I 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
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Rated at 128W, this active studio monitor from Yamaha is the successor to the classic HS80m.Read more... If you’ve heard some awesome mixes and records from the early 80s to late 90s, the HS80m had done a great job helping you remember those warm and sharp-enough mixes. The HS8 successes the HS80m original sound, along with other perks The HS8 has an 8-inch low-frequency driver shaped as a cone. I expected these to deliver controlled bursts of bass frequencies, allowing their natural response. Meanwhile the small 1-inch dome tweeter covers the area between 800hz-30khz, which guarantees great detail. You get an XLR and a 1/4-inch TRS unbalanced input for your speakers. Now we’ve got this going, let’s see how it performs in my studio using my studio monitors criteria The official rating for the HS8 is a frequency response of 38hz-30khz. But it could go lower if you get the subwoofer (AKA the HS8S model. Mind the ‘S’). Now, I have a studio with some acoustic treatment. I’ve blocked out some of the trebles to make sure the midrange returns to me in full. As a mixing engineer, the midrange is important to me. The original HS80m had a rich, full midrange and a great, responsive low-mid to low frequency threshold. Take note this is an active monitor; we can fix the equalization according to our room acoustics without extended rack equipment. This also means the HS8 has a distinct sound. Not so much different from the HS80m, to be honest, it even sounds better in my opinion. Drivers deliver a rich warm sound without EQ tweaking. Everything sounds great, but in my studio, it’s a bit emphasized on the midrange part (and I tuned that down using the EQ). I didn’t get the HS8S because I’m usually recording bands. But a friend of mine with a similarly-designed room tried it when dealt with an electro type of project for a house artist. Witnessing it for the first time, the subs deliver some groovy bass that is neither overpowering. It is quite similar to the 8-inch driver in terms of bass control.
If you’ve heard some awesome mixes and records from the early 80s to late 90s, the HS80m had done a great job helping you remember those warm and sharp-enough mixes. The HS8 successes the HS80m original sound, along with other perks
The HS8 has an 8-inch low-frequency driver shaped as a cone. I expected these to deliver controlled bursts of bass frequencies, allowing their natural response.
Meanwhile the small 1-inch dome tweeter covers the area between 800hz-30khz, which guarantees great detail. You get an XLR and a 1/4-inch TRS unbalanced input for your speakers.
Now we’ve got this going, let’s see how it performs in my studio using my studio monitors criteria
The official rating for the HS8 is a frequency response of 38hz-30khz. But it could go lower if you get the subwoofer (AKA the HS8S model. Mind the ‘S’). Now, I have a studio with some acoustic treatment. I’ve blocked out some of the trebles to make sure the midrange returns to me in full.
As a mixing engineer, the midrange is important to me. The original HS80m had a rich, full midrange and a great, responsive low-mid to low frequency threshold.
Take note this is an active monitor; we can fix the equalization according to our room acoustics without extended rack equipment. This also means the HS8 has a distinct sound. Not so much different from the HS80m, to be honest, it even sounds better in my opinion.
Drivers deliver a rich warm sound without EQ tweaking. Everything sounds great, but in my studio, it’s a bit emphasized on the midrange part (and I tuned that down using the EQ).
I didn’t get the HS8S because I’m usually recording bands. But a friend of mine with a similarly-designed room tried it when dealt with an electro type of project for a house artist. Witnessing it for the first time, the subs deliver some groovy bass that is neither overpowering. It is quite similar to the 8-inch driver in terms of bass control.
The Focal Twin6
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Just like my description earlier, several reviews indicate that the Focal Twin6 is the end-all-be-all to your studio monitor needs.
This is true if your room acoustics, monitor positioning and ears are attuned to other monitors.
Focal designed the Twin6 with beryllium cone drivers amplified with 150 watts. One thing that makes it distinct among other monitors is its design: it’s a box type unit with one cone handling the bass and mid-frequencies while the other responds only to bass frequencies.
Considering any mixing and mastering duties other than stereo-pan (nearfield) or full stage setup (midfield) applications won’t reap you any fruit with this one.
