Best Studio Monitor Speakers For 2017 [GUIDE]

Best Studio Monitors SpeakersI know you’ve been in this kind of situation; you picked up a pair of high-priced pair of studio monitors, maybe something from the likes of Tannoy or Event as a start.

You read from professionals that you have the best monitors for a particular genre or a broad number of musical genres.

You couldn’t wait to plug it in and hear your favorite mix before you start recording.

After a few minutes into the music, you start questioning why those reviewers even considered giving it a 4/5 star when it sounds nothing more than your previous set of speakers.


Top 10 Studio Monitors

The Yamaha HS8

Yamaha HS8

Yamaha HS8

Rated at 128W, this active studio monitor from Yamaha is the successor to the classic HS80m.Read more...


The Focal Twin6

The Focal Twin 6

The Focal Twin 6

If you want some beautiful wooden finish on your studio monitors, the Focal Twin6 is just right for you.Read more...


The Tannoy Reveal 802

The Tannoy Reveal 802

The Tannoy Reveal 802

Tannoy updates its decades-old accurate studio monitors with an AUX link to use with your smartphone or mobile media player.Read more...


Mackie HR824 MKII

Mackie HR824 MKII

Mackie HR824 MKII

The difference between other studio monitors and Mackie’s HR824 MkII is a mere 0.75 inches.Read more...


The Genelec 8040

Genelec 8040

Genelec 8040

The prize for great studio monitor design goes to Genelec’s Harri Koskinen for his work with this studio monitor.Read more...


Focal CMS40
Focal CMS40

Focal CMS40

Studio monitors are, again, meant to expose plenty of details about mixes and less about ‘glamorizing‘ or beautifying the sound of the source material.Read more...


Event Opal

Event Opal

Event Opal

What’s the best brand to trust? Someone who’s been long in the industry enough to guarantee each unit they issue work as efficiently as the other.Read more...


Event 20/20 BAS

Event 2020

Event 2020

Okay, maybe this isn’t the cheapest option from Event’s products. I’m pointing at value-for-money here.Read more...


ATC SCM25A Pro
ATC SCM 25A Pro

ATC SCM 25A Pro

If you want an investment, you’ve got one with UK’s finest. The ATC SCM25A boasts 235 watts of three-amplifier monitors to produce a three-way system.Read more...


The Adam A7X

The Adam A7X

Adam A7X

It’s never a blast to spend $10,000 for a single pair of studio microphones.Read more...


DynAudio BM6A

Dynaudio BM 6A

Dynaudio BM 6A

DynAudio is a company similar to Steinberg, the company who created the DAW Cubase and Nuendo.Read more...


The Neumann KH 120
The Neumann KH 120

The Neumann KH120

Having a dedicated active amplification unit per loudspeaker is a great feature for any studio monitor.Read more...



Maybe you haven’t an idea yet which monitors fit the bill for your work. Here is a list I’ve come up with to get you started.

Yamaha HS80M

As legends have it (or hearsay, whatever), the Yamaha NS10M was the world’s first nearfield monitor because everyone used it. Luckily, engineers at that time found a monitor that was only intended to mimic a certain hi-fi system in a smaller package.

But Yamaha’s not building the NS10M anymore. But it’s got the HS80M to carry the legacy.

As a powered monitor, clarity is guaranteed. While you might say it is a bit clogged because it lacks a bit of high mid, maybe that’s just me. But mixing with these monitors have been a breeze because they faithfully stick to my source material.

The 8″ drivers deliver enough low end to reproduce those low end frequencies quicker as it has a response of 42hz to 20khz, enough for almost any recording session, including bass-heavy electronic music.

KRK Rokit 8 G3

The HS80M fetches around $350. The KRK Rokit 8 G3 comes around $420. Will it sound better?

Well, it is a bit high up there, but the engineering on the Rokit series had always been phenomenal at least for me.

The Rokit 8 G3 has a rear panel that lets you adjust the low-end frequencies, which makes it a bit suited for next-to-wall usage. You also get a high frequency knob if you need it. But of course, avoid ‘hyping’ the frequencies to get a neutral sound.

The results mixing with this little fellah gave me a nice monitor with great bass response even when one feet away from the wall. Despite the powerful sound I get some great tonal characteristics and clarity.

It takes a little bit of time to get used to, though. The monitors can sound differently transitioning from a previous unit you might have. But then again, which monitor is easy to get used to?

Presonus Eris E44

What you’ll note with the Eris E44 is their landscape approach to monitoring and their Kevlar-grade low and mid drivers. Knowing only popular culture, Kevlar is material used for flagging bullets. This monitor won’t flag bullets, but it’ll show you red and green flags with your mixes effectively.

