You might not see the need to purchase another set of speakers if you already have a pair connected to your computer. And considering that we live in the MP3 era, you might even have your main hi-fi setup. But when it comes to recording and playing music, the best active studio monitors are, if not necessary, a prudent investment. If you don’t understand why, then you should start by learning how they operate.
Although hi-fi speakers are primarily designed to make your music sound good, they achieve this goal in a somewhat unnatural way. Now this is not a big deal if you only use your speakers to listen to artists’ albums. However, if your objective is to sculpt your own balanced mixes that will sound great on any system, active studio monitors work much better than those for hi-fi setup. Studio monitors will portray your music exactly as it is. This way, you will know just the areas you need to improve on to make your tracks sound better.
What are the Best Active Studio Monitors?
Well-built active studio monitors form a solid foundation for any recording studio that wants to emphasize on quality. Although investing in such sound equipment won’t turn you into a sound engineer, it will certainly help in honing your skills.
If you’re looking for an active studio monitor that offers the best sound, you should check out Yamaha HS7. Although it comes with a high price tag, this pair of studio monitors boasts cutting-edge technology.
For starters, it’s a bi-amplified studio monitor offering very precise sound production. What this means is that, the unit has two amplifiers- one for the high frequency and the other for the low frequency. This structure helps in increasing the amount of usable power delivered to each speaker.
Yamaha states that the speaker’s bass frequency ranges at 43 Hz. This is way past the average specification found in speakers of its class. Under the stylish black-colored cabinet, you will find a 6.5-inch cone woofer that guarantees smooth audio. This woofer is supported by a mounting system, which helps to eliminate spurious vibration. Moreover, the tweeter frame is constructed in such a way that it minimize resonances, which could end up distorting the high-end clarity.
It’s a no brainer that the performance of speaker is influenced significantly by the shape, size and acoustics of the room where it’s being used. Luckily, Yamaha took all this into consideration, which is why its HS7 studio monitor unit comes equipped with room control, mid EQ and High Trim response control buttons. With these features, you have greater versatility when it comes to speaker placement.
The KRK Rokit 5 is designed for those looking for a well-rounded speaker. This active studio monitor has attributes that make it suitable for both home and professional recording spaces. Since its invention, the Rokit 5 has become popular pretty fast. This is thanks to the array of features that make for a smooth and easy sound production process.
This studio monitor has a bi-amped class A/B amplifier incorporated into each speaker. Plus, it offers a great deal of headroom. Each speaker system also has a 1-inch soft dome tweeter and an extended response of about 35kHz. This dome tweeter is like none other, providing an accurate picture of sound frequencies.
Another perk of the two-way studio monitor is the front-firing port. This one is designed to minimize noises that may come about because of air turbulence. The result is a crisp bass, which remains clear even at higher volumes.
The PreSonus Eris E5 are some of the most user-friendly active studio monitors on the market. If you’re new to recording music, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the controls found on the back of these speaker systems. With just a quick glance of these knobs, you can figure out what each one of them does without browsing on the internet or going back to the manual.
Another feature that makes the active studio monitor stand out is its input knob. While most studio monitors come with output knobs, those of the PreSonus E5 are inputs. It means that you can regulate the level of the sound coming in and not the level of the sound going out. This enables to effectively manage any noises emanating from the signal source.
When it comes to sound, the Eris E5 studio monitors have a pretty decent performance. They produce well-balanced mids and highs, which tend more toward the harsh side. Even if you crank up the volume on these units, you’ll still get an impressive sound.
Samson Technologies, which spearheaded wireless microphone technology, touts their studio monitors as versatile options. Upon testing, we did find the Samson MediaOne perfect for an array of uses. You can use them to record sound in your studio. You can also install them in your living room and use them to watch a film or play video games.
And apart from delivering a good performance, these MediaOne monitors with Bluetooth boast a stylish design. They come in all-black cabinets with satin vinyl finish. Which contrast well with the metal grills used to protect the woofer and tweeter parts. Overall, this design will blend well with your interior décor.
