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Everything You Need To Know About Studio Monitors

What are studio monitors and what are they used for?

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake studio monitors for regular speakers. But there are significant differences between the two.

While regular speakers are designed for listening to music as part of a home stereo system, studio monitors are intended for use in professional settings. They are used by musicians, engineers and producers as part of a recording studio or home studio setup. The studio monitors serve the same purpose as ordinary speakers: listening to music. But that’s where the similarity ends.

What’s the difference between a studio monitor and a regular speaker?

The regular speakers you have at home are optimized to make music sound great. Often that includes technology that enhances parts of the spectrum, such as the bass and treble. They are built to be able to project music or audio throughout a sizeable room. And most home speakers are passive. That means they are not connected to an electrical outlet and they aren’t amplified, relying on the stereo system they’re connected to for power.

Studio monitors look similar to regular speakers at first glance, typically featuring a woofer and a tweeter, housed in a cabinet.

However, studio monitors are designed to play audio as accurately to the source as possible. Musicians and engineers want to hear the audio exactly as it was recorded. That means a flat frequency response, with no technology used to boost the bass or make music sound more energetic. Instead of being built to project sound across a room, studio monitors have a very short range, to minimize the effect of room acoustics. And most studio monitors are powered. That means they have their own amplifiers so they are self contained (just plug in the music source), and having each driver individually amplified further ensures audio accuracy.

Can studio monitors be used as speakers?

Technically, there’s no reason why you can’t use studio monitors as home speakers, but it’s not recommended. Because they lack enhancement and range, music played on studio monitors will sound flat and won’t carry far.

Types of studio monitors

Active (powered) studio monitors are the most popular type, but many companies also offer passive studio monitors. Studio monitors are often referred to as “near field” because of their short sound projection range, or “reference” speakers—reflecting their audio purity.

Size, cabinet configuration, amplification and design

Studio monitors range in size, but are typically fairly compact in size, with woofers in the 5-inch to 8-inch range. When recording in a large room, a larger studio monitor (with a woofer measuring 12-inches or more) is often the best choice as it will be able to move air further. Most studio monitors are powered, and the preferred arrangement is for each driver to have its own dedicated amplifier. Like regular speakers, many studio monitors are ported and this needs to be taken into account. A ported design can add low frequency response, but if a rear-ported studio monitor is placed close to a wall this can introduce distortion.