The fun thing is, you could place the Twin6 right in front of you and get results and great mix changes immediately.
To be honest, I found the Twin6 design to be ridiculous although what it wants to achieve isn’t impossible from happening using its design. Covering about 40hz-40khz should do the trick for most commercial applications sans 5.1 stereo surround mastering.
Those beryllium drivers sound something else. The speaker positioning, which is right in front of me at this point, was ridiculous to begin with but I got the same results as I would run an Adam set right in front of me.
As I expected, it has a ‘forward’ or ‘fronting’ sound in studios with midrange temperance similar to mine. Bass frequencies are controlled, but for lack of a better term ‘choked’ in a positive way. You hear it enough to recognize and control it. But you’d want to hear more from the mid to high-mid.
The sound is powerful and has more detail than what you’d expect from its cabinet design. With my mid-rich room, the subtle mids get elevated to better levels, revealing more of what I’ve been missing with some of my mixes.
There are no fancy bass humps here. One might say the Focal Twin6 was designed for listening to classic rock. Then again, studio monitors were not designed to make things sound fancy, but to reveal details.
One more thing, it does not have that sudden brightness even if my room is tuned to mid-range. It’s just there, it’s just perfect and it seems portable.
Though I won’t want to try it though. But the next one is as portable as they come.
Why would early artists trust the HS80m, the father of HS8? Trust me, it has virtually full audio detail. Any studio monitor with a rich midrange similar to the HS8 you can expect to deliver top-notch sound.
Your studio might be mid-rich, you might say and frequencies may go harsh.
I have a recommendation that might be the better option.
The Tannoy Reveal 802
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Tannoy’s official promotion for the Reveal 802 is the presence of bass even at low volumes.
True enough, some monitors lose their bass power once the volume is rolled-off. The Reveal 802 is definitely here to please some bass and EDM lovers.
The official promotion states Dr. Paul Mills had helped in the design. Dr. Mills is Tannoy’s Chief Engineer for the Home Audio Division. Having been an expert of Tannoy’s 67-year-old sound, that’s really something else.
Or is it? Again, no studio monitor fits one hand as the other.
The Reveal 802’s drivers and the Tannoy 502 drivers share some common sound. They’re midrange exceptional. The Reveal 802 has more bass than the 502 or the 402. But like the other two, they lack some treble, which might turn off some mixing engineers who rely on some end-of-the-line high-mid to high-to-presence frequencies.
Still, I found this studio monitor useful in my studio. It’s surprising that for a mid-centered studio, the speakers worked enough to reveal more details than it should. Or maybe not so surprising because being mid-rich, it rolls off several frequencies from my monitor’s outputs.
A closed room, my studio delivers minimized ambient sound. It is in this kind of environment I found the Reveal 802’s bass depth to be rich and definition more than how much I paid for it.
The only problem is the humping. Tannoy brags about the monitors being bass-rich even in lower volumes. It does this, but sometimes, the humping at 120hz can be annoying the first time.
But over time, the even spread of the bass across frequencies helps it sonically illuminate details in full view. The bass sounds proportioned when listening at lower volumes, clearly defined at 50hz.
Obviously, with Tannoy’s drivers, you wouldn’t need a subwoofer if you need a quick electronic or house mix. Just call up a frequency analyzer and work your audio responses from there.
It’s convenient especially if you need monitors with great detail and you won’t have to plug in an extra subwoofer to find that out.
However, my thoughts are on the 402 and 502. If you really don’t need that much bass in your mixes, you’d best stick with these (lower-priced) studio monitors.
Mackie HR824 MKII
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The difference between other studio monitors and Mackie’s HR824 MkII is a mere 0.75 inches.Read more...
Or maybe that’s an overestimation because Mackie’s studio monitors have a distinct but powerful sound with that titanium dome.
Mackie has an 8.75-inch low distortion, low frequency transducer. Low distortion means an accurate sound that lessens ‘sweetening’ in basic studio lexicon.
You see, consumer-grade speakers mask some details crucial to your final mix. You wouldn’t want to miss those details now, would you?