The unique design of the Eris E44 stems from its midrange design. With drivers close together and the tweeter above the two, the monitors create an infallible monitor capable of adapting to any room situation with high and mid acoustic controls. You could put that saw to remove those extra foams in your studio now.

The sound delivers lots of clarity thanks to the midrange positioning. There is enough treble with the proper positioning of the HF driver/tweeter. While it might not rock your room with its low end, you get enough power to hear everything going on in a mix quickly.

JBL LSR305

JBL’s LSR305 is rarely heard of in the industry. Well, maybe they should. I’ve been using these monitors since it came out and never regretted using it ever since. At a price of $265, you can’t go wrong.

Accuracy and a powerful surrounding sound without the extra gimmicks is what I love about these pair of monitors. The monitors somehow give the illusion that the panned instruments are still right there, but the center is accurate to hear on almost any angle in the room.

Soundstage and a wide spectrum is another thing I love about these monitors. Accurate stereo imaging without hyping up certain elements make for a great monitor

Behringer Studio 50USB-150W 5″

At a price of $150, what can go wrong? Well, plenty of things.

Behringer is a name that sticks out like a sore thumb for many audio engineers. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game. But budget is budget and if you get what you pay for, then yes, you got a great deal.

These active speakers have a 150-watt system that powers both its 5″ woofer and 1″ tweeter.

To be honest, reviewing this speaker, I thought it would be stupid to recommend. But after plugging it in, I was blown away with the details I can get. No, it’s not on the same level as the LSR305 and nowhere near the Eris E44’s pristine audio glory, but it gets the job done of revealing details.

For a Behringer unit, I can’t believe what I’m hearing too!

Introducing: Studio Monitor Essentials

Studio-Monitor-Speakers-infographic

Jump to section by clicking on any link

1. Differences 2. Hi-Fi 3. Headphones 4. Types  5. Drivers  6. Room Correction 7. Subwoofers 8. Accuracy 9. Setup 10. Top 10


What’s The Difference?

Manufacturers meant consumer-grade speakers for your enjoyment.

They’ve built almost every pair of speakers to your preference.

You want something that’s trebly and surround? They’ve got it.

You want something that’s powerful in the bottom end? You’ve got that too.

Your normal speakers are on one of these extremes.

Yes, there will be consumer-grade speakers with flat responses.

The question is whether the audio translates in a natural manner as your speakers can still have built-in limiters and compressors.

Consumer-grade speakers will color sound with their added enhancements because manufacturers never meant them for analytical use.

Consumer-grade speakers will mask certain details, namely frequencies, of your mixes, making it hard to discern whether your guitar or synth sounds just about right, or not at all.


Studio Monitors VS. Hi-Fi Systems

It’s time to get a pair of studio monitors, but maybe you’ve got a Hi-Fi system at home.

It’s got a proper power amp and can detect whether an audio is MP3 compressed or when it’s in a FLAC or almost-vinyl format that has lossless compression.

To be honest, even we experienced audio recording, mixing and mastering engineers do not have a direct answer for that.

Often, we’ll tell you it depends on the situation.

In the past, audio engineers would have two types of monitors.

One is a normal speaker system (what you own) and another would be a high-fidelity system.

The normal speaker system is to monitor the sound coming through consumer-grade speakers used at home.

The other is to have the artist or mix engineer-intended sound faithful to their hearing vision.

Studio speakers guarantee clarity for all ranges of frequencies, but still, they depend on your room’s ambient tuning to deliver proper low-frequency response for example.

Too much foam in the room leaves less treble, which might make you wonder why those reviewers of a certain studio monitor said the monitor was trebly while in your room, well, it wasn’t.


Studio Monitors vs. Headphones

Studio monitors help you discern frequencies from different ranges accurately.

But you know that headphones could also do the same thing for you.

So why not, right?

They’re cheaper too!

You won’t even have to tune a room and you could work late at night without bothering your family or your neighbors.

The truth is, you could bypass studio monitors when mixing.

Well, at least majority of the time.

Close back or open back speakers of high quality and good manufacturing can deliver all details in a balanced, tonal manner similar to your monitors.

But from time to time, you will still need to check the accuracy of your mixes on studio monitors.

If you’re listening to heavy metal or loud, house EDM, studio monitors are essential to maintain the accuracy of your mix with loud home systems or club PA’s.


Types of Monitors

You’ve got two choices of monitors for your home or starting studio.