These speakers deliver 20 watts of output per studio monitor. The woofers are 4-inches in size, and they help to create a controlled low frequency response.
The Rockville APM5B studio monitors have established themselves as reliable and affordable. If you have a limited budget, these studio monitors work well for their price. This speaker set is bi-amped meaning that there’s a separate amplifier for the highs and lows.
Each studio monitor generates 125 watts peak output power and 62.5 watts RMS. This means that you’ll have a total of 250 watts peak output power and 130 watts RMS, which is sufficient for both small and large rooms.
Another thing we like about these studio monitors is their design. Buyers get to choose from three different wood finish options namely: wood finish with vinyl front board, wood finish in white color or wood finish painted black. This way, you can select speakers that will match with other sound equipment in your home studio. Plus, the wooden enclosures deliver higher sound quality than the plastic ones used in some studio monitors.
What is an ‘active’ studio monitor speaker?
There are two kinds of studio monitor speakers- active and passive. The active speaker, which is also referred to as “powered” is one that uses built-in amplification. This way, you don’t have to look for a separate amplifier. Just link the speaker to mixer or other music source, and you’re good to go. Contrary, passive studio monitor speakers require a separate amplifier for sending full audio signals to the speaker or speakers.
Understanding studio monitors
The one thing that every recording artist needs is to have a practical use of ear training. This way, they’ll be able to make adjustments depending on the quality of tracks produced. Sadly, very few of these artists are aware that speakers also influence how they hear these sounds. If you want to hear your mix exactly as it is, that is, as accurately as possible. Ideally, you shouldn’t use speakers that will “flatter” your music or add any coloration to it. That said, the best speakers that fit this role are studio monitors.
The way these speakers are designed enables them to generate audio signals that are flat across sound frequencies. Studio monitor speakers are different from the common stereo systems. With stereo speakers, you can always tweak the unit to get a more punchy sound or a stronger bass.
However, there are tons of studio monitor speakers on the market, which makes choosing one brand an inundating task. For the best outcome, go for a studio monitor that produces a consistent and accurate response at high and low volume levels. This will give you a chance to listen to all the different elements of your mix sound; and hence, make adjustments accordingly.
Also important to consider is that the studio monitor needs quality components so as to ensure the audio signals remain flat. This is one of the aspects that contributes to the differences in studio monitor prices.
The Different Types of Studio Monitors
Active Studio Monitors vs. Passive
As mentioned earlier, the distinct feature of an active studio monitor is the fact that it has an inbuilt amplifier. Another notable attribute of this speaker is that it uses an active crossover rather than a passive one.
Active studio monitors are more popular than their passive counterparts. This is mainly because active speakers are easy to set up and use. All a user has to do is to connect the studio monitor unit or his mixing board or DAW. Perhaps the biggest convenience that active studio monitors provide is saving users from the expense of another amplifier. On the same note, you won’t have to purchase tons of other accessories down the line since the built-in amp is designed to work seamlessly with the rest of the speaker components.
Passive monitors, however, are not equipped with built-in amplifiers. It means that you need a separate amplifier to get the speakers working. Still, passive monitors do offer a couple of benefits. One of these merits is greater versatility. Instead of being restricted to the built-in amp the speaker comes with, you’ll have freedom to purchase an amplifier that addresses your specific needs. In fact, a number of professional studios now use passive monitors because of this flexibility. Also, having a separate amp away from the speaker gives you more control over the recording process. This amplifier will come with its own settings, which you can configure to your preference.
Near-Field vs. Far-Field
A near-field monitor is one that needs to be placed at least three to five feet away from the user. Put simply; near-field speakers work best in close ranges. The benefit of positioning at such a close distance is so that users can hear sounds directly from the speaker systems rather than one that will have bounced around the walls. Near-field studio monitors are also beneficial in the sense that they don’t get affected by room acoustics. Overall, these speakers are recommended for situations where artists are recording themselves as they sing or as they play a musical instrument.
On the other hand, far field monitors are usually placed at a distance. The good thing with these studio monitors is that they can handle extremely loud volumes. However, using a far-field monitor will also cause you to hear more background noise as it bounces within the room.