The HR824 MKII is a pair of active studio monitors with something fancy called the ferro fluid-cooled titanium dome tweeter. The tweeter delivers some smooth mids (we’ll get there in a minute) and enough presence to hear the sparkles on instruments.
It has its individual EQ and filters for precise room-correction procedures, this would be very important in a bit.
In use in my mid-centered studio, the Mackie HR824 MKII reveals it isn’t for the unturned or untreated room. It reveals it has a great load of mids and has some natural bass sounds. Transients are perfectly delivered without distortion.
While it might not be tight or defined with electronic or digital music mixing, it sits well with jazz, vocals monitoring, acoustic and other soft-instrument applications.
But that was during the first day I tried it.
Over time and a ‘burn-in’ period of more than 100 hours, the titanium dome tweeter and the bass diaphragms are now loose enough to handle bigger frequencies. I heard a tremendous change in the way it handles lower frequencies.
It’s still not tight, but it adds a certain roundness. There’s no ‘choking’ of the bass. Instead, it flows, ebbing smoothly with transients. Meanwhile, the titanium dome tweeter responds effectively to high-mid frequencies. A distorted guitar sounds great enough with sparkles on the HR824 MKII.
Of course, all of this depends on your room’s treatment. The ebbing bass could be due to my room’s reduced bass treatment and heightened mid-areas. Some reviewers said the HR824 MKII has no solid bass frequencies and some bad midrange. Maybe it’s just my studio.
But again, the studio room’s treatment is a big factor to make monitors sound way better. If the Mackie HR824 MKII is complicated for you or it’s expensive to re-tune and re-treat your studio, then here are other, more affordable and practical options.
The Genelec 8040
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It’s a tough situation being situated to re-invigorate public interest on your brand’s old-series monitors acclaimed as classic equipment.
The Genelec 1000-series monitors get a rebuild and revamp with the 8040.
Koskinen made the design deliver better volume for a smaller size. An aluminum cabinet makes this portable-ish pair a bit on the heavy side with 8.6 kg per monitor.
Official promotion says the 8040 is built with an Intelligent Signal Sensing technology. This helps you save some studio electricity. It turns the studio monitors on when a signal is present and is placed on a Standby Mode if none.
I am puzzled with a low-watt rating for this pair. With 90 watts powering a 6.5-inch and 3-inch tweeter, the volume must be excruciatingly silent compared to other monitors.
Or maybe I’m just talking a bit too early. In my studio, the mids are raised. I’m quite used to mid-frequencies ballooning everywhere. But the 8040s have an aggressive midrange with ample amounts of power to deliver definition.
You want an in-your-face guitar monitor? This pair of monitors is the best option.
As expected, the higher the mids, the more definition. What’s surprising for me is the added detail in the lower-mids section. I haven’t treated my room for low-mid sections but I get a defined sound with bass while the middle frequencies are tight but scattered across its spectrum.
I attribute this to the aluminum cabinet. Aluminum will not absorb sound. Any metal would vibrate and send virtually the same amount of energy to another direction, usually the one its angle is facing.
Powered at 90W for smaller drivers, it shoves enough power swing to boost the cones with enough filters to showcase every detail a mix or a finished song has.
The pair of studio monitors are great for recording electronic dance music or rock music. Any aggressive genre that requires precise low to high-mid range frequencies the Genelec 8040 could handle. While it can smoothly handle jazz and ballads, I found it a bit troublesome when recording vocals.
In some occasions, the singer’s midrange sounds a bit off or unnatural. But then again, it might be because my room is tuned to much more trouble than needed.
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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...
You want your song to translate properly and studio monitors such as the Focal CMS40 aim to point you at this direction.
According to most professional reviews I’ve read online, the CMS40 weights just about 5.5kg and is considered the most portable monitor in Focal’s professional reference. The tweeters are made of aluminum and enclosed in black.
As active studio monitors, it has its own 25W Class A/B power amplifiers. LED signals indicate if your source is clipping. I had some troubles with vibrations during use; this amplifier is very light. However, Focal gives you a rubber table stand to allow it to stay in place.
