounds that are pleasant and clearer to the user.
Because of the market competition, regular speaker amps are made up of cheaper components. As a result, the amp quality is compromised to an extent and, therefore, a narrow frequency response is received and that too of a low dynamic range. In the case of studio monitors, best-quality components are used to build the amp so that can provide excellent performance and highly efficient sound. The dynamic range and the frequency response are also better relatively.
With cost-effective regular speakers, after a certain volume range, the sound gets distorted. Therefore, it is not easy to deliver sound in extremely high volume without any distortions. One more important factor at this point is the amp. Speakers manufactured with normal amps generally use such components that don’t allow the speakers to handle the power above a particular volume range and thus the sound suffers.
On the other hand, studio monitors, like the JBL Professional LSR305, are designed with such drivers and amps that they are capable of handling high-volume operation. In this case, the amp is built in accordance with the frequency and wattage range of the driver so that the audio doesn’t get distorted. Therefore, you get a more accurate and clear sound to mix.
Studio monitors are designed especially for mixing engineers and recordists. Its main purpose is to provide sound that isn’t altered in any way so that the audio professional can make changes in the track to get a better mix.
Regular speakers are designed particularly for listeners. A listener desires a sound that would please them. The manufacturers of speakers are aware of this fact; thus, they design their product in a manner that it delivers a hi-fi sound. Instead of focusing on sound accuracy, they focus more on its quality. A final song on a regular speaker sounds way better than it does on a studio monitor.
Studio monitors are built using costly materials and services. As they are designed to be sold for a particular purpose, their quality cannot be compromised and the consumers are usually professionals; therefore, they are costly than regular speakers.
Regular speakers are manufactured for listeners; they are usually compact and face more competitions as compared to professional equipment. One marketing strategy that the manufacturers use is that they keep the cost as per consumers’ budget which, in turn, helps them to sell more equipment.
Usually, materials like plastic and wood are used for the manufacturing of regular speakers and mostly they don’t come with a magnetic shield, cheap components are utilized and they aren’t sound-treated internally. Studio monitors, on the other hand, are made of metals and MDF wood. They are not only magnetically shielded but are also treated internally with special materials. Composite materials are used in the construction of the drivers which result in more durability as compared to the regular speakers.
Dynamic range plays a very important role when it comes to the quality of sound of a regular speaker. This range is the difference between the highest and the lowest intensity of the audio. The dynamic range of regular speakers isn’t as good as compared to that of studio monitors. In the case of studio monitors, to get a better-quality mix over the frequency range, you will have to listen to the lowest intensity sounds.
Quality of Sound
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that regular speakers, such as the Logitech S120 2.0 Stereo Speakers, deliver sound with better quality than studio monitors. Speakers are built for listeners and if they are incapable of delivering a hi-fi sound, why would anyone bother to buy them? As mentioned earlier, the sound released by a regular speaker isn’t original. Instead, it is boosted and colorized in some frequency range to make it more appealing to the listener. Audio professionals do not want any boosts, colorization, or cut-off in frequencies. Therefore, they make use of studio monitors so that they can listen to the same sound as it was recorded.
Features of a Studio Monitor
Following are some common features of a studio monitor:
Studio monitor cabinets can be ported or closed like the conventional ones. Studio monitors that are ported are often placed close to a wall and do not always provide the best quality sound.
Active vs. Passive
While the older versions come with a passive system where the speakers have to be compatible with the amplifier and crossover, the active ones have eliminated that need and come with all the components built into a pair of enclosures or cabinets.
With different power levels of a studio monitor, you can easily customize the device according to your power needs.
A studio monitor also consists of room correction options, EQ, and a subwoofer.
Parts of a Regular Speaker
When we talk about regular speakers, it can mean a lot of related audio equipment. As the output of a surround sound speaker comes close to that of a studio monitor, let’s go over its parts.
It is responsible for generating the bass undertones and can be situated almost anywhere.
They provide the output for background music and speech and they are usually placed in front of the screen.
They are the main hub where all output and input plugs are placed. It is responsible for bringing everything together. The entire surround sound system is controlled by the audio receiver.
Front and Rear Speakers
These two speakers are commonly situated towards the audience to provide them with a better direction of the produced audio.
While you can use your studio monitor as a regular speaker, you will have to compromise with the quality of the sound as it won’t produce hi-fi colorized sound unless modified. If you require a speaker for daily use, a regular speaker might just be the right choice for you. But if your requirements fall more in the professional category, a studio monitor might be what you need to complete your audio equipment collection for your recording studio.
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