What To Consider
Just like when you invest in anything new, there are a lot of things to consider when looking to buy a pair of speakers. If you’re a DJ you will likely want a pair that gives out a good amount of bass without requiring an additional subwoofer. Whereas, a producer or mix engineer will want a pair of speakers with a flatter sound, meaning that the levels are truly reproducing the original audio signal without boosting any particular frequencies. It’s not as easy as saying ‘these are the best’ as even the most expensive and widely renowned speaker brands and models could be the wrong choice for you.
Monitors or Speakers?
So, why are all these speakers referred to as monitors and not just studio speakers? Monitors is the name given for speakers that are specifically designed for studio use. All studio monitors will aim to give you a true and balanced sound, meaning they will be able to produce the full audio frequency spectrum from as low as 20hz or 30hz right through to 20Khz without distortion, where traditional HiFi speakers colour the sound you hear to make them more pleasant to listen to.
Passive and Active
When looking to purchase speakers you will come across ones that are labelled as ‘active’ and others labelled as ‘passive,’ but which ones should you be looking for any why? The difference between the two is that active speakers have the amplifier built in, whereas, passive speakers require an external amplifier to power them. You will find that most studio monitors are active.
This is the best option to go for as you won’t have to look into the specifications of your speakers to find an amplifier that will perfectly suit them.
The other major benefit will be that the manufacturer will have gone through a lot of testing and configuring to ensure that the amplifier built in to their speakers will deliver a true sound, where as when working with passive speakers you would need to make sure you purchase an amplifier that will deliver the correct power and not colour the sound you are hearing.
If you have some speakers and you’re unsure if they are passive or active you can tell them apart by whether your speakers have a power input, all active monitors will require a power supply for the built in amplifier where passive speakers will just have input connections for audio cables.
Nearfield and Midfield
Most people will be looking to purchase nearfield monitors for home use. Nearfield monitors are designed to be placed 1-2 meters away from the listener, if you have ever seen a photo of a big recording studio these will be the speakers that are sitting on top of the sound desk. Midfield monitors are designed to be placed 3-4 meters away from the listener and fill the room they are in, again if you look at a large recording studio these will be the speakers that are either towards the back of the room or built in to the walls.
Size counts, but bigger doesn’t mean better.
Most monitors will have a variety of sizes in the series, for example, the RCF Ayra Pro series comes in 5, 6 and 8 with each speaker getting a bit bigger the higher the number. Larger speakers will produce more volume and often more bass information, but this does not mean that the biggest will be the best choice for you! Something that is all too often overlooked when purchasing monitors is the space they are going to be living in.
If your studio is a small room or situated in the corner of a larger room (most commonly your bedroom) then going for the 8’s would be a bad decision as this would result in an unbalanced sound and a less than ideal mixing environment. You would achieve a much more even and balanced sound by purchasing the 7’s. Along with acoustic treatment (this will be a blog post for the future), the difference in getting monitors that suit your environment is immeasurable and is by far the most important thing to consider when you’re looking to purchase studio monitors.