The CMS40 is similar to the Mackie HR824 MKII; an optimal sound can be difficult to find in an untreated room. The monitors would expose the glaring deficiency of your studio, so beware.
If you’re considering to get the subwoofers, maybe now’s the best time. But still the final need depends on your room treatment. You might find the bass having some lacking definition.
In my midrange studio, I found the Focal CMS40 to perform as how I imagined it to be. It’s a good vocal monitor and even acoustic monitor. Distorted electric guitar sounds may be a bit subtle.
To be honest, use a high-pass filter through the CMS40’s EQ and that should set you on proper footing for use.
At some point, an improper triangulation of audio from your monitors towards you can be costly. It could make the monitors have one speaker sound louder than the other. Sometimes, it’s vice versa. In an untreated room, the bass sound might be muddy.
Sometimes, the mid or high-midrange may seem colored for one or both speakers. In some occasions, you’ll find the alignment is wrong because the volume for the other speaker is lacking than the other.
Adding a subwoofer for the bass is essential if you need additional reference for your bass frequencies. The response is excellent in a treated room though I’ve heard from a friend that the subwoofers sucked for him. Maybe it works for mid-centered studios such as mine, but I don’t know.
One thing though, I could hear some hiss. This might be an amplification problem with my model. Others have reported no hissing from their own units, so maybe this is an isolated case.
But then, for quality, that shouldn’t be the case right? So…
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...
Or at least they’re sensible enough to provide the right kind of warranty.
Event has been long enough in the field of detailed monitors and speakers for home and professional audio use.
But 15 years is equivalent to expensive talent. The Tannoy’s, which have a 67-year-old design, doesn’t even come close to the exorbitant sum of Event’s Opal.
Opal is an active pair of studio monitor. Like any average pair of studio monitors, an 8-inch woofer and one-inch tweeter makes this monitor normal. So why does it go for an extremely expensive price when it looks like a KRK studio monitor just a fourth of the Opal’s price?
According to tech analyst, Opal’s design intends to achieve a three-way system that uses two drivers. A three way system gives you some ample bass and better midrange, both of which are impossible for small monitors.
Opal uses a ULD beryllium-copper one-inch voice coil dome tweeter. Drivers include a neodymium magnetic assembly. These tell the average audio engineer that it could do so many wonderful things despite its appearance.
The cone is paper-thin but reinforced with carbon-fiber. The introduction of an aluminum voice coil helps reduce distortion, according to Opal.
Upon first listen, the monitors are well-balanced. No distortion guarantees a full array of details. Bass is controlled and tight at the low end. It’s not about bass-heaviness for this one but rather powerful and accurate detail regarding instruments.
Despite its huge midrange, the monitors do not make instruments sound dry. Vocals sound warm and fuzzy. Although it might not work for most rock and high-energy mixes, Event’s Opal could create accurate mixes without much fuzz.
A little bonus. The high accuracy and fidelity of the speakers to source gives you a consistency with both high and low levels. But with that price tag, it has to be. Else Event must look somewhere else.
But they’ve got another offering which I know is immensely expensive, but the payoff is definitely amazing.
Event 20/20 BAS
Okay, maybe this isn’t the cheapest option from Event’s products. I’m pointing at value-for-money here.Read more...
Official promotion states that in the last 15 years, Event’s monitors were responsible for almost every recording in studios (in the Western world). Most studios have used the 20/20 BAS for their recordings.
Audio during the last 15 years have evolved from traditional to home-based recording ventures sprouting a new generation of experimental genres that we’ve never heard before. Professionals in different genres in their home and professional studios used event’s 20/20 BAS.
Again, just like all active studio monitors, it has an 8-inch cone and 1-inch tweeter for the mids and high-mids. I found it remarkable the updated 20/20 BAS is as it was 15 years ago.
I really wonder why Event phased it out a decade ago when everyone was clamoring for one of them. Now that they’re back, no one could ever stop using them.