Powered Active Monitor Speakers

Here’s a little bit of trivia.

Most audio engineers would say “powered” and “active” monitors are the same.

The truth is, they’re not.

Powered monitors only have one single power amplifier unit feeding the drivers of both monitors.

Active monitors have each driver its own amplifier unit, which make them more expensive, or have a lower grade of power amp.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, like accurate frequency tweaks in the former and no bulkiness and a higher-grade amp in the other.

But both have a signature sound that could not be changed by the engineer not unless you do some invasive circuit surgery.

So, if your powered or active monitors sound as they are, they’ll be like that until the end of their lifespan.

They’re cheaper and less troublesome though.

But if you are that nitty-gritty, detail-hungry-for-everything type of person, there’s the next bit.

Passive Monitor Speakers

Yamaha NS-10M Passive Monitor Speakers

My old time favorite Passive monitor speakers are the Yamaha NS 10M

Old studios in the past and certain hardcore audiophiles (redundant, I know but the description fits) have always used passive monitors because the possibilities of hearing different power amplifier units feed passive drivers give new audio pleasures and clarity.

Passive drivers will always need a power amplifier.

Having a choice of a budget or luxury power amplifier depends on your practical use.

If the budget amplifier could push out more details with your driver while maintaining neutral dynamics in frequencies, then have a go at it.

There will be situations where luxury power amplifiers could do better at revealing details.

Or maybe you could just change your passive monitors to find something that works with your budget amplifier, or vice-versa.

It’s a mix-and-match type of world with passive amplifiers albeit being relatively a more expensive approach to studio building.

Again, none of these two monitor speakers are better than the other.


Drivers

Just like your studio might be built from wood, concrete, glass or steel, speakers are built with different materials. Common ones include:

  • paper,
  • Kevlar,
  • aluminum and…
  • some use hybrid material types.

Now, a word of advice; I’d say do not focus on the material of your speaker drivers.

Aluminum doesn’t mean it’s going to sound thinner or crisper.

Choosing the right drivers also depend on application, again, your studio and your actual listening.


Room Correction

Why do studio monitors have an equalizer when it’s already fine tuned to perfection?

Well, would you build a specifically-tuned studio room for your monitors?

That’s more expensive and unappealing.

Through digital processing and equalization, you can achieve room correction.

This solves our first-paragraph dilemma.

The equalizer helps improve the monitor’s sound in an unturned room (more of a living room, wide spaces, lots of furniture, lots of things for signals to bounce around., etc).

But just like the running jokes on plugins and extreme VST usage; if the source is spoiled, fix-it-in-the-mix doesn’t work.


Subwoofers

  • Buying a fancy full-set of monitors that includes a subwoofer?
  • Why do you need a subwoofer?

Imagine that studio monitors are computer monitors.

Special types of monitors have special characters, coloring and sound.

Maybe you need a red-sensitive monitor, so you’re going to buy one that could view all kinds of red.

That’s how the subwoofer works.

It lets you hear what’s going on in your lower octaves/frequencies.

If you’re going through 10hz-50hz, you’re going to need a subwoofer.

This is ideal for 5.1 stereo surround projects or if your music would be played on gigantic nightclub systems.


Accuracy

Remember the first paragraph again?

That situation is common among people buying a studio monitor transitioning from a consumer-class monitor.

The main difference between a pair of studio monitors and consumer-grade speakers is that the latter attempts to beautify the sound in as many ways as possible.

The studio monitor pair you’re looking for should reveal every detail in your mix ensuring that all frequencies are neutral, or rather, natural.


Setting Up

Right now, you’ve just made the best purchase of your life with a pair of studio monitors.

You just plugged it in to your audio interface and you’ve been listening to some awesome sounds.

Your mix even sounds nice.

But that’s not what it was still meant to sound.

Now comes the semi-hard part: setting your monitors up properly.

  • At best, avoid placing your monitors against the wall.
  • Change your recording bay setup to about a feet away from the wall. This is to avoid having an over-compensated bass response. A feet away guarantees the best low-frequency response with your media.
  • Make sure both speakers have enough distance from the wall and are of the same measurement. If you place a speaker one feet away from the wall, the other speaker should also be in the same area.
  • Also, make sure the angle points towards you and not reflecting off your console/recording bay.

With that, let’s see which monitors fit the criteria.


 


Final Words

So, have you thought about having your own studio monitor yet?

Don’t think that it’s too difficult.

At first, the application of everything you’ve read here can be confusing.

But experience and a discerning ear will be the only things you need to buy, set up and use a pair of studio monitors.

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