Today, technology has advanced to a level where music can be mixed and recorded in the comfort of our own studio spaces and even homes. With this rapid advancement, studio monitors have been gaining more popularity than ever before.
Beginner producers quite frequently make the mistake of using standard desktop speakers and disregarding the importance of studio monitors. Today, we are going to walk you through why are studio monitors important and how the practice of substituting them with low-quality audio equipment can have an effect on your experience as an audiophile or progress as a music producer.
What are Studio Monitors?
In appearance, studio monitors might seem like just any other type of regular speakers to you. You have transducers, cabinets, and the works. However, their appearance is not something to take into consideration; rather you need to get into the depth of their functioning. A standard bookshelf speaker and a studio monitor are tuned completely different from each other.
As a matter of fact, if you desire good music with colored sound that is adjusted according to the preference of a listener, then chances are that you will be in for a disappointment.
A studio monitor is a high-quality speaker that is specially designed for a recording studio. Its main purpose is to deliver accuracy and transparency in the sound. The neutral sound that isn’t modified in any manner allows the recordists to get the exact sound in result as it was recorded in the first place. This enables them to edit the audio as per their preferences.
When you measure a speaker’s response, the horizontal axis is the frequency range and the vertical axis is your decibel value. If you put a good-quality microphone in front of your regular speaker, it will result in boosted lows in the graph, with a dip somewhere in the mid range along with a sharp increase in trebles.
With studio monitors, you’ll get a graph that will show a flat line, starting from the lowest frequency and traversing all the way to the highest one. This is called a flat frequency response which also helps in determining if the performance of your monitoring tool is up to the mark. The importance of a studio monitor’s transparent frequency response is explained better in the next section.
Importance of Studio Monitors
Flat Frequency Response
Without getting into complicated music production and audio-mixing jargon, let’s talk about the importance of transparency. The higher the transparency of your mix, the better insight you’ll have. No matter the type of music you are producing, you want it to sound great on all various kinds of speakers.
For this particular reason, you will need to hear your recorded track in its most neutral state in order to modify it as per your requirements.
A set of studio monitor speakers that are transparent, enables you to exactly do the above. There is no bias and no particular segment of the frequency range is exaggerated in any way. This transparent feedback allows you to hear all kinds of imperfections in your track. Your bass can be too wide or one of your instruments can be spiking in some of the elements of the mix. Either way, a flat frequency response allows you to detect these problems and resolve them.
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, generally regular speakers are able to deliver between 20 Hz and 20 kHz i.e. the human audible range and studio monitors can deliver from 20Hz up to 50 kHz.
Less Distortion, Higher Amp Quality, and Dynamic Range
By now it should come as no surprise to you that studio monitors are superior to regular speakers in various cases, especially when it comes to listening to accurate sound. Because of the increasing competition in the market, manufacturers tend to settle for cheaper components for regular speakers.
But when it comes to studio monitors, the amp quality is never compromised. Studio monitors such as the Neumann Active Tri-Amplified Studio Monitor features a tri-amp, three-way setup. The best-quality components result in excellent performance of the equipment and the delivery of highly efficient sound. Along with the frequency response, the dynamic range is also better relatively.
With high-quality amps comes the advantage of less distortion. Studio monitors are specially designed with these amps and good-quality drivers so that they are capable of handling the power above a particular volume range without compromising the sound. The amp is built in accordance with the frequency and wattage range of the driver so that the audio doesn’t get distorted. In result, you get more accurate and clear sound to mix.
When it comes to the quality of sound of loudspeakers enclosed in speaker enclosures that are specially manufactured and designed for professional audio production, the dynamic range plays a very important role. This range is the difference between the highest and the lowest intensity of the audio.
The dynamic range of studio monitors is way better as compared to that of the regular speakers. In studio monitors, to get a better-quality mix over the frequency range, you will have to listen to the lowest intensity sounds.
Building Materials and Cost
Although studio monitors are manufactured using costly services and materials, they are designed to be sold for a specific purpose and their quality simply cannot be compromised. They are made of materials like MDF wood and metals. Not only are they magnetically shielded but are also sound treated internally with special materials. The drivers are also constructed using composite materials which results in increased durability. For professional consumers, quality equipment is worth investing in.
Not Much Need for Additional Equipment
With the rapid advancement in technology, modern designs of studio monitors don’t need any additional equipment. While passive monitoring systems that the recording industry had been using since the very start are modular and do require compatible amplifier and speakers, the active ones come with an extraordinary performance and convenience factor.
They come equipped with the necessary specification built in them and thus are gaining popularity at a quick pace. You don’t need to deal with any extra rack gear as the speakers are specially designed to match the internal amplifier and thus enabling your monitor to provide the best sonic results.
Substitute for Studio Monitors
We’ve already discussed the importance of studio monitors for professional usage over regular speakers. On a similar note, headphones also aren’t considered as a great alternative. Although some are specially designed for monitoring purposes and can deliver a flat response, they do not deliver the same sound stage and overall impression in the mix as a standard pair of studio monitors.
While the following statement might sound quite dramatic but there is no denying the fact that a substitute for a good-quality pair of studio monitor speakers doesn’t exist. Without the transducers, you’d only be able to get a substandard feedback without actually hearing the actual transparent audio.
Even though they are expensive than your normal speakers, with unlimited brands and models in the market, you can easily find an affordable one such as the KRK 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor, that is suitable for you and is capable of fulfilling your needs. Consider factors such as the speaker power, room correction and EQ controls, size of your studio space, frequency range, etc. before you finally settle for one.
Finally, if you do decide to get into music production, you will have to buy a pair of studio monitors at some point. Those on a budget might find this to be an issue, but this list of the best studio monitors under $150 might be just what you need to take a step towards growing as a producer and evolving your skills to the fullest.