I found it suitable for a great host of genres. From electronic music projects, film scores to aggressive rock and metal music, the 20/20 BAS doesn’t fail. The 8-inch drivers produce earth-shattering low end enough for rock music. If you need more, the 20/20 has an optional subwoofer for house/bass-heavy music reference.
As for room correction, the shelving controls for high and low frequencies are invaluable.
As with Event’s more expensive line of monitors, The 20/20 BAS has great detail indicated by its high end. The pleasant and smooth-sounding trebles make mixing easy to listen and less fatiguing. It sounds detailed on flat settings but you can always use the high-low shelves to boost areas you need more detail.
For my mid-tuned room, that would mean a little push on the high shelf to bring out some clarity and release some tightly controlled mids. In fact, the sound is almost synonymous to the source material. Post-mixing, the sound translates efficiently to headphones, in-ears, bigger PA systems and cars.
Event’s products are quite expensive. But if you’re willing to make an investment, you have a choice between the Opal and this one. You don’t have to stick to just one brand, however.
ATC SCM25A Pro
However, the domes aren’t made of special beryllium or copper. It’s just some cute soft dome and carbon paper.
But I was actually wrong to underestimate this little beast. The Atlantic Transducer Company has been around for 40 years building both consumer-grade loudspeakers and studio-grade professional monitors for mixing.
The ATC SCM25A treats normal soft dome and carbon-reinforced paper into something special and that design is what we’re paying so much for.
ATC promises the SCM25A Pro would exhibit “extremely accurate and life-like playback of your recordings”. It does a great job, to be precise. The 164-millimeter carbon reinforced bass driver uses a two-inch voice coil. Meanwhile, the actual size of the low-frequency driver is at 7 inches.
Perhaps the best part is the three-amplification-system the active monitoring unit has. You get a total power of 235 watts wherein 150 watts comes from the low frequency driver power amplifier and 60 watts from the midrange and 25 watts from the high range coming from the high-frequency driver power amplifier.
Upon closer observation and listening, I’ve found the soft dome to be a bit off-axis. But I think that’s part of ATC’s design of the SCM25. If you really want to hear about details, if you’ve heard an MP3 artifact, well, these studio monitor lets you hear that and more.
The ports guarantee that you will have ample bass. I normally viewed this as troublesome cost-cutting measures because they help remedy some design problems with studio monitors, namely to deepen or lighten the bass response.
But I was wrong again. ATC intended to use the ports as an actual bass driver. It’s not a go-to solution for an existing design problem with the SCM25, not that it has some.
Using foam rubber bungs, users could have a more ‘controlled’ bass compared to the open-port design. This is extremely useful for rooms with bad bass treatment. Not that the bass is loose with the open-port design but having a controlled bass is a nice option to have.
Perhaps the redeeming quality of its highly-expensive price tag is not because it’s handmade but because upon continuous usage, you won’t have any technical problems. I know some people who had some problems with the HS8 or KRK monitors upon first use. The SCM25 just needs you to follow instructions precisely and you get what you need.
Well, for $10,000 a pair, you should.
Let’s go back to somewhere where prices are still sensible, shall we?
The Adam A7X
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Like my four criteria mentions, just take what you need, don’t be fancy and you have to consider room treatment and your options for room correction to build your perfect studio.
The Adam A7X has been earning a great reputation among engineers because of its friendly cost and versatility.
It does not come without problems though.
Boasting a modest pricetag of $660 brand new (probably $500 or lower at street price), A7X is well-known as nearfield monitoring equipment, also known as studio, mix and mastering equipment.
The A7X is based on the original Adam A7 from a few decades ago. Like Event’s 20/20 BAS, Adam phased out the A7 to bring in the A7X. Unlike Event, they prospered with their revamp of their original unit.
Official company promotion mentions the ‘X’ in A7X means ‘eXtended frequency response’. Equipped with a two-inch X-ART (Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter, the original A7 can translate frequencies up to 50khz, defeating the original 30khz. The X-ART tweeter extends its maximum sound pressure levels.
Using a 50W Class A/B amplifier, the 7-inch low frequency cone delivers a balance that strikes with the rest of its build.