The Importance of Quality Sound in Your Studio
Being able to create quality sound– whether you’re working from a home or professional studio- could have a significant impact on your music career. In the past, personal recording was so challenging. The best sound equipment that individuals could get their hands on were reel-to-reel tape recorders, which never resulted in high-quality recordings. Plus, every reel could only be utilized one time, making the entire process a tad expensive. It means that home recording studios at that time were made up of reel-to-reel tape recorders and only the number of reels that the artist could afford. And even if one tried recording from a quiet and serene environment, the end result was still a poorly-recorded sound.
But thanks to the invention of tons of sound equipment and software, recording artists of the modern day do not encounter such challenges. Even if you’re recording acoustic music, it has be to passed through pickup technology before it reaches the software used to record it. What’s more, artists can record as many takes of one piece until they’re satisfied with the outcome.
On the downside, listeners have become too picky about what they listen. You may have a great song but if it’s poorly recorded, listeners will dismiss your entire performance instantly. In the past, listeners were not this choosy. They never dismissed artists just because their recordings were of low quality.
To be a successful recording artist, you should blend your recording skills with those of being able to make the perfect sound adjustments, especially if you’re using simple computer speakers. These speakers lack the playback capability you find in studio speakers- a factor that compromises the outcome of the sound. To ensure you create that good sounding track that won’t be dismissed right off the bat, you need to invest in the best sound equipment.
Best Studio Monitors Buying Guide
Although the principle of ‘you get what you pay for’ still holds true in the speaker industry, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a pair of effective active studio monitors. There are a couple of models that work well and cost under $200. Also, this doesn’t mean that you should go for cheapest option you get without testing its efficacy.
The size of the studio monitors will be determined by the amount of space you have for their placement. If you only have a small space on your desk for placing your studio monitors, then you don’t need to buy large speakers. Another point to keep in mind is that small-sized studio monitors have more accuracy in terms of sounds, when they’re installed in small spaces. However, if you have ample space, you can buy the biggest studio monitors that you can afford.
Another aspect you should pay close attention to is the frequency range. This is usually measured in hertz (the lowest frequency) or kilohertz (the highest frequency). For recording work, we recommend going for studio monitors with frequency ranging from 50 Hz to 20 kHz.
You should also check the number of watts of the studio monitors you’re planning to buy. If you’ll be installing your speakers in a large space, then you’ll needs ones that have more power. For smaller spaces such as a home office, speakers with less power will be enough.
If you’re buying studio monitors for the purpose of recording music, then also consider the genre of music you’re focusing on. If you’re handling light music, the best studio monitors are ones that have woofer sizes of 4, 5 or 6 inches. However, if you’re recording hip hop or rock, go for studio monitors that deliver more punchy sounds.
Before making any purchase, check the connections of that specific studio monitor system. This helps to ensure that you’re buying speakers compatible with your recording equipment. Most studio monitors have RCA, TRS, XLR, ¼”, and S/PDIF jacks.
Single-amp, bi-amp, or tri-amp
If you’re new to the recording industry, you may be wondering what these terms mean. They simply show how the input signal gets divided so as to power the drivers. For instance, single-amp studio monitors divide the output power of just one amplifier by using a crossover network. This network then transmits the ideal frequencies to each speaker. In contrast, bi-amp studio monitors are made of two amplifiers for powering the high and low frequencies. A three-amp monitor divides the input signal in three ways: one to power high frequencies, the other to power low frequencies and the last one to power mid frequencies. These are also known as 3 way active studio monitors.
The design of the studio monitors also influences their performance. We recommend going for cabinets made of stiff and sturdy materials such as metal or dense plastic.
For individuals who want high quality sound, conventional speakers won’t do the trick. This explains why companies such as Yamaha and KRK have diversified into making studio monitors. These speakers are uniquely designed for film makers, sound engineers and recording artists, who want to ensure that they end up with accurate and clear sounds. But before you spend top dollar on a set of studio monitors, check their size, frequency range, connections, woofers and power.
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