Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are one of the most in demand pieces of studio kit. They are used across a wide range of areas including home recording, DJing, broadcasting or any other application where an audio source needs to be listened back to accurately. Whilst to untrained eyes and ears they might look like a standard hi-fi speaker and sound like a standard PA speaker, studio monitors have a distinct set of design requirements that sets them apart from other loudspeakers.

Put simply studio monitors are designed to be what-you-hear-is-what-you-get, the idea being that audio mixed well on a pair of studio monitors will sound good on any system. Unlike hi-fi speakers which might add flattering characteristics to the audio, studio monitors reproduce sound which is as accurate as possible to the source material, allowing the user to mix with precision.

It's important that any studio monitor has a flat frequency response. The frequency response dictates the actual volume a speaker produces at different frequencies, monitors need to have a consistent response across the full frequency spectrum to ensure what user is hearing is the audio source and not just the characteristics of the speaker.

So, which studio monitors are right for you? The main specification to consider when purchasing studio monitors is the size of the low-frequency driver. Monitors with different driver sizes are suited to certain applications due to the amount of bass they can produce. The most common sizes are 5" and 8". 5" monitors are best suited to applications where bass frequencies are less important, for example acoustic music, or some non-music applications such as radio or TV. Whilst their use is limited they do have the advantage of being very compact and usually considerably lighter, making them ideal for a portable studio or simply for when not much space is available. 8" monitors can produce more low-frequencies making them more suitable for DJing, dance music production and general music recording. Many manufacturers produce monitors between the two sizes, 6" and 7" being the most common, allowing a compromise to be made when necessary. Sometimes 3" monitors are encountered; however these are used mainly as surrounds speakers in a 5.1 set-up.

No size of monitor however can produce the lowest frequencies on its own. When accurate monitoring is required below around 120 Hz subwoofer studio monitors are necessary, and most manufacturers offering a corresponding sub for each range of studio monitors they produce. Most commonly a single sub is used with two standard studio monitors in a 2.1 configuration.

Most studio monitors will be 2-way, i.e. they have two drivers. The best studio monitors however will have three, four or even more drivers, splitting separate parts of the frequency spectrum over each driver. Whilst this gives a good improvement in sound quality these monitors are considerably more expensive than 2-way monitors and offered by less manufacturers.

Whilst in the past it was very common to have passive studio monitors with a separate amp, in the most recent years active monitors have dominated the market, almost eliminating the use of passive systems. Active monitors have the convenience of being a single integrated unit and benefit from the advantages of having a matched amp and drivers.

We have a great range of studio monitors here at Pro Audio Centre, from leading brands such as Yamaha, Alesis, Citronic, Akai and LD Systems. For friendly, impartial advice, please call on 0113 88 00 138 or visit us in store.

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