It’s undeniable that the A7X is properly aggressive even on lower volumes partly due to the X-ART Tweeters. But then, it’s a bit more subtle than the original. Namely, it does away with the presence harshness I’ve come to know from the original studio monitors.
Thanks to a pronounced low-mid, a tighter bass extending up to 30khz, the A7X has a wider audio image.
In a studio that’s mid-oriented, such as mine, the audio image splits further and goes beyond how it should actually sound. In fact, it has a bigger bass sound but has its aggressive high-mid to high frequencies split apart and returned with a more subtle nature (thanks to the mid-reflectors in my studio).
But in all sense, the A7X could work even with bad and untreated studios. You could use it efficiently even if windows are behind your monitors. But of course, you might need something above the mid-price range and into new territory.
Steinberg is a software company who has built some exceptional audio interfaces that work not just for their DAWs but also for others with exceptional results too.
DynAudio is a company that once specialized only in building driver units.
They have less experience building complete audio systems. They might have had beginner’s luck with the BM6A.
The DynAudio BM6A is a ported-cabinet active monitor. You might not see it at first glance but it’s right on top of the cabinet. Again, I’m thinking these ports are there for design fixes.
But just like the ATC SCM25A, DynAudio had perfected the BM6A’s design using the ports, not as a solution to a design conflict.
While priced a bit high but not as high as the SCM25As, the BM6A has a response similar to the SCM25A, albeit a little brighter and sparkly at best.
The sound is obviously natural, with enough controlled bass that sounds deep. DynAudio’s experience in building drivers guarantees the power amplifier works well with the 1.1-inch Soft Dome Tweeter and the 7-inch Low Frequency cone.
The result is a detailed high-mid and high to presence frequencies during monitoring. I was expecting a hint of harshness, but I didn’t hear any roughness. I found the sound to be smooth but powerful, a rare trait even for some competitive monitors.
However, I found it easy to overload the sub-frequencies with higher volumes of said frequencies. Not that it’s necessary but it’s a guarantee that your mixes sound heavy with bass or is imbalanced, showcasing the accuracy of the BM6A
Still, it’s a bit on the pricier side of things. I’d still go for an Adam A7X any day over this one. But if you want something accurate and a tad more sparkly than the SCM25A, then this pair is for you.
Now, last but not the least…
The Neumann KH 120
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Having a dedicated active amplification unit per loudspeaker is a great feature for any studio monitor.Read more...
With a 5.25-inch low frequency cone and a 1-inch titanium fabric dome tweeter, the Neumann KH 120 is an active monitor capable of delivering monitoring ranges from 52hz to 21khz.
These monitors only go for as much as the price of a brand-new Adam A7X system. Maybe even less.
Neumann is well-known for its microphones. Cherished for their fresh brand of microphones, the KH-120 is their official entry towards creating precision studio equipment. Official endorsement says it can deliver low-distortion and guarantee high-frequency reproduction.
It also uses an Elliptical Mathematically Modeled Dispersion (MMD) to provide a smooth but clear off-axis response. Neumann also prides the KH 120 for having analog amplifiers that offer big headrooms.
Also available separately is the KH810 subwoofer if you need to monitor some low-end for mixing and mastering music for club or bar usage.
That one 1-inch titanium fabric dome tweeter creates great representation of transients without exaggerating the dynamics. Listening for the second time, one recognizes that it has a stable and un-convoluted stereo imaging. One thing I liked about it was a smooth frequency response.
For a mid-range treated studio like mine, the mids expanded the stereo imaging wider and miraculously without losing any power in the process. The recessed mid-range expanded and blew everything wide open.
Despite such, no edgy or rough sounds.
To be honest, I would get this rather than the same-price-range A7X for tonal accuracy. The A7X can be sharp and sometimes it gets a bit humpy on the lower-mid edges.
The KH 120 has enough amplification power on both loudspeakers to deliver an accurate representation of detail. It sounds so realistic you might believe it’s the source actually playing live.
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.
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’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
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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.
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 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.
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
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.
Just like your studio might be built from wood, concrete, glass or steel, speakers are built with different materials. Common ones include:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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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